Should voters have known about NZ First Foundation charges?

Winston Peters is justified in feeling annoyed about the timing of the SFO announcement that they had “filed a charge of ‘Obtaining by Deception’ against two defendants in the New Zealand First Foundation electoral funding case”.

The charge was filed on 23 September but the announcement was delayed due to a flurry of legal actions taken by lawyers acting for NZ First.

Tim Murphy covers the legal proceedings here – NZ First’s desperate flurry for court secrecy

As the Serious Fraud Office prepared to announce charges against two people in its New Zealand First Foundation investigation, the New Zealand First political party and one of the accused were so desperate for secrecy they launched a blizzard of legal action claiming to involve three courts at once.

Even the courts and judges appeared to struggle to keep up with applications being sought, withdrawn, granted, appealed and delayed as New Zealand First and Co tried to stop the news of the “obtaining by deception” charges, which carry penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment, from being made public.

In the end, the public’s right to know such information in the lead-up to the election won the day.

While the timing is tough on Peters and NZ First, do voters have a right to know about the charges? Suppressing this information from voters until after the election may have been a worse option. Murphy also tweeted:

With Peters and NZ First so heavily involved in this it is impossible to separate the Party from the Foundation.

Peters has attempted to do this, saying “today’s decision by the Serious Fraud Office exonerates the New Zealand First Party of any electoral law breaches”. It doesn’t exonerate anyone.

As the people being charged aren’t current MPs or candidates it seems fair to suppress their names for now, but it’s ridiculous claiming it has nothing to do with the Party. The Foundation was set up by the Party for the Party.

Andrew Geddis via RNZ: NZ First Foundation arrangement ‘unprecedented’ – law expert

The New Zealand First Foundation arrangement with the New Zealand First Party “is completely unprecedented,” law expert Professor Andrew Geddis told Checkpoint.

“The NZ First Party has tried to draw a distinction… between its foundation and the National Party, which has a foundation as well. But the National Party foundation is run completely in line with electoral law, and is simply a way of gaining long term donations which are then invested,” Professor Geddis said.

“This was a foundation where people would put money into the [NZ First] foundation rather than give it directly to the party. Because it was put into the foundation it wasn’t being declared to the Electoral Commission as the law required, and then the money was being spent on New Zealand First Party activities rather than the party spending its own money.

“So it was like a shadow parallel funding structure that paid no attention to electoral law, even though it ought to have.

“It’s very hard to say how these two things can be separate, when it was the New Zealand First Party that decided it wanted to set this thing up, and the NZ First Party benefited from the NZ First Foundation paying all its bills,” Professor Geddis told Checkpoint. 

“So I don’t care what technical legalities you throw at it, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s probably a duck.”

In response to Peters’ warning the case cannot be discussed as it is sub judice, Professor Geddis said: 

“We can’t talk about the people who has been charged, we can’t speculate on that because there’s name suppression, but in terms of discussing the outline of the case, discussing the background facts and so on, those are all in the public record. 

“Sub judice is something people throw around when they don’t want to talk about an issue. It doesn’t mean you can’t talk about anything to do with the case.”

Obviously it doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the case (except for what is suppressed). Peters had his say at the media conference yesterday and in his statement, and closed saying ““Neither I nor any other party is allowed to make any further comment on this matter because it is now sub-judice.”

That’s just an attempt to stop questions being ask, or is an excuse to not answer questions.

But predictably it hasn’t stopped comment.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): Winston Peters’ smoke and mirrors fails to hide the truth

The news amounted to a validation of an investigation by Stuff journalist Matt Shand published last November, and subsequent reporting from RNZ’s Guyon Espiner, reporting that financial records showed donations to the foundation had been used to fund an array of campaign and political expenses, but with the donors’ identities not disclosed.

Not that you would have learned as much from the first few minutes of the New Zealand First leader’s remarks.

The party had been “fully cleared”, Peters claimed – largely ignoring the fact that two people had been charged, and instead leaning on the SFO’s clarification that neither of those was a sitting MP, staffer, candidate, or current party member.

