Q+A: best PM, Cunliffe

There’s a comma in the headline.

On Q+A this morning:

Former Labour leader David Cunliffe says Haere rā to Parliament – he talks to Jessica Mutch about the highs and lows of his political career.

See Valedictory Statement – David Cunliffe

Cunliffe concedes that arroagnce was a problem for his bid to become Prime Minister.

Both Cunliffe and Mike Williams say that Labour organisation and resources were at a very low ebb is 2014 and are much better now.


Historian and former Labour Minister Dr Michael Bassett tells Whena Owen about his new book on New Zealand’s Prime Ministers – who does he rank as the best?


Valedictory Statement – David Cunliffe

Remember David Cunliffe? He was one of the better ministers for the Clark government, and later led Labour to a bad result in the 2014 election, failing popularity tests within his own part let alone with the public.

Last year he indicated he had a better job to go to and would leave Parliament as soon as he could without causing a by-election in his New Lynn electorate.

On Tuesday he gave his valedictory speech in Parliament. I guess he is not an MP soon, if not now.


Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn):

Te papa pounamu

Aotearoa New Zealand

Karanga, karanga, karanga;

Ngā tupuna

Haere, haere, haere;

Te kāhui ora te korowai o tēnei Whare;

E tū, e tū, tū tahi tonu

Ki a koutou ōku hoa mahi ki Te Kāwanatanga;

Noho mai, noho mai, noho mai

Kia tau te rangimārie ki a tātou katoa;

Ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea.

[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

They say that giving a valedictory speech is a bit like being buried alive; it is intended to be permanent, it is usually followed by a wake, and you get to witness the eulogies. Having failed miserably to obey Holyoake’s advice to breathe through my nose on my way in here, his advice may be more useful on the way out. May I thank colleagues from all sides who have joined us today—yes, I really am going. To all of the friends and family who have joined us from New Lynn and all around New Zealand, it is profoundly moving to have you all here. Thank you so very much for attending.

I think our early lives frame why we are all here. My parents were from a politically mixed marriage. For years, they actually cancelled each other out at the polling booth and probably should have saved the petrol. My father, the Rev. Bill Cunliffe—the “Red Reverend”—was the son of railway workers and miners. He was the first in his family to go to university. Priests, poets, and politicians—the Cunliffes were always idealists.

My mother’s family were National-voting farming folk. They just got stuff done. My mother was one of four feisty daughters and ahead of her time. She nursed around the world for a decade, starting in post-war Africa. But despite my mother’s pleas to avoid politics at the breakfast table, ours was never a household short of opinions—it still is not, as I look to my sons—or, as an Anglican vicarage, was never short of opportunities to meet and help the needy.

As a kid, I helped my dad with Labour Party chook raffles at the Pleasant Point pub because he was chairman of the Point branch and on Sir Basil Arthur’s LEC. I was also caned in the third form for biffing a mate who called me a “Labour poof”, so I learned some of my politics by osmosis and some by more direct means. My childhood in small-town rural New Zealand was both idyllic and formative. From Te Aroha to Te Kūiti to Pleasant Point, afternoons were spent fishing, weekends playing rugby, and holidays farm labouring or rousying in a shearing gang. Those are things you can definitely find on my CV.

Politics, they say, is like malaria; once it is in your bloodstream, it is really hard to get rid of. I really caught the bug as a Foreign Service officer tramping Capitol Hill in Washington for the New Zealand Embassy. But it was not until I got back to New Zealand that I got to indulge it. In 1999, thanks to an amazing Titirangi campaign team, we turned a National-held marginal into a safe Labour seat. The campaign theme was so simple, I can still remember it: cops, docs, trees, jobs, and kids. Not a bad line if we are stuck for one in 2017.

About that time I featured in a Young Labour fund-raising calendar as a gladiator. Go figure. Marian Hobbs was a nun on a motorbike, and Trevor and Steve were the Blues Brothers because they were cool.

Hon Trevor Mallard: A long time ago.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It was a while ago. But, in any case, picture the class of ’99 washing into Parliament with huge energy. We actually staged a backbench revolt in the Finance and Expenditure Committee to hold up the demutualisation of the New Zealand Stock Exchange, preventing a hostile takeover by the ASX and demanding a proper regulatory framework that may have been good for economic sovereignty, but we got our ears boxed for our enthusiasm. Likewise, chairing the Commerce Committee in my first term, we did not sugar-coat too many pills after 9 long years of opposition. I must have mellowed with age, because the Regulations Review Committee, which I chaired this term, has never put anything to the vote, and I thank members on both sides of that committee for their collegiality and professionalism.

