‘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.

Media promote Luxon ahead of his time as politician

People with public profiles, or ‘personalities’ as media who like to think they are also personalities describe them, have a significant advantage over people who don’t have any public profile – name recognition. With the voting public mostly disinterested in most politics and politicians most of the time, having your name known already can be a huge advantage.

But some of them acquire  much bigger advantage, gifted to them by media.  Journalists see stories, and make stories, when  well known person hints at an interest in politics, and when they indicate or announce an interest in politics.

This is what has been happening with ex Air NZ CEO, Christopher Luxon. Even while he was still working for Air NZ media were promoting his prospects not only as a future politician, but also as a future party leader. I think it’s likely some of this at least was deliberately seeded and fed by Luxon, but media willingly obliged.

When Luxon resigned from Air NZ media obliged some more.

When Luxon stood for selection in an electorate, and was subsequently selected to stand in an electorate, media didn’t just report this as news, they promoted the chances of Luxon becoming party leader and potentially Prime Minister.

It will be about a year before the next election, and before we know if Luxon is elected as a back bench MP or not. It would be another two or three years at least before Luxon got a chance of standing for the leadership of National, and even in that sort of time frame it would be remarkable if he did. and he would probably have to compete against other ambitious MPs who have waited for many years working on their chances of rising to the top.

But so far at least Luxon has huge advantage – the media wanting to create stories and effectively create political careers. This is hugely undemocratic. but it is how our media operates in our democracy, as talent scouts and career makers and breakers.

Media does a valuable, essential job reporting politics. But when they become obsessed with making stories rather than reporting them, they are doing a disservice to our democracy.

Media have likened Luxon to John Key, but Key was actually a virtual unknown in New Zealand until he got into politics. However media did help him on his way to the top.  That was one success.

However people with public profiles prior to politics don’t necessarily become great politicians – media can give them unbalanced publicity, but they can’t make them good MPs or Ministers.

There are a number of ‘personalities’ (people with media profiles) who have been great politicians.

Pam Corkery comes to mind – after a media background she became an MP in 1996 but left after one term.

Maggie Barry was well known on TV before becoming an MP in 2011. She ended up becoming minor Minister last term but is probably better known for claims of bullying staff, and over the last year for strong and sometimes extreme opposition to the End of Life Choice bill. She has just announced she won’t stand again next year.

John Tamihere had political and media profile but that didn’t help him get close to winning the recent Auckland mayoral election (but he was competing against Phil Goff who got all the media help he could have hoped foe when first standing for mayor three years ago.

In the Dunedin elections in 2016 a radio ‘personality’ stood and got elected, but after an unremarkable term as councillor voters dumped him.

There are media ‘successes’. They certainly helped hype Jacinda Ardern and significantly enhanced her chances of becoming Prime Minister.

Media picked up and disproportionately promoted a young Auckland mayoral candidate in the 2016 election. Chloe Swarbrick went on from that, undoubtedly helped by media attention, to become a Green Party candidate, to get a fast track up the Green list and into Parliament. She would have to be one of the most promising first term MPs.

But excessive media attention can be a double edged sword. The promotion and rise of Luxon has just resulted in his first political success, candidate selection in what should be a safe electorate. And he should get a high enough list position to have  a second chance in his first election.

But media attention has led to social media attention, and that will never be all positive.

Under Simon Bridges the National Party seems to be under more influence of conservative Christian leanings. Luxon may add too that.

Stuff: National chooses former Air NZ boss Christopher Luxon as Botany MP candidate

Speaking to media immediately after he gained a majority of delegates’ votes in the first round, Luxon laid out his views on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and cannabis legalisation.

The 49-year-old Evangelical Christian had previously refused to talk about his views on abortion. But on Monday night he said he was personally against reform of abortion or euthanasia law.

Asked about the influence of his strong personal faith on his political views, Luxon said: “My faith is a very personal thing … it gives me mission and purpose.”

He cited the effect of cannabis on young people with mental health problems in saying he was against its legalisation for recreational use. But he was in favour of decriminalising medical use, he said.

Those views may be popular in the National Party at the moment, but may struggle for wider popular support.

​Luxon, armed with an endorsement from former prime minister (and current Air NZ board member) John Key was regarded as something of a favourite.

It was clear that some of the higher ups in the party’s non-parliamentary wing were keen to see such a celebrity CEO enter Parliament.

It also seems the media have been keen to see such a ‘celebrity CEO’ enter Parliament. and they have been helping promote it.

I think Luxon has already featured on a ‘preferred Prime Minister’ poll. Expect anything like that to be magnified by the media far beyond it’s significance as Luxon gets turbo charged by journalists who often seem more interested in making stories than fair and balanced democracy.

There’s nothing much us plebs can do about over the top and unbalanced media influence politics – except perhaps do more to make up our own minds and vote accordingly.

However with Luxon being gifted an electorate that should be easy for him to win the media are likely to come out on top there – picking and choosing future leaders to promote.

