Political carols

Excerpts from Toby Manhire: Walking in a Winston Wonderland

We Three Things:

Jacinda Ardern solo:
Just a kid from Moh-orrinsville
Keen to help out Andy Little
It’s not hubris, to just do this
Truth is that I quite like Bill
*
James Shaw solo:
Great Together, I believe in
Speak the truth – that’s how we win
Metiria, great co-leader
Popped into recycling bin
*
Winston Peters solo:
Had enough? Too right they had
Status quo was very bad
Need a deadline? Watch it, Sunshine
Covfefe, believe me, sad!

We Wish you a Merry Christmas
Feat Bill English

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And would just note in passing that the National Party won more votes than anyone and yet is not in government which a lot of ordinary New Zealanders will find surprising as they approach their Happy New Year.

Gareth the Red Mo’ed Reindeer
As sung by Gareth Morgan

Gareth the Red Mo’ed Reindeer
Had a very small ego
But all the lipsticked reindeers
Were a bunch of thick bozos

Fiscal Spells
As sung by Steven Joyce

O! Fiscal spells, fiscal spells
Fiscal hole, OK?
O what fun it is to ride
When you’re running the campaign.

Little Drummer Boy
As sung by Andrew Little

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
Just a new deputy, pa rum pum pum pum
Must replace Annette King, pa rum pum pum pum
Anyway you know what happened after that and it’s all fine now.

Mārie Te Pō
As sung by Don Brash

Mārie te pō, tapu te pō
Marino, marama
Ko te Whāea, me te Tama
Tama tino, tapu rā
Moe mai i te aio
Moe mai i te aio.

Google doesn’t translate that well, but it is obviously

Silent night, holy night, calm, bright etc.

Whāea is mother, Tama is boy/sun but no sign of a virgin there.

 

“What National needs to do” – a transparent envelope

‘Cameron Slater’ in  The back of the envelope analysis of what National needs to do to win in 2020 at Whale Oil:

National still has no path to 61 seats and victory.

That is the key.

They do have various paths to forming the next Government (‘victory’ is not a thing under MMP). It won’t be easy for them – and it won’t be easy for Labour, NZ First or the Greens either.

The problem is like a rotting fish for want of a better metaphor. Everyone knows the ancient proverb that a fish rots from the head down.

And so it is with National.

While Bill leads National, National has no route to 61 seats in the house.

Let’s face it, Bill English is basically devoid of personality.

English was actually credited with running a very good campaign, showing his own personality, and achieving a very creditable result for a third term party in government. He missed out on remaining Prime Minister because NZ First chose not to back them, that’s all.

He tried to emulate John Key’s blokiness and just came across as fake. You can’t spend a lifetime in the beltway scheming and plotting to counter for your own lack of ability and not have it affect your personality. When your chosen career of politician is a career actually chosen for you by your Mum then there is no real driving force inside of you…other that seeking power for power’s sake.

So it’s another attempt to trash English. Another of many attempts.

How popular National would be if they got rid of Bill English and a few other hangers-on like Nick Smith and Paula Bennett.

And others. Slater has been naming National MPs for months that he doesn’t like so wants them out.

So, what National needs to do is lop off the stinking, rotting head of the fish, and get themselves a new leader and deputy more suited to the modern political environment. That team must also show that unlike Labour, they have personality AND the necessary skills to lead the country.

Labour succeeded this year due to the personality of Jacinda Ardern.

English led the country for nearly a year, and was generally regarded as successful at that, except by extremists with their own agendas at the likes of The Standard – and Whale Oil.

All National needs to ask itself is “What is our route to 61 seats?”. As soon as they realise that Bill English won’t provide that route because of his long, long, long history then he will have his political throat cut. If he’s smart he will do it himself after wangling some offshore job somewhere…but he has only a limited time to do it.

Slater offers no analysis of what National should do except dump English and others he doesn’t like. His envelope is very transparent.

I think that English did the right thing staying on as leader of the Opposition. When Helen Clark and her deputy Michael Cullen stepped down straight after losing in 2008 Labour were rushed into appointing Phil Goff as a caretaker leader, and then struggled for nine years until the fortuitous rise of Ardern.

