NZ First “assault on free speech”

NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark’s remarks in Parliament last week, and the support of those remarks by leader Winston Peters, have been described in a Herald editorial as an assault on free speech.

I agree. Trying to put someone down and telling them they should go back ‘to where they came from” is an insidious attempt to shut them up, an attempt to tell them thay have no right to speak or to be critical. This is especiallyh serious as it happened in Parliament, where it’s important MPs can speak openly for their parties and constituencies.

Editorial: ‘Korea’ slight an assault on free speech

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark’s suggestion in Parliament that National’s Melissa Lee should “go back to Korea” rather than criticise something in New Zealand has been called racist, which it was, but it was also oppressive of free speech, which in Parliament is even worse.

Mr Mark is denying the right of immigrants to criticise their adopted country, which is an attitude heard often enough in general conversation where it is deeply oppressive for immigrants who are sensitive to the fact that they are recent arrivals and would like to join the conversation.

It is an attitude that should never be heard in Parliament, where it is essential to democracy that representatives of all shades of opinion, interest and ethnicity are allowed to speak.

NZ First have attacked Asian immigration and Asian investment and attacked Asians generally for some time. But to attack a New Zealand MP and to try and shut them up because they are of Asian origin, in Parliament, is probably a new low.

On that basis, Mr Mark may say he should be free to express the view that immigrants who do not like something about New Zealand should go back where they came from rather than criticise this country.

But Parliament has numerous rules that restrict its members’ rights to speak in ways that abuse their rights or oppress the rights of others to be heard. This should be one of the them.

It was ethnic bullying.

It is hard enough to encourage immigrants to stand for Parliament, as any political party can attest, for exactly the reason Mr Mark has stated. Naturally they wonder whether they have a right as new citizens to join in our political debates. We need to stress they most certainly do have a right. They have chosen to become citizens of this country, they are a large and growing minority contributing to its economy and we need to hear their views. It is not healthy for any country to suppress the voice of any section of its population.

It is similar to if Mark had told a female MP to shut up and go back to their kitchen or a Maori MP to shut up and go back to their Marae.

For these reasons, Mr Mark ought to have apologised to Ms Lee and to Parliament as soon as he had reflected on what he had said. The fact that he still has not should be treated very seriously in view of its oppressive implications for free speech in the chamber.

It is possible Mr Mark has not reflected on his remark even yet.

Mark should reflect on a number of things he has said in Parliament said and on his behaviour in Parliament. He appears to be too arrogant to do so.

It is not too late for the House to take some sort of action when it resumes next week. The need for a directive on oppressive speech has become stronger now that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has echoed the offence. When the country’s most experienced parliamentarian says, “If someone is complaining about the country they are in, they … can always go back home,” he is a disgrace to free and fair debate.

It’s not unusual for Peters to be a disgrace to free and fair debate. It’s very sad that NZ First now have a deputy who seems tol be prepared to be more disgraceful.

All of this arose because Ms Lee criticised shop trading hours in New Zealand as they used to be. Any member of Parliament who cannot acknowledge the right of another to be here, and take part in our politics, is not worth his seat.

As far as Peters goes that’s up to the voters in his electorate.

Mark is a list MP, so it is up to NZ First to decide on whether he  deserves his seat. That his leader has endorsed and repeated his insidious remarks means voters should seriously consider whether NZ First is worth having in Parliament. Unfortunately democracy means even racists and bigots and those who verbally assault immigrants and assault free speech can get elected.

Why “go back to where you came from” is unacceptable

Andrew Chen has explained why Ron Mark’s comments in Parliament were “simply not acceptable” in “Go back to where you came from.”

I agree fully with Andrew’s post. Mark’s comments and the support of them from most of NZ First caucus is disturbing from a party in Parliament. It disgraces their name “New Zealand First”. They only represent a minority in New Zealand who are intolerant of ofther New Zealanders, or they are prepared to use and abuse some New Zealanders to try and build support from their rascist and intolerant constituency.

It’s very sad to hear of some of the things Andrew has experienced during his lifetime as a New Zealander.

When I was 9 years old, I went to a friend’s house to play Age of Empires. Some of his extended family happened to be there at the time, and his step-father asked me “where are you from?” Truthfully, I answered “Birkenhead”, the suburb where I lived. His response was “Don’t you be cheeky, where are you actually from?” Confused, I answered “Here?” Suddenly, he held me in a headlock and shouted “you bloody well know what I mean, where are you from?” The sounds of laughter from the rest of the room rang in my ears. I managed to mumble something like “my parents are from Taiwan.” He let go and said “that wasn’t that hard, was it?”

When I was 13 years old, I was a patrol leader at my local scout troop. One of the other scouts was sitting on an empty wooden box and swinging his legs against the sides, creating a lot of noise. I asked him to stop because the constant banging was making me uncomfortable and a little bit anxious. He said “you can’t tell me what to do, this is my country.” I had to go sit somewhere else.

