Will we have an election year ‘culture war’?

Politics in Aotearoa is quite different to Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA, so it is difficult to know how much we will move towards the fractious and divisive politics of those countries in this election year.

Bryce Edwards suggests New Zealand voters must prepare for an ugly culture war this election

Trump, Morrison and Johnson have found fertile political ground in the backlash to being woke. Simon Bridges is likely to ape them

Bridges is already trying a bit of this approach, but he’s not very popular so it’s difficult to judge whether he is shifting support – National has generally maintained good levels of support regardless of their leader’s lack of appeal.

Some say the New Zealand insistence on fairness goes back to our colonial history. Many escapees of industrial Britain embraced a life in a less class-ridden country. Of course the idea that New Zealand is an equal and “classless society” was always a myth, but this egalitarian ethos endures.

It creates a particular problem for politicians of the right. As a former prime minister, John Key, told US diplomats in a private briefing, New Zealand’s “socialist streak” means it can be difficult to push rightwing policies. Key later elaborated: “New Zealand is a very caring country. I think New Zealanders do have a heart.”

In 2017 this helped the election of Jacinda Ardern’s government, made up of parties that channelled concerns about the lack of fairness under the then National-led government. The new government promised to be “transformative”, rolling out a fairness agenda in programs from KiwiBuild to child poverty reduction targets.

This all presents the National party with a dilemma. There are few votes in criticising the government’s fairness agenda – in fact the opposition is reduced to complaining that the government has not delivered on its left-leaning program.

As the election nears, National will try to paint itself as better economic managers and Grant Robertson as an irresponsible and incompetent finance minister, but this is unlikely to cut it with many voters.

I agree. Robertson has largely been successful at avoiding scaring the economic horses.

So where can it differentiate? National increasingly relies on stoking “culture wars” and law and order. It is these fertile new hunting grounds that give Simon Bridges his best chance of painting Ardern and her colleagues as out of touch with mainstream New Zealand.

I doubt that Bridges will get very far there – one of Ardern’s strengths has been her ability to show empathy for how ‘mainstream New Zealand’ feels, especially during high profile times of deaths and emotions.

Culture wars are concerned with debates relating to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, human rights, discrimination, free speech and civil liberties. Elements of the political left – especially in the Labour and Green parties – are increasingly associated with campaigns in these areas, and often their stances are not shared by many mainstream voters.

But I think they are just niche elements of the left.

Ardern knows very well to keep her government as clear as possible of contentious social issues. Instead, if Labour and its coalition partners can keep public debate around traditional egalitarian concerns about inequality, housing, health and education, the New Zealand notion of fairness will probably also ensure her government will get another chance.

But Ardern probably needs the Greens and possibly NZ First to retain power. Winston Peters tends to appeal to a quite small ‘unfairness’ demographic which is quite different to the type of ‘fairness’ voters Greens will be trying too appeal to.

National’s best bet might be to provoke an ugly culture war. Expect to see Bridges attempt to start debates on these issues and paint Labour and the Greens as “woke” elitists, or just soft on law and order. This might be desperate and opportunistic – National MPs genuinely don’t care that much about many of these issues. But National knows that they are the sort of emotive and divisive concerns that might change votes.

This would be high risk. While it may appeal to some they are likely to already lean towards National. The more moderate voters that are seen as essential to winning elections are less likely to be attracted to divisive politics. They are more likely to be repelled by it.

There’s a cultural backlash ready to be fostered – as Donald Trump, Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson have found to their benefit. Such debates, whether over identity politics, hate speech, minority rights or gender can be explosively divisive. That could end up being the ugly story of the 2020 general election.

The US is a two party democracy that is very polarised – Donald Trump exploited this to win the presidency.

But we have multiple parties and I think far less division. There are noisy minorities on the extremes, but National and Labour are generally seen as more similar than different by most, in part due to the moderating influence of MMP.

National (and NZ First and the Greens) will no doubt try to push ‘culture war’ type issues to an extent, and media will give them more publicity than they deserve, but I am doubtful that many voters will buy into the divide and conquer style of politics that has worked elsewhere in the world.

A change in approach by political media?

Here’s a sign of at least recognition that political media coverage should improve.

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): The election is nearly here – let’s strip it back to what really matters

So what’s the moral of the story? That so much of the political discourse these days is seen to be more focused on the game playing and the sport of politics, rather than the substance. And that is contributing to the sense that politicians are increasingly out of touch with voters.

We in the media can cop some of the blame. In our drive to explain the “why” and “how” of politics it can look like we’re focusing on personalities rather than policies.

It’s also no secret that there is a voracious appetite for personality-driven political coverage, while the appetite for policy-driven stories is more niche.

Is there really a “voracious appetite” for personality-driven political coverage? It is very click driven, but that is often through misleading and inaccurate headlines.

I don’t condemn that; to an extent, I’ve always believed that we vote for our politicians as much on character or judgement as the policies they hawk.

Their credibility is central to whether we believe in their promises.

But in the hot house of Parliament – where politicians and the media collide regularly on the chaotic weekly caucus run, or “on the tiles”, which is where MPs stop for journalists on their way into the House – it’s all too easy to lose perspective.

It’s also a chicken and egg thing. Politicians pay armies of spin doctors to churn out policy positions in soundbites, and the leaders spend hours being coached by their media minders on how to answer questions.

If this was all about enabling a substantive policy debate, or holding their opponents to account, fair enough.

But that’s not it, of course. It’s mostly about framing the narrative, and staying on message. It’s about winning the game in other words.

But does it win the game? I think that many people are unimpressed by PR framing and words that don’t match action s and behaviour, some to the extent of being turned off the politician, party or politics in general.

The stakes are high so it’s not surprising they play the game this way.

It surprises me. I think that substance and delivering is far more important than PR claptrap that may be perceived by analysts to win small battles of words, but loses the war of credibility and leadership.

Winning power means getting to bend an economy and a people to suit their vision.

But that’s also why we deserve much better.

So once Ardern names the date, let’s all pledge to strip this election back to its essentials, and focus on he story behind the personalities and the soundbites.

