New court rules for rape cases

NZ Herald – Courtroom shake up: New rules in rape cases hailed as decades-overdue

A woman’s sexual history or how she dresses will be out of bounds in future court cases under a raft of reforms designed to protect victims from being unfairly treated and retraumatised.

Such information, called “rape myths” by survivor advocacy groups, will only be admissible in a court if the judge deems it should be, and if not doing so would impede the course of justice.

The new rules about rape cases in court are contained in the Sexual Violence Legislation bill, which will have its first reading in Parliament today and is expected to become law early next year.

The bill seeks to maintain fair trial rights while improving the court experience, which complainants have described as retraumatising, hostile, and a compelling factor in deterring victims from coming forward at all.

An estimated one in four women and one in seven people experience sexual violence in their lifetime, but most cases are unreported, and of those reported to police, only a third go to court and one in 10 end in convictions.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said he hoped the bill would eventually encourage more complainants to come forward, though it was difficult to say if it would have any effect on conviction rates.

The bill would:

  • See more alternative ways to give evidence – such as via video conference or in a cleared courtroom – to protect complainants appearing in front of the accused or the accused’s supporters.
  • Protect complainants from unduly invasive questioning, such as questions about sexual history or choice of clothing; relevant details would be established before a complainant is questioned. A judge would also be required to direct the jury to ignore rape myths.
  • Require a judge to intervene in inappropriate lines of questioning, such as ones that are improper, unfair, misleading, or needlessly repetitive.
  • Allow a survivor to give an victim impact statement to a courtroom cleared of the public.

Justice Under-Secretary and Green MP Jan Logie said the myths about rape – including sexual history and a complainant’s choice of clothing – unduly influenced court cases.

“You can consent to sexual activity with somebody at a particular time and not at another. Consenting the first time does not automatically [mean] you have consented the second time. Choice matters.”

What someone was wearing or doing in thee past, even the recent past, has no bearing on consent or lack thereof  at the time of an alleged rape. And as Logie says, prior consent does not mean ongoing current consent.

Rape cases that argue consent can be tricky when there are only two witnesses, the accused and the complainant. But I think that it is fair to assume no consent unless it is clear that consent has been given.

Chief Victims’ Adviser Kim McGregor said that cross-examination was the most destructive and distressing part of the court process, and better protections for complainants were long overdue.

“I have heard from those who feel broken, humiliated and worn down after hours and sometimes days of repeated questioning.”

She said complainants accepted that evidence needed to be tested, but will welcome the changes in the bill that would disarm the process of hostility.

Wellington Women Lawyers’ Association convener Steph Dyhrberg said it was important to require judges to direct juries about the misconceptions around rape.

“The general public is remarkably ill-informed about the realities of sexual violence and how survivors experience it and behave. Those assumptions and prejudices and misinformation, jurors take into the courtroom and jury room.”

Perhaps lawyers need to be educated on the realities of sexual violence. And if they stray in defence of an alleged rapist thee judge should be able to stop them from unfair questioning.

This was echoed by Wellington Rape Crisis agency manager Kyla Rayner.

“We don’t want to see the continuation of discrediting survivors’ experiences or colouring outcomes with rape myths.”

Questions to witnesses should be respectful, relevant and fair, and she said it was appropriate to require a judge to intervene when questions were improper, or even harmful.

Wellington Sexual Abuse Help foundation chief executive Conor Twyford said a person’s sexual disposition should never be considered as evidence against them.

“Survivors have a right not to have their sexual history used against them, full stop.

“A person’s prior sexual activity should have no bearing on the case at hand.”

For sure.

If someone is the innocent victim of a car accident their past driving record isn’t relevant either.

Logie said the bill was the first phase of change.

The second stage would look at the nature of consent, the role of juries, and alternative process including an inquisitorial system that, for example, focuses more on fact-finding than challenging evidence under cross-examination.

She said the current system was so poor at the moment that people working in the system have said they wouldn’t advise their own family members to lay complaints.

A sad reality of our current legal system.

This sounds like very good (and yes, long overdue) reform.

And I agree that Jan Logie has stepped up very well as a Minister – I admit I wasn’t a fan of hers when she was an Opposition MP, but she has switched to the responsibilities of being a Minister in Government and has generally done a very good job promoting the resolution of important issues effectively. This is one example of her effectiveness.

 

Tikanga could be appropriate for posthumous appeals law?

From Gezza:

Peter Ellis, controversially convicted of child sexual abuse in the Christchurch Civic Creche case, died of advanced bladder cancer before his appeal, seeking to clear his name, could be heard.

Courts in commonwealth countries have traditionally considered that someone’s interest in an appeal ends when they die, as it will not affect them either way.

But Justice Joe Williams threw a curveball into the arguments from both sides when he suggested that New Zealand didn’t need to follow decisions set in any other country, and could establish an entirely new rule based on tikanga Māori.

“There’s nothing to say that the appellant’s case dies when they do … This is a very western idea that on demise you have nothing to protect.

“If we are serious about tikanga, should New Zealand divert from that very anglo approach?” he said. “In a tikanga context … an ancestor has even more reputation to protect. There’s more tapu, more mana to protect.”

This generated some heated discussions across the bench, as Justices debated whether that would open the floodgates for too many cases to be brought forward, and asked for someone to find some statistics.

Neither had prepared arguments either for or against a tikanga approach when preparing for the hearing, though the Crown did concede that it was something “the court must be open to”.

The case was adjourned for five weeks to allow both sides to bring submissions addressing the issue of tikanga, and will continue in the new year.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/117435500/peter-ellis-appeal-derailed-by-legal-curveball-on-possible-tikanga-mori-approach
… … …
This is an interesting development. Given that not just Peter Ellis is affected by his conviction, if in fact he was wrongly convicted. His family are too.

The only other circumstances I can think of off hand where a person subsequently held to have been wrongfully convicted has had their convictions effectively quashed – long after their deaths (by execution) – have occurred as pardons, as part of Treaty Settlements (Mokomoko, Kereopa Te Rau).

Rua Kēnana was wrongfully convicted of sedition & sentenced to a year in prison, then released. Eventually Rua moved to Matahi, a community he had founded on the Waimana River in the eastern Bay of Plenty in 1910, where he lived until his death on 20 February 1937, and was survived by five wives, nine sons, and 13 daughters. – Wikipedia

These pardons haven’t generated a flood of requests for posthumous pardons as far as I know.

I think the suggestion that NZ could develop its own law around this situation, rather than simply follow British law – as I assume we do – is a good one & look forward to seeing the Court’s eventual decision & reasoning.

