A challenging week for Ardern

I doubt if Jacinda Ardern has lost any voter support over the last week and a bit, but she has been challenged by a number of issues inflicted by others, and her attempt to stem the slide in business confidence has had a mixed reaction.

Stuff’s From the Beltway gives Ardern a pass mark.

Ardern – after fumbling Clare Curran’s demotion Ardern acted decisively in the face of allegations that Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri had a physical altercation with a staff member. Ardern also got kudos for her response to business confidence – promising business her ear through the establishment of a Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council.

The Curran demotion from Cabinet is widely seen as an interim step, with expectations that she will be eventually dropped as a Minister altogether, whether or not she stuffs up again.

The alleged Whaitiri incident can only be an interim step, standing her down from her ministerial responsibilities and setting up an investigation into what is being widely alleged as a physical altercation with a staff member.

Tracey Watkins in Jacinda Ardern’s first term hex:

Ardern’s hand is now stayed till the investigation into Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri is complete. The allegations are clearly so serious, and so significant, she had no choice but to stand the minister aside.

The allegations include shouting and a physical confrontation which, if proven, could be damaging enough to force Whaitiri out of Parliament altogether.

There should be zero tolerance of ministers using standover tactics on staff, and particularly getting physical.

Yet these allegations appear to have come as no surprise to most Beehive watchers.

So Ardern should have been made aware that one of her ministers could be an embarrassment waiting to happen.

But allegations relating to Whaitiri’s relations with her staff date back even to Opposition days – and that should raise some serious questions not just for Ardern, but parliamentary and ministerial service bosses.

First for Ardern –  how could the Labour hierarchy not know about Whaitiri’s reputation among parliamentary staff?

It doesn’t look like a problem solved, just a problem put on hold for a while.

There has been an impression that while Ardern has generally been doing ok at her own job her Government has been lacking leadership, with Ministers left to do their own thing.

And also only partly dealt with, after being sent to an inquiry five months ago, is the youth summer camp embarrassment.

From the Beltway:

DOWN

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth – he is refusing to release the full report into Labour’s summer camp sex scandal and six months down the track the party is still only “reviewing” policies to prevent a recurrence.

There has been a lack of holding anyone in Labour to account. Neil Kirton slipped away from his job, as the report was delayed. The recommendations made public are an attempt to prevent future problems, and fail to address the camp issues (apart from the ongoing prosecution which was out of Labour’s hands after being forced by publicity).

Tracey Watkins:

Ardern doesn’t need to follow natural justice principles when it comes to her ministers – just as they are not required to follow the usual natural justice rules when it comes to hiring and firing their own staff.

Ardern’s only concern is whether she is being forced to burn some of her precious political capital on ministers who aren’t worth it.

That’s what former prime minister Helen Clark was referring to when she pointed out that heads would have rolled had the Labour summer camp scandal happened under her watch.

Clark would not have wasted her time defending the indefensible.

Ardern is going to have to learn that being ruthless is a necessary part of the role. Otherwise she won’t have any political capital left to burn on the fights worth having.

Ardern became involved in what should have been an issue between the Speaker and National.

RNZ Week In Politics: Could it get any worse for Labour?

Speaker Trevor Mallard’s decision to call off the inquiry set up to find the culprit has created a controversy that isn’t going to be easily resolved.

Police know who it is but won’t tell Mr Bridges. Mr Mallard apparently doesn’t know either but pulled the plug on the inquiry after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was an internal National Party matter.

Mallard controversially spoke to Ardern before scrapping the inquiry, a day after appointing a QC to run it.

Another contentious issue was the timing of Mr Mallard’s announcement that the inquiry wouldn’t take place. This came just before the release of Ms Ardern’s statement that she had sacked Clare Curran from cabinet.

The suspicion was that an attempt had been made to bury the inquiry story by swamping it with a bigger one.

Media tend to show their annoyance if their weekends are disrupted by later Friday news dumps.

This cluster of problems reflect on the management of Government. Demoting or sacking ministers can be politically embarrassing, but are storms that can usually be weathered.

But one issue has wider and bigger implications – business confidence (especially a lack of) can impact on the economy, and if that falters that can reflect badly on Labour’s financial management credibility.

Ardern tried to address it in a long planned speech, but a like warm response from her wordy and vague pep talk that attempted to address sliding business confidence.

