Labour, Green MPs block holding Curran to account

The Government that promised more openness and transparency has taken another step backwards, with Labour and Green MPs on the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee voting against asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear before it to clarify unanswered questions about her meeting with ex-RNZ employee Carol Hirschfeld and her communications with RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

NZH: National members blocked from getting Clare Curran to appear before committee over meeting with RNZ Carol Hirschfeld

National was blocked from asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear at a select committee to clear up unanswered questions around her communications with former RNZ executive Carol Hirschfeld, a report says.

The Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee released its report
today on a briefing in which the committee was inadvertently misled by RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson about a meeting between Curran and Hirschfeld last December.

A minority report by the five National Party members of the select committee said questions remained unanswered regarding the appropriateness of communications initiated by Curran, with Hirschfeld and Griffin.

Curran’s behaviour was potentially in breach of parliamentary standing orders covering “intimidating, preventing, or hindering a witness from giving evidence, or giving evidence in full, to the House or a committee”, the National members said.

The National members also sought to invite Curran to the committee to give her the opportunity to clear up the unanswered questions.

“Regretfully, this resolution was not supported by other members of the committee, once again leaving the matter unresolved.”

The National members of the committee – chairman Jonathan Young, Andrew Falloon, Paul Goldsmith, Melissa Lee and Parmjeet Parmar – said they felt Parliament itself had been impugned by the inadvertent misleading of the committee by RNZ and actions of the minister.

The MPs who blocked holding Curran to account:

  • Paul Eagle (Labour, Rongotai)
  • Tamati Coffey (Labour, Waiariki)
  • Michael Wood (Labour, Mt Roskill)
  • Deborah Russell (Labour, New Lynn)
  • Gareth Hughes (Greens, list)

Coffey had a surprise win against Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell in last year’s election.

Eagle, Wood and Russell scored fairly safe Labour electorates – Wood got into Parliament in a by-election in 2016 after Phil Goff resigned, while Eagle and Russell are first term MPs. Russell was rated as a good prospect as an MP, but she is putting party before principles here.

Hughes keeps a low profile in Parliament these days – Greens are also supposed to be strong supporters of open and transparent government and of holding the government to account (going by James Shaw’s comments in handing Parliamentary questions over to National) but joining the blocking of holding Curran to account suggests big talk, walk away from responsibilities.

Tn the whole scheme of things this isn’t a big deal, but it leaves a cloud over Curran’s ambitions to significantly boost RNZ, and she is likely to be reminded of this embarrassment whenever she tries to do anything on open government.

The final commitment in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information.

Labour and Greens have weakened democracy through their weasel blocking in the committee.

Newsroom: When ‘open government’ becomes a joke

Curran isn’t just the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media but the Minster of Government Digital Services and Associate Minister for ACC and Open Government (via a State Services portfolio).

Open Government now becomes something of a joke under Curran at a time when we need it to be the very opposite.

What’s important now is RNZ and the many other initiatives Curran is involved with don’t keep on paying the price for her mistake. Curran’s copybook may well be blotted but she presides over portfolios that are far too important for us to allow that stain to spread.

That was on 2 April. Labour and Green MPs on the committee have spread the stain further.

Most of the public won’t know or care about this festering, but it remains hovering over Curran, and it is a confirmation that Labour and the Greens are in Government more for themselves than for integrity.

New Lynn electorate – Labour contest

There is an interesting contest for the candidacy for what should be a safe Labour seat New Lynn electorate being left vacant by David Cunliffe. Six people have put themselves forward:

  • Deborah Russell
  • Greg Presland
  • Christine Faumuina
  • Owen Gill
  • Sunny Kaushal
  • Susan Zhu

Deborah Russell is highly rated and would be a good addition the Labour’s caucus. She stood for Labour in Rangitikei last election and has moved up to Auckland to try to get the New Lynn nomination – being an outsider could count against her, Michael Wood played the ‘local’ card strongly in the Mt Roskill by-election.