Peters drops leak accusations against Bennett, Tolley

It was obvious that all the Winston Peters accusations and litigation couldn’t stand up. He launched what was clearly a fishing expedition to try to expose the culprit.

Peters, via his lawyer Brian Henry’s closing address in court, has conceded that neither Paula Bennett nor Anne Tolley leaked information about his seven year superannuation overpayments.

Newsroom: Peters accepts National ministers didn’t leak

Winston Peters’ has accepted in the High Court that two former National ministers he had been suing for $450,000 for breaching his privacy were not the source of the leak or responsible for it.

In his closing submission today, Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry said both Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett denied in their evidence leaking information on Peters’ seven-year overpayment of superannuation – and the lawyer for the Ministry of Social Development and public servants did not challenge those denials.

“That left the MSD in the position that they now cannot avoid a finding that the breach was on MSD,” Henry said. “The plaintiff was expecting a challenge from MSD to the ministers, but the MSD has not challenged the evidence that they [the ministers] did not leak.

“That dual denial removed two of the options that the plaintiff, when it opened its case, was expecting to have examined in the court.”

That means Peters is no longer suing the National pair for damages.

This raises questions about Peters’ claims, and the cost he has inflicted on taxpayers to try to justify his accusations.

It also makes Barry Soper’s assertions that it must have been a National leak (with no evidence provided) look a bit silly.

Henry said Peters’ case was that under the tort of privacy he had a reasonable expectation that his private information would not be made public and what was disclosed had been highly offensive.

“In this case, the MSD exclusively held the plaintiff’s private information. Unless they can rebut the evidence there arises an evidential presumption.

“The larger the group [who had become aware in the ministry] the greater the foreseeability the matter would be leaked.

“The perpetrator will never front. Someone in MSD in full knowledge breached the plaintiff’s privacy and set off a chain of communications causing damage to his reputation.”

Henry said: “This is not likely to be a mistake.”

So he now asserts that someone in MSD leaked the information, but as there is no evidence suggests the assumption can be made. I don’t know how proof or lack thereof works in cases like this.

The ‘chain of communications’ led to journalists asking Peters about the overpayment, and Peters then went public himself. There is no certainty that media would have published the information. This is an interesting situation.

MSD lawyers claimed that Peters’ reputation hadn’t been affected by anyone but himself.

It is arguable that if Peters had just admitted making a mistake on his application and not noticing the overpayment, then paying it back when brought to his attention, then this would have blown over and would be virtually forgotten by now.

Instead Peters accused a swath of people for the leak with no evidence to back his claims, made assertions and denials that were inaccurate or wrong, filed legal action against National MPs just prior to going into coalition negotiations with National (I think without revealing the legal filing), and then proceeded with the case over the next two years.

Some have suggested he has simply enhanced negative aspects of his reputation.

There is a serious issue of the revealing of private information held by  Government department. That should have been investigated – although leaks are common and culprits are often not identified.

But the initial information Peters revealed himself, and revelations through the court hearings, have been self damaging more than anything.

As well as damages, Peters wants a declaration from the court that his privacy was breached.

The NZ First leader says it is necessary to have the tort of privacy recognise such a breach because in the digital world “the dissemination of [private] information is now in the hands of irresponsible persons… and politicians are not extremely vulnerable”.

At the end of his submissions, Henry clarified for the judge that Peters was now seeking the $450,000 in damages under his first course of action from all defendants together rather than seeking that sum from each.

That’s an odd switch. Maybe he realised Peters was seeking too much with Bennett and Tolley out of the firing line.

Questioned further by Justice Venning, he said the fact Bennett and Tolley could no longer be accepted as the source of the leaks meant that they could not continue to be included in the cause of action seeking that money. So the damages are sought, together, from Boyle, Hughes and MSD.

In three further causes of action, Peters is seeking declarations from the judge that his privacy was breached by the public servants in briefing their ministers and by the two ministers in accepting those briefings.

A challenge for the judge to address all of that.

A swipe at Kiwiblog fizzled:

Henry disputed a claim by Bruce Gray QC, for the ministers, that there had been no social media reports of Peters’ overpayment presented to the court that had occurred before Peters issued his press release announcing that news.

He pointed to a Kiwiblog posting about the risks for Peters if the overpayment news was correct. However he gave the court the date August 28 for the Kiwiblog comment, and that was actually the day after Peters issued his press release.

Whoops.

The only social media content appearing before Peters went public had been three tweets from the writer of this article about a possible major political story, and the tweets did not mention him, his party, gender, age or superannuation.

The writer had to provide a sworn statement in the earliest part of the proceedings and pointed out that intense speculation on Twitter had followed those tweets but that not one that was connected to his tweets had referred to or even hinted at Peters being involved.

The writer is Tim Murphy who has provided excellent coverage of the hearing.

Earlier, Victoria Casey QC for Hughes, Boyle and the ministry, said Peters’ pleading alleging bad faith by her clients would, if found to be so, be “catastrophic” for the officials. “If established, it would be the end of any career for them in the public service.

“It’s important that Mr Peters is held to his pleadings,” she said.

The bad faith accusation was raised by Peters in his fourth ‘statement in reply’ before the hearing began. “Mr Peters is not entitled to pursue new allegations of bad faith.”

(Henry later told the court he was saying officials had not acted in good faith rather than they had acted in bad faith. That was so those defendants had to disprove his claim rather than Peters having to prove ‘bad faith’.)

Justice Venning has reserved his decision, which he said was unlikely before the end of the year.

I expect he will want to take some time and care in writing his decision. I wonder how close to next year’s election campaign the decision will be released.


A (lawyer) comment from Kiwiblog (typos corrected):

I was astonished to read of Mr Henry’s concession that neither of Anne Tolley or Paula Bennett leaked anything.
If that is the case the claim against them will fail absolutely.

I would anticipate that Mr Gray will ask for judgement for Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett and that there be an order for costs against Mr Peters on an indemnity basis.

Yeah, costs. They could amount to a lot. Peters will be hoping to have costs warded in his favour for his remaining claims, but that my only balance out these costs.

Thinking about it, Peters was hardly likely to succeed in all of his claims, so was always going to be exposed to costs.

Winston Peters versus ministries and MPs nearing an end

The Winston Peters versus government ministries and heads of departments, and two National MPs, is nearing an end as closing addresses began yesterday.

There is no doubt that Peters’ privacy was breached, but despite Peters making serious allegations and insinuations there is no indication of solid evidence to back up any of his bluster. This looks to me like classic Peters – he has a long history of making accusations and not backing them up with evidence or substance.