We do deserve better, from politicians and from media. Tracy Watkins has at least started the year recognising they need to do better, but once the playground begins will anything change? It’s very easy to get dragged into the PR game playing.

2019 politician of the year – Jacinda Ardern and others

It’s that time of the year that journalists say which politicians have performed well and which have have performed not so well. Actually political journalists see a lot of politics and politicians so should have a better insight than the rest of us into who is performing well.

Jacinda Ardern had to deal with two major events that received world wide attention, the Christchurch mosque attacks and the White Island eruption. She was widely seen to have handled these very well, getting international praise (and a lot of praise nationally, with just some petty criticisms).

David Seymour, Chlöe Swarbrick and Simon Bridges also get some positive mentions.

Phil Twyford features most often inb negative mentions.

Audrey Young (NZH paywalled, ODT print): And my politician of the year is …

…nothing had the impact as Ardern reflecting both the anguish and strength of a broken-hearted country.

…She helped New Zealand come to terms with what had happened.

She not only rescued New Zealand’s reputation internationally, she enhanced it.

She united a world in grief and in thee process etched an unforgettable place for herself in it.

She has also led an international effort to reduce the chances of terrorists using social media to spread coverage of atrocities.

The Australian Crikey Award – And the 2019 Person of the Year is…

…the voting for 2019 Person of the Year has been the tightest on record. A mere 37 votes separate first and second place.

So first, an honourable mention to Greta Thunberg, who spent the year giving world leaders a well deserved shellacking for their inaction on climate change. The predictable barrage of hostility and petty insults from conservative politicians and media has left her unbowed.

But, ultimately, our readers — perhaps with a sigh of jealousy — opted for a leader across the Tasman.

“They are us”. Three words from a leader dealing with the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the likes of which her country had never seen. That first speech, before the full extent of the horror was known, summed up why New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern topped this list:

Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.

They are us.

Ardern’s response to the unimaginable horror of the Christchurch massacre was more or less flawless in both tone and content. The dignity and solidarity she showed with victims was matched with the courage to act decisively on reforming New Zealand’s gun laws.

In a year where many leaders fled from scrutiny or cashed in on the kind of sentiments that lead to incidents like Christchurch, Ardern showed what leadership that pushes back against the worst parts of society really looks like.

The Whakaari/White Island disaster acted as a grotesque bookend on New Zealand’s year. The full extent of the response is still developing, but if the aftermath of March 2019 is anything to go by, those impacted would be justified in a quiet confidence they’re in good hands.

Audrey Young also details the negatives of Ardern’s Government – the embarassing “year of delivery” that was fairly mediocre, scrapping CGT plans,  the hopeless Kiwibuild fiasco, her lack of control over NZ First ministers, slow progress on health and poverty.

She also names other good performers:

Ardern’s two best performers have been Chris Hipkins, who knows how to get things done, and James Shaw, who persevered with an inclusive approach to establishing climate change architecture.

Hipkins and Shaw have been quiet achievers.  Shaw’s efforts may or may not help to save the planet, but they should at least save the Green Party from the threshold in next year’s election.

New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin deserves a special mention for a disarmingly frank approach to her job.

This approach deserves praise, and more prominence than what some of her party colleagues get.

Henry Cooke (Stuff): Jacinda Ardern found new heights of power in 2019 – and hit hard limits

Jacinda Ardern’s power and popularity reached dizzying heights this year in the weeks after the March 15 tragedy.

Over half of the country wanted her to be prime minister in early April according to one poll, and another had her party at more than 50 per cent support.

But the harsh limit of Ardern’s actual power in Parliament was brought into sharp relief not long afterwards, when Labour lost its decade-long battle to introduce a capital gains tax, a key tool in the party’s planned assault on high house prices.

It is housing which Ardern pointed to as the biggest problem in her “year of delivery” when talking to Stuff for an end-of-year interview.

Stuff: Greens reflect on year of climate change action

The Green Party has emerged relatively unscathed from 2019…

Co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson are able to count big wins and few failures, confident they know their voters and know what they’ve delivered – even if the Government hasn’t, as they’re happy to concede.

Despite a promise to focus relentlessly on economic inequality, the Greens’ wins mostly sit on the greener end of the spectrum – specifically climate change.

Also from Stuff: The biggest political moments of 2019, from tragedy to farce

The Spinoff – New Zealand politics in 2019: we pick the champs and the flops

Champs:

Alex Brae

  1. David Seymour
  2. Chlöe Swarbrick
  3. Adrian Orr

Linda Clark:

  1. Jacinda Ardern
  2. Simon Bridges
  3. Andrew Little/Jan Logie

Emma Espiner:

  1. Winston Peters
  2. Shane Jones
  3. Shane Jones’ hat

Morgan Godfery:

  1. Jacinda Ardern
  2. Pania Newton
  3. Christchurch

Liam Hehir:

  1. Jacinda Ardern
  2. James Shaw
  3. Simon Bridges

Stephen Jacobi:

  1. Jacinda Ardern
  2. James Shaw
  3. Todd Muller

Annabelle Lee:

  1. Māori midwives and Ngāti Kahungunu
  2. Marama Davidson
  3. Jacinda Ardern

Toby Manhire:

  1. Jacinda Ardern
  2. Simon Bridges
  3. Chlöe Swarbrick

Danyl Mclauchlan:

  1. Simon Bridges
  2. Jacinda Ardern 
  3. James Shaw

Shane Te Pou:

  1. Andrew Little
  2. Chris Hipkins
  3. NZ First

Claire Robinson:

  1. Jacinda Ardern
  2. Simon Bridges
  3. David Seymour

Trish Sherson:

  1. New Zealanders
  2. James Shaw
  3. David Seymour

Ben Thomas:

  1. Jacinda Ardern
  2. James Shaw
  3. David Seymour

Flops:

Alex Brae

  1. John Tamihere
  2. Justin Lester
  3. The Capital Gains Tax refusal from Labour

Linda Clark:

  1. Phil Twyford
  2. Alfred Ngaro’s Christian Party
  3. Garrick Tremain

Morgan Godfery:

