Initial Green Party list lacks gender, climate balance

Stuff have reported Green Party initial election list puts newcomer Teanau Tuiono ahead of several sitting MPs

An initial list for the Green Party puts activist Teanau Tuiono ahead of several sitting MPs in the party.

The Green Party list will dictate which of their MPs enter Parliament after the next election, should they win over five per cent of the vote.

The ranking of the list is voted on by members in two different stages – first by delegates at a conference for an initial list and then by all 7000 or so Green Party members closer to the election.

Tuiono was 16th on the Green list last election.

Due to two late withdrawals of male MPs from the list just before the last election the Greens have ended up with 2 male and six female MPs, and one of the males, Gareth Hughes, isn’t standing again. The try to have a balanced list, so they presumably have to have male candidates higher on the list than female MPs.

Tuiono is a veteran activist and education consultant who has worked at the United Nations and Massey University.

The initial list swaps the order of the co-leaders but this is likely to be a Greens having turns thing but also probably means a ministerial role for Davidson if they get back into Government with Labour.

  1. Marama Davidson
  2. James  Shaw
  3. Jan Logie
  4. Eugenie Sage
  5. Teanau Tuiono
  6. Julie Anne Genter
  7. Chlöe Swarbrick
  8. Golriz Ghahraman
  9. Elizabeth Kerekere (Tīwhanawhana Trust chair – “Tīwhanawhana Trust chair” – a takatāpui community group based in Wellington)
  10. Ricardo Menéndez March (Auckland Action Against Poverty activist)

Voted on be delegates, this is still gender unbalanced with only 2 the top 9 male. If Greens get the minimum MPs that’s 2 of 6.

With Hughes dropping out it also looks like more of a move towards social activism with less expertise in climate activism.

The final list could address this.

 

Taxpayers’ Union – advocates or activists?

The Taxpayers’ Union has been a controversial player in New Zealand politics, given those who are involved (from the right of politics).

Their self-description on Twitter:

We’re the voice for Kiwi taxpayers in the corridors of power. With  and our 36k members, we fight for Lower Taxes, Less Waste, More Transparency.

But the causes they promote or oppose suggests that their focus is rather narrower than “the voice for Kiwi taxpayers”.

Their reaction to this article suggests a certain sensitivity to criticism – Newsroom: Tobacco ties undermine Taxpayers’ Union

“Here at the Taxpayers’ Union, we are no defenders of ‘Big Tobacco’ or its lobbyists.”

Jordan Williams’ words, in the foreword to a 2016 report on the impact of tobacco taxes, have a certain irony in light of his organisation’s financial ties to British American Tobacco.

In many ways, news of the tobacco giant’s “corporate membership” of the Taxpayers’ Union (for an undisclosed annual fee) should come as little surprise.

Since its inception in 2013, Williams’ organisation has consistently opposed measures designed to regulate or reduce the use of tobacco, such as the plain packaging law and the annual increases to excise tax.

Add in its ‘Clear the Air’ campaign for lighter regulation of vaping and other e-cigarette products – a sector in which cigarette companies themselves now have a large stake – and the alignment of beliefs seems clear.

Does that mean that Williams and company are mere stooges for hire, on offer to the highest corporate bidder?

Not necessarily (although the group’s most vociferous critics would surely beg to differ).

Egregious lack of transparency

British American Tobacco may pay its dues to the Taxpayers’ Union not to ensure it would take the party line against tobacco controls, but because it already shared those views as a philosophically “free market” organisation.

And the group’s argument about the regressive impact of tobacco taxes – that they impact the poor disproportionately – is one which carries some weight.

There would be value to some voters in an organisation which lived up to the Taxpayers’ Union motto of “lower taxes, less waste, more transparency”.

However, it’s in the area of transparency where the organisation most egregiously fails.

None of the numerous press releases and reports on tobacco put out by the Taxpayers’ Union make even a passing reference to the group’s funding from a cigarette manufacturer.

A Taxpayers’ Union spokesman pooh-poohed the suggestion of disclosing conflicts of interest, claiming doing so would “distort people’s perceptions of our work” given its many donors.