Peters claims his reputation was damaged, which is rather ironic given the number of times he has tried to smear the reputations of others over the years, but his own disclosure to media of a seven year overpayment of his superannuation, and what has been revealed due to his own claims and actions in this case, are making it like more of an own goal.

Peters is finding that he can’t get away with bluster and bullshit in court like he has in politics for decades.

The case has proven that he has made false claims, in particular that MSD had conceded they made a mistake with his Super application form – it appears to have has been made clear in court that Peters made the mistake himself and signed in incomplete and inaccurate disclosure. For some reason he disclosed that he was married but separated, but he failed to disclose that he was living in a relationship with Jan Trotman. It was when Trotman applied for Super in 2017 that MSD became aware of the incorrect payments to Peters. They had asked for conformation from Peters that his details were correct in 2014, but he claims not to remember receiving the letter.

Despite all Peters’ insinuations and innuendo the case seems to have come down to whether it was proper for government departments to advise ministers under the ‘no surprises’ practice. Department heads have made it clear that the procedure was normal and proper, and also said that Peters’ claim there was a 3 month pre-election no disclosure period was not based on facts.

Newsroom – Expert surprised by Peters’ claims

Former top civil servant Sir Maarten Wevers has thrown doubt on three claims by Winston Peters that governing conventions were ignored by two chief executives who told National ministers about Peters’ superannuation overpayment.

Wevers, an expert witness called by the Crown defendants in the breach of privacy case brought by the NZ First leader, backed each of the two chief executives’ decisions and conduct in the affair – and told the High Court Peters was wrong on three claims he had made in court.

Wevers backed both Boyle’s decision to brief his minister, Anne Tolley, and Hughes’ decision to brief Paula Bennett.

“A high-profile, notable, and very public figure had received money through the state benefit system that he was not entitled to. That followed an error he had made on a statutory declaration he had made.

“The individual was a former Cabinet minister, sitting senior MP, leader of a political party.

“There were issues in play as to the integrity of the system,” Wevers said.

Boyle had not rushed to judgment, Wevers said, but consulted with the State Services Commission – whose advice was the appropriate “buttress” in such a situation between a department and minister. His briefing to Tolley met expectations and “given what was going on with Metiria Turei, this was a matter with potentially high public interest. “That was the context – if Mr Peters had become public, another MP had received money they were not entitled to.

“Ministers expect to be forewarned about this and to be assured that MSD had handled the matter appropriately and to defuse any suggestion there had been preferential treatment.”

Wevers said in his opinion Hughes’ briefing to Bennett had also been appropriate. “In the same position I would have taken the same course.”

That addresses (and opposes) the main claim by Peters in the case.

Newsroom – Words matter to these civil servants, Mr Peters

Journalists and opposing politicians seldom have the opportunity to precisely fact-check – with access to his documents – claims made by Winston Peters. But one government department has done it.

A Winston Peters interview on RNZ in August 2017 has featured repeatedly in his High Court privacy case.

Peters had denied, to RNZ, a report by Newsroom that he was billed $18,000 by the Ministry of Social Development for the seven-year overpayment, in an interview that also ran in a story on the Stuff website on August 28, 2017.

The MP said he repaid “way less” than $18,000 and then said it again:

“To say I repaid $18,000 is demonstrably false.”

He didn’t pay back $18,000. The court heard, first from Peters on day one and then repeatedly from others, that he repaid $17,936.43.

It was court evidence so is accepted as demonstrably true rather than his claim of “demonstrably false”.

In the same Stuff story, Peters made the following claims, all fact-checked by MSD in preparing for its officers’ time in the court-room. This interview was after he had looked into the problem, had it explained to him and received and paid the invoice for the debt he owed:

– Peters claimed the overpayment likely started in 2013/14. MSD staff and Peters confirmed in court it started on April 12, 2010, the day he applied for it.

– Peters said he had asked in 2017 to speak to the person who dealt with his case in 2010 but that person no longer worked there so couldn’t act as a witness. MSD witnesses told the court the staff member worked in 2017 at the same office, in the same role, and does so until this day. She gave evidence for MSD to defend Peters’ claim. An MSD witness denied Peters had asked her in 2017 if he could speak to that original case manager.

– Peters had said about his repayment: “The reality is a payment like that also attracts interest.” An MSD witness told the court she had seen this claim by Peters and it was wrong. The ministry never charged interest on debts it wanted repaid and no issue of financial penalties would arise unless fraud had been involved, which was not the case for Peters.

– Another MSD witness told the court she had seen in a media report in 2017 that Peters had claimed he had not received the full superannuation because his payment had been “abated”. She said no such abatement existed and the records back to 2010 showed he had been paid the full rate.

– Evidence from the official who dealt with Peters in 2017 said: “I remember reading in the media that Mr Peters was saying MSD had been unable to resolve how the mistake happened. That is not correct. It was very clear to me, which I communicated to Mr Peters in our meeting, that he had been paid the incorrect rate of superannuation as a result of his declaring at question 26 that he was in a relationship and completing the partner details accordingly. He had been paid in accordance with his declaration – as a single person.”

– A regional official said she was aware of Peters’ evidence that his application form was incomplete because he had not ticked a box on his current relationship status. “Based on all my service experience I do not consider the form is incomplete and I am not surprised it was processed in the form. The key information needed to determine Mr Peters’ relationship status was provided, i.e that he was separated.”

– Another official also challenged the claim MSD had made the original mistake. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist at times,” the case manager he dealt with in 2010 told the court. “It was hard to hear that I had made a mistake. I was upset because I knew this was not correct, but I had no way to defend myself.”

– Further, she said media reported Peters saying there appeared to have been an alteration on his application form and no one knew how it had been made. “Categorically, we do not alter forms,” she said.

– Two MSD officials recalled Peters having told media he had dealt, in 2010, with a “very senior” MSD official. The woman concerned told the court: “He referred to me as a very senior person at MSD. I definitely do not consider myself a very senior person at MSD. Case manager is hardly what I call very senior.”

Tim Murphy and Newsroom have been providing detailed coverage of the case (Murphy was originally included in the legal action).

In this story, they alleged Peters had made multiple errors on filling out his form, and dated his signature on it on a different day to that which he claimed. He has also cited in evidence an incorrect and irrelevant statistic about MSD cases involving relationship issues.

In this story, they challenged his claims over an MSD policy and a public service pre-election protocol.

In this story, the court heard three staff from the office at which he applied for super in 2010 would give evidence that Peters attended alone and his partner Jan Trotman was not there. Both the MP and Trotman gave evidence that she was there, but the three officials appeared later in the week and on oath repeated their firm belief that he had been alone at all times.