Of course that doesn’t exclude people who may have been any of those things at some time in the past.

He claimed “a James Comey-level error of judgement” had been perpetrated against his party, harking back to the former FBI director’s ill-fated decision to reopen an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server on the eve of the 2016 United States election.

But that analogy crumbles at the merest examination. The primary problem with Comey’s decision was that Clinton had already been investigated and cleared over the matter earlier in the year, with the FBI director publicly reopening the matter against official guidelines only to reach the same verdict.

The SFO has clearly found enough evidence to feel a prosecution is worth pursuing, and while the accused are certainly entitled to a presumption of innocence, a decision not to lay any charges whatsoever would have been another matter altogether.

The New Zealand First leader has habitually sought to distance himself and his party from the foundation’s operations, a strategy he turned to on Tuesday: “The foundation is an entirely separate entity [from the party] but that distinction will be lost on some, and deliberately confused by others.”

At a superficial, technical level, Peters is correct. But that ignores the broader truth: that the foundation appears to have funded a number of the party’s activities in recent years, from a guest appearance by boxer Joseph Parker at its 2017 conference to legal advice for an MP and a swish new website and donations platform.

The specifics of how foundation money was spent have yet to be tested at trial, but New Zealand First has not contested that it benefited financially from the trust – merely that it believed the foundation’s structure was legal, and in any case was separate from the party.

But separate does not mean independent, and if the party has benefited from the foundation it seems fair for it to take some responsibility for any wrongdoing, even if not in a strictly legal sense.

But Peters continues to distance himself from any involvement or responsibility.

Technicalities may make a difference in a legal Court, but not so much in the court of political opinion, and that seems to have had a say in polls through this year.

While the February announcement of the SFO investigation may have played some role in its electoral decline, it is nobody’s fault but the foundation’s if (as the agency has concluded) it has a case to answer in court, while there are myriad other unrelated factors that have hobbled the party. 

Polls have fluctuated quite a bit for NZ First through this term, but have been low a number of times prior to the February 2020 announcement. here are some:

  • February 2018 – 2.6% (CB)
  • May 2018 – 2.4% (RR)
  • January 2019 – 2.9% (RR)
  • February 2019 – 3.0% (CB)
  • March 2019 – 2.3% (RR)
  • May 2019 – 2.8% (RR)
  • January 2020 – 2.5% (RR), 3.6% (RR)
  • February 2020 – 3.3% (CB)

The highest NZ First polled in 2018 was 5%. The highest they polled in 2019 was 4.3%. So they were struggling before the SFO investigation.

National and Labour have also been connected to SFO investigations this term. It would have been unfair on them if NZ First had their connections to an investigation and charges suppressed until after the election.

NZ First may even benefit from the current publicity, something they have been struggling to get much of this term.

Covid isolation charges announced

The Government has announced that a small number of people will be charged for some of the costs of the 14 day Covid isolation required of everyone coming into the country – “$3100 per person in a room, $950 for each additional adult and $475 for each additional child sharing the room”.

$479 million has been budgeted for managed isolation until the end of the year, but in Parliament Minister Megan Woods said:

Indicative modelling shows that the scheme would generate between $2.2 million and $8.8 million a year at a cost of recouping that of $600,000″.

That works out to about $1 to $4 million until the end of the year out of the $479 million cost so you would have to wonder whether it is worth it.

At this stage it is impossible to tell how long isolation will be required – going by how Covid is increasing in many parts of the world including parts of Australia it could be some time.

Also from Parliament:

Hon Gerry Brownlee: What is legally challenging about saying to New Zealanders who are coming back to this country, having been away for quite some time, that the costs of their managed isolation, the cost of their re-joining the team of 5 million, is a charge that they need to meet?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: This is a complex legal area and, I know, an easy political sound bite, but the advice that we have worked through in a lot of detail with Crown Law is about whether any charge to enter a public health managed isolation facility, a requirement of entry to your own country, that is placed on all New Zealanders, constitutes a barrier of entry to your country. 

