More on NZ First Foundation use of funds

More revelations on the use of the NZ First Foundation that handled party donations apparently without reporting correctly to the Electoral Commission (currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office).

RNZ: NZF Foundation spent $130k on company run by Winston Peters’ lawyer

Tens of thousands in donor’s funds given to the New Zealand First Foundation were spent paying expenses, wages and bills for people closely associated with the New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

The foundation, which has bankrolled NZ First using secret donations from rich business people, spent more than $130,000 on a company run by Brian Henry – the personal lawyer and close friend of Peters.

Documents obtained by RNZ show that between January 2018 and July 2019, the foundation took in $224,000 in donations from supporters – and overall, spent at least $368,000.

Of that, at least $137,000 of foundation funds were spent on a company called QComms.

Company office records show the sole director and shareholder of QComms is Brian Henry, who is a trustee of the foundation and the judicial officer of the New Zealand First party.

The two people who did most of the work for QComms were also closely linked to the party.

Jamie Henry, Brian Henry’s daughter, received $64,500 in wages and expenses, which included seven identical amounts, totalling $3010, referenced as ‘rent’. All those costs were paid by the foundation.

Jamie Henry would not comment when contacted by RNZ.

The other key worker for QComms was John Thorn, who received $61,000 in wages and expenses in just over a year, all paid by the foundation.

Thorn, who has now left the party, was the vice-president for the South Island and the NZ First official who authored a paper first setting out a proposal that the party establish the New Zealand First Foundation.

Asked if he knew anything about the payments to QComms, Peters said he had nothing to do with it “in that context”.

That’s an evasive response.

“I think you should ask Mr Henry or the Serious Fraud Office.”

He said he was “absolutely relaxed about that” and would not comment further.

Brian Henry did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

I think it’s expected that Henry or Peters wouldn’t want to comment while it is being investigated by the SFO, but these revelations add to an ongoing problem for Peters and NZ First.

That the Foundation was paying a company owned and directed by a trustee of the Foundation on it’s own looks dicey.

The company dates back to 2002 but the original name DOBSON & LANE LIMITED was changed from to GOLDMAN HENRY LIMITED in 2014, to HENRY MERCHANTS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED in 2015, and then to QCOMMS LIMITED on 16 February 2018.

US pass 100,000 Covid deaths

The United States has now passed 100,000 recorded deaths from Covid-19, and now have had over 1.7 million cases.

While the total number of deaths in the US is well over twice the next highest, the United Kingdom, they are only 9th highest in deaths per million population (of countries with  population greater than a hundred thousand).  Belgium is the highest but that may be in part to do with how they record Covid deaths compared to other countries.

Current models estimate deaths in a month’s time in the US to be somewhere between 111k and 173k, so it is far from over with risks of a resurgence as states relax their lockdowns.

President Trump thinks he has done his job very well dealing with Covid, or at least wants other people to think he has done very well.

Containing the virus in the US was always going to be difficult with the amount of international travel to and through the country.

States continue to make most of their own decisions despite Trump urging them to get things back to normal.

Covid seems to be out of control in Brazil with a climbing death rate, which looks to be under reported going by their number of cases.

The death total in Russia is surprisingly low and could be questionable.

Ways of counting cases and deaths varies in different countries so are indicative only.

National criticised over Maori representation

Should every party in Parliament rank their caucus with balanced representation of every major New Zealand demographic?

The new National Party lineup announced by leader Todd Muller yesterday has been criticised for ‘a lack of diversity on their front bench’, and in particular forr not having enough Maori MPs prominent on their rankings.

Maori tend to not vote for National in big numbers, so why should National arrange their ranking to appear to represent Maori proportionally?

Should National also balance their lineup with union representatives, teachers, climate change activists, social activists and racing and fishing representatives?

Tariana Turia is complaining about the lack of Maori in National’s front bench – but her Maori Party was notable for it’s lack of diversity, they only had Maori representatives. As was their choice.

Should Labour have farmers and ex corporates and religious advocates in their front bench?

Should NZ First have a balance of young MPs?

Should Greens have business representation in their caucus and their list?

Or should each party represent who they wish, and rank their MPs how they wish?

Maori already have a special guarantee of representation in Parliament through the Maori seats. National have never been given a Maori seat by Maori voters, so why should National go out of their way to represent them?

Muller had to put forward his new lineup in a hurry, and National are in opposition, not in Government. John Key’s Government represented Maori through some of their own MPs and in particular by including the Maori Party, who were voted for by Maori.

Every party shouldn’t have to be representative of everyone, they should represent who vote for them.

