WO: hypocrites or poor memories

Not much seems to have happened in the Craig v Slater defamation case yesterday. It has now been in progress for 3 weeks and looks likely to also take most of next week for finals bits and summing up. Then it will take weeks if not months to get the judgment.

Even before this case Colin Craig had a reputation for being quick to threaten legal action. This one is a bit different given the campaign Cameron Slater and Whale Oil ran against Craig and effectively the Conservative Party.

I have no idea whether it amounted to provable defamation  or not, that’s up to the judge, but it certainly looked like a sustained political and personal attack to me, something Slater and Whale Oil have prior form for.

During the current case Slater, along with his wife SB/Spanish Bride (Juana Atkins) and Pete Belt, have ran a campaign at Whale of defence of their actions and they have repeatedly claimed to be the victims of Craig. This in itself has a touch of hypocrisy.

And there’s more. This morning on Whale Oil (under the authorship of ‘Whaleoil staff’):

 In the mean time, as ever, the mere existence of a court case means we are better off to keep things to ourselves.  Which is, of course, one of the things litigants want to achieve no matter the merits of their actual case.

Except that they haven’t kept things to themselves at Whale Oil, they have posted and commented throughout the trial, and they have also allowed a lot of comments, some of which openly attacked Craig.

Whaleoil is currently involved in no fewer than three defamation actions and the only reason these have been brought is not because we defame people, it is because they are forcing us to be silent by weaponising the courts.

Claiming innocence of defamation again to their WO audience, despite also correctly stating “As for the merits of the case – that will be up the the judge”.

But also, in case those at Whale Oil have forgotten, “they are forcing us to be silent by weaponising the courts” is highly hypocritical.

Slater has been involved in exactly that against me and Your NZ, trying to force my silence and shut Your NZ down by using the courts as a weapon.

One of those attempts is out in the open, when Marc Spring with Dermot Nottingham and Slater involved trying a ridiculous court order to try and gag me and us, Coinciding with that were massive attempts to disrupt and train wreck Your NZ.

Ironically at one stage, I think on Kiwiblog, Slater threatened that his current lawyer, Brian Henry, would be used against me. I suspect good legal advice put a stop to that, but the intent was there.

There have been other attempts too, but for now I can’t reveal details in public (because certain people not only use the courts as a weapon they try to hide what they are doing legally by gagging everything.

I have some sympathy for targets of Craig’s legal endeavours, the courts are used as a threat and more.

But in mixed feelings over the current defamation case I have sympathy for Craig being in the receiving end of the attack campaign waged by Jordan Williams and Slater. It was in my mind far more than journalism, there were shades of it being a vindictive hit job or simply done for the thrill of, using a term they have used, fucking someone over.

One thing I have never been able to work out – why they would target someone as niche and relatively irrelevant as myself. I know they don’t like being exposed or their bad behaviour publicised, typical of bullies they don’t take criticism well.

I can only guess that they chose to pick on me for the hell of it, thinking it would be easy to fuck me over and shut me up.

So when they cry victim and play the “poor us” card when someone tries to do to them what they themselves use as one of their own weapons then I will continue to stand up to them and expose their hypocrisies.

Grant Robertson on the budget

 

Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson keeps his criticism up of Thursday’s budget. I guess he couldn’t praise it, but if he disses it too much he risks being seen as too negative.

He has promoted this Radio NZ interview:

And from the Labour website:

Nats’ budget a double-crewed ambulance parked at the bottom of the cliff

National’s election year Budget shows that there’s no coincidence Finance Minister Steven Joyce doubles as National’s campaign manager, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.

“The 2017 Budget reveals a lack of vision, and is simply an election year budget with an eye for September 23, not the 21st Century.

“It’s irresponsible to dangle tax cuts that actually benefit the wealthiest more than low-income New Zealanders, instead of investing in the social foundations that are critical to our country’s future.

“The people who gain the most from the tax changes are people like Steven Joyce and me who earn far more than the average wage.

“The richest families get $35 a week from the Budget bribe, the poorest get $5 a week. Someone on the average wage gets $11 a week, and around 800,000 New Zealanders on taxable incomes below $14,000 get nothing.

