Jami-Lee Ross versus Barry Soper

After Jami-Lee Ross was revealed as one of the four people charged by the SFO over the National Party donations issue he released a statement saying he couldn’t say much, but it’s too long to repeat in full here. He headed it ‘Spoke Up Now Set Up’, and began:

Just like donations to political parties, the justice system should be open and transparent. That is what I believe and have sought.

Until now, however, I have been unable to make a public statement regarding these allegations, despite wanting to do so.

That is because at the end of January, the three people responsible for the donations to the National Party in 2017 and 2018 made an urgent application for suppression of their names and any details that might identify them. I was not aware of their application at the time. I made no application for suppression of my own name or details.

While shocked that I had been targeted by the SFO, I had no intention of hiding away. I always wanted to make it very clear that as the whistle blower on this deception, it was outrageous that I was then charged and that others were seeking to implicate me, making me their expendable scape goat.

However, I couldn’t speak up, as I needed to respect the right of those three people to seek name suppression. Further, even though I made no application for name suppression, the same protection was extended to me by the Court despite me not wanting that.

I have complied with the court’s orders to date, as is expected of any person in my position. The public could rightly be outraged, if I did not respect the court’s decision, or if I sought to abuse my freedom of speech in the Parliament to circumvent that decision.

However, in later court documents my lawyers have made it clear that I never sought name suppression and that I do not want it. I have therefore proactively sought to have the suppression orders lifted so that I can make this statement.

Barry Soper has a different take on things: If Ross didn’t want name suppression why did he threaten me?

Surely this came from a man who was muzzled against his will, from a person who blew the whistle that’s now rendered him deaf.

That’s what Jami-Lee Ross, one of the four defendants to the Serious Fraud Office charges which go before the Auckland District Court next week, would have us believe.

The other three, Chinese businessmen who donated two hundred grand to the National Party over two years when Ross was the bagman, made an urgent application for name suppression when the charges were laid, he tells us in a statement where he’s painted himself as very much the victim.

And just to reinforce his muzzled state because of their actions, he says he was unaware an application for suppression was being made and his lawyers didn’t make one for him. He goes on, he had no intention of hiding away but he couldn’t speak up because of the actions his three co-defendants had taken.

The court suppressed his name despite the fact that he didn’t want it, he claims. Furthermore, Ross said the public could be rightly outraged if he didn’t respect the court’s decision, or if he sought to abuse his freedom of speech in Parliament to circumvent the decision.

Then he went on to protest his innocence, vowing to fight the charges just as the three donors have.

For an accused who so desperately wanted to speak out it’s a little difficult to gel that with his lawyers’ reaction to my publicly naming him as one of the defendants on the day the Serious Fraud Office said it was laying charges.

In a text exchange they were blunt to say the least, telling me I was in contempt – the matter is before the court. They told me action would be taken the following day unless his name was taken down from our website: “You are on notice,” they warned.

It was pointed out to them the matter hadn’t been to court yet and maybe they should have been quicker off the mark if they wanted suppression of their client’s name.

“Charges are laid, it’s before the court – we can’t seek suppression till then. The SFO will be in contact. They are also very angry as it now risks the case.

“This contempt is actionable and worse for you, now admitted by you as intentional – ring your lawyers.”

And just to add a final threatening slap, after I said Ross had been named in the public interest, the text read: “I don’t want any crap Barry – but this was silly.”

David Farrar makes a similar claim:

Of course Ross goes on to claim he is innocent, has been set up and Simon Bridges is the Villain. He may be hoping the trial won’t happen until after the election in September.

I’ll wait until the court case reveals what actual evidence there is.

Ross claims to have new evidence  that will turn the legal tide – but like Cameron Slater (who has backed Ross against National) and Winston Peters (who Slater has backed against National)  often make ‘we have evidence’ but fail to produce it. Or at least we are still waiting for them to come up with it.

Claire Trevett: Jami-Lee Ross SFO charges – blowing the whistle NZ politics’ greatest own goal

That’s behind the NZH pay wall, but the headline probably says it all.