Yesterday final addresses began – Peters case: The dog that didn’t bark

The lawyer for Crown defendants in the Winston Peters superannuation leak court action says the NZ First leader’s evidence is like ‘The Case of the Dog that Didn’t Bark’.

Victoria Casey QC told the High Court at Auckland in her closing submission on day seven of the case that Peters had made sweeping allegations against the State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes, the former chief executive of the MInistry of Social development and the ministry itself.but had not backed them up in court.

His statement of claim for damages over the leak of information in 2017 on his seven-year, $18,000 overpayment of national superannuation claimed the officials and department had acted in bad faith, but neither Peters’ evidence in court nor his lawyer’s cross examination of witnesses had attempted to confirm that.

The now Deputy Prime Minister claimed the disclosure of the overpayment information was for the purpose of salacious gossip and made deliberately to political opponents before the election but  he had not made the case for any of these central claims. “The plaintiff is required to prove his case,” Casey said.

“This case is, with respect to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the case of the dog that didn’t bark…. The silence is, with respect, resounding.”

Bruce Gray QC, closing for two former National ministers Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett, who Peters is also suing for $450,000 in the breach of privacy case, told Justice Geoffrey Venning: “We have asked ourselves: ‘why are we here’? What is this case about?”

The lawyer said Peters had acknowledged in court he was more sensitive about privacy than many people and his desire for secrecy might have been the reason for his original failure to provide full information about his de facto relationship when applying for superannuation. “He did not feel it necessary to make disclosure of something he preferred” people not to know about him.

The MP had chosen to reveal to the public the fact of his overpayment and the MSD agreement that he should repay the $18,000. That was the reason it became known and had set the tone of media and public commentary. No other publication had occurred, Peters had provided zero evidence there had been ‘social media’ publications about him as he claimed and the fact two journalists had received anonymous calls did not mean a publication was imminent. The calls in themselves were not  evidence of serious harm to Peters.

He said Tolley and Bennett did not even get briefed on the extent of information provided to journalists by the leaker. “It seems they did not know there had been any suggestion at all that Mr Peters had lied, so could not have told anyone that.

“In any event the publication was not highly offensive or objectionable to a reasonable person. Mr Peters is not an objective reasonable person. He is more sensitive than average to privacy matters. His subjective views are not the test in this case.”

Gray told the court: “This proceeding is a defamation case in drag. We still do not know precisely what Mr Peters complains about.

Peters was seeking $450,000 from each defendant. “The plaintiff’s claim in this case is beyond extravagant and is further evidence for the genuine motivation for the proceeding,” Gray said.

“It is a shame this claim had to be made. It seems to arise from an inability to accept a mistake had been made, and a desire to punish.”

Victoria Casey QC, for the three Crown defendants, began her closing late in the day and will finish this morning.

She said: “Something happened that should not have happened. The fact that it did enter the public domain did not establish that the Crown defendants are liable at Common Law and MSD is not liable for unknown actions to the media.”

Peters had conducted the case in a way that made serious allegations about her clients in pleading but did not bring them up personally in evidence or in cross examination. She said to Justice Venning: “We do ask that you pay attention to who was asked what and more importantly who was not asked anything.”

The MP claimed  in the media in 2017 that senior officials had been part of a “cartel playing politics” and that “very senior politicians had been operating outside the law… in tandem with ministers.”

Casey said: “This is the case to which that privilege applied. This is the case where if Mr Peters had any foundation for these comments they should have been brought before the court. We have no evidence whatsoever about a cartel, a conspiracy and no questions to the ministers or chief executives about these claims.”

Despite all Peters’ public claims the case made at court against the Crown defendants seemed to come down to the decision the chief executives took to brief their ministers on the Peters situation after it had been resolved.

“There is no allegation pleaded or in evidence that the plaintiff [Peters] suffered damage from the briefings to ministers.”

In claiming that his reputation has been tarnished Peters himself has taken to court and called into question the reputations of MSD employees, department heads and two MPs.

It may turn out that he has enhanced his own reputation of a blusterer and bullshitter.

Anne Tolley’s reputation has taken a bit of a hit – Minister told husband, sister about Peters’ super

Former National minister Anne Tolley told her husband and her sister about Winston Peters being overpaid superannuation after she was briefed by the head of the Ministry of Social Development.

But most shots fired in court have been blanks or missed their mark.

Tolley and Bennett reject Peters’ claim that under the legal principle of ‘res ipsa loquitur’ or ‘let the thing speak for itself’, Chief High Court Judge Geoffrey Venning should infer they disclosed the Peters’ information publicly.

Gray said: “They resist this. They say that neither of them disclosed the information.”

There has been no evidence produced of who disclosed the private information.

Newsroom – Two ministers and a drunken conspiracy

Could someone from the National Party, stressed, and slightly or heavily intoxicated have told journalist Barry Soper that news of Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayment was about to leak?

That was an implication from a series of questions from Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry in the High Court at Auckland today to former National minister Paula Bennett.

He did not ask Bennett if she was that person.

But when he asked her if she had a view on the “inference” which could be taken from Soper’s evidence on Tuesday that he had been told by someone from National, she answered:

“No. I’ve had many allegations made as to who may or may not have leaked this but I see no more validity in this than any other.”

Henry, who had called the NewstalkZB political editor Soper to give evidence under subpoena, said: “Someone told him about this coming scandal for Mr Peters. Someone he is leaving us to infer is from the National Party.”

It was in Bennett’s cross-examination that Henry, for Peters, suggested a National person had been Soper’s source.

Despite Soper declining in court to reveal that source, Henry told Bennett: “He had been told by a source that we are left to infer was from the National Party.”

Justice Geoffrey Venning interceded to say: “That’s your inference, I think, Mr Henry.”

In politics Peters is big on bark but often without evidence to back up allegations and innuendo and inference.

In court he has barely whimpered, and his lawyer Brian Henry has had a hard job inferring for him with a glaring lack of substance.

Perhaps the dog ate the evidence.

Defence closing submissions will conclude today, and will be followed by the closing submission by Peters’ lawyer.

Sustainable NZ could help Labour, Greens as well as environment

The newly launched Sustainable NZ Party has been criticised a puppet party set up to either give National  coalition option they are currently lacking, or compete with Green votes to try to stop the Green Party making the 5% threshold,

But if SNZ makes it into Parliament (this is a long shot but possible) they could help Labour or the Greens (if the get back in) as much if not more than they could help National.

SNZ in Parliament could give Labour a choice between them and the Greens, giving them more coalition bargaining power.

