Greenpeace versus Shane Jones on fishing prosecution and NZ First donors

Shane Jones has always seemed to be an embarrassment waiting to happen for the Government.  He has already ventured into iffy territory for a minister, for example his public attacks on Air New Zealand.

Now he has dived into a dispute with Greenpeace over party donations, which involves a prosecution of a subsidiary  of Talleys, a company that Jones has financial and social links to (Winston Peters also).

NZ Herald: NZ First MP Shane Jones accuses Greenpeace of deliberately tarnishing NZ’s reputation for donations

Quite a confusing headline.

NZ First MP Shane Jones has fired a shot across Greenpeace’s bow, accusing the organisation of deliberately tarnishing New Zealand’s international fishing reputation just to fundraise.

But Greenpeace’s New Zealand Executive Director Russel Norman fired back, saying Jones was trying to distract the public from the fact he has accepted donations from fishing company Talley’s.

Norman said this should preclude him from contributing to fisheries policies.

The war of words erupted after a Greenpeace press release implied Jones should be withdrawn from any debate around fisheries because of donations he had received from Talley’s.

Financial links between Talleys and NZ First have been known for a long time, as has Winston Peters support for commercial fishing.

“Incidentally, Talley’s is the same company that donated heavily to the campaign of Shane Jones, who has emerged as the de facto Minister of Fisheries in the current Government.”

Norman said it would appear from the outside that Jones was having “quite a big influence on fisheries policies”.

Jones said he had received donations from the company but they were in compliance with Parliament’s rules on donations.

He said Norman was using “politically lurid language,” which was “all part of their [Greenpeace’s] process to fundraise.

“Incidentally, Talley’s is the same company that donated heavily to the campaign of Shane Jones, who has emerged as the de facto Minister of Fisheries in the current Government.”

Speaking to the Herald, Norman said it would appear from the outside that Jones was having “quite a big influence on fisheries policies”.

Jones said he had received donations from the company but they were in compliance with Parliament’s rules on donations.

He said Norman was using “politically lurid language,” which was “all part of their [Greenpeace’s] process to fundraise”.

“Greenpeace has a track record of misinformation and exaggeration.

“It’s extraordinary that the Greenpeace’s Australian spokesman Russel Norman is ranting in such a way to damage the good name of New Zealand. Greenpeace has a track record of misinformation and exaggeration.

“It’s extraordinary that the Greenpeace’s Australian spokesman Russel Norman is ranting in such a way to damage the good name of New Zealand.”

One could suggest similar about Jones ranting.

Norman said this “obviously was not” his intention and said it was just a distraction from the fact an Amaltal fishing vessel was caught doing bottom trawls in a protected area of the Tasman Sea.

Amaltal is a subsidiary of fishing company Talley’s.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said MPI had initiated a prosecution against Amaltal, as well as the person who was the master of the vessel at the time of the incident.

Both are facing charges under the Fisheries Act, the spokeswoman said.

In its own statement, Amaltal confirmed one of its fishing vessels had inadvertently fished in an unauthorised area of the Tasman Sea in May last year.

But Jones has defended Amaltal.

Jones said this was a “mere technical issue which would be ironed out when common sense prevails”.

A follow up from Newshub: Shane Jones in hot water over support for Talley’s accused of illegal fishing

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is being accused of breaching parliamentary rules by appearing to support a fishing company that’s facing prosecution for illegal fishing.

New Zealand First MP Mr Jones described the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)’s case against agribusiness company Talley’s as a “technical issue” – when the Cabinet rules warn ministers against commenting on active cases.

But Mr Jones is now facing criticism for getting too close to the Talley’s case, calling it a “mere technical issue which would be ironed out when common sense prevails”.

On Friday he changed tact: “They are highly technical matters… and no doubt the court will be possessed of all the information.”

Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman said it’s “completely unacceptable for a Cabinet minister to intervene in an active court case where the Crown is taking Talley’s to court for environmental damage”.

The Amaltal Apollo, a vessel owned by a subsidiary of Talley’s, is facing 14 charges for fishing in protected waters in the Tasman Sea.

