Twyford to correct Parliament after ‘remembering’ NZTA details

Phil Twyford talked big when in Opposition, but has been a bit of a disaster as a Minister in Government. The failures of Kiwibuild have been largely seen his failures, and he lost a portfolio over it.

Attention has now turned to the Government debacle over light rail in Auckland, and also too Twyfords handling of the NZTA board replacement. His ‘memory’ has been faulty on a number of things, including questions in Parliament that he incorrectly answered last week, and will correct this week.

Last Tuesday in Parliament: Question No. 9—Transport

Chris Bishop: Who is right about the cost projections for light rail, he, who said yesterday to Newshub that there is no cost blowout, or Winston Peters, who said that “The costings seem to have changed … in a way that is demanding serious investigation as to whether those forward projections are factual or not.”?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I repeat what I said yesterday: there is no cost blowout, because the twin track procurement process includes fundamental design and engineering decisions, so a final cost has not been settled on for either option yet.

An apparent difference between Twyford and Winston Peters. See NZH Winston Peters warned about possible light rail cost blowout concerns

Chris Bishop: Is it correct that the relationship between the New Zealand Transport Agency and NZ Infra is so broken that NZ Infra had to use the Official Information Act to get information from the New Zealand Transport Agency, causing months of delays to the light rail project?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I reject the assertion in the first part of the member’s question, but I would note that Sir Brian Roche, the new chair of the board of the transport agency, said on radio this morning that NZTA had dropped the ball, and that’s why Cabinet mandated Treasury and the Ministry of Transport to undertake a new assessment process of both options…

Twyford appointed Roche to chair the NZTA board after having discussed a possible proposal partly funded by the NZ Super Fund with Roche. See NZH – Twyford: NZ Super Fund bid for Auckland light rail was not solicited – “Transport Minister Phil Twyford says it is defamatory to suggest he has been lying about whether the NZ Infra light rail proposal was unsolicited.”

Chris Bishop: Does he stand by his statement that no one on the New Zealand Transport Agency board asked to stay on?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, I do.

After subsequent questions from stuff Twyford says he remembers differently now and will correct his statement in Parliament.

Stuff:  Phil Twyford repeatedly ‘forgot’ key NZTA job offer, until he couldn’t

Minister of Transport Phil Twyford has said repeatedly that the former board of the New Zealand Transport Agency – with which he had a fractious relationship – did not wish to be reappointed and that the replacement of all but one of the board members last month was due to the board’s term ending.

But now sources have confirmed to Stuff that this was in fact not the case and that some board members did ask to be reappointed, raising questions over whether Twyford misled Parliament.

In response to questions from Stuff, Twyford has now changed his story.

“When the Minister answered Chris Bishop’s question in the House – which was a supplementary question not on notice – his recollection was that no one had offered to stay on”, a spokeswoman for Twyford said.

“He [Twyford] remembered that he had asked Mark Darrow [a former board member] to stay on the board temporarily in the interests of continuity” the spokeswoman said.

“The Minister has now had a chance to review his correspondence from May and see that, in response to his request, Mark Darrow had said he would be interested in staying on for a second term”.

“The Minister will correct the answer in the House at the first opportunity'” the spokeswoman said.

But sources told Stuff that other board members were also approached about being reappointed.

Twyford’s recollection on the matter has repeatedly failed him on this point. He also confirmed to Stuff in September that no one on the board expressed a preference to stay on. Asked whether any board members asked or wanted to stay on, Twyford said on September 19 that, “no, everyone had reached the end of their terms”.

Bishop said Twyford had “serious questions to answer”.

“He is on the record in Parliament saying that nobody on the New Zealand Transport Agency board asked to stay on the board, and he’s now being contradicted by multiple people and has serious questions to answer,” Bishop said.

I’m sure Bishop will be asking Twyford more questions in Parliament.

This – both the light rail proposal and NZTA – look very messy issues, with Twyford in the thick of the mess.

His competence as a Minister in charge of Kiwibuild was found wanting to the extent he lost his portfolio.

His competence as Minister in charge of the NZTA and the light rail proposal looks increasingly suspect. Apart from the dual messes he either can’t remember basic information related to his appointments to the NZTA board, or he misleads or lies to Parliament.

Twyford is currently ranked 4 in Labour’s lineup, and is still Minister for Economic Development and Urban Development and Transport (having lost Housing in reshuffle).

National Party support for the the Arms Amendment Bill

National MPs worked with the Government on the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill and gave their full support and votes for the bill, which passed it’s third and final reading in parliament yesterday.

CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South):

I rise on behalf of the National Party to lend our support to the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill, and, in the start of my contribution, I want to, on behalf of the party, acknowledge the Prime Minister for her remarks in opening this third reading debate, and also acknowledge her leadership in the hours and days and weeks following the shooting. I have received many comments in the last few weeks around your leadership, Prime Minister, and I think all of New Zealand has been impressed by your steadfastness at a time of great trial for our country.

I also want to acknowledge the Minister Stuart Nash, who’s worked quite collaboratively with those of us in the Opposition on this regime that we’re about to pass into law, and I want to acknowledge Michael Wood, who chaired the committee, I think, in a very good fashion—a quick fashion, but a very good fashion.