The years 1999 to 2000 saw business pushback against the Clark Government’s reforms. It was countered with our very own “smoked salmon offensive” of canapé and conversation. My small part in that was tragically outed when I erroneously emailed a plan to Jenny Shipley’s office. When it turned up on the 6 o’clock news, it took precisely 2 seconds for Prime Minister Helen Clark to ring me and share her views on the story with me. You know what I mean: “Yes, Helen.” Jonathan Hunt gave me two excellent pieces of advice that first term that stuck: never forget you are here only because you have Labour next to your name, and knock every door in your electorate in your first term, because once your constituents know that you are there for them, they will forgive your later time in Wellington. I have loved being a local MP. To the good people of New Lynn, thank you for letting me represent you. I hope I have done the job justice.

MPs come to Parliament not only to serve their district but also to contest ideas and policies. We are lucky that we have this institution, that we have the media to cover it, and that we have healthy debate. Since I first walked into this place, my political values have been grounded in a very simple belief: that all people are created equal and that, therefore, they all deserve equal opportunity, dignity, and respect; that markets make good servants but bad masters; and that it is the Government’s job to ensure that the economy serves our people and not the other way around.

In a small country, we are all in it together. If we do not educate all our young, who is going to pay for the superannuation and healthcare of tomorrow? If all our people do not have warm, dry homes, some of our kids will get sick and cannot learn, and if all people do not have jobs that pay a living wage, we will all be the poorer for it. Those are principles that we worked hard to deliver on in the fifth Labour Government, and the next Labour Government will too.

I was fortunate to cut my teeth in the Beehive with Sir Michael Cullen, surely one of New Zealand’s greatest finance Ministers, and under the leadership of Helen Clark. I always thought that to work with one of them would have been lucky; to work with a team of two was extraordinary. But it did not take me long to work out that the real job of an Associate Minister is photocopying, which is shorthand for doing anything else that senior Ministers either do not have the time or the inclination to do. So I got to ask State-owned enterprises why they were not writing bigger cheques to the Minister of Finance and to ask the IRD why the child support system pleased absolutely nobody. A highlight was making sandwiches with Trevor Mallard for that modern miracle, the State sector Budget round. Michael Cullen described the fiscal balance as the difference between two very large numbers that bounce around a lot—Grant is smiling; he knows—but balance them he did, with nine straight surpluses and KiwiSaver and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to boot. They have stood the test of time, and I believe they are crying out to be built upon.

In information and communications technology (ICT), I watched Hon Paul Swain get sliced and diced by the then monopoly Telecom after the 2001 Fletcher inquiry called time on that neo-Liberal version of The Emperor’s New Clothes known as “self-regulation”. It sounds a bit like self-flagellation, but less useful. When, after the 2005 election, Helen Clark asked me to take on the ICT portfolio, we started a broad-based stocktake review immediately, and after 6 months of research it was a compelling business case for pro-competitive regulation. Because of the sensitivity of the issue, we placed high security around all of the paperwork, but that did not stop a Beehive messenger slipping a copy of the Cabinet committee papers to someone from Telecom at a cycle club meeting. The resulting protest from Telecom was, however, too late; Cabinet had already approved the far-reaching package that unbundled and operationally separated Telecom and overhauled the regulator. Taking legal advice, we released the package that very day, and despite the short-term impact on share prices generated by the loss of monopoly rents, as predicted, investment in the sector doubled, retail prices fell, and broadband roll-out took off. The current Government has continued that work, and good on it. New Zealand is now amongst one of the best-served telecommunications markets in the world, and Kiwis really did get faster, cheaper broadband.

As immigration Minister, my focus was on protecting human rights and getting the skills we needed to move New Zealand forward. I learnt pretty quickly that moderate, skill-driven immigration helps build a modern, connected New Zealand. But too many people too quickly puts undue pressure on infrastructure and communities, all in the name of grabbing more GDP. No prizes for guessing which zone we are in now!

Inheriting the health portfolio a year before a general election was bound to be fun. In my first week, senior doctors were about to go on strike. The headlines screamed “system failure”. The strike was averted after a long liquid dinner in my Beehive office with the district health board and senior doctors’ representatives. The only condition was no one was allowed to leave until the deal was signed, which was actually at 5.30 the next morning.

Building on the work of previous Ministers, we accelerated universal bowel cancer screening—something that still has not happened; we integrated service planning for cardiology, health, IT, and other specialities; we boosted mental health funding, which still needs doing, and kept a strong focus on public health. I still believe that there is huge benefit in a free or low-cost, world-class health system that is nationally integrated and reaches right into communities.

