TPPA timeframe change “an attack on democracy”

MPs considering submissions on the TPPA have had the available time slashed from a month to five days. This is bad process and appalling PR from the Government on a very contentious issue.

The select committee public submission process is an important part of our democratic system, despite efforts by parties and activist groups to manipulate it.

It’s a common tactic to try and flood submissions with a particular stance and then to claim that it’s a measure of public opposition. Numbers of submissions are not a measure of opinion.

But the Government has poked a stick into a wasp nest by slashing the time Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee members have to consider submissions on the TPPA.

Radio NZ reports: New TPP timeframe an ‘attack on democracy’

MPs have been given just five days to consider hundreds of submissions on the controversial TPP trade deal after the timeframe was drastically cut from four weeks.

The select committee was originally give a month to write its report and present it back to Parliament.

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee had been hearing submissions on the TPP from hundreds of people across the country and that will continue until the end of the month.

National MP Mark Mitchell, chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, strongly rejects the view that the timeframe undermines the democratic process and says there will be plenty of time for robust debate.

But a last minute slashing of time to consider submissions is an awful look – what did key say about National’s need to avoid appearing arrogant this term?

Opposition MPs are understandably up in arms.

But opposition members on the committee say they were told yesterday the government wanted to cut down the time they had to analyse the submissions, so the legislation could get through by the end of the year.

They said they were stunned by the news and felt angry and frustrated.

Labour MP David Clark…

…said he wouldn’t be surprised if the people who made submissions felt the same way.

“Submitters will be horrified if they learnt that the committee is curtailing a process of consideration of the very serious issues they have raised,” he said.

“It seems very reasonable to expect them to be frustrated and to question whether there is integrity in the process at all.”

It’s fair to question motives and integrity.

Green MP Kennedy Graham…

…said he and other opposition MPs on the committee had thought the original timeframe of a month to write the report was too short.

“It’s just a slap of indifference and dismissal of some very sincere, very capable and hard-working New Zealand people,” he said.

“It shows it up for what it is – which is essentially a roadshow with a predetermined end.”

It gives opponents plenty of cause to ridicule the consultation process as a sham.

New Zealand First MP Fletcher Tabuteau…

…said what made it worse was that the tight deadline meant the draft report would be written before the committee had finished hearing all the submissions.

The TPP has been a farcical process from the beginning, he said.

“The whole negotiation had been undertaken in secret to start with. The submission time has been months in contrast to the six years it has to write [the TPP deal],” Mr Tabuteau said.

“This is clearly an attack on democracy – it’s unacceptable.”

It looks unacceptable to me.

This is likely to stir up the TPPA opponents yet again and give them a good reason to stir up protests again.

Is this just arrogant abuse of the democratic process, or is the Government deliberately stirring up anti-TPPA protest?

Whether the latter is their intent or not it is likely to be the outcome.

Labour’s first TPPA question

Labour asked their first question of the year in Parliament yesterday. It was question 9, asked by David Clark, while both Andrew Little and John Key were not in Parliament (they never are on Thursdays).

Paul Goldsmith answered on behalf of the Minister of Trade, so it was hardly a clash of heavy hitters from either party.

There were some contentious points of order, plus a patsy question from National MP Joanna Hayes.

Amongst the exchanges:

Dr David Clark: What does it say about his Government when it uses the opportunity for this Parliament to question it about a trade deal to demean opponents, refuse to answer straight questions with straight answers, and chuckle in glee at honest discussions about this serious issue?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I can confirm that the TPP meets all five bottom lines set out publicly by at least one organisation. They include that Pharmac must be protected, and we can tick that one; that corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest, tick; that New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farmland and housing to non-resident buyers, tick; that the Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld, tick; and that meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access. We can tick that one too. So the TPP meets every one of the bottom lines set out by the Labour Party.

Buried near the end of the week’s question list it didn’t do much to advance debate on the TPPA.

Draft transcript:

[Sitting date: 18 February 2016. Volume:711;Page:10. Text is subject to correction.]

9. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Trade: Did his predecessor Hon Tim Groser ask MFAT officials negotiating the TPP agreement to preserve the right for a future New Zealand Government to ban the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreign speculators?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs)on behalf of the Minister of Trade: No. He asked them to preserve the right for a future New Zealand Government to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners, which, I might add, was one of Labour’s bottom lines.