Ardern defends CGT and tax plan, Soper sulks

Stuff:  Jacinda Ardern notes ‘vast majority’ would be better off

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered a defence of the proposed capital gains tax plan today, noting the vast majority of Kiwis would be better off.

She also said the concerns of farmers and small business-owners were “top of mind”.

The tax working group, chaired by former Labour finance minister Sir Michael Cullen, recommended the Government introduce a new broad-based CGT on rental properties, land, businesses, and shares, paid at the income tax rate. The family home would be excluded.

This would raise roughly $8.3 billion over the next five years, but that could be ploughed back into the hands of taxpayers through a suggested income tax cut, and another tax break for KiwiSaver accounts. This would deliver a tax cut between $420 and $595 a year for almost all taxpayers.

Ardern said that because of this tax switch most Kiwis would come out financially ahead.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders would be better off. I think New Zealanders know this too: they are not ​looking at the proposals individually but as a potential package where they could receive income tax cuts or a boost to their KiwiSavers.”

“In Australia only 4.7 per cent of taxpayers paid capital gains tax in 2015. Over 95 per cent of Australians pay no capital gains tax in any given year,” Ardern said.

Ardern also sought to downplay the impact of the tax in general, saying it would only affect four per cent of the tax base when fully implemented in 10 years.

“It is far from an attack on the Kiwi way of life,” Ardern said.

She said the purpose of her statement was to make sure that the debate was based on facts, and declined again to endorse the actual plan.

Barry Soper’s take: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in state of shock at reaction to Capital Gains Tax plan

If you thought the Government (well more correctly the Labour Party) is hell-bent on committing political suicide you’d be wrong.

The Beehive is reeling and sitting in the top office of the ever diminishing building Jacinda Ardern’s in a state of shock at the reaction to the Taxation Working Group’s report.

Tax had been talked about so much they decided to hand it over to the Tax Working Group, led by Sir Michael Cullen, who knew better than to ever suggest a capital gains tax, correctly appreciating the political danger of it.

Ardern must have been having a nap during the two campaigns Labour fought and lost because of it.

Now she’s wide awake to the political damage it’s doing to Labour, spending the first six minutes of her post-Cabinet press conference yesterday giving us a lesson on how to report it accurately.

Ardern was at pains to ensure the students understood her lecture. The debate should be about a fairer and more balanced taxation system and is most certainly not an attack on the Kiwi way of life as some have claimed.

In her setpiece lecture she told us small business and farming are crucial to the economy and she wanted to be clear, she said referring to her notes on the lectern, that the effects on them will be at the top of her mind when the options are assessed.

Surely that, coming from the captain, leaves room for a sigh of relief.

As the lesson was drawing to a close she told us the bleedingly obvious: that the tax would be paid only when a capital gain is realised, or when an asset gets sold, so there won’t be an ongoing impost.

Until you’ve sold your next asset that is – and the capital gain on any asset won’t be assessed until after the law takes effect, most likely in April 2021. So the nest egg you’ve realised up until then won’t attract the captain’s call.

By and large, Ardern declared, the tax system was working well.

Yeah well if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.

I wonder if Soper has a property nest egg or two he is worried about being taxed on.

It has been claimed that baby boomers will be hit the hardest by a CGT as many have invested in property aas a retirement fund. I have doubts about this.

If Labour get NZ First to agree to support CGT legislation, and if Labour get back into Government later next year, the CGT will only come into force in 2021. If Labour follows TWG advice and don’t make the tax retrospective, only capital gains from 1 April 2021 will be taxed.

So most of the capital gains scored by baby boomer investers, up until then, should be safe from tax. If they sell up soon they will be sweet.

It will be longer term property investors of the future who would pay the bulk of Cullen’s CGT, while baby boomers bask in their gains untaxed.

Grandstanding pundits versus Simon Bridges

There have been some fairly bitter responses to the National caucus selection of Simon Bridges as their new party leader (and Leader of the Opposition).