While this was rumbling on, Ms Ardern decided to deal with a problem of her own – falling business confidence which the Opposition has been using to condemn the government’s economic management.

Ms Ardern’s creation of a Business Advisory Council, chaired by Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon to provide “high-level free and frank advice”, had a lukewarm reception at best.

The PM wants the government to have a stronger grip on the way it engages with the business sector, but she’s dealing with people who believe they already know what’s going on.

It’s going to be hard to persuade them that ministers in a Labour-led government know as much about business as predecessors such as Steven Joyce and Sir John Key.

Setting up an advisory council is a virtual admission that Ardern didn’t have the business knowledge and contacts deemed necessary for a Prime Minister.

Just as it seemed a bad week couldn’t get worse, another ANZ Business Outlook Survey was released showing confidence had fallen another five points.

The bank’s economist, Sharon Zollner, said that indicated “a threat to near-term activity”.

And it didn’t help that NZ First minister Shane Jones resumed attacks on the person Ardern appointed to lead her advisory council.

NZ First also created some awkward contradictions for their own stances on championing the regions and attacking Australian owned banks and business interests when Winston Peters released a racing report written by an Australian businessman that proposed shutting down many regional race tracks, and taking rrace betting of the TAB and giving it to Australian businesses.

Ardern has survived the week, but many of the challenges that arose remain as problems that will eventually need to be dealt with better.

Particularly with Simon Bridges flailing around over with the expenses leak Ardern’s voter approval will have barely been dented, but her ability to manage her Government  and especially her Government’s ability to manage financial matters, will need to improve or she may struggle to hold her coalition together.

A popular Prime Minister with an unpopular Government will find re-election another major challenge in two years time.

 

40 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  September 1, 2018

    With NZ First constant trumpeting of being the provincial champions (from both “windbag Jones and Winston) the removal of regional race tracks from the West Coast, Central Otago and Canterbury is going to go over like a cup of cold sick.
    Even non racing types are going to oppose this, for parochial reasons but reasons that are deeply held.

    • Blazer

       /  September 1, 2018

      not as simple as that Ray.
      Ownership of the tracks is a mix up and down the country.
      Racing in NZ is terminal unless bold initiatives are taken.

  2. robertguyton

     /  September 1, 2018

    “Where there was instability was in the Opposition. National had four leaders in its nine years of opposition; Labour had six leaders. (Now you know why Bridges is a bit anxious. The main activity in the Opposition caucus seems to be plotting.) ”
    https://www.pundit.co.nz/content/political-turmoil-when-the-economy-sours

    • [deleted – please don’t do that. PG]

      • I’m sorry, but introducing completely separate topics in a thread is disconcerting.

        • robertguyton

           /  September 1, 2018

          A disconcerted traveller; this we cannot have!
          Pete said:
          “Particularly with Simon Bridges flailing around over with the expenses leak”
          I added to that comment.

  3. Traveller

     /  September 1, 2018

    Her snapping at media “ it’s called being in Govt” won’t be doing her any favours with her media acolytes.

    She has admitted to a problem with anxiety and her clipped and terse reactions show that this anxiety is still very much with her.

    A Guardian interview pre-election highlighted this:

    “For what I do, is the anxiety normal? Probably’

    “Ardern has frequently spoken of her anxiety. As recently as June, she said she was not cut out to be Labour leader:

    “When you’re a bit of an anxious person, and you constantly worry about things, there comes a point where certain jobs are just really bad for you.”

    So how is she managing now? “I am a thinker and I do muse over things a lot and am constantly assessing whether I am doing enough, or what I should be doing more of to make sure I am not letting anyone down,” Ardern tells the Guardian. She has stopped reading media coverage of herself, she says.

    “I set quite high expectations. So do a lot of people. For what I do, is the experience that I have [of anxiety] normal? Probably. Probably.”

    Just reiterating that this unguarded sharing moment speaks loudly to me. Being the PM of a difficult coalition and having your first child are pretty high on anybody’s stress scale, let alone someone who actually suffers from this condition

    When you’re a bit of an anxious person, and you constantly worry about things, there comes a point where certain jobs are just really bad for you.

    It may well be this point will be reached sooner than later.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/15/jacinda-ardern-new-zealand-election-campaign

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  September 1, 2018

      If she’s not readng the press coverage, she’s a fool. Ignoring it won’t make it go away; doesn’t she want to know what people think ?