Going into Opposition in 2008 was a shock for the Labour Party. The global financial crisis had made sure of it for our Government, and I think we had also lost connection with the people and some of our own members. It has been, as it is for most parties, a long, hard road back, but it does give you time to reflect on what really matters.

My time in several economic portfolios led me to some pretty straightforward conclusions. New Zealand, as Grant knows, does not save enough. What we do save, we invest in the wrong things. Without enough saving, investment is too costly and jobs are too few. KiwiSaver was a good start, but it needs a boost, and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund must be made sustainable. We invest less than half of the OECD average in research and development, and yet that smart stuff is what is going to win us markets and give our kids access to the global jobs of the future.

What capital we do have, we spend on the wrong things, like bidding each other’s house prices up. I remember my horror when I found the first family in Kelston living in a garage. We got the dad a job, the kids are now at medical school, but, tragically, you cannot find many garages to park a car in these days in South Auckland. New Zealand has become a speculator’s “pavlova paradise”: no capital gains tax, negative gearing, weak rules on foreign land bankers, and throw in tax loopholes big enough to drive an Apple through.

It is time we put our policies where our principles are, not only because a fair go is right but because the evidence is compelling: more equal societies do better economically too. In New Zealand, inequality is actually holding us back. It is crippling our ability to do well as a country. The poor are getting poorer, the middle is working harder just to stand still. With nearly all of the wealth created in the past decade attaching, on average, to the top 1 percent, a smaller and smaller share of national income is actually going to wage and salary earners. At some stage, hopefully soon, it has got to reach a tipping point. Notwithstanding that, as the late, great John Clarke said: “We don’t know how lucky we are.”—I think he said “Trev”.

This side of the House makes no apology for fighting inequality, investing in people and smarts, and celebrating all that is good in this beautiful, diverse, and innovative country, and much of that, thank goodness, we all share. That was the message I hoped would resonate with many New Zealanders during my short time as Leader of the Opposition, including some of the missing million who could not be bothered to turn out to vote at all because they could not see the point any more. I could write a book about the 2014 election campaign, but I do not think anyone would believe it, or possibly read it. But, in any case, that campaign was one of the most bizarre the country has ever seen. We had Kim Dotcom, Donghua Liu, and dirty politics coming out our ears, but what the Labour Party did not have enough of was time: time to heal our old wounds, time to raise the money, and time to build the systems to get our message through. Mike Moore once said that the easiest way to be wrong in politics is to be right too soon. I have no regrets for standing up for what I believe in, though I recognise that my delivery could at times have done with some work. And no, family violence is still not OK.

So it was a huge privilege to be able to lead the New Zealand Labour Party, and I am indebted to all who were part of that campaign. I want to commend my successor, Andrew Little, and his deputy, Jacinda Ardern, and all my colleagues, who are now building for the 2017 campaign that will give New Zealanders a real choice for a fresh start.

Progressive politics has been my passion for these last 18 years, but if politics is like malaria—a recurrent fever—I think I might be just about cured. I have done what I can, and the time really has come to move on. I thank members for coming along to make sure I really mean it, but, unlike David Lange, I am not even going to joke about changing my mind, because I am lucky enough—I mean this—to be able to change tacks in my own time, in my own direction, and without a by-election, because Labour did so well in the last two I just could not inflict another one on members opposite. [Interruption] Lighten up, I am going.

Mr Assistant Speaker, thank you for allowing the electorate offices of all our departing members to continue to serve needy constituencies through these short months of interregnum. They say—this is unfair—that politicians are a mile wide and a millimetre deep; that may be the Bellamy’s catering. I am, however, looking forward to returning to the private sector and getting stuck in to some deeper issues, consulting to businesses, iwi, and regions.

So I am moving on with a real sense of optimism and excitement and, of course, a huge deal of gratitude. It is not possible—we all know this—to commit to a life in politics without the generous and selfless support of family and of friends. There are so many people to thank, it is impossible to do justice to them all. For some, I will convey privately the gratitude that time and place does not allow me to do today. To my long-standing electorate agents Sue Hagen and Lusi Schwenke: you have been with me through virtually the whole of my time in politics, and you have been there through the tough times. I could not have wished for better support or better friends. Thank you.

To my talented researcher Kris Lal; my dedicated executive assistants Reremoana Fuli, Esther Robinson, David Hawkins, Paul Grant, Sue Piper, Gay Pledger, and others; to my former Labour Leader’s Office staff, including Karl Beckert, Wendy Brandon, Rob Carr, Simon Cunliffe, Carolyn Dick, Rob Egan, Chris Harrington, Neale Jones, Matt McCarten, Deborah Manning, Elizabeth Munday, Dinah Okeby, Bronwyn Presland, Bridget Service, and Clint Smith—not forgetting, in the whips’ office, Emma Williams and Peter Hoare and my former ministerial staff, some of whom are in the gallery today: thank you all so much for what you do for New Zealand, and thank you for what we did together.

