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.

Question Time – Norman versus Key

Russel Norman probed John Key on dirty politics links in Question Time yesterday – see previous post Key does a Runner from attempted Norman conquest.

Key avoided answering but it raised some issues (via Norman and Chris Hipkins) that the Speaker said he would consider.

It was good to see reasonable points of order rather than the more common cantankerous attacks on the Speaker. Making a good case is far more likely to succeed than hissy fitting.

Transcript:

3. Prime Minister—Communication with Blogger

[Sitting date: 22 October 2014. Volume:701;Page:4. Text is subject to correction.]

3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader – Green) to the Prime Minister : How many times since November 2008 has he spoken with blogger Cameron Slater on the phone and how many times, if any, has he texted him?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): None in my capacity as Prime Minister. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! When I remain on my feet, I do not expect interjections to continue from my left.

Dr Russel Norman : Given the Prime Minister’s previous statements to say that he regularly talked with Mr Slater on the phone, is the Prime Minister now claiming that when he talked with Mr Slater he was talking with Mr Slater as the leader of the National Party, not as the Prime Minister; and does he wear a different hat when he takes those phone calls?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not now claiming that. That has always been the claim.

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.

Chris Hipkins : Has he ever phoned or texted Cameron Slater on a phone funded or provided by Ministerial Services?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am not 100 percent sure of that, but what I can say is that—as Prime Minister Helen Clark would have told him—that is not the test of whether it is in my capacity as Prime Minister.

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

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I do not need the Leader of the House’s assistance at this stage.

Dr Russel Norman : The Prime Minister gave an answer to the primary question on notice, on the basis that he never called Mr Slater as the Prime Minister. We have now established that there are occasions where he used the prime ministerial phone to call Mr Slater. I would ask you to rule as to whether the Prime Minister’s original answer was within the Standing Orders of the House, given that he himself has now acknowledged he used a prime ministerial phone to call Mr Slater.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! In regard to the answer given by the Prime Minister to the first question, that answer was definitely in order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is something particularly disturbing about the Prime Minister’s answer, because it would appear that any Minister can make this claim and say: “Not in my capacity as a Minister.” Around about now, we have got no accountability at all in this Parliament if you allow that to stand.

Mr SPEAKER : In regard to the very first question that was asked, the Prime Minister is perfectly entitled to answer it in the way he did. He is then responsible for that answer. Further supplementary questions have been asked that attempt to tease this issue out. They are equally in order.

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.

Dr Russel Norman : Is it not the truth that until the Dirty Politics book came out, he chose to have regular dealings with Cameron Slater, a man who is a hired gun for the tobacco industry, whose blog subjected a public servant to death threats, and who celebrated the death of a car crash victim, calling him a feral?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Over the time I have been Prime Minister, the answer to that question is no.

Dr Russel Norman : Is it appropriate for the Prime Minister or his staff to use an attack blogger like Cameron Slater as a platform to “get their message out”, as the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman described it on 12 December last year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The Government and Ministers do talk to bloggers, for a variety of reasons. The reason we talk to social media is that they are part of the overall media that communicates with New Zealanders. That would be no different from other political parties. I have seen that member quoted on numerous blog sites. One assumes that he and his office talk to them, and I am sure he and his office probably talk to Nicky Hager.

Dr Russel Norman : Did he instruct his staff to cease all links with Cameron Slater after the blogger accused an alleged sexual attack victim of bringing it on herself, or after Slater described a car crash victim as a feral who deserved to die? Did the Prime Minister direct his staff to cease all contact with Cameron Slater after Slater made those comments?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he not think that he should set a standard for the Prime Minister’s office by directing his staff to cease all contact with the attack blogger Cameron Slater, after Cameron Slater accused an alleged sexual attack victim of bringing it on herself, and Slater described a car crash victim as a feral who deserved to die? Would it not set a standard for the Prime Minister’s office to direct his staff to no longer have contact with Cameron Slater?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have made it clear that we do not endorse many of the stories or comments that are run by a range of different bloggers, but, no, I will not be instructing my staff to do that.

