Greens staff loss is Labour’s gain

One of Greens’ best communicators, Andrew Campbell, is moving to the top Government PR job in the prime Minister’s office.

Stuff: Prime Minister appoints new chief press secretary Andrew Campbell from the Green Party

The Prime Minister’s office has hired Andrew Campbell as its new chief press secretary.

Campbell is currently the chief strategist and communications director for the Green Party.

Campbell has worked for the Green Party for a number of years on and off, including as the chief of staff and communications director. He began his latest stint in December, and was a part of the Green Party’s negotiating team going into Government.

Campbell has also worked for NZ Rugby and teachers’ union NZEI.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said it was a great appointment and Campbell was “one of the best in the business.”

“He and the Prime Minister have my full blessing. He’s an enormously talented strategic communications person,” Shaw said.

“I think he’ll make a fantastic difference in the PM’s office.”

I’m not sure that Shaw woukld have wanted to lose Campbell, but the best tend ot rise to the top, albeit within associated party circles with political staffing.

Staff have moved from Greens to labour before. Clint Smith of ‘Hey Clint’ fame made the staff switch from Greens to Labour  a few years ago, having previously moved from labour to the Greens.

Campbell joins Senior Press Secretary Leah Haines, who joined Labour when they took over late last year, She had previously been the Green chief press secretary before taking a break and also working for NZEI.

There seems to be a bit of Labour-Green churn. Back in 2016 Stuff: Green Party’s chief of staff becomes latest to resign from party

The Green Party’s chief of staff has announced his resignation – becoming the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the party.

Campbell had been with the Greens for nearly six years, and was promoted to chief of staff after James Shaw became the party’s new male co-leader in 2015.

Chief press secretary Leah Haines has also announced her resignation to spend more time with her family. She will leave after the party’s AGM in June.

David Farrar has copped some flack lately but deserves some credit: A smart appointment

This is a smart appointment. Campbell is one of the most talent operatives on the left in NZ politics. He is also likeable and able to work with diverse people. Generally has a good relationship with the press gallery which should help.

But he can’t help a bit of a dig.

Another former student president, which almost completes their takeover of Labour – Robertson, Hipkins, Kirton and now Campbell.

Whatever – with Campbell, Greens’ loss is Labour’s gain.

And it will no doubt help with communications between Labour and the Greens too.

Chief of Staff turnover

Change of government elections always bring about changes of personnel, and not just of MPs. Some Parliamentary staff no longer have jobs, and new ones are appointed.

John Key’s long time chief of staff Wayne Eagleson also worked for Bill English when he took over, but announced he was quitting after the election – NZH: Bill English’s chief of staff Wayne Eagleson quits

The man who’s often been referred to as the most powerful non-elected politician in the country is quitting.

Wayne Eagleson has been Sir John Key and Bill English’s chief of staff for 12 years, but says it’s time to look at other options.

Mr Eagleson will stay around until the new Government is formed, which is expected to be around mid-October.

Eagleson formally told Bill English last week he planned to resign after the election but insiders say it has been known by the Ninth Floor for several months that he planned to go, no matter what the election result.

It is a very demanding job, and of vital importance to the functioning of Government.

Helen Clark’s stalwart chief of staff is back helping Ardern : Helen Clark’s top advisor returns to Labour Party

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark’s top advisor, Heather Simpson, has returned to advise the new Labour Government.

Ms Simpson has a three-decade working relationship with Ms Clark, working as chief of staff to the Labour Party before spending eight years advising Ms Clark at the UN.

Her return is seen as a sign of Labour’s move to strengthen its management team behind the scenes.

She is assisting with the staffing of minister’s offices and ‘reviewing the review’ of the campaign.

She was known as H2 alongside H1 (Clark) – Grant Robertson has been refereed to as H3 when he worked in Clark’s office.

The Greens have also had a change:

Andrew Campbell is leaving New Zealand Rugby to take on the role of chief strategist. He was previously chief of staff for the Greens. He was involved during the campaign, before joining the negotiating team.

Greens announced in April last year:

Green Party Chief of Staff Andrew Campbell has announced his resignation from the position after five and a half years with the party.

Andrew Campbell has overseen the recruitment process for his replacement, and it is anticipated an appointment will be made within the coming weeks.

“Andrew indicated his intention to leave the Greens after the 2014 election, but offered to stay on to oversee the transition to our new male Co-leader James Shaw, and lead the internal change management process after James was elected,” Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

“Andrew ran our communications through our two most successful election campaigns and has been a real asset to the Party,” said Mrs Turei.