To the Labour Party leadership, especially presidents Nigel Haworth and Moira Coatsworth, general secretaries Andrew Kirton and Tim Barnett, as well as the thousands of volunteers and members who give so selflessly to build a better New Zealand; to our affiliates in the union movement, especially my friends the late Helen Kelly and the late Peter Conway; to Sam Huggard and Jill Ovens and friends here today; and to Richard Wagstaff, Angus McConnell, Chris Flatt, Joe Fleetwood, Bill Newsom, Robert Reid, and many others: kia kaha, e hoa.

To the incredible New Lynn Labour electorate committee: to Greg and Jan Presland, Clare Hargraves, Raema Ingles, James Armstrong, Eanna Doyle, and Val Graham; Kirsten H and what’s-his-name, Don and Noreen Clark—[Interruption]—there is a reason for that—Val and Don Rogerson, Bruce and Trixie Harvey, David and Liz Craig, Dorothy and Alan McGray, Nissanka Kumarawansa, Ami and the late Savitri Chand, Susan Zhu, Vanessa King, Kaye Jones, Martin and Laurice Holland, and to my excellent intended successor for New Lynn, Dr Deborah Russell, and to the Socialist Speechwriter, thank you all.

To Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, Jonathan Hunt, Perry Keenan, Sir Bob and Lady Harvey, Richard and Jackie Randerson, Rick Boven, Richard Zeckhauser, and Nitin Nohria: thank you all for your patience and guidance over the years. Thank you to the press gallery and the media for the important role that you continue to play. To all the parliamentary staff who keep us fed, watered, and safe: we could not do it—New Zealand could not do it—without you.

Finally, to my family, who have given the most over so many years, and especially to my two sons, William and Cameron, who are here today: I am so very proud of you guys. I love you very much, and I am looking forward to spending more time with you when I get home. You guys face a world that is more complex and more challenging than that inherited by those baby boomers, and us Gen-Xers, sitting in Parliament today. While our world is changing in fundamental ways, the values that guide us should not, because they are, ultimately, what make politics worth doing, not the rollercoaster of media attention or the greasy pole of competition. This is, ultimately, a service job, and that is what, for me at least, has made it such a privilege to be part of.

To all sides—all sides—of this special House and all who serve it, I wish you all well. I look forward now to just being a voter and a constituent from now on. Haere rā. [Applause]


Parties arrange early Key/Cunliffe exits

National and Labour have worked together to arrange for the early exit of John Key and David Cunliffe from Parliament. They are both leaving just close enough to the election to avoid automatic by-elections, and with both leaving at about the same time the vote balance in parliament won’t be upset.

Too bad for their electorates that will be left unrepresented until after the election. Neither electorate has a current list MP standing so that leave no one to step in for them.

Stuff: Key, Cunliffe set date for final departures in move to preserve Parliament’s balance

Former Prime Minister John Key will quit Parliament on April 14 after delivering his farewell speech next week.

The timing will allow Parliament to avoid a by-election in his Helensville seat, which can be left vacant if he leaves within six months of the September 23 general election.

Meanwhile Labour’s David Cunliffe has also announced he is leaving early, with a final day of April 23 – ensuring the relative strengths of the Government and Opposition are preserved.

It is becoming more common for MPs and also for local body politicians to leave mid-term at their own convenience rather than fulfil their full term commitment.

Key will give his valedictory speech on March 22 and his resignation will take take effect on April 14.

Cunliffe’s valedictory speech will be on April 11 and his resignation will take effect on April 23.

Cunliffe quitting next year

David Cunliffe says he has been offered a job to good to turn down so he will leave Parliament next year. He is going to remain long enough to avoid a by election in his New Lynn electorate.

Significant factors are likely to be Cunliffe’s failure as Labour leader in the 2014 election – Labour slumped – and the jobs offered by his replacement leader Andrew leader were fairly insulting.

Cunliffe is currently ranked 27th out of Labour’s 31 MPs.

Little announced that Cunliffe would not be seeking re-election (RNZ):

“He is joining the leadership team of Auckland-based management consultancy Stakeholder Strategies Ltd, a leading strategy and organisation consulting firm that provides advice on commercial, economic and environmental issues,” Mr Little said.

He said Mr Cunliffe planned to step down sometime next year and wanted to avoid triggering a by-election.

He had made a “strong contribution” to Labour as the MP for New Lynn since 1999 and as a former leader and finance spokesperson.

