Norman and Little versus Key on income inequality

In the last clash of the leaders of the year in Question Time both Russel Norman and Andrew Little quizzed John Key on the OECD report on income inequality.

Norman was first.

[Sitting date: 10 December 2014. Volume:702;Page:1. Text is subject to correction.]

1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he agree with the OECD that “when income inequality rises, economic growth falls”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): No, it is not that simple, because there are a number of factors that contribute to economic growth.

Dr Russel Norman : Is the Prime Minister saying that the OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurria, got it wrong when he said yesterday that “addressing high and growing inequality is critical to promote strong and sustained growth”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I think that that helps. That is one of the reasons why the Government is proud of its record, as defined by the OECD in a table that it put out last night. It showed that between 2007 and 2011, income inequality has actually narrowed under this Government. The great tragedy is that it also put out a report last night that showed that between 1985 and 2005, when a Labour Government was in office for a reasonable period of time, income inequality got worse. Shame on Labour—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Dr Russel Norman : Why does the Prime Minister continue to defend a failed right-wing ideology—trickle-down economics, which the OECD has now rejected—when this economic ideology has fuelled the biggest rise in inequality amongst OECD countries and has knocked 10 percentage points off New

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : That is not right. All I can say is that under a National-led Government, income inequality has actually narrowed, as defined by the OECD, between 2007 and 2011. Interestingly enough, if the member is quoting the OECD as the oracle of all good information when it comes to growth and issues of inequality, maybe he would like to follow this comment from the OECD. It said in 2010 in its report: “A growth-orientated tax reform would improve the design of tax regimes by broadening the base and lowering the tax rates of New Zealand.”

Dr Russel Norman : With regard to tax rates, does the Prime Minister believe that when he cut taxes for the top 10 percent of income earners in the middle of the global financial crisis, in 2010, it reduced inequality?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : As Treasury noted at the time and as has proven to be correct, actually, the changes to the tax system that were made by the National-led Government in 2010 were distributionally neutral. Actually, as time has gone on, it has been proven that higher-income taxpayers have paid more as a result of those tax changes. That is because the Government changed the rules around depreciation of rental properties, the bulk of which are owned by better-off New Zealanders, and it is because even though there was an increase in GST, a large amount of nominal GST is, of course, paid by higher-income taxpayers. They were very good tax changes, and that is why New Zealanders voted for them in an overwhelming way and why they rejected the Green Party policies, and delivered what was—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Dr Russel Norman : Will he now revisit his policy of keeping benefits low as “an incentive to work” in light of the OECD finding that the resulting inequality is bad for people and bad for the economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Inequality is narrowing under a National-led Government. I am proud of that record, as confirmed by the OECD last night in its report. Secondly, the Government is not keeping benefits low. In fact, this is a Government that has legislated to ensure that there are increases in benefits in line with the CPI. The most important thing we can do for beneficiaries—where possible for the bulk of them; clearly not all of them—is to find them work. That is why a strong economy that delivers job opportunities and lifts people out of the welfare trap into work is one of the most beneficial things we can do for low-income families in New Zealand.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he accept the finding of the OECD that the increase in inequality in New Zealand, one of the largest increases in the developed world, resulted in a 10 percent reduction in the size of the New Zealand economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, I do not accept all elements of the report, but I do say this. It was a report that took place on statistical data between 1985 and 2005. In the period between 1999 and 2005, if my memory serves me correctly, the then Labour Government did that with support in various forms from the Green Party. So I say to Russel Norman that, yes, he should apologise to New Zealanders—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

David Seymour : Would the Prime Minister agree that what the report really found was that growth is driven by the quality of investment in human capital across all income levels; if so, could he share any initiatives that this Government is taking to improve the quality of investment in human capital across lower-income New Zealanders?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes, I would, and I would say that the OECD actually made a very interesting point when it said that redistribution policies that are poorly targeted and do not focus on the most effective tools can lead to a waste of resources and general inefficiencies. One of the ways I know to do that when it comes to human capital—

Hon Member : What about charter schools?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : —is to make sure they get access to a world-class education. That was the point I was actually going to come to. I myself, with the member, visited Vanguard Military School and saw the great young New Zealanders who are coming out into employment. I must say how proud I was to be part of a Government that is championing those partnership schools that are making a difference to those young New Zealanders.

Dr Russel Norman : Why can the Prime Minister not see this OECD report as an opportunity to move away from failed trickle-down economics towards a form of economic policy that is both good for people and good for the economy, and has a win-win solution for poor children and for the broader economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : If the member wants to talk about failed policies, he should read the Green Party manifesto, as it was so utterly rejected by New Zealanders. I remember that member parading before the cameras a couple of days before the election, telling New Zealanders that the Green Party would be polling a massive number—basically, throwing the Labour Party overboard because the Greens did not want to be part of it, and in the end, they polled 10-odd percent. It was a terrible result. Bad policies are the Green Party’s policies. This Government is delivering for New Zealanders.

