Little changes Pike River commitment

This week Andrew Little changed his commitments on Pike River, from seeking another expert report and “leave it for the experts”, but two days later said the experts say that safe re-entry can be done and he will make re-entry a priority as Prime Minister.

On Monday Stuff reported: Labour leader Andrew Little not giving ‘false hope’ to Pike River families ahead of visit to the West Coast

Little stands by his promise to seek another report by world-leading experts and make a decision on whether to re-enter the mine based on a third opinion.

To date the Government has a report saying it’s too dangerous while the Pike River families have their own report saying it’s safe.

In response to whether the findings of a third report would be treated as gospel, Little said, yes.

“I’m not going to give false hope to people but I’m not going to deny them realistic hope either.”

He said a third report would mean “you’ve got more experts than not saying what is practical to do”.

You’ve got to leave it for the experts and show respect to them.”

Little is clearly saying he would “leave it for the experts” and abide by a third report in making any decision.

However on Wednesday via the Labour website: Bill English needs to back Pike River Bill

Bill English has been hiding behind the legal excuse that any attempt to re-enter the mine to recover the bodies might place the mine’s owner, Solid Energy Limited, and its directors in breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

“My Health and Safety at Work (Pike River Recovery) Amendment Bill removes that risk and, therefore, removes the excuse the Prime Minister is using to block recovery operations that international mining experts maintain are feasible and not unduly risky.

“I will be tabling the Bill on the first day of the new Parliamentary session on 7 February and I challenge the Government to back it.

“Bill English can’t hide behind this excuse unless there are other reasons he has for not wanting recovery to happen. He needs to front up and do the right thing for the families of the Pike River miners who have been waiting too long for their men to be returned.

“As I have said all along, Labour supports safe re-entry, which the experts say can be done. I want justice for the families who have suffered the worst workplace tragedy in decades.

“If New Zealanders choose to change the Government this year, re-entering Pike River will be a priority in my first hundred days as Prime Minister,” says Andrew Little.

http://www.labour.org.nz/bill_english_needs_to_back_pike_river_bill

This gives quite a different impression – that Little “supports safe re-entry, which the experts say can be done”, and ” re-entering Pike River will be a priority in my first hundred days as Prime Minister”.

Nothing in that about a third report and leaving it to the experts.

 

Labour sleepwalking towards a nightmare election

Labour really needed to start election year strongly. There is no sign of that so far.

Labour had a fairly ordinary year in 2016. And ordinary wasn’t good enough.

Andrew Little seems to have established himself as unchallenged leader and has kept the Labour caucus under control, but he has failed to grow into the job.

Mid year Labour signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party, with the apparent aim of presenting a joint approach as a government-in-waiting. Some said that it was a game changer. It seems to have changed nothing – to the contrary, it has entrenched Labour as a struggling mid level party that requires another party as a crutch.

Labour had some successes later in the year. They were very pleased with their efforts in the local body elections, especially in Wellington (ex leader Phil Goff managed in Auckland more on his own).

They had a successful by-election in Mt Roskill, with Michael Wood replacing Goff, and they said this was a great trial run for the general election.

The post-by-election confidence turned into euphoria when John Key announced he was stepping down. Labour seemed to see this as a gift from political heaven, another game changer.

But nothing much seems to have changed.

A Roy Morgan poll taken over the period of Key’s announcement showed a recovery for Labour to 28.5% from an outlier low of 23%, but their January poll just out has Labour slipping to 27%, and Labour+Greens dropped 3.5 to 39.5%.

Colmar Brunton’s last poll in November had Labour at 28%.

Little conceded recently that Labour was polling poorly – “I have to lead a party that starts from 2014 at a 25 per cent vote, polling at the moment at late 20s, 30 per cent sort of mark. So we have a lot of work to do, and I don’t underestimate that.”

But the work he has done so far this year is unimpressive.