“I’m not here to talk about things that happened a long time ago, David has made his decision, I have made the announcement today and so we know think about the next steps, but understand David continues to be well-respected and a good friend of mine.”

Cunliffe also played a part in Labour changing the way they elected their leader, which probably made the difference on whether Littler took over or not.

Cunliffe says he is choosing to go and wasn’t pushed – but the lack of prospects under Little must have played a part in his decision.

“A great opportunity has come my way. I’ve got options and I’m looking forward to taking them.

Opportunities and options for him in Parliament were not great.

Asked about his greatest challenge since entering Parliament in 1999, Mr Cunliffe said challenges “come and go”.

“Look, I’ve had a great run in politics, it’s a rollercoaster as we all know, but it’s an opportunity at the end of the day to make a difference for New Zealanders. It’s not about us, it’s about them and improving their lives and God knows they need help at the moment.”

Mr Cunliffe said one of his biggest regrets was the impact Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party had on the result of the 2014 election.

“A large German billionaire that came from nowhere and swung like a wrecking ball through New Zealand politics. We tried to stay well away from him, but undoubtedly he was a one-man turnout machine for marginal National voters.”

So he is blaming his and Labour’s failures on Dotcom. There was a lot more too the election than that. Cunliffe wasn’t seen as Prime Minister material by the voters.

Corbyn faces coup

The Guardian has details of an impending coup attempt in the British Labour Party following the EU referendum.

The claim “An overwhelming majority of the shadow cabinet now believes Corbyn should quit”.

Hilary Benn seeks shadow cabinet backing to oust Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn faces a coup this week by members of his shadow cabinet, led by Hilary Benn, the Observer can reveal.

It is understood that the shadow foreign secretary called fellow MPs over the weekend to suggest that he will ask Corbyn to stand down if there is significant support for a move against the leader. He has also asked shadow cabinet colleagues to join him in resigning if the Labour leader ignores that request. A spokesman for Benn declined to comment.

An overwhelming majority of the shadow cabinet now believes Corbyn should quit in the wake of millions of Labour voters ignoring their leader’s advice to vote in favour of Britain’s continued membership of the EU and amid the possibility of an early general election.

The development comes as leaked internal Labour party polling of people who voted for Labour in 2015 reveals that nearly a third (29%) would support a different party if a general election was held today.

A Labour source said: “MPs and members were worried about their prospects at the next election under Corbyn, but thought they had four years to turn things around. Now many fear they may have just four months if a snap election is called.”

The development looks likely to be the most serious threat to Corbyn’s leadership yet, with many MPs claiming that he must be unseated by the end of the week for Labour to remain an electoral force.

It surprised many that Corbyn was voted by party membership as leader, and he seems to have failed to transform from maverick backbencher to widely popular leader.

And David Cunliffe agrees that Labour has a Corbyn problem:

John Drinnan Retweeted David Cunliffe
Corbyn lack of leadership was dismal imo

has been virtually invisible I agree

So was the swing hard left a mistake? Or was Corbyn simply the wrong gamble?

The PM/lawyer/trust story

NZ Herald and One News are making a big thing of a story about John Key, his lawyer (who  is apparently is not a lawyer any more), the Antipodes trust company and lobbying.

One News: John Key’s lawyer’s involvement in lobbying government over tax laws revealed

John Key’s personal lawyer lobbied the Government not to change the controversial tax laws.

This is the latest twist in the Panama Papers saga – and it’s raising more questions for the Prime Minister and the role of his lawyer Ken Whitney.

Earlier this month Mr Key shrugged off the revelation that he had a cash deposit with Antipodes Trust, a company that specialises in foreign trusts. His office explained this away by saying the deposit was lodged with Mr Whitney, who had recently moved firms to the Antipodes Trust.

However, Companies House documents show that Mr Whitney has been involved with the firm since its inception more than 20 years ago.

And Official Information Act document also reveals that Mr Whitney and the Antipodes Trust were heavily involved in lobbying the Government not to change the controversial tax rules.

NZ Herald: The Antipodes email: The PM, his lawyer and foreign trusts

John Key’s personal lawyer cited a conversation with the Prime Minister when lobbying a Minister about a potential crackdown on the lucrative foreign trust industry.

Time and analysis will show whether there is anything significant or damaging to Key in this story.

There’s another interesting aspect to the story – it appears to have been provided to selected news outlets, One News, the Herald and Radio NZ, and not given to Newshub or Stuff, at least not initially.

Giving one or some media outlets news, in this case one print, one television and one radio outlet, is a technique used to get those outlets to give the news more prominence as an ‘exclusive’ .

The story came from the Greens, who clearly decided to share w tvnz, rnz & herald.