Greg Presland has been involved in New Lynn campaigns for many years, has also helped Cunliffe in his leadership bids, one of which was successful. He has also been very involved in local body and community affairs. He should get strong local support but being male may work against him in the head office push for more female MPs.

One of these two look the most likely contenders.

Russell was 33 on Labour’s list last election but due to Labour’s poor result she missed out by a big margin – Andrew Little was the last in off the Labour list, ranked 11, and there were about eight others on the list before Russell who missed out.

So the promise of a reasonable list position will guarantee nothing, and getting the nomination for New Lynn should lead to a few tens in parliament if the successful candidate wants that.

Absent from the contenders is Laila Harre, who was mentioned as a possible candidate, but against two who have well established records with Labour she would have been an unlikely choice. She has been involved in the Alliance Party (as an MP),  the Green Party and as leader of the Internet party last election.

It looks good for Labour to have keenly contested nominations. They could really do with fresh new talent.

 

‘Neoliberalism’ versus New Zealand reality

Deborah Russell has circulated one attempt to describe neoliberalism, which shows how far from this New Zealand is, and hardly moving closer:

That’s quite different to reality in New Zealand

  1. Private enterprise is far from free of any Government restrictions here.
    There are a lot of regulatory, tax, safety and procedural restrictions – New Zealand is rated as a relatively easy place to do do business but try asking any property valuer how difficult and time consuming and costly it can be to work with the resource Management Act.
  2. Public expenditure in general continues to increase.
    There is some claims of real term cuts due to not keeping pace with inflation but the Government keeps spending more and more money.
  3. There have been some attempts to reduce regulations to help businesses provide goods and services and jobs and export earnings 9and make profits) but they have been far from comprehensive. The RMA has gradually become harder to work with, not easier.
  4. There was quite a bit of privatisation in the 80s and 90s but that has slowed right down.
    The current government in their last term sold minority shares only in a small number of power companies. There are a small number of partnership schools but most are run by trusts rather than profit seeking companies. There is some moving of state housing to social housing providers but again they are non-profit organisations.
  5. ‘Public good’ is far from eliminated, with beneficiaries having been recently given their first real increase in forty years. There have been recent increases in health subsidies (free up to age 13), and education, particularly through early childhood education subsidies.

While there may have been significant moves towards some neoliberalism, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, this has slowed down markedly and New Zealand is far from these descriptions of ‘neoliberalism’.

 

Ika: Labour WTF?

I missed the start but I have been watching Labour WTF for a while now.

Labour, WTF? – Live from Ika Seafood Bar & Grill in Auckland, New Zealand, Simon Wilson leads a panel discussion about the state of the Labour Party.

With Nigel Haworth (Labour President), Andrew Campbell (former Green Party Chief of Staff), Dr Deborah Russell (tax expert), Chloe Swarbrick (former mayoral candidate).

Nigel Haworth comes across as a woolly waffler, maybe he runs a tight dynamic ship for Labour but he doesn’t exude confidence.

Deborah Russell is little more than a Labour cheerleader. She sunk to a custard comment about Key’s ‘moral fibre’. She is clearly positioning herself for a political future with Labour.

Chloe Swarbrick is worth having in the discussion. Having considered views of a young woman is great to have in the mix.

Andrew Campbell is the most interesting and forthright about the reality of Labour’s shaky position.

Chloe thinks Jacinda should be Labour leader.

Deborah was asked who outside Labour who would make a good leader, she sidesteps it and promotes a few Labour people ‘coming through’, like Michael Wood who is standing in Mt Roskill.

Andrew names Grant Robertson as ‘an amazing contrast’ to John key as leader and Jacinda as well would be the future leadership for Labour.

Nigel is asked about whether Labour should change their selection rules and he deferred to the members.

Andrew says he agrees with much of what Simon wrote in Look, there goes the Labour Party – sliding towards oblivion.