Campbell seems to have been lured by the Green’s elevation to a position of power. NBR on 12 August (just after Turei resigned and Greens crashed in the polls – The man who could save the Greens:

I gave Mr Campbell a call at NZ Rugby, where he’s now working as a communications manager. In short forget a political comeback.

“I’m really enjoying my work here,” he said. He had no desire to return to politics, or indeed even comment on recent events.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the change of Chief of staff for NZ First – that warrants a separate post. See Johansson appointed NZ First chief of staff


Is Labour sliding towards oblivion?

This question is being asked tonight when Simon Wilson chairs a Spinoff debate at Ika Seafood Restaurant about the future of the Labour Party.

Wilson writes Look, there goes the Labour Party – sliding towards oblivion.

What is the point of Labour? Is it a twentieth century phenomenon sliding into oblivion in the twenty-first?

If you’re an urban progressive, the Greens look like a more natural home. If you’re worried about modernity in any or all its forms, New Zealand First is ready and waiting. If you’re a Māori activist, you can choose from the Māori Party and the Mana Party.

If you’re working class? Any of the above, isn’t it?

In reality, Labour gets votes from all those groups. That’s a good thing: major parties need broad appeal. But Labour doesn’t always treat it as a good thing. They let the inevitable contradictions of being a broad church undermine them – this is expressed through absurdly frequent leadership battles – rather than becoming a source of strength.

Actually, there is a point to Labour and it’s a really important one. They’re there to win elections. Labour is the main party of opposition and therefore is likely to be the majority party in any centre-left government. So they have to look credible. They have to be credible.

If they’re not, the whole centre-left suffers. A vote for the Greens is a vote for a Labour-led government. Votes for NZ First and the Maori Party are also votes for the possibility of such a government.

In New Zealand, it’s generally accepted that Labour’s main job right now, working with the Greens, is to win the next election.

But it’s not obvious this view is shared throughout the Labour Party, where many people clearly prefer to have a leader they agree with, or feel is “one of us”, rather than a leader with great electoral appeal.

And that, in a nutshell, is the tragedy of the Labour Party. They don’t understand the importance of personality. They don’t have a leader capable of charm and because they changed the voting rules to get rid of the last one they did have, David Shearer, they don’t have the ready means to get another one. It’s not that they can’t win, but they have made it a lot harder for themselves.

It’s fashionable to say charisma shouldn’t matter, that personality politics is a scourge. That’s such nonsense. There’s a good reason voters want to feel we can like and trust our leaders: our trust commits us to the political process, commits politicians to us and helps give legitimacy to lawmaking.

So, what are the prospects for Labour heading into election year? Andrew Little will remain leader so they have to double down on becoming the voice of the future. That’s about policy and articulating a vision. Becoming the champion of the compact city in all its forms – from decent affordable housing to creating a cycling city – is a heaven-sent opportunity.

Will they grasp it? What’s their future if they don’t? On the positive side, there’s only one John Key. When he retires, National will lose its charm advantage. On the negative side, it’s only a matter of time before the Greens find an immensely charismatic leader of their own. When that happens, if Labour hasn’t done the same, they really could be annihilated.

There’s no sign of a charisma threat from Greens at the moment, nor does charisma seem to be lurking in their ranks.  So the left in general seem to have a problem, but Labour has been suffering the most.

Tonight’s debate should be interesting.

Tonight at Ika: Labour WTF? – why, what and how is Labour as it turns 100? Simon Wilson chairs a discussion with Labour president Nigel Haworth, former Greens chief of staff Andrew Campbell, commentator and Labour candidate Dr Deborah Russell and third placed Auckland Mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick. The Spinoff will livestream the event via ye olde Facebook page from 7.30pm

That’s a distinctly left wing panel, but it’s their problem so it’s up to them to show they recognise the challenges they face, if they do.

Chloe Swarbrick seems to be the in person in politics these days, she has been picked up by media and pushed. But it will be a while until she can lead whatever party she may eventually join, if she does.

Green staff turnover

Another significant change in Green party staffing today with the announcement that chief of staff Andrew Campbell is leaving.

While Campbell says that he had planned to leave after the 2014 election he stayed on longer when Russel Norman announced his retirement to assist with the leadership transition.

This sounds quite plausible, but it is the third significant staff member loss.

Stuff: Green Party’s chief of staff becomes latest to resign from party

The Green Party’s chief of staff has announced his resignation – becoming the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the party.

Campbell had been with the Greens for nearly six years, and was promoted to chief of staff after James Shaw became the party’s new male co-leader in 2015.

The party’s communications and policy director, David Cormack, resigned in March – just six months into the job.