That’s an argument that doesn’t hold water, given the high standards to which the organisation is willing to hold politicians (take its criticism of Associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter for the awarding of transport contracts to her partner, despite her lack of involvement in the decision-making process).

The organisation’s spokesman suggested taxpayer-funded entities had to be held to “a special standard” – but surely a group seeking to enhance government transparency should be purer than pure.

They should practice what they preach on transparency.

Also apparent is their interest in issues that seem to be straying somewhat from the interests of “Kiwi taxpayers”.

A few days ago:

This sort of general anti-government stance is common from the Taxpayers’ Union.  They look more like activists with vested interests in certain political outcomes rather than general advocates for reducing Government costs. This probably doesn’t surprise any Kiwi taxpayers.

Greens return leftward, away from National

Green’s sole leader over the last eight months, James Shaw, is seen as relatively moderate, almost centrist-ish (in some ways at least). He is regarded as business friendly, not a particularly NZ green attribute.

The Green Party has just chosen a new co-leader, Marama Davidson, by a wide margin of 110 delegate votes to 34 over the more business savvy centris-ish Julie Anne Genter.

Davidson has been active on left wing issues as an MP. She is likely to remain so. And she has much more scope than Shaw to promote her more radical views and policy positions – while not in Cabinet Shaw has some responsibility as a Minister not to rock the Government boat too much

As she doesn’t have any ministerial responsibilities Davidson is not so constrained, and without a ministerial workload she will have much more time to work on issues of interest to her and the Green membership.

Both Shaw and Genter are learning the realities and compromises of working in a Government. Davidson doesn’t have this, she is firmly in the Green idealist activist bubble.

And that bubble is staunchly anti-National.

Henry Cooke at Stuff: Greens swing left with Marama Davidson in the co-pilot seat

This should finally and completely end the notion that the Green Party could consider going into Government with National. It was never going to happen under James Shaw and it is really never going to happen with Davidson, who took care in her victory speech to trash-talk the former National-led Government for the massive problems at Middlemore Hospital.

Just as some Green Party members threatened to leave the party if Davidson didn’t get selected, similar threats have been made in the past when any suggestion of a Green-National deal.

By supporting Davidson so strongly the membership of the Green Party have shown their desire to make the party more than just a junior partner in Government, pushing Labour to the left in the areas its ministers are responsible for.

We just have to accept that the Greens are two parties in one – a strongly pro-environment party, and a staunch hard left social issue socialist-type party. They claim that the two are co-dependent, but that’s more of an attempt to justify their more hard-left policies.

Environmental issues are acknowledged across the political spectrum, to different degrees, but both National and the business world know they have to work more on sustainable practices and lowering pollution. They do differ with the Greens on the preferred levels of socialisation and socialism.

Big business and big money are going to be important influences in New Zealand, especially with farming practices.

In tone, tactics, and perception, however, Davidson was always the left candidate, even if she prefers to say “progressive”.

‘Progressive’ is a left wing populist attempt at deception.

Many Green members don’t want to put more women in the boardroom, they want to destroy it. Davidson made clear in her acceptance speech her distaste for the fact that two men held more wealth than the poorest 30 per cent of New Zealanders. In our debate she professed support for a new top tax rate on higher earners and free dental care for all Kiwis.

Davidson-Green is to a large extent anti-business (and pro socialism). Shaw-Green promotes more responsible business.

Of course, the Green Party hasn’t lost the more suit-and-tie Shaw as co-leader. There will be plenty of members who voted for Davidson because they want balance at the top, with the environmentally focused climate change minister fighting besides the new co-leader for a holistic Green vision.

It’s impossible to know how many Green members and Green branches preferred the far more left wing leanings of Davidson, or chose her for balance. The Māori  factor can’t be discounted either.

But for the next wee while –  at least –  Davidson has the mandate to make some real change to how the Green Party operates in Government. Ardern and Winston Peters should expect some well-publicised disagreements – which will be particularly biting as non-Minister Davidson isn’t bound by Cabinet collective responsibility.

The party now enters into a somewhat strange two-year period, where the Green ministers actually making change arguably represent the wing of the party just rejected by the membership.