When I was 15 years old, I was sitting in math class at the desk closest to the door. It was open, and a breeze was blowing in. While the class was working on some exercises, I asked the teacher if I could close the door because I was getting a bit cold. He said “If you think it’s too cold maybe you should go back to Asia.” I replied with “I was born here” and shut the door. When I later told a friend that racism was well and alive within our school she told me to “stop being ridiculous”.

That NZ First pander to that sort of intolerant and harmful attitude is also very sad.

Memories of those experiences came back to Andrew when he hear Mark’s comments.

I don’t like these memories. I don’t like sharing these memories either, but maybe this can demonstrate to some people why the statement to go back to where you came from is offensive. I cannot bear to imagine what life must be like for migrants living in less ethnically tolerant areas of the country.

There’s a proportion of the population that is not just innloreant of peoeple they deem to be different, whether it be different race, nationality, hair colour, religion or whatever. They express their intolerance in a nasty way.

Some of them don’t think they are being nasty, but they don’t understand how dissy comments they think are innocuous can hurt others.

One of the worst ways to hurt is to imply or say someone shouldn’t live in the place they have chosen to live, or have lived all their lives.

For Ron Mark’s NZ First colleagues to back him up only further reiterates that this behaviour is apparently okay. Winston Peters said that any claims of racism were “poppycock”. Barbara Stewart said that the comment was not racist and was “taken out of context” (when his comments were very much in the context of a racist speech targeting public holidays in Korea and India and implying that these other countries have too many public holidays; in fact his entire speech was laced with derision and offence). Pita Paraone said “it was said in the heat of the moment as part of the theatre of Parliament.” None of these statements are anywhere near satisfactory for a parliament that seeks to represent an increasingly multicultural nation. The closest we got was Tracey Martin saying “it’s not a statement I would have made.”

That’s an awful reflection on the New Zealand First party who put the most intolerant first and promote other New Zealanders as second class citizens, or worse.

Ron Mark makes it clear that Lee and Bakshi are not real New Zealanders when he says in his speech “while we know certain people are toeing the National Party line like a little bunch of whipped puppies, back in their world they would never, ever dare stand up and say this.” His use of “back in their world” effectively says that the fact that Lee and Bakshi have been in New Zealand for 27 and 14 years respectively is worth nothing. “Go back to where you came from” is a phrase that has always been loaded with xenophobia, and I really don’t see a context where it could be used to mean anything other than “you’re not welcome because you’re not from here.”

It doesn’t matter to me that Ron Mark was directing his statement at migrants and I was born here. The common racist usually doesn’t take the time to establish my place of birth.

A person with Mark’s political experience must know what he was doing through his remarks in Parliament, and he has since chosen to defend them. He seems willing to use shitty attacks on New Zealanders to try and further his own political ambitions.

I’m grateful to the various people, both in and outside of the House, who have criticised the comments and refused to let it slide. It helps me to feel a bit of hope that one day this type of racism and xenophobia can be eliminated. It strengthens my resolve to stay here and try to make New Zealand a better place.

I’m more than happy to not let the behaviour or Ron Mark (supported by Winston Peters and NZ First) slide.

New Zealand is a better place with people like Andrew Chen as much a part of our country as me. And we need to ensure that Mark and NZ First don’t get away with trying to make it a worse place chasing their own selfish ambitions.

Andrew Chen sounds like a decent New Zealander. And Ron Mark doesn’t.

“Go back to where you came from” is unacceptable from any New Zealander, and especially so from a Member of Parliament.

Ron Mark unrepentant

NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark is unrepentant following widespread criticism of his speech in Parliament earlier this week – see Re Mark remarks – appalling in Parliament.

NZ Herald reports:  Mark stands by ‘go back to Korea’ jab:

During a debate on shop trading hours on Tuesday, Mr Mark accused Ms Lee of being condescending towards New Zealanders.

“I have got a short message: If you do not like New Zealand, go back to Korea,” he said.

In the same speech, the New Zealand First deputy leader also made disparaging comments about Indian-born MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi.

Mark has responded to criticism:

Yesterday, Mr Mark said he objected to being told to grow up.

“Some people who come here might think we’re a bit antiquated or … need to grow up.

Talking about growing up Mr Mark…

Winston Peters backed Mark…

…saying any claim of racism was “poppycock”. He echoed Mr Mark’s criticism of Ms Lee: “If someone is complaining about the country they’re in, they … can always go back home.”

Peters probably complains more than anyone in Parliament – perhaps he could follow his own advice and go back home.

However Mark’s remarks (and as he said something similar,Peters) were not backed by all of the NZ First MPs.

Most New Zealand First colleagues also backed Mr Mark. However, Tracey Martin, whom Mr Mark unseated as deputy leader, jumped on his gaffe, saying, “It is not a statement I would have made.”

Dissent in the ranks is usually not tolerated. Martin must be planning on quitting, otherwise she is likely to be pushed, as happened to other NZ First MPs last term – Brendan Horan was excommunicated during the term and Andrew Williams and Asenati Taylor who were pushed so far down the list last yer there was no chance of them returning.

Peters has got away with nasty attention seeking stunts for a long time because the media flock to give him coverage.