Dr Russel Norman : Is he saying it is business as usual for the Prime Minister of New Zealand and his staff to deal on a regular basis with the most vicious and notorious blogger in New Zealand and for his staff to leak information to that blogger in order to intimidate public servants and silence his political opponents?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I do not believe that to be an accurate statement.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask that after question time you review the overall question here today, because I suspect this issue is going to arise again around the distinction between the Prime Minister’s other capacities and his capacity as Prime Minister. The issue that I would like you to consider—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is a point of order.

Chris Hipkins : —is that, in fact, it is the content of the communications and not the means by which they are transmitted, or the hat that the Prime Minister claims to be wearing at the time that he makes the communication, that is at issue here. So if the Prime Minister is communicating with someone about matters relating to his role as Prime Minister and about activities he has undertaken as Prime Minister, then they are, by nature, prime ministerial activities that he should be answerable for. So I ask you to give some further consideration to the interchange today, and, in fact, perhaps come back with a more substantive ruling on the matter, because it seems to me that the Prime Minister could stand up and give any answer to any question and say: “Well, I wasn’t doing that as Prime Minister.”, and therefore would not be held to account.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think it has been well established in this House for a very long period of time that Prime Ministers wear a variety of different hats, and that includes as leader of the National Party, and can include as a citizen. I fondly remember sitting in this House for years hearing Helen Clark saying that she made statements, or had conversations, or undertook actions as the leader of the Labour Party. I happen, for the record, to use my Ministerial Services – funded cellphone to ring my wife. When I ring my darling wife and when I put the cat out at night, I do that in my capacity as a husband, not as Prime Minister. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am on my feet. In regard to the very first point Chris Hipkins raised, I certainly give an assurance I will review the interchange today. As to the appropriate course of action following that review, I will be bound. If it is necessary to come back with a further more substantive ruling, I will consider doing so.

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

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is a point of order. [Interruption] Order! We just need to get the rules straight for everybody. This is a point of order, and it will be heard in silence.

Dr Russel Norman : Thank you for that ruling. Given that it related to my questions, I would just like to make one point with regard to the point that Mr Hipkins made, which was that the issue was about John Key acting as Prime Minister—

Hon Gerry Brownlee : What’s the point of order?

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Dr Russel Norman : The point of order is that it is relevant to this question because he was acting as Prime Minister in the Pike River capacity. That is why it is relevant to this question.

Mr SPEAKER : The attempt to raise a point of order is not actually adding to the situation. I have given an assurance following the point of order raised by Chris Hipkins that I will have a look. I always review the transcripts of question time. As to what action may then be required, that will be determined by the conclusions I make in that review.

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

Mr SPEAKER : Is it a fresh point of order? I have dealt with this matter. If it is a fresh point of order I am happy to hear it, but we are not going to relitigate this matter any further.

Dr Russel Norman : Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Is it a fresh point of order?

Dr Russel Norman : Yes. Mr Speaker, while you were on your feet, and several times while I was trying to make a point of order, the Prime Minister interjected even after you had directed him not to. It seems to me that if we are going to have order in this House, it is very important that the Prime Minister in particular should set an example of not speaking while the member with the call is trying to speak.

Mr SPEAKER : That is a reasonable point of order to raise. I did not actually hear the Prime Minister continuing in a conversation. I did hear it from another frontbencher of the Government. The member is making a fair point. I do not want to get into a habit of ejecting many members on any day, but points of order should be heard in silence, particularly when I call the House to order and ask for the point of order to be delivered. For members to continue to interject is going to create problems and leave me with no choice but to ask that member, be it a Minister or a Prime Minister, to leave the Chamber.

 

Key does a Runner from attempted Norman conquest

When Russel Norman questioned John Key about contact with blogger Cameron Slater in Parliament yesterday Key did a Road Runner.

It was inevitable that “dirty politics’ would be raised early in the new Parliament and Norman laid into Key in the first Question Time of the term yesterday. Key avoided answering questions about how much phone or text contact he’d had with Slater, saying his contact had not been as Prime Minister.

While unsuccessful at getting answers Norman very successfully re-kindled the ‘dirty politics’ controversy.

Key’s lack of response was widely criticised in social media. Many had been waiting for the opportunity to stick the boot into political dirt perceived by many to come from the Prime Minister’s office (while this has been strongly implied in Nicky Hager’s book but remains unproven).

Jane Clifton described it as an Acme dodge in Prime minister only when he wants to be.