The clash of ideologies did little more than give Key a chance to defend and promote his Government.

Little was next.

2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he agree with yesterday’s OECD report that “focusing exclusively on growth and assuming that its benefits will automatically trickle down to the different segments of the population may undermine growth in the long run”; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): With regard to New Zealand, under this Government that is a hypothetical question. That is because the Government is providing billions and billions of dollars of targeted income and welfare support to the most vulnerable New Zealanders every year. So it is simply incorrect to characterise our economic approach as trickle-down. I would also point out to the member that the data covered the period from 1985 to 2005. I became Prime Minister in 2008. I know he wants to blame me for everything, and he will for the next 3 years, but it is a little bit difficult to blame me for something when I was not even Prime Minister.

Andrew Little : In view of the figures in the report relying on data to 2011, and in light of his previous answer, what specifically does he think was wrong with the OECD’s analysis when it found that economic growth is undermined by inequality?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : There are many, many things in the report, but what the report last night showed is that there was a growing income inequality in a period that started with a Labour Government and ended with a Labour Government. That is called a failure of Labour’s policies. Since we have had a National-led Government income inequality is narrowing, and that is because this Government is providing enormous support to those most in need. One great example of that is that under this Government the support that is given to households earning under $60,000 a year—that is, just under half of all households are expected to pay no net income tax at all. The members opposite do not like it, but I will tell you what we do not like—the failure, between that 1985 to 2005 period, of a Labour-led Government.

Andrew Little : Does he accept Statistics New Zealand’s finding that incomes for the top fifth in the year to June 2014—after the date for the OECD report—grew by 14.7 percent, while incomes for the bottom fifth grew by just 2.9 percent, thereby increasing inequality in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The last bit is the assumption of the member and it is simply incorrect.

Hon Members : Ha, ha!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I am sorry, but it is simply incorrect. The first point may be correct, but if my memory serves me correctly, and the member is talking about the data series I have seen in the past, that is because it includes returns on investments and other things, and as the member will—

Hon Member : When was it you got your memory back again?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : That is right—that is right. The member will know that between 2008 and some period, I think, in 2011 or 2012, there was a decrease each year because those returns were negative.

Andrew Little : Does he accept the finding of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research that loan-to-value ratio restrictions have led to home purchases by speculators leaping as high as 45 percent, while the number of first-home buyers has fallen, all of which is making inequality in New Zealand worse?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I do not accept that as being correct. I will remind the member that it was his party that actually supported loan-to-value ratios in the early days, but that is another issue. Here is the point: loan-to-value ratios were part of the tool box deployed by the Reserve Bank governor. Without that, interest rates would have gone up by at least half a basis point for all New Zealanders, and that would have had a very significant impact on lower-income New Zealanders. Actually, what we know is that economic growth is being delivered at high levels by this Government, and that follows the economic disaster that we inherited from the previous Labour Government.

Andrew Little : Does taking away the rights of low-paid workers to better pay, secure work, and even tea breaks make them economically stronger or weaker compared with their employers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : We are not doing that. What we are doing is providing flexibility in the labour markets. Interestingly enough, last week Mr Little was trying to tell New Zealanders that somehow small businesses are now working New Zealanders, and that they would have his support. They would have his support so much that they would not be allowed a 90-day probationary period, they would not be allowed flexibility in their labour markets, and they would have to pay a much higher starting-out wage or a much higher minimum wage. I know why the member is supporting his policies; it is because his caucus did not vote for him, but the unions did.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That answer will not help the order of the House.

Andrew Little : Given the OECD’s finding that increased inequality has made the economy 15.5 percent worse off since 1990, how does he plan to reduce inequality in order to grow the economy faster?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Income inequality is narrowing under a National-led Government, as supported by the OECD. The members cannot have it both ways. They cannot say one OECD report is right and another one is wrong. The only point I would make is simply that the member needs to go away and get his facts right. Under the report where income inequality was widening was under a Labour-led Government. I know it is a disgrace, but that is why they were hammered at the polls—it is because they were a disgrace. [Interruption]

Andrew Little : Save your applause for a decent performance. Why is he so unambitious that he does not want to boost future economic growth for all New Zealanders? Is it because he is still trapped in a 1980s time warp?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am very ambitious for New Zealand and for the growth rate of New Zealand. We are delivering on that growth rate for New Zealand, which is why it was nearly 4 percent this year. I am so ambitious that if I put my leadership up for a vote, I would expect more than four people to vote for me. [Interruption]

Little was gained by either attacks.

That was the last of the leaders’ clashes for the year,

More on Norman versus Trans Tasman and Fairfax

Russel Norman had a hissy at Fairfax yesterday for publishing Trans Tasman MP ratings, especially of Cath Delahunty. See Russel Norman versus Trans Tasman.