Graham Adams at Noted: Bridges and Bennett: National’s B-Team

Noted that the headline frames the new team as inferior (b-team).

Bridges’ other big problem will be convincing the media he is the man for the job. The National caucus obviously took no notice of the many media commentators, both on the right and the left, who were certain that what the National Party needed was Judith Collins, and said so loudly.

Some ‘media commentators’ act more like political activists wanting to have an influence.

Mike HoskingBarry SoperCameron SlaterChris Trotter, Rachel Stewart and Heather du Plessis-Allan all rooted for Collins (although Hosking defected to the Steven Joyce camp late in the piece, possibly aware by then that he had backed the wrong horse, only to find he had switched to another dud).

The hostile reactions to Bridges’ accession suggest that some commentators may not like their lack of influence being so brutally revealed.

Barry Soper in particular seems to be annoyed that Bridges got the job.

Some of the media’s support for Collins, of course, was undoubtedly less about what she might do for the country than what she might do for the media.

Probably. These days controversy and click bait headlines seem more important than independent and balanced coverage.

Journalist grandstanding is a growing issue in political coverage.

Another media trends seems to be that political ‘reporters’ seem obsessed with predicting outcomes to show how good their sources and their political acumen is.

The hissy fits over Bridges’ selection (and Collins’ non selection) may be more than or alternate to “their lack of influence being so brutally revealed”, it may also be in part at least annoyance at their failure to get it right brutally revealed.

Controversial column from Barry Soper

There has been a quick reaction to an odd, seemingly hissy fit column by Barry Soper at NZ Herald. Like

The column – Barry Soper: National selecting Simon Bridges counts itself out of next election

While the National Party whips were counting the votes for Simon Bridges after the second ballot in their super secret caucus yesterday they were also counting themselves out of the next election.

They truly sealed that fate when they did the head count for Paula Bennett over Judith Collins for the deputy’s job. The party’s MPs have ignored, likely at their peril, the wishes of their rank and file supporters who were solidly behind Collins. And they can kiss goodbye to Winston Peters with Bennett part of the mix.

Soper sounds pissed off an petulant.

The new leader is even more morally conservative than Bill English, so when he talks about generational change he’s simply talking about his 41 years, not about where his head is.

That’s a fair observation.

National’s rock solid support, which has been hovering around the mid-40s, will soon become sand through the hourglass. The glass will be set at between a year and 18 months when the party will be spooked by the falling opinion polls, and the vultures – and as we’ve seen by this contest there are plenty of them – will start circling.

That sounds like Whale Oil.

Bridges’ generational change then is about as solid as his claims to his Maori heritage and that of his deputy, neither of whom have made much of it in their rise up through the ranks; not altogether surprising considering their new leader is just three sixteenths Maori and Bennett’s grandmother was half-Maori.

They’re now fully fledged tangata whenua it seems and he’s pleading for the Maori vote, which is unlikely to wash.

That was the most controversial bit. I’m not surprised.

Soper sounds like he can’t except the leadership election result and is lashing out.

 

Ardern mania a self fulfilling media prophecy?

A gushy Barry Soper writes about whether journalists will keep writing gushy stories about Jacinda Ardern.

Also from NZ Herald in the weekend:

When Woman’s Weekly won over the Parliamentary Gallery, or the Herald at least.

‘Denial is guilt’ nonsense

This week Barry Soper stoked speculation about Bill English’s political future – the morning of a major ‘state of the nation’ speech by English. There were the usual denials of any intent by MPs, and the story reach absurd heights when Soper claimed that denials meant ‘proof of guilt’.

NZH: Proof of guilt is denial, and there are denials all around inside National

In politics the proof of guilt is denial and there have been denials all round.

After almost 40 years observing them close up, including 10 Prime Ministers who’ve come and gone bar one, it’s hardly first day journalism. It’s actually getting around the talking to politicians and there’s a common thread that runs through rumbles on leadership, there are denials not just from those who’re involved in leadership but from those who’re close to it.

And the reason for that is simple; they’re the last to know.

This is pathetic.