Twyford to correct Parliament after ‘remembering’ NZTA details

Phil Twyford talked big when in Opposition, but has been a bit of a disaster as a Minister in Government. The failures of Kiwibuild have been largely seen his failures, and he lost a portfolio over it.

Attention has now turned to the Government debacle over light rail in Auckland, and also too Twyfords handling of the NZTA board replacement. His ‘memory’ has been faulty on a number of things, including questions in Parliament that he incorrectly answered last week, and will correct this week.

Last Tuesday in Parliament: Question No. 9—Transport

Chris Bishop: Who is right about the cost projections for light rail, he, who said yesterday to Newshub that there is no cost blowout, or Winston Peters, who said that “The costings seem to have changed … in a way that is demanding serious investigation as to whether those forward projections are factual or not.”?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I repeat what I said yesterday: there is no cost blowout, because the twin track procurement process includes fundamental design and engineering decisions, so a final cost has not been settled on for either option yet.

An apparent difference between Twyford and Winston Peters. See NZH Winston Peters warned about possible light rail cost blowout concerns

Chris Bishop: Is it correct that the relationship between the New Zealand Transport Agency and NZ Infra is so broken that NZ Infra had to use the Official Information Act to get information from the New Zealand Transport Agency, causing months of delays to the light rail project?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I reject the assertion in the first part of the member’s question, but I would note that Sir Brian Roche, the new chair of the board of the transport agency, said on radio this morning that NZTA had dropped the ball, and that’s why Cabinet mandated Treasury and the Ministry of Transport to undertake a new assessment process of both options…

Twyford appointed Roche to chair the NZTA board after having discussed a possible proposal partly funded by the NZ Super Fund with Roche. See NZH – Twyford: NZ Super Fund bid for Auckland light rail was not solicited – “Transport Minister Phil Twyford says it is defamatory to suggest he has been lying about whether the NZ Infra light rail proposal was unsolicited.”

Chris Bishop: Does he stand by his statement that no one on the New Zealand Transport Agency board asked to stay on?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, I do.

After subsequent questions from stuff Twyford says he remembers differently now and will correct his statement in Parliament.

Stuff:  Phil Twyford repeatedly ‘forgot’ key NZTA job offer, until he couldn’t

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford has said repeatedly that the former board of the New Zealand Transport Agency – with which he had a fractious relationship – did not wish to be reappointed and that the replacement of all but one of the board members last month was due to the board’s term ending.

But now sources have confirmed to Stuff that this was in fact not the case and that some board members did ask to be reappointed, raising questions over whether Twyford misled Parliament.

In response to questions from Stuff, Twyford has now changed his story.

“When the Minister answered Chris Bishop’s question in the House – which was a supplementary question not on notice – his recollection was that no one had offered to stay on”, a spokeswoman for Twyford said.

“He [Twyford] remembered that he had asked Mark Darrow [a former board member] to stay on the board temporarily in the interests of continuity” the spokeswoman said.

“The Minister has now had a chance to review his correspondence from May and see that, in response to his request, Mark Darrow had said he would be interested in staying on for a second term”.

“The Minister will correct the answer in the House at the first opportunity'” the spokeswoman said.

But sources told Stuff that other board members were also approached about being reappointed.

Twyford’s recollection on the matter has repeatedly failed him on this point. He also confirmed to Stuff in September that no one on the board expressed a preference to stay on. Asked whether any board members asked or wanted to stay on, Twyford said on September 19 that, “no, everyone had reached the end of their terms”.

Bishop said Twyford had “serious questions to answer”.

“He is on the record in Parliament saying that nobody on the New Zealand Transport Agency board asked to stay on the board, and he’s now being contradicted by multiple people and has serious questions to answer,” Bishop said.

I’m sure Bishop will be asking Twyford more questions in Parliament.

This – both the light rail proposal and NZTA – look very messy issues, with Twyford in the thick of the mess.

His competence as a Minister in charge of Kiwibuild was found wanting to the extent he lost his portfolio.

His competence as Minister in charge of the NZTA and the light rail proposal looks increasingly suspect. Apart from the dual messes he either can’t remember basic information related to his appointments to the NZTA board, or he misleads or lies to Parliament.

Twyford is currently ranked 4 in Labour’s lineup, and is still Minister for Economic Development and Urban Development and Transport (having lost Housing in reshuffle).

Two political polls with similar results

Newshub released a Reid Research a poll on Sunday with ridiculous headlines and claims. 1 News released a Colmar Brunton poll last night with less dramatic but still over the top claims. Polls are just polls, especially this far from an election, but they try to get value from the expense of polling by making stories out of them that aren’t justified.

Last time the two polled the biggest talking point was how different their results were. The Reid Research poll was regarded as an outlier, being quite different to any other polls this term.

The most notable thing about the polls this time is that the results are very similar, taking into account margins of error of about 3% for the larger results, and the fact that Colmar results are rounded to the nearest whole number.