Labour hasn’t had a particularly good record of representing Maori interests despite holding most Maori seats most of the time (currently all Maori seats).

It would be democratic nonsense for all parties to be diverse enough to satisfy every interest group in the country. The Greens who promote themselves as diverse are making little attempt at gender balance these days, but that’s their choice.

Voters are supposed to decide what they think of the diversity or lack of diversity of each party lineup.

 

Where to from here: Muller

From Gezza:


Where to from here: more detail from Muller

The Herald’s Jason Walls gives his take on Muller’s first head-to-head in The House with Ardern.

New National Party leader Todd Muller has gone toe-to-toe with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the House for the first time.

Although Muller’s line of questioning was not particularly fiery, an exchange between NZ First Minister Shane Jones and National’s Paul Goldsmith caused a stir during question time this afternoon.

Muller – who rolled Simon Bridges to become National’s leader late last week – focused on small business and jobs over the course of his line of questioning.

Unlike Bridges, whose first question was strategically vague in a bid to make it harder for the Prime Minister to prepare, Muller’s first question was straight to the point.

“What is the Treasury’s most recent estimate of unemployment in the third quarter of this calendar year, and what is the Government’s specific plan to arrest the sorts of job losses we’ve seen over the past two weeks?”

Before answering, Ardern congratulated Muller on becoming the new Opposition leader – but that’s where the pleasantries ended…

It’s a pretty lightweight effort, but of much more depth & interest is the embedded audio clip of Mike Hosking’s interview with Muller.

The now obviously anti-Labour-led coalition, preening, right wing partisan Hosking showed himself in the lead up to the last election to be capable of doing a solid, workman-like job of hosting a National & Labour leaders’ debate & remaining surprisingly neutral throughout.

He adopts a similar style in this interview, but lets Muller talk uninterrupted & Muller gets to expound in more depth than I’ve seen so far; on his Covid-19 recovery philosophy, his analysis of the government’s performance (“credit where credit’s due”, the problem with this government is the Prime Minister has about 3 competent Ministers & then all the others fall away pretty fast – Twyford, Jackson, Davis cited as top of his head examples of failures) & the approach he’ll be taking in his new job.

I won’t try & transcribe relevant bits; on this FiP2 it’ll take too long flipping back & forth between the Notes app & the browser pages & there’ll be too many typographical errors.

Well worth a listen though, in my view. (Still a case of me waiting to see if I think he & his team can deliver the goods better than the current coalition or Labour.)

New National leader Todd Muller squares off against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for the first time


Hansard: 2. Question No. 2—Prime Minister

Open Forum Wednesday

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, or you think may interest others.. 

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. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

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.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Greens slam Labour for ‘breaking core promise’ about welfare reform

The Greens have accused Labour of breaking a core promise to overhaul the welfare system, made in the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Yesterday Green Party unveils its candidate list for the 2020 election

The Green Party is pleased to reveal its candidate list for the upcoming election. With a mix of familiar faces and fresh new talent, this exceptional group of candidates are ready to lead the Greens back into Government.

“We are a force to be reckoned with and are entering this critically important race more united and determined than ever.”

So that has launched the greens into campaign mode, four months out from the election.

Also yesterday two Labour ministers announced New payment to support Kiwis through COVID

This was criticised as benefiting a few people while ignoring all those who were already unemployed before Covid struck, and also criticised for being more tweaking without fundamental change to how the social welfare system works.

From the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand (2017):

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

Today the Greens seem to have jumped into campaign mode over this – Green Party ‘won’t give up’ pushing for benefits increase (RNZ):

The Greens have accused Labour of breaking a core promise to overhaul the welfare system, a commitment made in 2017 during negotiations to form a government.

The gripe comes after a chorus of frustration from those on the left who say the government has entrenched a cruel and dehumanising two-tier welfare system in its latest response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson yesterday unveiled a special 12-week relief payment for people who have lost their jobs due to the economic impact of Covid-19. Full-time workers can apply for $490 a week – roughly double the regular Jobseeker Support.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson told RNZ the new offering was a “very clear” admission that base benefit rates were not enough to live on.

“Everybody should be able to access the support, regardless of whether they are recently unemployed or longer-term unemployed.”

Davidson said she had heard the frustration of beneficiaries who felt they had been deemed the “undeserving poor” by the latest move.

The Greens had pushed for all benefits to be increased to the new Covid-19 level, she said, but had so far been unsuccessful in getting that over the line.

“We’ve been consistently clear that this needs to happen urgently and desperately. It hasn’t happened yet, but we won’t give up,” Davidson said.

“Both New Zealand First and Labour need to come to the table on this.”