This week Little announced that he wouldn’t be standing for the safe Rongotai electorate and would go list only. He should have said this as soon as Annette King announced she would  stand down before the Christmas break.

Little also joined the political fray over Pike River, attacking Winston Peters and offering a solution to re-entry. He will present a bill to Parliament that will dispense with responsibility for safety of entering the mine – something he had lobbied hard to embed in legislation.

On social media Labour has put some effort into negative campaigning, attacking Bill English a number of times. This seems to be repeating the failed strategy of attacking Key over a decade.

Labour thought that the Mt Albert by-election in February would be a good opportunity for them to promote themselves, get positive media coverage, and have another trial run for the general election.

But they may have walked into potential jeopardy, with Greens standing a candidate against them.

Standing Jacinda Ardern looks a bit like rearranging the deck chairs. At best Ardern will win the seat with a comfortable majority. That’s what is expected.

But it could be worse than that.If it looks like a jacked up joint publicity between Labour and Greens the voters may rebel.

Julie Anne Genter looks like a stronger candidate, and the Greens will want to put in a strong showing for themselves. They won’t want to just bolster Labour.

If Ardern’s vote slips too much, and if Genter seriously challenges her, it could turn to custard for Labour. The reality is that the best way that Green can grow their vote is to cannibalise Labour support.

Little and Labour really have to up their game. So far this year there is no sign of that happening.

Little has said their will be few if any major policy announcements – they will concentrate on highlighting common policies with Greens.

Little will share his ‘state of the nation’ speech platform with Metiria Turei.

There is no real leadership from Little, there is no real leadership from Labour. They look nothing like a head to head competitor with National.

There may be some big change or some big event that turns out to be a real game changer for Labour. Little may suddenly find a way of engaging and impressing. Plodding along won’t suffice – they need to change their game significantly.

But at this stage Labour looks like they are sleepwalking towards a nightmare election.

Little bill to enable Pike River re-entry

After visiting the Pike River picket line today Andrew Little said he would table a bill in Parliament that would remove an obstacle to re-entry into the Pike River mine.

RNZ: Labour would remove liability for Pike River re-entry

Labour leader Andrew Little plans to table a bill in Parliament removing liability from the directors of Solid Energy so that the Pike River Mine can be re-entered.

He said the government claimed the mine could not be re-entered because of the liability risk, so on the first day of the new parliamentary year he would seek leave to table his bill.

That would exonerate Solid Energy’s directors from being held liable for any harm to people taking part in the mine re-entry, he said.

Mr Little said the victims’ families were promised everything that could be done to recover their loved ones’ bodies would be done, and the government needed to follow through on that.

This doesn’t guarantee re-entry, it would just remove one obstacle.

Little had earlier said that he supported an independent investigation to see if mine re-entry was safe enough to attempt.

He said that if the Government did not allow his bill to proceed he would add it to the Members’ ballot.

NZH: Labour leader Andrew Little proposes health and safety exemption for Solid Energy

During a visit to Greymouth today, Little said he had a solution.

“We can actually deal with that threat of liability for the [Solid Energy] directors by legislating to prevent that happening in this particular case.

“What I pledged to the families is that on the first day of Parliament I will seek leave to table a bill that does just that.”

He added: “It removes any risk of liability for the directors of Solid Energy in relation to any attempt at re-entry for the purpose of recovering remains or any bodies in the drift leading to the mine.

“And I’m working on that bill now, I’ll have that ready to go on the 6th of February.”

He won’t be tabling the bill on February 6, that’s a Monday and also a public holiday (Waitangi Day).

Speaking in Parliament last year, English said Pike River was the “most dangerous workplace in New Zealand“, and approving a re-entry would go against the very health and safety laws passed by Parliament in response to the disaster.

English said Little himself had lobbied for the safety changes.

“The member should understand the legislation which he advocated for, which brings together judgement about safety and legal responsibility for anyone in that workplace,” he said.