Dr David Clark: Why did Australia reserve the right to ban non-resident foreign speculators from its housing market, and why did he not do the same?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Other countries have negotiated based on their own domestic policy positions, which I have no responsibility for. The Government has no policy to outright ban foreigners investing in New Zealand, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) maintains our current approval requirements for foreign investments in sensitive land, and, as I said in my primary response, the Government has preserved the right for future Governments to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners.

Dr David Clark: Why did New Zealand agree to Singapore reserving the right to impose a ban on the purchase of housing by foreign speculators when Singapore did not already have a ban?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I do not have those details to hand, but what I can say is that this Government has, in the interests of all New Zealanders, preserved the right of the Government to restrict the purchase of residential land, and that is a good deal for all New Zealanders.

Dr David Clark: To assist the order of the House, I seek leave to table a document stating that Singapore reserves the—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need the source of the—[Interruption] Order! I need the source of the document and the date.

Dr David Clark: It is the relevant annexe in the many thousands of pages of the agreement on the Table—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is now trifling with the Chair. If it has been tabled in the House it is available to all members. [Interruption] Order! It creates disorder when members then seek, for political purposes, to table something that is already freely available to all members of the House. That information was tabled at the beginning of last week. It is available, and to seek to table it again only creates disorder. I will not put up with it.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Dr—ah—Chris Hipkins.

Chris Hipkins: Not yet—maybe one day. The point of order that I want to raise with you is that I think the document in question is the document there on the Table, all of the many thousands of pages of it. I think that the question becomes: where such a large volume of information is available and where there is contested debate about a particular part of it, that is not necessarily going to be available—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not need any assistance at all. I can see the document from here. To suggest that it is unavailable to members once it has been tabled in this House is not fact. It is available. The question the member might legitimately ask is whether members have an interest to go and look at it. That becomes the members’ business, but the information that is already tabled in the House is already available, and to seek to re-table it is simply using the point of tabling documents for a political purpose. That is not what they are designed for. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark: Does he accept that Singapore could “adopt any measure affecting real estate”?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Again, I do not have those details to hand, but I am focused on New Zealand’s focus, which is to make sure that we have the ability to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners. And I might add that that was one of the bottom lines of the Labour Party.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think we have just had an illustration of the difficulty of having very large documents tabled in the House. If a Minister can say they do not have the information available and you have said that the information is available, how can it be an acceptable answer but not acceptable to table the material?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: The question was asking the Minister whether he could confirm something about the particular ability of Singapore to do something. That answer will not be contained in that document at all. The statement about what Singapore has reserved is in the document—quite a different matter.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that the point raised by Chris Hipkins adds to the discussion in any way whatsoever. The Minister was asked for some information about another country entirely. I would prefer him to stand and say he does not have that information rather than attempt to answer and end up giving an answer that he has to come back and correct. The fact is that the information has been available. The further tabling of it would not assist in that answer in any way whatsoever. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark: Can I speak to the point of order?

Mr SPEAKER: No. I have dealt with it. I have ruled on it.

Dr David Clark: Does the Minister believe that a competent Minister of Trade would know whether the Singaporeans have reserved for themselves the right to ban New Zealanders from purchasing residential land?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: What I believe is that a competent spokesman on trade would believe in trade.

Dr David Clark: What does it say about his Government when it uses the opportunity for this Parliament to question it about a trade deal to demean opponents, refuse to answer straight questions with straight answers, and chuckle in glee at honest discussions about this serious issue?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: This Government welcomes wide-ranging discussion on the TPP, and that is what we will be doing over the rest of this year. We believe that this is a great deal for this country and that is why we are supporting it.

Joanne Hayes: Can the Minister confirm whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership meets essential bottom-line requirements to protect New Zealand’s interests?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I can confirm that the TPP meets all five bottom lines set out publicly by at least one organisation. They include that Pharmac must be protected, and we can tick that one; that corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest, tick; that New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farmland and housing to non-resident buyers, tick; that the Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld, tick; and that meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access. We can tick that one too. So the TPP meets every one of the bottom lines set out by the Labour Party.