Now we have the Labour Party in Government alongside New Zealand First, and I acknowledge the braveness of the position that they took, Mr Patterson and Ron Mark and the Rt Hon Winston Peters, as Deputy Prime Minister—quite a brave position, actually, for them to take alongside a Labour Cabinet to work alongside the National Party and the Green Party as well for Parliament to speak with as unanimous a voice as possible. Hopefully, the politicking around this will now, essentially, cease, because we are going to say once and for all that, with very rare exceptions, military-style weapons are not welcome in New Zealand.

IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei):

It gives me, well, I guess it’s a privilege, really, to have an opportunity to speak on what probably is a historic piece of legislation for this House. I too want to acknowledge the Prime Minister and the efforts of the leadership of this House and all parties—almost all parties—within it. I also wanted to acknowledge the chair of the Finance and Expenditure Committee and, above all, the officials.

I’d like to think that this piece of law might go down in history as a benchmark in legislation-making, but I accept that the short consultation time is probably not ideal for most of our law.

 I think it’s essential that we get that done and that we get it done urgently and make that publicity work. It’s going to be difficult to get to some people, because, as I’ve said earlier, there will be people in New Zealand who have got no idea they’ve got these weapons in their possession and who don’t have a licence to own them and have never needed to have a licence to own them because they didn’t know they were there.

I think that will be much more common than we believe, because some of what, effectively, could be 100-year-old pieces of equipment that are no longer legal have sat in houses for years and years. So it is essential that we get that publicity done and get it done very well.

It’s essential also that that buy-back scheme, when it is instigated, is—as I think I heard the Prime Minister say earlier—effective, that it’s fair, and that it gives people the incentive to get these guns out and in the police’s hands, or in hands of the buy-back scheme, as quickly as we possibly can, because for it to work effectively, we need to get them all.

That’s the next piece I want to turn to, because I think that as this Act is reviewed going forward—and it no doubt will be—and as the second tranche of legislation comes to the House, it’s essential that we find ways of extracting the weapons out of those people who have no reason to own them and have no licence to own them, because the underworld will have many of these guns. There will be many of them in unknown places in New Zealand.

ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua):

The values that we hold in this country around tolerance for one another, and the ability to get along with one another, are what make New Zealand so wonderful. I, like many of you here in this House, went to many of the Muslim communities, and I went there to give my support, as you did.

What I received back from my Muslim communities was much more. What they offered me was hope, a sense of resoluteness, and they had an unerring sense of purpose. They see themselves as New Zealanders, and they’re committed to being good citizens—playing their part to make a better New Zealand.

Prejudice is such a corrosive element in any society and is unwelcome here in New Zealand. So this is one of those moments—a moment of unity, a unity of intent, and an intent to act as one. So we’re about to pass the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill. I note it is our duty to protect New Zealand and New Zealanders from the unlawful use of these high-velocity weapons, but I think it’s also important that we respect the rights of New Zealanders to own and safely use guns here.

I want to finally just acknowledge the Prime Minister for the role that she has shown in leading this debate. I also want to acknowledge the Minister for bringing this legislation in in a very short period of time and working with the committee. I also want to acknowledge the members of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, who worked in a collegial and collaborative fashion.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the officials, many of whom are sitting up in the gallery here today. They worked tirelessly, and I say thank you from me personally, but certainly on behalf of the committee.

Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney):

It’s a pleasure to take a call in this the third reading. Can I acknowledge the Prime Minister first of all. I was very grateful of the fact that she shared with us some insights around how it crystallised in her mind, the leadership that was required, and then, of course, the Parliament coming together to bring this bill to the House to make the changes that we needed.

I’d just like to say that this is an important piece of legislation. We are sending a very clear message as a Parliament and as a country that we don’t see the need for military-style, high-powered semi-automatic weapons in this country. We don’t. You can’t justify their use—other than in fact the exemptions that we’ve clearly stated.

BRETT HUDSON (National):

Parliament decided—it was a choice, and Parliament decided—to take the process we have with this bill to reach the point we have now and where, I would predict, we are about to get to. As adults in the room, we can fully support that—those decisions, those actions, and where we are—and still critique the process which underpins it. There is certainly simply no way a select committee can address a bill of substance in such a short period of time and give it the same scrutiny that it could do if it had an extended, normal, or longer period of time.

With all the will in the world, and with all the effort of members and officials—and I acknowledge the hard work of all the officials—there is simply not, in a shortened period of time, sufficient opportunity to hear all of the voices, to give all of the consideration to all matters raised, to debate every point, or to look at every possible alternative. Shortened time simply does not permit that.

I endorse the decision Parliament took, and it was Parliament’s decision. The Government put forth a proposition to do this bill under an extremely short period of time, but it was Parliament that agreed to do so.

We now find ourselves in the last few minutes of a decision to rid New Zealand of weapons, of firearms, that no normal citizen needs, but with enough careful consideration that where exemptions are warranted, they have been granted, with enough thought and consideration to help inform elements that might take part of the next phase of the firearms reform.

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura):

I am so proud of us. We have worked so hard over quite a short period of time, and we have worked in the Finance and Expenditure Committee to get the best bill that we could in the shortest amount of time. Even when we have not agreed, we have been able to be civil and adult, and that is something that I think we can pat ourselves on the back for.

In the National Party, we felt we could have done more for those people who are sports shooters and who engage in international competitions—our competitive shooting sports. We would like to hope that, in the second tranche of legislation, that could be addressed. I was personally, and I think we all were, very impressed with the quality of the submission from the pistol shooters’ association. They have a very good system, which I’ve heard of before, obviously, but to have them run through exactly how it worked gave me a lot of confidence in that system being able to be used for people engaged in sporting events where some of these higher calibre or higher-capacity weapons are used—that we could bring that in for them.