“Steven Joyce has failed to deliver a plan to fix the housing crisis, build affordable homes for first home buyers, end homelessness, or fund our hospitals and schools properly.

“The big spending from the Government comes in the form of nearly $800 million for prisons. This is actually a sad indictment of National’s failure to invest in New Zealand.

“We would not have to build billion dollar prisons if the Government would adequately invest in early childhood education, get better support to help our vulnerable children, and provide mental health services to New Zealanders before their problems overwhelm them.

“The Government has said they want to double crew ambulances, but when it comes to social services, sadly those ambulances are still parked at the bottom of the cliff.

“Labour has different priorities to National. We will fund our health system properly to meet the needs of a growing population. We will build houses for first home buyers that they can afford, and invest in education instead of building prisons. This Budget offers nothing new. It’s time for a fresh approach,” says Grant Robertson.

The real costs of National’s election bribe

The cost of National’s poorly-targeted election year budget bribe is that there’s nothing to fix the housing crisis, health funding is cut, and funding for schools is cut, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.

It’s no coincidence that Robertson targets the three election issues that Labour has chosen to focus their campaign on.

“As the dust begins to settle on the Government’s massive PR exercise, it’s becoming clearer than ever that National has no plan for New Zealand’s future.

“The reality is that $5 of every $7 in National’s package is poorly-directed through the tax cuts. Labour can’t support an approach that perpetuates inequality.

“Around 800,000 New Zealanders on taxable incomes below $14,000 get nothing from this. The 500,000 low income workers currently getting the Independent Earners’ Tax Credit lose that $10 a week, and are left with just an extra dollar a week.

“National’s answer to the housing crisis is building only one new affordable house for every 100 new Aucklanders. They’ve funded just 1200 houses in this Budget.

“Health gets $439 million when it needed $650 million simply to keep up with a growing and ageing population, as well as inflation. This adds further to the existing $1.7 billion of underfunding over the past six years.

“School operational grants needed $140 million to keep up with roll pressures and inflation, but they got $60 million – a shortfall of $80 million.

“And once again, National is refusing to restart contributions to the NZ Superannuation Fund. National is selling out this country’s future for a cynical election-year bribe.

“But the real winners in the tax cuts are those like the Finance Minister and Prime Minister, who will gain 20 times what a single person working fulltime on the minimum wage gets.

“That’s simply not fair. Under nine years of National the gaps between rich and poor have only grown wider. Labour has the fresh ideas to ensure all New Zealanders get a fair share of prosperity,” says Grant Robertson.

The problem with this criticism is that Labour doesn’t have an alternative to suggest, they don’t have a new tax policy, apart from reviewing tax if they become government.

Media watch – Saturday

27 May 2017

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Open Forum – Saturday

27 May 2017

Facebook: NZ politics/media+

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

World watch

Friday GMT

WorldWatch

Post news or views on anything happening of interest around the world.

Roy Morgan May poll

The Roy Morgan poll for May 2017 has just been released – this is all pre-budget.

  • National 43% (no change)
  • Labour 28.5% (down from 29.5)
  • Greens 14% (up from 13)
  • NZ First 10% (down from 10.5)
  • Maori Party 1.5% (up from 1)
  • ACT 0.5% (down from 1.5)
  • United Future 0% (no change)
  • Mana Party 1% (up from 0)
  • Conservative Party 0% (down from 0.5)
  • Other 1.5% (up from 1)

So there isn’t much change here. It isn’t much different from the Roy Morgan March poll either.

National are in a danger zone and will be hoping to get a lift from the budget.

Labour continue to stagnate and will be hoping to come up with a real game changer rather than failed aspirations ongoing.

Greens and NZ First are looking healthy but they need larger partners to make a coalition.

Labour + Greens are unchanged, as is National, but both are nowhere near a majority.

http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/7239-roy-morgan-new-zealand-voting-intention-may-2017-201705261624

Greens, NZ First back budget tax plan

Labour has voted against the budget tax plan, but their supposed partner Greens along with NZ First have backed it.

Stuff: Labour and Greens split over Budget tax cuts despite joint ‘fiscal responsibility’ deal

The Budget tax cut plan has split the Opposition, with Labour voting against the changes and the Greens and NZ First voting in favour.

