Messy start but Muller still has opportunity to make a mark

Todd Muller’s first week as leader of the National Party was messy and in some ways mucked up, but he still has an opportunity to make a mark as leader of the Opposition, and maybe rescue his party from a downward slide, and just maybe give Labour some real competition in this year’s election.

Some of the maelstrom faced by Muller was due to media getting bored with Covid coverage (“breaking news” of no more cases wears a bit thin day after day) and looking for some controversy and drama. They managed to manufacture some, and Muller and his team made that easy.

But most of it was a lot of noise about bugger all. No journalist is expected or required to be at their best in their first week on the job, it takes a while for them to make drama out of dregs.

Of course some on the left revelled in the ruckus making, that’s they way politics works (unfortunately) – it’s a game of dumping on opponents.

Some of the criticism of Muller came from the right as well, but Mike Hosking and the guy Richardson dissing Muller was hardly a damning indictment.

And Damien Grant, barely a middling journalist promoted several rungs above his level of competence thinks that Todd Muller confirms himself as a middle manager promoted several rungs above his level of competence.

The debacle over the MAGA cap, the lack of diversity in the front bench and Muller’s failure to articulate not just an economic agenda but even an idea confirmed what many of his detractors, this columnist included, had already concluded; he was a middle manager promoted several rungs above his level of competence.

The MAGA cap was largely over hyped crap, I’m surprised Grant seems to think that the front bench should represent everyone who doesn’t vote for National (I suspect he would grizzle about anything seen as ‘token’ appointments), and expecting to Muller have a comprehensive economic agenda ready to publish and promote on day one is just plain nuts.

We have a major problem with lazy journalists wanting instant stories.

Demands for an instant miracle from journalists would be better directed at their own industry, which is in much worse condition than Muller’s leadership and National’s current poll dip.

There is time for Muller to find his feet as leader, work out with his caucus and party their key policy priorities to promote in time for the election campaign.

Not much time, but there is time. Muller may still turn out to be a failed muppet, but he should at least be given a chance to prove himself.

Andrea Vance has a much better look at the current situation in Could middle-of-the road Muller come out a winner?

By the end of last week, Todd Muller was looking like one of the losers.

The Wellington commentariat had largely decided his first week as National leader was uniformly awful.

These conversations reverberated around the square mile of Pipitea, and Muller was found wanting.

It is perplexing why Team Muller had such a clumsy start, after plotting for months, and assembling a artful team of insiders that includes PR practitioner Matthew Hooton and dark-arts kingmakers Crosby Textor.

But the subjective judgements of a handful of Beehive pundits on perceived performance flaws, are now more insignificant than ever.

An economic shock has ricocheted around the world. Voters are consumed with worry about their jobs, mortgages and how to pay their bills.

In a political environment where most people would struggle to name the Cabinet, it’s hard to see people getting too exercised about the make-up of the Opposition’s front bench, or which keepsakes a leader displays on his shelf.

Most people would struggle to name the first five ranked Cabinet Ministers (I can’t), or even the first three (I could only guess at number 3 but at least I will know a little of them when I find out).

There was no discernible Muller vision. No priorities for his first few months in office. And no bold, alternative ideas for the post-coronavirus economic recovery.

And there is no reason why Muller should have had this level of detail ready to spoon feed journalists from day one. That’s a ridiculous expectation.

What actually is Jacinda Ardern’s vision?

What are her priorities for the next few months, apart from keeping us in level 2 and winning the election?

What are her bold, alternative ideas for the post-coronavirus economic recovery? If journalists should be looking anywhere for these right now it should be from Ardern and her Government.

While trust in Ardern is high, Labour still strive for economic credibility, after a decade of doubt over their fiscal capability.

So why expect, demand this of Muller in his first week in the Opposition leader’s office?

In the face of soaring unemployment and plummeting house prices, middle voters may pause for thought. People who care passionately about inequality, over-tourism and climate change in the good times, tend to be less progressive when their personal economic circumstances are shaken.

If National can play on that doubt: and convince centre voters they must make a choice between which priority they value the most, then middle-of-the road Muller may just come out a winner.

Unfortunately a lot may depend on how much slack they keep giving the Government because of their admiration of Ardern. And how much nit picking of Muller they over-dramatise.