  1. The National Party social media team
  2. Simon Bridges
  3. The Greens

Liam Hehir:

  1. Phil Twyford
  2. Winston Peters
  3. Shane Jones

Stephen Jacobi:

  1. Jami-Lee Ross
  2. Clayton (“we are the law”) Mitchell
  3. Protectionists, isolationists, conspiracy theorists

Annabelle Lee:

  1. Grainne Moss and Oranga Tamariki
  2. WINZ
  3. Strike Force Raptor

Toby Manhire:

  1. Phil Twyford
  2. The NZ Labour Party
  3. Small parties

Danyl Mclauchlan:

  1. Shane Jones
  2. Phil Twyford
  3. Nigel Haworth

Shane Te Pou:

  1. Phil Twyford
  2. The National Party
  3. Iain Lees-Galloway

Claire Robinson:

  1. Winston Peters
  2. Trevor Mallard
  3. Jacinda Ardern

Trish Sherson:

  1. The year of delivery
  2. Phil Twyford
  3. Working Groups

Ben Thomas:

  1. Phil Twyford
  2. David Clark
  3. Chris Hipkins

 

Political bullshit amplified in social media by opponents

Political strategists are using social media is being used like a dirty jungle.

Danyl Mclauchlan (The Spinoff): In the attention economy, bullshit wins, and you’re helping shovel it along

Twenty years ago access to media coverage was controlled via the notorious gatekeepers: editors and senior journalists who decided what the news was and who got included or excluded from it. And this system had plenty of downsides but did make it harder for transparently bad actors like Cummings to swing crucial elections in advanced democracies.

As the world keeps reminding us, that media model no longer exists: the news value of a story is no longer defined by its palatability to gatekeepers, or anyone else. Instead, in a world of basically infinite content, news value is created by the ability of a story to maximise audience attention as it competes against rival forms of content: every political story vies for attention against stories about wildfires, Trump, celebrity feuds, evil Daenerys, the relentless white noise of coups, protests, riots, counterrevolutions, along with video games, streaming content, group chats, infinite cats, infinite sports, infinite porn.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned this decade, I think, it’s that social media activism is not activism. Liking and sharing stuff; telling people with different value systems that they’re morons and you hate them is not politics. The endless torrents of call outs and sneering are not emotional labour. All you’re doing is producing free content for global tech companies. There’s an exception to that, though: if what you’re doing is amplifying your opponent’s worst messages, elevating them to the mainstream media where persuadable voters can see them, then congratulations. You’re an activist. For them.

So what do you do when you see your political adversaries telling lies?

I think you have to speak up and stand up against bullshit and deceit and attempts to stoke division, but it’s a challenge to work out how to do this effectively without playing into PR hands.

‘Dirty politics’ and NZ First financial issues

It looks like ‘dirty politics’ is back, with Winston Peters repeating insinuations made a number of times on Whale Oil 2.0 (The BFD) that look like trying to discredit an ex-NZ First official who has become a whistleblower.

On Wednesday at The BFD: Lester Gray & Nick Smith Playing Games with Parliamentary Processes

Lester Gray is using National MP Nick Smith to continue his wonky jihad against NZ First and now they are wanting to use parliamentary processes to try and destroy the party that Gray used to be the president of. Nick Smith seems intent on provoking the substantial lawsuit that is hanging over his head by continuing his own jihad against NZ First.

Smith went public revealing multi million dollar legal threat made against him by NZ First lawyer Brian Henry – see Brian Henry threatens Nick Smith and Guyon Espiner damages claim “as high as $30,000,000.00”.

‘Cameron Slater’/Whale Oil used too throw around legal threats (which turned out badly for Slater), but the Slater influence seems to have crept in to The BFD, which appears to have been set up to avoid court and liquidator actions.

Word has it that NZ First are relishing Lester Gray and Colin Forster trying this on.

We have it on good authority that some of the likely questions the select committee may ask will be as follows:

1. Why did Gray resign rather than go through the judicial process over his bullying of other party members?
2. Why is Forster complaining now? Is it because he was voted out of his position by the party?
3. What has NZ First done to support those bullied by Gray?
4. Why won’t Gray & Forster face NZ First MPs in a select committee?
5. What is Gray’s mental health condition and why did he request NZ First not comment on it, and does he believe that he should be questioned about it now he has demonstrated he is fit to appear before the select committee?

They don’t seem to have thought this through. Labour and the Greens will hammer hell out of them at the select committee even if NZ First does not have any MPs present. Those questions may prove rather detrimental to any barrow they are trying to push.

That is posted under the author ‘SB’ (Spanish Bride/Juana Atkins) but looks to me like same old ‘Cameron Slater’/Whale Oil style dirty politics.

This is part bullshit. From “Word has it that NZ First” it looks like The BFD is straight out shilling for NZ First – are they being paid for this?

“We have it on good authority that some of the likely questions the select committee may ask” sounds like bull, unless NZ First were going to tell Labour MPs on the select committee what dirty ‘attack the messenger’ questions to ask.  That’s unlikely – the Labour MPs blocked Gray and Forster from appearing before the committee anyway.

This isn’t the first time The BFD has raised “Gray’s mental health condition”.

This hardly seems a coincidence: Winston Peters lashes out at ex-NZ First party officials for request to give evidence

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has accused his former party president Lester Gray of having “mental health problems” – a claim strongly denied by Gray, who has previously raised questions about the party’s finances.

The accusation emerged after National’s electoral law spokesman Nick Smith told Parliament that Labour MPs on the justice select committee refused a request for Gray and former treasurer Colin Forster to appear before it in a private session during their inquiry into the 2017 election.

Peters then suggested outside the House that Gray had mental health issues and it would not have been appropriate for him to give evidence to a select committee.

Ironic that Peters is using ‘mental health’ to try to discredit someone, when it looks to me like NZ First or one of their agents is using Slater’s dirty politics tactics at The BFD.

Smith said it was “appalling the lengths to which the Deputy Prime Minister is going to silence anybody that raises questions”.