Politicians get asked many questions, some good questions and some stupid questions.

Soper cannot mean that every denial means guilt. There must be many denials that are genuine and truthful.

That some denials later prove to have been misleading or incorrect doesn’t mean all denials are the same.

Soper is falling into a trap of running a story and trying to justify it by claiming responses mean the opposite of what is said – so that it conveniently fits his story.

There may well be talk of leadership within National – I’d be shocked if there wasn’t, politicians must contemplate future leadership possibilities all the time, especially after elections where a party has failed to remain in government.

Basing a story on ‘denial means guilt’ is very sloppy journalism, regardless of forty years of experience of occasional denials (amongst many) turning into legitimate stories.

Deputy Winston is potentially PM in waiting

Barry Soper seems to have been informed that Winston Peters is not just going to deputise as Prime Minister if he is in the country while Jacinda Ardern is overseas – Soper suggests there is an agreement in the ‘secret’ coalition document that if Ardern stands down as PM then Peters will take over.

Winston Peters’ bark not as bad as his might

It’s now five weeks since she accepted Winston Peters’ proposal, but that behind-closed-doors proposal puts the power firmly in his pin-striped suit.

Peters was keen to have the document released – she wasn’t, after being advised it’d undermine her leadership.

It’s altogether too cute to say their 38-page coalition agreement’s become 33 because some frugal official decided to reduce the font size.

Peters was keen to have the document released – she wasn’t, after being advised it’d undermine her leadership.

As a relatively new deputy leader contemplating the possibility of leadership, that unbeknown to her was about to fall into her lap, she reflected on being Little’s deputy saying she couldn’t imagine doing much more than that because of her anxieties. She said she constantly worried about things and there comes a point, she opined, where certain jobs are just really bad for you.

Ardern said all the things she wanted to achieve could be achieved by simply being a minister which she’d be happy with.

Well two months later she was Prime Minister but with the old political maestro calling the shots.

And if she for some reason can’t go on calling them herself then the coalition deal sees him stepping up to the plate.

That’s a leak that Peters is not likely to be jumping up and down about.

Some journos still promote Peters in his absence

Winston Peters chose to stay away from last night’s minor party leaders debate because Bill English and Jacinda Ardern weren’t taking part. Peters was subjected to a lot of criticism.

But even though he didn’t front up some journalists still promoted him.

From NZH  Minor Party leaders’ debate: The verdicts are in

Audrey Young:

Winston Peters’ boycott denied the public a chance to see that he is still well up to it and denied himself the chance to answers Shaw’s attacks.

Peters wasn’t up to participating in the debate, so this is a strange promotion of him in his absence.

Old school journalists seem to be obsessed with Peters and keeping his election chances alive.

A significantly younger Toby Manhire had a different view:

The NZ First leader might have wiped the floor, but he spurned the prime-time invitation, as he did in the last similar televised debate. He’s a “bad date”, said Shaw, in the funniest line of the night, but Peters wasn’t there to bite back.

Winner: James Shaw
Loser: Winston Peters

Soper and Young might try to vote for Peters even though he isn’t in their electorate.

They and others keep giving Peters a free media ride, including promoting him as ‘kingmaker’. Given that it’s possible that Peters ends up with far more power than he deserves from voting levels, where is the media examination of his key policies, and what he might demand in a coalition?

Peters has the worst reputation of reliability of any MP under MMP, but old journos perhaps with an eye to their own gold cards keep giving him disproportionate coverage and grossly inadequate holding to account.

Politics isn’t theatre

Politics is serious stuff, especially in an election campaign when we get to decide, sort of, who will run the country for the next three years.

Several months ago some journalists openly dreaded a boring election between the two main contenders, Bill English and Andrew Little. All they had to over-embellish headlines was the old troubadour, Winston Peters.

Then Little changed everything when he stood aside, allowing Jacinda Ardern to take over. The media had already played a party in Ardern’s promotion to deputy earlier this year, and this was headlines on a plate for them.