It’s not often that peace breaks out in Parliament, but to most intents and purposes—I won’t say “all” because not entirely—it has over this matter. We have all been deeply moved by what happened in Christchurch, by the murder of 50 people and the attempted murder of many more. We have all been deeply moved. It could have happened anywhere. It happened in two mosques. It could have happened in a kindergarten. It could have happened in a church. It could have happened in a school.

For any New Zealanders who think, well, it wasn’t some place that they would go, it could have been. It could have been anywhere. It’s the sort of thing that I think happens, and we could say a person who has done this has done this for particular reasons. It’s not only that person we need to be concerned about and worried about that they have access to firearms—people with those sorts of thoughts and those drivers—but there are other people as well.

This has been a good opportunity for the Government and the Opposition to work together for New Zealand, and I would hope that the Government will keep us informed and ask for our support on other matters pertaining to these firearms laws.

Apart from one dissenter (David Seymour, ACT) the Bill was strongly supported by a united Parliament, Obviously most MPs realised they had a responsibility to do something significant in the wake of the Christchurch mosque massacres.

Arms Amendment Bill passes third reading

The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill  passed it’s third and final reading tonight in Parliament, with all MPs apart from David Seymour voting in favour.

Jacinda Ardern’s third reading speech began:

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister of Police: I move, That the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill be now read a third time.

We are here just 26 days after the most devastating of terrorist attacks created the darkest of days in New Zealand’s history and we are here as an almost entirely united Parliament. There have been very few occasions, in my history, when I have seen Parliament come together in this way and I cannot imagine circumstances where that is more necessary than it is now.

I want to acknowledge therefore, as I begin my contribution here in this third reading debate, those parliamentarians who have worked so constructively in this discussion and debate. Of course, that goes for our coalition and confidence and supply partners as members of this Government—I acknowledge you—but I also pay particular tribute to the Opposition, who, from the moment this issue around the use of these particular weapons in this terror attack arose, I have found to be nothing but constructive. I acknowledge you sincerely for that.

Chris Bishop responded:

CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I rise on behalf of the National Party to lend our support to the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill, and, in the start of my contribution, I want to, on behalf of the party, acknowledge the Prime Minister for her remarks in opening this third reading debate, and also acknowledge her leadership in the hours and days and weeks following the shooting. I have received many comments in the last few weeks around your leadership, Prime Minister, and I think all of New Zealand has been impressed by your steadfastness at a time of great trial for our country.

I also want to acknowledge the Minister Stuart Nash, who’s worked quite collaboratively with those of us in the Opposition on this regime that we’re about to pass into law, and I want to acknowledge Michael Wood, who chaired the committee, I think, in a very good fashion—a quick fashion, but a very good fashion.

Hansard transcript.

The Governor general will give it final approval tomorrow (Thursday).

RNZ:  Firearms Amendment Bill passes final reading in Parliament

The law change had near uanimous support, with ACT the only party to oppose it. The bill now only needs to be signed off by the Governor General before becoming law.

The move follows the announcement today of the finer details of the government’s proposed buyback scheme for firearms.

Independent advisors will come up with a price list for the buyback scheme and a separate expert panel will be set up to determine fair compensation for high-value firearms.

The government is also planning another phase of firearms reform, exploring possible restrictions and changes to the vetting process, a firearms register and more.

The prime minister said yesterday this second tranche would likely be this year, before a the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the attack – and whether more could have been done to prevent it – reports back.

Also announced by the Government today:  Legal framework for gun buyback scheme announced

Police Minister Stuart Nash has announced a legal framework for the gun buyback will be established as a first step towards determining the level of compensation. It will include compensation for high capacity magazines and parts.

Mr Nash has outlined changes to the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill which will be debated during the committee stages of the legislation.

The Supplementary Order Paper reflects changes arising from the Select Committee process. It sets out the framework for dealing with the legal ownership of weapons, magazines and parts and the broad approach for determining payments.

“The regulations will create a framework to set compensation based on make, model and condition of the items. They will provide for rights of review and appeal,” Mr Nash says.

“Independent advisors will develop the price list for approval by Cabinet. A separate expert panel of advisors will be established to determine fair compensation for high value firearms.

“Police have also consulted extensively with Australian officials to familiarise themselves with the pitfalls and legal risks encountered there. Australia has had almost thirty amnesties and buyback schemes since the 1990s.

“The new measures make it clear that surrendered firearms will be the property of the Crown. Owners will be compensated for them, if the guns were lawfully obtained and the person had the appropriate firearms licence. Price lists will be set out in regulations which are now being drafted.

“This framework provides certainty for all participants in this process and sets out a clear appeal process if the compensation is disputed.

“A number of transitional measures are also being put in place to handle one-off questions.  This includes weapons which were in transit from overseas when the ban took effect. Customs officials may deliver them to Police as part of the amnesty and buyback arrangement.

“Police are already collecting bank account details from people who are taking part in the gun amnesty. They are well placed to begin paying compensation once the scheme is confirmed. I can reassure firearms owners there will be plenty of time for them to hand over their weapons as part of the amnesty and to have their compensation processed under the buyback as well.

“The government has listened closely to official advice about the need to provide statutory authority for decisions and payments under the buyback scheme,” Mr Nash said.

The regulations are expected to be considered by Cabinet in May. If necessary, the amnesty can be extended by a month or so to run alongside the buyback.