SNZ could also give Labour or Labour+Greens an alternative to NZ First for a coalition.

A Labour+Greens+SNZ coalition should have a strong environmental mandate, far stronger than currently with NZ First in the mix.

The Greens have actually reacted with “it only strengthens democracy when we have a diversity of people running in general elections”.

And even if National and SNZ form a coalition, that must be better for environmental policy implementation than National on their own or with ACT.

The bleating from the left seems more old school politics where parties like Labour think they should be able to effectively rule on their own, or as far as the Greens are concerned worried about self preservation (the threshold), or seeing themselves as the exclusive champion of environmental policies.

Martyn Bradbury at The Daily Blog: The real purpose of National’s new ‘Sustainability NZ Party’

The point of Sustainability NZ for National is not to get over 5% and join them in Parliament, it’s to take just enough green voters away from the Greens so as to sink them under 5%.

That’s just one possibility. Voters may see differently – two environmental parties could be better than one.

If we had a Green movement that wasn’t more focused on meaningless consensus and middle class identity politics, they could see this challenge off from Sustainability NZ, but because of the shrill alienation the Greens  manage to create, this could be the plot to rob them of any representation post 2020.

He also takes a swipe at the Greens. The bitterness of someone with no party to support.

Voters could dump the Greens from Parliament regardless of SNZ. If that happens and SNZ manages to get in then we must be better off than being left with National versus Labour.

MickySavage at The Standard: Sustainable Party launches

The Sustainable Party, National’s sock puppet party designed to weaken the Greens has launched.

That’s a negative Labour reaction, without stopping to think through the possibilities.

At a time when the world is in a crisis caused by run away climate change there is only very oblique reference to this most pressing of problems.  It should be centre and front of any policy announcement by a so called environmentally focussed party.  That it is not speaks volumes.  And that the policy is being used to try and wedge the Greens on  Generic Engineering shows the real motivation behind the party.

The Greens should be challenged on their ridiculous entrenched anti-GE position,

Of course the reality is that this party is a puppet party, designed to cause as much grief as possible to the Greens.

And he refuses to accept that late stage capitalism and unfettered greed and growth are the cause of our problems.  That economic disparity and ecological decline are happening hand in hand because they are symptoms of the same problem.  Instead he claims that his party is  “pro-progress, pro-technology and pro-science” and seems to think that eternal economic growth is possible.

This sounds like knee jerk anti-new party syndrome – established parties seem to hate newbies with new approaches. They seem to feel threatened.

Beyond the overreaction of political bloggers, RNZ – Sustainable New Zealand political party: Other parties unruffled

The Greens said they were “not too fussed” about a potential rival, saying in a statement the ‘teal’ vote was miniscule.

“We think National are the only ones likely to lose support,” it said.

“However Mr Tava is welcome to give it a go – he has every right to and in fact it only strengthens democracy when we have a diversity of people running in general elections.”

Yes, under MMP more parties in Parliament strengthens democracy, giving major parties more options to get genuine majorities to progress policies.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford did not think Sustainable NZ would take many votes from the Greens.

“While Mr Tava talks about being willing to go with National or Labour or anyone else I think it’s pretty clear that they are positioning themselves very much on the right side of the political spectrum with all their talk of working with business…

Funny, Bradford equates “talk of working with business with “very much on the right side of the political spectrum”. Even Russel Norman appeared willing to talking with businesses, and James Shaw certainly is willing.

Apart from the fringe far left healthy business is seen as an integral part of the way we live.

Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said more voices for protecting the environment was a good thing, but he thought the party might struggle to get a coherent message through.

“Much of the destruction of the environment has been the result of commercial exploitation and it seems like their economic policies may not be ones that would actually change that, so we look forward with interest to see what the full suite of their policies might be,” he said.

Mr Hague said focusing the majority of their policies on the environment, could place them at a disadvantage too.

“If they say they’re just going to have environmental policies that is going to make them pretty much a lame duck within Parliament on most issues.

Not necessarily. All parties in Parliament have to make decisions on issues they don’t have policies on.  That doesn’t make them lame ducks on those issues.  And where parties have policies on issues the reality is that most parties have to compromise on their own policies most of the time.

Labour’s 2020 campaign chair Megan Woods said they had not yet discussed the prospect of working with the party.

Ms Woods said however it would not change anything about their campaign and Labour would just be focused on telling its own story.

“[The] launch comes as no surprise, this has been well signalled, but what it does show yet again is that National still has a big strategic dilemma around a lack of coalition partners,” she said.

If she or Labour thought things through it could be a positive change for them – providing they can win more votes than National next election.

Newshub: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern throws doubt on Vernon Tava’s Sustainable NZ

Jacinda Ardern has hit out at the newest political party Sustainable New Zealand, saying the Government is already catering to the environmental needs it’s offering.

“I do believe that environmental matters are a huge focus for this Government and I don’t see that there’s necessarily a space that [Sustainable NZ] need to fill,” the Prime Minister said Monday.

But Labour leader Ardern questioned the need for Tava’s party in the current political space, asking reporters at her post-Cabinet press conference: “What is the political issue that they are trying to solve?”

Ardern said the current Labour-Green-New Zealand First Government is already doing plenty for the environment, pointing to the Zero Carbon Bill that passed its final reading last week.

She also reflected on the $181.6 million funding boost over four years given to the Department of Conservation in Budget 2018 – the largest bump in conservation funding since 2002.

“If they claim that they are operating in an environmental space… I’d say that it’s being very well catered for by this Government,” Ardern said.

How well the environment is being catered for is debatable, and could be better catered for if SNZ replaced NZ First as a coalition partner for Labour+Greens.

SNZ could compete with votes that could otherwise go to Labour, and that’s not what a party leader wants.

But for non-aligned people like me another party option to vote for is a good thing. I don’t think there are any current parties in Parliament that deserve my vote. I’d like more options, and SNZ looks to be potentially a good one.

Me too at U2 concert in Auckland

I went to the U2 concert in Auckland last night. This was their first gig in bout 2 years, kicking of Australian and Asian extension to their 2017 Joshua Tree tour that marked the 30th anniversary of the release of their most popular album.

And I must admit, it is one of my favourite albums too, so this was a looked forward to concert. I haven’t been to U2 before. I was booked to go to Auckland in 2006 but they postponed it, and I couldn’t make the rescheduled show.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds opened, and they were pretty good, with about eleven band members, but for me mostly unremarkable apart from being good solid rock.