Smith may have stepped over a select committee line (but claims not to have):

Labour is thought to be considering a privileges complaint against Smith to the Speaker for revealing closed business of a select committee – although MPs have absolute privilege in the House.

Gray and Forster made their request to appear in the wake of revelations about large donations to the New Zealand First Foundation, which funds party activities from donations that don’t have to be declared.

The pair wrote to the committee last week asking to be heard in its inquiry.

Specifically they cited “the recent serious revelations over the failure to disclose major donations, the significant expenditure on unauthorised campaign activities and the inappropriate running of a separate foundation without proper oversight of elected party officials.”

“The inquiry is a safe place for us to disclose our knowledge of what has taken place.”

Gray resigned in October two weeks before the party convention and according to Stuff, his resignation letter said he was unable to sign off the party accounts.

“I refuse to sign off the 2019 Financial Reports with the information I have been provided,” he wrote.

“As president, the limited exposure I have had to party donations and expenditure leaves me in a vulnerable position.

“This type of operation does not align with my moral and business practice values, and I am therefore not able to support the Party any longer.”

Peters outside the House questioned why Smith wanted to hear Forster and Gray.

“The reality is he wants to hear evidence from somebody who is no longer treasurer of the party and knew nothing about anything because he wasn’t there at the time so why would he be an expert witness on something he could not possibly know anything about?”

Asked about what would be wrong with Lester Gray giving evidence to the justice committee, Peters said: “Lester Gray’s lawyer wrote to me and my board and asked if we would have regard to his current then mental health problems and I have respected that letter and never said a thing about it but we are not going to sit here and take that sort of behavior hereon in.

“In short, if his lawyer pleads with us to give some understanding on his mental health problems, then perhaps the corollary should be that she should not try and think that some select committee because of his present state of mind is the proper place for him to make submissions.”

Someone seems to have provided The BFD with this mental health information some time ago. A post from 21 November: Brian Henry puts Bridges & Smith on Notice

Brian Henry has smacked Simon Bridges and Nick Smith hard, threatening to sue the cowards for smearing him in parliament.

So, Nick Smith is a coward and won’t repeat his allegations outside of parliament. The amount talked about are the direct provable losses that Simon Bridges and Nick Smith have caused Brian Henry because of their false accusations in the house.

That was posted under ‘SB’ but it doesn’t look like normal SB style to me.

Nick Smith also, rather stupidly, continued the attack with Question 9, despite having been informed of the action and then even more stupidly tabled his legal letter in parliament, though with some redactions regarding Lester Gray and the real reasons why he left NZ First.

The BFD has obtained copies of the letters and they are outlined below…

So, now we are starting to find out the real reasons behind the rather sudden departure of Lester Gray from NZ First.

Sources tell us…

There is also the rumour that …

Sounds very much like Slater/WO dirty politics (although the style hints that it may not have been written by Slater either).

…when this was discovered by people close to Lester Gray he suddenly had his “mental health” episode.

It looks to me like someone with close links to NZ First is providing information to if not writing posts for The BFD.

So Dirty Politics appears to be back, this time via NZ First/The BFD but with a lot of similar tactics used by Slater/Whale Oil.

Who’s got the best team – Ardern or Bridges?

Post from Gezza:

Labour needs to be more than just Jacinda Ardern

The booklet for this weekend’s Labour Party conference features 13 separate photos of its leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and none of any other MP. Grant Robertson gets in to one picture on the side, but only alongside his leader.

Leaders are always important to political parties, but the degree to which Ardern defines Labour is extreme. This is a party supposedly built on the backs of cooperation between workers and not a single person, no matter how strong their brand is.

The Labour Party is still in need of some rebuilding after nine years of atrophy. A large part of that rebuilding will be standing up convincing and exciting candidates in every single electorate for next year’s election.

Labour is of course never going to win Clutha-Southland, or many over deep blue seats. But you get party votes everywhere, and Labour is not strong enough in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch to win whole elections there.

The image of Labour as a party that only has strength in big cities is unfair, but only by a smidgen. The conference is in Whanganui this weekend, a seat Labour thinks it could win next year.

But an email sent out to Labour supporters said the conference was in Whangarei – a town with a somewhat similar name that is hundreds of kilometres away. Mistakes like this – probably made by someone in Auckland or Wellington who would only ever fly over these places – fulfil every stereotype of Labour as an uninterested urban party. Standing uninteresting candidates in hard electorates would set those stereotypes in stone.

Labour are still in the process of selecting their candidates, and could well end up with some exciting newcomers. But for now it can feel dominated by people who have done their time with the party, with several standing and losing last time.

This makes sense for some people. Young lawyer Steph Lewis in Whanganui increased the party vote by 5000 in the last election, and is exactly the kind of candidate Labour will want to put itself forwards with.

There are some other choices that are less obvious. Rachel Boyack significantly underperformed the party vote in Nelson in 2017 against an exceptionally unpopular minister, but has once again been selected. Unionist and party senior vice president Tracey McLellan has been selected for Port Hills despite being tarnished by her involvement in the assault allegation mess earlier this year. There’s something to be said for experience – but also the excitement of the new.

More notable is the absence of flashy well-known people from outside. There is no one of Chris Luxon’s stature running for Labour. Some of the most qualified people in the party’s orbit have picked other jobs – like new president Claire Szabo, who would have made an excellent MP.

To be fair to Labour, recruiting big names doesn’t always work out. John Tamihere’s career in Parliament is proof of that. But right now Ardern’s modernising influence on the party is not very apparent in its candidates. And it seems unlikely she will exert much influence on safe seat selection races like the one in Dunedin South.

Ardern herself is uncomfortable with how much the party’s fate rests on her shoulders. Ironically, fixing that will require her getting even more involved.

Henry Cooke puts his finger on a problem with Labour.

But the media itself (& especially television news) puts so much focus almost entirely on the party leaders & PM of the day that party spokespeople & even Cabinet Ministers often don’t get much attention & promotion.

National was basically John Key, John Key, John Key, before he became Sir John, with the occasional Cabinet Minister getting public attention when they got uncomfortably pushed into the limelight by some crisis (like releasing beneficiary details, or tv news showing people living in cars) or some other event that the news media fastened onto for its shock or entertainment value, like a thrown dildo.