NZ First have been a problem for the Greens trying to promote their policies, but Labour has also seemed reluctant to make major structural changes, even after Covid allowed them to commit to tens of billions of extra spending.

Asked whether Labour had adequately delivered on its commitment, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government had made “significant changes”.

She cited the $5.5 billion Families Package in 2018 which established the Winter Energy and Best Start payments, as well as boosting Working for Families tax credits.

The government also began indexing main benefits to wage growth from April 2020, meaning benefit payments rise in line with wages – rather than inflation.

In its initial Covid-19 economic rescue package, Finance Minister Grant Robertson increased most benefits by $25 a week and doubled this year’s Winter Energy Payment.

However, the vast majority of the 120 recommendations by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group have not been acted on.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni yesterday told media the government could not implement all the recommendations immediately.

Immediately was in 2017, or at least in 2018. The Welfare Expert Advisory Group reported in 2019 and disappointed many. See Government response to welfare expert advisory group ‘more rhetoric than action’ – Poverty group

The government’s initial response to the welfare expert advisory group’s 200-page report is “pathetic”, National says, with interest groups and the Green Party also saying more needs to be done.

The government has said it would start by implementing two of the group’s 42 recommendations, with Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni saying major change would take years.

National’s social development spokesperson Louise Upston said Labour voters should be underwhelmed.

She said the government’s response was another example of it not delivering in its ‘year of delivery’.

Greens are now also effectively saying that the Government has not delivered, and specifically that Labour has not delivered on their agreement with the Greens.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out through the campaign.

Now at the top of the Green Party list it would seem expected that Davidson would become a minister if Labour and Greens get to form the next Government. She could lead the fight from there perhaps.

Big boost to Covid unemployment benefit

A big boost to benefits for people who have become unemployed mostly due to Covid (since 1 March) has been both welcomed and criticised.

New payment to support Kiwis through COVID

The Government today announced a new temporary payment to support New Zealanders who lose their jobs due to the global COVID-19 pandemic to adjust and find new employment or retrain.

  • Further support for New Zealanders affected by 1-in-100 year global economic shock
  • 12-week payment will support people searching for new work or retraining
  • Work programme on employment insurance to support workers and businesses

A new COVID Income Relief Payment is being introduced, alongside a wider work programme on possible future employment insurance as we rebuild our economy in a way that supports workers and businesses together.

The payment will be available for 12 weeks from 8 June for anyone who has lost their job due to the impact of COVID-19 since March 1. It will pay $490 a week to those who lost full-time work and $250 for part-time. The payment will not be taxed.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the payment acknowledges that the global economy is facing a 1-in-100 year recession, which is impacting on New Zealand, and supports the Governments priority of protecting jobs where possible and supporting workers back into jobs where necessary.

The scheme announced today is very similar to the Job Loss Cover payment introduced by the previous Government during the Canterbury earthquakes, and has a number of similarities to the ReStart package for workers who lost their jobs in the Global Financial Crisis.

Receipt of the payment comes with expectations from the Government, and responsibilities. People who receive the COVID payment will be required to:

  • Be available for, and actively seeking, suitable work opportunities while they receive the payment
  • Take appropriate steps towards gaining new employment; and
  • Identify and take opportunities for employment, re-deployment and training.

Students who have lost part-time work as a result of COVID-19 may also be eligible for the part-time rate.

The 12-week scheme is forecast to cost about $570 million. This incorporates $1.2 billion of payments offset by $635 million of saved benefit payments, with small administrative costs. This fits with the Government’s intention for COVID response spending to be targeted, temporary and timely. It will be funded from the COVID Response and Recovery Fund.

Susan Edmunds (Stuff): Unemployment payment scheme shows Govt knows benefits insufficient

“The Government’s announcement that it will introduce a new payment of up to $490 a week for people who lose work because of Covid-19 will be welcome to the thousands of people expected to find themselves out of a job in the coming months.

But you can’t help thinking that it will be a rude shock to those who were already unemployed, who could barely dream of the sort of income the Government will provide those newly jobless.

The new scheme is generous – about twice the rate of the JobSeeker Support benefit – and, crucially, your partner can earn up to $2000 a week before tax, without it affecting your ability to claim.

Compare that to the Jobseeker Support, where you and your partner can only earn a combined $90 a week before it starts to reduce the rate of benefit you can qualify for.

A household receiving this new Covid-19 support could end up bringing in $1976 a week for 12 weeks, after tax, in total. That’s a much more comfortable life than the $375 for a single parent (plus up to $305 in accommodation supplement) on Jobseeker Support.