David Farrar also comments on this in Norman attacking the media:

So we have a party leader publicly berating a journalist because the journalist wrote a story on the ratings. Really? Isn’t this what a certain other party leader used to do in the 1970s? As for the smearing of Trans-Tasman as “far right” (a term used in Europe to describe neo-nazis), that’s idiotic. Certainly it is a business publication and like the NBR has an editorial tone that is pro-business. But it is no more “far right” than Radio NZ is “far left”.

There are lots of ratings different people will have different views on. You would expect a party leader to say he disagrees with the ratings for his MPs. But to smear the newsletter as “far right” and berate a Fairfax journalist for daring to do a story on it is a form of bullying.

Attempted bullying.

Now he is hysterically claiming the newsletter “hates” his MP” because she is so effective, and is instructing the journalist to print his words.

But this isn’t so much about the rankings, but Norman’s behaviour. In the last two weeks we’ve had:

  • Norman lambasting a journalist for writing a story he didn’t like and demanding he print his views on his own MPs
  • Norman smearing a media newsletter as “far right”
  • Norman barging past the PM doing a media stand up and shrieking “Resign” at him
  • Norman using the 2014 post election review conference to effectively blame the SIS for the left losing the 2011 election

I should’t give free advice, but I think such behaviour is a big turn off. It’s an ugly look. He could have made a case for the Trans-Tasman ratings being too harsh on some of his MPs, without doing it as an attack on the media.

The pressure of a hard three years followed by a frustrating election campaign are taking a toll.

The next two lowest ranked Greens were men.

Steffan Browning 2.5
David Clendon 3.0 (equal with Jan Logie)

That seems reasonably gender balanced – not that gender should figure in performance ratings.

Norman didn’t complain about both him and Kevin Hague being rated higher than Metiria Turei.

And it’s not just Norman.

Danyl expanded on the Green attack at Dim Post.

Stuff has a cut’npaste story up on the TransTasman newsletter’s annual rankings of MPs, a yearly ritual in which a bunch of elderly right-wing journalists pour praise on their favorite right-wing politicians and scorn on their most despised left-wing enemies. Whatever.

But what struck me reading through the rankings is that there seemed like a big difference in scores between male and female MPs irrespective of any left-wing/right wing bias. Even female National MPs I rated quite highly were ranked lower than totally undistinguished male Nats. And it’s even worse for Maori, who all seem arbitrarily low regardless of party, or how well they perform.

The data breaks down like this: Average score for a Male Pakeha MP in the Transtasman ranking is 5.4. Males overall have an average ranking of 5.1. Pakeha overall average 5.1. Maori are way lower than Pakeha with average rankings of 4.6. Female MPs are way lower with an average ranking of 4.4. If you compile the rankings for Labour and the Greens, the men get an average ranking of 5.2, but the women are dragging them down with an average ranking of 4.4.

Here’s a list of the TransTasman writers. I’m informed that the sole contributors are the authors listed at the bottom of the report. You might not be shocked to learn that they are all white men. But what that means is that TransTasman’s inequality in their rankings and staggering bias towards Pakeha males has nothing to do with identity politics. See, identity politics is just something the left does to privilege women or Maori.

It’s a form of political correctness gone mad in which people value gender or ethnicity over actual merit, but when white guys get privileged, or when we coincidentally overwhelmingly favor other members of our race and gender that’s definitely nothing to do with identity politics. Or racism or misogyny. It’s always just because we all deserve it. Shame on you for doubting the analysis of the impartial, objective white guys at TransTasman!

He sounds as frustrated and bitter as Norman. As do some of the ranks at Dim-Post.

They can’t just disagree and offer their own ratings. Instead they attack the messengers.

If Fairfax took Norman’s advise and didn’t publish anything that could be seen as politically leaning then Green PR would be at least as verboten as Trans Tasman.

Russel Norman versus Trans Tasman

Russel Norman took exception to the Trans Tasman ranking of Green MP Cath Delahunty. They rated her a 2/10, down from last year’s 3, and commented:

A brighter year, she’s had plenty to say about education and more recently human rights – from a hard left perspective, of course.

Trans Tasman have a right leaning perspective.

On Stuff’s Beehvive Live they report Norman tweeting:

Hey @oneforthedr why promote Trans Tasman far right assessment of MPs’ performance in Dompost?

For the record @greencatherine is doing a great job as an MP, that’s WHY TransTasman hate her @oneforthedr . Print that.

Rating isn’t hating.

Delahunty was at 4 on the Green list in 2011. She was down a couple places at 6 this year.

Hamish Rutherford (@oneforthedr) returned Norman’s serve.