From April 2018, the moves, which lift the bottom two tax thresholds, will give $10.70 a week to those earning more than $22,000, and $20.38 to those on more than $52,000 a year.

But the simultaneous axing of a $10 a week credit for low earners with no dependents means some will only be better off by only $1 a week – leading Labour leader Andrew Little to dub it the “dollar Bill Budget”.

Speaking after a Grant Thornton post-Budget breakfast in Wellington, he said the Greens, who were voting in favour of the tax threshold changes, were an independent party and could do what they wanted.

Of course they can – but if they do the opposite to Labour on a budget vote their joint approach to campaigning and ‘fiscal responsibility’ it looks a bit awry.

He said not too much should be read into the fact the two parties were voting in opposite ways on the tax package.

“They’ve made their political judgment on the basis of this Budget at this time. But both our parties have pretty clear agreement about the level of discipline required in fiscal management if we have the privilege of forming a government.”

Labour took a different view on whether the package was well targeted and well prioritised.

“If we have the privilege of forming government there is a level of jointness in our platforms – and we make those decisions more jointly and in a more connected way than we do when we are two parties in opposition, albeit working closely together,” he said.

“You can vote different ways and that (BRRs) document retains its integrity.”

Yeah, right.

Burt the Greens are for and against the changes.

Marama Davidson: Small change that is sorely needed

The big headline of the Government’s Budget yesterday was its Family Incomes Package – a range of measures including changes to income tax thresholds and the Family Tax Credit.

Overall the Budget is a huge disappointment and a missed opportunity to make real progress on pressing social and environmental issues. We want more support for those who need it most, and we want that sooner than National.  To make that a reality, we need to change the Government.

But right now, we are debating National’s family package in Parliament. The Green Party is supporting these changes, not because they’re perfect – far from it – but because we want families to get more support and we strongly believe it is not our role to deny those families that.

With these changes, the Government has turned on the tap that has been long denied to communities for some desperately needed relief. But it’s only a tiny drop. For our lowest income families, these changes are a trickle, and in the words of the Child Poverty Action Group, what is actually needed is a tide.

Five dollars extra is pittance for people on lower incomes, but things are so tough that sadly $5 makes a meaningful difference for too many people’s lives. We should not be proud of that. Some families have become so used to scraping a meal together on so little, that five extra dollars is actually a big deal.

That’s why we are not going to stand in the way of families getting more money where it is sorely needed.

But we are introducing two changes to this Bill to try to make it fairer. The first brings the start date forward, so that the increase to the Family Tax Credit would start on the 1st of July, rather than waiting until 1st April 2018. Making children who are cold, hungry and sick wait another year for relief is negligent.

The second change increases the income threshold which the tax credit is abated from $35,000 to $50,000 and lowers the abatement rate from 25cents to 5 cents.

Lowering the abatement rate will means family that are earning under $50,000 will get to keep much more of this money.

There’s no doubt that it’s a cynical election year budget designed to keep National in Government rather than solve the huge challenges this country faces.

We urgently need to invest more money in housing, education, health and mental health and the environment. In order to make that a reality we need to change the Government – nothing we say will convince National to make those bold choices.

But right now we live among communities where we hear, on a daily basis, the stories of heartbreak that are harming families and children.

While we won’t stand in the way of the tax cuts for the lowest incomes, the Greens will keep working for the real changes that are needed to ensure all everyone has what they need to live; good lives, warm secure healthy homes, enough healthy kai and enough to pay the bills.

That is the leadership that our people want and deserve.

Craig versus MacGregor resuming today

Colin Craig will resume his cross-examination of Rachel MacGregor today. It is unusual for someone accused of sexual harassment to be able to personally question the alleged victim.

Pete Belt at Whale Oil said yesterday:

I’m told it is to give Ms MacGreggor a day off to regain some energy and fortitude. Yesterday was not one of the easiest days of her life. Keep in mind she was there against her will in the first place 😦 I’m told she got testy with the judge towards the end of the day as she felt she wasn’t getting much help from the court. Sadly, the prosecution (Mr Craig) gets to ask just about anything and for as long as he wants.

