Taxpayers’ Union surrogate election campaigning

A Taxpayers’ Union surrogate has mass mailed letters trying to stop people from voting for the Green party.

The TU claims to “represent the common interests of all taxpayers and to provide them with a voice in corridors of power”, but obviously they don’t represent the interests of all taxpayers. This campaign they are looking to me increasingly like political activists, and little more than a surrogate for the Act Party.

Connections between the TU and Act and National were detailed here: A web of connections between the ACT Party, Taxpayers’ Union and National Party

The TU recently a surrogate surrogate campaign directly targeting the Green Party – Taxpayers’ Union Launches Major Direct Mail Campaign Against Green Party’s Proposed Asset Tax

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is today launching the Campaign for Affordable Home Ownership to fight against the Green Party’s proposal to implement an asset tax.

Campaign for Affordable Home Ownership spokesperson Islay Aitchison says…

The website does have an authorisation statement:

Authorised by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union – for the Campaign for Affordable Home Ownership 

Islay Aitchison is listed on the TU ‘Our Team’ web page as “our part-time research officer”.

A letter from with Campaign for Affordable Home Ownership and with her signature has been mass mailed:

But there is no sign of the TU nor an authorisation statement on the letter, even though the letter would appear to be a form of (deceptive) election advertising.

From the Electoral Commission: What is election advertising?

An ‘election advertisement’ is an advertisement in any medium that may reasonably be regarded as encouraging or persuading voters to vote or not vote for a:

– candidate
– party
– type of candidate or party the advertisement describes by referencing views they do or don’t hold.

All election advertisements must include a promoter statement. This rule applies at all times, not just during the regulated period.

Promoter statements must be clearly displayed in election advertisements. For audible election advertisements, the promoter statement must be as easy to hear as the rest of the advertisement.

Not including a promoter statement is an offence which could lead to a fine of up to $40,000.

If you put out advertising about a candidate, party or election issue, but are not a candidate or party yourself, you’re a third party promoter.

The Taxpayers’ Union is registered as a promoter for the 2020 General Election and Referendums, but not their surrogate campaign for home ownership.

I expect that someone will have brought the letter to the attention of the Electoral Commission.

There is also questions being asked about the mailing list used for the letter. The TU membership database is not likely to contain many potential Green voters.

From Martin @dannedaerd

Can confirm. And they’ve got the mailing list improperly – looks like they pulled a list from LINZ data, where you have to confirm you won’t use it for DM purposes.

The address I got mine from isn’t an address I’ve lived at and will not appear on any list – apart from ownership

I guess that will be checked out too, but nothing is likely to happen until well after the election.

Deterring people from voting for the Greens would potentially benefit National and ACT – if the Greens don’t make the 5% threshold (and Chloe Swarbrick doesn’t pull of a surprise win in Auckland Central) then the left loses a lot of votes, and forming a government would come down to Labour versus National+Act.

The TU has properly put an authorisation statement on this:

The TU are clearly ‘pay less tax’ activists, and that would obviously align them with National and in particular Act.

David Farrar is a founder of the Taxpayer’s Union. It’s been interesting to see his posts at Kiwiblog this campaign. He has been targeting Labour in a series of posts, the last one being Labour’s Failures Part 11 – Renewable Electricity.

Kiwiblog has also featured promotions for both the Taxpayers’ Union and the Act Party. Three consecutive posts on 5 and 6 October:

Also on Tuesday was a post promoting the Taxpayers’ Union Scorecard: Taxpayer Scorecard

This omitted the authorisation statement from the graphic:

So it looks like Farrar is advertising for the Taxpayers’ Union who are effectively advertising for ACT.

Yesterday on Kiwblog: Huge tax cuts in Australia with a comment from Farrar:

“Sadly we have a Government here that believes the only acceptable fiscal stimulus is them deciding to spend more money, not giving taxpayers more of their own money to spend.”

Curiously Farrar, who has had close connections to National, is hardly posting any sort of party promotions – since Saturday the only National directed posts are on specific candidates:

Auckland Central – it doesn’t matter whether the Labour or National candidate win, but it does matter to National and Act if Swarbrick wins for the Greens.

Also curiously, there are only two posts at Kiwiblog in August tagged with Judith Collins, one in September and none so far in October:

Farrar and the Taxpayers’ Union seem to be most interested in keeping the Greens out and getting Act in, but the way things are looking they are likely to be unsuccessful.

A web of connections between the ACT Party, Taxpayers’ Union and National Party

Ex ACT party researcher Grant McLachlan has posted what he knows about the ACT Party and it’s many political connections with people with National Party and also with the Taxpayers Union and other activist groups.

Astroturfs: Act Three of ‘Dirty Politics’

Artificial grassroots organisations – nicknamed ‘astroturfs’ – are designed to mask the sponsors of a message or organization so to give the impression that there is support from grassroots participants. Often, they help politicians to find and mobilize a sympathetic public and create the image of public consensus where there is none.

The story of astroturfs is a hot mess of money, cliques of right-wing schemers, and dog whistle politics.

Astroturf origins

The history of astroturfs in New Zealand is closely associated to the history of the Act Party.

The Association of Consumers and Taxpayers was formed in 1993 by former Labour minister Roger Douglas and former National minister Derek Quigley. It started as an astroturf but, in the new MMP environment, decided to form a political party called Act.

McLachlan then goes through history of the Act Party.

Fast forward to 2011 when ACT had five MPs, Rodney Hide resigned and Don Brash took over.

Despite many in Act knowing about David Garrett’s convictions for assault and using the identity of a dead child to obtain a false passport, when it surfaced in the media David Garrett resigned. Don Brash then challenged for the leadership and Garrett’s replacement, Hillary Calvert, gave Brash a narrow victory.

Brash claimed his motivation for the coup was Act and National’s lack of fiscal prudence. Soon after becoming leader, however, Brash and Ansell ran an advert criticising the ‘Maorification of Everything.’

Assisting Brash was former Act MP Stephen Franks and a junior solicitor in his firm, Jordan Williams. It was during the 2011 election that Jordan Williams fronted the ‘Vote For Change’ campaign to get rid of MMP. Jordan’s strategy revolved around uniting supporters of the main parties by stigmatising Winston Peters as the bogeyman of MMP.

The 2011 election was a disaster for Act. Don Brash was a list-only candidate, their support dropped to 1 percent, and John Banks won Epsom to become Act’s only MP. The party touting itself as ‘The Liberal Party’ was now led by one of National’s most conservative former ministers.

It was during this period that Nicky Hager received material which would become the basis for Dirty Politics. Practitioners included Jordan Williams and National Party pollster, David Farrar. In February 2013, they incorporated the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Farrar has well known connections to the National Party – see disclosure statement.

The Taxpayers’ Union promotes itself as a spending watchdog – WE CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER VALUE FOR MONEY FROM GOVERNMENT SPENDING – but they have always looked like a political activist group to me.

They have just had a lame complaint to Broadcasting Standards Authority ‘not upheld’ which targeted Labour Party advertising – NEW ZEALAND TAXPAYERS’ UNION INC AND MEDIAWORKS TV LTD – 2020-116 (22 SEPTEMBER 2020).

Jordan Williams was involved in a political hit job on Colin Craig and the Conservative party, along with Cameron Slater, that has resulted inn expensive defamation proceedings.

The idea of a taxpayer union wasn’t original. Canada had a Canadian Taxpayers Federation since 1990. Act politicos Peter McCaffrey and David Seymour spent years in Canada at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy analysing local and central government accountability.

Dirty Politics was published in August 2014. In September 2014, the founding chairman of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, John Bishop, posted an article titled ‘Taxpayers’ Union has attacked National more often than any other party.’ Since then, the organisation has attacked politicians from every political party except one: Act.

Bishop, a former TVNZ political editor, was the Act Party ‘Constituency Services Manager’, working in Parliament during Richard Prebble’s leadership. His job was to co-ordinate campaigns and tours from within Parliament. At the time, I was a researcher and ‘electorate agent.’

Bishop’s son, Chris Bishop, is currently National MP for Hutt South.

During Bishop’s tenure at Act, Prebble used Parliamentary Service funding to employ a disproportionate number of staff in its leader’s office, using the ‘out of Parliament’ budget meant for electorate agents to instead work in Parliament. A bogus electorate office was set up at Prebble’s private residence on Little Pipitea Street. Despite none of the staff ever working there, we were instructed to say that we did.

I was employed as a researcher in Parliament for 8 hours a week and 32 hours as an ‘out-of-Parliament’ electorate agent.

During the almost three years I worked for Act, I only worked three weeks out of Parliament, which was spent in Newmarket at the party’s head office shortly after that meeting at the bogus office. Following my return from Auckland, I resigned.

Other staff embroiled in this scam included Peter McCardle (who was also juggling elected roles on the District Health Board and Upper Hutt City Council) and Roger Styles (who was also elected to the Hutt City Council and became deputy mayor). Press secretaries included journalists David Young, David Hargreaves, and public relations commentator Trish Sherson.

Trish Sherson is sometimes used as aa political commentator by media – she was a Newshub post-debate panelist on Tuesday night.

Styles and McCardle used Parliamentary resources to research demographic trends of their constituencies. Discovering the ‘gentrification’ of the Hutt South electorate, Styles had ambitions of winning the electorate for National off Trevor Mallard.

John Bishop’s son, Chris, would eventually gain the candidacy in 2014 and win the seat in 2017. Chris’ work colleague at Phillip Morris Tobacco, Todd Barclay, entered Parliament at the same time.

So the claim here is that Act Party research led to National winning Hutt South.

Despite John Bishop’s track record with Act, Bishop went on to campaign for the Taxpayers’ Union, ridiculing politicians for double-dipping and misusing taxpayer and ratepayer money.

John Banks became swamped by scandal as Kim Dotcom testified that Banks didn’t declare a donation to his 2010 mayoralty campaign. When convicted, Banks resigned and Act found a new leader, Jamie Whyte. David Seymour ran for Epsom. Whyte argued that incest between consenting adults shouldn’t be illegal and later back-tracked. While Seymour won Epsom, Act support dropped to 0.69 percent.

Seymour initially failed to gain traction and Act floundered around 1 percent in support. National introduced young liberal candidates, including Rodney Hide’s former staffer, Andrew Falloon, and Hamish Walker replaced Todd Barclay.

After being disgraced in 2017 Barclay didn’t stand for re-election. Walker and Falloon were both exposed for poor behaviour this year and neither will stand again in their electorates.

Houlbrooke. You might remember that surname when a Louis Houlbrooke fronted a ‘lobby group’ called ‘Take Back the Clocks’ in 2019 to abolish daylight savings. Or during the 2017 election campaign when Act’s Deputy Leader Beth Houlbrooke said, “The fact is, parents who cannot afford to have children should not be having them.”

Beth is Louis’ mother. She rose from Act candidate in 2014, to vice president and party manager in the same year, to deputy leader for the 2017 election.

Louis got his start as Act’s social media co-ordinator and media liaison for the 2014 election, whilst president of Act’s youth wing. Following the election, he was David Seymour’s press secretary for the term.

Following the 2017 election, Beth remained Deputy Leader while Louis transferred to the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union and rose quickly to become their campaign manager.

Louis Holbrooke is still TU Campaign Mananger.

The Taxpayers’ Union strategy changed overnight. Their coffers swelled to an annual budget of $831,848.22 by the end of 2019 and nine paid staff.

Their ‘Our Team’ includes 15 people with various roles.

The Union was on a roll. They renamed their annual awards for the biggest wasters of public money after Shane Jones.

That looks clearly like political activist targeting.

The more that the Taxpayers’ Union attacked New Zealand First, the better David Seymour looked.

Targeting NZ First’s core voters, Act then surprised many members by giving gun lobbyists high list rankings.

Louis helped Beth and Phelan set up Facebook ‘community pages.’ While Act ran a ‘Freedom to Speak’ campaign against Jacinda Ardern’s proposals to censor hate speech, Beth and Phelan censored and blocked criticism and debate. When brought to the attention of Act, Seymour claimed the community pages were ‘private property.’

As president of Act’s youth wing, Louis campaigned against compulsory membership of student unions. Beth and Phelan, however, have both pushed for ‘Business Improvement Districts’ throughout Rodney…

…But none of these examples got a mention at the annual ‘Jonesie Awards’, held in Parliament’s Legislative Chamber. Instead, awards were given to Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for wasting $30,000 on a leadership course, Racing Minister Winston Peters for providing funding for two upgraded training facilities, and a lifetime achievement award to Transport and former Housing Minister Phil Twyford.

(For an event to be held in Parliament, it has to be sponsored by a Parliamentarian. Every ‘Jonesie Awards’ event has been sponsored by National MP Chris Penk, whose electorate includes the Rodney Ward.)

It looks like a web of interconnections between ACT, National and the Taxpayers Union.

With Act, nothing is as it seems. The protests by gun owners in the South Island were ‘attended’ by ‘Firearms Safety Specialist’ and third-ranked Act list candidate, Nicole McKee. The ‘grassroots’ protest, organized by local pistol and deerstalking clubs, was repeated elsewhere.

What is certain is that Act is about money. Several of Act’s major donors live in the Rodney Ward near the controversial Auckland Shooting Club at Makarau. There are strong Act links to that club. Maybe the media should be asking one member why Beth Houlbrooke was demoted? What was Beth’s position on the controversial club?

Act’s backers have mutated Astroturfs from a pressure group, to an attack weapon, to directly protecting the politicians they were indirectly meant to support, to having an unhealthy influence over a minor party. While they evolve, they still operate as dirty politics in plain sight.

This may be a distinction between ‘dirty politics’ and ‘Dirty Politics’, but there are a number of connections between ACT’s operations, the Taxpayers’ Union operations and National party interests.

McLachlan has followed up with another post.

Why we should have zero tolerance for Act

Sex, drugs, fraud and bullying. What the Act Party doesn’t want you to know this election.

He goes over a number of claims related to sexual harassment and drug abuse associated with the Act Party. Then:

Act now wants David Seymour to be perceived as a ‘fresh face’ and a clean slate. No he isn’t. He’s been around Act since I can remember.

I remember him as being good mates with disgraced former National MP Andrew Falloon when Falloon was Rodney Hide’s creepy staffer.

Seymour was then John Banks’ Ministerial Advisor while John Banks was being prosecuted.

Many who condoned the serious misconduct I’ve described are still active in the organisation. Seymour’s distancing from sexual harassment problems within Act’s youth wing is symptomatic of a party which places more importance on public perception rather than addressing the reality of its toxic culture.

But Act expects voters to have short memories. Seymour talks tough on ‘gangs’ when he and his party acted like one throughout its history. There are no signs that he will be any different as he tries to lure a new generation of voters.

Quite successfully it seems. Act are currently polling at 6-8%. National are still polling poorly so are unlikely to get to form a Government with Act, but if a sizeable ACT caucus gets established and doesn’t fly to bits they may be in a strong position to pull National and the country rightwards from 2023.

Farrar, Morton have denials of accusations by Peters put on record

On 22 July Winston Peters made allegations against several people in Parliament about what he claimed was “the truth about the leak of my superannuation”.

In 2017 he had taken allegations against different people, including National Ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley (as well as heads of Government departments), to court and failed to provide evidence. He conceded that Bennett and Tolley had not leaked the information. Substantial costs were ordered against him.

The allegations in a General Debate in Parliament last month:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): Today, I am going to outline the truth about the leak of my superannuation. There have been news reports about the case. The matter is not sub judice. But a source totally connected to both the ACT Party and the National Party has revealed that the leak was one Rachel Morton.

Morton heard about the case because she was present when former Minister Anne Tolley told her ministerial colleague Paula Bennett about it—not outside by the lifts, but in a ministerial office. Ms Morton then, thinking it would be kept in confidence, told ACT Party leader, David Seymour, but, desperate for any sort of attention, Mr Seymour contacted Jordan Williams of the wage subsidy – receiving taxpayer union fame. Williams—no stranger to dirty politics—told John Bishop, father of National MP Chris Bishop, and the details were then leaked to Newsroom’s Tim Murphy.

Williams also told another dirty politics practitioner, National Party pollster David Farrar. Farrar tried to shut it down, seeing the risk it exposed to the National Party, but then went along anyway, although he later tried to steer the story away from National’s guilt, which is its usual modus operandi.

Peters versus everyone he hasn’t already lost in court against

Both Rachel Morton and David Farrar have had responses to these allegations recorded in Parliament.


Application for response to be incorporated in the parliamentary record

  1. On 22 July 2020, David Farrar applied for a response to be incorporated in the parliamentary record under Standing Orders 159 to 162.
  2. The application relates to references made by Rt Hon Winston Peters during the general debate on 22 July 2020.
  3. The speech is reported at New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 748, pp. 19678 – 19679.
  4. The applicant was referred to by name.
  5. Having considered the application, I have determined that a response submitted by David Farrar should be incorporated in the parliamentary record.

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard
SPEAKER

Response presented under Standing Orders 159–162 on application of David Farrar relating to references made by Rt Hon Winston Peters on 22 July 2020

The Right Honourable Winston Peters on the 22nd of July 2020 stated in the General Debate that I was told by Jordan Williams about Mr Peters’ superannuation and that I was involved in breaching Mr Peters’ right to privacy.

The statement by Mr Peters is incorrect. I did not discuss or disclose, in any way or form, details of his superannuation prior to reports appearing in the media about it. I know this for a certainty as I was totally unaware of there being any issue around Mr Peters’ superannuation until it was reported in the media.


Application for response to be incorporated in the parliamentary record

  1. On 31 July 2020, Rachel Morton applied for a response to be incorporated in the parliamentary record under Standing Orders 159 to 162.
  2. The application relates to references made by Rt Hon Winston Peters during the general debate on 22 July 2020.
  3. The speech is reported at New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 748, pp. 19678 – 19679.
  4. The applicant was referred to by name.Having considered the application, I have determined that a response submitted by Rachel Morton should be incorporated in the parliamentary record.

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard
SPEAKER

Response presented under Standing Orders 159–162 on application of Rachel Morton relating to references made by Rt Hon Winston Peters on 22 July 2020

The Right Honourable Winston Peters on the 22nd of July 2020 stated in the General Debate that I gave details of his superannuation to Act Leader David Seymour and that I was involved in breaching Mr Peters’ right to privacy.

Mr Peters claims I was aware of this information because it was discussed in a meeting that I was in with Hon Anne Tolley and Hon Paula Bennett. I was never in a meeting with Mrs Tolley and Mrs Bennett where this was discussed, and I never gave any information to Mr Seymour.

The statement by Mr Peters is categorically not true.

Election date and governing through the campaign

Questions have been raised about whether the election can go ahead next month – probably not if under level 3 lockdown – and how much public governing the Prime Minister should be doing through the campaign – Jacinda Ardern insists her priority is dealing with Covid and the safety of the people.

Jane Patterson (RNZ) – Election date debate: Collins willing to risk antagonising voters

There’s now serious pressure to push out the election date, starting with slowing the next steps taken to end the parliamentary term and trigger an election. It’s in the hands of the prime minister for now but other parties say it wouldn’t be a fair race.

According to Ardern the latest it could be held is 21 November.

The date would have to allow enough time to release the final election and referendums results, and for the formation of a new government, before Christmas.

The main consideration will be: “Is it safe to vote?”

The Electoral Commission has been planning for an election in a pandemic but under current guidelines would only go ahead under alert level 2; an election could not go ahead under the level 3 restrictions in place in Auckland.

That is based on people being able to safely access polling booths with sanitising and social distancing – if they cannot it is up to ministers and political leaders to decide what would happen from there, with an obligation to put the interests of New Zealanders ahead of any political considerations.

This close to a general election the governing parties have a responsibility to work constructively with others when it comes to any major decisions – especially in a crisis – and to make sure the race is as even as possible.

National is calling for the 19 September election to be delayed, with Collins accusing Ardern of not consulting as fully as she should, and withholding key information about this week’s decisions.

Decisions will have have to be made soon, with a set timetable that has to be followed in the weeks leading up the election.

National says it is a health crisis and should be handled by the director general of health, not a politician.

Campaigning has been suspended while all parties watch the developments in Auckland carefully – what happens there will determine not only how politicians take their message to the electorate but potentially the election date itself.

National is fighting to keep itself in the story, by taking on Ardern over her treatment of the main opposition party.

But Ardern insists her right and responsibility to front the Covid crisis.

Stuff: Jacinda Ardern keeps options open as Judith Collins attacks

On Wednesday, Ardern announced the Government would be delaying the dissolution of Parliament until Monday, in order to give itself the flexibility to delay the election or bring the House back into full session.

She did not commit to any delay of the September 19 election date, however, saying more information about the cases was needed.

Collins rejected this later in the day and called for a delay of the election until at least November, saying a locked-down campaign would be impossible and any kind of mass postal voting would not be legitimate democracy.

“It is simply unsustainable to expect there to be a fair and just election at a time when opposition parties and other parties of Government are not free to campaign, but also when people have no certainty about whether they would be able to cast their vote on election day,” Collins said.

Ardern said she was focused on the immediate response, but decisions around election timing would be made before Parliament was set to dissolve on Monday.

Collins also criticised the Government for making the lockdown decision after advising her, instead of consulting her and the Opposition directly.

She said there was a convention in New Zealand that the Opposition be consulted on major decisions this close to the election.

“It is always part of our pre-election convention that a Government does not make major decisions without consultation with the Opposition. Clearly advising the leader of the opposition just before making a public announcement does not count as consultation,” Collins said.

Ardern disagreed with this assessment, saying the “caretaker convention” only applied following an election, before a new Government had been called.

Victoria University Associate Professor of Public Law Dr Dean Knight said the Cabinet manual showed no “caretaker” period applied in New Zealand and the Government was free to make major decisions.

“The Government has full power to take decisions prior to the election and is under no legal or customary obligation to consult the Opposition about major decisions such as Covid-19 alert levels,” Knight said.

Stephen Franks (@franks_lawyer) on this:

Our conventions for the period without a Parliament evolved over generations as bi-partisan commitment to democratic bottom lines. Incumbent rulers in corrupt countries use state resources and power to stifle and overwhelm challengers’ communication with voters.

In NZ election period Govt advertising with taxpayer purse is strictly limited. Conventions confine Ministers, most strict before a handover after the election. But honourable self-restraint is also expected pre-election after Parliament can’t scrutinise for abuses of power.

In NZ incumbent power is restrained to protect values that need bi-partisan loyalty past an electoral cycle, e.g. consulting the opposition on senior enduring appointments. An honourable government recognises the purpose of the principles and applies them to new circumstances.

We have unprecedented issues. The PM is inserting herself daily into announcements that could easily be made by trusted non-politician leaders, like Dr Bloomfield. Meanwhile inflicting on democratic rivals losses of freedoms to meet, and to associate for political discussion.

I wish I could believe her media omni-presence is just to ensure we all get the right info from someone we are most likely to trust, so there is maximum voluntary compliance/cooperation. But now 40% of the population will be tempted to mistrust and oppose or even frustrate.

Worthy public purposes were served by her daily lessons during the first lockdown. I eventually tired of being addressed as an infant, but clearly many more were reassured. Now, however the electioneering purpose looks too blatant.

That might be less counterproductive if she’d scrupulously reassured us by balancing her political spotlight with conspicuous respect for electoral integrity. If she wants full emergency media now she could inject balance by returning the election to its traditional November.

It is unprincipled to insist on her chosen early election while gagging political challengers with lockdown. Abusing the emergency’s saturation attention may suck media oxygen from critics/rivals. But will it look so smart if it prompts resentment/disobedience and failure?

Deferring the dissolution for as long as possible to leave some chance of a period of normal election challenge and freedom, would be a gesture to minimise the numbers who will see and hear only cynical manipulation in her Covid statements from here on. Trust matters.

David Farrar promotes the Collins approach in Collins calls for election delay:

Judith Collins has called for the Prime Minister to use her powers to delay the election until November, or failing that for Parliament to meet and vote on delaying it until 2021.

Collins points out that early voting is due to start in two and a half weeks and opposition parties are unable to campaign or even have their campaign launches.

But it is “Now that the boot is on the other foot he supports delaying New Zealand’s election.”
Well, a few days ago delaying an election in the US by Trump was described by DPF’s headline as “Trump verges on fascism”, so by that standard, today DPF and Judith must also be verging on fascism.
And there was this by DPF, “If you can hold elections during a civil war and a world war, you can hold one now.” That didn’t age well.

“Now that the boot is on the other foot he supports delaying New Zealand’s election.”

Well, a few days ago delaying an election in the US by Trump was described by DPF’s headline as “Trump verges on fascism”, so by that standard, today DPF and Judith must also be verging on fascism.

And there was this by DPF, “If you can hold elections during a civil war and a world war, you can hold one now.” That didn’t age well.

The country is in an unprecedented and very awkward position over Covid and with the complication of the election.

Clare Curran and the brutality of politics

I don’t think Clare Curran was cut out to be political. After working in Parliament she managed to get herself into a fairly safe Labour seat in Dunedin South, and was a fairly committed and decent electorate MP, but she never seemed a good fit for party or Wellington politics. And she ended up being brutalised by it.

Actually, not by ‘it’. by people.

Some of it she brought upon herself as she tried to message manage in social media. She was involved in Labour’s attempt at a blog that gradually banned people.

But once Labour got into Government and Curran became a minister, people in the National Party, MPs, targeted Curran and help destroy her political career.  and Cameron Slater and others who see destroying people as a game.

She also made some dumb decisions so her demise was partly self inflicted, but dirty politics came close to destroying her as a person.

The Spinoff:  ‘I physically felt like I was going to die’: Clare Curran opens up on politics, toxicity and trauma

Curran says she was a top target for the likes of rightwing blogger Cameron Slater and lobbyist and commentator Matthew Hooton throughout her four terms. “They hated me.” In some of his many posts about her, Slater described Curran as “something dreadful” and “dumber than a bag of hammers”.

That’s fairly mild by Slater’s standards.

Curran commissioned research on coverage of her from September 30, 2017 (the week after the general election) to October 27, 2018. Of the 509 (non-broadcast) articles about her, 139 were negative blogs on Cameron Slater’s WhaleOil site. The Otago Daily Times produced just 62 articles.  Slater produced the most articles about Curran – more than twice as many as any other writer.

Curran seems a bit obsessed with Slater’s attacks, but that shows how relentless he was in trying to destroy someone. remember that at this time he had been distanced by National, and was promoting Winston Peters and NZ First, so this was probably just combat sport to him. Until he got involved in the crash and burn of Jamie Lee Ross (sort of supporting Ross but that may have been more to try to damage National).

Ross has responded to Curran’s revelations via https://twitter.com/jamileeross

I had such mixed emotions reading this. You would have to be heartless, or so partisan that you’re now devoid of humanity, to not feel empathy for Clare. But at the same time, I recall being on the other side when it was all happening.

I was in the 8am strategy meetings when we were deciding to throw everything we had at her. I was in the morning procedures meetings as Melissa Lee would share what her latest hit on Clare was going to be.

Clare was a weak link. National wanted to break her. And we did. Watching those question time answers, from about 10 metres away, you could pinpoint the very moment her career ended. I can only now imagine what it felt like. But at the time all we felt was excitement and success.

Parliament turns normal people in to savages. Another human was going through probably the most traumatic experience they’ll ever go through. Clare lost her job, reputation, her mental well-being. What were we doing? Laughing. Backslapping. Praising the destroyers. We were awful.

Yeah, accountability is important. But why enjoy the destruction of others so much? Do we really need to revel is someone else’s downfall? Sure, we all signed up for what Parliament is. But why did we also sign up for forgetting decency when we walked in the door? Sorry Clare.

At least he has said sorry two years later, but MPs and party hoodlums seem to get caught up in the dirty politics game.

There’s a big difference between holding the Government to account and trying to politically and mentally destroy people. Slater only does that because he was part of a party that has done that for a long time.

Curran received six to eight months of psychological treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder after that disastrous afternoon. “I’m not Shane Jones. I didn’t have a pat answer. I don’t do bluster and I was trying to answer honestly and I couldn’t come up with the words and my mind went blank. It was the worst nightmare in front of everyone. I remember a sensation of pressure that built up, and quite honestly, during those first few days I felt like I was literally going to die. I felt physically that I was going to die because the stress had got so much and there was nowhere else for it to go.”

At times, she admits, she thought she might even quite like to die.

Very sad to see her get to a dark place like that.

Curran says within weeks of the formation of the coalition government in 2017, a person she won’t name told her that she was the main target for the opposition. “Around the time I came into parliament, and even before, I was squarely on the radar of Hooton and Slater and [blogger and pollster] David Farrar. I had a disproportionate amount of focus on me. I was seen as an easy picking.”

Openly at least Farrar (on Kiwiblog) wasn’t anywhere near as relentless or nasty as Slater, but the two are seen by some to work in tandem – Farrar continued to support Slater even after the latter fell out with National.

I don’t know what Hooton’s involvement was. I would have to see evidence before I will see it as more dirty politics, Curran seems to have been very sensitive to any sort of criticism, and may see it all as trying to get to her.

She says senior National MP Nick Smith labelled her “Goebbels” after her 2006 paper to a regional Labour Party conference, in which she discussed how the party could reframe public debate and resonate with voters by communicating with “values-based” language. When she became a minister in 2017, she says her efforts to reform public broadcasting faced “hostility and disdain” from media commentators.

That sounds like more super-sensitivity to criticism of Curran’s performance as a minister.  Political journalists have their faults, but they can usually pick when ministers aren’t up to the job.

I don’t think Curran was up to being an effective Minister – just a few people in each government end up being very capable ministers, the rest turn out to be ok or mediocre or poor. There’s no way of knowing until they try, but the success rate of ministers (and leaders) isn’t high.

Curran can see why they might see her as a weak link and, in the manner of a pack of lions hunting a gazelle, pick her off from the rest of the herd. She accepts that’s a reasonable strategy to embarrass a government. “Oh yeah, and I’m not angry about that. This is the business we are in. But there was a coming together … In my opinion there was a view within the press gallery that they were on board with that.

“I have strengths but I also have weaknesses and one of those is that in the political arena, I’m not a great orator. I’m not hugely quick off the mark. You are either naturally good at it or you have to learn how to do it at question time.”

It wasn’t just her lack of skills at speaking, despite her training in PR. Lack of confidence and lack of being on top of her  portfolios, and making basic mistakes not just once but repeatedly, and not being open as Minister of Open Government all contributed to Curran’s downfall.

Curran’s beef seems to be not with the fact that she was held to account, but that the persistence of the pursuit was out of order. Asked why she did what she did, she replies: “Tell me what it was that I did”, seeming still not to grasp why an apparent lack of openness – even if unintended – is especially problematic for the minister for open government.

It’s fair enough to hold her accountable for her mistakes, she says. “It’s the kind of accountability that you get held to, it’s inequitable for some people. It became apparent to me reasonably quickly, by February, around the time of the Carol Hirschfeld scrutiny, that it was an unrelenting focus.”

Because she wasn’t handling her job well. There will be no respite for a wounded minister, and there shouldn’t be.

Perhaps part leaders and Prime Ministers should be much more on to this and either support or demote poor performers and those who are mentally struggling.

What Curran highlights is three things:

  • MPs promoted to ministerial roles may or may not step up to the workload, responsibilities, and pressure.
  • Prime Ministers should deal more quickly with under performing or struggling Ministers.
  • Politics is often a nasty, dirty brutal game of deliberate attack and attrition, and it needn’t and shouldn’t be.

Jami-Lee Ross versus Barry Soper

After Jami-Lee Ross was revealed as one of the four people charged by the SFO over the National Party donations issue he released a statement saying he couldn’t say much, but it’s too long to repeat in full here. He headed it ‘Spoke Up Now Set Up’, and began:

Just like donations to political parties, the justice system should be open and transparent. That is what I believe and have sought.

Until now, however, I have been unable to make a public statement regarding these allegations, despite wanting to do so.

That is because at the end of January, the three people responsible for the donations to the National Party in 2017 and 2018 made an urgent application for suppression of their names and any details that might identify them. I was not aware of their application at the time. I made no application for suppression of my own name or details.

While shocked that I had been targeted by the SFO, I had no intention of hiding away. I always wanted to make it very clear that as the whistle blower on this deception, it was outrageous that I was then charged and that others were seeking to implicate me, making me their expendable scape goat.

However, I couldn’t speak up, as I needed to respect the right of those three people to seek name suppression. Further, even though I made no application for name suppression, the same protection was extended to me by the Court despite me not wanting that.

I have complied with the court’s orders to date, as is expected of any person in my position. The public could rightly be outraged, if I did not respect the court’s decision, or if I sought to abuse my freedom of speech in the Parliament to circumvent that decision.

However, in later court documents my lawyers have made it clear that I never sought name suppression and that I do not want it. I have therefore proactively sought to have the suppression orders lifted so that I can make this statement.

Barry Soper has a different take on things: If Ross didn’t want name suppression why did he threaten me?

Surely this came from a man who was muzzled against his will, from a person who blew the whistle that’s now rendered him deaf.

That’s what Jami-Lee Ross, one of the four defendants to the Serious Fraud Office charges which go before the Auckland District Court next week, would have us believe.

The other three, Chinese businessmen who donated two hundred grand to the National Party over two years when Ross was the bagman, made an urgent application for name suppression when the charges were laid, he tells us in a statement where he’s painted himself as very much the victim.

And just to reinforce his muzzled state because of their actions, he says he was unaware an application for suppression was being made and his lawyers didn’t make one for him. He goes on, he had no intention of hiding away but he couldn’t speak up because of the actions his three co-defendants had taken.

The court suppressed his name despite the fact that he didn’t want it, he claims. Furthermore, Ross said the public could be rightly outraged if he didn’t respect the court’s decision, or if he sought to abuse his freedom of speech in Parliament to circumvent the decision.

Then he went on to protest his innocence, vowing to fight the charges just as the three donors have.

For an accused who so desperately wanted to speak out it’s a little difficult to gel that with his lawyers’ reaction to my publicly naming him as one of the defendants on the day the Serious Fraud Office said it was laying charges.

In a text exchange they were blunt to say the least, telling me I was in contempt – the matter is before the court. They told me action would be taken the following day unless his name was taken down from our website: “You are on notice,” they warned.

It was pointed out to them the matter hadn’t been to court yet and maybe they should have been quicker off the mark if they wanted suppression of their client’s name.

“Charges are laid, it’s before the court – we can’t seek suppression till then. The SFO will be in contact. They are also very angry as it now risks the case.

“This contempt is actionable and worse for you, now admitted by you as intentional – ring your lawyers.”

And just to add a final threatening slap, after I said Ross had been named in the public interest, the text read: “I don’t want any crap Barry – but this was silly.”

David Farrar makes a similar claim:

Of course Ross goes on to claim he is innocent, has been set up and Simon Bridges is the Villain. He may be hoping the trial won’t happen until after the election in September.

I’ll wait until the court case reveals what actual evidence there is.

Ross claims to have new evidence  that will turn the legal tide – but like Cameron Slater (who has backed Ross against National) and Winston Peters (who Slater has backed against National)  often make ‘we have evidence’ but fail to produce it. Or at least we are still waiting for them to come up with it.

Claire Trevett: Jami-Lee Ross SFO charges – blowing the whistle NZ politics’ greatest own goal

That’s behind the NZH pay wall, but the headline probably says it all.

Ardern mastery of detail and engaging on extremist use of social media

David Farrar writes that he was invited to attend a “dialogue” on the ” Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online” at the offices of InternetNZ on Friday 10 May. He was surprised by the engagement there by Jacinda Ardern, and he was impressed by how she handled things, and how she was “over all the detail of what is a very complex landscape which is an intersection of Internet architecture, free speech issues, social media companies, behavioural incentives and issues of market dominance”.

The purpose was “engagement” and to ” to build a unified sense of purpose on constructive measures to address violent extremist content online”.

This is stuff Governments do all the time. I’ve been to a lot of these.

I was a bit surprised when I got the agenda 48 hours before the meeting and read that the PM was attending the second half of the meeting for around half an hour. That was pretty unusual for a PM to attend a consultation meeting. I figured it was mainly for optics – allow for a photo op (which was mentioned in the agenda) and allow us to hear what the Government wants to achieve directly.

As the meeting resumed after the tea break, Jacinda walked in and sat down in the circle of chairs with us. I looked around the room for her minders (as I know a few of them), and there were none there. This is pretty rare. Normally a press secretary will always be with the PM, making sure they record what is said, and also an advisor to field technical questions.

As the discussion from the first session was summarised, the PM grabbed a piece of paper and started taking notes. Not a staff member, but the PM. Then the facilitator handed the meeting over to the PM. She actually chaired or facilitated the next session herself after a brief outline of what they are trying to do. As each person made a contribution, she responded with comments or followups and kept making notes.

It dawned on me that rather than this being the PM telling us what she is doing, she was genuinely engaging with those in the room for their ideas about various issues and complexities.

She was very much over the detail of what is a very complex landscape which is an intersection of Internet architecture, free speech issues, social media companies, behavioural incentives and issues of market dominance.

The combination of her mastery of detail, her actively seeking opinions and taking her own notes, her lack of staff in the room, and also the total lack of barriers between the PM and participants (all sitting around in a circle) made everyone in that room feel they were genuinely being useful, and this wasn’t just tick the box consultation. Her performance reminded me in fact of John Key at various events, as Key had a way of talking with an audience, rather than to an audience, that was first class.

This sounds very promising, both that social media issues related to violence and terrorism may have a chance of being addressed by international leaders and online media companies, and also that Ardern is growing into the job as Prime Minister and on some issues at least she is very capable of leading.

Farrar responds to Christchurch attacks and Kiwiblog content

As promised just after the Christchurch mosque attacks, David Farrar has posted on his opinions on what happened and explains more about his tightening up moderation in Kiwiblog content and comments.

Murder and Violence

The terrorist killed 50 people. He believed his beliefs justified violence and killing. There are lots of people with strong beliefs but very very very few who think it is okay to kill innocent people, let alone actually do it.

Any incitement to serious violence is of course not acceptable on Kiwiblog, and never has been. In fact I have on two occasions supplied information to the Police when a comment was seen as a serious threat.

White Supremacy

The terrorist was a white supremacist. He judges people based on their skin colour or where they are born. He doesn’t think non-white people should live in “European countries”

Again such views and beliefs are not and never have been acceptable on Kiwiblog. Judging people based on where they were born, their bloodline or the colour of their skin is repulsive.

Anti-immigration

The terrorist says he was profoundly anti-immigration, linked to his white supremacy. He claimed Jews were okay so long as they live in Israel. Muslims are okay as long as they live in a Muslim country. Asians are okay so long as they live in Asia. He says that he saw legal immigration as a very bad thing.

His views are repugnant to me. I am a huge fan of controlled immigration. I think NZ has a generally excellent immigration system where anyone can qualify for residency regardless of race, nationality or religion.

…there is a difference between debating immigration policy and the pros and cons of immigration and scapegoating immigrants who are already here. Statements suggesting people who have chosen New Zealand as their home should not be here will not be acceptable.

Islamophobia

When it comes to religion, it is a fact that there is huge antipathy in many quarters to Islam, compared to other religions. Why is this? Why does Islam have such antipathy which Hinduism doesn’t, Buddhism doesn’t, Taoism doesn’t, Shinto doesn’t, Sikhism doesn’t, and Baha’i doesn’t?

The obvious answer is because of the number of terror attacks that are done in the name of Islam or motivated by an interpretation of Islam.

The reason there is antipathy towards Islam in many quarters is because people are scared. They want these attacks to stop. It doesn’t matter they still have a higher chance of being killed in a road accident.

That is one reason. Another is simply religion – some of those who are most anti-Islam are Christians. It’s common for fundamentalists to fear any different faith to their own beliefs.

There are also other aspects of the Islamic religion that some people find problematic.Sizable minorities support the death penalty for apostates, stoning for adultery, honour killings for pre-martial sex.

Islam also differs somewhat from most religions in that it has a political aspect to it, commonly called Islamism. Most Muslims are not Islamists. There are difficult questions about how compatible Islamism (NB not Islam) is with liberal democratic values.

So I absolutely reject that one should not be able to criticise the Islamic religion. However it should be done in a way that doesn’t stigmatise all Muslims and/or suggests a commonality of view.

That should apply to any religion – including Christianity.

That guest post

One issue that has been discussed on Kiwiblog is whether there should be a ban on Muslim immigration. I vehemently disagree with such a proposal, and the proponents of it. But does that mean it should be deemed as beyond debate?

In fact the sad reality is the growth in support of far right parties in Europe is because the mainstream parties have not come up with credible solutions to issues around immigration and integration. Populist parties will always rush to fill a void.

So for the last two weeks some people have tried to close down Kiwiblog because three years ago I allowed a guest post (which I disagreed with) by David Garrett which advocated for a policy that has been debated endlessly in the United States for three years, has majority support in Europe and plurality support in Australia.

Here is the Guest Post: David Garrett on A case for immediate cessation of all Muslim immigration. It contains some common anti-Muslim memes, like:

It is really very simple. Every western country which has allowed its Muslim population to exceed 2% has experienced problems generated by that community – or at least arising because of their presence within those societies.

And:

I truly believe we are, in a very real sense, in exactly the position Western Europe was in the  early 1930’s. The prevailing sentiment among both  the political elites  and the population of Britain at large was then, as ours is  now, one of tolerance, or at least wilful blindness to the dangers posed by the rising tide of fascism in Germany. It is important to be reminded that the very word “fascism” had none of the pejorative connotations in 1933 that it most definitely carried ten years later.

Coincidentally being pushed again now – see Jumping the Whale, piling on Godwin and hypocrisy.

Garrett concluded:

Muslim immigrants are a very real threat to our way of life. We should not take one more of them.

Farrar followed that with:

For the avoidance of doubt, the post is the opinion of the author, not of Kiwiblog. Kiwiblog accepts guest posts, even when I disagree with the views in them.

It looks like there has comments deleted from the following thread, possibly quite a few. That was in the days when Kiwiblog commenting was fairly open slather.

Back to Farrar’s post yesterday:

Media have demanded to know why this post has not been deleted. I’ve been labelled a party to the slaughter in Christchurch because of this post. The sheer bile on Twitter has been vile led by certain prominent people.

A number of people have contacted me offline to discuss Kiwiblog’s moderation policy and the desirability of changes. Those exchanges have been useful. Inciting virtual lynch mobs far less so.

The view of some on Twitter is that such a view in opposition to Muslim immigration is so extreme that one can’t ever allow someone to read something in favour of it.

Now one should recognise that debating stuff such as an immigration ban on Muslims is hurtful to Muslims. Absolutely it is. And most Muslims are themselves victims of the violent Islamic extremists. They are often both literal victims (ie are killed) but suffer the backlash where they have to worry about their safety in public. They can suffer acts of casual abuse, and feel that elements of their adopted country are hostile to them. And the Christchurch shooting has shown how real those fears can be.

So bearing in mind that allowing a debate on stuff such as an immigration ban can be hurtful to many Muslims, why allow it at all?

Well as I explained to the media, my preference is for people to be convinced their views are wrong. The thing I like on Kiwiblog is that we have people who comment from across the political spectrum.

I sort of agree with what DPF is saying here about allowing debate. But he would have (or should have) known that a post like that would have been a red rag to the Kiwiblog bulls.

In one of the malicious misrepresentations I have ever seen, Russell Brown took this explanation I made to the media, and summarised it was that I tolerate racists and don’t want them to go to even more racist websites and I am “a piece of shit”. Remember that this is about allowing a guest post on a topic that is one of the most debated issues in Europe and North America.

Something I don’t think DPF has appreciated enough is how comments on posts at Kiwiblog are seen as reflecting on Kiwiblog as a whole and on himself. He has allowed a lot of abuse and fairly extreme views to be posted for as long as I have followed Kiwiblog – ten years or so.

So as should be clear I am not deleting the guest post.

I think it’s a fair decision. Everyone can read and make up their own mind about Garrett’s views on Muslim immigration.

I also think it was wise to run a heavy hand over the comments and delete the worst of them.

Of course there are some topics I would not allow a guest post on, even with a rebuttal. The post on Muslim immigration was a borderline call. But in the end my judgement was that one could not pretend this was not a topic that could be ignored as if it didn’t exist and have support from majorities in many democratic countries.

Posting it “was a borderline call” – but allowing unrestricted comments left DPF open to criticism. He seems to have finally woken up to that.

Muslimophobia

As I indicated earlier I don’t find the term Islamophobia useful. In fact earlier today I quoted the leader of the world’s largest Muslim organisation saying the term is often used as a weapon to prevent criticisms of extremist aspects of Islam.

I have no problems with criticism of Islam (or Scientology or Mormonism or Catholicism). But I do have a problem with people smearing all Muslims as if they all have the same beliefs, same characteristics etc. Some people have an unhealthy antagonism to Muslims, and I would say they should be called Muslimophobes, not Islamophobes.

And Muslimophobia is not welcome on Kiwiblog.

Now. It may not have been welcome by DPF but it has been rampant in the past.

Judging 1.5 billion people off their religious affiliation is bizarre.

Kiwiblog is now applying far far more scrutiny to comments that fail to differentiate between legitimate scrutiny of Islam and are just bile against Muslims. They are not welcome here, and if you can’t work out the difference, neither are you.

That’s similar to what I have done here to the best of my ability.

And some (a small minority) need to learn some empathy. When the Prime Minister wears a hijab at a mourning celebration, it is not an Islamic takeover of New Zealand. It is the Prime Minister being a decent human being and respecting the fact 50 people of the Muslim faith were slaughtered. If 50 people had been killed at a synagogue, I am sure a similar gesture would be made. Such a gesture means a hell of a lot to those who have been targeted for their faith. Have a bit of bloody empathy for what it must be like to be a Muslim in New Zealand at this time.

Fair comment.

I agree with most of what Farrar says as quoted here and on his post. And on his new moderation policy, which I will cover in my next post.

Farrar belatedly addressing moderation at Kiwiblog

Kiwiblog has long had problems with lack of moderation. David Farrar can write good posts, and there are a lot of knowledgeable commenters who are worth looking out for, but the comments have been blighted by abuse and highly questionable agendas.

The Christchurch mosque terror attacks, and responses in comments at Kiwiblog, have finally prompted Farrar into taking more action.

It’;s difficult enough moderating a small blog like this, especially when some people are persistent and determined to do as they please despite requests and warnings to comply with fairly liberal guidelines.

Monitoring a blog the size of Kiwiblog is a huge task. It’s common for posts to have hundreds of comments throughout the day and night.

Due to lax moderation for years it is an even bigger task trying to get things under control there.

Yesterday:

General Debate 18 March 2019

Comments turned off until I have had time to delete and sanction those who have crossed the line.

UPDATE: Comments now back on. But they will not appear until manually approved. Those lacking in empathy will probably not appear.

This was a drastic step. I’m not sure when comments were turned off, or on again with moderation, but the comment rate slowed down considerably.

And later in PM announces inquiry

The last comment at Kiwiblog appears to have been posted at at 9:20 pm last night, so something significant is obviously going on there. Time will tell how that pans out.

However moderation and comments go now there it will be a major challenge changing the widespread perception that Kiwiblog is an abusive and toxic environment, with racism, political abuse and white supremacy issues.


Whale Oil has been heavily moderated for years, but that has largely been for message control and manipulation.

Comments there yesterday indicate that they still have problems with some of their content, both in posts and in comments. They may have stopped swearing, but they still allow political abuse, and anti-immigrant and ansi-Muslim sentiments.

They have started today with much of the same old anti-Muslim lines (that Farrar appears to be trying to claamp down on): https://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2019/03/face-of-the-day-1906/

 

Political predictions for 2019

I don’t try to predict what will happen in politics. But Stuff and David Farrar publish their guesses for each year.

Stuff: 2019 predictions start with some sort of show, so it seems a bit flippant. Some of their other predictions:

  • Healthy food is here to stay
    (so is unhealthy food)
  • Backing the beard
    (is most notable for it’s html mistake).
  • Watching TV – real TV – will become cool again
  • #Metoo hits the hospitality industry
  • Expensive coffee will get more expensive
  • Stuff political reporter Henry Cooke predicts National leader Simon Bridges may not be in as much of a happy place by the time 2020 rolls around, but the National Party will not dip very far below 40 per cent in the polls.
  • Northland’s Whangarei will be the next underrated, affordable destination (“We all know someone who moved to Dunedin this year” – no we all don’t know).
  • Stuff predicts Jones’ eternal war with Air New Zealand will continue apace …but “he will continue to fly with them, constantly”.
    (I predict more than one Minister will be an attention seeking hypocrite)
  •  The future of our consumerism will change with the advent of getting pretty much anything you want delivered to your door.
    (except for better journalism)
  • This will be the year Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford tie the knot
    (good for them if they do but something i will avoid as much as possible)

That’s the less trite ones.

David Farrar’s Predictions for 2019 include some standard point scoring guesses, but these are more interesting:

2. ACT will change its name to the “Freedom” party.

5. The End of Life Choice Bill will pass its third reading, but be subject to a referendum

10. The Government’s projected surplus in the 2019 Budget will be less than the surplus for 2017/18

11. The Government will fail to get the numbers in the House for a comprehensive Capital Gains Tax
(Labour have already virtually ruled out a comprehensive CGT)

13. Brexit will not occur on 29 March 2019

15. Kelvin Davis will be replaced as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

16. Donald Trump will not get $5 billion for his wall so will back down on the Government shut down

19. Kris Faafoi will be promoted to Cabinet
(he should be, he is one of the Government’s most competent/promising performers).