It may well be that it is best for English to retire, but it would be silly to rush that. Other senior National MPs will no doubt also step aside during the next couple of years. They will do it their way, not jump to Slater’s agenda.

And despite repeatedly trashing those in National he holds grudges against, as he did through the election campaign and since, Slater is still largely failing to rouse support on Whale Oil.

Tanya Stebbing commented:

English actually did lead National to an election win, he did brilliantly, it was just that Winston had an axe to grind. Well, Winston won’t have the chance at the next election, so it will be down to Labour/Greens versus National/Act, and if the new govt continue performing poorly they may well lose more votes. We will see petrol hikes next year, no tax cuts, inflation rise, food and services go up. Once people get hit in the pocket, votes become very volatile.

I hope English stays on, he did an outstanding job, wouldn’t it be amazing if he got up yet again for third-time victory, one that is unable to be stolen and there are no coalition nonsense talks! Now, that would be sweet indeed!

That got 24 upticks.

Christie, unlike Slater, tried some analysis (4 upticks):

I have said this before. I believe NZF will be gone t the net election, as Winston has promised and failed to deliver one time too many. That will leave 3 parties in place – two of which are joined at the hip. We will effectively be back to FPP and there is no reason why National cannot govern in such circumstances.

That’s one possibility that looks reasonably likely. Slater responded (1 uptick):

There is plenty of reason. Firstly you are defying the vagaries of MMP. Nowhere int eh world that has MMP has one party ever governed alone.

That doesn’t mean it will never happen. It’s quite feasible that NZ First and Greens miss the threshold next election if they disappoint voters this term. That will leave National and Labour and possibly ACT. A one party government would be likely, unless National tacked ACT on again.

Secondly…what is National’s path to 61 seats?

That’s about the extent of Slater’s ‘analysis’, a question he fails to answer except for banging on about a purge of people he doesn’t like.

I’ll suggest some possibilities to a pathway to 61 seats for National.

Leaders and MPs not rushing into retiring. Being an effective opposition. Coming up with a sensible set of policies. Running an effective campaign in 2020.

Other things largely outside the control of National will also play a major part in any pathways, like how Ardern measures up as Prime Minister, how Labour Ministers perform, how Winston Peters performs, whether Peters retires or not, whether Shane Jones looks anything more than an maleloquent idiot, how James Shaw performs, how the Greens perform.

National did remarkably well for a party in their third term in Government in this year’s election, and they managed that without heeding Slater’s advice.

My back of the envelope analysis of what National needs to do to win in 2020 is to continue to keep as much distance as possible from Slater and his transparent agenda.

More futility on the tax cuts that won’t be

Parliament kicked off again today with questions to the Prime Minister about the planned reversal of the legislated tax cuts. I don’t think anything much was gained in the exchange, but Bill English made several points amongst the exchanges.

Rt Hon Bill English: So can the Prime Minister confirm that, under the Taxation (Budget Measures: Family Incomes Package) Act 2017, which is currently the law of the land, as supported by National, the Greens, and New Zealand First, a teacher on the average wage would, from 1 April 2018, pay $1,060 less in tax if the current law was to continue in place?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have already answered that question, but, as I continue to point out in this House, it is a hypothetical question because that law has not come into effect, and it won’t come into effect.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister aware of just how many families are in a category similar to a teacher on the average wage, who would pay less tax from 1 April 2018 if the current law was allowed to continue?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m glad the member raised the effect on families. As we’ve said, we will not be proceeding with fully bringing into effect the tax-cut package that he introduced, because it gives $400 million to the top 10 percent of earners when, in fact, this Government’s priorities, which are different, will see 70 percent of families with children better off—70 percent.

That’s 70% of families with children, not families without children, and not households without children.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister aware that there are 1.2 million households who do not have children under the age of 18 and, in addition to that, that there are 700,000 superannuitants who would benefit from the reduction in tax that is currently on the law book in this Parliament?

Labour have been trying to divert from those demographics that will not benefit from their planned changes.

Many of them will in fact pay more tax as a percentage of their income as pay rises will increase the proportion of their income taxed at their highest (marginal) rate.

Rt Hon Bill English: Why did her Government decide that money should be taken from a teacher on the average wage and spent on what is now widely regarded as an ineffective policy of providing the first year of tertiary education free for the overwhelming number of young people, who are going to do it anyway?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: First of all, I would say that we have taken nothing away from income tax earners, because they have not received it.