The SoP is published here: http://legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2019/0125/latest/versions.aspx

Nonsense over written questions

National have been criticised for the number of written questions they have been submitting to Ministers. But National claim that Ministers are refusing to answer questions and avoiding answering questions, forcing National MPs to write multiple versions of very similar questions.

I think it’s sad to see such petty use and abuse of democratic processes. I think the responsibility is largely on Ministers to live up to their transparency hype.

RNZ: National’s written questions blitz at a new level – professor

A barrage of written questions from the National Party is heaping pressure on ministerial offices, prompting one to restructure and a government agency to hire a new staff member.

In the year since forming the government, ministers have received 42,221 written parliamentary questions from National MPs. That’s around 800 a week, or 115 a day, weekends included.

Several ministers have been caught tripping up over the process – which the National Party calls incompetence.

But Auckland University Emeritus Professor Barry Gustafson said the exercise appeared to be more of a fishing expedition than anything to do with policy.

That’s an odd comment from a professor. There’s more to effective Opposition than querying policy. Aren’t written questions basically there to enable fishing expeditions?

“They cast a hundred or thousand hooks into the sea and hope that they’ll pull up one fish.”

The opposition was searching for inconsistencies in ministers’ answers or something they could develop to embarrass the government.

“It’s getting well away, when you do that, from the original intention of written questions – which was to hold the government accountable on major policy matters and actions.”

“…and actions” is an important addition there.

The actions of two Ministers have already resulted in them stepping down or being sacked.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said his office had requested additional staffing to deal with the high volume of written questions and official information requests.

“This was unavailable so the office restructured to employ a staff member to coordinate responses,” he said in a statement.

There have been important questions to ask about the deferral of an extradition.

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said the KiwiBuild unit in the new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development had to hire someone with the primary job of answering opposition questions.

Mr Twyford said he was committed to answering questions properly as they were an important part of the parliamentary process.

But he said “there’s no doubt that the volume and the trivial nature of some of the questions is a deliberate tactic by the opposition to tie up government staff resources.”

I think there’s quite a bit of doubt about Twyford’s claim.

National housing spokesperson Judith Collins stood by every one of her questions.

Opposition MPs had to ask very specific questions when a minister refused to answer broader questions properly, Ms Collins said.

“You end up having to send maybe five or six questions, when one decent answer was all you actually wanted.”

I’ve seen examples of this.

I thought the Greens were supposed to be into transparent Government.

Other ministers’ offices had pulled people off their usual posts in various ministries, which Prof Gustafson said was a waste of taxpayer money.

“You’re going to clog the system up with a lot of quite trivial and unnecessary [questions].

So who should decide which questions are too trivial? It certainly shouldn’t be left to the Ministers.

Prof Gustafson said both sides were guilty.

In 2010 the Labour MP Trevor Mallard, now Parliament’s Speaker, wrote and sent 20,570 questions to National ministers.

While Mr Mallard would not comment on whether he thought that was appropriate, he said he had noticed that “ministers who proactively release material are subject to fewer questions”.

In other words, Ministers who are transparent don’t get hassled with so many questions. Ministers who try to play avoidance games get more questions. There’s a simple answer there.

National MP Chris Bishop (@cjsbishop):

Here are some things written questions are used for:

  1. To find out who Ministers are meeting. Because that matters.
  2. To find out what papers they’re getting. Because that matters (I usually then OIA ones I’m interested in).
  3. To see what they’re taking to Cabinet
  4. To get stats. Eg how many new police have been hired by new government. Because they made promises around that.
  5. To track how the govt is going on fulfilling its commitments in the coalition document. Eg thanks to written questions we know that Stats Minister James Shaw as done absolutely nothing about starting a review of the official measures of unemployment, even though it’s in the coalition document.
  6. To dive further into detail behind Ministerial answers in the House, where supps are severely limited.
  7. To get the government to provide evidence for statements they make. What Ministers say matters. And the proof for statements (or lack of it) matters.

In short, written questions are bloody important. We’ve asked a lot, cos we’re working hard. Written questions brought down Claire Curran and have provided material for innumerable press releases and oral questions.

Good government matters. Good opposition makes governments perform better. Written questions are a vital tool of Parliamentary accountability.

I thought the Greens had committed to something like that, but James Shaw or his staff don’t appear to be practicing what they have preached.

All parties play games and play the system in ways they think will help them achieve what they want.

National were bad in how they played Official Information requests. But this Government is looking like they could be worse, despite ‘promising’ to be better.

What I think the main problem here is – we have a Government that claimed they would improve transparency, that they would be the most transparent government ever, but their actions suggest the opposite.

Winston Peters refuses to back up phone claims and denials re Wally Haumaha

In Parliament this week National MP Chris Bishop accuses Winston Peters of Wally Haumaha contact

Today I can also reveal that Winston Peters rang Wally Haumaha after the inquiry into his appointment was announced. He gave him assurances, or words to that effect, that things would be OK. That is deeply, wildly inappropriate. Mr Peters needs to explain who invited him to the marae, why he rang Wally Haumaha to assure him that things would be OK despite an inquiry into his appointment, and why he thinks Mr Haumaha should stay in the role while he is subject to two separate investigations, with a third on the way.

Peters denied this (Stuff) – Wally Haumaha phone call claims: Winston Peters says he doesn’t use landline

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says his phone records clear him of making a call to under-fire top cop Wally Haumaha – but he can’t explain how he got hold of them.

Neither the Parliamentary Service nor the Department of Internal Affairs received a request to provide the records on Wednesday.