But Belt has previously said that Craig has been given strict instructions about how he can question MacGregor by the judge.

Craig will have had time to review how things have gone and decide how to proceed from here, hopefully with good legal advice. He is up against a very experienced lawyer, as Peterwn at Whale Oil explains:

You can take it that Brian Henry is a master at his trade. He would have a fair knowledge of the personalities and other attributes of the various judges he appears before. Brian is not going to make an issue of something if there is no immediate need and in particular is not going to point out weaknesses in the other side’s case or evidence. He will gain much by merely listening. The fun starts when he makes his closing submission no doubt to a packed court. He will then point out what is hearsay, identify and disputed facts for the judge to consider and argue which he considers correct, pull apart the other side’s claims and substantiate his client’s claims by applying the facts as needed and dealing with relevant points of law. He will aim to make things easy for the judge when he writes up his decision. That is why he is on the case – no client could do this as effectively as he would do it.

If Craig sums up his own case with the same level of expertise he has conducted himself through this whole issue then it looks like a major mismatch, but it will all come down to what Justice Toogood gets out of the evidence and the credibility of witnesses.

It’s difficult to gauge how a case like this is going based on media reports, which tend to cherry pick bits of general interest or what’s good for headlines rather than legal arguments that can often be tedious.

One part of the trial I would have been interested in was a reported one hour questioning of Cameron Slater by Justice Toogood, but that got just a short paragraph in media coverage.

Something that may not be relevant to the defamation but I think would be of interest that I haven’t seen anything about is the timeline of Jordan Williams’ relationship with MacGregor, and what influence he had on what transpired. This is from the judgment on Williams v Craig:

[8] On 19 November 2014, two months after her resignation, Ms MacGregor told Mr Williams, an acquaintance of hers, that Mr Craig had sexually harassed her. She showed Mr Williams the letters and cards that Mr Craig had sent to her. Mr Williams assured Ms MacGregor and her lawyer that he would keep this information as confidential as if he were her lawyer.

 

 

Russian links in disinformation campaign

Washington Post: Researchers say they’ve uncovered a disinformation campaign with apparent Russian link

Researchers have discovered an extensive, international hacking campaign that steals documents from its targets, carefully modifies them and repackages them as disinformation aimed at undermining civil society and democratic institutions, according to a study released Thursday.

The investigators say the campaign shows clear signs of a Russian link.

Although the study by the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto does not demonstrate a direct tie to the Kremlin, it suggests the attackers are aiming to discredit the Kremlin’s opponents. The report also demonstrates overlap with cyberattacks used in the U.S. and French presidential elections, which American and European intelligence agencies and cybersecurity companies have attributed to Russian government-affiliated hacking groups.

The campaign has targeted more than 200 government officials, military leaders and diplomats from 39 countries,  as well as journalists, activists, a former Russian prime minister and a prominent critic of President Vladi­mir Putin. The attackers seek to hack into email accounts using phishing techniques, steal documents and slightly alter them while retaining the appearance of authenticity. These forgeries, which the researchers have dubbed “tainted leaks,” are then released along with unaltered documents and publicized as legitimate leaks.

“Tainted leaks plant fakes in a forest of facts in an attempt to make them credible by association with genuine, stolen documents,” John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab.  “Tainted leaks are a clever and concerning tool for spreading falsehoods. We expect to see many more of them in the future.”

Budget reactions

Opposition parties have been left floundering after the budget delivers a bit for most people, and quite as lot for many families.

Labour have predictably criticised the budget but have not said whether they would leave the tax changes in place if they take over government later in the year.

Dene Mackenzie: Nearly everyone wins

National has done its best to buy Labour out of the September 23 election by delivering a Budget which has something for nearly everyone.

Those to benefit from this Budget stretch from students, to couples with children, low-income earners in Queenstown, every taxpayer through to pensioners.

Increased spending, much more than expected, left only New Zealand First leader Winston Peters sounding  enraged about the state of the nation.

Labour leader Andrew Little issued a one-page press release, which could have been read as a white flag of surrender, and Green Party co-leader James Shaw spent his entire speech talking about a lot of what-ifs and calling for a change in government.