When Greens co-leader Russel Norman tried to pin John Key down on the nature and frequency of his conversations with blogger Cameron Slater, Key simply dialled up one of his favourite, infuriating Road Runner-style getaways: he had not spoken to Slater “in my capacity as prime minister”.

This is an Acme dodge, as a prime minister need only account to Parliament for things done in the capacity of prime minister. As party leader, MP or citizen, he has no accountability.

It didn’t matter how Norman phrased it, or which of the unsavoury items from the blogger’s stolen emails were put to him, Key insisted he had not been the prime minister for the purposes of any conversations with the notorious WhaleOil blogger.

This denial mode is in contrast to earlier in the year when Key was reported as saying he regularly contacted Slater.

He confirmed he and Slater spoke regularly, including this week when they discussed Dotcom, but Key hedged when asked if Slater was his source.

Key said he regularly called Slater, who broke the story of the Len Brown affair, “to see what he’s got on his site and mind”.

Key said he was not deterred by the controversy around Slater, who last month received death threats for calling a man who died in a car accident a “feral”.

From Looks like Slater is Key’s Peters source

Key looks deterred from any admissions now.

Slater confirmed he was the source.

“If the prime minister said that’s the case, that’s the case,” Slater said.

Controversies surrounding Slater should not preclude the pair from having a professional relationship, Slater said.

From what Slater is saying on Whale Oil it appears that that “professional relationship” has diminished somewhat, if not stopped altogether.

But if Key now keeps refusing to respond to questions about his past Whale Oil links and if he avoids openly distancing himself from the dirtier Slater tactics then continued holding to account is likely to keep Key running – but he has nowhere to hide.

If Key keeps refusing to admit the boil this looks likely to keep festering. Norman is unlikely to just let it go.

And left wing activists pinned a lot of hope in promoting “dirty politics” – it failed to swing this year’s election but the 2017 campaign has begun. Expect both sides to remain unclean.

Question Time flop #1 – Winston Peters

In the new Parliament’s question time today Winston Peters began his quest to establish himself as the leader of the Opposition with a weak line of questioning that John Key easily rebuffed.

[Sitting date: 22 October 2014. Volume:701;Page:9. Text is subject to correction.]

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Does he stand by his statement of 13 October: “I would certainly describe my style as open and transparent.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : If that is true, why did his Government withhold the two child poverty reports for 17 months in an abuse of the Official Information Act?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member really should direct that to the responsible Minister; it was not in my office. But I think I am correct in saying—I could stand corrected—that it was because it was a work in progress and there were particular reasons as it was going through that process.

So his first hit was aimed at the wrong Minister. Peters should have known that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Having regard to the Hon Jim McLay’s comment in this House when the Official Information Bill was being passed, and he said: “The underlying philosophy of the bill is that official information should be made available unless there is good reason for withholding it.”, and that being the case, why has he admitted on 15 October to using delaying tactics for political purposes?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have not.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I seek leave to table the evidence that he did admit that on 15 October.

Mr SPEAKER : What is the source of this evidence?

Rt Hon Winston Peters : It is a Radio New Zealand transcript.

Peters must have (or should have) know that would be inadmissible as evidence to be tabled.

Mr SPEAKER : No. That is also available to all members. Does the member—

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Well, he’s just denied it, for goodness sake!

Pointless protest.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I heard that. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Why are US congressmen kept well informed about the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations whilst New Zealand parliamentarians are kept totally in the dark on this matter?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, every system is different, so I cannot speak for what happens in the United States. But what I can say is that in New Zealand it has been a longstanding tradition for free-trade agreements to be negotiated behind closed doors, essentially, until the point an agreement is reached, because we do not believe it is in the best interests to be discussing those in the public domain because it weakens our bargaining position.

Peters will know that. Or should know that. He was Foreign Minister under the Helen Clark led government from 2005 to November 2008.

The New Zealand-China FTA was signed on 7 April 2008 in Beijing, after negotiations that spanned fifteen rounds over three years. It entered into force on 1 October 2008 (Wikipedia)

In an earlier question Peters tried to insert his influence once but it was dominated by Russel Norman questioning John Key about his contact with Cameron Slater with a strong and well considered point of order from Labour’s Chris Hipkins.