Dr David Clark: Has the Minister seen reports from 2013 when Labour announced its policy on banning non-resident foreign buyers and subsequent reports when it introduced its bottom lines that clearly indicate that the intention was to ban non-resident foreign speculators with that policy?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I am not responsible for Labour policy, but what I can say is that Labour policy was to restrict, and that is what this Government has set out to do.

Labour’s Mad McCarten Moment?

Did Labour have a mad McCarten moment this week when they decided to flock to embrace Jane Kelsey’s anti-trade tirade?

Andrew Litttle has been sort of leading, sort of stumbling down a very risk road on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, until suddenly forking out into far more risky territory, in which some of Labour’s MPs are unfamiliar and look uncomfortable.

In July Little declared five bottom lines that seemed to be signalling a tough line in the sand over the TPPA (to left wing activists) but with plenty of wiggle room (for the Labour and voter centre).

The key phrase was “Labour will not support the TPP if it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty”. ‘Undermine’ could easily be up for interpretation.

Then in November after the TPP agreement was made and the text released Little said that only one bottom line had not been met.

Little said the text of the deal, released late on Thursday, met four of the party’s five bottom lines, but failed on the fifth – the party’s policy to ban foreign buyers of existing residential properties.

The wording of this was “New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreigner buyers”.

But despite repeated questioning by  the media, Little refused to definitively say whether Labour supported or opposed the 12-nation agreement.

However, he said the party would fight “tooth and nail” against any provision that cut across their policy and cut across the sovereignty of Parliament.

After this at the end of November Little reshuffled his caucus.

He appointed David Shearer, known to be a strong supporter of trade agreements and the TPPA, to be Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs.

And he appointed David Clark to be Spokesperson for Economic Development (including Regional Development), Trade and Export Growth.

Since then Little repeatedly refused or failed to “definitively say whether Labour supported or opposed” the TPPA. Until this week. He was widely criticised for his lack of clarity, including from the Labour left.

But this week things quickly changed.

On Tuesday Little released TPP analysis confirms sovereignty at stake

“Labour has been behind some of New Zealand’s most successful genuine free trade agreements but this goes far beyond just trade.

“National knows many Kiwis people are opposed to this deal. That is why – despite saying last week they wouldn’t release further details – they have panicked and rushed out this tired old spin,” Andrew Little says.

Implications but no definitive position.

Also on Tuesday Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson joined an MP panel in the first of four anti-TPPa meetings featuring long time opponent of trade agreements, Jane Kelsey. I live blogged some Robertson comments:

“You cannot put a price on our democratic right to create our own law”.

“We cannot undermine our sovereignty”.

“There are people out there who have supported previous agreements who don’t support this one”.

Robertson closes without being clear that Labour will fully oppose the TPPA or not.

Uncertainty about Labour’s stance on the TPPA continued on Wednesday. Audrey Young wrote:

(Key) accused Labour leader Andrew Little of not being able to answer the most basic question he got asked, namely whether he would support it or not.

“He was floundering around on Radio New Zealand this morning like it was the first time anyone had ever asked it,” Mr Key said.

Labour supports the reduction of tariffs but opposes the TPP, claiming that it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty in not allowing a future Government to ban house sales to foreigners – which Labour leader Andrew Little says he would ignore.

But Little’s hand was forced with Young on Thursday with: MPs break ranks on TPP:

Mr Goff, a former leader and former Trade Minister and now an Auckland mayoral candidate, and David Shearer, also a former Labour leader, last night told theHerald they both still supported the TPP.

Mr Goff said the deal should be signed.

Former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark also backed the TPP among 12 countries and it was begun under her leadership. Mr Goff was Trade Minister.

Labour has decided to oppose the TPP on the grounds that it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty.

This created another confused situation when Little said that Goff was allowed to support the TPPA (and even vote against the party position on it) but that Shearer was bound to support the official caucus position that opposed the agreement and would be censured for speaking out in support of it. See Differing view on TPPA agreed.

Also on Thursday Matthew Hooton tweeted what appeared to be a leaked Labour email:

Please retweet. Internal email shows policy being driven by Jane Kelsey & loony left.

Little’s Head of Staff arranging for Kelsey to brief Labour staff, with MPs free to be invited.  Does Labour’s staff choose what to invite MPs too? Peculiar.

This raises questions about how involved McCarten is in Labour’s shift to oppose trade deals.