The Government is not likely to change unless Labour and the Greens can provide some sort of counter to the growing economic strength of the country’s finances which allowed Finance Minister Steven Joyce to use his first Budget to spend up large in the areas that count: lifting incomes by changing tax thresholds, increasing Working for Family entitlements, increasing accommodation allowances and providing extra spending on health.

Importantly for voters in Auckland and Wellington, large amounts of money will be spent on ailing infrastructure including the Wellington commuter rail link.

RNZ: Budget boost only a ‘slight change’ for the struggling

A single mother on a minimum wage who lives in a state house in Auckland says changes announced in yesterday’s budget would only make a small difference to her life.

A full-time glasshouse worker, she pockets about $560 a week and pays $149 rent to Housing NZ.

Under changes to the tax threshold and Working for Families in the new Budget, she worked out she would bring home an extra $28.50 a week, $1,480 a year.

That sounds like a quite significant increase for someone on that level of earning, with a very low rent for Auckland.

Budgets can’t be lotto for everyone.

Brian Fallow (NZH): The better than nothing Budget

It is the better than nothing Budget. Steven Joyce has hardly thrown fiscal caution to the winds.

Neither should he, what an odd comment.

It would have been intolerable for the Government to crow about how well the economy is doing and project ever fatter surpluses and falling debt to GDP ratios while doing nothing about the pressure on the finances of lower- and middle-income families.

Both the increases to the income tax thresholds and the changes to Working for Families tax credits are overdue.

Liam Dann (NZH): Budget a ‘healthy’ lolly scramble

It maintained the “no surprises, steady as she goes” strategy that we’ve seen for the past eight years even as it delivered a few wholesome treats and rewards to the electorate.

The risk, of course, is that this kind of centrist approach will get little love from either side of the political spectrum.

But Prime Minister Bill English and Finance Minister Steven Joyce aren’t the kind of parents to risk over exciting the kids with a mad sugar rush. They promised nothing radical and they delivered it.

Critics will talk about election-year bribes but the narrative from National will be that we did the hard yards, we’ve built a surplus and now we get to invest back into the economy.

Audrey Young (NZH) Audrey Young: Budget has something for everyone

Starting at the low end means everyone gets something.

It is an election year Budget because almost every household gets something.

Some of the increases are huge especially in the accommodation supplement.

That reflects the biggest failure of the Government, in failing to control housing cost.

This Budget puts far greater weight on infrastructure spending than previous ones, although that was foreshadowed in December when Bill English was still Finance Minister.

Stuff: $20 extra for students ‘reasonable’

Laura Robinson says the $20 bump to the student accommodation benefit is good news for those who qualify.

Stuff: Budget a mixed bag

Budget 2017 has no major tax shake-up for average Manawatu families.

stuff: Budget will ‘cost Kiwi lives’

Patients and healthcare workers complain that Budget 2017 has left them frustrated and disappointed.

Max Rushbrooke (Stuff): A Government trying to make up for past neglect

In today’s Budget the Government seems to be playing the role of a parent who, after years of providing minimal support, turns up at their child’s birthday party bearing presents and hoping to be showered with praise.

There is, admittedly, much to commend in the Budget, for what it does to support New Zealanders and to increase fairness: the $321 million package for “social investment”, focused on mental health; the major boost to Working for Families that will raise payments by up to $26 a week per child; the lift in the accommodation supplement that gives low-income people $25-$75 extra a week to offset housing costs; and so on.

And the Government did last year increase benefits for those with children by $25 a week.

But this has to be set against the overall neglect of past years.

‘Neglect’ when the country was recovering from an internal financial downturn and a major international financial crisis, earthquakes and large deficits.

The Press editorial: Budget is an election-year cake with cream filling, frosted icing and a cherry on top

The package is many-pronged, reducing income tax thresholds for the lower paid, changing Working for Families tax credits for people with children, and boosting the accommodation supplement.

Perhaps the more significant longer-term measures are those aimed at future-proofing the economy, especially those to reduce the level of Crown debt and replenish the National Disaster Fund.

Joyce’s Budget is built on the promise of a strong and consistently performing future economy, but these measures at least will provide future governments with some wriggle room when the next natural disaster or global financial crisis hits.