Labour has some senior Ministers who aren’t very eloquent & stumble in dealing with Pakeha media (like Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis), or who just seem to come across as clowns, (like Willie Jackson, & Phil Twyford), so pushing them more to the fore is probably not a good idea because the media sharks can make make mincemeat out of them.

Grant Robertson & David Parker on the other hand for example, generally do well handling media interviews.

Shane Jones’s eloquence has become legendary (as he obviously intended) to the point where he can now even upstage Winston Peters at times; not an easy thing to do. But he doesn’t seem able to convince many people that his overall responsibility for the PGF is delivering much if anything in the way of measurable worthwhile results. Pork barrel politics & Jones seem to be always-associated words.

Polls show that, as John Key was for National, Jacinda Ardern is still Labour’s biggest asset. Their party vote polls however suggest her Ministers are perhaps viewed with less public approval & confidence.

National has the reverse situation – the party still polls well but Bridges doesn’t. My own gut reaction to Bridges’s announcements & media appearances is nearly always unfavourable (although I like to think I don’t allow gut reaction to decide my vote). To me he’s relentlessly negative (as Andrew Little was when Labour’s leader) appears disingenuous & I have no great confidence he’d be a good PM (but the awful grating nasally sound of his voice & his seemingly contrived body language may be driving that!). His team doesn’t generally really inspire me much either.

However, it’s noticeable that in their Law & Order policy paper National has made a particular point of including pages from each one of their Law And Order Team. So they seem to be onto the idea of marketing themselves as a team now – their government-in-waiting.

Will this make a difference to their polling? Will Bridges stand back & let the spokesperson team do more of the talking in the coming months? Will the media co-operate?

Is this what Henry Cooke’s suggesting Labour needs to do, to counteract National’s strategy? Could they pull that off, with their Ministers?

Law and Order Party? Or Posturing Populist PR Party?

National are trying to promote themselves as ‘the law and order party’, but are at risk of being seen more as a shallow, cynical, posturing populist PR party.

It may be popular to pick on gangs, and for good reason, some gang activities deserve condemnation. But we have had gangs for decades, and political rhetoric hasn’t made them disappear.

One problem with National’s ‘Strike Force Raptor’ proposal to harass gangs, which Simon Bridges described as “devastatingly effective” in Australia, is that they may disappear from view, but not go away.

National PR:

I don’t know what “take back control” is supposed to mean. Does National want the Government to take control of the drug trade? National has opposed liberalisation of cannabis laws, which leaves the drug for gangs to sell.

RNZ: Australian ex-cop blasts National’s ‘Strike Force Raptor’ plan

A former Australian detective has ridiculed National’s zero-tolerance approach to gangs, saying the strategy has been a “disaster” across the ditch.

National leader Simon Bridges repeatedly described the unit as “devastatingly effective” and referenced media reports which claimed it was driving outlaw bikies into extinction.

But former NSW detective Mike Kennedy told RNZ that was “nonsense” and Mr Bridges was “living a dream” if he believed that.

“He needs to pull his head out of whatever it’s stuck in because … [gangs] exist. They’re always going to exist. They just go underground.

“I’m not a bleeding heart liberal,” he said. “But [the zero-tolerance strategy has] just been a disaster.”

Dr Kennedy spent much of his time with the police as an undercover officer working in organised crime and is now a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University.

He said there was no evidence to suggest that gang numbers had fallen dramatically since the formation of Strike Force Raptor a decade ago.

“Outlaw motorcycle gangs are unregulated, so how would you know?” he said. “They’re not required to pay a fee … and register with government. So any suggestion that the numbers are down is just nonsense.”

Dr Kennedy said the problem had just been driven underground.

“People don’t stop being members of groups just because they’ve been arrested. They go into jail, they reinforce themselves, they come out, [and] they get more of a reason to remain in the group they’re in.”

Police officers needed a working relationship with communities, including gang members, so they would cooperate with investigations, he said.

 

A NSW Review of police use of powers under the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2012

Under the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2012, the Supreme Court can declare that an organisation is a ‘criminal organisation’ and make control orders in relation to its members. These orders may restrict the ability of members to associate with each other and recruit others to the organisation, and prohibit them from participating in a range of otherwise lawful activities. Overall, the declaration and orders may disrupt and restrict the activities of the organisation.

Despite the concerted efforts of a dedicated unit within the Gangs Squad of the NSW Police Force, which spent over three years preparing applications in preparation for declarations under the 2012 Act, no application has yet been brought to Court. As a result, no organisation has been declared to be a criminal organisation under the scheme. The NSW Police Force advised us that work on these applications ceased in 2015, and that it does not intend to resource such work in the future.

During consultations with our office, operational police advised us that the procedural requirements of the Act are onerous, resource-intensive, and involve difficulties that ultimately prevented police making an application to the Court. The decision to stop working on applications was made against the background that police have been provided with other powers they can more effectively use to target OMCGs and other criminal organisations, such as a modernised consorting offence, expanded
powers to search for firearms, and restrictions on entry to licensed premises by people wearing OMCG ‘colours’ and insignia.

Police in other states and territories have experienced similar difficulties in successfully implementing comparable legislation. No declarations have been made in relation to any organisations.

In my view, given the problems identified by police that have prevented them from exercising the powers under this Act, and the fact that police have alternative powers to disrupt the activities of criminal organisations, it would be in the public interest for the Act to be repealed.

I have made this the only recommendation in my report.

Professor John McMillan AO
Acting Ombudsman

(November 2016)

National’s proposals were not hard policy, they said they were only at a ‘discussion’ stage, but their PR tried to push populist buttons. They seem to have put a lot more work into PR than research.

Or maybe Bridges just doesn’t care as along as he attracts some votes. It’s debatable whether that will succeed, especialy if their propasals unravel.

Brian Henry threatens Nick Smith and Guyon Espiner damages claim “as high as $30,000,000.00”

Lawyer Brian Henry, closely associated with Winston Peters and NZ First, has threat to sue National MP Nick Smith and RNZ’s Guyon Espiner for defamation “for general damages together with special damages which from the information to hand could be as high as $30,000,000.00”.