Going by posts at The Daily Blog by Martyn Bradbury, Chris Trotter and John Minto there appears to be a spontaneous rising of the revolutionary left. Or something more planned and coordinated.

Then on Friday Little came out with an attempt at clarification in Andrew Little: “My thoughts on the TPPA’:

There can be no trade-off between citizens’ democratic rights and economic interests. We don’t put a price on our democratic system, and it is not for sale.

This marks the TPPA out as being different to any other free trade agreement I know. I do not support the TPPA in this form.

On Friday night the fourth of Kelsey’s meetings was held in Dunedin. Trade spokesperson David Clark attended, looking not entirely comfortable being photographed there – see David Clark on the TPPA.

And Clark also spoke at an anti-TPP event in Dunedin’s Octagon on Saturday. He didn’t look very comfortable there:

TPPAClarkOctagon

David Clark looks as comfortable as a minister at a mosque

Also on Saturday Audrey Young wrote in Labour leader gambles in opposing trade deal:

…the Trans-Pacific Partnership is far too major an issue at present to be handled by Clark.

So why was Clark appointed to a role that is now central to an issue that could make or break Labour’s chances at next year’s election?

Why was Shearer assigned to Foreign Affairs? He along with Phil Goff are Labour’s most internationally experienced MPs. Both of whom support the TPPA, contrary to new Labour policy.

What experience do Little, Robertson and Clark have in international trade and foreign relations?

Why were unions and the Council of Trade Unions sponsoring Kelsey’s strident anti-TPPA speaking tour?

McCarten has close union connections.

Has Little been sucked into a McCarten/Auckland left/Kelsey engineered isolationist attempt at revolution?

A photo from the anti-TPPA event in Dunedin yesterday:

TPPARevolutionDunedin

Signs of socialists and revolution

Note also the council chambers in the background – event organiser Jen Olsen said that Dunedin should become the first city to declare itself TPP-free. That’s ironic from a campaign claiming “we will use democracy to protect our democracy” – there’s nor mandate for that.

Little and Labour have now inextricably associated themselves with all of this.

Photo of David Clark at the Dunedin anti-TPP meeting removed as per request/copyright. Link to it here.  It’s also shared on Facebook with: “Currently going Viral on Twitter a little bit of fun I had making my point about Members of Parliament needing to listen” so unusual to see it restricted by copyright.

Text:

This is David

David is a Member
of Parliament

David knows that
Kiwis are worried
about the TPPA

David has come to
hear their concerns.

David is Listening.

Be Like David

That’s not the David that has to apologise to the Labour caucus for supporting the TPPA. The other David, and Phil, and a number of other Labour MPs, supporters and voters may be feeling as uncomfortable as this David looks.

Has this been a mad McCarten moment for Labour?

Clark, Curran speak at anti-TPP event

Labour’s trade spokesperson David Clark and Dunedin’s other Labour MP Clare Curran followed up appearances at last night’s anti-TPPA meeting with speeches at a rally in the Octagon today.

The ODT reports: Octagon declared a ‘TPP-free zone’

Up to 250 people have declared the Octagon a Trans Pacific Partnership-free zone at an ”action event” in Dunedin this afternoon.

Event organiser Jen Olsen said Dunedin should follow suit and become the first city to declare itself TPP-free.

I’ve already mentioned in the previous post that unilateral declarations are not very democratic.

The crowd heard from Labour’s Dunedin MPs David Clark and Clare Curran, the first time the pair have spoken publicly since Labour declared itself opposed to the controversial deal after years of uncertainty over where the party stood.

They seem to have decided to back some fairly extreme trade activists. This is a major change for Labour, who were involved in getting the TPPA off the ground.

Dr Clark, who is also Labour’s trade spokesman, said it had been a ”hell of a ride” since he took on the trade portfolio last month.

TPPARallyDavidClark

Labour trade spokesperson David Clark (Facebook)

The party had taken a “principled stance not a populist stance” to the TPP, which breached New Zealand’s sovereignty, he said.

New Zealand relied on trade, but not at any price, he said.

He said the party needed to be careful how its presented its argument over TPP in order to take “middle New Zealand” along with it.

Taking “middle New Zealand” while lurching leftward may be quite a challenge for Labour.

Ms Curran echoed Dr Clark’s sentiments, and reminded the crowd Labour celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.

TPPAClareCurran

“We are immensely proud of our history – most of our history,” Ms Curran said.

Their current actions may or may not be viewed with pride.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei received the warmest response from the crowd, especially when she declared the TPP would bring down the National Government.

TPPAMetiria

She said she had been heartened by the anti-TPP speaking tour featuring US trade authority Lori Wallach.

It wasn’t a big crowd but that sounds like it was Greenish rather than the “middle New Zealand” Labour think they might appeal to.

David Clark on the TPPA

Labour’s new trade spokesperson David Clark has been out of sight nationally on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Audrey Young in Labour leader gambles in opposing trade deal:

Three guesses who Labour’s trade spokesman is …

…it is in fact Dunedin MP and former reverend David Clark, and has been since last November in Andrew Little’s first-anniversary reshuffle.

But the Trans-Pacific Partnership is far too major an issue at present to be handled by Clark.

For the next few months, Little himself and Robertson will be de facto trade spokesmen.

It was Robertson who spoke on Labour’s behalf at the It’s Our Future/Jane Kelsey anti-TPPA meeting in Auckland on Tuesday.

Fran O’Sullivan in TPP is too important for Little’s partisan political football:

…the real pity of Little’s stance is that it undercuts the intention of his new trade spokesman David Clark to reassert Labour’s decades long role in working either in or out of government with is major opponent in a bipartisan approach on trade.

But Clark appears to have bought into the Kelsey/Robertson/now Little anti-TPPA stance.

In an MP’s View in Dunedin’s The Star weekly Clark echoes Andrew Little: “My thoughts on the TPPA’:

Labour for trade but TPP concerns abide

There’s a gathering tomorrow from 7 pm at Burns Hall in Moray Place. I will probably stick my head in. It is about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

That was Jane Kelsey campaigning strongly against the TPP. I was there, and Clark probably did stick his head in.

Dunedin’s other Labour MP Clare Curran made herself prominent there too.

Labour, with strong roots in Dunedin, has a long commitment to international trade.

Eighty years ago, the first Labour government was noteworthy in pushing increased trade access and the opportunity to grow international markets.

Generally countries give up barriers to trade only when they believe it makes good sense for them to do so. As a small nation heavily dependent on trade, our country has often led the charge.

Thanks to Helen Clark, Phil Goff and others, New Zealand signed the first free trade agreement with China. We are richer as a country as a result.

Kelsey campaigned against the China FTA and other trade agreements.

Like previous Labour trade spokespeople, I am committed to trade. I don’t want to live without coffee or bananas. If we stopped trading in dairy or tourism, we couldn’t afford to keep our schools and hospitals open. As a country, we need trade for our prosperity.

Clark (or Star editors) has a curious use of commas.

Labour continues to support gains from trade. Because barriers to international  trade are a lot smaller than they use to be, by definition the gains to be made from modern trade agreements are increasingly modest. The Labour Party supports these gains still.

But the Labour Party will oppose moves to undermine our country’s constitutional integrity. Months ago, Andrew Little released a set of bottom lines on the TPP agreement. It has since become clear that Labour’s concern about protecting Kiwi land – expressed in those bottom lines – is not addressed in the final text of the agreement.

Other countries, including Australia, have secured sovereignty protections for home ownership.

Interesting that he calls them “sovereignty protections”. Australians can buy homes in New Zealand – does that threaten our sovereignty?

It turns out New Zealand did not even ask for these protections in the TPP negotiations. Our Government has failed to get the best deal for New Zealanders.

Moreover the actual TPP text requires us to allow non-citizens, including overseas corporates, to have a say on law changes in a number of areas.

As in the China FTA? And other existing agreements supported by Labour?

Future trade agreements negotiated by a Labour government will better protect our sovereign rights.

Labour (now, Greens and NZ First all oppose the TPP agreement. Greens opposed the China FTA and other trade agreements. How could a Labour/Green/NZ First government negotiate a trade agreement in the future?

The government has the numbers to pass TPP-enabling legislation in our Parliament. Despite this Labour will continue to oppose those things that have no place in an agreement that should focus on market access and increased trade.

Clark doesn’t make it clear whether Labour would vote against any TPP related legislation regardless of whether they agreed or disagreed with the specific legislation.

Will Labour (except Phil Goff) vote against every TPP related bill in symbolic opposition to the whole agreement? They don’t get to vote on the agreement as a whole.

Like others around the country, tomorrow’s gathering in Moray Place will send a crisp message to the Government. If you can spare the time I’d enjoy seeing you there.

I don’t think the Government will get much message at all from the fourth in a series of meetings opposing the TPP.

But Clark has sent a crisp message that he is on message for his leader and the majority of the Labour caucus in opposing the TPP.

And he has sent a crisp message to the public that he is in support of the It’s Our Future/Jane Kelsey anti-TPP and anti-trade agreement campaign.

 

Labour’s Trade spokesperson?

Audrey Young asks (and answers) – who is Labour’s trade spokesperson?

Before reading down, does anyone know or can you guess?

Three guesses who Labour’s trade spokesman is …

David Shearer? No, foreign affairs (at least he still was last night).

Grant Robertson? No, finance.

Phil Goff? No, defence.

All three having been talking trade this week, but no.

Three more guesses.

David Parker? No, he was it when David Cunliffe was leader.

Clayton Cosgrove? No, he was it when David Shearer was leader.

Maryan Street? No, she was it when Phil Goff was leader, and is out of Parliament anyway.

Get the picture?

No wonder Labour’s messages have been anything but clear.

While Andrew Little has been leading the unclear messaging it’s not him either.

It is in fact Dunedin MP and former reverend David Clark, and has been since last November in Andrew Little’s first-anniversary reshuffle.

Even in his first term Clark was rated as a fast riser in Labour.

But the Trans-Pacific Partnership is far too major an issue at present to be handled by Clark.

Ouch.

Clark is now ranked 9 in Labour’s pecking order.

Dr David Clark

MP for Dunedin North

Spokesperson for Economic Development (including Regional Development), Trade and Export Growth

Associate Health Spokesperson

David is concerned about the growing gap between rich and poor which he sees as limiting our social and economic potential. He believes we can and must achieve a fairer society where everyone has an opportunity to succeed.

Clark’s only media release on Labour’s website this year – Nats must work to support business confidence -doesn’t mention the TPPA. Neither does his only other one since becoming the Trade spokesperson at the end of November last year.

Little will have known that the TPPA would be a big issue when he appointed Clark, but going by his indecisiveness on the TPPA until the last day or two he may not have anticipated how much his future as Labour leader would depend on trade.

Clark spraying Key

Yesterday the ODT had an editorial on Red Flag – Faith in process flagging.

Labour MP David Clark posted a link to this on Facebook:

ClarkFlagKey1

That’s typical of how Labour seems to see the flag issue, but they have been major contributors to the farce. They have  tried to portray the process as all about Key (‘vanity project’ etc) and have appeared to be deliberately divisive to try and sabotage the process.

But the Facebook thread takes a darker turn.

ClarkFlagKey2

That’s not an unusual sort of attack on Key on Facebook but is a bit nasty.

But for Clark to endorse it is I think not a good look for an MP.

Ministry of Bloody Insulting Extravagance

David Clark clashed with Steven Joyce clashed in Parliament over hair straighteners.

That’s David Clark:

DavidClark17Jun15

And Steven Joyce:

StevenJoyce17Jun15

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would suggest to the member that in his case and mine, hair straighteners are no use paid for by anybody, frankly.

He’s right about that, it’s not something either of them would have much experience with.

But Clark was right to point out the extravagance of MBIE spending taxpayer money on:

  • Installation of hair straighteners for staff use
  • $140,747.66 on a public information screen
  • $74,000 on a reception desk
  • $260,000 spent renovating a rooftop sundeck
  • $1,696 spending on a ministerial plaque  – plaques are commonly installed on buildings – but for new buildings. A plaque for a refurbishment seems to be a bit ridiculous.

This is on top of a $40,000 sign. MBIE is an extravagant embarrassment for Joyce.

MBIE – Ministry of Bloody Insulting Extravagance
(a poor example for Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment)

[Sitting date: 17 June 2015. Volume:706;Page:9. Text is subject to correction.]

4. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister for Economic Development : Does the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s expenditure of $140,747.66 on a public information screen show it is achieving one of its principal goals of realising efficiency gains over time?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I am disappointed with both the cost of the public information screen and the outside sign, and, as I have said publicly, I have spoken to the chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and made clear my disappointment. He has accepted that those two items in their relocation should have cost less, and in future large building projects will have additional oversight. It is important that these two items are seen in the context of savings of $40 million over 20 years by being located in a single head office that come from a 31 percent reduction in office space. It is also important to note that the overall cost of that development came in at $2 million under budget.

Dr David Clark : Does spending $74,000 on a reception desk show good judgment?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The member could run through a number of things that he and I could both have an opinion on, but, actually, overall the project has saved very significant sums of money for taxpayers—$40 million over 20 years—and it also came in under budget.

Dr David Clark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very direct and straightforward question, and it was not answered or addressed.

Mr SPEAKER : In my opinion, in listening carefully to the answer, from what I could hear it was addressed. It would help if the member could ask his own colleagues to be a little quieter, and then he might well have heard the answer more clearly as well. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark : I did hear the answer, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Then he will agree that it was addressed.

Dr David Clark : Can he confirm that his name appears on the ministerial plaque described in the release documents as requiring an additional $1,696 spending variation in the contract; if so, is he the Minister responsible to this House for the expenditure referred to in my questions today?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : It could be helpful to the member to point out that he is failing to make the distinction between policy-related issues, which it is right and proper that the Minister gets involved in, and operational issues, which are the responsibility of the chief executive. We have seen examples in this House of members failing to observe the differences that are appropriate in what could be known as the “Trevor Mallard – Erin Leigh effect”. If Ministers start trying to run the departments for the chief executives, that generally does not work out well.

Dr David Clark : It will be an epitaph, not a plaque. Does spending taxpayer money on the installation of hair straighteners show good judgment—

Hon Steven Joyce : Well, not for you.

Dr David Clark : —well, not for you or me—if so, is the forward rental contract flexible enough to allow the Government installation of hair curlers as and when Wellington’s fashions change?

Mr SPEAKER : In so far as there is ministerial responsibility in this particular case.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would suggest to the member that in his case and mine, hair straighteners are no use paid for by anybody, frankly.

Labour press release: Labour attacks cost of MBIE’s “flashy foyer” in new Stout Street offices

Joyce squirming on Sky ‘free plus costs’

While the Sky City scam poses major problems for Key’s Government it is Steven Joyce who is squirming the most, beause he has driven the project and the deal. Vernon Small in Counting the cost of ‘free’:

This week ministers have been trying to rewrite history on just what “free” meant.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, whose name is on the deal, indulged in contortions unbecoming of a minister of a certain age, claiming the deal was “free to the agreed value of $402m”.

To be fair when the – shall we call it draft deal? – was announced in May 2013 he said SkyCity’s contribution was limited to $315m – a figure that represented the $402m cost less the value of the land.

And he did not rule out extra taxpayer funding at the time.

Joyce also avoided suggesting that a gambling corporation could be handed out milliions of free taxpayer money.

And Joyce was left squirming in Parliament yesterday when questioned by Labour’s David Clark.

Dr David Clark : Why should taxpayer money be given to a casino company that in the last 6 months alone made a net profit of $66.6 million?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : There is no requirement to do so at all, but the discussion is about the construction of a convention centre. It has agreed to build one for $402 million.

Sky City announced their their latest profits yesterday – SKYCITY 2015 Interim Result to 31 December 2014

Dr David Clark : When he proudly announced in July 2013 that Skycity will meet the full costs of the convention centre, was he meaning full costs in a strict legal sense or more in a pretty legal kind of way?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I was referring to the fact that Skycity would pay the full cost of building a $402 million convention centre, and that is still the case. It has proposed that there are some additional costs, and it has come to us to discuss those costs, so we are discussing them.

How can you have ‘additional costs’ to ‘full costs’?

Dr David Clark : Is he aware that the value of Skycity shares surged by $76 million yesterday on the back of comments about a taxpayer-funded bailout, and does this not just show that Skycity knows it has the Government over a barrel of its own making?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would be very surprised if the price of a Skycity share went up by $76 million in 1 day, but I know that the member is a very clever Treasury analyst, so maybe he knows a little bit more about it than we do.