“So whatever any independent expert says, someone who is responsible for anyone who might go into that mine are legally responsibly for their lives.”

So Little is proposing an exception to the safety laws he lobbied for.

 

Little: “there’s not a great deal more”

While Labour and the Greens are ramping up their co-campaigning, announcing they will have a joint ‘state of the nation’ speech at the end of the month and will tour the country with a joint policy statement, Andrew Little has oddly said that “In terms of big, headline stuff there’s not a great deal more. There will be maybe one possibly two more.”.

That is quite vague as we head into election year.

The union between Labour and Greens seems to be Labour’s headline campaign strategy.

NZ Herald: Expect join Labour-Green policies in the lead-up to the election

Leader Andrew Little told media that his party had one, maybe two, big policy announcements to make in election year, but would mostly focus on existing messages around key issues including housing affordability, crime, education and health.

“In terms of big, headline stuff there’s not a great deal more. There will be maybe one possibly two more. There will be some rules about fiscal discipline that we are working on at the moment so people will have a clear understanding about what our priorities are when it comes to government spending and taxing.”

This lack of preparedness at this stage of the term is remarkable – Labour always seem to be working on policy at the moment, and with “not a great deal more” to announce I wonder what they are going to base their campaign on.

Little said he would not announce new policy on January 29.

That’s his best shot at being noticed in setting out Labour’s campaign plans and he’s not announcing any policy? Remarkable.

“You can expect to see one or two joint policy announcements in the next few months between Labour and the Greens.

“There are plans to do that in different sort of ways. One of them is to get around the country with a joint policy statement – talk to a collection of audiences right across the country on a policy area that we have common ground on. People will see that as the year wears on.”

The Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Greens seems to have been a flop. When it was announced there was a lot of hope expressed on the left that it would lift poll numbers, but that didn’t happen. If anything Labour looks more precarious.

Yesterday in Labour leader Andrew Little to stand as a list candidate, leaving Rongotai open Little acknowledged Labour’s poll problems:

“I have to lead a party that starts from 2014 at a 25 per cent vote, polling at the moment at late 20s, 30 per cent sort of mark.

So we have a lot of work to do, and I don’t underestimate that.”

The biggest emphasis from Little seems to be on what Labour and Greens have in common and how they can work together on. This seems a very risky strategy, and one that can’t be undone or diverted from easily.

It looks like Labour are putting Green eggs in one election basket.

Or is it the other way round?

redeggsgreenbasket

Is there not a great deal more than this for Labour?

State of Labour-Green nation

In an unusual move the Labour and Green parties are having a joint ‘State of the Nation’ speech, on 29 January. Both Andrew Little and Metiria Turei will outline their party and joint plans for the year.

Posted by Andrew Little on the Labour Party website:

Labour and Green Party to host joint State of the Nation event

Posted by on January 17, 2017

For the first time Labour and the Green Party are holding a joint State of the Nation event.

Labour Leader Andrew Little and Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei will speak about their priorities for the year in Auckland on Sunday 29 January.

The leaders will discuss the social and economic challenges and opportunities facing the country and present a vision of the stable, responsible, alternative that the parties will offer New Zealand.

Details
Labour/Green Party State of the Nation event
When: 2pm Sunday 29 January
Where: Mt Albert War Memorial Hall
773 New North Road, Mt Albert, Auckland

Posted by James Shaw on the Green Party website (curiously):

Labour and Green Party to host joint State of the Nation event

James Shaw MP on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 – 08:57

For the first time Labour and the Green Party are holding a joint State of the Nation event.

Labour Leader Andrew Little and Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei will speak about their priorities for the year in Auckland on Sunday 29 January.

The leaders will discuss the social and economic challenges and opportunities facing the country and present a vision of the stable, responsible, alternative the parties will offer New Zealand.

Details

Labour/Green Party State of the Nation event

When: 2pm Sunday 29 January

Where: Mt Albert War Memorial Hall

So they are identical announcements. Obviously both parties are keen to be seen as working together closely.