I don’t know why some can be charged if it is supposed to be legally difficult to charge people. And Government legislation is supposed to make whatever they want legal.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Why has the Government not come to Parliament to introduce a law that would make legal the charges that she apparently says cannot be applied, so that the taxpayers of New Zealand can be relieved of some of this extraordinary burden for people who want to come back and join the team of 5 million?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Because this Government has come to this Parliament with a law that is not going to be legally overturned by the courts. What it does is it puts in place a regime that does not trample on the bill of rights and the rights of New Zealanders to return to their country. The member may like to look at the legislation that has been tabled this afternoon.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Where does the Minister think a law passed by the Parliament of New Zealand would be overturned by the courts?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: A thing called the bill of rights.

Not sure why the Bill of Rights stops them charging some but not others.

And I thought that checking legislation against the Bill of Rights was standard practice.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: So does her policy mean that a business person travelling offshore to gain new markets for New Zealand will pay for their managed quarantine when they come back but someone who had chosen to make a life offshore, perhaps for many years, will come back into this country to join the team of 5 million paying nothing?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The regime that we have outlined today would see anyone that was leaving for a holiday or for business pay for their isolation and factor that into the cost of their trip overseas. 

This may delay people going overseas to try to do business. It could cost me my job.

Legislation for managed isolation payments

Legislation to allow the Government to recover some of the costs for managed isolation and quarantine will be introduced to Parliament today, said Minister of Housing Megan Woods.

“The Bill will allow the government to charge for managed isolation and quarantine facilities. We have carefully considered how to design a system that is fair on arrivals and not a barrier for returning to New Zealand, especially for those who might already be experiencing financial stress,” said Megan Woods.

“We want to share the costs in a way that fairly reflects the benefits to both the New Zealand public of having such a robust system, and those who leave and enter the country. 

“As Minister I am proposing to only charge New Zealanders who enter temporarily, or who leave New Zealand after the regulations come into force. Temporary visa holders would have to pay unless they were ordinarily resident in New Zealand before the border closure, and left before the border closure. I intend to seek Cabinet agreement to a charging structure of $3100 per person in a room, $950 for each additional adult and $475 for each additional child sharing the room. There will also be mechanisms to allow charges to be waived in full or in part,” said Megan Woods.

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill provides a legal framework to allow the Government to set payment terms, exempt groups of people and waive charges in cases of financial hardship. It will also ensure that recovered charges do not exceed the actual costs of managed isolation and quarantine.

“The legislation will be passed next week before the House rises for the parliamentary term, and will enable regulations to be developed. Further details of the charging scheme and when it will come into force, will be announced soon. Charges will not apply to anyone entering New Zealand and going into MIQ before regulations are in force.

It is forecast that more people will be travelling and arriving at the border. The Government has set aside a total of $479 million dollars to pay for the costs of Managed Isolation facilities until the end of the year.

SFO charges involve two $100k National donations

Newsroom: Not one, but two $100k donations to National in court

Court charging documents released to the media by order of Auckland District Court Judge Edwin Paul today show that three of the four defendants – whose names are suppressed ahead of a hearing next week – each face two joint charges of deception over a sum of $100,000 donated to National in 2017 and $100,050 donated to the party in 2018. The maximum penalty if convicted on the charge is seven years’ imprisonment.

The fourth person is charged jointly with the others only over the second $100,050 donation – but also faces one charge of providing misleading information to the SFO.

The SFO’s wording for the joint deception charges says: “By deception or without claim of right directly or indirectly obtained for the National Party possession of, or control over, any property, namely a $100,050 [for the 2018 charge] donation made to the National Party between June 1, 2018 and June 8, 2018 (“the 2018 donation”) in circumstances where the identity of the donor was not disclosed in the National Party’s Annual Return of Party Donations.”

The SFO describes the offending over the donations in these words: “The defendants adopted a fraudulent device, trick or stratagem whereby the … donation was split into sums of money less than $15,000 and transferred into bank accounts of eight different people before being paid to, and retained by, the National Party.”