The media was besotted, as were a lot of potential Labour supporters who had had a drought of hope for nine years. So we had ‘Jacindamania’, the ‘Jacinda effect’.

Journos were fizzing at the bung in anticipation of last Thursday’s first leaders debate.  This turned out to be a useful opener, but there was media disappointment at the lack of excitement.

Bryce Edwards summed it up:

Last night’s leaders debate on TVNZ1 was lacklustre. A lot of people will tell you that the debate was quality – it was calm, it was respectful, and it focused on policy. But, actually it was boring and we didn’t learn anything new. Yes, of course they put forward their different policy generalities and attempts to show that they have vision and values. But it was all terribly bland and vague.

Woe is Bryce. A boring debate! Most people find most politics boring most of the time.

We did learn something important and new – two leading politicians could have a respectful debate.

Media would have loved attacks and abuse and mayhem, but here’s an important thing – elections aren’t for the entertainment of journos and pundits. Or they shouldn’t be.

Barry Soper:  The Soap Box: Politics is missing the theatre

Politics is these days missing the theatre, although in fairness Winston Peters is still performing and looks set to be playing the starring role after the vote in three weeks time.

He’ll undoubtedly put on another performance this week while the big players will continue what so far has been a fairly mundane affair…

Woe is Soper – despite continually giving the old Thespian Peters a nationwide soapbox the campaign is still lacking sufficient drama!

And it’s fair to say the current aspirants don’t put in the same election campaign hard slog that former contenders did. Long gone are the daily Town Hall meetings around regional New Zealand, along with the theatre that accompanied them…

Soper is yearning for the past, much like Peters. The world has moved on to much more wide ranging and far reaching forms of communication.

Last week, officially the first of the campaign, saw Jacinda Ardern essentially at schools and tertiary institutions where she was mobbed by students wanting selfies while Bill English also hit learning institutions but at least did venture into a shopping mall for a walkabout among the great unwashed which can be high risk, given they’re expected to shake the hand of any random who approaches them.

But these are essentially the fill-in events while they prepare and perform for their spin doctors away from the cameras for the main event, the television debate. There’s another one of those tonight and another one on Thursday.

Actually there is going to be a town-hall type debate in Christchurch tomorrow night – where opposing leaders contest, rather than an old fashioned one party PR exercise that Soper seems to prefer,

You’d have to wonder what they can say that hasn’t already been said but with the political tumult of the past several weeks, the only thing that’s predictable about this campaign is the unpredictable.

Many voters want to be able to actually assess the capabilities and policies of the politicians, and these debates are the best way most have of doing that.

They aren’t looking for the best actor – to the contrary, they want to most credible and most capable leader. There are far more important things to do in running a country than supplying drama and headlines.

In trying to decide who to vote for I try hard to see past the headlines, past the theatre, past the noise and nonsense, so I can judge policy details and especially competence.

Cut health spend on smokers?

I had to read this headline several and opinion piece several times to figure out what Barry Soper was trying to say.

The Soap Box: Govt should put money where its mouth is and cut health spend on smokers

The drive is now on to have this country smoke free by 2025 – fat chance, but nevertheless it’s better to have a target to increase awareness than none at all. The smoking trend in this country is fortunately on the downward slope, even for the most prolific smokers, 18 to 24 year olds, who’ve kicked the habit with 24 percent of them still smoking, down 4 percent on 10 years ago.

Government subsidised quit smoking aids are plentiful, from nicorette chewing gum to patches and are available for a nominal fee for up to two months.    They’re now legalising E-cigarettes, and not before time, but for some unknown reason they’re resisting a subsidy at this stage for the nicotine liquid that goes in them.

If the Government’s really serious about making us healthier and cutting the health spend on smokers then it should put our money where its mouth is.

Soper is actually calling for a subsidy on E-cigarettes (that would be probably be controversial) presumably to help reduce tobacco smoking, which would reduce health costs, therefore the Government spend on health. That would take time.

Would a Government subsidy on E-cigarettes be a good social investment?

One possible ill-effect could be encouraging non-smokers to use subsidised vaping.