Deborah refers to Labour as a ‘broad church’. Perhaps it was in the past. It has narrowed alarmingly. And then she refers to Justin Trudeau as Mr Yummy when asked about trustworthiness in Labour.

Then she rejects charisma, saying trust is all important.

Nigel is asked if he thinks the Memorandum of Understanding is important and says it didn’t come entirely from the Greens, but has avoided the question – should it become a coalition agreement. He is wedded to a strong alliance.

Asked about the Maori Party he says it is difficult to see their ‘type of behaviour’ as incompatible with Labour.

A questioner says he has seen no evidence of policy solidarity based on the MoU. Nigel says that it is far to early in the election cycle to come out with substantial policy. He is worried about National moving in on their policies. He says Labour has to time their policy announcements very well. But there remains a vacuum, for how long?

Andrew says there would be a major benefit in Labour and Greens having separate tax policies so Labour+Greens can’t be described as a tax/economics bogey man.

To a question on fundraising Chloe says that money isn’t so important, getting a message across needs to be clear, there needs to be a vision.

Nigel says that money is important. Labour missed an opportunity on public funding of campaigns.

He says Labour has established an ‘extraordinary digital periphery’ – I guess he is talking about their email harvesting.

Someone questions the MoU, saying that it looks like Labour has given up recovery, in contrast to National’s recovery after their 2002 disaster. All Labour has done is ‘cuddle up to the greens’.

Andrew emphasises that the New Zealand electorate hates instability.

Someone says that she wants to be a Labour supporter but she isn’t enthused by Andrew Little and unless they can bring threw people like Chloe they will lose the next election.

Deborah launches into another promotion of Labour/Little. She says Labour has the leader they need.

She then squashes Chloe’s enthusiasm saying that pragmatism matters.

Is Chloe Swarbrick the future of the Labour Party?

Nigel says he would be delighted to have her and over time he wants the party to be attractive to people like ‘Chloe’. They don’t have a lot of time.

Chloe says she represents engagement. She stood as a protest candidate because she was pissed off with the system that doesn’t stand for the people.

She doesn’t see a revolt happening any time soon.

She has a lot of problems with media not holding politicians accountable.

Deborah avoids the question ‘is Andrew Little the future of the Labour Party?’

Andrew says “there is a malaise in the Labour caucus” and refers to National’s ability to turn of MPs compared to Labour’s stagnate bunch.

Chloe says Labour can win when they can empathise and communicate.

Simon says they can win when they have”a leader we can admire and trust and we want to be the Prime Minister”. He talks of the need for charisma.

The discussion comes to a close.

The title remains unresolved – Labour WTF.

Andrew and Chloe should start a new party.

Is Labour sliding towards oblivion?

This question is being asked tonight when Simon Wilson chairs a Spinoff debate at Ika Seafood Restaurant about the future of the Labour Party.

Wilson writes Look, there goes the Labour Party – sliding towards oblivion.

What is the point of Labour? Is it a twentieth century phenomenon sliding into oblivion in the twenty-first?

If you’re an urban progressive, the Greens look like a more natural home. If you’re worried about modernity in any or all its forms, New Zealand First is ready and waiting. If you’re a Māori activist, you can choose from the Māori Party and the Mana Party.

If you’re working class? Any of the above, isn’t it?

In reality, Labour gets votes from all those groups. That’s a good thing: major parties need broad appeal. But Labour doesn’t always treat it as a good thing. They let the inevitable contradictions of being a broad church undermine them – this is expressed through absurdly frequent leadership battles – rather than becoming a source of strength.

Actually, there is a point to Labour and it’s a really important one. They’re there to win elections. Labour is the main party of opposition and therefore is likely to be the majority party in any centre-left government. So they have to look credible. They have to be credible.

If they’re not, the whole centre-left suffers. A vote for the Greens is a vote for a Labour-led government. Votes for NZ First and the Maori Party are also votes for the possibility of such a government.

In New Zealand, it’s generally accepted that Labour’s main job right now, working with the Greens, is to win the next election.