      I think that she’s floundering, way out of her depth….’not waving, but drowning’.

      What were Labour thinking, making her leader, especially with a baby on the way ?

      • robertguyton

         /  September 1, 2018

        “What were Labour thinking, making her leader, especially with a baby on the way ?”
        Ummm…they thought they were onto a winner, election-wise…and…they were CORRECT!

    • “snapping”?
      Don’t think so; seems a reasonable statement to me.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 1, 2018

        It’s the tone of voice that makes it ‘snapping’.

  4. David

     /  September 1, 2018

    I think Ardern should take a few more months off and bond with baby, its nearly Christmas and there is nothing important on the horizon aside from the UN thing which Neve and Clark are going too and they should stay on and have a family holiday.
    She can leave the deputy leader of the Labour party Kelvin Davis in charge and she has a very competent high performing cabinet. She can come back in February part time energised and ready to go.

    • She should do what feels best to her.

      There is no reason why she cannot bond with her baby, be a great parent and be the PM. However, it takes a strong and supportive support. I’m sure she has that network, but it’s beating ones own demons – now that’s the hard part.

      • robertguyton

         /  September 1, 2018

        “Demons”? Jacinda says she “muses” Muses are not demons.
        Jacinda is managing herself very, very well.

    • robertguyton

       /  September 1, 2018

      Bridges would love Jacinda to “take a few more months off” – she batters him about the House and attracts many, many times the public support he does, so naturally he’d like her out of the picture. His “vital inquiry” nonsense is further eroding what little support he had. Jacinda’s following is growing as Neve grows 🙂

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 1, 2018

        ‘Muse’ (verb) and ‘the muses’ have nothing to do with each other.

        She’s paid to be PM, not to bond with her baby. If she took months off, that would be taking money under false pretences. Other working parents can’t do this, and if she can’t cope, she should resign.

        Poor little Neve, being carted off to the UN as an attention-seeking device. Let’s hope that she isn’t brought into the meetings. The UN is serious business, and a bawling baby would be most inappropriate.

        • robertguyton

           /  September 1, 2018

          Muse and muse are intimately connected – not your specialist topic then, Kitty?
          What nonsense you spout over Mother Jacinda and precious Neve; they’ll both be just fine, thanks for your concern and the love New Zealanders feel for them both will grow and grow.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  September 1, 2018

            I suspect that most people are not as enamoured of them as you imagine. It’s hard to ‘love’ someone whom one doesn’t know.

            The two words are NOT connected, The Muses (Clio, Thalia, Terpsichore, Callope and the rest) are from Greek mythology; they preside over the arts and are the daughters of Zeus.I forget who their mother was. The word comes from the Greek.

            To muse, as in think or ponder has a completely different etymological derivation.It’s from the French ‘muser’.

            To think that they are connected is like thinking that bear, the animal, and bear as in bearing a burden are the same. Or that bat (flying animal) is the same as a cricket bat. Or that the month of March is allied to marching.

            One would hardly have such a limited or well-known ‘specialist topic’.

            • robertguyton

               /  September 1, 2018

              On muses and Muses, you are quite correct. I’d always believed Muses foster musing, in an inspirational sort of way, but I see the words have different derivations altogether. Bears, of course, can bear, (bear cubs) and bats can bat (moths toward their mouths with their wing-tips), but I quibble.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 1, 2018

              One of my favourite bits from any book is when the Headmaster is trying to make Jennings (who has been miles away, thinking about cricket) work out what the word ‘hibernation’ means.

              ‘Jennings, what does a bat do in winter ?’

              ‘It splits if you don’t oil it, sir.’

              (Jennings Goes to School)

            • robertguyton

               /  September 1, 2018

              🙂
              White willow (Salix alba).

  5. Blazer

     /  September 1, 2018

    The wonderful thing is the Col has many suitable M/P’s to choose from should Ardern ever decide to step down.

    • chrism56

       /  September 1, 2018

      Aren’t you supposed to put a (sarc) tag at the end of your post?

  6. Chuck Bird

     /  September 1, 2018

    Comrade Ardern is going to have a very challenging year. Her honeymoon with the MSM is now over. This is evident from Stuff and the Herald today. If the predator from the Labour Youth Camp is found guilty of what are very serious charges and he is related to a high ranking Labour MP or official this will really damage Labour.