This looks remarkably heavy handed – Smith claimed intimidating – and potentially a chilling effect on our democracy and journalism. One thing it does is ensure is that Henry becomes even more in the spotlight.

Meanwhile stuff continues to risk threats of legal action: ‘I am the dark shadow of NZ First’ – what party candidates claim Winston Peters’ lawyer said

Brian Henry’s role in the unfolding NZ First donations scandal is now under close scrutiny. In addition to being Peters’ right-hand man, lawyer and NZ First’s judicial officer, he is also a trustee of the New Zealand First Foundation. The foundation appears to have been taking political donations, while operating as a political slush fund for the NZ First political party.

Henry also runs QComms, a company which Stuff understands runs the party’s Nation Builder website – a campaigning and membership tool.

Some party members call Henry “Peters’ attack dog”. People turn skittish when the name is mentioned in interviews. Numerous people connected to NZ First who spoke to Stuff feared lawsuits and retribution for doing so.

Numerous sources have confirmed to Stuff that, during a candidates briefing in at a hall in Takanini near Manukau in the lead up to the 2017 election, Henry gave NZ First candidates a lesson in how the party really works.

“I am the dark shadow in this party that you don’t want to receive a phone call from,” attendees told Stuff he said. “My job is to make sure Winston Peters gets the position he deserves and none of you are going to get in the way of that,” Henry said, according to sources present at the meeting.

Henry’s comments have surfaced as a raft of former NZ First officials have come forward to Stuff – both on the record and on the condition of anonymity – complaining that they were kept in the dark about party finances, the existence of the New Zealand First Foundation. Anyone who challenged Peters, Henry or Doug Woolerton, a former MP, party president and the other trustee of the NZ First Foundation, was forced out, sources have told Stuff.

“We started off in the party and believed in its ideals and policies,” the person said.

“But the longer you are there, the more you notice these backroom deals and as soon as you start to get close, or start challenging Winston on it, you get moved aside pretty quickly.

The influence of Henry within the party is enormous and across all aspects of its operations, numerous sources told Stuff.

“Winston Peters calls Henry to back people down,” one former MP said. “He’s an attack dog. People are afraid of being tied up in litigation.”

This doesn’t surprise me and probably won’t surprise journalists. Peters threatened me with defamation action many years ago (through a lawyer I think, I can’t remember who that was).

Peters has claimed that the party is operated democratically, but it isn’t referred to as Winston First for nothing.

RNZ: NZ First Foundation trustee threatens lawsuit against National leader and MP

National has been pursuing New Zealand First and the prime minister over allegations about the handling of party donations.

Yesterday, National’s Nick Smith made a comment in Parliament about the donations.

This afternoon he tabled an email that he and National Party leader Simon Bridges received today from Mr Henry.

It said media reports had been “false and malicious”, adding that the loan activities to the party were lawful.

In the email, Mr Henry invited Dr Smith and Mr Bridges to “repeat what you said in the House in public or apologise”.

“Please note if you oblige with this request I will sue you for defamation for general damages together with special damages,” the email reads.

Speaking to reporters outside the House, Dr Smith said he needed to be very “constrained and careful” about his choice of words, given the legal threat, but he described the email as “extremely worrying”.

He said it was very concerning that an MP “going about their duties of holding the government to account” should be threatened in this way.

“I feel very strongly about the importance of New Zealand having a high level of transparency, I take great pride that when National left government New Zealand had the top ranking in the world as the least corrupt country and want to make sure that’s protected,” Dr Smith said.

“It makes you very nervous of that work when effectively the financial wellbeing of your family is being threatened.”

Letter from Brian Henry sent to National MP Nick Smith and leader Simon Bridges.

Mr Henry said in his email there was one loan from the foundation of $73,000, which was repaid in full over two years.

However, in a statement the Electoral Commission told RNZ that according to NZ First’s returns, there was one loan of $73,000 entered into in Dec 2017, another separate loan of $76,622 was disclosed in May 2018. The Commission said it understood that loan was to replace the first loan. Then there was a further loan of $44,923 disclosed in April 2019.

Going by the continuation of media reports after the defamation threat Henry’s threat does not appear to have buried the story.

Media are repeating what Smith said in Parliament – ‘this is a rort with a capital R’ – as they are protected from legal action when reporting what is said under parliamentary privilege.

Newsroom: Stonewalling on donations saga but many questions remain

NZ Herald: NZ First Leader Winston Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry threatens to sue a National MP for $30m

New Zealand First has upped the ante in the saga over its mysterious foundation, with party leader Winston Peters’ long-time lawyer Brian Henry threatening to sue National for $30 million.

In the House, senior National MP Nick Smith tabled a letter in which Henry issued a clear ultimatum to the veteran MP.

“Repeat what you said in the House in public or apologise.”

A spokesperson for National said the party would not be commenting on the letter or the threat.

But speaking to Newstalk ZB, Smith said he stood by the comments he made in the House.

He would not, however, repeat the comments he made in the House under privilege for “obvious reasons”.

This threat from Henry just escalated the NZ First donations and PGF application issues to a higher level.

NZ First funding under further scrutiny, Peters reacts under pressure

Last week RNZ reported: Mysterious foundation loaning New Zealand First money

A mysterious foundation that loans money to New Zealand First is under scrutiny, with a university law professor saying although it’s lawful, it fails to provide the transparency voters need in a democracy.

Records show New Zealand First has disclosed three loans from the New Zealand First Foundation. In 2017, it received $73,000. Then in 2018, it received a separate loan of $76,622, in what the Electoral Commission says was a loan executed to “replace the first loan”. In 2019, it received another loan for $44,923.

The New Zealand First Foundation is the only named entity that has provided any money – in loans or donations – to the New Zealand First party since 2017.

The only information known about the foundation is the names and addresses of the two men who are trustees. They are Brian Henry, who acts as a lawyer for the New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, and Doug Woolerton, a former New Zealand First MP.