A different slant on it from Turei via email:

For the first time in history, we will be holding a joint State of the Nation event with the Labour Party.  This is a historic event where we will be starting off the year with our combined vision for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Will you join us?

Labour Leader Andrew Little and I will speak about our priorities for the year, plus the social and economic challenges and opportunities facing the country.  But most importantly, we will present a vision of the stable and responsible alternative our parties will offer Kiwis like you.

The event will be held at 2pm Sunday 29th January at the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall 773 New North Road, Mt Albert in Auckland.  RSVP today.

If you can’t join us in Auckland, we will be live streaming the event on our Facebook channel.  We will send out a reminder on the day so that you can be part of this important moment, which shows the important friendship between the Labour Party and the Green Party.

Andrew Little won’t contest any electorate

Labour leader Andrew Little has announced a decision not to stand in any electorates this election. He will stand on the list only. If he remains as leader he should be number 1 on the list so barring a Labour electoral catastrophe he should make it back into Parliament.

Stuff: Little flags away Rongotai, New Plymouth to go list-only for 2017 election

Labour leader Andrew Little is to run as a list-only candidate in this year’s election, opening the way for councillor Paul Eagle to win the party’s nomination for the Rongotai seat.

Little has previously been defeated in the New Plymouth seat twice by National backbencher Jonathan Young but it was long rumoured he may seek to stand in Deputy Leader Annette King’s Rongotai seat, where he lives, if she stood down.

King has decided not to stand in Rongotai this year and is also going list only (unless she retires altogether).

He formally told his fellow MPs of his decision on Monday at a caucus retreat in the Wairarapa.

“I’ve told them I will be a list-only candidate. I’m not seeking nomination or selection for any seat,” Little said.

“Leading a general election campaign I need the flexibility I have had for the last two years of being able to be, in effect, anywhere anytime.”

At the leadership level you were “MP for the whole of New Zealand” and that was the way he saw the job.

In general I agree that a major party leader – and especially the prime Minister – are better suited to be list only and not committed to a single electorate.

However Little has a credibility problem, having never been successfully elected by voters.

Little said Eagle, who has confirmed he is considering contesting Rongotai, was the leading contender, though Little said he did not know who else might be interested. .

He had won council elections, organised well, and was a very strong identity with good connections in the area.

“He has got everything you would need for a good, effective MP,” Little said.

Ironic comments given their contrast with Little’s lack of electoral success.

Little said he had been waiting for King’s announcement to be tied down before making his call.

Rongotai members had asked him to consider standing, but after giving it a couple of days’ thought he decided to stay with his view he should remain a list MP.

That was last year. It seems off he has waited until now to announce it, especially given that Eagle announced his interest in standing in Rongotai the day after King announced she was stepping down.

Little versus Peters on Pike River

Winston Peters has kicked off his political year by picking up on his Pike River posturing, but criticism of Labour has prompted a retort from Andrew Little.

NZ Herald: Little: Peters’ Pike River re-entry comments ‘cheap’

Peters said his party believed in a report that said there is no technical mining reason that re-entry could not be achieved safely.

“We believe your report and believe that a party should be allowed to enter the drift to look for your men,” Peters told the meeting.

“And to all those who say we’re not serious on this promise we say, our party will make re-entry into Pike River a bottom line at the next election.”

That’s a repeat of what he said late last year.

The Paroa Hotel is owned by Bernie Monk, whose son Michael died in the mine. Monk said a crowd of more than 100 gathered to hear from the NZ First leader.

“He was overwhelmingly applauded by the people here today … he is the first politician that has really stood beside us and made his feelings known.”

This comment grated with Labour supporter Anne at The Standard:

Well, that’s a bit rich coming from Bernie Monk. Either he’s showing a political bias or he has a poor memory. Andrew Little (starting before he became leader) spent many hours/days/weeks over time talking with… comforting… trying to do everything he could to get the men back into the mine. I recall question after question after question in the debating chamber. He has never given up.