For the fourth person’s charge of misleading the SFO, the charging document says: “In the course of complying with a requirement … of the Serious Fraud Act 1990 supplied information knowing it was false or misleading in a material particular.”

The SFO says of that charge that this defendant told investigators a $100,000 sum transferred to their account was a deposit for a building on another person’s property – when the money had been intended as a donation to the National Party. Further, in 2019 the defendant created, signed and back-dated a contract to that end, when no real contract for that work existed. The office alleges the made-up contract copied wording from an unrelated contract.

While none of the four charged are directly connected to the National Party (according to National), and it’s possible National are innocent recipients of the donations, at best this still doesn’t look good for National, and could still get much worse.

Will National pay both donations back? If so that will drain their coffers somewhat.

SFO charges four in National Party donations case

Issued by the Serious Fraud office:  SFO files charges in National Party donations case

Published 

The Serious Fraud Office filed criminal charges today against four people in relation to donations paid into a National Party electorate bank account.

The defendants are scheduled to appear in the Auckland District Court on 25 February.

The SFO will not make any further comment until any name suppression issues have been dealt with.

Statement from National Party and National Party Leader Simon Bridges:

As expected neither National Party Leader Simon Bridges, nor the National Party have been charged following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

“I have always maintained I had nothing to do with the donations. As I have always said the allegations against both myself and the Party were baseless and false,” National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.

“This was always just a vendetta by a disgruntled former MP.”

“I have always been confident in the way the Party receives and declares donations,” General Manager Greg Hamilton says.

“We are happy to put this matter behind us and will not be making any other comment.”

Law Professor Andrew Geddis (The Spinoff) – A political donations powderkeg: on SFO criminal charges and the National Party

First of all, we don’t know what specific charges have been filed, nor against whom. The SFO won’t say, because when the accused appear in court on February 25 they may well seek name suppression. Naming them before they get the chance to do so would render such an application moot, and the SFO doesn’t really want to do the court’s job for it.

We do know that neither the National Party leader, Simon Bridges, nor its secretary, Greg Hamilton, have been charged as they have told us so. Hearing that didn’t surprise me…

For Bridges to be charged, he pretty much would have to had explicitly told donors something like, “I want you to give my party this money in this illegal way.” Now, much as I know that plenty of inner-city, kombucha drinking liberal types like to hate on our Simon, no political party leader would be that stupid. Not even Simon Bridges.

And the National Party secretary’s legal responsibility really amounts to little more than receiving and recording donations, before passing on limited information about those donations to the Electoral Commission. When doing so, he’s entitled to simply rely on what he’s told by donors to the party without having to try and independently verify that it is the truth. Having met those minimal requirements under the law, he’s then in the clear.

Beyond saying the above regarding who hasn’t been charged with what, further speculation as to who then is left on the potential hook could result in defamation lawsuits – as well as being very unfair to innocent parties. And so there I shall forbear to tread.

There have been media reports on this, with speculation about who the charged people may be.

It seems that a journalist named one of those charged, which seems risky given the SFO warning about name suppression. David Farrar, who earlier had said…

Name suppression is not automatic. A judge has to order it (unless minors etc). Most media don’t report a name prior to a decision on name suppression but AFAIK this is convention not law

…appears to have posted on this at Kiwiblog, but later took the post down “Because I was asked to”.

WARNING: Don’t make any attempt to name any of those charged. If anyone tries this, including trying to be ‘clever’ (dumb) with hints or insinuations, you will lose the privilege to comment freely here.

What Mark Taylor could be prosecuted for

If Mark Taylor manages to get from captivity in Syria to Turkey, and then back to New Zealand – the Government nor anyone else seems to be rushing to help him come back here – he is likely to be taken into custody pending prosecutions. What he might face is yet to be determined, but there’s a variety of possibilities.

Stuff – Mark Taylor: The potential legal case facing the ‘Kiwi jihadi’ if he makes it home to New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said “Kiwi jihadi” Mark Taylor would face the full force of the law if he returned to New Zealand, so what would that look like?