Mark is unlikely to get the same help from media. It;s unlikely he will improve NZ First support and may do the opposite.

Peters and NZ First consolidating

Vernon Small writes in Stuff that Winston Peters and NZ First are quietly consolidating their king-maker role. I think he’s right.

During past terms NZ First has muddled along in the polls and surged during election campaigns. Their vote would better their polling, sometimes significantly. This is because NZ First is seen by many as a protest vote so voters make late decisions to swing towards them.

Small writes:

You wouldn’t normally expect to say “Winston Peters” and “under the radar” in the same breath.

The wily old NZ First leader has been around too long, and is too attuned to popular opinion, to ever qualify as a shrinking violet.

But with the focus on John Key and National’s continued strength in the polls, and as Labour wonders if – or when – leader Andrew Little will lift the party’s fortunes, NZ First’s consolidation in the polls has largely gone unnoticed.

It does seem to have been relatively unnoticed, until Small brought it up.

What is unusual is the relative strength of Peters’ support heading into the middle year of a parliamentary term.

In the latest One News-Colmar Brunton poll the party registered 9 per cent – slightly stronger than its 8.66 per cent on election night 2014.

Since the September 20 poll his support has not dropped below 5.5 per cent and he has recorded mostly 6 and 7s with a smattering of 8s.

The 5.5% was in the September 2015 Roy Morgan poll – they tend to be more variable than other polls and had NZ First back up at 6.5% earlier this month between 3 News/Colmar at 7.9% and One News/Colmar Brunton at 9%.

Details at Opinion polling for the next New Zealand general election.

So this term their poll support has held up. Certainly this could be helped by Labour’s post election leadership upheaval and Andrew Little’s low key and uninspiring first year as leader.

But Peters was also gifted the Northland electorate by National early in the term and he made the most of it. That has helped maintain NZ First credibility and support.

NZ First has a history of struggling mid-term, in the polls at least.

In 1999 the party polled just 4.3 per cent and Peters was about to concede defeat before a late surge in Tauranga gave him the seat.

In 2005 it posted 5.7 per cent, but struggled to get near the threshold in most surveys.

In 2008 election it polled just 4.07 and between August and November 2009 its best was 2.5 and its worst 1 per cent.

That time they didn’t get enough of a surge to make the threshold and many thought NZ First was finished. But Peters proved them wrong.

In 2011 it scored 6.59 per cent and in late 2012 was on 7.5 in one poll but went as low as 1.8 in one Colmar Brunton survey and generally bounced around the threshold.

In 2014 NZ First got 8.66% of the vote, higher than any poll in the term leading up to the election. In the month prior to the election their polling varied between 4% and 8.4%.

See Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2014.

There was one exception to these trends this century:

The closest parallel to the current situation was after the 2002 election – something of an anomaly as National slumped and centrist voters shopped around for a coalition partner for Labour.

At that election he scored 10.38 per cent and his polling stayed strong through 2003, started slipping in 2004, but held up at the 2005 election where he polled 5.7 per cent.

But there’s no sign of Bill English taking over leadership of National so things look quite different to that now.

Regardless, Peters and NZ First are in a relatively strong position for them at this stage of a term. Whether they can sustain that or build on that may be as dependant on other parties as them.

National support sometimes threatens to collapse into the low forties but keeps bouncing back. Their Government ball may or may not lose it’s elasticity.

Greens look like maintaining similar levels of support in the 10-12% range and don’t look likely to leap or collapse in the polls.

The wild card is Labour. If they continue to struggle through to 2017 their support could easily collapse again into the twenties, and NZ First may be the beneficiary.

If Labour manage to build their support that could be at the expense of NZ First, who have been getting ‘don’t like National but don’t want Labour’ votes.

It’s two years until the next election so anything could happen, but at this stage NZ First are looking in a healthy position. Rumours of Winston’s health being a ticking time bomb for his party have proven incorrect for many years.

Little versus Shaw, plus the Winston factor

Colin James has made an interesting observation about Andrew Little and James Shaw in his latest column. He wonders if Little may struggle to look like Leader of the Opposition alongside Shaw.

His introduction in The workers’ flag is deepest red — and Green:

It’s Labour Day next Monday. What’s the point nowadays?

Once there was tradition: organisation and regulation for decency and dignity for those who got their sustenance from work for others.

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) is in that tradition. It held its biennial conference last week.

He discusses unions, the union of two unions into E Tu (stand tall is the official translation) and Helen Kelly and the CTU. Then he concludes with his observations of the Labour and Green leaders.

Those times are redefining how work is found and contracted: the likes of Uber and Airbnb or online auctions for specified tasks.

Can unions devise an organisational response? Can there be a legislative response, since these arrangements don’t respect national boundaries?

That poses big questions for Labour and the Greens. For Labour that goes without saying because the “labour” in Labour tags it as a party for those who work for wages.

It goes for the Greens, too. James Shaw was at the E Tu launch and spoke at the CTU conference. That parks the Greens definitely on Labour’s side, however much Shaw insists he and the Greens will work with any party.