Chief press secretary Leah Haines has also announced her resignation to spend more time with her family. She will leave after the party’s AGM in June.

Whatever the reasons and however coincidental the resignations this creates some challenges for the Greens as they work towards next year’s election.

In response to the announcement journalist Toby Manhire tweeted:

Wow. Huge loss.

A triple blow for the Greens at a time that they seem to be struggling to get any significant publicity or traction.

Mathers story seems odd

Just about everything about the story about the Mojo Mathers seems odd – see Taxpayer Union versus Mojo Mathers (the story has developed since then).


There was an article in the Herald on Sunday by Patrice Dougan about deaf Green MP Mojo Mathers that asked more questions than it answered.

Mathers is a very unlikely and unwise target for a petty political attack regarding MP travel when many questions could be asked about use and possible misuse of travel.

Jordan Williams of the Taxpayers’ Union poorly answered questions put to him by the HoS but he denies initiating the issue and he went into damage control quickly.

David Farrar, also involved with the Taxpayers’ Union, had no apparent involvement until making a late comment on Facebook, and posted nothing on Kiwiblog.

Through the day a number of Greens, including co-leader Russel Norman and communications director Andrew Campbell, kept trying to link John Key and National to the attack on Mathers.

Blogger Danyl Maclachlan (who’s partner works in the Green communication team) posts twice making serious accusations about funding of the Taxpayers’ Union and links with the TU and National and reacts aggressively when confronted.

There was no apparent involvement of Labour with no post and from what I can see no mention of this at all on The Standard (very unusual for something like this). Grant Robertson jumped on the bandwagon late yesterday.

The first question asked by the Herald remains unanswered – who asked it in the first place?

The Article

It started with an article in the Herald on Sunday this morning. It was odd. It was by Patrice Dougan – not a name commonly seen associated with political stories. It began:

Questions are being asked about a taxpayer-funded trip for deaf MP Mojo Mathers to be interviewed on a small provincial radio station.

It then detailed Mathers’ trip to Masterton, and quoted her explanation. It then said she “did not know the cost of the trip” but then provided a detailed cost estimate.

It then closed with:

The Taxpayers Union questioned whether it was value for money.

“It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand,” director Jordan Williams said.

“The only silver lining is that the time spent travelling to go on the station in the middle of nowhere is less time spent dreaming up new ways to spend tax payers money.”

Much criticism of Williams and the Taxpayers’ Union ensued. But Williams later claimed that he didn’t initiate the story or ask any questions, the Herald cam to him and asked him for comment.

Back to the opening sentence – “Questions are being asked about…” – who asked questions? That wasn’t answered, but it was implied that it had been the Taxpayers Union.

Green indignation

Social media was buzzing with Green indignation and criticism through the day. Much of it was the usual sort of quick reactions common when something controversial and potentially damaging politically.

But there were some unusual Green reactions as well.

The National Party’s ally doesn’t want Mojo speaking at a rural disability event. Seriously?

John Hart@farmgeek 
If you had any doubt the @TaxpayersUnion is a right-wing attack organ…

Whaleoil, Kiwiblog, Taxpayers Union, John Key. The four legs of the National Party attack dog.

Except Whale Oil and Kiwiblog do not appear to have been involved in this story. Slater reacted late in the morning – he is likely to break stories he is involved with. And Farrar was away on a walk for most of the day and still hasn’t posted on Kiwiblog about it (he covered it on his Facebook page late this afternoon).

Interesting that they’re going after the Greens so much. They must consider you a bigger threat than Labour.

It’s common to see Greens talking up their importance like this when a scandal breaks, there was a lot of it during the Turei jacket episode.


Really glad @mojomathers gets out to rural communities to talk to people with disabilities. National’s attack petty.

@nzheraldnznews are people with disabilities in rural communities questioning the trip? Or just a @NZNationalParty aligned operative?

in actual news @JordNZ, here is a real story on tax payer spending @NZGreens uncovered whole you were chasing $500.

I think Andrew Geddis sums up the National Party attack on @mojomathers pretty well here …

Andrew is “Aotearoa New Zealand Green Party Communications Director”.

Repeatedly linking National to the story and to the Taxpayers’ Union.

Support act

Danyl Mclauclan used to be an accomplished satirist at his Dim-Post blog, but he has evolved into a usually occasional political commentator/activist. Unusually he posted twice today, both on this topic.

Another question for the Taxpayer Union

Here’s my question for the Taxpayer’s Union and the journalists who run their copy. How much of the revenue of the various companies, consultancies and law firms run by the founders and directors of this ‘union’ is taxpayer funded? Given the individuals involved – eg Jordan Williams, David Farrar – I’d be shocked if the taxpayers were paying less than a million dollars a year to the people involved in this organisation who run around planting attack stories against opposition parties.