New Zealand First party returns show that in 2017 and 2018, the party received more than $500,000 worth of donations in amounts less than $15,000 which do not need to be disclosed under electoral law.

“They are the only political party in Parliament that hasn’t had anyone wanting to give them more than $15,000 and maybe they are unique,” Prof Geddis said.

“Alternatively, they may have managed to structure their fundraising activity so that if someone wants to give more than $15,000, they found a way that that can be given and can be of use to the party without it having to be publicly disclosed.”

Geddis said this is ‘within the law’, but it could be seen as working through loopholes to hide donations and donor identities, which I think would at least be against the intent of the law (unless the law was designed to allow for the hiding of donations).

Today Stuff has more information, and another electoral law expert suggests there could be rule breaches – NZ First Foundation dodging electoral rules? Records suggest breaches

Almost half a million dollars in political donations appear to have been hidden inside a secret slush fund controlled by a coterie of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ trusted advisers.

The secretive New Zealand First Foundation collected donations from wealthy donors and used the money to finance election campaigns, pay for an MP’s legal advice, advertising, fund a $5000 day at the Wellington races and even pay an IRD bill.

A New Zealand First spokesperson said on Monday the foundation had been in existence across several election cycles. “There has never been any suggestion that it is anything other than lawful,” she said.

Records uncovered in a Stuff investigation show a complex web that appears to be designed to hide donations to the NZ First Party via The New Zealand First Foundation.

This deliberate lack of transparency is particularly pertinent given the amount of money that is being handed out, some of it to companies, by the NZ First initiated Provincial Growth Fund.

Stuff has seen records for the foundation that suggest there have been breaches of the Electoral Act and that the foundation is being used to obscure political donations to the NZ First Party.

Donors to the foundation are primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires.

One legal commentator, public law expert Graeme Edgeler who also saw the records, believes there would be different consequences under the Electoral Act depending on whether the party and foundation are separate entities or connected.

In either scenario, Edgeler concluded the Electoral Act had likely been broken.

“If the foundation and party are separate, it is likely a corrupt or illegal practice occurred because donations from the foundation were not declared,” he said.

“If the foundation is part of NZ First, then the party secretary has likely committed offences around declaring donations or failing to keep records.

“If some donors were under the impression they were donating to the NZ First political party when making payments to the foundation, then there are possible breaches of the Electoral Act relating to party donations and ensuring proper records.”

Most credits into the foundation account have ‘donation’ in the description. Stuff has also seen receipts provided to donors for payments received.

The purpose of the foundation is not clear as its website has been taken down.

An archived website, captured in 2018, says the foundation had the “aim of ensuring there is a secure financial base for the New Zealand First Political Party” with activities funded being to “assist with the party long term”.

Some entries are simply labelled as “Deposit” with no names beside them.

Donors to the foundation include food manufacturers, racing interests, forestry owners and wealthy property developers.

With racing, forestry and property development all receiving increased funding from the coalition government, with NZ First having substantial leverage on policies, this deserves scrutiny – and transparency,

Efforts have been made by party officials to find out details of the foundation and some say they were removed from the party when they challenged Peters or Henry about finances. There is now a conga line of NZ First Party officials who say they have been forced out of the party.

Former NZ First treasurer Colin Forster claimed he was moved out of the party after questioning the financial records.

Winston Peters likes to scrutinise other people and parties but isn’t happy when attention is focussed on him and NZ First.

Yesterday: ‘Yes, I am calling you psycho’ – Winston Peters lashes out at journalists after grilling over NZ-First linked company

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters today told journalists to stop the “narrow, myopic dirt when NZ First is concerned”, when questioned about National’s call for the Auditor General to investigate a company that has links to NZ First.

He was asked about the matter by 1 NEWS’ Benedict Collins and a Newshub reporter today, and appeared to label one a “psycho”.

“Yes, I am calling you psycho, because you can’t event even make out the case,” he said.

“You’ve got to be psychologically maladjusted if you can’t make a case out for an investigation and you think it’s sound. The laugh’s on you because you’re meant to be a journalist.”

Peters doesn’t seem to be laughing though. Calling a journalist psycho “because you can’t event even make out the case” seems somewhat ironic given the lack of a case made out in court recently – Peters withdrew allegations that two National MPs had breached his privacy at the end of the hearing, after two years of accusing them.

Following this RNZ continued to report on it:  NZ First-linked company applied for $15m govt loan, pledges transparency

A forestry company with close links to New Zealand First has revealed it applied for a $15 million loan from the Provincial Growth Fund, which is overseen by NZ First minister Shane Jones.

RNZ revealed last week that Future Forest Products spent six months in discussions with government officials over its Provincial Growth Fund and also wanted up to $95m in funding through the One Billion Trees programme.

Brian Henry, lawyer for Winston Peters and judicial officer for the New Zealand First party, is a founding director of NZ Future Forest Products, which he helped to set up in March.

His son, David Henry, is another founding director and the company’s managing director, and Winston Peters’ partner Jan Trotman was made a director of the company in August.

In a statement released this afternoon, New Zealand Future Forest Products said it was “aware that two of its directors have personal links to the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister” and would be maintaining a higher level of transparency than required of it as a private company.

“The company has no further plans to apply for financial support from the New Zealand government,” the company said.

Transparency promised after this has all been revealed by journalists.

NZ First are being put under scrutiny and pressure, and Peters is not reacting like a politician with nothing to hide.

Journalists don’t have to seek re-election next year. With NZ First polling around and under the 5% threshold, and questions being asked about their financial integrity, the pressure is on Peters and appears to be getting to him a bit.

Peters to journalists yesterday:

And so get this very clear.

In two thousand and twenty, you’re not going to mount a campaign against a party you don’t like, while you let all the rest off the hook.

More of that standup here: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/yes-am-calling-you-psycho-winston-peters-lashes-journalists-after-grilling-over-nz-first-linked-company

Peters obviously isn’t happy that Jan Trotman has been linked to the company that had sought PGF funds. But Brian Henry is more deeply involved (in the company and in NZ First affairs).