But that’s the nature of our politics and our media.  Like it or not Muller and National have to find a way of dealing with that semi-successfully.

Can party donation scams be prevented?

I don’t think we will ever get a perfect way of dealing with political party donations, but there is scope to do much better. The Electoral Commission and SFO actually taking serious action over alleged breaches is a start.

NZ First donations are under increased scrutiny and are currently being investigated by the SFO. Jami-Lee Ross is being prosecuted, Lianne Dalziel, Phil Goff are under SFO investigation over donations.

National is linked to the Ross and three other prosecutions (the donations were made to the National Party).

Labour has been accused of questionable donation practices

Four out of every five dollars donated to big parties in secret, sparking new push for transparency

Smaller parties like the Greens publicly disclose who provided most of their funding, but the big parties are secretive. 83 per cent ($8.7m over six years) of the money donated to National is from anonymous donors, and 80 per cent ($2.8m) of that donated to Labour.

The worst offender is NZ First: Most years, it allows every single one of its donors to remain secret.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/95945991/new-push-for-transparency-with-four-out-of-every-five-dollars-donated-to-big-parties-given-secretly

Artworks used to funnel secret donors’ contributions to the Labour Party

The Labour Party is hiding tens of thousands of dollars in donations behind over-inflated art auctions – and naming the artists as donors instead of the secret individuals handing over the big bucks.

The artists had no idea the party was naming them as the donors – they never saw a cent of the money. They say their works are auctioned off at well above market value to wealthy benefactors who want to keep their support for the party secret.

Labour says the practice complies with electoral rules.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/95891686/artworks-used-to-funnel-secret-donors-contributions-to-the-labour-party

That was in 2017.

Andrea Vance suggests: Keep politicians in the dark over election donations

Politicians write the rules they so blatantly flout. The parties manage their own accounts and the cash that flows into them.

Now it’s pretty obvious they can’t be trusted, it’s time to take away that power and ban them from accepting donations directly.

The only way to transparency is for an independent body to handle and process the donations, which would not be disclosed publicly or to the party.

That way the donor maintains their anonymity and privacy – and the law-makers cannot be in anyone’s pocket.

The perception of influence and corruption would also be removed.

If donations remain allowed then this is one way of tidying things up a bit, but it wouldn’t prevent what NZ First appear to have done, having donations paid into a separate NZ First Foundation and paying party expenses directly from the Foundation.

Would channelling donations through an independent body (the Electoral Commission has been one suggestion) mean that limiting the size of donations wouldn’t be necessary?

An independent handler would impact on all parties (especially the Greens) using donations drives as a part of  member recruitment and communications.

It wouldn’t stop donors advising parties they had donated certain amounts to the party via the independent handler.

I don’t think there are any simple solutions to this.

The Electoral Commission and the SFO actually investigating and prosecuting will help, electoral rule had appeared to have been broken with impunity in the past.

We can’t trust parties to set their own rules on this, they have proven to be too self-interested.

But I think there should still be some sort of independent review of how donations are handled. Perhaps by an independent panel of experts, but this could be informed by some sort of ‘people’s panel’.

Louisa Wall: “The Media have a responsibility to do no harm”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that she is is chairing a meeting in Paris next month in a attempt to find a way to prevent terrorists from being able to social media to promote and publicise terrorism.

Labour MP Louisa Wall on Facebook yesterday widened her focus to ‘The Media’:

Kia Ora. The Media and those that transmit their political content and other political content generated for these public mediums, are defined as The Fourth Estate or fourth power that refers to the press and news media both in explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. It is time that it was formally recognized as part of a political system, as it wields significant indirect social influence.

This would impose a Duty of Care on The Media – a formalisation of the social contract, the implicit responsibilities requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.

The Media have a responsibility to do no harm. Kia Kaha PM Jacinda Ardern for the meeting on May 15 – two months after the Christchurch terror attacks which claimed the lives of 50 people – which aims to see world leaders and tech company bosses agree to the “Christchurch call” – a pledge to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Linked to NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to lead global attempt to shutdown social media terrorism

This prompted a reaction from some journalists.

Andrea Vance (@avancenz):

Uh, what? Bringing media under control of Parliament … is this govt policy ?