But it’s not obvious this view is shared throughout the Labour Party, where many people clearly prefer to have a leader they agree with, or feel is “one of us”, rather than a leader with great electoral appeal.

And that, in a nutshell, is the tragedy of the Labour Party. They don’t understand the importance of personality. They don’t have a leader capable of charm and because they changed the voting rules to get rid of the last one they did have, David Shearer, they don’t have the ready means to get another one. It’s not that they can’t win, but they have made it a lot harder for themselves.

It’s fashionable to say charisma shouldn’t matter, that personality politics is a scourge. That’s such nonsense. There’s a good reason voters want to feel we can like and trust our leaders: our trust commits us to the political process, commits politicians to us and helps give legitimacy to lawmaking.

So, what are the prospects for Labour heading into election year? Andrew Little will remain leader so they have to double down on becoming the voice of the future. That’s about policy and articulating a vision. Becoming the champion of the compact city in all its forms – from decent affordable housing to creating a cycling city – is a heaven-sent opportunity.

Will they grasp it? What’s their future if they don’t? On the positive side, there’s only one John Key. When he retires, National will lose its charm advantage. On the negative side, it’s only a matter of time before the Greens find an immensely charismatic leader of their own. When that happens, if Labour hasn’t done the same, they really could be annihilated.

There’s no sign of a charisma threat from Greens at the moment, nor does charisma seem to be lurking in their ranks.  So the left in general seem to have a problem, but Labour has been suffering the most.

Tonight’s debate should be interesting.

Tonight at Ika: Labour WTF? – why, what and how is Labour as it turns 100? Simon Wilson chairs a discussion with Labour president Nigel Haworth, former Greens chief of staff Andrew Campbell, commentator and Labour candidate Dr Deborah Russell and third placed Auckland Mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick. The Spinoff will livestream the event via ye olde Facebook page from 7.30pm

That’s a distinctly left wing panel, but it’s their problem so it’s up to them to show they recognise the challenges they face, if they do.

Chloe Swarbrick seems to be the in person in politics these days, she has been picked up by media and pushed. But it will be a while until she can lead whatever party she may eventually join, if she does.

Waatea 5th Estate

I got around to watching Waatea 5th Estate for the first time since their first week tonight.

Joining us tonight to discuss…

The Veitch apology
Faulty Housing data
Media Merger kills 4th estate
Cameron Slater
Key’s tantrum

Tax expert, feminist and Labour Party Candidate – Deborah Russell

one of this country’s best newspaper columnists – Rachel Stewart

Former Green Party MP and human rights activist – Keith Locke

And blogger, political commentator and author – Chris Trotter

Some of it was interesting enough.

Russell and Trotter made some good points – not leaning to port so hard they nearly capsize helps.

But Bradbury is terrible, his presentation and voice, and also his fairly extreme bias. His first programmes were tolerable but he is more opinionated and more overbearing and more high pitched. I don’t see him taking over from the 4th estate any time soon.

And the name screetched by Bradbury isn’t great, Waatea is pronounced something like Waah teah.

Russell and Hooton on trusts

An exchange on Twitter between Deborah Russell (@beefaerie)and Matthew Hooton (MatthewHootonNZ) on trusts.

Deborah Russell: I’m going to be on Breakfast on TV One tomorrow morning, shortly after the 7am news, talking about the

Matthew Hooton: Would you mind explaining that there are no such thing as ‘foreign’ or ‘family’ trusts in NZ law, but only ‘trusts’?

Deborah Russell: I’ll do my best. I have found that most people don’t quite get what’s going on. “Foreign trust” is only for tax purposes.

But the problem is “foreign trusts” and what gets shunted into them, and the lack of information about them.

Matthew Hooton: Also don’t dividends get taxed where paid? So a NZ trust owning e.g. Rio Tinto shares doesn’t get off tax on dividends?

Deborah Russell: They would get taxed in Australia, and in NZ, with our Double Tax Agreement sorting out how much tax is paid in each place.