But of course Andrew doesn’t use his personal support for political gain. He just gets on with what he knows should be done. How many hours/days/weeks has Winston spent on the West Coast trying to help the victims of the tragedy?

Peters had a specific dig at Labour:

Little has promised that a Labour Government would get an independent assessment of the mine and re-enter it if it was declared safe.

Peters told the meeting that promise was “weak and disingenuous”.

“It means, ‘sometime never’. You already have a thoroughly professional report from world leading experts in this field. How many more reports do the authorities need before they can say ‘Go in’? What more proof could they possibly want?”

Andrew Little took issue with Peters’ comments.

“One thing I am never going to be challenged by Winston on is my commitment to Pike River. And the difference between me and Winston Peters is I wasn’t sitting in a Cabinet in the 1990s that undermined our health and safety regulations in mine regulations, specifically,” Little told the Herald.

“This is a serious issue. Put aside the, I thought, cheap call about Winston leading a team in there – that is disrespectful to the mines rescue folks and others who are experts – you do want the best possible decision to be made.”

Peters and Labour seem to be intractably at odds over Pike River re-entry.

Peters wants to go with the report obtained by (some of the) Pike River victims’ families and says NZ First “will make re-entry into Pike River a bottom line at the next election”.

Little wants an independent assessment, which seems sensible. But presuming such an assessment isn’t done before the election that would appear to make a coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First impossible – unless either Little or Peters change their stance.

While Monk and some of the Pike River families are trying to talk re-entry of the mine up into an election issue I’m not sure that the wider public vote will define the election by it.

But the political posturing could define the next government, which based on the stated positions of National and Labour versus NZ First that would leave NZ First out of any coalition.

Andrew Little on UN Israel vote

Andrew Little has stated support for the Unites Nations vote against Israeli settlements.

Two weeks ago Whale Oil reported Little as saying:

It would be a weird friendship if one of its conditions was to accept uncritically everything it did. While I respect Israel’s right to defend itself against hostile neighbours, and it has a few, it doesn’t have the right to appropriate land that is not legally its land.

The world is prepared to support a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and is frustrated Israel says it wants peace but acts in ways contrary to it. I want peace for Israel, and peace for the Palestinians. I also want both to observe the international rule of law.

Yesterday from NZ Herald: NZ right to condemn Israeli settlements despite ‘bluster’: Andrew Little

Backing a UN resolution against Israeli settlements was the right thing to do despite “bluster” from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Labour leader Andrew Little says.

“The international community has clearly expressed a view that Israel needs to take seriously the two state solution. Which it’s rhetoric says that it believes in, but it’s actions suggest something else.”

“I think once you get past the bluster of Benjamin Netanyahu and focus on what the real issues are, and the international law issues are, then it’s a no-brainer. And it’s in everybody’s interests for pressure to go, not just Israel but on the Palestinian Authority, to achieve a lasting settlement.”

Little said despite the controversy surrounding the issue of settlements, it was necessary to “stand back and say, ‘what is right?'”

“The State of Israel has internationally-recognised borders, it is settling its own people outside of those borders and encroaching on territory that ought to be the subject of a settled peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“In the end there are bigger issues in the Middle East and bigger threats to Israel than just the Palestinian Authority. If that issue is settled then it makes it easier to deal with the other threats to Israel, and the international community wants Israel to be strong and secure and at peace.”

That sounds like it is based on good advice.

Green MPs “a really busy and positive year”

The Green Party have good reasons to be fairly happy with their year.

James Shaw has settled in as co-leader after Russel Norman’s exit in 2015, they secured a Memorandum of Understanding with Labour, there’s been no major embarrassments or stuff ups, John Key stepped down, they gained a second new mid-term MP (Barry Coates), and two more MPs indicated they would step down next year making room for more fresh faces (if they at least maintain current levels of support).