That is a poor way of describing things.

I earn money, and my employer takes money away from me as PAYE tax and ACC Earner Premium, on behalf of the Government.

Under current legislation the Government would take less away from me from 1 April next year.

Under legislation planned by Ardern’s Government more tax will be taken away from me each pay than what is currently legislated.

Perhaps to emphasise her view of how income tax works Ardern repeated herself.

Rt Hon Bill English: Will the Prime Minister answer the question this time, and that is: if it’s unfair for a tax cut that might benefit members of Parliament, why is it fair to remove a tax cut for a teacher on the average wage so that my children can have a much larger subsidy to attend their first of tertiary education?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: First of all, we have removed nothing from those taxpayers.

The Government removes tax from us every pay.

Second of all, I would wager that a number of those teachers would welcome the idea of not having been burdened with student debt by making education more accessible.

And I would wager that a number of teachers would like to pay less income tax so they can pay off their student debt faster, or pay off their mortgages faster, or save more for a deposit to buy a house.

Ardern’s Government plans to take more tax away from many people than English’s government legislated for.

But it’s often futile getting straight questions and straight answers out of politicians,.

English succumbing to bark at every car syndrome

Opponents claimed the Key/English government cost lives, now English is trying that same attack. This looks both petty and highly questionable.

English seems to be quickly succumbing to barking at every car syndrome.

I thought he could be good in Opposition, even decent, but he seems to have chosen descent.

This won’t help National recovery and rebuild. English needs to relearn being an effective Opposition, or else he is unlikely to last out this term.

 

Extreme claims after to ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ campaign launch

David Seymour hopes his Member’s Bill on euthanasia will come up in Parliament for it’s first vote soon and has launched a campaign, but there has already been some ridiculous comments fro  National MPs Maggie Marry and Bill English.

NZH: Heated words from both sides as euthanasia vote nears

The first vote in Parliament on a bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia is near but National MP Maggie Barry’s description of it as a “licence to kill’ and a disruption at Act leader David Seymour’s campaign launch in support of the bill showed how heated the issue will be.

That’s ridiculous from Barry. Bein an MP doesn’t give her a license to be stupid.

Seymour, whose bill was drawn from the ballot last term, launched the campaign at Parliament today alongside MPs from other parties, End of Life Choice’s Dr Jack Havill and Matt Vickers, the husband of the late Lecretia Seales.

Seales unsuccessfully took the issue to the High Court after she was diagnosed with a non-operable brain tumour and died in 2015 soon after the High Court ruled it could not grant her wish and said it was up to Parliament to change the law.

The bill could get its first reading on Wednesday night or early next year.

The first reading of the End of Life Choice Bill is expected to be early next year and MPs will have a conscience vote on it.

Vickers, on a visit from New York, said Seales would have been delighted to see the legislation arrive at Parliament and urged MPs to support it.

“Obviously when she took the court case her ultimate goal was to get legislative change and this is the mechanism by which that happens. So she’d be very happy to see that this was going ahead.”

It has support from MPs in every party in Parliament.

It is a conscience vote for most MPs and those in support at the launch were Green leader James Shaw, National’s Nikki Kaye and Chris Bishop, and Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway.

Nobody from NZ First was at the event and NZ First leader Winston Peters later said his party would support it at first reading but after that support would be conditional on whether a referendum was held on the issue. He said the public should decide – not 120 MPs.

His own ranks appeared split – MP Shane Jones said “I do not support euthanasia” but later clarified that did not mean he would not vote for it to be debated at select committee.

I don’t think it is a suitable issue for a referendum. MPs and parliament need to take responsibility for something like this.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would support the bill because she believed people should have choice.

“I will always look for safeguards in place to make sure no one is ever manipulated or left vulnerable. But I also support people having their own choice in those circumstances.”

Note that it is generally younger MPs in support of people making their own choices about their own lives.

National MP Maggie Barry was also vehemently opposed, saying it was a “licence to kill.” She said there were no protections for the disabled, the elderly or the vulnerable. “It would make us the most liberal country in the world to die.”

Extreme rhetoric.