(Facebook post image included)

Liked by SamSachdeva, Hamish McNeilly, Hamish Rutherford, Stacey Kirk, Laura McQuillan, Richard Boock, Paul Harper, Kim Baker Wilson, Tracey Watkins, John Campbell (all media/journalists) plus Chris Bishop (MP).

Two lawyers add their views:

Graeme Edgeler (@GraemeEdgeler):

It sounds bad, but I kind of feel most of these things are already present, certainly for online and broadcast media anyway. Duty of care is not a ridiculous paraphrase of the duties on media in some defamation defences, and under the HDCA.

Stephen Franks (@franks_lawyer):

Without the defences of truth and honest opinion it is completely sinister and as far from the law that protected both freedom and honest public discourse as we could get.

Graeme Edgeler:

I was thinking, for example, of the defamation defence of responsible communication on a matter public interest as provided in Durie v Gardiner [2018] NZCA 278.

Stephen Frank:

I understand that and am very conscious of NZ judges massive indifference to the vital role of liability for lies, as a condition/corollary of free speech, but your comment is still misleading rationalisation of sinister nonsense from Ardern and her fumbling Minister of Justice.

That is widening somewhat from what Wall posted.

Despite the concerns shown by journalists I don’t think Louisa Wall has much sway in Labour let alone in Government. She is ranked 23 (Clare Curran is 22), despite being an MP for 11 years, a term and a bit from 2008 as a list MP, and since 2011 as MP for Manurewa (2017 majority 8,374).

Odd Stuff on MP ‘best before date’

It is not new asking whether MP terms should be limited. What is new is some confusing stuff on it from Stuff. They have two different links to the same story, with different headlines and different text.Once at the link both these stories have the same headline, but the URLs show the link headlines. And there are some text differences.

  • Stamp MPs with a best-before date
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/107912277/andrea-vance-mps-should-carry-useby-dates

    Is it time to stamp a best before date on our MPs?

    Simon Bridges brutally retired some of his long-serving MPs in an indelicate, secretly recorded, conversation with Jami-Lee Ross.

    Once people become members of that exclusive club – being a politician – they are reluctant to give it up.

    Of our current current crop, 16 have been hanging around Parliament for more than a decade, including leaders Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges. Six have been drawing an MPs salary, on and off, since the 1990s. Winston Peters claims the record – first elected in 1978.

    Ross himself has been an MP for more than seven years. He won’t be remembered for any exceptional achievements in office.

    Time-servers risk staying in office long past their prime. The more comfortable they become in their Beehive offices, with staff, perks and tax-payer funded travel – the more distant they become from those they represent.

    They come bursting into Parliament with big ideas and naive ideology but are eventually worn down by the grind and disappointment of real politik. Most get jaded, cynical, and too involved in playing the game.

    Ross’ spectacular self-immolation stems from his disappointment in not making it far enough up the greasy pole

    Far too much time spent in the capital’s cafes and bars makes MPs weak to the corruptive influence of lobbyists and special interests. They become beholden to the type of politics that’s leaving voters frustrated and disillusioned.

    Term limits would allow MPs to spend less time worrying about re-election or scrabbling up the caucus ranks. More policy-making, less plotting. They’d be able to take unpalatable but necessary decisions without fear of being punished in the polling booths.

    New blood is a good thing, especially for party leaders. The ranks are automatically refreshed with new talent, free from factional alliances, and all without rancour and sulking.

    There would be no need to carry incompetent MPs or prise them out of safe-seat with other career inducements. Those past their prime would be saved the indignity of being “retired” by the party.

    Politics would no longer be seen as a comfy job-for-life, rather a short spell in public service.

    But draining the swamp does come with many problems. There’s a lot to be said for experience. Navigating the labyrinth of Parliament’s procedures and rules takes time. Crafting legislation and regulations that solve complex problems with no unintended consequences is a skill learned on the job.

    Swapping out acumen for inexperienced lawmakers might not best serve the public.

    Voter choice is also restricted when a candidate is barred from being on the ballot.

    It’s also not easy to step away from Parliament – the loss of position, status, and perks is painful and usually involuntary.