Ardern made clear “it is unlawful to join and fight with a terrorist organisation as Taylor has done”, so there would certainly be legal consequences.

Is it Ardern’s call to make? Prime Ministers wouldn’t usually get involved in prosecutions, politicians are supposed to get a separation between them and the administration of the law.

If Taylor manages to make his own way to consular assistance – the closest available is in Turkey – and return to New Zealand it’s likely he will be picked up at the airport by authorities and brought to prison awaiting criminal prosecution.

That seems like a given. It would be alarming if this didn’t happen.

In 2015, police took “further security measures” after Taylor posted a YouTube video urging Islamic State followers in New Zealand to launch attacks on Anzac Day.

This week police told Stuff if a New Zealand citizen suspected of associating with a terrorist group were to return, they would be investigated under New Zealand law.

Police were working closely with domestic and international partners as part of its efforts to ensure the safety and security of New Zealand and New Zealanders.

“The circumstances of these individuals is highly complex and any investigation or possible judicial proceedings would be considered on a case by case basis. Police does not discuss matters regarding specific individuals.”

So what is Ardern giving her opinion for then?

Legal experts say Taylor’s social media and video postings would like see him charged under the Crimes Act, Terrorism Suppression Act and possibly the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act.

He would be refused bail but would avail the rights offered to every citizen in the criminal justice system and his case would likely be long and drawn out through the courts.

The prosecution would not necessarily be a slam dunk with much of the case dependent on proof.

It’s normal for just about any legal case to depend on proof.

Dr Bill Hodge from the University of Auckland law faculty…

“As I understand it, he wasn’t shooting but acting on guard duty but that in itself is routine military exercise. Even if he wasn’t shooting or beheading, he was enabling others to do those things.”

“I think he’d be faced with a maximum possible sentence of 14 years, on the outer limits.”

That must surely depend on what he is charge with.

Professor Alberto Costi​ from Victoria University, who specialises in armed conflicts and international criminal law, said it was not clear what Taylor really done but he had boasted about what he was involved in.

There were provisions in the Crimes Act for threatening to kill as well as the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity.

John Ip, senior law lecturer at the University of Auckland, said Taylor could be charged with several crimes.

War crimes were a possibility.

He cites a case from Sweden, where a former rebel was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes – more specifically, involvement in the execution of captured Syrian government soldiers.

However, it’s more likely Taylor would face prosecution under the Terrorism Suppression Act. It states any person who even joins a designated terrorist organisation, is liable on conviction to imprisonment for up to 14 years.

That’s where the 14 year maximum comes from, but that’s just one possible charge.

Another possibility under the same act, was to commit a terrorist act, punishable by up to life imprisonment, he says.

Ip and other legal experts agree, the most likely offence would likely be section 13 of the act; participating in a terrorist group, which would not require proof of specific wrongful conduct such as executing prisoners and killing civilians. The law describes the participation in a designated terrorist entity.

But Ip says there is no guiding case law on what terms like “participation” mean.

“The sections have never been used and sitting moribund since the aborted prosecution in relation to the Operation Eight raids in 2007.”

Whatever Taylor ends up being charged with it would be a test case and is likely to be challenging to both prosecute and defend.

Would it go before a jury? It could be hard to find 12 people in new Zealand who don’t think he’s an idiot who deserves to have the legal book thrown at him.

It’s possible that with untested law he gets off on a technicality.

Another possibility is some sort of charge and plea agreement. Taylor has already claimed or admitted quite a bit. He might find it simpler and less risky to cooperate and accept a moderate sentence.

Russian nationals charged over Skripal novichok attempted murder

British police have charged two Russian nationals in absentia over alleged attempts to kill former spy Sergei Skripal with the nerve agent Novichok.

BBC – Salisbury Novichok poisoning: Russian nationals named as suspects

Two Russian nationals have been named as suspects in the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The men, using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, are thought to be officers from Russia’s military intelligence service, the PM said.