However, National leader Bill English – a Catholic – said he did not support euthanasia and believed Seymour’s bill was worse than others that had come up because it lacked the necessary safeguards.

If it passes the first vote then suitable safeguards should come out of the committee stage.

In the lead up to the election, Bill English said it was wrong to link suicide and euthanasia ().

Today he said: “It’s going to be a bit tricky for Mr Seymour to answer the question as to why some suicides are good and some are bad.”

That’s a petty and pathetic comment from English.

End of Life Choice president Maryan Street urged MPs to at least let the bill go to select committee for submissions.

“That way they can find out what it is really about, the safeguards provided in it and the checks and balances to be followed. In those respects, it is similar to legislation in other jurisdictions around the world.”

She said there was strong public support for the move and MPs should consider that when weighing up their decision.

“We want people to have the confidence they have the choice to die well, not badly, at the end of a terminal illness or when they can no longer bear their irremediable condition. We want them to have a choice.”

I want to have a choice. I don’t want the Government and some MPs dictating what I can or can’t do with my own life.

I understand  that some people are against it – but they don’t have to speed up their own deaths.  It is aimed at being voluntary.

Ardern wants cross-parliament support for anti-poverty measures

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants to avoid political bickering over putting some priorities on reducing child poverty levels. She will set ‘flexible targets’ later this week. I wish her luck with that, but  National campaigned on reducing poverty so should broadly support further measures if they make sense.

Stuff:  PM Jacinda Ardern hints the Government will set flexible child poverty reduction targets

The Prime Minister has strongly hinted the Government will set child poverty reduction targets with enough flexibility to make it hard for the Opposition to vote against them.

In her weekly press conference Jacinda Ardern, who is also the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, said legislation for child poverty targets would be announced on Thursday and she wanted to steer away from the issue being seen as “political”.

“I think most people would agree that regardless of the political party you’re in we all have a goal to improve the wellbeing of kids. What I want to see is successive Governments commit to focusing on lifting children out of poverty.”

Ardern said her bill, which would be introduced in the new year, came out of recommendations from the Children’s Commissioner, not her own party.

“In my mind that was a good starting point to try and build some consensus”.

“My view is that we will not get a long standing consensus on issues like child poverty and like climate change until we can get over the three-yearly political cycle.”

As a result Ardern said she had drafted the bill keeping in mind “what is most likely to succeed in Parliament” to try and get Opposition support.

While there should be some debate and, if genuinely warranted, holding to account, but it would be good to see Parliament working positively to address problems with deprivation, especially involving children.

“In approaching child poverty we want to make sure this isn’t just a slogan,” said English.

“The practicalities are that after the Government’s done the package on the first of April they won’t have anymore money to do anything about lifting incomes, and they don’t seem to be that interested in dealing with the social dysfunction that keeps families in poverty.

“Whatever target they set it will be impossible for them to lift incomes beyond the number of kids who come out of poverty from this first package. They won’t have the cash to do a second round because they’ve spent all the money on tertiary,” he said.

That’s a bit of a negative prelude from English.

Much may depend on the details of the package that Ardern announces later this week.

English v Ardern on sanctions on benefits

In Question Time today Bill English asked Jacinda Ardern about the use of sanctions in relation to getting unemployed people into work.

Winston Peters chimed in with a question/comment about saddling up a gift horse.

2. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): In the context in which they were given, yes.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she stand by her statement in regards to her Ready for Work scheme, or Work for the Dole scheme, that: “Our view was that you couldn’t compel people to take up a job.”

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When I was discussing the way that we would role this programme, we were acknowledging that there’s a range of ways in which we could encourage the uptake of the opportunity for employment. I have also acknowledged that sanctions have long been a part of our benefit system, and that won’t change. Ultimately, though, this is a Government focused on getting young people into work.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she agree with the statement of her Minister for Regional Economic Development in regards to the Ready for Work scheme that, “They’ll be made to go to work. … there will be no more sitting on the couch.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said, sanctions have long been a part of our welfare system, and that won’t change.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she therefore agree with her parliamentary under-secretary Jan Logie who said: “Benefit sanctions punish families who are already struggling to get by …. These are not the actions of a decent and compassionate government—benefit sanctions are punitive and cruel, and it’s going to take a change of government to get rid of them. … The Green Party in government … will immediately end … sanctions.”