The large crowd switched up quite a few notches when the U2 crew appeared on stage one by one. It wasn’t quite Beatlemania but a young women near me was adoringly gaga through the show, it was funny to see that sort of adulation close up. And we were close up, about 5 metres from the extended stage that they started playing on, almost touching the crowd physically and more than touching it emotionally.

They began with some pre-Joshua Tree hits with no visuals apart from lighting, the aim being to connect with the crowd, which they did very well.

They then moved back to the main stage to play through The Joshua Tree, backed by an enormous screen with amazing visuals. Which was just about all shorter people could see in the packed standing area. You don’t go to stadium concerts for box seat close up views and sublime sound – the sound system was very good, but when the crowd sings along to most of the songs you don’t hear everything with clarity.

For me the whole Joshua Tree segment was a highlight, I  thoroughly enjoyed it. The band are seasoned pros but looked like they were doing much more with their music than going through the motions. The buzz obviously keeps them going.

I was standing in the general admission area and far prefer the freedom to move, despite more obstructed views, than a seat in the stands along the sides of the stadium.

After The Joshua Tree they played one later song then waved and went off. It was obvious that there was going to be an ‘encore’, and this staged encore stuff annoys me a bit, and on this occasion the crowd generally didn’t buy into it. We just waited until they came back on and resumed.

The last few songs were good enough. Some people may have not liked the tribute to women in history and women’s liberation when they included Helen Clark, Jacinda Ardern and Pania Newtown, but I thought it was a fair enough expression of well researched local content.

They closed with One, and this featured a big tribute to the Christchurch mosque victims. Very well done and quite moving.

There was no chance of a real encore after that.

So for me a great concert by one of the great bands.

Unfortunately it was followed by a downer. Getting away from a big crowd venue can always be a bit of a hassle, but Mt Smart is the worst I have experienced. It seemed that just about all of the 45,000 or so crowd were leaving in the same direction, towards the Panmure train station. This was slow and at time (quite a bit of time) stalled waiting for trains.

U2 started just after 8:30 and played through until  bit after 10:30, but we didn’t get back to Britomart until after midnight. It was about 1:30 am that I finally got back to where I was staying. It had been a long day and that was a long letdown. I was seriously wondering whether I should go to the second concert tonight, tickets seem to be plentiful and cheap to try to fill the stadium, but the after gig experience has definitely decided me against that.

But I’m very glad I stuck with it this time and made it to the concert. Getting to it wasn’t without some hiccups. I had been quick off the mark and booked reasonable plane tickets and accommodation. Then a few weeks later Jetstar advised the flight time to Auckland was changed, making it too late for the concert. So I had to cancel that and book with air NZ, and by then they were over twice the price.

Then three weeks before the concert accommodation was cancelled – a tenant had apparently damaged it so it needed repairs. Hotels in the CBD were by now horrendous prices. I was fortunately able to chance upon somewhere else, which added an hour to after gig travel.

So I’m pleased I have finally been to see and hear U2, but some of the hassles around it won’t encourage me to come to Auckland for a concert gain.

Warning of ‘untold suffering’ from climate change

I have thought that doom and gloom preached by climate activists has been a bit extreme and more likely to turn off popular support for much more drastic action than anything.

But many scientists are also making grave warnings.

I don’t think we can carry on as if there is no problem with little more than hot air from politicians. We have to make significant changes to how we live, as individuals, as a country, and as a planet. The worst that can happen is we will be better off – and more importantly, future generations will be better off, and our planet will be better off. And we could prevent much worse from happening.

Stuff: ‘Untold suffering’: Global scientists warn of climate emergency

More than 11,000 scientists from around the world have declared a “climate emergency”, warning of “untold suffering” and calling for action ranging from curbing human population to leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

The unusual international collaboration, published in BioScience journal, was backed by more than 350 Australian scientists, including 10 current or ex-CSIRO researchers. Signatories hailed from 153 countries.

Despite warnings being issued for decades that rising greenhouse gases would disrupt the climate – and a slew of summits and treaties – such emissions have continued to rise with “increasingly damaging effects”.

“An immense increase of scale in endeavours to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis,” the article said.

Some of us in temperate New Zealand could shrug and smugly say that a few warmer days would be good. But it’s much more complex than that.  A few more storms and floods and maybe droughts could have a big impact here. As could population pressure from elsewhere in the world if overcrowding, pressure on food and water resources and  less a liveable climate push people to higher and lower latitudes.

We are not just facing possible climate change issues. Alongside that an expanding population will make adverse effects harder to deal with.

The researchers – members of the Alliance of World Scientists – identified six critical steps governments, business “and the rest of humanity” can take, including leaving remaining stocks of fossil fuels untapped and “carefully pursuing effective negative emissions”, such as “enhancing natural systems”.

The signatories also highlighted population, a target often omitted in climate debates. The report noted the number of humans was swelling at the rate of 200,000 people per day, or more than 80 million a year.

Populations “must be stabilised – and ideally, gradually reduced”, it said. Strengthening human rights, including making education “a global norm for all, especially girls”, were ways to stem population growth.

Those of us who already have families, and perhaps grandchildren, may not see much in this. But there are signs that a growing number of young people are not only concerned about their own future, they are also seriously concerned about the future of the planet, to the extent that they are thinking of having only one child or no children.

If this happens to any degree it will also eventually have a big impact on an aging population. Our age demographic is already getting top heavy through better health extending lives, and smaller and more delayed families.

“If you have a rising human population, there’s the need for more food and the need for more energy,” said Thomas Newsome, one of the paper’s authors and a lecturer at the University of Sydney, Australia.

I’m amazed that much more isn’t being done to conserve energy and reduce energy needs.

Newsome said the impacts of climate change already underway were broad-ranging, prompting concern if not alarm from researchers ranging from human health to ecology and the social sciences.

Charlie Veron, a marine biologist accredited with naming about one-fifth of the world’s coral species and among the signatories, said climate change “was a lot, lot more serious than the general public realises”.

Young people in particular “should make as much noise as they can”, Veron said, referring to the recent school strikes for climate action. “They are facing a world that will be absolutely horrible place.”

The loss of half the Great Barrier Reef’s corals in two consecutive summers of mass bleaching had failed to prompt action. “It’s still not taken seriously,” he said. “What’s it take to wake the country up?”

Climate impact on our neighbour Australia will have a significant impact on us here.

Linden Ashcroft, a lecturer in climate science and science communication at The University of Melbourne in Australia, said the report “adds to the roar from all fields of science needs to be taken now”.

Other steps people should take include eating mostly plant-based foods to reduce methane and other emissions, saving remaining primary forests to protect biodiversity, and shifting to a carbon-free economy based on renewable energy, the report said.