  • National: RR 43.9% (+6.5%), CB 47% (+2)
  • Labour: RR 41.6% (-9.2), CB 40% (-3)
  • Greens: RR 6.3% (+0.1), CB 7% (+1)
  • NZ First: RR 4.0% (+1.2), CB 4% (+1)
  • ACT: RR 1.4% (+0.6), CB 1% (-)
  • TOP: RR 1.1% (+1.0), CB 1% (-)
  • Maori Party: RR 0.7% (+0.2), CB 1% (-)

I don’;t think it’s surprising at this stage to see National a bit ahead of Labour, Labour has had a mixed month or two and is struggling to make major progress due to the restraint of coalition partner NZ First.

Green support looks at a safe level, but is well below what they were getting last term (about half).

NZ First are still polling below the threshold and will be in a battle to stay in Parliament.

Is is fairly normal these days there are a number of borderline governing scenarios with these numbers, with National+ACT and Labour+Greens thereabouts but not certainties.

A lot may depend on whether NZ First make the threshold or not next election. Both other times they have been in a coalition government they have lost support at the next election.

Trends from Opinion polling for the next New Zealand general election (Wikipedia):

That shows the last Reid Research anomaly well.

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern: RR 38.4% (-10.6), CB 38% (-3)
  • Simon Bridges: RR 6.7% (+2.5), CB 9% (+3)
  • Judith Collins: 5.2% (-1.9), CB 5%
  • Winston Peters: CB 4%

Ardern a bit down, Bridges a bit up but still a big difference.

Newshub also did a poll on performance:

  • Ardern: performing well 62.4%, performing poorly 23.1%
  • Bridges: performing well 23.9%, performing poorly 52.7%

UPDATE: 1 News/Colmar Brunton have also started asking a similar question:

  •  Ardern handling her job as Prime Minister:  +33
    approve 62%
    disapprove 29%
    don’t know or refused 8%
  • Bridges’ handling his job as National Party leader: -22
    approve 29%
    disapprove 51%
    don’t know or refused 20%

Ardern performance is well above her party support, while Bridges is well below National support (about half).

  • Newshub-Reid Research Poll was conducted between 2-9 October 2019.
    1000 people were surveyed, 700 by telephone and 300 by internet panel
  • 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll conducted between 5-9 October
    1008 eligible voters were polled by landline (502) and mobile phone (506)

So both now rely on some polling by something other than landline, Reid Research 30% by internet panel and Colmar Brunton 50% by mobile phone.

1 News link here.

Newshub/Reid Search links here and here.

The Newshun headline says “Jacinda Ardern, Labour take massive tumble in new Newshub-Reid Research poll” but a more accurate description would have been “Newshub poll looks more likely following last rogue poll”. It wasn’t a massive tumble for Ardern, more like a large correction by Reid Research.

Immigration policy changes – families for the rich

Winston Peters is claiming the credit for a toughening up of the Parental Visa Scheme which makes it possible for only high income earners to sponsor family members immigrating too New Zealand.

Peters must see votes for NZ First as more important than families.

RNZ:  NZ First pushed for tightening of parental visa scheme

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the tightening up on who can move to New Zealand is a direct response to his party’s demands during coalition negotiations with Labour.

That sits uncomfortably against the posturing of the Prime Minister and Immigration Minister who this week celebrated the lifting of the moratorium on the parent category visa.

In the last fortnight the government has announced three significant changes to its immigration policy.

The Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme will be boosted by just over 3000 in the next two years, the government has overturned the family link policy that stopped refugees from Africa and the Middle East resettling in New Zealand unless they had family here and it’s reinstated the parent category visa – but with a cap on the number of parents who can come in and a high income test for the child sponsor.

Speaking to RNZ, Mr Peters said the parental category visa changes that switch the financial onus from the parent moving to New Zealand to the child sponsor, and almost doubles the income test is “precisely” what New Zealand First pushed for at the Cabinet table.

“Where in the world can you decide to go and take your parents as well? That’s the reality here,” he said.

Only when a skilled migrant is living in New Zealand, who is critical to the workforce, and is in demand internationally does it make sense to allow them to bring a parent in, Mr Peters said.

“It is a significant tightening up of the parental visa scheme.”

“What we had here was up to 31 percent of the so-called sponsors having left this country to go off to other countries, including Australia, and leaving the cost to the taxpayers.”

The change is going to make it more likely that skilled immigrants will desert the country if they can’t bring in their family members.

For New Zealand First it’s about upholding a nationalist approach, something Mr Peters said always existed until the “neo-liberal experiment unleashed itself on the idea that more immigration meant cheap labour”.

Immigration has been an essential for the growth of New Zealand since long before the so-called “neo-liberal experiment”.

“All these things were meant to be part and parcel of a planned population policy but there was no plan other than to drive up consumption with mass immigration,” he said.

Peters keeps using the term “mass immigration”, which is nonsense but deliberately panders to a small intolerant section of society (and voters). NZ First needs more than them to keep their support levels up – and those who expected him to fulfil his promise to slash overall immigrant numbers (to 10,000, currently about 50,000) may still feel he hasn’t delivered anyway.