Poor old Russel Norman is clearly a little upset at our reporting of the Trans Tasman annual roll call.  It would almost be odd if he didn’t stand up for his colleagues (Catherine Delahunty scored two out of 10), and he has a point that the annual ranking of Trans Tasman is broadly sympathetic to the right, and especially the right of the Labour Party.

Norman’s answer to this? To moan on social media about how we should print what a co-leader thinks about one of his lower ranked MPs. Nice try. Say whatever you want about a publication, the Trans-Tasman rankings have been going for a decade and involve a lot of work. If the left want to establish something equivalent that lasts the test of time, I dare say we would print it.

Perhaps he’s as ready for the Christmas holidays as the rest of us are. But thanks for the mentions Russel – it got me a few new followers on Twitter.

Trans Tasman serve their own market, and that’s obviously not Green inclined.

Should Stuff/Dominion Post not publish something because it’s deemed “a far right assessment” by a party leader from the far left?

If so they shouldn’t publish any PR churned out by the Green Party. That’s at least as politically slanted.

Have a good break Russel.

Question Time: Key versus Norman

2. Prime Minister—Communications with Press Gallery

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister

 Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : How many of the 46 journalists currently holding full Press Gallery accreditation had he advised of his new cellphone number by the end of October, after his number was changed following the Whaledump document release?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I sent my new phone number to the media numbers that were programmed into my phone that typically contact me by text. That group includes many press gallery contacts as well as media contacts outside the gallery, and I am unable to tell the member exactly how many were notified by the end of October.

Dr Russel Norman : Is the reason he said that he had given the number to “every member of the media” because he was trying to justify the fact that he had given it to Cameron Slater?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No.

Mr SPEAKER : Sorry, I did not even catch that.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No.

Dr Russel Norman : Did he text Cameron Slater his new cellphone number, or did he advise him of it in some other way?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I did the same thing with Mr Slater as I did with every other person. I sent them a text.

Dr Russel Norman : So is the Prime Minister saying—just to be clear—that the way Mr Slater got the Prime Minister’s new cellphone number was that the Prime Minister, off his own bat, texted Mr Slater his new cellphone number?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes, I sent a text message to all of the people. As I have said, I updated people, and the reason I did that, of course, was that I had to change my phone number because an illegal hacker had decided to put my phone number on the internet. That is the illegal hacker that the member seems to support.

Dr Russel Norman : Why did he ensure that Cameron Slater had his phone number but did not give it to senior political reporters such as the political editor at Radio Live?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, I gave it to the people whom I have had text conversations with in the past from the gallery. That is not all of the gallery but it is a fair number. I gave it to other people who are in the social media. I can say I did not give it to Kim Dotcom, as, I am sure, that member probably has Mr Dotcom in his mobile phone from the time he went up there for lunch. That was the time when his high horse he parked up there got Ebola.

Dr Russel Norman : Is the reason he responded to texts from Cameron Slater over the last few months but did not respond to texts from press gallery journalists because Cameron Slater is a friend or because he fears Cameron Slater?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : In answer to the last part of the question, I, for the most part, actually do answer the text messages I get from press gallery journalists. Sometimes they are reporting about what a muppet that member makes of himself when he asks me questions.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it now acceptable for members to use names of other members in the way that was just done in that answer? Because that exact word has been ruled out of order by Speakers in the past.

Mr SPEAKER : I am not ruling the word out of order; I am certainly saying that it is not helpful to the order of the House for the answer to be toned in that way by the Prime Minister. But I took particular note of the question, which suggested that he may have been acting in fear, and that determined my judgment as to whether the answer was giving some political playback to the way the question was asked in the first place.

Dr Russel Norman : Considering that Mr Slater has verbally abused two dead boys, and accused the victim of an alleged sexual attack of making it up, how disgusting would Cameron Slater have to be before the Prime Minister severed all contact with him?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have made it quite clear in the past that I do not condone all of the statements, blogs, or actions taken by Mr Slater. But if the member wants to believe that the people who make outlandish or aggressive statements are limited to the right, then maybe he might want to check out “Bomber” Bradbury’s comments made on the left.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I just need some assistance from—[Interruption] Order! I need some assistance from members to my left. This is a point of order.

Dr Russel Norman : The question was: will the Prime Minister sever all contact with Cameron Slater? I would like an answer to that question.

Mr SPEAKER : I invite the member to go back carefully and look at the Hansard when it is printed. That was not the question that the member asked.

 [Sitting date: 02 December 2014. Volume:702;Page:2. Text is subject to correction.]

Somewhere between Key and Goff/Norman/Hager

John Key hasn’t dealt with the fallout from “Dirty Politics” well. He has batted off many accusations, that’s normal for playing politics. But he should accept some responsibility for what has been played out of his office via Jason Ede.

Some of the claims against Key have been overplayed. Anthony Robins at The Standard in John Key vs the truth:

RNZ sums up:

Prime Minister John Key is refusing to accept there was a link between his office and right-wing blogger Cameron Slater, despite the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) watchdog finding his official passed on information.