This wasn’t an eminent start to the new term from Peters. It was a fizzer.

Harawira and the Greens

Hone Harawira has been talking publicly two weeks after his election loss. He talks about his key policies, child poverty, homelessness, unemployment and the Treay of Waitangi as if he was had been the sole crusader on these social issues.

From a Mana media release on Friday: Mana’s Challenge To The 51st Parliament

MANA defined its position when we announced that our constituency would be those we call TE PANI ME TE RAWAKORE, the poor and the dispossessed, and our last three years have been a challenging and vigorous time where we have staked out our place in the political world – a commitment to ending poverty for all and particularly those most vulnerable in our society, our kids; a commitment to putting an end to the grinding homelessness affecting tens of thousands of New Zealand families; a commitment to putting the employment of people ahead of the sacrifice of jobs in the endless pursuit of wealth for the few; and a commitment to a future where the Treaty of Waitangi is honoured as the basis for justice and good governance in Aotearoa.

Mind you – being so highly principled brings with it enormous risk, not least the fact that KIDS CAN’T VOTE AND POOR PEOPLE DON’T, but I am proud of what we have achieved in our short time in parliament.

When we first raised our FEED THE KIDS policy three years ago, everybody laughed, so we took our kaupapa on the road, we built a support coalition of more than 30 national organisations, we pushed the policy into the top 5 issues of the year, and with the support of a standout series on Campbell Live, we got a poll last year that showed more than 70% supported a government-funded food in schools programme.

When we called for 10,000 NEW STATE HOUSES EVERY YEAR until the housing crisis was over, other politicians squirmed, but after challenging them at a Housing Action protest outside parliament, Labour took up the same call for 10,000 new houses a year, albeit theirs was more a pitch to woo middle-class voters than a bid to help the poor.

We took up the call for FULL EMPLOYMENT because to accept anything less was to accept failure, and by pushing for the minimum wage to be the LIVING WAGE OF $18.80 AN HOUR, we forced other so-called left-wing parties to follow suit.

Other left wing parties might dispute that they have been “forced…to follow suit”, in particular the Greens.

This theme was also prominent in an interview on Q & A yesterday. It began:

Do you regret doing this deal with Kim Dotcom?

Harawira: No I don’t think I do, I mean…

You don’t think you do…?

Harawira: No no no no. I mean we have two hundred and sixty thousand kids living in poverty in this country, we’ve got more than thirty thousand families that are homeless, more than twenty five percent of Maori youth are on the dole.

There needed to be something to help Mana broaden our kaupapa, and to try to get more MPs into the house.

The Greens in particular have also strongly campaigned on very similar issues.

Harawira: There needed to be something to help Mana broaden our kaupapa, and to try to get more MPs into the house.

But you’re not there now to…

Harawira: Sure. But was it a risk worth taking? Absolutely it was, because even now that I’m out of Parliament I’ve received hundreds, probably more than a thousand emails, text, phone calls really regretting the fact that I’m not in there including from National Party supporters.

I think genuinely there needs to be a voice for te pani me te rawakore, the poor and the dispossessed in the house, and I think that was Mana’s role and it will be Mana’s role in the future.

Harawira’s voice won’t be in Parliament this term. Mana’s voice won’t be in Parliament this term. A major reason for this is Mana’s alliance with Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party.

There were hundreds, probably more than a thousand people warning against this. It looked like a huge clash of principles.

Sue Bradford resigned from the Mana Party because of the alliance. She had previously been a Green MP.

Laila Harre left a prominent job in the Green Party to lead the Internet Party along side Harawira’s Mana.

Russel Norman spoke strongly against the Internet Party and the Internet-Mana alliance.

Harawira and Harre chose Kim Dotcom over the Greens to try and help the poor and the dispossessed.

The Green Party has fourteen MPs in Parliament. Harawira and Mana are out.

Why did Mana choose to be backed by Dotcom? How many kids could have been fed by the four million dollars Dotcom wasted on a failed campaign?

Why didn’t Mana join forces with the Greens, who have very similar aims and policies?

If Harawira wants to continue his crusade for the poor and the dispossessed he could work with the Greens. Mana could ally themselves with the Greens.

What’s most important – speaking for the poor and the dispossessed from the sidelines, or being a part of a much wider campaign for the less fortunate in our society?