In a press release issued to deny claims made by National MP Chris Bishop, Peters said: “I have not called nor had any reason to call Mr Haumaha since the controversy. My office has checked all my phone records since the inquiry was announced. No such call was made.”

When pressed by Stuff on Thursday about how he got the records so quickly, he said: “Got my staff to get it… I can’t tell you how. I trust my staff.”

Peters says he doesn’t use a landline phone.

Asked if he could have used another phone, he replied: “Oh, what went down down to a telephone booth you mean? To the best of my memory, no such thing happened and I got my staff to check it out, just to be safe.”

Later, a spokesman for Peters clarified to Stuff:

“The phone bills get sent to the office each month and are readily accessible. The bills itemise calls made and received…We then asked around for Mr Haumaha’s phone number (so we knew what we were looking for) and cross checked that way.”

Peters was asked for clarification on Newshub Nation this morning:

Lisa Owen: National alleged in parliament that you rang deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha to reassure him aftter an inquiry was launched into his appointment and the circumstances of that employment. You say that your office checked your phone records and there was not call. So I just want to be clear, does that include any and every phone that you could have used to make the call, and was there any other contact using any other means with Mr Haumaha from you?

Winston Peters: I can’t, I can’t believe, I can’t believe you’re wasting my or your viewership’s time. Mr Bishop said he had a revelation, and if he’s got a revelation why hasn’t he shown you that? That’s what a revelation means. No, he made a vile allegation, couldn’t prove it, and now you’re asking me questions about it.

Lisa Owen: Yeah well you could clear it up. Yes or no, have they checked all your phones if you have had contact with Wally Haumaha…

Winston Peters: No, I’ll, no I’ll clear it up by going, no Lisa, we’ll go to the original source who promised all you journalists a revelation. What was that revelation?

Lisa Owen: But you would know who would best know whether you’ve spoken to Wally Haumaha, you, do you not want to give a clear answer…

Winston Peters: That’s, that’s not the way our society, our democracy or our standards of law works. You just can’t make baseless allegations without putting up the facts. he hasn’t, and why aren’t you talking to him about that and not wasting my time?

Funny and highly ironic.

Peters has made a political career out of making allegations, and a number of times not delivered any evidence, but instead demanded that the media or the police investigate and find evidence for him. They usually haven’t obliged.

The way our democracy and our media are supposed to work is that journalists ask questions to hold politicians to account.

Peters has already tried a denial, and when held to account on that has switched to refusing to answer a simple but comprehensive question.

He could make a clear statement that he made no such call, but by refusing to do that leaves people to make their own conclusions.

I think that it is reasonable to see this as Peters trying to avoid being called out for making a call to Haumaha, and then being caught out trying to fabricate a denial.

And i think it is fair to ask and investigate how close peters and NZ First were to Haumaha and to his appointment, which raises valid questions about their involvement in setting up the inquiry.

More of the Peters interview:

Chris Bishop accuses Winston Peters of Wally Haumaha contact

In Parliament’s General Debate today Chris Bishop:

Today I can also reveal that Winston Peters rang Wally Haumaha after the inquiry into his appointment was announced. He gave him assurances, or words to that effect, that things would be OK. That is deeply, wildly inappropriate. Mr Peters needs to explain who invited him to the marae, why he rang Wally Haumaha to assure him that things would be OK despite an inquiry into his appointment, and why he thinks Mr Haumaha should stay in the role while he is subject to two separate investigations, with a third on the way.

CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Well, while the Prime Minister is offshore in New York, desperately trying to shake off the Meka Whaitiri and Clare Curran debacles, there is yet another political scandal she is finding it very difficult to shake. That is the problem of the appointment of Wally Haumaha as Deputy Commissioner of Police. Let me outline what has happened so far.

The term of the Deputy Police Commissioner Viv Rickard expired on 3 June 2018. Cabinet confirmed the vacancy on 7 May and applications closed just eight days later. The candidates were interviewed only six days later by Peter Hughes and Debbie Power of the State Services Commission (SSC) and Mike Bush, Commissioner of Police. My understanding is that Mr Haumaha was asked, in the interview process, words to the effect of “Is there anything in your past that would embarrass the Government?” And he said no. I can also reveal that Mr Haumaha was not the preferred candidate of the panel. The Cabinet paper proposing his appointment does not state that he was the preferred candidate, but he was appointed anyway by the Prime Minister. The big question is “Why?”, particularly in light of what happened next.

After Mr Haumaha’s appointment, the New Zealand Herald broke the news that an officer had told the 2004 Operation Austin investigation that Mr Haumaha had described Louise Nicholas’ allegations as a nonsense and that “Nothing really happened and we have to stick together.” An inquiry was, rightly, ordered by Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters. He must have hoped that the problem would go away. An email released to me says that the Government wanted a short and sharp inquiry. Officials originally suggested an $840,000 inquiry over three months. Cabinet wound that back to $150,000 over six weeks, with just one member.

The first attempt to start the inquiry was a disaster. Emails revealed to me that they couldn’t find anyone to do the inquiry until a few days before it was announced. Pauline Kingi was announced as the inquiry chair but was revealed to have endorsed the subject of the inquiry 23 times on LinkedIn. Finally, the Government did the right thing and appointed an independent QC to run the inquiry. Then further allegations came to light. Three women have accused Mr Haumaha of bullying while working on a joint justice, police, and corrections project in 2016. Those allegations are being considered by the Independent Police Conduct Authority as well as by the Scholtens Inquiry and, possibly, by the State Services Commission.