    Elections should be the best mechanism for dumping ineffective MPs from office. However, a shallow talent pool makes it easier for parties to offer up incumbents and retreads instead of searching out new candidates.

    So, if not a use-by date, perhaps our system needs a sell-by date. If you buy that product,it’s safe. But it serves as a warning to retailers: time to get it off the shelves.

  • Stamp MPs with a best-before date
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/107785506/stamp-mps-with-a-bestbefore-date

    Is it time to stamp a best before date on our MPs?

    Once politicians become members of that exclusive Wellington club, they are reluctant to give it up.

    Of our current current crop, 16 have been hanging around Parliament for more than a decade, including leaders Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges. Six have been drawing an MP’s salary, on and off, since the 1990s. Winston Peters claims the record – first elected in 1978.

    Time-servers risk staying in office long past their prime. The more comfortable they become in their Beehive offices, with staff, perks and tax-payer funded travel – the more distant they become from those they represent.

    They come bursting into Parliament with big ideas and naive ideology, but are eventually worn down by the grind and disappointment of real politics. Most get jaded, cynical, and too involved in playing the game.

    Far too much time spent in Wellington’s cafes and bars makes MPs weak to the corruptive influence of lobbyists and special interests. They become beholden to the type of politics that’s leaving voters frustrated and disillusioned.

    Term limits would allow MPs to spend less time worrying about re-election or scrabbling up the caucus ranks. More policy-making, less plotting. They’d be able to take unpalatable but necessary decisions without fear of being punished in the polling booths.

    New blood is a good thing, especially for party leaders. The ranks are automatically refreshed with new talent, free from factional alliances, and all without rancour and sulking.

    There would be no need to carry incompetent MPs or prise them out of safe-seat with other career inducements. Those past their prime would be saved the indignity of being ‘retired’ by the party.

    Politics would no longer be seen as a comfy job-for-life, rather a short spell in public service.

    But draining the swamp does come with many problems. There’s a lot to be said for experience. Navigating the labyrinth of Parliament’s procedures and rules takes time. Crafting legislation and regulations that solve complex problems with no unintended consequences is a skill learned on the job.

    Swapping out acumen for inexperienced lawmakers might not best serve the public.

    Voter choice is also restricted when a candidate is barred from being on the ballot.

    It’s also not easy to step away from Parliament – the loss of position, status, and perks is painful and usually involuntary.

    Elections should be the best mechanism for dumping ineffective MPs from office. However, a shallow talent pool makes it easier for parties to offer up incumbents and retreads instead of searching out new candidates.

    So, if not a use-by date, perhaps our system needs a sell-by date. If you buy that product, it’s safe. But it serves as a warning to retailers: time to get it off the shelves.

Either the top article had text added, or the bottom article had text removed.

In any case “Simon Bridges brutally retired some of his long-serving MPs in an indelicate, secretly recorded” is inaccurate. Both David Carter and Chris Finlayson are not “reluctant to give it up”, they have both confirmed that they intend leaving Parliament (Carter at the end of this term, Finlayson by the end of this year).

John Key was not reluctant to give it up, neither were MPs like Simon Power and Stephen Joyce.

Of course some are, like Jami-Lee Ross, but he is hardly a good example. Vance says “Ross himself has been an MP for more than seven years. He won’t be remembered for any exceptional achievements in office.”

MPs are past their ‘best-before’ after only seven years? Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson and in fact the whole Labour front bench if not Labour Caucus have been in Parliament longer than seven years.

One of Labour’s better performing Ministers is David Parker, and he’s been in Parliament since 2002, which is 16 years.

The deputy Prime Minister is the longest serving MP in Parliament. Without him NZ First would almost certainly not be there.

Winston Peters’ best before date is probably 1 January 2000.

But he has right to continue on in Parliament as long as enough voters keep deciding he should remain. And voters should continue to make these decisions.

Should political journalists have ‘best before’ dates?

More on ‘Kiwi values’ and NZ First and MPs

One of the things to come out of the NZ First conference last weekend was a call for legislation to ensure immigrants comply with some vague ‘Kiwi values’. There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for it from Labour, Greens and National, but they weren’t the voter demographic that NZ First would have been targeting.

Danyl Mclauchlan (The Spinoff):  Whistling on migration yet leaving migration high: what’s Winston playing at?