Perhaps Harawira wants to be ‘The Man”. He pulled out of the Maori party team to set up the Mana Party.

if Harawira joined the Greens, if the Mana Party allied with the Greens, many voices would be stronger than one man and his movement outside Parliament.

That would have more chance of real success than hitching hopes to Dotcom and Harre.

Green policies include:

A billion dollar plan to reduce child poverty

Workers will get a better, fairer deal under the Green Party

A healthy home for every child

The Green ceiling

The Greens had high hopes for their party vote this election, expecting an upward trend to continue. Targets and claims were 15% and higher. If you believed their hype like Greens did a significant improvement was not only feasible, it was a certainty.

Green reaction to a mediocre result shock, disbelief that their rising greatness wasn’t reflected in the polls. Depending on the special vote count they may barely get the same as in 2011, which to Greens is a pounding of their pride and expectations.

But from outside the Green bubble it is not surprising, despite Labour’s weakness leaving many left wing votes up for grabs.

While many people have some admiration for Green advocating on environmental issues there are strong concerns for too much Green influence, especially anywhere near Government. This is due to extreme stances, such as moratoriums and bans on anything to do with fossil fuel and mineral exploration and extraction.

And it’s due to their strong socialist leanings and policies. Greens try to disguise their socialism with do-good fronts like lifting children out of poverty, but many voters see through their solutions, which invariably mean giving everyone the same amount of money and housing, all provided or imposed by the State.

Making things better for kids and poor people is admirable and should be given more political attention. Greens have succeeded there. But there is not a lot of support for their blanket ‘handout’ approach, which many people see as idealistic and unworkable.

A major push for Green growth was based on giving much more attention to their economic credentials and ambitions. Instead this helped fix the Green ceiling in place.

A common phrase that’s associated with Greens having anything to do with running the country’s finances is “scare the bejeebers”.

At a time when the country is just emerging (relatively successfully) from the worst world financial situation in generations there is a wariness of starting a Government spending spree, handing out money and houses to every poor person who “deserves” as good as anyone else regardless of their efforts.

It’s ironic that a party that campaigned hard on having a forward looking “smarter cleaner” economy wants to achieve their aims through last century socialism.

There’s also a number of conflicting images.

Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Nandor Tanczos looked and acted like real Greens. Sue Bradford looked and acted like a sleeves rolled up social campaigner.

While Greens transitioned to new leadership very successfully and improved their vote Russel Norman and Metiria Turei look  very different to their target constituency. Bradford left the party when she missed out on the leadership (and this year she left the Mana Party when they betrayed their principles by joining forces with Kim Dotcom).

Green election results:

  • 1999 – 106,560 votes, 5.16%
  • 2002 – 142,250 votes, 7.00%
  • 2005 – 120,521 votes, 5.30%
  • 2008 – 157,613 votes, 6.72%
  • 2011 – 247,372 votes, 11.06%
  • 2014 – pre-specials 210,764 votes, 10.02%

Greens will have picked up a significant share of Labour’s decline in 2011 but although Labour kept shedding votes this year Greens weren’t able to capitalise.

The Greens seem to have hit a support ceiling and unless they change markedly 10-12% is likely to be their limit.

And they will be a little nervous about Gareth Morgan proposing a ‘blue-green’ party that is prepared to promote environmental issues with any government with a more pragmatic and effective approach, and without the socialism.

Greens do contribute significantly to Parliament and will be partly responsible for National paying more attention to environmental and “poverty” issues. But they haven’t yet been a part of Government after nearly two decades of trying.

And a support ceiling won’t prevent them from declining due to competition and ongoing impotence.

Environment not a Green Party priority?

There must be no doubt that the environment is important to the Green Party, but according to NZ Herald the environment is not included in Green policy priorities the environment.  This is from an Election 2014: Green Party – Norman + Turei  pre-election interview.

Greens: We won’t be shut out again

Green co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei want to be in a full coalition with Labour and have senior Cabinet positions that reflect their party’s priorities, social justice and the economy.

And they say that the possibility of sharing the role of deputy prime minister has to be on the negotiation table.

Mrs Turei has made child poverty her priority while Dr Norman has focused on the economy and green innovation.

While “green innovation” is related to the environment making the economy interests plus social issues their priorities looks like a significant shift in emphasis for the Greens.