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister has no responsibility for Green Party policy, or statements made by someone who was not an under-secretary at the time.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she agree with the statements made by members of the Green Party in support of the Government that they oppose sanctions on benefits and intend to roll back those that exist?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I absolutely stand by the Labour Party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party, which says that we will look at the excessive use of sanctions within the welfare system. I have to say, the excessive use of sanctions ballooned under that last Government, because rather than focusing on providing employment opportunities like this Government, that’s what they resorted to.

Rt Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister now outline Government policy on sanctions as they may apply to young people who have been on the unemployment benefit?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have already given a general statement that sanctions have long been a part of our welfare system, but details around the way our particular policy around getting young people into work will go to Cabinet and decisions will be made collectively. But what I am happy to say is that, unlike the last Government, we are not willing to allow more than 70,000 young people not in employment, education, or training to have their lives wasted.

Rt Hon Bill English: If a young person who may be eligible for a scheme of this nature refuses to participate, or attends for a day or two and then refuses to attend, will the Government apply sanctions to them?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve given the general principles that we’ll be working to, but final decisions of the programme will go to Cabinet. But, again, this Government is entirely united behind the idea that young people deserve opportunities, and under this Government they’ll get them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Prime Minister whether it’s her Government’s attitude that the wealth of a country is in its working people, and whether it would be refreshing if some people, instead of looking a gift-horse in the mouth, decided to put a saddle on its back and be grateful?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: This is a Government that is focused on providing employment opportunities, and that’s exactly what our Minister for Regional Economic Development has been speaking to. Unlike the last Government, who labelled young people “pretty damn hopeless”, we’ll get them into jobs.

English versus Ardern on the coalition document

Opposition leader Bill English questioned Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the so-called secret coalition document in Parliament today.

Ardern:

I have never denied the existence of these documents. The question is whether or not everything that was enclosed in them were agenda items that we will pursue, and some of them we will not. That does speak to the heart of whether it is an official document. As I say, I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him giving his consideration to the question.

 

Draft transcript:


Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her Government’s policy that they will “strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes. In fact, later today the Government will be releasing the Cabinet paper on the change-negotiating mandate for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to ensure greater transparency for New Zealanders around that deal—transparency that, I have to say, they didn’t have under the last Government.

Rt Hon Bill English: Has she seen references by the Deputy Prime Minister to a 38- or 33-page document as containing “[directions] to ministers with accountability and media strategies to ensure … the coalition works.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. The coalition document has been released and is publicly available, but, as the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday, when it comes to other ideas that were discussed, if they are found to be workable and are likely to be progressed, then details will of course be released and made public.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is there a document including content she described yesterday in answer to a question about the previously mentioned document: “Every government has a work programme—things … they look in to. [At] The moment … we see some benefit and that it’s something that will progress, that’s the point at which it will be made public.”, and does that mean there is such a document with policies in it that have not yet been made public?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We’ve always been very clear that in the course of a negotiation, a range of documents are exchanged. The question is whether or not all of them will be progressed and whether or not they are official. Nothing has been given to Ministers; nothing has been given to Government departments or officials. Those issues that are progressed and become Government policy will be made public.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is there a 33-page documented draft arrangement between Labour and New Zealand First that you are working from when determining—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m not working from any such document. The Leader of the Opposition will try again.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is there a 33-page documented draft arrangement between Labour and New Zealand First that the Government is working from when determining the Government programme?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The coalition agreement that we are working to has been released and is publicly available. Those are the policy and programme items that we are committed to. As for any other documentation through the course of negotiation, we’ve been open that they have existed. That does not mean that those are the firm commitments that we have signed up to, nor that they will ever be progressed. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I just want to ask Dr Smith to, if he is going to interject, interject using the proper form of a member’s name.

Rt Hon Bill English: What, then, does she believe the Deputy Prime Minister was referring to in his description of a 38-page document as “a document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said, there were other documents exchanged during the course of the negotiation, but the one that we are committed to and working to is in the public domain. As the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday, if any of those other policies or ideas that we discussed are pursued, they will be publicly released and they will be made available.

Rt Hon Bill English: Has she seen the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister that the document includes policy issues such as the measurement of unemployment—”[We’re actually] agreed to work on”—and that that might mean policy commitments have been made, similar to those in the public coalition document?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I was actually standing next to him as he said it.