But here’s the thing about Peters’ perennial race-baiting – given airing most recently following a remit at the party’s 25th birthday over the weekend. He campaigns on the immigration issue every election, but Peters has been in the powerbroker position in government three times now, and each of those governments has seen very high levels of net migration of what his supporters and voters consider “the wrong sort” of people.

There are a few reasons for this. Most populist, anti-migrant politicians believe what they say about “our values” and “preserving our way of life”, and at least attempt to reduce migration when they get into office. Trump has his Muslim-ban; the conservatives have Brexit. But Peters’ statements about migrants appear to be as meaningful as so much else he says, ie nothing. It is useful for him to race-bait by grandstanding about immigration but never useful for him to ever do anything about the issue.

He could probably make the government reduce its intake of non-white migrants, if he was so inclined: we’ve just seen the passage of the waka-jumping bill; it appears that Peters can get Labour and the Greens to do pretty much anything. But so long as his voters and the true-believers in his party never figure out the nature of his MO there’s no incentive for him to act.

If Peters actually forced a significant reduction in immigration it would remove one of his campaign tools – attacking immigrants to attract votes from suckers.

…New Zealand First’s donors in the fishing and forestry sectors rely on high levels of migration to preserve a low-wage workforce working in high risk conditions. Maintaining those conditions is core business for Peters and Shane Jones. The people who pay for the party, who occupy the boardrooms of the fishing industry, are far more exacting than the suckers occupying the TV rooms of the retirement villages, who vote for it.

And talking about values, Andrea Vance (Stuff):  NZ First MP campaigning for ‘Kiwi values’ was ruled unfit to run a pub

The NZ First MP behind a “values” bill which could expel migrants was once judged unfit to run pubs because of his criminal record.

Clayton Mitchell wants new migrants to sign up to a cultural “code of conduct” that includes a commitment not to campaign against the legality of alcohol.

Mitchell is a former publican – but his licence to run a bar was cancelled after a series of incidents. They included a suspended prison sentence for assault – which a judge called an act of serious violence – and a dangerous driving conviction.

Two years later, Mitchell won back his certificate –  supported by a reference from former police officer Brad Shipton, who was subsequently disgraced over a rape conviction.

Those values have been under a lot of criticism lately, with #meto and the controversy over the appointment of Wally Haumata as Deputy Police Commissioner – Haumata has what looks like close links with Peters and another NZ First MP, Fletcher Tabuteau.

A couple of ex-MPs joined the discussion on Twitter:

 

Perhaps we need better vetting of the values of party list MPs before we worry too much about immigrants.

Oh, and talking of MP values, this is what Mitchell said when informed Vance was investigating his past:

The second term MP initially didn’t want to be interviewed by Stuff. “Is this one of your dirty little stories? You better get your facts right, because I tell you what, you better get your facts right or you’ll get yourself in a hell of a lot of trouble,” he said.

Taht sort of threat ois more likely to get Mitchell in trouble, but that’s unlikely with Peters who often attacks and threatens journalists.

Vance hopefully got these facts right.

In a subsequent response to emailed questions, however, he acknowledged:

* A conviction of assault with intent to injure in what a judge described as an “act of serious violence on your part.”
* A conviction for dangerous driving.
* A conviction for a “lock-in” at one of his bars – allowing customers to drink outside of the licensed hours.

They came from Mitchell so they should be accurate.

 

 

Is any male criticism of a female Prime Minister sexist?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had some very challenging weeks since returning from maternity leave. Problems with ministers (Clare Curran and Meka Whaitiri) and power struggles with Winston Peters, plus a number of changes of policy position by Labour, have justified a lot of criticism.

Questions have inevitably been asked about how well Ardern is juggling her responsibilities as Prime Minister and as a new mother.

How much are criticims sexist?

Andrea Vance (Stuff): The PM’s made mistakes, but they’ve got nothing to do with gender

Online that is headlined: Sexist business as usual at Parliament

While female MPs were sipping orange juice at a celebratory Parliament breakfast, and their male colleagues were pinning white camellia to their suit lapels, it was sexist business as usual in the corridors of power.

Jacinda Ardern was distracted. She had too many papers crossing her desk. She was weak for not firing Clare Curran.