Dr David Clark : I seek leave to table a document showing that the market capitalisation of Skycity rose by $76 million on the day of the Prime Minister’s announcement—

Joyce argued semantics but Clark had got his point across. While he is talking about a very short time period the Sky share price jumped over the last two days:

SkySharesFeb15Joyce’s response was waffly.

Dr David Clark : I seek leave to table a document showing that the market capitalisation of Skycity rose by $76 million on the day of the Prime Minister’s announcement—

Another interuption from Joyce…

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Speaking to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER : No, I am putting the—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! Leave has been sought to table a document. I therefore need to put the leave, and then I can hear a point of order subsequent to that, if you wish to raise one. Leave has been sought to table this particular document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

…but leave was put to table the document. It sounded like a sole objection from the Government side of the house but the point had been made by Clark.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I was referring to the fact that Skycity would pay the full cost of building a $402 million convention centre, and that is still the case. It has proposed that there are some additional costs, and it has come to us to discuss those costs, so we are discussing them.

And Joyce was left trying to explain the unexplainable, how a free convention centre has become free plus costs.

Full draft transcript: 5. Skycity Convention Centre—Funding

Meanwhile there are peitions from both th eleft and the right opposing the costs to taxpayers.

Kiwiblog Sign the petition against taxpayer money for Sky City

The Taxpayers’ Union has a petition against any taxpayer funds going towards the Sky City convention centre, on top of the regulatory concessions that were agreed to.

Currently 908 signatures.

The Standard Say NO to the $140m SkyCity bailout

The Labour Party is organising a petition against the $140 million bailout SkyCity is demanding – and John Key is insisting we have to pay to prevent getting an “eyesore” of a convention centre

You can sign the petition here.

Currently 19,291 people have signed.

David Clark on Otago gas exploration – yeah, nah

Dunedin City Councillor Andrew Whiley has taken a swipe at Dunedin North MP David Clark about his lack of support for gas exploration and potential business and jobs for Dunedin. ODT reports:

A Dunedin city councillor has accused Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark of putting votes before jobs as the debate over exploratory gas drilling heats up in the South.

The comments by Cr Andrew Whiley – a vocal supporter of gas exploration off the Otago coast – were made in his new role as spokesman for the gas supporters’ group Pro Gas Otago.

However, Mr Clark hit back yesterday, saying Cr Whiley’s summary was ”simplistic” and his group appeared to be ”parroting the National Party position”.

That sounds like Clark is putting politics before the people of Dunedin.

In his statement, released on Thursday afternoon, Cr Whiley said a member of the group had met Dunedin-based National MP Michael Woodhouse and Mr Clark to discuss Shell and Anadarko’s exploratory drilling plans.

Mr Woodhouse was ”very supportive” of the industry’s arrival but the group was ”disappointed” by Mr Clark, who ”felt that supporting this industry may cost him votes”, Cr Whiley said.

Cr Whiley yesterday, confirmed he had not been at the meeting, but stood by the comments anyway and urged Mr Clark to do more to support exploratory drilling.

”My view is: the same people who were campaigning for Hillside … should be in support of the jobs that could be created by exploration off the coast.

Publicly Clark (and Dunedin South colleague Clare Curran) has until now been mute on exploration. He responded to ODT:

Mr Clark said it was ”not true” he was putting votes before jobs.

”I did say that North Dunedin people are concerned about environmental outcomes and therefore wouldn’t be willing to support unregulated mining without appropriate checks and balances.

”I think the Dunedin North electorate is sophisticated enough to understand that appropriate development of mineral resources can support decent incomes, but are not willing to support mineral development at any cost.”

His view was consistent with that of Labour leader David Cunliffe, who earlier this week said the party supported deep sea oil and gas exploration ”in principle”, but would toughen environmental protection laws.

That sounds like fence sitting “yeah, nah” uncertainty. He doesn’t mention gas here, just mining and minerals but states something largely irrelevant – “wouldn’t be willing to support unregulated mining” –  mining and drilling are regulated, the question is how regulated it should be.

Clark has not expressed any support for oil exploration business or jobs in Dunedin here, he has vaguely parroted Labour’s vague position and attacked National.

This looks like party politics and elections first, Dunedin and jobs second, or third, or yeah, nah.

The prospects of Dunedin MPs working together for the best interests of the city and region don’t look good.

 

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