In the case of myself and Shane Jones, well I didn’t even know about it and neither did Shane Jones to the best of our knowledge because it was handled by the process.

But according to the Stuff:

The Provincial Growth Fund bid was eventually rejected by Labour ministers after Shane Jones recused himself from the process.

Surely Jones must have known about it. And didn’t say anything to peters about it? And we’re expected to believe that Henry didn’t disclose his involvement to Peters?

Sustainable New Zealand Party launched

The Sustainable New Zealand Party was launched yesterday, They will be led by ex-Green Vernon Tava.

This has been signalled for some time. They will be aiming to attract people who want an environmental party without the ‘socialist’ leaning of the Green Party, which has been showing signs of tension, especially over the more moderate collaborative approach of James Shaw.

Sustainable NZ look like being a bit like the Shaw Greens without the Marama Davidson Greens.

Some on the left complain that it’s just an attempt to take Green votes to the extent that the future of the Greens could be in jeopardy, as they only just beat the 5% threshold last election and are struggling to please even some of their own supporters.

(Someone mentioned online that Labour may gift the Greens the Dunedin South electorate that Clare Curran is vacating, but that is just rumour, and they would be far from guaranteed of winning Dunedin South. A lot of their Dunedin support comes from Dunedin North which covers the university area, and grew support through the efforts and successes of Metiria Tuirei).

I have voted for both the Greens and Turei in the past, but would strongly consider voting for Sustainable New Zealand – an environmental party without the more extreme social policies of the Greens.

RNZ: Sustainable New Zealand Party to prioritise water, native species, economy

Sustainable New Zealand has launched in Wellington this afternoon with its leader stating the party’s willingness to work with any political party will set them apart from other environmental groups like the Greens.

Refusing to consider doing a coalition deal with National has put the Greens in a relatively weak bargaining position. They rely on Labour getting them into power, and Labour know this.

Party leader Vernon Tava said until now if someone wanted to vote for the environment, they would have had to vote for a party which had been a “clearinghouse for left-of-Labour activist movements”.

“This has excluded many of us, perhaps most of us who genuinely care about the environment, but don’t accept this requires some sort of evolutionary overturning of the economic system.”

He said polluted waterways, diversity and climate change were too important to be dealt with by any party committed to occupying the opposition benches half the time.

Its top three priorities are water, saving native species from extinction and sustainable economic growth.

Among the party’s policies is to invest $1 billion in conservation.

The party is aiming for 10 percent of the vote next election.

That’s ambitious, but it could be possible to at least beat 5%. The Greens polled 10-16% last term before the Metiria induced crash just prior to the election (they dropped as low as 5% and ended up getting 6.3%).

Mr Tava said it was extremely ambitious, but there were plenty of people in the centre of politics who were mobile with their votes.

He said so far the membership of the party had been broad.

“It is a really clear spread across many different former parties of political support, we’re not just taking votes off of National.

“We’ve got disgruntled Greens, we’ve got some people who voted for Jacinda last election, people who have supported National in the past, even some New Zealand First people have even joined the party,” he said.

I think there is certainly space on the political spectrum for a party prepared to work with either Labour or National. The big question is whether they can look like getting close enough to 5% to attract maybe voters.

  • Facebook:
    Sustainable New Zealand is a political party that will contest the 2020 general election on the basis of putting the environment first with an economic vision to transition us to a sustainable future. We will be able to work with any party in government.

https://www.facebook.com/sustainablenewzealandparty/

  • Twitter:
Sustainable New Zealand Party
@SNZparty
Environment-focused party for NZ. Working with any party to get the best deal for water, wildlife, fisheries, soil, and climate change mitigation & adaptation.

Website: https://sustainablenz.org.nz/

What We Stand For

We all know that New Zealand is blessed with one of the world’s most beautiful natural environments. We also know that this paradise is slipping away from us. Government after Government has ignored our most pressing environmental concerns. It is time for a new political party that champions a politics of sustainability, putting the environment first.

Sustainable New Zealand is neither left nor right wing but is focused on sustainability.  We are able to work with parties of the left or right to get the best deal for the environment. Sustainable New Zealand’s approach is to work with business to innovate and to correctly price ‘externalities’. We will be led by the science when finding solutions and developing policy. Our future will only be sustainable with technological and scientific innovation.

Sustainable New Zealand’s focus is on being ‘practical environmentalists.’ We will work with rather than against our farmers. We favour a regulatory light-touch where possible but with a willingness to act decisively on core issues. We will foster innovation to transition our economy from one that relies on chopping down, digging up, burning or milking something for economic growth to one that is environmentally-benign and makes us all richer. We know that nothing is free. We need to be prosperous to ensure that we can afford to look after our people and our environment.

Our Top Priorities

1. Protect our Water.

We will improve the quality of water in our rivers and streams, and on our beaches. We will strengthen controls to stop run-off from farms polluting waterways and ensure that waste is better managed to stop plastic getting into our water and food chain. We will ensure that there is a long-term investment plan for water infrastructure across New Zealand.

2. Save our Native Plant and Animal Species.

We will fund scientific research into introduced predator control methods, including gene-editing technologies. We will fund initiatives for community groups and farmers to control introduced predators, protect waterways and set aside land for habitat.

3. Improve our Resource and Waste Management.

Waste is a resource. Our resources are finite and we must remove, reduce, reuse and recycle to make sure we have a future. Ultimately, we must transition to a circular economy; we would make this a core function of government.

4. Expand our Reserves and Protect the Ocean.

We will promote sustainable fisheries management, balancing the interests of commercial and recreational fishers. We will prohibit bottom trawling and purse seining (huge nets) in NZ waters.  In addition to regulation we will ensure that we can protect what is important to us by investing in our navy and air force to defend our Exclusive Economic Zone.

5. Dealing with Climate Change.

We will work to establish a bipartisan approach to dealing with Climate Change. We support the approach of the Zero Carbon bill. We will establish a Climate Change Commission and follow their advice to reduce global emissions, including putting a fair price on emissions. We will always seek to offset any additional resource or pollution charges with a corresponding reduction in income and/or company taxes.