Slightly more thoughts on the Taxpayers’ Union

Here’s how I’m guessing this works. The (taxpayer funded) opposition researchers in the National Party find a smear story they like. They pitch it to an editor at the Herald and – because they can’t provide comment themselves for obvious reasons, such as John Key’s taxpayer funded golf game – they say, ‘Call Jordan Williams at the Taxpayers’ Union and he’ll give you comment.’

So, that’s sort-of how political media works.

That sounds odd too, as if he is trying pin something on an opponent. Danyls insists he isn’t a Green but has been open about the fact that his partner works in the Green communications team.

I suggested to him on Twitter that “As much chance that #NZGreens could be playing this game as easily as @NZNationalParty are? Party and surrogates could be spinning?”

He usually ignores me but this time responded:

When is the last time you saw me quoted in a media story, vegetable?

And to a tweet from someone else:

Where did you get the idea that I was a member of the Green Party or shared their values? Fuck off lick-spittles.

That’s uncharacteristic and could suggest some sensitivity.

Labour’s involvement

What’s most notable about Labour’s involvement was the absence of any. The Standard didn’t post on it and remarkably there seems to be absolutely no comment on the most talked about political issue of the day.

Grant Robertson joined the issue very late, 8.36 pm last night, with a single tweet.

Lets be clear Jordan Williams and his so called Taxpayers Union are simply a right wing political front. They should be reported as such.

Labour to have been right out of this loop

National’s involvement

Tau Henare tweeted early in support of Mathers…

Dear Mojo, tell these self serving pricks to go find something else to do. You are doing your job. #Endofstory

…and reacted to accusations later:

@Andr3wCampbell So which Nat MP supports the outrageous attack on a fellow MP?

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP Ok bro so there are NO #NatMPs involved as far as we know. Just tell the truth FGS

@Andr3wCampbell And where’s the answer to my question. What MPs belong to #TPU? Answer the blinking question!

This is the face of the @NZGreens Coms Director. 1 He said #NatMPs were involved in the #TPU Debacle. Nope 2. dear #TPU, thanks for nothing.

The @NZGreens Coms Director. 1 He said #NatMPs were involved in the #TPU Debacle. Nope,Liar

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP Shutup you backed the greens Coms director, he said it, you tried to support him! U got caught, you deny it

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP and BTW don’t woah me. Your supposition isn’t the point. There are no MPs and it’s not Nat party apparatus.

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP I have no raw nerves, your mates lied and you over cooked it. Our MPs wld be outrAged at #TPU stupidity.

Judith Collins was only briefly drawn into it.


@tauhenare: @Andr3wCampbell So which Nat MP supports the outrageous attack on a fellow MP?”Tau, you can’t expect the Left to tell the truth

Where does this leave it?

I’ve seen many attempted political hit jobs in media and online and this looks quite different to normal. There’s no sign David Farrar was involved and Jordan Williams did not appear to be pushing the story, to the contrary, he tried to retreat from it. He said it was “a hard lesson learned.”

It looks like a job done by people who are not practiced in the dark arts of politics.

While it’s possible it was opportunist reaction to the story Green leadership and their communications team were actively pushing a wider story, trying to taint the Taxpayers’ Union and also trying to smear National and Act.

But this currently left where it started in the Herald article – “Questions are being asked about …” – what questions? And who asked them?

We know who kept asking questions through the day, but we can’t be sure who put the question to the Herald in the first place.

The Herald is based in Auckland. It reported on a minor trip to Masterton by a Christchurch MP with a low profile. And it’s primary question seems to have deliberately implied something mischievous without answering the question.

There is something very odd about this story.

Green reaction to MRP

After the Mighty River Power share price and buyer statistics were announced last night the Greens were active.

The official word from Russel Norman:

Mighty River con revealed

The Mighty River sale has been shown to be a con on New Zealanders with less than 3 percent of Kiwis buying in and most of the shares going to corporates, Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said today.

“The charade is over: ‘mum and dad’ New Zealanders haven’t bought the shares; the big finance institutions and foreign corporates have,” said Dr Norman.

“John Key’s talk of ‘mum and dad’ investors was a con – less than 3 percent of Kiwis have bought shares in Mighty River Power.

“The fact that Kiwi retail investors are having their allotments scaled back so National can sell shares to foreign corporates shows what a farce this has been.

“The multi-million dollar ad campaign has failed to con Kiwis into buying Mighty River, they want lower power prices instead.