We should all be doing more than considering changing our diets and our style of living. We can and should be making positive changes – this will likely benefit our own health anyway, and may help the health of others and our planet.

There will always be some who grumble and claim that there is nothing wrong and/or nothing we can or should do differently.

But the weight of science (as imperfect as climate science is it is leaning strongly towards drastic effects and drastic actions) and the growing strength of public realisation and acceptance of personal and collective responsibility.

The worst that can happen if we do something about it is we will likely be better off, healthier.

The worst that can happen if we pretend we are not adversely affecting our planet is difficult to predict, but it could easily be very bad, perhaps not for us, but for future generations.

We can do much more about it, and should. On an individual level it doesn’t need to be drastic change, but we should be moving in better direction.


See also…

The Independent – ‘Untold human suffering’: 11,000 scientists from across world unite to declare global climate emergency

Washington Post – Trump makes it official: U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord

The Trump administration notified the international community Monday that it plans to officially withdraw from the Paris climate accord next fall, a move that will leave the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases as the only nation to abandon the global effort to combat climate change.

President Trump has long criticized the 2015 accord and insisted that the United States would exit it as soon as possible. As recently as last month, Trump called the agreement “a total disaster” and argued that the Obama administration’s pledges to cut carbon emissions under the deal would have “hurt the competitiveness” of the United States.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration had sent official notification of its plans to the United Nations.

“In international climate discussions, we will continue to offer a realistic and pragmatic model — backed by a record of real world results — showing innovation and open markets lead to greater prosperity, fewer emissions, and more secure sources of energy,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to work with our global partners to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change and prepare for and respond to natural disasters.”

Time: Trump’s Paris Agreement Move Is Unpopular. Here’s How He’s Trying to Spin It.

By leaving the landmark climate deal, Trump would fulfill a campaign promise, pleasing some of his supporters in the fossil fuel industry while angering mostly those unlikely to support him anyway.

But since then the politics have changed: climate change is now one of the most-discussed issues in the 2020 presidential race and the vast majority of Americans say they support measures to reduce emissions, including the Paris Agreement.

While Trump’s policy agenda on climate hasn’t changed to meet the political moment, there are signs suggesting that his messaging has. He’s largely stopped making the brazenly inaccurate claim that climate change is a “hoax,” instead making a more nuanced but also spurious claim that climate policy would mean wrecking the economy.

In a statement Monday announcing the U.S. withdrawal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. “has reduced all types of emissions” and claimed the Paris Agreement imposed an “unfair economic burden” on the U.S. This is the other side of Trump’s new climate messaging plan: he and his Administration argue that Democratic policies aligned with scientific consensus will destroy the economy.

In a telling interview on the podcast Climate 2020, John McLaughlin, one of Trump’s top pollsters, acknowledged that the “vast majority of Americans” know that climate change is happening, but said that they remain skeptical of the costs, hinting at how the Trump campaign might try to explain its inaction on the issue. Specifically talking about leaving the popular Paris deal, McLaughlin suggested that Trump needed to hammer home his talking points about jobs. “Voters are highly cynical,” he said. “They don’t want to lose their jobs over this and they don’t want to pay a lot of money.”

Not doing enough could destroy the US economy, but that’s probably a longer term risk – beyond the current presidential term.

 

If polls are bad demand a new pollster

Donald Trump made the news a month ago (I can’t remember where) – his approval polls were better than Barack Obama’s at the same time in their terms. But that was brief as Obama’s polling recovered and Trump’s dipped.

While polling for past presidents has fluctuated Trump’s approval/disapproval polling has been more consistent – and worse than Obama, GW Bush and Bill Clinton just bout all the time.  See FiveThirtyEight How Trump compares with past presidents

Lately even the Rasmussen polls, which usually tend to favour Trump, have him -11% , and the aggregate is currently 55% disapprove, 41.1% approve.

There have been shows of public disapproval recently – here is the second:

A poll from one of Trump’s favoured media has been described by him as ‘lousy’.

USA Today: ‘I have the real polls’: Trump calls Fox News polls ‘lousy’ after survey finds 49% support impeachment

Trump’s ‘real poll’ has him on 100% approval – it has a sample size of 1 and a margin of error of 0%, according to him.

President Donald Trump on Sunday dismissed polls that have found growing support for his impeachment as a new Fox News poll found that 49% of registered voters think he should be removed from office.

“You’re reading the wrong polls,” Trump told reporters when asked about the surveys outside the White House. “I have the real polls. The CNN polls are fake. The Fox polls have always been lousy I tell them they ought to get themselves a new pollster.”

Keep changing the pollster until you get the results you want? Funny how he says that CNN polls are fake, but Fox polls are just lousy.

Trump said “the real polls” that came out that same morning showed that “people don’t want anything to do with impeachment.” But the president did not explain what polls he was referring to.

He may have made that up. probably. He is well known for making things up. Lying.

Trump is currently facing an impeachment inquiry for allegedly using military aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine into investigating potential interference in the U.S. 2016 election and allegations involving former Vice President Joe Biden.

Despite several witnesses who have appeared to corroborate the allegations against Trump, the 49% who said they want the president removed from office actually represented a two-point drop from the previous Fox News poll in early October.

When asked if there was a chance that new evidence could sway their opinion on impeachment, 57% of those who opposed it said there was nothing that could get them to change their minds.

There is a significant minority of Trump supporters who re unlikely to change their minds no matter what he says or does. But another significant portion of voters are the key to his re-election chances, if he lasts in the job long enough to stand again.

Thirty-four percent said new evidence could make them support impeachment.

Sixty percent of voters said they thought Trump had asked Ukraine to investigate his political rivals and 52% believed he held up military aid to add pressure for Ukraine to do it and 46% said the affair had worsened their opinion of Trump.

Trump and his Republican defenders have dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a politically motivated “witch hunt” but a majority (52%) of voters said it was legitimate. Thirty-nine percent said it was a “bogus attempt to undermine Trump’s presidency.”

The US political circus continues.

Of course there’s a chance that Trump will survive impeachment, and win the presidential election next year. If he does that will have more to do with the lack of decent Democrat candidates than his own achievements and behaviour.

Sure Trump has achieved some positive things. All presidents do. But one of Trump’s biggest achievements  is how much he has degraded the position of president of the United States. On that he is well ahead of anyone else.

With the help of his family:

 

Project just about finished

A major milestone for me last night – I finished the last of three coats of paint on the roof. It waas hard work, especially over the weekend when i could only paint until 9 am and from 5 pm because it was so hot through the day, with the temperature in high twenties.