Key thinks he can simple lie and refuse to accept facts. He can’t get away with it. Can he?

It depends on what “link” means.

Certainly Key’s office – and Key himself – have had contact with Slater and have used him for playing political games – and Slater has used Ede and Key for his own agendas.

But there is no proof yet that an out of the ordinary smear campaign was orchestrated by Key through his office.

Many of the mainstream media are not neutral bystanders here. They have been used far more than Slater has been used for a long time, by Prime Ministers, their offices and by other party leaders and their offices.

The question that none of them seem to be asking is was the collusion with Slater any different to what politicians have done with journalists for yonks? He may have received favourable feeding in the Goff/SIS case but one channel or newspaper often get political exclusives from informants. So was this much different to politics/media as usual?

And how different was it to Hager playing the media when he released his book? And since?

And how different is it to Goff leaking favourable (to him) parts of the Gwyn report a day before it was due to be released? Did he leak to all media equally? Or did he feed journalists who he thought would promote his spin best?

“Dirty Politics” is supposed to be “Key evil, the Left exemplary”, and mainstream media are aghast – to an extent at Whale Oil stealing their thunder and doing little different to what they have done with politicians for much longer.

I’d like to see Key and Goff and Norman to all own up to playing politics, and playing it dirty at times. Hager and Norman won’t think they are part of the dirty brigade but they involve themselves in gamesmanship, promoting selective facts and over the top attacks as the other lot.

I don’t expect Cameron Slater to change his spots, but they are polka dot in effectiveness now anyway.

Will anyone in the media take a step back and look at their complicity in all of this? That’s just about as unlikely as Whale Oil becoming modest and reasonable.

Somewhere between Key and Goff/Norman/Hager there is some decent, honest and balanced politics, but it’s not evident at the moment.

Most of the public are likely to see this as “a pox on all their parties, press officers, journalists and bloggers”.

Norman on China: Leader of Dissidents

Russel Norman was interviewed on Q & A yesterday.

What is your problem in general with Chinese trade?

Norman: Well I mean we basically you know New Zealand alonmg with you know Australia, Japan and a number of other countries through South East Asia, we’re trying to manage this relationship between these two superpowers, the United States and China.

Um and essentially the New Zealand Government strategy is to in a way head towards being a client state of the United States militarily so we align ourselves with the US militarily, and then being a client state of China economically, um so milk powder into China, and raw logs.

The problem is that’s quite a precarious situation to be in because of the tension between those superpowers, so our approach is we should have a much more independent foreign policy, and also that we need to diversify the New Zealand economy and invest far more in research and development and value add away from a simple commodity, milk powder into one market China which is a real danger to New Zealand.

Dumping China and the US and becoming major trading partners with the Dalai Lama may be a bit more precarious.

It would be ludicrous to not trade with a country because at some time in the future that market may diminish, that’s always a risk – and a far greater risk with vague “green economy” trade as proposed by the Greens.

We sell milk powder (and cheese and other milk products) all over the world. China is a major market but is far from the only market.

We are trying to improve diversification through trade agreements like the proposed TPPA but Greens strongly oppose that.

If you had the ability to change our relationship with China in any way how would you change it?

Norman: Well I think we need to change it in the sense I’ve just described which is investing in a much more diversified and resilient and broad based New Zealand economy, um so that we’re not just dependent on a single commodity into a single market.

We are not “just dependent on a single commodity into a single market”.

Is Norman suggesting we deliberately reduce our milk powder trade with China? He is vague.

I think it’s also important too that we speak out clearly on human rights and democracy issues.

I mean I’m sure President Xi is a nice guy but let’s remember he, you know there’s a seventy year old journalist called Gau Yu, um who’s locked up in China. She’s ah, for spreading state secrets which was that the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t like free speech. She was tortured in jail.

They took her son, and President Xi’s Government took her son, locked him up as well and said if you don’t give a false confession we’ll keep him in jail.

Um Liu Zaobo is a is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he, President Xi has locked him up.

Should we halt all trade with any country who’s human, civil and human rights don’t meet the Green standard? That would have a massive impact on New Zealand trade and our economy.

Ah so I think you know there is a contest between democratic capitalism and authoritarian capitalism if you like, you know I think it’s very important that we speak out in favour of democracy because China is only going to become more influential.

Speaking out in favour of democracy is finer, but what would Norman change in our relationship with China other than protesting with words?

What struck me as very interesting in this visit by the Chinese delegation was that Andrew Little as leader of the Labour Party was meeting with the Chinese president, but you were meeting with the Tibetans. Is there a problem with your priorities here? Should you not be doing the same thing as Labour and saying that you’re on the same page?

Norman: Ah, well we’re obviously an independent political party so what Labour does is Labour’s business and what the Greens do is their business.