It was obviously deliberate parking of the Greens alongside both labour and Labour.

That, along with a much improved personal and operational relationship and greater mutual respect than last year, is a plus for a potential Labour-Green coalition in 2017.

But there is a risk: Shaw.

At the CTU conference Little, the unionist among friends, scanned some important trends and future challenges in the future of work, including different ways workers will associate. But he spoke with his head mostly down, eyes on his notes.

Shaw delivered a succinct gender-equality message, making eye contact with delegates, with humour but dead serious.

The risk is that Shaw in 2017 looks and sounds to voters more the leader of the opposition than Little. That could stick a competitive edge into the relationship.

And if that went bad, it could delay the resurrection of Labour Day.

There will be tension anyway between Labour and Greens in 2017 – they somehow have to look capable of being a united government-in-waiting while competing hard from the same voting pool.

The last thing Labour wants is to have no more seats or democratic say in a coalition than Greens+NZ First.

And that’s one of the first things the Greens would like. And also Winston, who seems to quite like being seen as the de facto leader of the Opposition as well.

Peters first stood for parliament (for National) in 1975, forty years ago. He became an MP in 1978 (it took an electoral petition to overturn the election night result to do that). He successfully set up NZ First in 1993.

He missed three years in Parliament when NZ First failed to beat the threshold in 2008 but returned in 2011.

Peters has been an MP for 34 years, for three electorates (Hunua, Tauranga and now Northland) and has contested 13 general elections plus a by-election earlier this year. He has won electorate seats ten times (and campaigned and lost once).

In contrast the combined Parliamentary experience of Little and Shaw is four years, lest than one eight of Peters’ time sitting in the big House. Little has contested and lost the New Plymouth electorate twice. Shaw has stood once as a list MP, ranked just 13th by his party.

Even if NZ First only gets a quarter of the combined Labour+Green vote (about the best they can hope for) he will keep sneering at their inexperience.

Little versus Shaw versus Peters could be an interesting contest in 2017. And all three of them united have to better John Key to succeed.

Will election day in 2017 be Labour+Greens+NZ First Day? Probably not, if the get enough seats combined it’s likely to take weeks to work out a coalition. But it could happen, albeit uneasily.

Tracey Martin fed up with male dominated NZ First

An odd article by Jo Moir at Stuff where ex-deputy leader Tracey Martin makes a vague claim of sexism within NZ First and accepts this may earn her a career ending place on the party list next election. It seems that she has just woken up to the obvious – NZ First has always been male dominated – by Winston Peters.

NZ First MP Tracey Martin accepts she could be gone at the next election.

Ousted NZ First deputy leader Tracey Martin is pushing back at her party’s disregard for women and accepts that could see her gone at the next election.

“I was asked by a reporter in Warkworth that said, why aren’t you deputy leader anymore, what did you do wrong? I’m not aware I did anything wrong so my flippant answer was, I was probably born the wrong gender. It’s an answer but it’s an unprovable answer,” says Martin.

That sounds like a general ‘poor me’ lament without anything specific to back it up.

In July Martin was rolled from the deputy leadership by “assertive and aggressive” Ron Mark and while she says he has the credentials for the job she also believes her gender played a part in her fall.

Martin doesn’t know which MPs chose Mark over her but she says in her experience “suits stick with suits” and with a majority male caucus she didn’t have much chance.

Or maybe her caucus colleagues detected an attitude problem when deciding to demote her.

“I was number two on the list in 2014 because I was deputy leader but I could easily be number 30 in 2017.”

“By (then) they might think she’s more trouble than she’s worth.”

Almost sounds like she’s inviting that. The voluntary martyr.

“If you’re 40 and younger and you’re attractive men will stop and listen to you, actually they won’t, they’ll stop and look at you while you’re talking, and that gives you an opportunity to be listened to.

“One of the hardest things to be is a 50-plus woman because you haven’t got that leeway of youth that can catch the eye of men in positions of power…”

Perhaps it’s just hard for anyone in politics who feels hard done by because of perceived prejudice. Perhaps she shoukld face up to her competence and effectiveness as an MP regardless of her gender.

Martin was hopeful after the 2011 election she could get party policy on womens affairs but “at this stage I feel like I’m on my own trying to push that point”.

She seems to be committing political suicide so she won’t even be on her own pushing anything.

Martin’s time in Parliament could be tied to Peters – she says that if she was still there when he retired she would question whether she could stay on with another leader.

“I don’t know until that person presents themselves and I’ll make that decision for me.

“Winston holds the heart and the soul of the party I suppose. His values are the core of the party, that’s what they were built on and the rest of us share those.”

As for the rest of the party, Martin wouldn’t go out on a limb for any of them and she says they shouldn’t expect her to.

“This is my workplace, it’s not a place I expect to have friends.

“I need to do my job well and I need for the people who are on the listing committee to believe that I’m worth bringing back to represent NZ First but part of this push of mine could affect that.”

Martin says she enjoyed being deputy leader and thought she was good at it.

“I thought I gave the party balance but it’s ok not to be the deputy leader too – life doesn’t end because you haven’t got a title”.