It seems that the Government has decided there are two classes of unemployed – those “worthy” unemployed who are only out of a job because of a global pandemic, and so should be allowed to carry on with their lives much as before, and those “unworthy” who lost their jobs or were unable to work for other reasons and so should be expected to live a subsistence lifestyle.”

Gezza commented:


This also came up on 1News at 6 last night & Robertson’s attempt to defend the government’s decision to be more generous to presumably a high proportion of white middle class pakeha affected by Covid-19 was presented in a way that made him appear unconvincing.

Muller was shown pointing out (as Labour would if in Opposition) that this was unfair & there needed to be consistency & equivalence.

Muller also said in that 1News item that the focus should be on businesses and how to keep them afloat to keep people in jobs.

Newshub’s picked it up too:

“We support supporting New Zealanders in a moment of significant need, but our concern with that announcement is it’s ill-defined and ill-directed,” he said on Monday during a press conference.

“What would’ve been better is a stronger focus on businesses to keep them in business… When we build together our economic plan, our focus will be on what do those small businesses actually need to be able to stay afloat. And I think that’s where the focus should be.”

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/05/todd-muller-slams-government-s-income-relief-payments-as-ill-defined-and-ill-directed.html

Muller’s reshuffle of the National caucus

New National leader Todd Muller has announced his reshuffled line-up of caucus rankings and responsibilities.

Todd Muller announces shape of next Government

National Party Leader Todd Muller has announced the line-up of the next Government.

“New Zealand is facing perhaps the toughest time that almost anyone alive can remember.

“We are borrowing tens of billions of dollars to get us through this crisis. There is only one team that can spend it competently and well, and that is my National Party team.”

Mr Muller said he was particularly pleased senior MP Amy Adams had agreed to be the Minister for Covid-19 Recovery in his Government.

“Amy is tough and tested and will play a key role in getting you, your family and your community through this.”

Notable is that positions two to four are women, his deputy Nikki Kaye, Amy Adams who has changed her mind about quitting politics this year, and the formidable Judith Collins who has challenged for the leadership herself in the past.

So now three of the top four National MPs are women, four of the top eight, and seven of the top sixteen, female MPs have become a significant part of the National caucus.

However with Simon Bridges unranked “reflecting on his future” and Paula Bennett  dropped to thirteen it has been noted that Maori representation has slipped away (not that Bridges or Bennett addressed Maori issues much).

There has been a difference of descriptions for Bridges’ current situation.

Former leader Simon Bridges has said he needs time to reflect on his future. Mr Muller said there would be a place for him in his Cabinet should he decide to stay in politics.

But Newshub says Defiant Simon Bridges smacks down Todd Muller’s assertion he’s ‘considering his future’, plans to stay on

After being rolled on Friday by Todd Muller, a defiant Bridges has told Newshub he won’t be pushed from the party.

“Just to be clear, after the reshuffle today, I am not considering my future,” Bridges told Newshub. “Just having a small amount of time out to take stock after the loss on Friday.”

This was a direct smack-down to Muller suggesting Bridges was considering his future.

It doesn’t seem much like a ‘smackdown’ to me, just Bridges putting his situation in his own words. And it is likely to take him a bit of time to take stock of his political future.

The full lineup and allocation of portfolios here:

Click to access National_Party_portfolio_allocations.pdf

Time will tell how Muller and his team perform. They get their first chance in Parliament today in Question Time, it will be interesting to see how Muller handles his first stint there as leader.

Open Forum Tuesday

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, or you think may interest others.. 

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. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

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.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Cabinet to decide on lockdown conditions today

Today Cabinet will consider whether to relax the conditions of Level 2 lockdown – of particular interest will be how much they relax the restrictions on group gatherings, especially for churches which are currently limited to 10. The pressure seems to have gone off the funeral limits which were upped to 50 after a public uproar.

It’s possible a decision will be made to lower to level 1 but that seems unlikely at this stage. A few days prior to lowering from both Level 4 and Level 3 the Government released amended conditions for the level we were moving to.

So perhaps at best today we may get an easing of level 2 conditions and a signal that level 1 may be considered in two weeks time.

There has been little change to the Covid numbers over the last week, with just one new case and a gradual reduction in actove cases. The totals as at yesterday:

As at 9.00 am, 24 May 2020
Total Change in last 24 hours
Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand 1,154 0
Number of probable cases 350 0
Number of confirmed and probable cases 1,504 0
Number of recovered cases 1,456 1
Number of deaths 21 0
Number of active cases 27 -1
Number of cases currently in hospital 1 0

https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-current-situation/covid-19-current-cases

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/new-zealand/