However the environment is not left out in a comment from Norman in the interview:

We’re people that got into politics to do some good, and so we’re very clear we want progress on economic, social and environmental policy areas.

With ‘only’ two leaders one of the three has to miss out on their major areas of interest.

The final question: If someone hasn’t voted before, first time voter, what is the single, the single biggest reason they should vote Green?

Metiria Turei: Because we will put children and their families at the heart of every decision that we make in government.

Turei was unequivocal about that but Norman was visibly and verbally conflicted.

Russel Norman: Yeah yeah, I don’t know, the single thing, like you know when you get these questions, the single thing, it’s like it’s comp…like it’s complex.

You know obviously I’d say you know clean rivers and a smart green economy but, you know, that’s not one thing though, yeah, climate change is part of a smart green economy, um, yeah, so it’s hard to answer those questions that name one thing because it’s so much bigger than that.

It’s been said that the three most important things about an election are the economy, the economy and the economy. There’s some truth to that.

How our economy is run, especially in relation to business development and use of natural resources, has a significant influence on the environment. There are potential economic costs of mitigating adverse environment effects.

And if you want to give more money to the poorest people you have to have an economy that can afford that. If the country goes broke everyone will suffer.

As Norman says, it’s complex.

Norman associated himself with Rod Donald as a pragmatic idealist. That is also complex, and perhaps the Green Party’s biggest challenge if they negotiate a significant role in the next government.

Norman seems to get it, Turei seems tending far more towards idealism. Similar tensions are likely through the party ranks.

If any party deserves a shot at being a part of government it has to be the Greens. They’ve had a long build-up and look the best organised and prepared of all parties.

Government is a step up. Greens are relying on other parties to get them there. If they make it their top targets will be economic and social portfolios.

One could expect that the  environment would be their next cab off the rank – but next on the Green list is Kevin Hague who is more likely to get an associate health type role.

Number four is Eugenie Sage who is their spokesperson on environment, conservation, water and resource management., the nitty gritty of environmental portfolios. On current polling Greens deserve more than four Cabinet positions so should get something for Sage, but Greens may have to settle for pragmatic idealism in their negotiations.

Norman is right. It’s complex.

Greens versus Internet Party

The Internet Party is targeting green voters and this looks to be in deliberate competition with the Green Party.

Last year Russel Norman met with Kim Dotcom several times. He claims he was trying to talk Dotcom out of starting up a new party as he thought it would split votes on the left. That was an astute assessment, but Norman won’t have been aware of how much of a risk the Internet Party might pose to the Greens.

Norman wouldn’t have foreseen that someone working closely with the Greens on it’s campaign would have defected to lead the new party. Laila Harre was loaded with inside Green information.

And Harre has clearly positioned the Internet Party as another left of Labour party, which will have to compete with the Greens for votes.

What wasn’t known was how fiercely they would compete. We got an indication yesterday.

The Green Party announced it’s election priorities as scheduled – Green Party launches key election priority, rivers clean enough for swimming.

But several hours before the Green fanfare the Internet Party released it’s environmental policy – Internet Party to stop high-risk resource extraction -

The Internet Party wants a moratorium on fracking, the dumping of oil wastes, deep-sea and undersea extraction and other risky energy and mining industry practices.

In its final environment policy released today – its first full, digitally-driven democratic policy – the Internet Party also vows to restore the absolute right of Kiwis to protest at sea against deep-sea oil exploration.

This looks like it could be a virtual replication of Green policy. If you look at their full environment policy – Environment policy revised – the similarities are obvious.

Having very similar policies will compete for votes, but notably the Internet Party obviously tried to pre-empt the Green launch yesterday with their own green launch. It looks like they want to compete with the Greens head on.

One of the Internet Party’s main stated objectives is to remove National from Government.Elections are generally thought to be won and lost in the centre.

So it’s curious that the Internet Party has targeted the left of Labour vote, and clearly they are intending to compete strongly with the Greens.

They seem to be more intent on capturing as much of the left wing vote as they can.

This could suggest they are looking further than this election with bigger ambitions, perhaps to establish themselves as the dominant left wing party. That’s what Greens would like to become. It will be much harder for them to grow in the same space as the Internet Party.