Sounds like she has lost the will to be an MP. Why doesn’t she resign and let someone take over who has drive to do something regardless of the hurdles.

So NZ First will become more of a blokes club – the next three on their list are male (followed by Asenati Lole- Taylor).

Of their current twelve MPs three are female – Martin, Barbara Stewart and Ria Bond who came in earlier this year when Peters won Northland. NZ First had five females on their list of 25 in 2015.

Has Martin only just worked out that the Peters led party is male dominated? It has always been dominated by one man, the only significant change is the promotion of another man to deputy, the ambitious Mark.

Martin’s apparent lack of drive and ambition has probably counted against her far more than her gender.

Peters – late and cranky

Maybe he was suffering from jet lag. Winston Peters arrived late into the Red Peak debate, having just got back from the UK where he had travelled as ‘media liaison’ with the parliamentary rugby team. And he was cranky.

He got into the house during the third reading, and immediately tried to jump the speaking queue, citing his seniority.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to follow the speaking order here, because you have had a couple of backbenchers from the National Party, and I thought in this game, after many, many decades, that a certain seniority—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): No. Well, that is not right. [Interruption] The member will sit. [Interruption] Order! The National Party’s third call was given to the Greens. That was a swap, and the Green Party, which would have been speaking now in slot six, has had that slot taken by National. New Zealand First gets the next one, which is number seven, and that is the procedure we are following. It has been for the previous readings and is again for the third reading. I am calling Jono Naylor.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I just ask you a simple question, which I am sure will interest a lot of people in other Commonwealth parliaments and debating chambers as well. Usually the argument goes for and against, for and against.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): No, no. [Interruption] The member will sit. Parties have the opportunity to trade their calls. In this case—[Interruption] Order when I am on my feet. In this case the Greens and National have changed their third spot, so the Green Party took the third call, which was a National call, and National is taking the Green call, which is call six. That is why I have given the call to a National member. New Zealand First on the schedule is call seven, and it will get call seven.

So he had to wait until call seven. Which he began by dissing the previous speaker, who has hardly been an MP for five minutes.

It is hard to imagine any justifiable reason for that member, Jono Naylor, getting to his feet.

Next he took a swipe at that terribly inexperienced John Key.

The Prime Minister has been utterly consistent, though—and I will be reasonable to him—in his inconsistency. He has been like the Skycity deal, like the South Canterbury Finance deal, like the Hollywood deal, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and like the deal or the argument about not making New Zealanders serfs in their own country.

About separatist legislation based purely on race or about the State-asset sales referenda that we have had, he has been utterly consistent. He has done a backflip on the whole lot including this legislation. So why are none of us surprised? You see, he was on a hiding to nothing and we knew from day one that he could not be trusted to give the public a fair choice.

Soon after that he put down an interjector:

Brett Hudson: What about baubles and titles? Ministerial limos?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, no—do not come here like a young pup about the baubles of power. He is there because he got offered a list seat, not because he is good, not because he bright. He will be one of the first to go, and he will go on issues like this. We do not care about those whose experience is so little and who are so green in this Parliament.

Yes, Peters is a lot more experienced than Hudson (and just about everyone else). So he should know he got back into Parliament for the last two terms via his own party list – and I think he is on the panel that appoints him top of the list.  Four NZ First MPs became rookies in the 2014 election and an even less experienced MP has been added this year, all via the list that Peters helps compile.

Back to dissing:

Here is the PM, instead of saying “I want to leave the country in greater economic and social wealth and do great things in areas of reform,” no, he wants to have of all things at the end of his time a flag. And when he is asked what flag he says he does not know. He does not know. So he wants a legacy that he does not know about. How pathetic and shallow and egotistical is that.

What would Peters know about pathetic and ego?

So, like the cavalry over the hills, at the last moment comes in the most unlikely form—the most unusual salvation—from of all parties the Greens. This is pixie dust, Mr Hughes. It is naivety in the extreme.

Does naivety mean doing something that actually gets a positive result in Parliament? Peters might forget what it’s like to do that.

The rest of you are gutless.

Yeah, in the face of brave Winston.

Now the Greens are”—and I cannot possibly pronounce this word—“going to help National.” It goes on and on: “I can’t believe how you’ve done this. I voted for you at the last election. Now I’m going to vote New Zealand First next time.”

This move by the Greens is a potential threat to NZ First. If they show more willingness to work with National to advance their policies that’s a potential threat to Winston’s ‘kingmaker’ dream.

And so will the Labour Party members, who need to wake up on this issue. They cannot be trusted on our left for 5 minutes when you have got somebody who thinks that their political genius understanding of our country people measures up to a change like this.

After a closing rant and a National MP speech (that ignored Winston) Kennedy Graham of the Greens stood up.

Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green): I just begin by acknowledging once more my colleague Jonathan Young for his contribution to this whole process, including chairing the cross-party working group. He did a very good job. Just to agree with the Rt Hon Winston Peters in his contribution, politics is all about leadership. That is true. I am a little less inclined to agree with his characterisation that the Greens are naïve or, for that matter, that Labour cannot be trusted. In our view, Labour can indeed be trusted.