Don’t think this is sexist?

When Simon Bridges accuses Ardern of being distracted dealing with Winston Peters, his underlying message is: baby brain. It carries the scent of paternalistic condescension.

Bridges might not even be conscious of it. But the words we choose infer things beyond what we intend.

Do they infer “things beyond what we intend” or do others perceive things that were not intended?

No commentator ever suggested John Key had too much paperwork to deal with, even when he was struck down with one of his “brain fades”.

He was not described as weak for letting foreign minister Murray McCully get away with using a private email account – and he got hacked.

Key was described as weak. For example:

  • The Standard (2009): A weak leader
    John Key is a weak leader. Currently popular (he’s such a “nice guy” you know) – but weak. Like a school teacher who has lost the respect of their pupils, Key has lost control over his MPs. And like naughty kids, Key’s MPs are starting to run wild.
    …So the rot is well and truly set in. At no level is Key holding his Ministers and MPs to account. They are now openly defying his will. John Key is a weak leader.
  • New Zealand Labour Party (2015): John Key finally admits there’s a housing crisis
    John Key’s weak measures to rein in the astronomical profits property speculators are making are an admission – finally – that there is a housing crisis, Labour Leader Andrew Little says.

Vance:

Bridges has a baby daughter. Has anyone ever questioned if it affects his ability to lead his party? So, don’t suggest it about Ardern.

As far as I’m aware Bridges doesn’t take his baby (nor his son and other daughter or partner) to Parliament, into caucus meetings, on trips to the United Nations.

Having babies and having children affects most people, including how they do their jobs. These days All Blacks take time out from their jobs when they have babies. This impacts on their work.

No-one is “playing the woman card” here. And no-one is suggesting criticising Ardern is off-limits. She’s made plenty of mistakes – but they are nothing to do with her gender.

It is Vance who is bringing gender into it.

By all means, critique all politicians’ competencies. Tone, mannerisms or bad behaviour are all worth noting, regardless of gender. But do it without mentioning their clothing, hair, or reproductive status.

Politicians must stop referring to loaded and emotional characteristics: moody, weak, whiny, hysterical, bitchy, bossy, control freak. No more prima donna, drama queen, mean girl.

Even communal language that appears positive: “being supportive”, and “showing warmth” puts women in a box, even if they don’t fit the stereotype.

This isn’t PC gone mad.

So every politician, party and journalist should examine their words before going public to make sure there is no possibility that someone else could perceive some sort of gender connotation?

That sounds PC gone mad to me.

Yes, male politicians are also insulted and ridiculed. People are horribly cruel about Simon Bridges’ diction.

But the key difference is male MPs’ masculinity is rarely correlated with incompetence.

No matter how subtle and nuanced the discrimination is, it all combines to de-legitimise a woman’s authority, and to depersonalise them.

Is calling Winston Peters paternalistic de-legitimising him?

So, to make Suffrage 125 really count for something, its time to play the ball, not the woman.

That would be radical – politics 101 is playing the man or the woman.

Meanwhile, a female journalist plays the baby. Heather du Plessis-Allan – Jacinda Ardern outshines Helen Clark and John Key

The Prime Minister jetted off to New York last night. US TV interviews, meeting world leaders, a speech at the UN General Assembly. It’s a packed schedule ahead of her. But, busy as it will be, baby and all, it’s probably a welcome relief to get out of New Zealand.

Ardern has captured the zeitgeist of our time. A young, progressive leader. With a baby. Down-to-earth enough to buy her maternity wear from Kmart. Cool enough to DJ in her free time.

 

The cost of outsourcing Government

A few people from the ruling class get paid handsomely for their expertise in helping the Government make decisions, but many people wait and struggle.

It’s important that any Government reach out and utilise the expertise of non-elected people. However it is fair to question the amount they do this, and the amount they spend on it.

It’s well known that the current Government was not well prepared to take over, despite spending nine years in Opposition (in which time the did a number of inquiries/investigations).

It’s also well known that they have set up many reviews, working groups, inquiries, teams, committees and whatever else they call them. It will be some time before we can judge whether the cost is justified.

There are various claims about the cost of outsourcing Government decisions.