The loss of one of their most respected MPs, Kevin Hague is a negative but not a major considering how everything else has gone for them.

Metiria Turei reflects on 2016 and looks ahead in Well, THAT happened: reflecting on 2016 and beyond:

2016 for our MPs

Green MPs have actually had a really busy and positive year working on the nation’s most pressing issues: poverty and inequality, housing, climate action, inclusive education, safe drinking water and clean rivers to name a few. We’ve been talking with people up and down the country, promoting legislation, setting out the solutions, and, where possible, working with other parties in Parliament to achieve progress.

They have done as much as could be expected from Opposition, and have been visibly more active on policies and issues than NZ First and probably Labour most of the time. The are far more organised and persistent in social media.

2016 for us and Labour

In May, the Green Party signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Labour. It’s the first time political parties have reached such an agreement before an election, and means we get to have a conversation with New Zealanders about why we are working to change the government.

We worked constructively with Labour on the Homelessness Inquiry and early in 2017 you’ll see us working together on a range of other issues.

The Greens got what they wanted with the MoU and are happy with it, but it’s yet to be seen whether it will help their cause. They are very reliant on Labour to get into Government and are keen to do what they can to make that happen – but they also want to increase their share of the party vote relative to Labour to give them more leverage.

2016 for me

For me, this year has been one of consolidating my work on housing and inequality because I am determined to do all that I can to ensure that families have the resources they need to nurture their babies.

We need mothers educated, healthy, and secure so that they can shape the future of our nation. It will be women that determine the fate of our country next year, make no mistake.

I don’t know how that will work, there are about as many male voters as there are female.

So, I’ll be spending the summer resting and getting ready for a busy 2017. I want to spend time doing craft, reading, walking my dogs and connecting with my whānau so that next year I can run hard with the Greens to change the government.

‘Change the government’ has been repeated a lot by the Greens and Labour already, trying to get voters thinking about it being time for a change.

Turei is well supported and respected amongst her own. It’s yet to be seen whether she can appeal to a wider constituency so that Greens grow their vote (they failed to do that last election) and so that Andrew Little and Turei (plus James Shaw) look like a viable alternative to run the country.

If Little continues to try to appeal more to the left than the centre Greens and Labour may end up competing for the same votes – unless they can find the formula for inspiring current non-voters to back them, a strategy that failed last campaign.

But with Bill English taking over from Key next year’s election is wide open.

Greens thought they had their best shot in 2014 and that didn’t work out for them. They get to have another go – and it may be Turei’s last shot at making it into government.

An un-contested by-election?

It’s possible Jacinda Ardern could win the Mt Albert by-election uncontested, if no other candidates stand.

David Shearer’s resignation from his Mt Albert electorate has precipitated a by-election next February.

Ardern has expressed an interest in standing. If she gets Labour’s nomination it would be very likely she would win the by-election.

National has decided it would be futile to stand a candidate so have chosen not to. That’s a pragmatic decision.

Greens and NZ First chose not to stand candidates in the recent Mt Roskill by-election. It makes sense for them to also stay out of the Mt Albert by-election.

This would make the by-election virtually uncontested. All it would take to avoid the cost and futility would be for no other candidates to stand, so Ardern would win the electorate uncontested.

There is a chance an attention seeking candidate would stand against Ardern, forcing a million dollar farce. All it takes to stand for election is two nominations from voters from the electorate – the candidate themselves don’t have to live in the electorate.

It’s most likely at least one other candidate will put themselves forward, but there would probably be little media interest and little voter interest.

An uncontested by-election would be the logical option but that’s probably a long shot.

It’s also possible Labour’s nomination might be contested.

Would Laila Harre be tempted? Probably not in Mt Albert, she has been linked to New Lynn.

Would Andrew Little bet tempted? Again probably not, he has shown no inclination to relocate from Wellington to Auckland.