Yes, Labour needs to be trusted by the Greens – and by NZ First – if they want to work together to form the next government.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I didn’t say that. No I didn’t. You’ve got it wrong.

Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM: I think, Mr Peters, you did. The transcript will clarify that one way or the other.

The transcript quotes Peters describing the Gareth Hughes and Green move to introduce the bill – “It is naivety in the extreme.”

The transcript quotes Peters: “And so will the Labour Party members, who need to wake up on this issue. They cannot be trusted on our left for 5 minutes…”

I think that clarifies things – Mr Graham is right and Mr Peters is wrong.

But Peters wasn’t finished. When it came time for the final vote on the bill:

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion will say Aye, to the contrary, No.

Clauses 1 and 2

Speech – JOANNE HAYES (National)

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Is it a point of order?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It is a point of order, that is why I put “point of order” in front of my request. I called for a personal vote at the beginning of my speech because, as I say—

Clauses 1 and 2

Speech – JOANNE HAYES (National)

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): No, no. This is the process. Let me explain the process. I told your whip this. The member will sit. [Interruption] The member will sit. [Interruption] The member will sit. The whip came and asked me the process. I told the whip what the process was, and the process is that if a party wishes to call for a personal vote, I put the vote, as I am doing now, and when I get to the stage of asking for those contrary to the vote, a party has the right to say they call for a personal vote. At that stage, the party calls for a personal vote and I will adjudicate on it at that stage. That is the process. I will start the vote again. The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion will say Aye, to the contrary, No. The Ayes have it.

Tracey Martin: No. Noes have it.

An odd claim. Martin will have been aware that all the prior votes only had 12 Noes – the NZ First MPs are the only ones who voted against in the first and second readings.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Noes? All right—a personal vote has been called for by the New Zealand First Party. This bill has not been subject to personal votes during the course of the first or second reading or the Committee stages. I see no need to have a personal vote on this matter. The votes have been quite conclusive over the period of this urgency debate and, on that basis—and I refer the party to the Standing Order 144. That is the Standing Order that is the relevant one in this case. I am not prepared to accept a personal vote.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am well aware of the Standing Orders and past procedures, but there has rarely been, in my experience in debate on this matter, when so many members have openly and on the Hansard record stated their personal—hang on, can I just finish it off?

He should be as aware of Standing Orders and past procedures as any MP – and as familiar with futile grandstanding.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): No, no—I have already ruled. The member will sit. [Interruption] The member will sit. [Interruption] The member will sit. It is the Speaker who decides whether there will be a personal vote, and let me read it out. I quoted the number, Standing Order 144: “A personal vote may be held following a party vote”—and that is the process we are at now—“if the Speaker considers that the decision on the party vote is so close that a personal vote may make a material difference to the result.” As I mentioned earlier—and I have presided over much of this debate in the readings and the Committee stages—there has not been close votes. It has been very, very clear. On that basis, I am not prepared to accept a personal vote. That is the end of the matter, and I am now proceeding with the vote.

[PV on third reading—Ayes 109, Noes 12]

So that was Winston’s contribution to the red Peak debate. Late and cranky. It may have been jet lag but it wasn’t much different to usual behaviour for him. Cranky has been normal for a long time.

What seems to be newer is his attempts to pull rank in Parliament and his open disdain of what he sees as inexperienced MPs (except NZ First rookies).

How Peters will manage to negotiate with wet behind the ears party leaders like Andrew Little and James Shaw will be interesting, if it ever comes to that. He may not get the opportunity.

Greens might decide it’s easier to deal with National than be looked down on and marginalised by Peters – and by Labour, who have always treated Greens as second rate.

Peters’ third reading flag speech:

Key rules out Peters power sharing as PM

In his weekly media conference John Key ruled out considering Winston Peters in any sort of joining Prime Minister arrangement in a coalition government.

Some of the media have been going gaga again over Peters potentially holding the balance of power based on poll results two years before the next election.While Winston as power broker probably attracts some support for NZ First it is as likely to limit support for fear of Peters holding National and Labour to ransom.

From the media conference:

Journalist: If New Zealand First hold the balance of power could you ever see a situation where Winston Peters could be Prime Minister under a job share agreement with the National party?

John Key: More chance of me holidaying on the lunar space station I would have thought. I mean just no chance.

Look, there’s just no way we are going to be having some sort of job sharing agreement with frankly a party that’s not even first, second, third, fourth in the New Zealand Parliament.

NZ First are fourth. Peters has stated aims of growing NZ First’s share of the vote substantially but polls currently show no sign of that happening.

I mean it’s just not going to happen. It would be totally unacceptable to the New Zealand public. Being Prime Minister is not something that gets traded away with a bit coalition partner just to get them over the line.

Journalist: It is fourth isn’t it?

Key: Well, ok. Who knows what it will be like in 2017.

Journalist: Would you have him in your Cabinet?

Key: Well they are different issues. We go through, we haven’t historically, ever had to form a government that’s had a formal coalition around the table since I’ve been Prime Minister. We’ve had confidence and supply agreements.