So the NZ trust *would* pay tax on the Rio Tinto dividends. But the problem is “foreign trusts” and what gets shunted into them, and the lack of information about them.

I think it’s a moral issue, not a tax issue wrt “foreign trusts”. Happy to discuss at length sometime.

Matthew Hooton: Then should get an ethicist on not a tax expert

Deborah Russell: As my PhD is in Philosophy, and I’ve lectured in Ethics, Political Theory, AND Tax, I guess I fit the bill. And Business Ethics, Professional Ethics, Applied Ethics. And more.

Matthew Hooton: Excellent. You’ll be able to talk about the ethics of publishing 240,000 names & addresses, many who have done nothing wrong.

Deborah Russell: Many of whom *may* have done nothing immoral. People may have interesting reasons for consulting a Panamanian firm.

Matthew Hooton: The itself says being on The List does not mean the person has done anything wrong. So why issue the list if not to smear?

Deborah Russell: To crowd source knowledge.

So it could be interesting, just after 7 am on Breakfast, TV One.

Sensible reaction from Little on Tolley/contraception

While there has been a lot of silly over-reaction to Anne Tolley’s comments on contraception on Q & A (for example see Why did Tolley talk about contraception?) there has been a sensible reaction from Andrew Little, saying more access to contraception is a good thing and he doesn’t think Tolley would take it further.

A report by Newstalk ZB detailed Concerns over CYFS’ contraceptive tough line and first quoted critics:

Green Party social development spokesperson Jan Logie said it feeds into an undercurrent of thought that has dangerous consequences.

“In the last few years I’ve been disturbed at the number of people who are just going on quite an aggressive position of saying these people shouldn’t be allowed to have children and they are seeing people in these situations as less than human.”

And:

Massey University’s Deborah Russell said if the state was to tell mothers how many children they can have – its control over our personal bodies – which is the definition of slavery.

She thinks we can’t control when people can or cannot have children, because no one has the right to make that judgement.

Russell was Labour candidate for Rangitikei, she was the party’s first selection for the 2014 election. She was 33 on their list.

But a sensible reaction from Little:

Labour leader Andrew Little said more access to contraception is a good thing, and he doesn’t see the rest of the minister’s remarks as meaning the Government plans to take the scheme any further.

“My own personal assessment of Anne Tolley is that she would be uncomfortable with that level of intervention.”

Tolley was asked about preventing at risk parents of having more babies and gave a careful and moderate response – see the transcript: Why did Tolley talk about contraception?

Stand up straight white males

David Farrar at Kiwblog has comments (Straight White Men) on what Deborah Russell writes in the Dom Post,  Straight white men have lost power – about the balance of power in parliament.

I’m a straight white man but I don’t care about the power loss, it’s time reasonable balance of power was achieved. But we’re not there yet.  Farrar says:

Now as I said, while I support diversity I don’t think the aim is to get a Parliament that is perfectly proportional in every demographic. I think it is about being broadly representative. And we are in terms of Caucasian, Maori, Pacific and gay MPs. We’re not doing so well with female and Asian MPs.

How do we do better with female and Asian MPs?

Making parliament a less macho-combative personality attacking forum would help. It would not only make it a more attractive vocation for women and Asians, but also for better quality Maori, Pacific and gay MPs. And also better quality straight white males.

It’s not difficult to imaging that many good people won’t offer themselves as potential representatives of the people because they don’t want to subject themselves to the levels of personal scrutiny and abuse that happens still.

We probably aren’t over-represented numerically by the negative and nasty, but the worst side of parliament seems to dominate perceptions, and that repels.

There are dinosaur MPs of the past still in parliament who seem to see themselves as T Rex essentials. Not only do they foul the quality of behaviour, they discourage better and more diverse representation.

One way to address this is for stand up straight while males to confron then and stare down their antics. That will be most effective if it comes from the top.

John Key and David Shearer could lead the way to an even better diversity and quality of representation, if they chose to show leadership on this.

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