And I wonder if there’s some payback going on for Norman not playing ball with Dotcom.

Thinking outside the Green square

The Green Party has virtually led the opposition this term. It looks the best organised party apart from National, and it appears to be well funded. Green leadership looks secure and sound.

Greens are overdue for being in government and are ambitious to finally get a share of real power.

But they have a major problem, not of their own doing but a serious impediment to Greens achieving what they want. Labour have seemed an essential part of Green plans but David Cunliffe look like a dead leader walking.

Apart from a weak Labour making a left wing Government look increasingly unlikely the Greens are also hurt by Labour being weak – many voters are sympathetic to some Green input but are wary of too much Green say and too may Green policy. People are uncertain about what a Green dominated coalition might do.

Greens could just resign themselves to being reliant on a Labour recovery and wait. And possibly wait and wait.

But Greens have proven to be smart and also willing to read the political wind and adapt. Green leadership seems well aware of the political need for pragmatism and compromise if a party is to make progress.

They attempted to initiated a campaign partnership with Labour but were rejected.

Will they consider the ultimate in political pragmatism – a coalition with National?

Currently the Green position on working with National is something like “very very unlikely”. But that was determined when Labour+Green looked an electoral possibility. Labour have moved this towards “very very unlikely” and don’t look like changing direction.

They will surely be reassessing this. It’s known that Green activists are not keen on working with National but political pragmatism – and the fear if another three years in the opposition wilderness not knowing if even then Labour will get their act together – must be tempting some in the Green Party to go for a bit of something rather than a lot of nothing.

There would be a number of benefits for Greens going into coalition with National. They would be in a better position to promote some of their policies. They would get some experience at operating in Government and some of their MPs would get experience in ministerial positions.

Their lack of Government experience and their numbers relative to National – something like 55-15 – would mean they wouldn’t be able to claim major roles but they would gain valuable experience and would achieve far more than they could alongside Labour in opposition.

They could prove they can be responsible on Government. This would enhance their chances in 2017.

What about Greens as ministers? Alongside National they would have to accept minor rolls, but this would help easy then into the next level.

Russel Norman with an associate finance role and Metiria Turei in an associate social role – or even Minister of the Environment – would look fine. And Kevin Hague would slot easily into an associate health role.

National would gain from this arrangement as well. They’ve worked successfully on policy with Greens before with insulation schemes, and some more environmental and sustainable influence would be positive.

And it could be easier and safer to work with the principled Greens than Winston Peters or the unknown quantity of Colin Craig.

The country would benefit too from a stable governing arrangement, more social and environmental influence. And once Greens eventually get to be a part of a left leaning government they will be far better experienced.

How would voters see this? I think in the main they would see it as a positive. Swing voters may be far for willing to support Greens if they saw they would be moderated by senior National influence compared to Greens alongside a weak Labour, where voters have some worries about how Green it would be.

Prior to the last election 3 News Reid research polled on a National-Green mix.

We asked voters that if John Key opened the door to a formal coalition deal with the Greens – should the Greens say yes.

  • 55 percent said yes
  • 30 percent said no

Many of those saying no are likely to be Labour supporters who wouldn’t like to be cut out of any deal.

Amongst Green voters:

  • 60 percent said yes
  • 27 percent no

Amongst National voters:

  • 63 percent said yes
  • 25 percent said no

With the current state of the parties, especially Labour’s weakness and fears of the possibility of Labour+Green+NZ First+Internet+MANA or even of National+NZ First then a National-Green alliance may seem even more attractive and less scary to voters.

If John Key saw benefits for National and for the country he should support working with Greens.

Some of the more idealistic in Greens may take more convincing, but the key to successful politics is finding ways of achieving something. Intransigent idealists tend to be impotent. There is far more power in pragmatism.

One of the biggest limiters on Greens increasing their vote is a fear of them having too much influence with their more extreme policies.

National is well supported in the polls but voters are very unlikely to want them to rule with a majority on their own.

Voters may see Greens alongside a much larger National as a much safer bet than most of the current alternatives and they would probably pick up votes that are disillusioned with Labour.

To me National+Green seems to be by far the safest and most sensible choice for the country this year.

Both parties would need to signal there willingness to work together clearly prior to the election. It would likely help both their chances.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 247 other followers