Here is the question: why will the Prime Minister not stand Wally Haumaha down? Meka Whaitiri was accused of wrongdoing and stood aside. Why will she not do the same for her own appointment? The answer, I believe, lies in the relationship between New Zealand First and Wally Haumaha. He was reported as being the New Zealand First candidate for Rotorua in 2005. The Deputy Leader of the New Zealand First Party, Fletcher Tabuteau, referred to Mr Haumaha as a member of his whānau in his maiden speech, in 2014. Mr Haumaha is the chairman of Mr Tabuteau’s marae at Waititi. The links go further. Close Winston Peters confidante and uncle of Fletcher Tabuteau, Tommy Gear, is also a senior leader on the marae.

Let me talk about the special function on the marae in June last year to celebrate Mr Haumaha’s promotion to Assistant Police Commissioner. Winston Peters was there. He sat next to Wally Haumaha. He told Parliament, in a personal explanation, that he attended the function because he was invited by the police and the Government of the day. He was not. Documents from the police, sent to me, make clear that he could only have been invited by the marae itself. The question is: was he invited by Wally Haumaha or by someone close to him?

Today I can also reveal that Winston Peters rang Wally Haumaha after the inquiry into his appointment was announced. He gave him assurances, or words to that effect, that things would be OK. That is deeply, wildly inappropriate. Mr Peters needs to explain who invited him to the marae, why he rang Wally Haumaha to assure him that things would be OK despite an inquiry into his appointment, and why he thinks Mr Haumaha should stay in the role while he is subject to two separate investigations, with a third on the way. Until those questions are answered, this scandal will continue to dog the Prime Minister and her Government.


UPDATE: Peters has responded (NZH):  ‘Things would be okay’ – National claim Winston Peters called Wally Haumaha about inquiry

However, Peters said he has not contacted Haumaha in relation to the inquiry.

“He hasn’t made a revelation and I’m swatting-off this midge right now,” he said in a statement.

“There is no basis to Mr Bishop’s claim that I rang Mr Haumaha after the inquiry into his appointment was announced, nor have provided any assurances on the matter.”

“I have not called nor had any reason to call Mr Haumaha since the controversy.”

Peters assured the public his office has checked all phone records since the inquiry into Haumaha was announced.

So it sounds like it’s up to Bishop to front up with evidence, or apologise.

Aussie update – leadership mess continues

It looks like political chaos in Australia.

Winston Peters visited in the middle of the leadership mess.

Newshub: Winston Peters foils Julie Bishop’s attempts to end press conference

Winston Peters foiled Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s attempts to end a joint press conference on Wednesday afternoon, and cracked a joke about leadership spills.

Ms Bishop told reporters she’d take one last question, and was asked by a reporter whether she was “working the phones” like Peter Dutton – who yesterday lost a leadership contest to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“I have been in a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand and Winston can attest that during that meeting I’ve not made one phone call,” Ms Bishop said.

Mr Peters said earlier in the press conference that no matter the outcome on the leadership front, “we want to see Australia a strong, helpful leadership influence in the Pacific upon which we rely.”

“We depend upon Australia more than you depend upon us but that said, our two countries are seriously significant in how the future of this part of the world turns out.”

But even then he wasn’t finished, making a final comment:

“As a politician when you go into a spill you’ve got to take your abacus, thank you very much.”

But that wasn’t the final say on that.

And ikt’s certainly not the last say on a bloody political mess:

Parliament – ‘anti-Māori’ and racism implications

The referencing of referencing family of MPs, plus hints of and MP being ‘anti-Māori,r arose in an exchange in Parliament today, in relation to the appointment of Wally Haumaha as Deputy Police Commissioner. There’s co clear conclusion (to me) but some interesting discussion.

It came out of this primary question:

8. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does her Government expect high standards from all Government departments and Ministers?

It starts at 2:36…

Chris Bishop: Does she have confidence in her Government’s professional independence from Mr Haumaha when her police Minister gives him a shout-out in his workout videos, her Deputy Prime Minister attended a celebration on a marae for his appointment as assistant commissioner, her foreign affairs under-secretary has whānau links to him, and he was previously announced as a candidate for New Zealand First?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sorry, I am going to go back to that question and not require but ask the member to think very carefully about rewording it. We have had a tradition in this House, wherever possible, of not including the actions of family members—certainly within question time. I’d ask the member to reflect on his question and, if he agrees with me that that is unhealthy, to rephrase it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely we have to have some accuracy in the questioning in this House. Mr Bishop began by talking about what, in effect, is an allegation of witness tampering. So the real issue, sir, for you to judge is: who is this witness who is being tampered that he talked about? The fact is the person is not a witness. The person may be a complainant, and there’s a huge difference. He’s putting the two together quite naively and mistakenly and getting away with it in the House when he should be stopped.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I think if we had the degree of exactitude that the Deputy Prime Minister is advocating, we’d have quite a few members on both sides of the House who wouldn’t be able to answer or ask a single question. Mr Bishop—going back to where we were at.

Chris Bishop: Did the panel convened by the State Services Commission to interview the short-listed candidates for the job of the Deputy Commissioner of Police recommend that Mr Haumaha be the preferred candidate for the job?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m not going to get into elements of an issue that is now being independently assessed by an independent inquirer.

Hon Paula Bennett: When the Prime Minister just previously said, as she did yesterday, that, actually, he cannot be either stood down or on garden leave because it would be the decision of the commissioner and that she can’t do it, is she aware that under section 13 of the Policing Act, the deputy commissioner’s role is a statutory appointment that holds office at the pleasure of the Governor-General on the advice of her, the Prime Minister, and that she has the power to act?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That includes them acting in that role of employment. What the member was asking about was whether I had the ability to stand someone down when there had been no formal process, and we’re undertaking an inquiry to ensure natural justice provisions apply, because the threshold test here is incredibly high. If the member is asking about gardening leave or temporary stand downs, that threshold, of course, is very different, and that is employment matter for the Commissioner of Police.

Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise an issue that is troubling a number of us on this side of the House: the regularity with which those of us who enjoy Māori ancestry—and I direct your attention to Speakers’ rulings 39/4-5. I accept in the roundhouse of politics it is tough, but I am particularly irked by the allegation that Mr Bishop made, enjoying private briefings from dissolute elements in the police force, that he has labelled those of us, essentially, by talking about Fletcher Tabuteau and Winston Peters, as somehow not passing the test of parliamentary probity. And I’d invite you to reflect on it, because it will lead to a substantial bout of disorder from the House. Now, I’m not suggesting that Mr Bishop is anti-Māori, and, quite frankly, I don’t care if he is, but it is an important principle, with the number of Māori in the House—whether they’re urban Māori or broader traditional Māori—that you contemplate that situation, because we’re not going to put up with it for one more day.

Hon Paula Bennett: As one of those Māori, there is actually also a convention that we express our conflicts of interest for our whānau and particularly when we are looking at making statutory appointments, and this side of the House has a right to question that.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, yes, I would have made the same point that the Hon Paula Bennett has made, because what Mr Jones is effectively doing is saying that if there is a statutory appointment that involves someone who identifies as being a Māori New Zealander, then that process can’t be questioned and nor can anything that would make the suitability of that person appropriate for that. But further than that, sir, you sat there while Mr Jones referred to another member of this House, effectively, as having some racial bias, and that’s a completely unacceptable thing for him to do.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The allegation that someone is a cousin and therefore is biased in the choice of someone in a governmental job is so demonstrably false when the person doesn’t go to the lengths to describe how far removed that relationship might be. If he were Scottish or Māori, he might understand that this would include 7,500 people. But no such attempt is made. It’s the insinuation that because that relationship, distant though it might be, nevertheless corrupts the member’s mind in being impartial, and that’s unfair.

Mr SPEAKER: I am in a position to rule. Members may have forgotten that I intervened on Mr Bishop’s question and asked him to reword it, because I thought the tone of it was not consistent with the way that we have gone as a country over the last number of decades. He reflected on that and, despite the opportunity, decided not to repeat the question in that form and I want to thank him for that.

There are a lot of elements of judgment in this. I, of course, don’t want to indicate that people cannot be questioned where there are seen to be untoward influences and of course that is the case, but what I did indicate was that I thought it was particularly important where family matters are being brought into account that people are either very specific or very careful and not general in allegations.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Precedent in rulings in this House are very important, because they do guide the House. I’d ask that you have a look back through, I think, the mid-part of 2015 when a then prominent member of the Opposition, now a very, very prominent member of this House, was asking questions of a Minister of the then Government that related directly to a family member. Those questions were allowed, they stood, and they went on for quite some days. When you’ve gone back over those transcripts and perhaps reflected on the wisdom of the course of action taken by the prominent Opposition member, now a very prominent member of Parliament, could you perhaps bring down a ruling that brings all of these things together. I think the general allegation made against the Parliament by Mr Jones today that it is somehow racially selective to bring up an issue that relates to the appointment of a person who is of New Zealand Māori descent is a very, very backward step for this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER: I don’t feel any need to bring back a considered ruling on it. I think the matter is pretty clear. Speaker’s ruling 41/1 makes it clear that people should avoid referring to MPs families in their private capacities. It is all right to refer to family members who have official roles, and that is a ruling of long standing. It is also all right where there is a clear intersection of the public business of an MP and a Minister and the actions of a family member, and that is an area of longstanding ruling where there is a suggestion of inappropriate behaviour on the part of a Minister in favour of a family member—that is the subject of questioning in the House and will always continue to be.

 

Poll shows public support of police pursuits

Public opinion probably shouldn’t be a factor in deciding whether the police pursue fleeing drivers or not, but a poll shows large support for the police.

“Do you think police pursuits in New Zealand should be banned?”

  • Yes – 12%
  • No – 82%

1 News: Most Kiwis want police to continue chasing fleeing drivers – 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll

A record 13 people were killed in police pursuits last year, with at least eight deaths so far this year.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said he thinks pursuits are “a pragmatic approach to policing”.

“When 59 per cent of pursuits are abandoned I do think that is the police taking a very responsible attitude towards this”.

National’s police spokesperson Chris Bishop said, “Obviously your heart goes out to them and their families, but you do have to send a message.”

But critics say the risk of pursuits outweighs the reason and far too many people are being killed.

The number of police pursuits have shot up by 64 per cent in the last six years, and the Independent Police Conduct Authority is reviewing current policy, despite there having been six reviews and 12 new versions of the policy in recent years.

I don’t think that pursuits should be banned altogether, but it is difficult getting the balance right between apprehending criminals or suspected offenders and public safety.

Police have to make quick decisions on whether to pursue or not, trying to assess the possible reaction of the driver and the risks involved.

There have been many re-examinations of police pursuit policy.

Policy review from 2010:New Zealand Police Pursuits Policy Review (PDF, 588KB)

There is a lot of information in response to an OIA here: Police pursuit policy and statistics

Stuff (March 2018) – Police chases: Fleeing drivers must ‘take more responsibility’, police say

A car fleeing police on Sunday morning crashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle near Nelson, leaving both occupants of the fleeing vehicle and the sole occupant of another car – uninvolved in the chase – dead.

Such incidents have increased in number from fewer than 2500 a year in 2012 to 3797 in 2017, according to a police report. The number of deaths during fleeing driver events have increased from two in 2014 to 10 (from nine events) in 2017.

Police assistant commissioner for road policing Sandra Venables said fleeing drivers needed to take more responsibility.

“He or she has to take more responsibility and make better decisions. We would hope people would just realise it’s better to stop and talk to the police officer,” she said.

“We [police] have to strike a balance between the responsibility to protect life and the duty to enforce the law, but it’s really up to the driver in these pursuits.”

Police never took pursuits with fleeing drivers lightly, Venables said.

“It’s one of those quick judgement calls police make every day to keep the public safe and uphold the law,” she said.

“On a number of occasions in the pursuits, we’ve found many of them can be stolen vehicles . . . there’s many reasons, and its always a constant balancing act.”

A difficult balancing act for the police.

 

A plea to consider amendments to the Electoral (Integrity) Bill

The Winston Peters Electoral (Integrity) Bill has been very contentious. The Green Party has been strongly and widely criticised for opposing the bill (very strongly opposing similar legislation historically) but deciding to vote for it ‘for the good of the Government’.

Minister of Justice Andrew Little has also been criticised for refusing to budge on amending the Bill, leading to justified suggestions that Labour as well as the Greens are being dictated to by Peters on this.

There has been a lot of criticism of the Bill beyond Parliament, including from a significant number or academics with expertise in constitutional law, but it looks like it will pass. So attention is now shifting to amendments to improve the flaws in the bill.

Graeme Edgeler: Last call on the Electoral (Integrity) Bill: A plea for Labour, New Zealand First and Green MPs to consider some minor amendments

The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is going through it’s final stages, and will likely pass this week.

It is going to pass, and amendments – such as a sunset clause – or the exclusion of electorate MPs from its scope – or a delayed start – are not going to be agreed to by a parliamentary majority either.

But it is not too late for Parliament to make some minor changes to the bill to make a slightly better, and to slightly better protect principled opposition within Parliamentary parties.

The point of this blog post is pretty simple: it is to ask Labour MPs, New Zealand First MPs and Green MPs to consider supporting three particular amendments proposed by National.

…the three amendments I seek support for are not “wrecking amendments”. They are very limited amendments, designed to ensure that the process for removing an MP from Parliament is fair, and identifiable.

These are:

  • Chris Penk’s proposed amendment in supplementary order paper 69. It would require registered parties to have rules around the process they would use to seek to expel an MP from Parliament.
  • Tim Macindoe’s proposed amendment in supplementary order paper 71. This would require that those rules would have to be provided to the Electoral Commission and available for public inspection.
  • Simeon Brown’s amendment in supplementary order paper 64. This proposes that the caucus vote to declare than an MP has distorted Parliament should occur by secret ballot.

Little has been unusually cranky about criticism of the Bill.

Justice Minister Andrew Little has accused bill opponents of failing to engage with various safeguards he says are in the bill that would prevent it being abused – in particular the requirement that two-thirds of the caucus must support the leader.

I think this is an unfair criticism…

Edgeler also said he would like serious consideration given to a suggestion in his submission on the Bill:

At present, the bill requires a two-thirds majority vote of a party caucus to expel and MP from Parliament. If an MP is really threatening the proportionality of Parliament, one would expect much greater unanimity from a party caucus as to that fact, than a mere two-thirds.

Under the current proposal, National could eject an MP even if 18 of their MPs considered the MP had not threatened the proportionality of the House, and Labour, could eject an MP with 15 MPs opposed. If the vote had anywhere near that many opposed, I think it must be seriously disputed whether proportionality would have been threatened.

When you are talking about ejecting an MP from Parliament, a much higher vote should be required, perhaps even near unanimity of the party caucus (ie unanimous, but the for the MP in question). An MP who has the support of even two or three of their party colleagues represents a significant party position likely to have been supported by at least some of that party’s voters, whose voice should not be silenced by other party factions. An MP with that level of support from the party Caucus should not be forcibly expelled from Parliament.

Chris Bishop (@cjsbishop) has responded on Twitter:

I have an amendment re “near unanimity” and a schedule that outlines what that means.

This is not online yet.

Also from Chris Penk (@ChrisPenknz):

Thanks for suggestion re near unanimity (and analysis of those already-tabled SOPs). Initial reactions:

(1) All-but-one would be preferable to a percentage basis, given distortions possible in latter where caucus small in number.

(2) Principled objection remains.

However, I acknowledge in relation to item (2) above you’re aiming for amendments that may be palatable to NZF-Lab-Green (esp last-named) given overall nature of bill and inevitability of it passing.

Edgeler asked Little, Peters and Tracey Martin for suport, and also the Greens.

I can’t find responses from any of them.

National MPs seem to be actively trying to constructively address flaws in the Bill.

Labour, NZ First and Green MPs seem to be avoiding fronting up on this.

The Greens in particular could at least restore a little of their tattered credibility by supporting amendments that will make the Bill less bad.