“The supposed 440,000 pre-registered investors turned out to be a figment of John Key’s imagination. The number of retail investors is only half the number who bought into Contact and less than half of what Treasury forecast.

“Over two and a half times as many Kiwis have signed the petition calling for a referendum on asset sales as bought Mighty River shares – that tells you what Kiwis think of John Key’s asset sales.

“John Key has wasted as much as $100m on the sale of Mighty River. That’s nearly $1,000 per retail investor. It’s been a disaster. He should cancel the rest of the asset sales and focus on creating jobs for Kiwis, not payouts for financiers,” said Dr Norman.

Comparing the number of share buyers with the number of petition signers is ridiculous. Signing a piece of paper costs nothing and often spur of the moment, purchasing shares is a significant financial decision.

Greens were active on Twitter:

@patrickgowernz and so 300,000 ‘fake’ registrations Will you report the MRP disaster like that too? Hmm?

@metiria nope

@patrickgowernz really? What a surprise.

It’s not a surprise, there is no indication there were anywhere near that many ‘fake’ registrations – many people who registered simply decided not to buy (like me) –  although there were obviously some:

I was registered fraudulently at least twice, another MP 5 times. I complained to treasury & they wouldn’t fix the system

And ditto on fake claims of the scale of fake registrations from Russel Norman:

So only 113000 retail investors in MRP. So by Key’s logic there were 330,000 fake MRP registrations. Key the conartist

So by your logic, Key had 75% fake registrations @patrickgowernz? Will you run that line?


no surprise there Paddy.


Nats have spent $1000 of taxpayer money per retail investor in MRP. 100000 investors for $100m. Nats waste public money yet again.

More pertinent is querying whether the cost of promoting the share float would have been returned in increased sales interest and value of the sales. That can’t easily be measured – but it would be relevant to compare the cost of promoting this with the cost of promoting other share floats.

The party line:


Key’s ‘mum & dad investors’ line revealed as a con. Less than 3% of Kiwis bought Mighty River shares … stop the sales

@PeteDGeorge@ClintVSmith If that’s why people rejected MRP, it’s only a recognition that NZ Power will bring down prices to fair level

Fair time to announce a policy affecting power prices & excessive profits was before the sale. Not like Key’s secret GST rise

Mighty River sale cost up to $100m: brokers ~$50m, bonus shares ~$40m + ads, fees, etc. What a waste. Stop the asset sales.

No. Key has wasted $100 on a sale that makes no sense & Kiwis oppose. He should be working on jobs, poverty, & sustainability

Plus every single poll has shown a large majority oppose sales.

And the troops – Gareth Hughes:


First asset sale is a total con. Despite spending millions on ads: less than 3% of Kiwis buying in & most of the shares going to corporates!

@Matt_Green sure, but excessive profits in the past should never be guaranteed into the future.

@Matt_Green yeah, I think many did that too. The Govt did sweeten the deal with taxpayer money.

Have a listen to my short speech on #NZPower today. … Greens coming up with solutions while Govt focused on spying laws

@Matt_Green yeah, fair point. I dont think we ever had. We designed #NZPower if assets kept in Kiwis hands or flogged off.

MRP Share price $2.50. Asset sale costs $120m. Free share bribe $400m. Keeping assets Kiwi & delivering cheaper, cleaner power. Priceless.


Andrew Campbell:


@patrickgowernz disaster for govt. way fewer than valid signatures on asset sales petition. Where are all the mums and dads buying?

@johnkeypm should apologise for the rort. How many fake registrations for MRP shares?

@CactusKate2 it was less than Govt said it would get and less than Treasury predicted. Worse than Contact original offer #epicfail

And Hey Clint doesn’t seem happy about it…

@stevenljoyce onyl 113,000? that’s a disaster. So much for ‘mum and dad’ investors

Only 113,000 ‘mum and dad’ investors in Mighty River. What a disaster. that’s half what Contact got. only a quarter of pre-registrations

@felixmarwick @katieabradford It’s the largest now because 2/3rds of Contact shareholders have sold. 113,000 is half Contact’s float number

@k8chap except that less than 3% of Kiwis have bought shares

@patrickgowernz guess the other 330,000 pre-registrations were fakes and false #Keycons Less than 3% of Kiwis have bought shares. Disaster

@VernonSmall Did the other 330,000 even exist? There were dozens fake Russel Normans. Less than 3% of NZers buy MRP, so much for ‘mum & dad’

@patrickgowernz what % of ownership is ‘mum and dad’? Sounds like most is institutional

@VernonSmall so they’re scaling Kiwis while selling shares to overseas corporates?