    • “Comrade Ardern” is a title similar to “Nazi Bridges” and Pete doesn’t like that sort of talk, quite rightly.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 1, 2018

        It’s hardly in the same category. She uses the expression herself and addresses people as ‘comrades’. There was a meeting filmed where she said it many times.

        Nazi was never used in this way, it’s a specious comparison.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 1, 2018

          She is in one short video where she says it 10 times.

          Nobody in National is or refers to themselves as Nazi.

          That is the difference.

          • robertguyton

             /  September 1, 2018

            Nobody in National refers to themselves as Nazi, you reckon?
            None refers to themself as “Nazi”, perhaps, but you can’t be sure they don’t speak about others in the party that way. I suspect some do.

          • robertguyton

             /  September 1, 2018

            When was the video made, Kitty?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  September 1, 2018

              2017, it became quite famous because of the number of times she said ‘comrade’.

            • robertguyton

               /  September 1, 2018

              Can you supply the link; I’d like to watch that. Pete, meanwhile, continues to dislike and frown upon that sort of labling. Gotta respect your host!

      • Pink David

         /  September 1, 2018

        ““Comrade Ardern” is a title similar to “Nazi Bridges” and Pete doesn’t like that sort of talk, quite rightly.”

        A quick google of the phrase ‘Comrade Ardern’ does reveal her amazingly frequent use of the word ‘comrade’

        “This is at the Youth Socialist conference, she was the president in 2009, and she used the word “comrade” 15 times in eight minutes.”

        • Blazer

           /  September 2, 2018

          oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhh scary….!!!!

      • Ray

         /  September 1, 2018

        Sometimes Robert you should read what you write.
        Absolutely no surprise what you used to do, you come across as the smarmy teacher who had a set of rules for us and a quite different set for himself. That of course followed your earlier career as the school sneak.
        Ms Ardern was pretty heavy on the term comrade when she was President of the International Union of Socialist Youth

        • robertguyton

           /  September 1, 2018

          She was, Ray … when was that, 2009? Kitty seems to believe it was 2017 – splitting hairs for the sake of … ‘”being right”, I suppose. Yes, I can see the original “footage” has been edited, but really, Kitty! Pete’s comment (pending) will no doubt support my (sneaky) claim.

      • Pink David

         /  September 1, 2018

        ““Comrade Ardern” is a title similar to “Nazi Bridges” and Pete doesn’t like that sort of talk, quite rightly.”

        Can I take it this statement means that you finally accept Marxists are morally equivalent to Nazi;s?

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  September 1, 2018

    Why are the police playing politics with the leaker case and allowing taxpayer’s money to be wasted on investigations they claim already to have completed?

    • robertguyton

       /  September 1, 2018

      Good question, Alan. Mind you, their findings haven’t been tested/confirmed in court, so perhaps they aren’t in a strong enough position to act upon their information.

  8. Gezza

     /  September 1, 2018

    Oh Great ! 😡

    Serial litigant threatens to prosecute Meka Whaitiri if police don’t


    Graham McCready is threatening private prosecution of Labour MP Meka Whaitiri if police “refuse to act”.

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood the Customs Minister aside earlier this week while an investigation is carried out into staffing issue in her office.The investigation follows allegations of shouting during which it is understood there was physical contact. Stuff has been told a staff member was allegedly pushed out a door.

    McCready notified police, Ardern and Whaitiri that he “fully expect[s] the Police to investigate these allegations of assault committee by the Hon Meka Whaitiri and if warranted prosecute her.

    “If the Police … refuse to act the New Zealand Private Prosecution Service Limited gives notice that the Service will commence a private prosecution against the Hon Meka Whaitiri without further delay or notice.”

    A letter from the New Zealand Private Prosecution Service said: “I Graham Edward McCready, Private Prosecutor, have reasonable and probable grounds to believe and do believe that on or about 30 August 2018 the alleged offender did assault the alleged victim in the grounds of Parliament at Wellington”.

    His source of evidence was: “Extensive media coverage and statements by the Prime Minister.” A police spokesperson said on Saturday: “Police are aware of a complaint from a third party which will be assessed”
    More…
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/106751584/serial-litigant-threatens-to-prosecute-meka-whaitiri-if-police-dont

  1. A challenging week for Ardern — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition