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.

Haumaha mess up-murks

Controversy over the appointment of Wally Hauhama as deputy police commissioner has up-murked even more.

NZH: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ‘hugely frustrated’ with ‘drip feed’ of information after promotion of Wally Haumaha

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is “hugely frustrated” information which should have been considered before Wally Haumaha was promoted to deputy police commissioner is being “drip fed” after the appointment was made.

“I’m hugely frustrated to be in a situation where an appointment has been made and now we’re having information being drip fed out, which should have been made available at the time of the appointment. That’s why we’re undertaking this work,” said Ardern, referring to the inquiry.

She has come back onto the job after the fuse was lit on this stink bomb left behind by Winston Peters, who has been implicated in questions over the appointment and NZ First connections with Haumaha.

More murk yesterday:

Her comments came after an ongoing Herald investigation into the promotion today revealed three women working on a joint project walked out of Police National Headquarters because of Haumaha’s alleged bullying towards them.

The policy analysts – two from the Justice Ministry, one from Corrections – were based at PNHQ in Wellington working in the Māori, Pacific, Ethnic Services division run by Haumaha, a superintendent at the time.

They were excited to be working on the cross-sector project, which started in October 2015, to improve “justice outcomes” for Māori, who are over-represented in arrest statistics and the prison population.

A number of alleged verbal bullying incidents, including a particularly heated exchange in which one of Haumaha’s senior staff intervened, contributed to the three women leaving PNHQ in June 2016 feeling “devalued and disillusioned”.

The three women told their managers, did not return to PNHQ, and continued working on the project from the Justice Ministry offices.

And:

The inquiry into Haumaha’s appointment was announced the day the Herald revealed comments he made during Operation Austin, an investigation into historic police rape allegations made by Louise Nicholas.

He described his friends Brad Shipton as a “softie” and Bob Schollum as a “legend” with women, while one officer told the 2004 investigation into the police sex allegations that Haumaha described Nicholas’ allegations as “a nonsense”.

While Haumaha has apologised, Police Minister Stuart Nash said he was unaware of the “deeply disappointing” comments when he gave Haumaha’s name to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for the deputy commissioner role.

Under questioning in Parliament by National MP Chris Bishop yesterday, Nash also confirmed the “Wally” he mentioned in Facebook video post about lifting weights was Haumaha.

“Peeni Henare, Wally and Alf – Just calling out those who doubted. All in the name of trying to keep the ageing body in some sort of shape. Hard on a parliamentary diet,” Nash posted in April, referring to fellow MPs and Haumaha.

Nash said he did not lift weights with Haumaha and they did not have a personal relationship.

National MP Chris Bishop has been keeping the pressure on the Government over the appointment.

The comment was “odd”, said Chris Bishop.

“I certainly think it’s strange you’ve got the Minister calling out on social media someone who is now the Deputy Commissioner of Police.”

Also from Bishop:

From RNZ: Government confidence in Wally Haumaha wavers

Senior government ministers are not falling over themselves to back Mr Haumaha. Police Minister Stuart Nash, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern all gave similar answers to the question of whether they had confidence in him.

Also Haumaha ‘disrespects and bullies women’ – Louise Nicholas

Louise Nicholas says several women have approached her over the years complaining about Wally Haumaha’s attitude towards women and his bullying behaviour.

Ms Nicholas said there wasn’t a lot of information given to her at the time but she wasn’t surprised that the women were saying this was what Mr Haumaha was like.

“One in particular said to me ‘how the hell did he get to where he is with the way he treats women, it’s not right’.”

The women told Ms Nicholas that Mr Haumaha was a bully.

“They felt they weren’t listened to, they were in positions of doing the job they were employed to do, if I can put it that way, and yet it didn’t matter what they were saying or doing, it was kind of like he was slam dunking them, he wasn’t listening to them.”

She hopes the inquiry is wide enough to cover these concerns.

“Wally Haumaha has done amazing work in his capacity as iwi liaison, we can’t take that away from him. My concern, and the concern of other women has been that he disrespects and bullies women, that is what’s come to my attention and that is what I know.”

Ms Nicholas said she warned the executive when they were looking to appoint Mr Haumaha.

“I said ‘it’s going to come back and bite you in the arse, it’s something you should not be doing’.”

The Government arse is getting a bit of a biting over this.

The inquiry should address most of these concerns, but first a new inquiry needs to be appointed.

Ardern and her Government should be checking things very carefully before making that appointment.

Kingi controversy re inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha

Questions were raised over the independence of Dr Pauline Kingi , who was appointed as chair of the Government inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha as the Deputy Commissioner of Police. It was claimed that Kingi had ‘endorsed’ Hauhama on his LinkedIn profile 23 times.

There was a reaction of surprise and concern on Twitter and in Parliament.

RNZ: National calls for inquiry head to step down

Pauline Kingi is leading an investigation into the process that led to Mr Haumaha being made deputy police commisssioner – despite comments he made defending police officers accused of rape in 2004.

Dr Kingi has endorsed 23 of Mr Haumaha’s skills on the professional networking platform LinkedIn, including law enforcement, crime prevention and leadership development.

National’s police spokesperson Chris Bishop said that constituted a conflict of interest and she must go.

“She simply has no credibility to chair the inquiry. It’s a blatant conflict of interest, she must stand down or Tracey Martin must sack her,” he said.

Ms Martin is the minister overseeing the inquiry, and said Dr Kingi signed a form declaring there was no conflict of interest.

Martin made some odd statements in her defence of Kingi.

Ms Martin said she was frustrated that National had sunk to this level.

“A LinkedIn profile, a networking digital platform, that somehow is supposed to be the judge of a person’s character? Have you seen this lady’s CV?” she asked.

Ms Martin said the suggestion that liking somebody on Facebook or endorsing them on LinkedIn made somebody unqualified was frustrating.

Endorsing someone many times does raise valid questions about their independence.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters described LinkedIn as a career enhancing utility. He said everyone endorsed everyone else, and the only person that had not been endorsed happened to be himself – because he did not have a profile.

That’s crap. I’m on LinkedIn and I don’t recall having endorsed anyone. Certainly nowhere near 23 times for one person.

Mr Peters said he had complete confidence in Dr Kingi and the process.

“It’s not like writing a fully-fledged reference, and sending it off with a signature on it. It’s social media after all and you know how skitterish that can be.”

That’s a skitterish defence.

11. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does she have confidence in the process that led to the appointment of Dr Pauline Kingi as chair of the Government inquiry into the appointment of Wally Haumaha as the Deputy Commissioner of Police?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): Firstly, the premise of the question is incorrect—there is no inquiry into Mr Haumaha. There is, however, a Government inquiry into the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police. Having said that, I can confirm that the process used to establish the independent Government inquiry into the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police is the same as that used for the chair of any other inquiry. It is a process run by the Department of Internal Affairs and supported by other agencies. It is the same process established by the previous National Government in November 2009, and was updated by the National Government in 2013 and used by that Government to establish the whey protein concentrate contamination incident in 2013, the royal commission of inquiry on the Pike River coal mine tragedy in 2012, and the Government inquiry into the Havelock North drinking water.

Chris Bishop: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was an interesting traverse through the last few years of Government inquiries, but it didn’t really go to the question of whether or not the Minister has confidence in the process.

Mr SPEAKER: I think it did. Does the member have a supplementary?

Chris Bishop: How can she have confidence in the process that appointed Dr Pauline Kingi when she has publicly endorsed Mr Wally Haumaha 23 times for a range of attributes, including for leadership, governance, public safety, crime prevention, and stakeholder management?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Dr Kingi has declared that she knew Mr Haumaha in a professional capacity when she was a highly respected public servant. She has also declared that she attended a tangi either in 2015 or 2016—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. This is a very important answer that goes to the integrity of at least two people, and will be heard in silence.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Dr Kingi has declared that she knew of Mr Haumaha in a professional capacity when she was a highly respected public servant. She has also declared that she attended a tangi in either 2015 or 2016 that Mr Haumaha also attended. Dr Kingi has signed, as is standard procedure, a declaration confirming that she has no conflict of interest in relation to the appointment—which, I remind the member, is into the process by the State Services Commission around appointment processes. If the member if asking if LinkedIn is a usual port of call for Government departments to ascertain the suitability of an inquiry chair, than I would have to say no. Rather than resort to social media, this Government looks to the substantial CVs of candidates and the fullness of their service to their communities and their country, and Dr Kingi is a New Zealander that has given great service to her country. I would suggest this is why the 1999 Shipley-led National Government awarded Dr Kingi the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Chris Bishop: When Dr Pauline Kingi was appointed to lead the independent inquiry into the appointment process around Mr Wally Haumaha, was she aware that Dr Kingi had publicly endorsed Mr Haumaha 23 times on LinkedIn, for every skill Mr Haumaha has listed on that website, and in some cases being the only person to endorse him, and that Mr Haumaha has endorsed Dr Kingi on at least three occasions for her skills listed on the LinkedIn website?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I was unaware of the LinkedIn endorsements until my office was contacted by media this morning. I requested that the chief executive contact Dr Kingi to clarify the suggested conflict. While Dr Kingi could not remember making these endorsements, she did confirm—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: This is important. Would you like to listen? The integrity of a highly respected public servant is being questioned; it’s important that her answers be placed on the record. She did confirm that she had, like many New Zealanders, set up a LinkedIn account when it was first launched, and that at time it was—

Hon Simon Bridges: Are you that useless?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: —common practice for Māori professionals to—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. The Leader of the Opposition will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: It was common practice at that time—16 years ago—for Māori professionals to support each other on this new medium, through endorsement.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact that not only did Dr Pauline Kingi get a substantial honour from the National Party, but so did Wallace Haumaha—not once but twice?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This member has no responsibility for that.

Chris Bishop: Further to that answer, is the member aware that the endorsement function on LinkedIn was only invented and established in 2012, so references to LinkedIn profiles 15 years ago are an utter irrelevance?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: My understanding is that LinkedIn was developed in 2002, 16 years ago. It may be that the member is more au fait with social media than I am because I spend most of my time working on things important to New Zealand, not on Twitter.

Chris Bishop: Can the Minister give a categorical assurance that Dr Pauline Kingi was not involved in recommending promotions or appointments of Mr Haumaha in her role as a member of the Auckland district advisory taumata and her role assisting the Auckland district police with police recruitment?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I can give an assurance of the complete and proper process around the appointment of Dr Kingi as the chair of an independent inquiry into the process by which the State Services Commission provides information to Ministers for appointment. I can also direct the member to the Office of the Auditor-General’s Managing conflicts of interest: Guidance for public entities if he would like to avail himself of that information with regard to how conflict of interest is managed in this country.

 

Police disappointed in scrapping of mental health pilot scheme

National’s spokesperson on the police, Chris Bishop, has uncovered the scrapping of a pilot project that would have added mental health expertise to front line policing.

The Government’s decision to axe a universally-supported pilot to improve the response to 111 mental health calls is nothing short of disgraceful, especially after Labour pledged to make mental health a priority, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“It has been revealed that Labour has scrapped a pilot in which a mental health nurse would attend mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics to ensure that people in distress receive timely responses that are tailored to their needs.

“Police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls. They do a good job, but are not mental health professionals so having a mental health nurse deployed to incidents with police would make a real difference.

“The increasing demand on police to respond to mental health crises is set to continue. That’s why the National Government set aside $8 million for the pilot as part of our $100 million mental health package.

“Police Minister Stuart Nash confirmed in answers to written questions the day of the Police Estimates hearing that the pilot would be canned, yet Police Commissioner Mike Bush told the hearing that police were very hopeful it would continue – in front of Mr Nash.

“Mr Nash has admitted that police are dealing with more and more mental health cases. The pilot would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response for those experiencing mental distress.

RNZ: Police disappointed after mental health pilot dropped

Police officers are upset a proposal to improve 111 callouts has been dumped and mental health advocates hope it may yet be salvaged.

The former National government last year announced an $8 million pilot scheme where mental health workers would attend crisis calls along with police and ambulance staff.

The trial was due to start in September, but police headquarters said the new government had “re-allocated” the funding and so the pilot had been dropped.

Police Association president Chris Cahill said the decision was “disappointing” and officers needed practical support “sooner rather than later”.

“It’s all good to have inquiries and to have think-tanks, but people need help now. They’re crying out for it.”

Front-line officers were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calls relating to mental health, he said.

“Police aren’t the best equipped to do this. It needs to be people in mental health services who look after them. It’s a medical issue, not a policing issue.”

Health Minister fobbed off queries.

Health Minister David Clark turned down an interview request, but in a statement said the proposal “was never fully developed” and it appeared National had cobbled it together in a hurry.

He expected the government’s mental health inquiry, announced in January, would include advice on how to improve the emergency response, he said.

How long will that take? What if that inquiry recommends the pilot project or something similar? Labour said there was a mental health crisis, but they are not acting like it is a pressing problem now.

The Mental Health Foundation…

…had been supportive of the scheme and its chief executive Shaun Robinson said it was a shame to see it fall by the wayside.

“The police have unfortunately been left to be the mental health service of last resort.”

Mr Robinson said he would be keeping a close eye on the inquiry’s findings and was hopeful it would come up with a similar or even better idea.

“We would really hope to see that there’s something significant in the crisis response area,” he said.

“It may be a short-term loss for a longer-term gain.”

Fiona Howard, from Mental Health Advocacy and Peer Support in Christchurch…

…also hoped the inquiry would report back with a similar project.

She said she empathised with police frustration, but understood the government’s approach to first assess the entire mental health system.

“What I hope is that we can sort of pause – even though I know it’s hard to wait – to make sure that we get all the results from that inquiry in to make sure all parts of our system that are under stress get the resourcing and new initiatives they need.”

Reporting back with a similar project, and then implementing it, will take some time. Scrapping the pilot scheme seems very strange.