Does it not illustrate how difficult it’s going to be for you guys to work together?

Norman: No, so um in terms I would have been obviously perfectly happy to meet President Xi but President Xi did not wish to meet us, ah because he doesn’t like hearing dissident voices.

I mean in China he literally censors the Internet. I mean you know you’re not allowed to publish things on the Internet that are critical or President Xi, um you will be arrested if you do that.

And meeting Tibetans in an obvious demonstration would not help Greens get an audience with Xi in the future.

Parties that are in Government have to balance politics with diplomacy.

Norman wants to be seen as the Leader of the Opposition but if he effectively insults visiting presidents It’s difficult to see how he can be anything more than Leader of Dissidents.

So you know it’s the nature of their authoritarian regime that they don’t want to hear dissident voices and clearly the Greens who speak out in favour of human rights, democracy, Tibet, the Falon Gong, um all those basic democratic issues, he’s not interested in hearing our voice.

Being a proud and loud dissident is a choice the Greens can make for themselves, but it doesn’t seem very compatible with being in Government, nor as leading the Opposition.

I don’t agree with some of the ways the Chinese Government does things. I don’t agree with things that many Governments do.

But it the real world (as opposed to the Green world) you have to associate with and trade with countries that don’t fit your ideals.

This doesn’t just make it difficult to see how the Greens could operate in as a part of a Government.

It makes it very difficult for Labour to present themselves as a credible alternative lead party in a coalition when they would have to rely on the Greens to form a Government in the foreseeable future.

Nookin on Norman

‘Nookin’, a regular at Kiwiblog, has commented on Green co-leader Russel Norman.

Dr Norman seems to be getting a completely free ride with the news media and yet his latest behaviour should really be a major red flag for anybody who considers that he should play any part in a government.

He has become totally obsessed with the dirty politics, so much so that his entire engagement with the government since its election has been focused solely on that subject and has taken the form of ad hominem attacks without any evidence.

His comments about the police searching the Prime Minister’s home were prattish in the extreme. This is the sort of comment that you would expect to get in a preschool playground, not in Parliament. His comments lack any element of rational justification and the sole purpose of the comments can only be to have a very personal dig at the Prime Minister.

Norman’s driving force appears to be his dislike of Key and, particularly, his antipathy towards the USA. Have a look at his comments on the article about new security measures. Despite the fact that he has no access to security information, despite what has been happening in Britain, Australia and Canada let alone Afghanistan and Syria, he is more than happy to announce to the world that there is no need at all for any additional security measures and that the only basis for the government taking such measures is to play poodle to the USA.

It does not seem to matter to him that the director of SIS endorses the need and emphasises the security risk.

Of course, the easy answer is that she worked in the Prime Minister’s office and is a prime ministerial appointee – therefore a prime ministerial lapdog. In presenting such an argument, however, he would have to put aside the fact that it was Rebecca Kitteridge who prepared the report which exposed GCSB (much to Norman’s salivating delight).

Norman hammers the human rights and fundamentals of democracy at every opportunity. However, read the following article by Fran O’Sullivan. There is one person standing between New Zealanders and their opportunity to see world leaders addressing our Parliament (our representatives).

That one person is Russel Norman. He does so on the basis that allowing the likes of the President of the United States, the Chancellor of Germany and the Premier or Deputy Premier or whoever he is of China address Parliament will subvert our democracy. Pardon?

The dictate of one man who represents 10 percent of the population is democratic? I mean, when did he ask us our opinion? He has a right to say and determine once and for all whether world leaders can address our representatives in our house of parliament? And he justifies that by saying that he is protecting our democracy?

Norman has emerged relatively unscathed from the election campaign and its aftermath. That, however, is more attributable to the fact that he has not been put under any degree of scrutiny. He has been described as a “smooth operator”.

That, I suggest, is exactly what he is – an operator. He has an agenda. It is time the MSM really subjected his behaviour, his views, the alliances and allegiances that we will lose or have foist upon us if he succeeds and his apparently complete refusal to compromise under much closer scrutiny.

One almost gets the impression that the dirty politics campaign may have been part of the Greens’s agenda. He simply refuses to let it go.

It does appear a bit like all that.

Is Norman too close to the hacking, to the hacker and to Hager?

Russel Norman’s persistence in trying to hammer John Key over “Dirty Politics” seems to be adversely affecting his judgement.

Norman has suggested that the police should raid John Key’s house because Key has admitted being provided with a possible identity of the hacker ‘Rawshark’. NZ Herald report in John Key won’t reveal Rawshark’s name:

‘If this is the Prime Minister now saying that he thinks he knows who Rawshark is the question for the police is why aren’t they raiding his house?

“The police spent 10 hours going through Nicky Hager’s house because Nicky Hager supposedly knows who Rawshark is, well the Prime Minister is now on the public record saying he knows who Rawshark is. I would expect the police to be consistent and even handed and to raid the Prime Minister’s house and his office to find out who Mr Key thinks Rawshark is.”