Rt Hon Bill English: So what is the difference between policies agreed on in the already published coalition document and policies referred to by the Deputy Prime Minister that are agreed in this 33-page document?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: You can hardly argue that that particular item was secret given that the Deputy Prime Minister said it out loud yesterday while I was standing next to him. The point is that, as we’ve said, if there are policy items or agenda items that we choose to pursue, we will make them public at that time. The only items that we have officially committed to have become part of our coalition agreement and are made publicly available already.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is it the case that the document that has been referred doesn’t exist or is it the case that it exists but she is withholding it under the Official Information Act because she believes it not to be official information?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve acknowledged that there are documents that were exchanged during the negotiations, as there will have been by the Opposition. I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him making a decision on whether or not we’ve made the right classification of this documentation. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr Brownlee, very close.

Rt Hon Bill English: Given her description that documents were exchanged, is it the case that one of those documents was a 33- or 38-page document including directives to Ministers, policy items that were agreed, policy item that would be worked on, but she is withholding it because she does not regard it as official information?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have never denied the existence of these documents. The question is whether or not everything that was enclosed in them were agenda items that we will pursue, and some of them we will not. That does speak to the heart of whether it is an official document. As I say, I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him giving his consideration to the question.

[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr Brownlee, very close.

Rt Hon Bill English: Given her description that documents were exchanged, is it the case that one of those documents was a 33- or 38-page document including directives to Ministers, policy items that were agreed, policy items that would be worked on, but she is withholding it because she does not regard it as official information?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have never denied the existence of these documents. The question is whether or not everything that was enclosed in them were agenda items that we will pursue, and some of them we will not. That does speak to the heart of whether it is an official document. As I say, I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him giving his consideration to the question.

More on Paid Parental Leave plans

 

 

The secret coalition document

The Labour is taking another hit on it’s promise for more transparency in Government after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has refused to release a coalition document.

Newsroom: Kiwis left in dark over secret document

The Government is refusing to release a secret document with directives for new ministers, despite Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters promising it would be made public.

The existence of the 38-page document was first revealed by Peters the day after Labour and New Zealand First signed a more slender eight-page public coalition agreement.

Speaking to media after the allocation of ministerial portfolios, he described it as “a document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development”.

“These are directives to ministers with accountability and media strategies to ensure that the coalition works, not in a jealous, envious way, ‘We got this and they got that’, but as a government successively, cohesively working.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into it, in fact day one of our negotiations that was the first subject we raised, how are we going to handle a cohesive coalition arrangement?”

At the time, he said the document was still being finalised, but would cover the appointment process for diplomats.

Peters said then the document would be made public, saying it was “for the province of the Prime Minister to release”.

However, in response to an Official Information Act request from Newsroom seeking the document’s release, Jacinda Ardern’s adviser Heather Simpson claimed “the Prime Minister does not hold any such official information”.

Simpson’s letter referred to Section 2 of the Act, saying official information covered only information held by “a Minister of the Crown in his official capacity”.

The Ombudsman’s OIA guidelines for ministers state that while official information does not include information held by a minister in their role as a member of a political party, “such information may become official information if it is subsequently used for official ministerial purposes”.

Newsroom has appealed the Government’s decision to the Ombudsman.

Not surprisingly National has picked up on this. Bill English: Secret agreement needs to be made public

The Prime Minister needs to release the Government’s secret agreement with NZ First which the Deputy Prime Minister says outlines the way ministers will behave, deal with the media and be held accountable, National Party Leader Bill English says.

“The document, confirmed by Winston Peters, goes to the very heart of the formation of the New Government.

“It is unacceptable for the Prime Minister to claim it’s not public information. It is and the public deserves to know how the new Coalition, and therefore the country, will be run.

“This is not the openness and accountability promised by Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters and enshrined in the public version of their Coalition agreement.

“It’s certainly not them living up to their promise to ‘strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information’.

“This lack of transparency is becoming a habit for this Government. It is also refusing to answer even the most basic questions in Parliament as well as written questions from Opposition MPs and queries from the media.

“It doesn’t seem to understand that part of running a country is being sufficiently organised to be up front and to justify and explain the decisions it is making which affect the lives of New Zealanders.