It will be interesting to compare the so far moderate ministerial missives of Shaw, Genter and the third Green minister, Eugenie Sage, and the more radical activism of Davidson and her activist Green supporters.

Genter has been seeking attention during the two month leadership contest but may well retreat to her ministerial responsibilities. She probably won’t want to compete with Davidson for attention now.

Shaw has been fairly anonymous as he gets to grips with working in Government. Sage would have also been barely noticed except for her embarrassing involvement in publicity over allegations of interference in state agencies, and her changing claims due to ‘poor memory’.

So Davidson may well get a disproportionate amount of attention. This will please the activist socialist Greens, but how will this affect wider green support?

But there are over a hundred thousand more Green Party voters than there are members. For that number to keep steady or properly increase both wings of the party will need to rack up some decent wins in the real world, not just the tiny landscape of internal party politics. Everyone in the party will be watching the next poll with a whole lot of interest. It’ll be what makes this whole thing finally real.

It will take more than the next poll, it will take several months and several polls to see how things pan out. It will also take that long to see how the Green Ministers perform and get attention, versus Davidson’s freedom to promote a more radical agenda.

Portrait of Nicky Hager – journalist or activist?

I don’t know whether this was part of planned PR of Nicky Hager or not, but Stuff has a National Portrait: Nicky Hager – investigative journalist.

His champions call him a defender of democracy and decency; his critics call him a politically-motivated smear merchant and master of PR, who stages book releases for maximum impact and trashes reputations to make money.

Hager calls himself an author or investigative journalist. Not an activist – he hates that term. And not a Labour or Green Party stooge. But certainly political, in the sense he’s motivated by morality and social issues and the need for change.

Despite his protestations many people see him as an agenda driven activist. He does investigate like a journalist, but he is well known for not giving his targets any input to his issues before publishing, which is regarded as not good journalism.

He describes himself as ‘Author and Investigative Journalist’ on his website.

“Do I have a party political agenda? Not in the slightest. Do I have social and political motivations? Of course. Why else would I spend hundreds and thousands of hours working on things? That’s why I do it.”

He may not have a consistent alliance with any one political party but he clearly tries to influence politics with his books, with his ‘Seeds of Doubt’ blind siding Labour in the run up to the 2002 election, ‘The Hollow Men’ clearly targeting Don Brash and National in 2006, and ‘Dirty Politics’ launched during the 2014 election campaign attacking National and connected bloggers couldn’t avoid being seen as political.

And his strongest supporters and his most vocal detractors largely split along political lines.

…he likes delving into subjects others would rather keep secret, from his first book Secret Power, investigating previously unknown spy agency GCSB, to the latest, Hit & Run, which alleges New Zealand SAS involvement in civilian deaths, and a Defence Force cover-up.

His books fall broadly into two categories – war (intelligence gathering being an extension of military work) and dodgy politics. The first is personal – Hager comes from a family “really shockingly influenced by the fact the world had gone to war”.

“So the work I’ve done about war … I feel like that’s my life’s work … if we don’t do that then we’re just endlessly tricked into going to the next war and making the same mistakes again.”

I don’t question this anti-war motive, and in relation to Hager’s latest book I think the the entry of the US into Afghanistan early this century with New Zealand’s subsequent involvement is highly questionable.

But I really wonder if his targeting of one relatively tiny incident and trying to discredit the New Zealand Defence Force to the extent of suggesting possible war crimes is the best way to go about change.

He tends to polarise and entrench opinion, which tends to make his work easy to fob off as extreme activism.

Similar to my political opinions I have mixed feelings. I applaud some of the things he tries to impact on, but I question the effectiveness of the way he does things. For example I thought it was good to expose the political uses and abuses of Whale Oil, but have serious concerns about the use of illegally obtained data to do it, I am very concerned about the precedent that sets.

I also think that it’s good to shine a spotlight on unjustified and futile wars like in Afghanistan, but Hager is using victims to make more victims, in this case the SAS soldiers who were involved. Of course he is trying to put the blame for the attack at the highest levels – the Prime Minister of the time John Key, but if successful there could be some serious collateral damage.