Scotland Yard and the CPS say there is enough evidence to charge the men.

Mr Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in March.

Det Sgt Nick Bailey also fell ill after responding to the incident in Salisbury.

Police are linking the attack to a separate Novichok poisoning on 30 June, when Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley became unwell at a house in Amesbury, about eight miles from Salisbury.

Ms Sturgess died in hospital on 9 July. Mr Rowley was discharged from hospital on 20 July.

Speaking in the Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May said the government had concluded, from intelligence provided by UK agencies, that the men were part of the GRU intelligence service.

The poisoning was “not a rogue operation” and was “almost certainly” approved at a senior level of the Russian state, she said.

“We must now step up our collective efforts specifically against the GRU,” Mrs May added.

She condemned the “despicable attack” and promised “the full range of tools from across our national security apparatus” would be used to “counter the threat” caused by Russia.

Responding in a statement, Russia’s London embassy called on the British government to “give up politicised public accusations”.

This will further raise tension between the United Kingdom and Russia.

The CPS is not applying to Russia for the extradition of the two men, as Russia does not extradite its own nationals.

But a European Arrest Warrant has been obtained in case they travel to the EU.

So it seems it will be unlikely the named suspects will ever go to trial, but this is a very strong statement of condemnation based on claimed evidence of senior Russian involvement.

Michael Flynn pleads guilty for making false statements to FBI

Michael Flynn, who served for a short time as the Trump administration’s National Security Adviser before being fired, has pleaded guilty to a charge of lying “willfully and knowingly” making false statements to the FBI while serving in the Trump administration

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office announced the charge this morning.

Fox News: Michael Flynn charged in Russia investigation

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been charged in the special counsel’s Russia investigation with making false statements to the FBI — and told a federal judge Friday he plans to plead guilty.

Flynn arrived at federal court in Washington, D.C., for the hearing Friday morning, shortly after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office released a one-count charging document.

The false-statements charge pertains to Flynn’s interactions with the Russian ambassador in late December — specifically discussions about sanctions and other matters he apparently claimed never happened.

Updated:

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to a single count of making false statements to the FBI, becoming the latest Trump associate ensnared by Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Flynn is accused of “willfully and knowingly” making the false statements to the FBI while serving in the Trump administration.

The false statements were:

“On or about Dec 29, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Government of Russia’s Ambassador to the United States (“Russian Ambassador”) to refrain from escalating situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day; and FLYNN did not recall the Russian Ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request; and … On or about December 22, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution; and  that the Russian Ambassador subsequently never described to FLYNN Russia’ response to his request.”

The single charge of lying to the FBI has raised speculation that Flynn has ‘flipped’ and is now helping the FBI with their inquiries. Earlier this had been seen as an aim of the Mueller investigation.

The fact that he’s facing just one count prompted immediate speculation Friday that Flynn could be cooperating and offering information to Mueller’s team.

“We simply don’t know” whether Flynn is giving “deliverables” to Mueller on other Trump associates, constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

A Flynn plea deal had been rumored ever since his attorneys informed President Trump’s legal team they could no longer discuss the investigation.

The move prompted speculation Flynn might be cooperating with Mueller’s investigators and discussing a deal.

Flynn, who was interviewed by the FBI just days after Trump’s inauguration, was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about whether he had discussed sanctions with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

A few days earlier from Fox: White House Should Be ‘Very Concerned’ About Flynn’s Lawyers Not Sharing Info

Judge Andrew Napolitano said he believes the White House should be “very concerned” about reports that lawyers for Gen. Michael Flynn, formerly President Trump’s national security adviser, are no longer sharing information with Trump’s attorneys.

Flynn’s lawyers, according to reports in recent days, told the president’s legal team that they can no longer discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion by the Trump campaign.

The reports have led to speculation that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller’s investigative team.

Judge Napolitano, who often features on Fox News, also said:

‘Monumental’ reduction of charges doesn’t come for free.

In other words, a deal has been done on charges to get Flynn to testify against the Trump campaign team.