This is a bizarre suggestion. What if Norman knew the hacker’s identity – should his house be raided?

I would expect the police to be consistent and even handed and to raid the Prime Minister’s house and his office” – if a Green MP’s home or office was raided by the police I suspect Norman would have a very different attitude.

Apart from the political implications it’s absurd to think that Key would have evidence of the identity in his home or office.

Key said ““Someone phoned and told me who the hacker was” – so if the police wanted to investigate that they would presumably look for phone records from telecommunication companies. It would be very unlikely there would be evidence in Key’s home or any of his offices.

Norman has also made some erroneous assertions.

“The police spent 10 hours going through Nicky Hager’s house” – this is a common claim. As far as I’m aware ten hours elapsed between the police arriving at Hager’s house and them leaving. Some of the time in between was spent talking with Hager, lawyers and superiors by phone, and waiting for responses. I don’t know of any facts about how long the searching took.

“Nicky Hager supposedly knows who Rawshark is” – because he has described in some detail his contact with the hacker, as reported by David Fisher at NZ Herald in August:

Hager says he spent weeks talking the person into letting him see the material and use it to build the narrative which became Dirty Politics. The hacker, says Hager, gave him everything. “I’ve seen everything. I’m 100 per cent sure.” The hacker then expressed a desire to keep back some material for himself. “We kind of negotiated how much,” he says. “I said ‘can I have all the political stuff’.” Hager got what he asked for and so, the book was written.

That’s a lot more involved than being told a name.

Ok, I presume Norman doesn’t seriously think that the police should raid Key over this.

But Norman has been increasingly looking obsessed over nailing John Key over “Dirty Politics”. His frustration at not scoring any significant hits seems to be affecting his judgement.

This abnormal Norman nonsense adversely affects the credibility of Green Party leadership and of the campaign Hager and his associates is trying to wage against Key.

How close is Norman to the hacking, to the hacker and to Hager?

That’s not for the police to investigate, but perhaps some journalists should be curious. Norman’s abnormal nonsense raises suspicions.

It may be nothing more than hope there is something in it to finally knock Key of his Prime Ministerial perch, but it seems to be clouding Norman’s judgement.

Air shot #1 – Norman versus Key

Three questions in Parliament yesterday tried to hit John Key over “Dirty Politics” but they all missed the mark.

The first was by Russel Norman, who was primed by a Speaker ruling last week that described what sort of questions should get a response from Key rather than avoidance.

Norman sharpened his spear and was careful to relate the question to Key’s job as Prime Minister, but a well prepared Key parried it off easily.

1. Prime Minister—Communications with Blogger

[Sitting date: 28 October 2014. Volume:701;Page:1. Text is subject to correction.]

1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader – Green) to the Prime Minister : Did he tell Cameron Slater that he recognised the mother of a car crash victim—a young man described by Mr Slater as “a feral”—from his Pike River meetings?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, as I stated publicly when this matter came up during the election campaign. I would note that I did not use the language paraphrased in Mr Slater’s stolen emails.

Dr Russel Norman : Was Cameron Slater correct to tell Television New Zealand that the Prime Minister texted Mr Slater to say that the Prime Minister recognised the mother of the dead car crash victim Judd Hall as being the same person he had encountered at Pike River meetings?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I do not believe that to be correct. I believe that the only conversation I had with him in my capacity as leader of the National Party was one on the telephone.

Dr Russel Norman : Why did the Prime Minister text Mr Slater to say that he recognised the mother of the Greymouth crash victim Judd Hall, described by Mr Slater as “a feral” who did the world a favour by dying? Why did the Prime Minister give that information to Mr Slater?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I do not believe I did. As I said, I had a phone conversation in my capacity as leader of the National Party and as part of that phone conversation the particular woman in question was raised. From memory, I said to him that I recognised her from Pike River. That was the extent of it, as I recall it. I do not have a copy of my text messages.

Dr Russel Norman : Is this the correct sequence of events: he was notified that Whale Oil had posted an answerphone recording of Mrs Hall on Slater’s blog, he listened to the recording and recognised Mrs Hall’s voice from the Pike River meetings, then he contacted Cameron Slater to tell him he recognised her?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No.

Dr Russel Norman : Given that he recognised Joe Hall as a mother from Pike River who had lost a son in a mining tragedy, why did he not put on his prime ministerial hat and offer his condolences over the death of another son rather than contacting his friend Cameron Slater to gossip about her instead?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I made it quite clear at the time that I did not know the particular details of this story. I just simply said in passing that I recognised her.