So we take every situation like that case by case. But we’re not going into some job sharing agreement, you know we’re not frankly some third world country that trades away because somebody wants to be Prime Minister that right.

I mean it just doesn’t, I don’t even know how it would work. What would you have, month about? He could take the weekends, give me the chance to have the time off.

But you know outside of that you know I don’t [hard to decipher] it’s a joke.

This arose out of an interview with Peters on The Nation:

…Mr Peters would not rule out seeking a power-sharing role as Prime Minister.

He refused to answer a direct question, saying such questions were immaterial unless the party got the kind of support it needed in 2017.

However, he pointed out there was precedent of the leader of the second biggest party in a coalition becoming Prime Minister – George Forbes in 1932.

Forbes was actually Prime Minister for 28 May 1930 to 6 December 1935.

Andrew Little has also ruled it out. NZ herald reports in John Key rubbishes idea of Winston Peters as PM:

Labour leader Andrew Little has also said any place for Mr Peters in a future Labour-led Government would depend on his support levels, but would not include the position of Prime Minister.

Peters is currently in England with the Parliamentary rugby team but there has been some interesting responses from other NZ First MPs.

Ms Martin said she disagreed with Mr Little making that call now.

“He doesn’t know who he has got to deal with [after the 2017 election]. It is a silly thing to do, in my view, it is silly to rule things in and out before the vote has taken place. You don’t know what your position is.

It isn’t silly at all. Voters want to have an idea what the parties might do if they get the chance to negotiate power sharing after any election.

NZ First MP Tracey Martin said the prospect of him asking for any position, including the top job, had never been discussed within the party.

“I think he is perfectly capable of being a Prime Minister. And I think that if the job came up and he was the guy to fill it, then I think he would do a fantastic job,” Ms Martin said.

“But the reality is, those are conversations to have after an election, not now. We just don’t discuss it.”

I don’t believe her. NZ First MPs and party members must discuss their aims and their possible power sharing preferences post election. And what position Peters and others are interested in.

Her response is just not credible.

NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark said opponents of the party were keen to play up the suggestion that Mr Peters could want to be Prime Minister.

“It is just mischief making. NZ First will do what we have to do, we will fight the good cause, we will fight for our party’s philosophies and principles all the way through.

“We will negotiate in the best interests of New Zealand, and that’s all I will say on that.”

He seems to have omitted a word.

“We will negotiate in the best interests of New Zealand First…” is surely what they would do. Any party would do the same. Claiming it is in the best interests of the country – especially if the party has 5-10% of the vote – is nonsense.

Peters and NZ First refuse to state before an election what they might negotiate on post election, so voters have no way of knowing what they might do. So NZ First doesn’t seek a mandate to do anything apart from whatever they think is in their own interests.

Peters coy on PM dream, Labour say no

On The Nation on Saturday Winston Peters refused to rule out ambitions of a power sharing coalition agreement that would give him at least part of a term as Prime Minister. He even went as far as saying there was a precedent for a smaller party leader being Prime Minister – in 1932.

Interview: NZ First Leader Winston Peters

Winston Peters says there’s a precedent in NZ for the prime minister to come from the second biggest party in parliament.

On that scenario, do you think you could be prime minister?
Well, you don’t predicate your future – if you want to have a future in politics – on what you want.
But in the scenario where you were the smaller party, perhaps, in a government in some form, does the prime minister have to come from the biggest party?
You know, in 1932 the prime minister came from the second biggest party in the coalition. That’s why Forbes became the prime minister of this country.
So the prime minister could again come from the second biggest party?
I’m saying there is a precedent, yes. I’m just reminding people of the history. And that was before MMP.
So is that something you’d like to do?
I’ll tell you what everyone in New Zealand First is focused on – me, my caucus, everyone in the whole team – and that is to massively grow our vote by using new systems and the best technology possible in 2017.
You’re entitled to do that.
And we worry about that the day after the election.
But do you want to be prime minister one day?
You don’t get my point. In a long career, when have I ever run for that sort of position? Not once. I’ve seen all sorts of people with high ambitions, most falling by the wayside, most never making it, and I don’t want to be one of those.
What about some sort of agreement where you shared being prime minister? Say it was a National government; say it was a Labour-led government. Would you share being prime minister?
I’m not going to be answering those questions, because it’s immaterial unless we get the kind of sign-up and support that we are seeking in 2017.
But it sounds to me like if you do, you would do that. You would share that role of prime minister.
Given that I haven’t answered your question, how does anything sound to you in that context? I’m not being evasive. In a long time of MMP, for the last 22 years, I’ve told you journalists year after year every election year that we are going to decide when the people have spoken. And I keep on getting the kick-back from the media saying, ‘You’ve got to decide now.’ No. The people must decide first. It’s called democracy.
Yes. And I’m asking you one last time to rule out wanting to share the role of prime minister one day.
That’s a very adroit way of asking the same question. And as I said at the beginning, the people will decide the numbers we have in 2017, and everything’s academic until that happens.
So you won’t rule it out. Winston Peters, thank you very much for your time.