Andrea Vance – Outsourcing Government: The $55m cost of reviews

A bumper number of Government working groups, reviews and inquiries has a $55m price tag – with some consultants raking in $1400 a day.

An analysis by Stuff puts the number of reviews at 31, with 10 inquiries, and 27 working groups.

In Opposition National has a more liberal interpretation.

The National Party puts the cost even higher – with a $114m price tag for 122 working groups and 45 reviews. Leader Simon Bridges said that’s bringing about “a slow death by consultants.”

His party’s costing, released on Thursday, includes the establishment of government departments like the Pike River Recovery Agency and the Social Investment Agency, and reviews that are required by legislation or enacted by the previous government.

Of course the Government PR plays the other way:

The Government has pushed back, saying it counts 38 reviews. Of those, 29 are costed with a $34m price tag. They say that in the long-run, it works out at four cents for every $100 of government spending.

Their $34m claim doesn’t include all of their ‘reviews’. Their ‘four cents’ claim is meaningless.

When homelessness and poverty are constantly in the news the amount paid to those co-opted onto the many committees looks obscene:

Former Ombudsman Ron Paterson will earn $1400 a day chairing an inquiry into mental health and addiction.

Retired Supreme Court Judge Sir Terence Arnold will get the same for leading the year-long inquiry into controversial Afghanistan military Operation Burnham.

Former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer will net a $1300-a day fee for the inquiry into Defence Force actions.

Ex-Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand will be paid $1400 for each day he works chairing the Royal Commission into State Care abuse.

Ex- Labour Finance Minister Michael Cullen is getting a daily $1062 fee for heading up the Tax Working Group.

And Helen Clark’s former chief of staff Heather Simpson will get the same for leading a review into the health and disability system.

Many struggling New Zealanders wil barely be getting that sort of money per month.

And most of the above members of the ruling class will also be getting Government superannuation.

Ardern said there was a lot for her Government to fix.

“These aren’t things are being done because everything is fine. Where we have decided to take a second look, it’s because something isn’t working.”

The Government made quick decisions on some things – like the $billions committed to fee free tertiary education where it is debatable that anything has been fixed, and the $billions committed to regional handouts with a rush to dish out the dosh.

But many people in real need have to wait on a review or inquiry, and some will have to wait on the election in 2020 and then help is still in doubt.

The cost of outsourcing Government isn’t just in monetary terms, it is a cost to the quality of life for many of us.

Political coverage upheaval at 1 News

Political journalists at 1 News are deserting faster than National MPs after a change of leadership.

NZH: TVNZ reporter quits as new leader steps in

1 NEWS reporter Jessica Mutch has been in her role as TVNZ political editor for just over a month and it seems her Wellington colleagues, Katie Bradford and Andrea Vance are a little miffed they did not get the job.

Vance has quit the national broadcaster while Bradford has asked for reassignment to Auckland after they both missed out.

TVNZ, Mutch, Bradford and Vance did not want to comment but a spokeswoman for TVNZ confirmed the newsroom had been told of Vance’s and Bradford’s moves.

Vance, from Northern Ireland, has been with 1 NEWS since 2015.

Bradford, daughter of former Green MP Sue Bradford, has been with 1 NEWS since 2013 and Spy understands she made no secret of her desire to return to Auckland if she didn’t land the political editor role.

Mutch, 33, was based in the press gallery for eight years, and was TVNZ’s deputy political editor before moving to London as Europe correspondent.

So it’s not just political parties who have power struggles and departing unsuccessful candidates.

Dann leaving, and now followed by Vance and Bradford leaving, forces major changes to 1 News political coverage.

Dann announced a move to a full time role at Q&A in January.

Vance has been reported to be going back to Stuff. Her Twitter profile:”Northern Irish journalist. Can’t stop moving.” I don’t know if that has been recently revised.

 

BSA reject Labour complaint

Last November after Labour released a youth work scheme policy 1 News journalist Andrea Vance questioned their costings. Labour conceded that they had not mentioned an assumption that a 6 month subsidy was costed for 4 months as they though that would be the average.

Despite their omission Phil Twyford attacked Vance on Twitter quite severely, and then Labour laid a complaint with the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

See Labour lay complaint over coverage of policy costings.