So much for ‘mum and dad’ investors. Nats are scaling back their investment to sell shares to overseas corporates

@hardsell @patrickgowernz because that would be a taxpayer subsidy, NZ Power gets rid of electric companies’ superprofits creates fair price

massive fail, 97% of Kiwis don’t buy MRP shares. Mr FixIt, Mr ForgetsIt, and Double Dipton f*ck up again @stevenljoyce

@CactusKate2 less than half what Treasury expected, half what Contact got 14yrs ago. So much for ‘mums and dads’ Most shares to institutions

@CactusKate2 what % of Kiwisaver savings are in MRP? What % of MRP do Kiwisaver funds own?

@patrickgowernz @metiria @GuyonEspiner so people who sign petition then move = fake. but 2 dozen Russel Normans pre-registered = real?

@thekiwicanary ‘mum and dad investors’ is Key’s term to make the asset sales more palatable. Hence my inverted commas. Take it up with him.

@sthnjeff would you have preferred the Greens kept their plan to lower power prices secret until in govt? Like Key did with GST?

@CactusKate2 That’s why I thought I’d ask you. #330000short

@patrickgowernz @RusselNorman mate, $100m spent on MRP sale, 113,000 retail investors that’s failure. Asset sales referendum is gonna happen

Hey, where was Key at the Mighty River sale announcement? This is his one economic policy. Such a disaster he wouldn’t front up. $100m waste

@thekiwicanary john key’s twitter account is @johnkeypm if you want to abuse him for calling you a ‘mum and dad’ investor #patronising

@kht27 @patrickgowernz that’s key lies. nz power means only fossil fuel plants affected by ets. Under nats ets, hydro owners get a windfall

@Garner_Live @liamdann @patrickgowernz treasury thought 250,000 would buy. We never imagined it would be this low. Thought at least 200,000

@duckky007 @kht27 @patrickgowernz why? NZ Power eliminates economic rents to hydrodam owners, they’re making those regardless of yr discount

@thekiwicanary @stevenljoyce shld they have kept their lower power price plan secret past election asJoyce & Key did w their sneak GST rise?


Parties versus people

The Green and Labour parties seem to be using and abusing an imbalance of power in their CIR petition campaigning by using taxpayer funded staff and resources and that are not available to ordinary people.

There’s been much discussion about the involvement of the Green and Labour parties in the asset sale petition. This is the first time parties have taken a lead role in a Citizen Initiated Referendum petition and campaigned extensively using parliamentary resources.

I and others have questioned whether parties and MPs should be getting involved in one of the few options available to citizens for questioning what MPs do.

Also queried is whether opposition parties should be contesting a policy that has successfully passed through our legislative system (and survived court challenges).

These questions have been countered by the argument that MPs are citizens too so have as much right to petition and try and have a referendum. Strictly speaking that’s correct, but I think it’s still contrary to the People versus Parliament principle of Citizen Initiated Referendum.

I have also questioned the motivation of Greens and Labour, as they know that even if the referendum takes place and supports their view the Government can and will ignore it. Both Greens and Labour have been part of a Parliament that has ignored past referenda. So it’s reasonable to assume that they are running their asset CIR campaign for political campaigning purposes.

But even if it was accepted that MPs and parties have a legal justification for using the CIR process (moral justification is still questionable) there is one aspect of concern that deserves being addressed.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog has asked Have Labour, Greens and unions broken the CIR Act? He claims that they may have spent more than the limit allowed for running a CIR campaign.

It is clear that Labour, Greens and the unions have spent well over $50,000 in promoting the petition. They have trampled over the intent of the CIR Act which is to stop people or groups from purchasing a referendum. Even worse, they have done it with our money.

In an exchange with Farrar on Twitter Andreew Campbell of Greens has responded:

As I said electoral commission engaged throughout to check if ok

On Kiwiblog lawyer and constitutiional guru Graeme Edgeler gave details of the law relating to spending levels, but raised another point:

While the intent of the CIR Act is to allow people outside Parliament to make their voice heard, the use of it by people inside Parliament doesn’t diminish that in any way.

I do have a problem with parliamentary resources being spent on it, but I don’t have a problem with political parties in Parliament campaigning for a CIR. I just think they should spend their own money to do it.

Edgeler has raised this before on blogs, but also in a submission to the Electoral Legislation Committee on the Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill:

Referendum advertising

17. One of the small changes from the interim legislation is an additional prohibition on the use of parliamentary money to fund referendum advertising. I support this extension, but suggest it should go slightly further.