“When these decisions continue to be so ill-thought through and rushed then that’s of even more concern. They appear to be both disorganised and secretive.

“New Zealanders deserve to know what Labour has promised NZ First and how this agreement affects them,” Mr English says.

Most opinion seems to be that the document should be made public, either legally or on principles of transparency..

But Ardern is adamant that transparency only applies when it suits. Stuff: Government denies there’s an ‘official’ coalition document still to be made public

On Monday at the Prime Minister’s regular post-Cabinet press conference both her and Peters denied there was an “official” document to be released other than the coalition agreement that has already been made available.

“We did release the coalition agreement and we were very clear, both actually on the ways that we would work together, but also on the agenda items that we as two parties have formally committed to – so in our minds we absolutely have made public those things that we’ve made commitments to,” Ardern said.

Both Ardern and Peters said notes were made during negotiations, which included further work that could be done under the coalition agreement but wasn’t yet finalised.

“Yes, of course we made notes during the course of those discussions including further areas that we may undertake some work…some issues will see the light of day and at that point we’ll make sure that people are absolutely clear that that was part of our conversation with NZ First but others may not.

“There are constraints on us as a government, not least the financial constraints we’ve been left by the last government so there’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said.

“There are other areas we may explore together that may be found to be unworkable, that may be found just to be fiscally irresponsible, that may never be progressed.”

This seems to be the way the Ardern led Government intends to operate – they will be transparent in due course.

As acting Prime Minister while Ardern and Peters were overseas Kelvin Davis appeared to flounder in Parliament when he kept answering questions with non answers, like (9 November).

We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

And like (14 November):

Decisions on interim targets to achieve these housing policies will be made in due course.

Winston Peters also joined the stonewalling yesterday (something he has a long record of hypocrisy on) with some back flipping thrown in:

Peters drew on Moses and the ten commandments to try and make his point, saying, “Moses came down from the mountain and only had ten commandments right? But there’s a lot in the Old Testament as well.”

Peters said the suggestion this was a “secret agreement” was “demonstrably false”.

“I was talking about how we will compartmentalise work of the type that’s just been discussed, send it off to ministers to do some work and see what the result is.”

He said an example of some of that work was how to find a new way to measure unemployment.

“We’ve agreed to work on those things and when we’ve completed the work we’ll tell you what the outcome is.”

This is providing some easy shots from the Opposition:

However, National’s leader Bill English has demanded the government release the agreement, saying it’s “ridiculous for the government to claim either it doesn’t exist or somehow it’s not official information”.

“I think it’s remarkable the prime minister has decided the public should not know about the detailed negotiations between Labour and NZ First because clearly the public agreement is not one they take seriously.

“It was going to be a billion trees, now it’s going to be half a billion trees, they were going to go into Pike River and now they might go into Pike River – we can go through the list of undertakings that they don’t appear to be able to keep,” English said.

This closely follows other examples of a far from open Government – see yesterday’s Government not walking the transparency talk.

Journalists tend to despise information being held from them. Claire Trevett: PM Jacinda Ardern’s hat trick on ‘secret’ document

What Ardern was trying to say was that the coalition agreement was not a full and final settlement – but could be added to. There was, it seemed, a long wish list by NZ First which Labour had not unequivocally said “no” to.

The public might be entitled to presume that what was in the coalition agreement was the cost of NZ First’s support for Labour.

We don’t need to wait for ‘in due course’ to see whether the Government was bullshitting us over promises of increased transparency, it is becoming obvious already they are no better than something that has deteriorated under the past two governments.

It now seemed that may have been only a down payment – but nobody will know what else might be extracted until it is done.

Ardern justified this by saying she did not believe it met the criteria of “official information” that merited release.

This hovered perilously close to former Prime Minister John Key refusing to release information by claiming it happened when he was acting as party leader or a normal human being rather than as Prime Minister.

Labour railed against Key and his many hats, yet here was Ardern merrily leaping to the hat rack herself.

Anyone thinking Ardern may herald a new era of openness should reconsider. She seems to be reverting to opaque and secretive and fobbing off type, like any politicians who think they can get away with it.

I think it’s quite damaging for Ardern’s credibility. She is accruing quite a negative record already.