This makes the Russian investigation more serious for Trump and his administration. If past behaviour is any guide it is likely to be strongly countered and criticised publicly.

White House Lawyer Ty Cobb:

“Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”

Cobb said that Flynn’s false statements to FBI ‘mirror the false statements to White House officials’ that led to his resignation

AN UPDATE ALREADY:

ABC News: Flynn has promised Special Counsel ‘full cooperation’ in Russia probe

Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn has promised “full cooperation” in the special counsel’s Russia investigation and, according to a confidant, and is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.

A close confidant told ABC News that Flynn felt abandoned by Trump in recent weeks, and told friends about the decision to make the plea deal within the last 24 hours as he grew increasingly concerned about crippling legal costs he would face if he continued to contest the charges.

A few furious tweets are unlikely to fix this.

 

 

Charged with possessing Isis propaganda, child sex abuse videos

This sounds like someone who may have some wide ranging problems.

NZH: NZ man charged with possessing Isis propaganda, ‘terrorist’s handbook’

A 19-year-old Dannevirke man appeared in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday after being charged with possessing terrorism propaganda.

Jordayne Evan Thomas Madams faces 10 charges of possessing objectionable material consisting of child sex abuse videos and images, and terrorism material.

He made no plea when he appeared in court and a police spokesperson said he was due to appear in court on December 7 – where he would be required to enter a plea.

According to court documents, that included a text file of The Terrorist’s Handbook, which gives instructions on how to assemble bombs and explosives, as well as Isis beheading videos.

It was also alleged Madams had videos showing Isis, a jihadist militant group predominantly operating in Syria, executing a captured soldier with a machinegun and carrying out a beheading.

The child sex abuse material involved photos and videos of preteen and teenage boys and girls in suggestive poses or taking part in sex acts, according to court documents.

No indication of whether he was a terrorism risk, or was just someone who, allegedly, was attracted to gross and illegal material.

Labour’s water policy

Jacinda Ardern announced Labour’s water policy yesterday, but many details have been left undecided, in particular who will be charged how much for water.

Clean rivers for future generations

Labour will lead a nationwide effort to restore our rivers and lakes to a clean, swimmable state, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.

“Clean water is the birth-right of all of us. I want future generations to be able to swim in the local river, just like I did. All our children deserve to inherit swimmable lakes and rivers – and they can, if we commit ourselves as a country to cleaning up our water.

“We can do this. We can restore our rivers and lakes to a truly swimmable standard. If we choose it, and if we all work together. It will mean using our water more carefully, and being smarter about how we manage our pollution.

“Labour will help with the task of protecting our waterways from agricultural pollution. Our Ready for Work programme will employ young people off the dole and give them work improving the environment – including fencing waterways, riparian planting, and other work to improve water quality.

“A royalty on the commercial consumption of water will assist with the cost of keeping our water clean. The royalty will be flexible to reflect the scarcity or abundance of water in different regions, the different quality of water, and its use. Royalty levels will be set following consultation and the revenue will largely be returned to regional councils.

“To help set the royalty, in my first hundred days, I’ll host a roundtable on water at Parliament, with all affected sectors. I will not set a rate until I have met with those who will be affected; this is an issue that we must tackle together.

“Labour believes when water is exported for profit, private companies should also pay a royalty.

“Labour will work with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims in a manner that respects iwi’s mana, and restores the mauri of our rivers and lakes.

“Our river and lakes are a taonga of huge significance to Māori, a favourite place of recreation for New Zealanders. It’s time to restore them for future generations. Let’s do this,” says Jacinda Ardern.

David Parker said all large users of water given permits through councils would pay for water, but wouldn’t define ‘large’.

Parker wouldn’t ‘pluck a figure out of the air’, so will go into the election promising water charges but deferring to an expert panel to decide how much, after the election of course.

 

Park charges?

A lot of National Park and other tourist facilities are provided free of charge to everyone in New Zealand.

Should tourists be charged?

Should there be more charges for locals? User pays?

https://initiativeblog.com/2016/12/12/private-walks/