The BSA has released it’s finding in which they rejected Labour’s complaint: Jaspers and Television New Zealand Ltd – 2016-095 (19 April 2017)

Summary

An item on 1 News reported on the Labour Party’s ‘Ready for Work’ policy, which offered unemployed young people employment on the minimum wage in environmental and community projects for six months.

The item reported that, according to Labour, the scheme would cost $60 million per year for 10,000 participants. However, the $60-million sum was actually ‘based on participants taking up the scheme for just four months, not the promised six’.

The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was based on inaccurate and unsubstantiated conclusions made by the reporter featured in the item, which was misleading and damaged the credibility of the Labour Party.

The reporter’s comments, while critical, were not inaccurate or misleading, and it is an important function of the media to comment critically on political party policy in the lead up to an election period.

Labour was given sufficient opportunity to consider the reporter’s comments and to put forward its views, both during the 1 News item and in considerable coverage in other media at the time.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance

So Vance was doing her job as a political journalist, Twyford blew a fuse on Twitter, and Labour took the rare step of complaining to the BSA.

Vance was exonerated.

Labour had egg on their face when their policy was examined, Twyford threw eggs at Vance, Labour complained about the eggs to the BSA, and Labour’s reputation has ended up scrambled.

Nelson electorate deal denials

Mixed messages over Labour-Green electorate deals or no deals continue, with denials from both Labour and the Greens that there there will be no deal in Nelson.

In the original 1 News report Exclusive: The backroom deals that Labour and the Greens are working on ahead of 2017 election Andrea Vance said:

In Nelson the Greens fell like they can pick up a lot of votes and so they’re in talks with Labour at the moment to stand a Labour candidate aside so that the Greens can have a clear run in that seat in Nelson.

The reason the greens have chosen Nelson is because it’s a classically Green seat. Now they’ll campaign hard in that seat because they’ve been given a chunk of money by an anonymous donor who has specified it must be used in the campaign in Nelson and the West Coast only.

And so Labour found it easy to stand aside because the candidate there would go up against Nick Smith for the electorate vote who’s been there for years and years and years and there’s a strong incumbent.

There is some very specific information there. Someone must have given this to Vance. Metiria Turei and her plans to stand in Te Tai Tonga also featured in that item.

Little responded on 1 News’ Breakfast programme: “This is news to me, we have no agreement on any seat”.

A follow up from 1 News: ‘Bugger that!’ – Labour members leave party over proposed deal with Green Party in Nelson

Eight Labour members have quit the party in protest over a proposed electorate deal with the Greens in Nelson.

One of those who quit said the members had emailed in their resignations – and the reasons – to the party.

“They were eight core people and they’ve walked away. They expected us to help the Greens… we’re not going to work for the Greens, bugger that.”

The ex-member said supporters were unhappy about how they learned about the proposed deal.

“It leaked out at the [annual] conference. One of the candidates was told by Andrew Little… people here are really angry.

But Labour continues to deny any deal in Nelson. Stuff: Labour denies giving Green light for Nelson:

The Labour Party has denied suggestions it is standing aside in Nelson, despite media reports that it is engaging in strategic deals with the Greens ahead of next year’s general election.

Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton said despite an agreement between Labour and the Greens to work together to change the Government there was no such plan for Nelson.

“We have a very strong party in Nelson and that won’t change. I’ve been impressed by how our members have remained committed to winning government next year,” he said.

“This is about how to work together under MMP to change the Government and get the economy working for all New Zealanders.”

A “no such plan for Nelson” denial followed by general poliwaffle.

Greens are also now denying a deal has been done.

Greens co-leader James Shaw said no decisions had been made about any electorate seats, including Nelson. He also said was wrong to suggest that there was any connection between this donation and its candidate selection process in Nelson.

“That is patently incorrect … no decision has been made about the Nelson electorate seat, or any others, and no donation, regardless of its size, will have any bearing on our decision-making process.”

The original report didn’t say a deal had been done, just that Greens were ‘in talks with Labour’, albeit implying it looked likely to happen.

And of particular note is that Shaw is doing the backtracking, not Metiria Turei.

This is a real muddle and doesn’t help Labour and Greens look like a cohesive government-in-waiting.