There could also be a significant matter of New Zealand needing to have a defence force which has built a very good reputation for peace keeping efforts in different parts of the world. That was primarily why they were in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately in war even if your forces are trying to do good shit can happen – Taliban forces attacked NZ troops there mainly to try to rebuild, and the usual consequence of attacks in wars are counter attacks. The reality in war is that insurgents or opposing forces cannot just be left unchallenged.

Unfortunately, despite what I believe are genuine efforts to minimise civilian casualties military mistakes will happen and sometimes people in war situations react inappropriately.

Despite a brief flirtation with the Values Party, politics never tempted him.

Values morphed into the Greens. Regardless if Hager’s claims of no political affiliations all his books have aligned with general leanings of the Greens.

Hager never considered himself a journalist until American intelligence expert Jeffrey Richelson called Secret Power a “masterpiece of investigative reporting”. He is the only New Zealander on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, but some still argue he’s not a journalist because he denies those in the gun the opportunity to respond before publishing.

That’s a common criticism.

He makes no apology for that, saying all he would get back would be spin.

I think this is a cop out response from Hager. Isn’t it the job of investigative journalists to dig beneath the spin?

“The responsibility to be accurate, fair and balanced has to be dealt with in your research.”

But presuming his targets would just provide him with spin seems to contradict with being accurate, fair and balanced.

One of Hager’s biggest credibility problems is his apparent feeling of being right – hence he doesn’t see the need to seek the input of those he believes are wrong – and being infallible.

Hager and supporters have established their own spin – that he never gets things wrong. But his latest book disproves that, as did Dirty Politics.

And there are I think valid questions about imbalance by omission – how can he be balanced if he is only listening to one side of the story.

A real problem he has with ‘Hit & Run’ is he is attacking the relatively very well respected NZ Defence Force (imperfect but less imperfect than most military forces) and appearing to side with people at least associated with the Taliban, people with very strict and old fashioned religious beliefs that seriously oppress women.

Dirty Politics was his biggest earner, at about $50,000. He survives by having a mortgage-free house and living frugally.

“People seem to be touchingly unaware of how little authors earn,” Hager says.”Nobody in their right mind who is doing it for the money would be writing these books.”

His income is an interesting issue. He published Dirty Politics 3 years ago. $50,000 for three years is very frugal,and his previous books have generally about 3 years apart, earning him less.

He must clock up some expenses. He travels around the country and around the world. Perhaps he gets air fares and accommodation paid for or supplied.

Hager insists the public opprobrium rarely gets him down. And he doesn’t fear for his safety, despite Dirty Politics characters publishing his address. However, the 2014 illegal police raid on his home, in search of the source of Dirty Politics‘s hacked emails, was “quite shocking”.

That did seem a shocking, over the top and futile search. The Police stuffed up there.

I’ve had my address published online as well, seems to be a tactic of certain people.

NICKY HAGER ON…

FAILING TO APPROACH THOSE CRITICISED TO GET THEIR SIDE OF THE STORY
“I’m so comfortable with this, because the true objective of going for comment is not some ticking the box, it’s to be accurate, fair and balanced. That’s the purpose. And if the only effect of going for comment is that you don’t get any meaningful comment from them, and you don’t get any information and you just tip them off that they might want to sue you or cause you trouble, then there’s no gain from that.

I have a real problem with this attitude. He is making excuses for not doing what journalists would normally do and should normally do. It is necessary to filter out spin, but it is also a check against errors and mistaken assumptions.

Even the best journalists are not always right – in fact the best will test their findings to ensure they are as correct as possible, and that requires seeking more than one side of the story and more than one side of opinions.

The responsibility to be accurate, fair and balanced has to be dealt with in your research and what you write. And everyone who does this knows this. You can kind of be beaten up for not going for comment, but when you do go for comment, you don’t even get a comment – if you get anything, you get two sentences of spin.”

A journalist should never make presumptions like this. I find this attitude astounding for someone claiming to be a fair and balanced journalist.

This is more like the attitude of a political activist who is wilfully or fundamentally blind to opposing views and facts.


I note that Stuff has categorised this profile under ‘Politics’:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/91008472/national-portrait-nicky-hager–investigative-journalist