Dr Russel Norman : Will he now admit that he was the Prime Minister when he texted or phoned Cameron Slater to talk about a women who had lost all four of her sons; and will he say sorry to Mrs Hall?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No; I was leader of the National Party. What I said was that I recognised her, and that does not deserve an apology, just as the member himself was the leader of the Green Party when he went grovelling up to the Dotcom mansion.

Dr Russel Norman : Why did the Prime Minister not behave like a Prime Minister on hearing that this was the mother who had lost four sons and actually offer condolences to that women, instead of contacting the attack blogger Cameron Slater to offer him information about this woman—instead of behaving like a Prime Minister who should have offered condolences?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member should stop making things up.

Norman’s problem, as was Nicky Hager’s, is that he doesn’t have damning evidence that directly links Key to specific actions.

So he has resorted to trying to guess what might have happened and hope that Key might admit to something.

Key will be confident that Hager used the worst of the illegally hacked communications and there is no whammy waiting to wallop him.

With a lack of success so far it will be interesting to see if Norman keeps trying on this. Without coming up with anything new it is starting to look like futile flailing.

Whatever Key may or may not have done there is just not enough evidence to nail him.

Speaker rules Key should have answered Slater/feral question

The Speaker has reviewed Question Time on Wednesday where Russel Norman quizzed John Key on the amount of contact he had with Cameron Slater. See Question Time – Norman versus Key.

David Carter has ruled that Key could legitimately refuse to respond to most of the questions as the contact was ” None in my capacity as Prime Minister” (although Key’s evasiveness wasn’t a good look).

However the Speaker says that as there was a direct connection with his job as Prime Minister with one question he should have given an answer.

NZ Herald reports Key should have answered WhaleOil question – Speaker:

Mr Key said he did not speak with Mr Slater in his capacity as Prime Minister and therefore was not obliged to answer drawing fierce criticism from Dr Norman and Labour’s Chris Hipkins.

Having reviewed Mr Key’s responses overnight, Mr Carter today said that was likely correct for most of Dr Norman’s questions. However, one where Dr Norman asked if Slater was correct when he said Mr Key had told him the mother of a car crash victim was “the same woman f-ing feral bitch that screams at him when he goes to Pike River meetings” should have been answered.
The question “made a connection to the actions of the Prime Minister in response to Pike River Mine Tragedy,” Mr Carter said.

“A connection having been made to a matter of ministerial responsibility an informative answer should be given.”

This question was not specific enough for Key to have to answer:

Dr Russel Norman : Did he call Cameron Slater to discuss the backlash Slater received after describing a young car crash victim as a feral who deserved to die; if so, what did he tell Slater about the dead man’s mother?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have never rung Cameron Slater in my capacity as Prime Minister.

After points of order had been made about Key’s evasiveness these questions were asked.

Dr Russel Norman : Why did he tell Cameron Slater that the dead man’s mother was the same woman who sometimes confronted him at Pike River meetings?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not going to describe conversations I have in capacities other than those as Prime Minister.

Dr Russel Norman : Was Cameron Slater correct when he said that the Prime Minister told him that the dead man’s mother—so these are the Prime Minister’s own words—was “ … the same woman f—ing feral bitch that screams at him when he goes to Pike River meetings.”? Is Cameron Slater correct that that is what the Prime Minister said?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I made clear at the time that that was not correct.

The Speaker says of that last question “A connection having been made to a matter of ministerial responsibility an informative answer should be given.”

No doubt Norman will be sharpening his question son this for the next Question Time.

Today’s NZ Herald editorial is fairly scathing of Key’s avoidance and the potential precedent it sets in Speaker gives PM, ministers a licence to duck for cover:

The simple fact is that most people assume the Prime Minister is fulfilling just that role. If they took a telephone call from Mr Key, they would not think to ask whether he was speaking as the Prime Minister or as the leader of the National Party. The obvious exceptions to this preoccupation are his involvement in party conferences or election campaigns. Then, quite clearly, he is a party leader.

As much should have informed Mr Carter’s examination of the transcripts of the question-time exchange. This makes the outcome of the Speaker’s quick inquest and his effective sanctioning of the Prime Minister’s behaviour all the more unsatisfactory.

Mr Carter said yesterday that Mr Key’s non-informative responses were correct for nearly all Dr Norman’s questions. The only exception involved one dealing with the Pike River tragedy, in which a clear connection was made with ministerial responsibility.

In large part, Mr Carter has invited the Prime Minister and his ministers to don their hat of choice at any time as a means of evading awkward questions.

It is hardly a recipe for integrity or the engendering of a greater degree of public respect for the nation’s politicians.

And they point out a potential problem for Key.

The Prime Minister began his third term by warning National MPs and ministers that he did not want to see any hint of arrogance creeping into their behaviour.

Fast-forward a month and that very trait was implicit in John Key’s response to questions in Parliament about the nature and frequency of his conversations with Cameron Slater.

Key risks voter wrath if he keeps avoiding addressing the degree of his association with Slater.


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