18. I submit that there should be an additional exclusion on the use of parliamentary money expressly promoting a CIR petition. If it is considered improper for parliamentary money to promote one option in a citizens initiated referendum, promoting the petition to force that referendum to be held must be equally improper.

Having the use of parliamentary funds and staff and the availability of unlimited travel and accommodation for MPs gives political parties a substantial advantage over private citizens when promoting and influencing a referendum vote, and this also applies to petition campaigning.

In a post at The Standard he called The right’s fear of democracy IrishBill claimed that motivation for questioning what Labour and the Greens are doing on the asset sales petition is “is their fear of democracy”. Apart from the nonsense of the fear of democracy claim Irish defends the spending:

“Look” they get their proxies to cry, “look at these leaked documents showing public money being spent on this referendum, oh and unions! boo!”. Of course the problem with this is that the money spent by the Greens and Labour on this petition would have been spent by them on this kind of thing anyway.

That they would have spent their money on politicking anyway is poor justification.In a comment Irish then inadevertently drew attention to one of the biggest concerns with this.

I’m happy for anyone to start a referendum on anything and if they get the requisite number of signatures all power to them.

The problem is that the power is not even. If parties use taxpayer funded parliamentary staff and resources and MPs use taxpayer funded travel and accommodation it puts them at a substantial advantage over private citizens and citizen organisations who would have to fund the petition campaign themselves.

Most citizens don’t have anything like the resources that parliamentary parties have available.

CIR should be a tool for citizens to contest the power of politicians, but when the politicians have substantial advantages the balance of power is severely weighted against the private citizens.

It may be that what the Greens and Labour are doing fits within the letter of the CIR petition regulations, but the parties could easily be seen to be abusing their positions in power.

Greens list a number of their long term goals, including:

11. Power imbalances are reduced and resources are shared more equally.

By using taxpayer funded staff and resources to campaign the Greens are increasing power imbalances.

What Greens and Labour are doing with their CIR petition campaigning is as imbalanced as it would be if National were given say $1 milliion for election campaigning and Greens were given nothing.

Greens often pride themselves on their democratic processes, but seem willing to abuse the spirit of democratic processes (and the spitit of their principles) when it suits them.

I twice asked the Green’s media co-ordinator Andrew Campbell yesterday while he was actively engaging on Twitter:

Do you see how it’s an uneven playing field between parties with parliamentary funding and citizens having to self fund?

He didn’t respond. I’ll keep seeking a response. The balance of power between people and parties is important.

Planet Metiria versus Planet Key

Yesterday was predicted to be an abrasive day in parliament. It was expected that John Key and John Banks would be taken to task at Question Time.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei put a question to Key and followed up with supplentaries that went off on a different planet.

3. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that Hon John Banks has “got a version of events, others have got a different version. It’s not for me to forensically go through that”; if so, whose job is it to hold his Ministers to account for the veracity of their statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : The member is referring to statements made to the police, whose job it is to assess the evidence before them. I have no responsibility for assessing evidence given to the New Zealand Police. However, I would note that the police decided there was “insufficient evidence to consider a prosecution under section 134(1) of the Local Electoral Act …”.

Metiria Turei: Why does the Prime Minister believe John Banks when John Banks says that he did not read his donations declaration even though he signed it, despite comments by John Banks’ ministerial press secretary that he did read the documents and that his campaign treasurer went over the declaration with him?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because I accept the Minister at his word.

Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table an email exchange dated 13 September 2012 between John Banks’ press secretary and a New Zealand Herald journalist where the press secretary first claims that John Banks read the declaration and later clarifies that John Banks’ campaign treasurer went over the form with John Bank.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that documentation. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

  • Document , by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Metiria Turei: Is it a new policy of the Prime Minister that Ministers are not responsible for documents that they sign, and is this a new “don’t read, don’t care” defence on “Planet Key”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I refer the member to the fact that the document was signed when he was not a Minister.

Metiria Turei: Will homeowners on “Planet Key” now be allowed to default on their mortgages and then claim it is OK because they did not read the documents; will business people on “Planet Key” now be allowed to sign illegal—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member. I could not hear her question and it is important I can. I invite her to start again. Members must make it possible for the Speaker to hear the questions.

Metiria Turei: Will homeowners on “Planet Key” now be allowed to default on their mortgages and then claim it is OK because they did not read the documents; will business people on “Planet Key” now be allowed to sign illegal contracts under his new “don’t read, don’t care” defence?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not know so much about “Planet Key”, but my expectations are it would be a lovely place to live, it would be beautifully governed, golf courses would be plentiful, people would have plenty of holidays to enjoy their time, and what a wonderful place it would be. But I would expect people on such a place—referred to as nirvana—to comply with the law, and that is what Mr Banks did.