This is just bout the end of a big house project. We started in August, planning, getting quotes, and choosing colours – I ended up painting about a dozen sample houses on the wall, and half a dozen on the roof.

All of my spare time in September when it was dry (over the last two months there has been a lot of rain days) we treated the house for moss, then scraped and scrubbed all the walls, which are roughcast or pebbles in concrete. And we painted all of the single store walls and the lower two thirds of the double story walls (about half the house).

Then at the start of October we had scaffolding put up. It had to be full height round the whole house with roof edge protection, because we had to get roof repairs done, and were also getting the house double glazed which also required scaffolding. It did make the high wall and roof painting easier.

Through the month we had the roof ridges replaced – they were rusting through. The roof iron was unpainted galvanised and in reasonable condition apart from a few surface rust patches, so we decided to paint it to try to extend the life of it. So I had to clean down the roof, then apply three coats of paint. The eaves also needed painting, and barge boards needed either replacing or repairing, and I gave them two undercoats and two top coats because they are affected the most by the weather.

Painting the roof was the last task, and it took a couple of weeks between wet days before and after work and weekends. The roof was the hardest and most tedious.

I got three hours painting before work yesterday, and another three hours after work, and finally finished. Yay!

There’s  bit of finishing off to do, outside doors and frames, and a few bits and pieces, and the glaziers need to come back to replace a cracked unit, and then we can get the scaffolding taken down. But the big jobs are done.

As well as getting the house double glazed we have opened the windows up. Two living area windows had side windows and sashes that had fake lead stuff on them. They are now single pane picture windows that enhance our rural views. The kitchen windows were all fake leadlighted, it was a bit like being in  prison cell. They re now all clear glass, as is the rest of the house except the bathroom and toilet.

The wall painting was necessary as the condition wasn’t good, so that has spruced up the house, and painting the roof has made more difference than I thought it would. With the painting and windows it has changed the house from a tired old look to a much more clean and modern look. I’m very pleased with how that has turned out, it’s better than expected, a transformation.

Apart from a few odd jobs it is all done. I’m having this weekend off with things planned, my first break after three months of preparing for and working on the project.

I hope the roof paint sticks, I would really like to not have to paint that again. The walls should be good for a few years at least.

And as well improving the look of the house, and the views from inside the house, the double glazing should be a benefit as well, making it easier to keep what was a cold house warmer. This will keep ongoing costs down, and it also does a wee bit to help towards dealing with climate change.

I have tried to keep things ticking away here, and  number of you have helped a lot, but I have been a bit distracted from blogging for the last few months. I have a busy November as well, including a family wedding, and have other projects in mind, so we will just have to see what happens here.

 

Peters in court versus Government departments and National MPs next week

Winston Peters is expected to be in court or up to three weeks beginning on Monday when his case against the Attorney-General (on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development), the ministry’s chief executive, the State Services Commissioner and former ministers and national MPs Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett.

This is over an alleged leak of details of an overpayment to Peters of Superannuation from 2010 until 2017. He received a single person’s Super but was living in a relationship.

Peters actually outed himself after journalists were given the information and started asking questions.

I’m not sure how everyone taken to court by Peters can have leaked the information.

There are a number of bizarre aspects to all this.

Newsroom:  Peters’ day job on hold as he sues the Crown

Winston Peters will take time off his day job as Acting Prime Minister next week when his high-stakes court action begins against the head of the public service, a top mandarin, a government agency and two former National ministers.

His case alleging a breach of his privacy in the leaking in 2017 of his seven-year national superannuation overpayment starts in the High Court at Auckland on Monday.

Peters’ case has moved from an initial focus against the two National politicians for leaking the details of his overpayment, to now claiming the government departments and officials breached his privacy in advising the ministers. Further, he has accused the officials of being reckless and acting in bad faith, and the Crown is defending that allegation with vigour.

This seems to have been a fishing expedition with Peters trying too discover who leaked the information. As information was provided he seems too have changed his targets.

Newsroom and Newshub were two media organisations that received anonymous calls alerting them to the overpayment and were initially subject to Peters’ legal demand to reveal phone, electronic communication records and any journalistic notes. The demand was refused and Peters abandoned that action.

Peters should have known that journalists are able to protect the identity of sources. He seemed to think he could legally bully them into revealing who provided the information.

The Deputy PM wants $450,000 in damages from each of the named defendants, meaning a total of $1.8 million if he pursues all of those monetary claims listed in early court documents.

That’s a lot being claimed. I have no idea what his chances are of getting anything like that amount. This is an unusual case so there are unlikely to be similar precedents.

Any damages awarded would be covered by the taxpayer under an arrangement authorised by the Cabinet. Taxpayers are also paying for the two Queens Counsel and legal teams.

Regardless of whether damages will be awarded this is an expensive exercise. Peters is at risk of it backfiring.

Peters has implied publicly that MSD made the error in which he was recorded on that application as single rather than in the de facto relationship with Jan Trotman that he was in at the time. Court documents show that in ‘interrogatories’ – or questions asked by the Crown in advance of the hearing – Peters acknowledged he could have received a letter in 2014 asking him to check the details on that 2010 application, but does not recall that and did not read it if it did arrive.

I doubt that not reading a letter is a solid defence for not being aware he was being overpaid.

It is odd that he received an overpayment for years without knowing it was more than he was eligible to receive.

Peters’ lawyers filed the first application in this case – featuring the various National Party figures named above – the day before the September 2017 election and he then proceeded to negotiate ‘in good faith’ with both National and Labour, before serving the papers on the National MPs and others after the Labour coalition was formed.

I suspect National knew that Peters was simply using them to push a better deal with Labour. It’s hard to see serious intent to negotiate a coalition agreement with National.

It was alleged recently that Peters had offered to drop the legal action if Paula Bennett retired from politics. That can’t be true – but if it was it sounds like a form of extortion.

In past election campaigns Peters has insisted he wouldn’t indicate which parties he would consider going into coalition with. It would be even more farcical if he tries that again next year.

Bennett and Tolley could be in the witness stand from Thursday, and can also expect to be cross-examined by Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry, a one-time advocate for the former Dirty Politics blogger Whaleoil, aka Cameron Slater.

Slater is now bankrupt, presumably owing Henry a some sort of amount for representing him (unsuccessfully) versus Matt Blomfield.

It had seemed odd that Peters’ lawyer represented Slater, and at the same time Slater promoted NZ First on Whale Oil. There is another connection there, Simon Lusk, who has used Slater and Whale Oil to promote political clients and attack opponents of clients, and is apparently now advising NZ First.

as previously indicated, this whole situation is has a number of bizarre aspects to it.