But the reality is that NZ First are currently 7.9% (3 News) and 5.5% (Roy Morgan) in recent polls. Unless they improve significantly by 2017 and pass the Greens in support it looks like a futile dream.

And Andrew Little sort of rules out power sharing with Peters.

Little shuns job-share idea

Labour leader Andrew Little is only just in front of NZ First leader Winston Peters in the preferred Prime Minister stakes but says he will not entertain the suggestion of sharing the top job if Mr Peters holds the balance of power.

Yesterday Mr Little said any place for Mr Peters in a future Labour-led government would depend on his support levels but the Prime Minister’s role was not up for grabs. “I don’t think New Zealand is ready to accept a state of musical chairs in the role of Prime Minister.”

NZ First are currently polling at about a quarter of Labour’s support.

And as support levels look at the moment a Labour+Greens+NZ First coalition with Winston Peters as potential Prime Minister will struggle to impress many voters.

I think there’s no way National would entertain the idea of giving Peters a spin at PM in a coalition.

Peters is unlikely to be up front about his ambitions before the election but failing to rule it out will ensure it will still be a factor in voters making election decisions in 2017.

Should Syrian men stay and fight?

Winsto Peters has done a Winston and suggested we should take women and children Syrian refugees but Syria men should stay in Syria and fight. He didn’t say which of the Asad regime, ISIL or the many factions they should fight for or against.

Claire Trevett asks Is it reasonable to expect Syrian refugees to fight?

Winston Peters clearly used the parliamentary recess for a binge watch ofBraveheart before he returned with his solution to the Syrian conflict this week.

Our very own William Wallace came out with his proposal to bring women and children Syrian refugees to New Zealand but send the men back to “fight for the freedom of their country, like we are”.

The “we” referred to the New Zealand Army soldiers over in Iraq rather than Peters and his merry men in NZ First who were cosily ensconced in their leather chairs in Parliament at the time.

In Braveheart, the “army” Wallace gathered up for the first Scottish War of Independence were humble, ordinary working men effectively armed with sticks and passion. The vast majority of the Syrian refugees are also normal working men – doctors, students, lawyers, plumbers and architects – rather than soldiers.

Sendig their women and children off into a dangerous unknown while men stay behind is also highly questionable.

If someone chose to give it serious thought, Peters’ comments boil down to the modern equivalent of handing a white feather to those male Syrian refugees for failing to stand and fight.

That would come as no surprise to those who recall NZ First defence spokesman Ron Mark recently referring to Iraqi soldiers as cowardly and lacking the will to fight. Fortunately many in the Islamic community treated it with the ridicule it deserved.

Yes, it deserves ridicule.

They called on Peters to provide detail for the cunning military strategy he had worked out. One wanted to know exactly which of the multitude of fighting groups in Syria Peters believed these men should fight with and which of the unfriendly forces they should fight against. Another wondered if Peters also proposed to train and arm the men in question.

I doubt that Peters would care about details like that, he is more likely just after headlines pandering to people who don’t think things through.

Yesterday Peters continued to insist that it was “reasonable” to expect Syrians to stay and fight, especially because a number of Western countries had “skin in the game”, including New Zealand.

However, he had managed to come up with a rather more chivalrous spin on it or perhaps he’d just added Titanic to his movie-watching. Speaking on breakfast television, he insisted women and children should come first. “My concern was in a crisis like this you would take the women and children first because you could take much more of them and you can do it much more quickly.”

So he thinks that families should be split and most refugee families would not be in a position to earn a living here.

Who would want this man in Government? Or this woman:

NZ First MP: NZ has ‘unconscious bias’ to male refugees

NZ First MP Tracey Martin has defended her party’s policy on Syrian refugees, saying the focus should be on bringing widowed women and their children to New Zealand.

Martin said she was trying to get the numbers to prove or disprove her theory, which was based on anecdotal evidence of the numbers coming into New Zealand, and of the people crossing the border.

At least a proportion of the increase in refugee numbers should be focused on families led by single women, Martin said.

Martin added she would like to see that “we aren’t leaving behind widows with children inside those camps because we think they need to have a man to be an appropriate refugee.”

Martin defended NZ First’s policy as being about doing more for refugees, which should involve bringing women and children first, and said Peters had “added on” his comment about Syrian men defending their country.

Asked if the men would get military training under that idea, Martin said, “I don’t really know”.

There seems to be quite a lot of detail about this NZ First policy that Martin doesn’t know.

“The comment was actually about a policy of women and children first.”

Asked if she wanted all 750 extra Syrian refugees to be women and children, Martin said no.

“I would just like to see a percentage of that dedicated to widows and children that have been sitting in camps for some time on the Turkish border – at least five years – I’d like to see those women given an opportunity.”

Martin said her personal preference would for at least 250 of the 750 to be families led by single women.

There was already a category within the quota of “women at risk” but Martin said that was not being as used as much as it could be.

Thinking before seeking attention on a very difficult and complex issue doesn’t seem to be used as much as it could be in NZ First.


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