Clearly from Greens – are you saying that was shut out?

Anybody there from Greens – was shut out from story?

it seems fairly obviously it was provided first to Tvnz over tv3 like it was to Herald over stuff

So its just a queue waiting for a press release? Sad.

Cunliffe unclear, Key wrong on TPPA

David Cunliffe (like everyone else but especially politicians) should be more careful with how he words his tweets.

Toby Manhire ‏@toby_etc Feb 9
The cruellest cut of all: John Key seems to have forgotten that David Cunliffe used to be leader of the Labour Party

@toby_etc nope. He just lied about my position. I wasn’t on the March because I love the deal

This puzzled me, because Cunliffe took part in the anti-TPPA march in Auckland on February 4th, the day of the signing.

He also posted on his Facebook page with some loyal party lines:

Today, I joined thousands of Kiwis in protest against provisions in the TPPA that would undermine our sovereignty. Great to see people from all walks of life engaged and expressing their views peacefully and thoughtfully.

The New Zealand Labour Party has always stood for free trade and always will – just not at the expense of our sovereignty.


So while he hasn’t mentioned Pharmac nor intellectual property there he is continuing with the vague ‘sovereignty’ complaint.

The “John Key seems to have forgotten that David Cunliffe used to be leader of the Labour Party” presumably arose after Key’s Statement in Parliament in Tuesday.

So it had, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, significance for the Labour Party. Do any of us know why? Well, when we think “TPP”, we think Trans-Pacific Partnership; they think “two-position party”—that is what “TPP” says to them.

This is because when it comes to David Shearer, he rightfully said to the New Zealand Herald—before he got a good spanking from the leader—“I’ll be voting for it. There’s no change there. Nothing’s changed my mind and the international interest analysis—fantastic.”

Phil Goff, he is definitely voting for it, because it is, to quote Phil, the same as the China free-trade agreement taken under Labour.

Helen Clark, she is a tremendous supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

In fact, every Labour leader in the last 20 years supports the agreement except the current one. Well, that actually is a bit debatable. So when you look at Andrew Little’s positions—and I will grant you he has had more positions than the Labour Party has had leader in the last 5 years—he says he hates the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

So Cunliffe may be correct in saying “He just lied about my position”, or Key was at least mistaken.

Cunliffe has arrived at his current position after vague and non-commital stances in the past.

When he first became Labour leader in September 2013 3 News reported:

As one of his first acts as leader of the Opposition, David Cunliffe has called on the Government to make public the draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

In his first full press conference, Mr Cunliffe challenged the Government to “have the courage of its convictions” and put the negotiating draft into the public domain so it can make up its own mind.

Cunliffe should have known that it was ridiculous to expect a negotiating draft of an international agreement involving 12 countries should be put in the public doman.

While Mr Cunliffe says he still needs a “detailed briefing” on the negotiations and the party has not seen the draft, he understood the concept of what the partnership could bring.

“There are some real fish hooks with it.”

These include intellectual property issues and investor and state relations, he says.

While Labour’s leader in March 2014 Cunliffe spoke at a TPPA protest rally but was non-committal then:

Labour leader David Cunliffe spoke at the Auckland rally but would not state his party’s final position on the TPPA.

“I’m going to wait until I see the details.”

The TPPA was a “fundamentally important agreement” but the public did not know what was included in the text, he said.

“There’s a wide range of opinions, some people are absolutely opposed, some people think it’s a great deal and the fact is nobody really knows because there’s 300 pages of details in [trade minister] Tim Groser’s safe and he’s not showing anybody and that’s wrong,” Cunliffe said.

During the election campaign in August 2014 Cunliffe said:

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe said the party would act based on the merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. He said it was not possible at present to assess the merits of the deal, because the Government was refusing to release the draft texts.

During Labour’s leadership contest in late 2014 Cunliffe  expressed concerns about the TPPA: (no longer waiting until he saw the details, which weren’t released until a year later):

I am concerned about the TPPA. We cannot trade-away our ability to set government regulation. I am worried that John Key and his Government will continue to keep us all in the dark about the text and its implications and I fear they will then present us with the final text some time near the end of this year and insist that we accept it otherwise we will harm our trading relationships.

This will leave us with little or no opportunity to consult with our communities about its potential implications.

We must protect Pharmac, ensure intellectual property provisions are suitable for New Zealand business, and we must not accept limits on our sovereign right to regulate. Any agreement must be in New Zealand’s best interest.

That was to a Labour audience as opposed to the voting public.

There is plenty of time for MPs to consult with their communities. Public submissions can now be made in Parliament on International treaty examination of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Pharmac and intellectual property provisions have caused little real concern, and Labour’s fall back stance on ‘sovereign rights’ and ‘our ability to set government regulation’ seems quite lame.