Mr SPEAKER: Metiria Turei. [Interruption] Order! I want to hear this question.

Metiria Turei: Thank you. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the question.

Metiria Turei: Is there one standard for ordinary New Zealanders, who are legally responsible for any statement or contract that they sign up to, and another for the Prime Minister’s Ministers, who can put their name to whatever falsehood they like as long as they live on “Planet Key”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The question here is whether Mr Banks complied with the law, and it is our belief he did. As I was saying earlier, the law prior to the changes for central government would have seen many members of this Parliament do things that would be illegal today but were legal back then. There are also successful candidates who have funnelled money through trusts, for instance, which are legal when it comes to the law. I expect people to comply with the law. That is pretty simple.

Mr SPEAKER: Metiria Turei.

Metiria Turei: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear this question.

Metiria Turei: Will his Government now be changing the law so that enforcement agencies such as the Serious Fraud Office or the police can also apply his new “don’t read, don’t care” defence, or, again, is it only Ministers on “Planet Key” who are entitled to that privilege?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is missing the point. The point is whether the member complied with the law. The member may not like—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the right honourable Prime Minister, but I will not tolerate that kind of interjection. The member will not do that any further. He knows that it is contrary to the Standing Orders of this House to accuse another member of lying.

Trevor Mallard and Winston Peters then took over, trying to score points against Key and Banks.

But since then Turei seized on a comment by Key and ran (and ran and ran) with it. It sounds like an intended extended use of the term because she said ‘Planet Key’ seven times (twice when she repeated a question).

Soon after a Twitter campaign was started by another Green:

@katieabradford I note he said there were lots of golf courses and holidays on #planetkey. Sounds like a rich mans dream

#planetkey sounds like a gated community in Parnell

And Turei joined in (presumably while she was sitting in parliament):


On #PlanetKey everyone plays golf,never goes to work, has infinite leisure, sounds like the idle rich to me #thatsBankersforyou #nzqt

@chipmatthews yep, #PlanetKey has infinite cash flow from kids giving up their breakfasts and women cleaning his toilet for pin money

@chipmatthews true, on #PlanetKey, everyone can work as servants while the idle rich laze about on golf carts driven by even more servants.

La La Land is the biggest continent “@everjanet@metiria #PlanetKey – would that be the same place as La La land?”

On #PlanetKey solo mums will work for peanuts in Aussie big box childcare centers looking after other kids while their own scrabble in bins

@chipmatthews on #PlanetKey prisons are the housing pens for golf cart drivers and drinks servers. And for making nice maari carvings

#NotPlanetKey “it wld be restored, food for our kids would be plentifu,l people wld have enough to enjoy a dignified life #ttrtpt#PlanetKey

On #Planetkey no one knows what domicility really means

On #PlanetKey Maoris dress like Lady Gaga but sing better aye,@patrickgowernz

@DamienService thx but it’s always a collective effort. If his response hasn’t been so elitist it wouldn’t have gone far.#PlanetKey

On #PlanetKey there ain’t no friggin Afganistanians… but lots of Pomeranians #puppycuddlesfordaddy

True! “@Keyweekat@metiria and #bullydogs”. #PlanetKey

Joined by Gareth Hughes:

Today in Q time John Key said on #PlanetKey it’s nirvana (Golf and holidays) what do you think is on #PlanetKey ?

NASA has announced they are still searching for signs of intelligent life on #PlanetKey

This has now been continued with the Green pseudonym ‘James Henderson’  posting at The Standard:

Journey to Planet Key

In the House yesterday, Metiria Turei threw National’s ‘Planet Labour/Planet Green’ line back at Key, asking if ordinary people get to break the law too or if that privilege is reserved for ministers on Planet Key. Like all little bullies, Key couldn’t take it back. He lashed out and, like Romney’s fatal gaffe the same day, it exposed something of Key’s real world view.

He said that Planet Key “would be a lovely place to live, it would be beautifully governed, golf courses would be plentiful, people would have plenty of holidays to enjoy their time, and what a wonderful place it would be”.

It looks like a planned strategy to try and turn Key’s ‘Planet Green’ line back at him, but it all seems a bit pointless and trivial. Except that ‘James Henderson’ has tried to add the usual gross overstatement of The Standard, talking it up into a ‘fatal gaffe’.

Good grief. What planet do the Greens think they’re on?

And for what? I’ll leave the last word to @metiria

@richardhills777 yeah, lame, but makes me feel great!