But now Cunliffe knows the detail of the agreement, and there should be fewer concerns than he had previously expressed about it, he has become an active protester against the TPPA.

However Key may not have known about this strengthening of Cunliffe’s anti-TPPA stance.

This will probably be added to BliP’s list of John Key ‘lies’ but it’s debatable whether it was a deliberate false claim through omitting Cunliffe’s current TPPA stance, or he just got it wrong.

Labour, protest, trade

Labour mostly kept a distance from the TPPA protests in Auckland yesterday. They have also tried to keep a distance between anti-TPPA and anti-trade. But not everyone in Labour is on the same page.

Andrew Little and Labour dabbled with the TPPA signing and protests but from a distance. They tried to portray their anti-TPPA stance as a principled stand on sovereignty in the same league as New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance:

On this day in 1985 the then Labour Government stood up for the rights of New Zealanders. It refused entry to the USS Buchanan after the US Government would neither confirm nor deny the warship had nuclear capability. Fast forward 31 years and today the Labour Opposition is again standing up for New Zealand sovereignty which the TPPA undermines.


I’m not sure they are onto a winner with this approach, it’s just one of many mixed and muddled messages on the TPPA and is unlikely to get much traction with the TPPA protest movement, nor those who see trade agreements as a necessity.

Little also put out a media release: TPP signing highlights divisions in NZ

The stage-managed signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement at a casino in Auckland today highlights the divisions National’s handling of the deal has caused in New Zealand, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says.

“The Government’s whole management of the agreement has been botched, from the total secrecy to ramming it down people’s throats.

“This has caused a deep divide, and inviting international leaders to sign it just two days before Waitangi – our national day – has added salt to that wound.

“Labour is a pro-free trade party but the TPP goes further than other agreements in undermining our democracy. We shouldn’t need a permission slip from foreign corporations to pass our own laws. That’s why Labour cannot support the agreement in its current form.

“Other countries such as Australia and Malaysia are able to ban foreigners from buying their homes. New Zealand cannot under this deal. That’s just not right.

“Open and transparent debate is crucial to a healthy democracy but the TPP process and John Key’s handling of the deal after it was signed has damaged that.

“Today’s protests are a public sign of the deep discomfort many New Zealanders feel about what is happening in this country. The Government must now seek ways to heal that wound,” Andrew Little says.

This is odd from Little, in particular “John Key’s handling of the deal after it was signed”. The TPPA was only signed yesterday, about the same time this statement seems to have been posted, so dissing Key’s post-signing handling is unjustified.

Litle also did a live chat about the TPPA on Stuff.

If Labour opposes the TPPA why wasn’t the Labour Party more involved with the anti-TPPA protest today?

We’re opposed to the TPPA in its current form because compromises to New Zealand’s sovereignty are not justified by the meagre economic gains. A number of Labour people are involved in today’s protests, including MPs who’ve spoken at rallies around the country.

But Labour involvement with the protest was low profile, especially with Labour’s front bench MPs.

Grant Robertson was at the Wellington protest but wasn’t prominent in Stuff’s: Protesters in Wellington join calls against TPPA signing

Opposition politicians and union members were among those in attendance, with several sharing their concerns about the deal.

Labour finance spokesman Grant Robertson said the TPPA was not a normal trade agreement and required New Zealand to sacrifice too much.

“This is an agreement [where] New Zealand is having to give away the right to make laws and policies in our interests, and that is wrong and we cannot accept that.”

Robertson said the issue was “far from over”, and Kiwis opposed to the deal needed to continue their protests.

“This is not over: as New Zealanders, we have to stand together [and] stand up for our rights to make laws in our own interests.”

Standard Labour talking points on the TPPA. Nothing from Robertson about it on his Facebook page.

Jacinda Ardern seems to have kept her distance from the Auckland protest, and obviously Phil Goff and David Shearer would not be seen supporting the protest.

Meka Whaitiri was there, interesting for Labour’s Associate Primary Industries Spokesperson to be against a trade agreement that will benefit primary industries.

Labour’s trade spokesperson David Clark doesn’t seem to have associated with any protests.

Phil Twyford was at the Auckland protest as this photo with Whaitiri on his Facebook page shows.


Note the US branded jacket with a Labour logo
– with a ‘Corporate Traitor’ sign in the background (hat tip Iceberg)

As Spokesperson for Auckland Issues and Associate Spokesperson for Transport (Auckland and Ports) Twyford could be out of step with Auckland business and export interests there.

Sue Moroney showed her and Labour’s presence via Facebook:


Duncan Garner spotted David Cunliffe:

Cunliffe also posted on his Facebook page with some loyal party lines:

Today, I joined thousands of Kiwis in protest against provisions in the TPPA that would undermine our sovereignty. Great to see people from all walks of life engaged and expressing their views peacefully and thoughtfully.

The New Zealand Labour Party has always stood for free trade and always will – just not at the expense of our sovereignty.


Miriam Bookman Hi David,

I am very disappointed in seeing Labour supporters marching alongside an anti semitic banner, and that you think it appropriate to re-post this image. This is not the Labour I wish to support.

It may be hard to choose your neighbours in a protest march but choice of publicity photos can be an issue.

‪#‎TPPANoWay‬ March down Queen Street Auckland .

Taranaki would presumably cover New Plymouth where Andrew Little has stood twice for Parliament (unsuccessfully, he’s a List MP).

Taranaki-King Country Labour flew a flag for their party:


The sign in the background appears to be welcoming, but it’s the opposite, as Taranaki-King Country Labour show in another shot.


That may not be a problem, the Trade Ministers of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, USA or Vietnam may never need to deal with Taranaki-King Country Labour.


Labour leader candidates on TPPA

It’s interesting to look back to Labour’s leadership contest in 2013 and what the candidates views were on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Question : What are your views on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement? Will you make the TPPA process transparent?

Of course no candidate will disagree with making the process more transparent. Their responses.

Note that these responses were targeting party members and unions in trying to get selected.

Grant Robertson

The TPPA is more than a normal trade agreement and needs to be treated as such, with caution.

I am a supporter of trade agreements that gain our exporters access to markets that will mean they can create jobs here in New Zealand. But we have to ensure that our rights to make laws, regulate and protect our people and environment is upheld.

In the case of the TPPA we must set clear bottom lines. No change to the PHARMAC model, protection of IP and copyright law, and ensuring our sovereign right to regulate and make policy is supported.

We do need more transparency in the way we deal with trade. I would set up an independent trade advisory group with representation from across the community to ensure there is public participation and understanding of our approach to trade agreements. We must be at the table for these sorts of negotiations, but it is vital that it is a Labour Government at the table.

David Cunliffe

I am concerned about the TPPA. We cannot trade-away our ability to set government regulation. I am worried that John Key and his Government will continue to keep us all in the dark about the text and its implications and I fear they will then present us with the final text some time near the end of this year and insist that we accept it otherwise we will harm our trading relationships.

This will leave us with little or no opportunity to consult with our communities about its potential implications.

We must protect Pharmac, ensure intellectual property provisions are suitable for New Zealand business, and we must not accept limits on our sovereign right to regulate. Any agreement must be in New Zealand’s best interest.

Shane Jones

A very challenging issue. It is vitally important we retain the capacity for our Parliament to regulate for public good.

It is essential that this deal does not hobble our technical industries through punitive patents. Ultimately however I do not want to see our Trade partners in a club without us.

NZ First is strongly against the TPPA. How would Jones fit with that?

Cunliffe to stand again

David Cunliffe says he’s ‘content to be the MP for New Lynn’ and intends to stand again in the election next year.

Cunliffe was demoted to 28th (of 32) in the Labour pecking order by Andrew Little last year and that was seen as a signal to Cunliffe to piss off, but he wants to hang in there.

NZ Herald reports: Cunliffe aiming for re-election

Labour MP David Cunliffe has had a bruising fall in politics but intends to run for Parliament again in 2017.

Since Labour’s disastrous election result under Mr Cunliffe’s leadership in 2014, he has lost the leadership and was demoted to the backbenches by leader Andrew Little in November, a clear hint he should reconsider his political future.

Yesterday, Mr Cunliffe said it was his intention to stand again despite the torrid 18 months he’d had. “That’s the plan. I’m happy to be the MP for New Lynn and I’ve got work to do there.”

He indicated he was hoping for redemption within caucus. “Politics is a rollercoaster. You know that and I’ve been around long enough to know that.”

I don’t think Cunliffe can ever get back to leadership level in Labour unless there’s a major influx of support into their caucus, and his prospects of rolling back up the coast under Little’s leadership look slim.

Mr Little had held out an olive branch of sorts, saying he would not rule out a move up the ranks for Mr Cunliffe. “When opportunities arise you see who’s the best fit for the job and you never rule anything out in that regard.”

“Never rule anything out” is not something Cunliffe should get excited about.

He said he had not discussed the 2017 selections with Mr Cunliffe or any other MP. “So, good on him. He’s got to make his decisions about what he does, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Little might have to be a bit pushier than that if he wants to clean out the other dead wood he shuffled down the Labour line up.