And Cabinet rules clearly state: “Ministers do not comment on or involve themselves in the investigation of offences or the decision as to whether a person should be prosecuted.”

“I think there’s no question that Jones has breached the Cabinet Manual, which is the rules that govern the behaviour of Ministers,” Mr Norman said.

It does look like quite questionable comment on a current investigation by Jones.

Talley’s donated $10,000 to Mr Jones’ 2017 campaign. And while Mr Jones accepts that, and that he’s mates with Talley’s boss, Sir Peter Talley, he says it doesn’t mean anything.

Instead, he’s blaming Greenpeace for spreading what he calls “misinformation”.

There seems to be some fairly solid information here that suggests that Jones is again an embarrassment to the Government.

Mr Jones has previously been chair of Sealords and held top positions within Māori and Pacific fishery organisations.

He makes no secret of his continued close relationships with the big commercial fishing companies.

It’ll be up to the Prime Minister to decide whether Mr Jones has overstepped the mark and breached the rules in this case.

Due to Labour’s reliance on NZ First for support will Jacinda Ardern do anything about it? Probably not in public at least, or nothing more than a slap over the wrist with a wet bait fish.

More important questions for National than ex-lover spat and personal revenge

The turning rogue of Jami-Lee Ross and the text of Sarah Dowie has been a big story for months now, but a part of the issue that has been largely overwhelmed by the social saga side is what this has exposed about the National Party. Some have recently written about this.

Graham Adams (Noted & Stuff) looks at and beyond Parliament’s star-crossed lovers who crossed each other, starting with Jami-Lee Ross’s maiden speech in Parliament 2011.

In his speech, Ross also quoted the school’s aim to produce “good and useful citizens”. Most people will conclude he isn’t good but he has certainly been useful already if you look beyond the narrow interests of the National Party to the wider interests of the nation.

Ross has given us insights into our political life that only an insider could know, including how donations are handled and how much influence some donors expect (or hope) to have over candidate selection in the National Party.

His disclosures about wealthy Chinese donors has also sparked increased interest in Professor Anne-Marie Brady’s research into how United Front activities run by those close to the Chinese Communist Party have infiltrated our political life.

And Ross could prove himself to be even more useful if he told us much, much more about how our politics are entwined with the push by the CCP to influence perceptions of China overseas and policy towards it.

For starters, he might enlighten us on the role of Dr Jian Yang — that mysterious figure in National’s caucus who was part of China’s intelligence community and a member of the Communist Party, and who refuses to speak to journalists (or at least English-speaking ones).

It would be entirely appropriate for Ross to perform this service, not least because in his speech he declared himself to be passionately opposed to socialism.

He should be very happy then to expose the deep links between National — the party purportedly of “individual freedom and choice” (number 4 on its list of values) — and the communist regime in China that is one of the most repressive and repugnant on the planet.

Some will think it’s the very least a man who professed in 2011 to be devoted to “individual freedom” and who in 2018 dedicated himself to exposing the “rot within the National Party” could do.

Fran O’Sullivan (NZ Herald): Bigger issues to deal with than emotive texts

There are more pertinent issues at play.

Despite the public front National has adopted on the donations issue, it has still not satisfactorily dealt with Ross’ claim that he was effectively asked to wash a $100,000 donation from Yikun Zhang by ensuring it was split into smaller amounts.

National Party apparatchiks denied there was a $100,000 donation. National Leader Simon Bridges said at the time a “large sum of money” came into the party from multiple sources through donations from Zhang and supporters through Ross’ electorate account in Botany in the first instance.

The issue here is one of “substance over form”.

Nor has Bridges dealt satisfactorily with the clear implication from the tapes that Ross leaked, of a prior conversation that suggested he favoured effectively trading positions for different ethnicities on National’s list, in return for donations.

These issues — which strike at the heart of democracy and business ethics — have been obscured in the general furore over Ross’ meltdown.

It is obvious that there is sufficient underlying truth to Ross’ claims on this score to have provoked senior National MPs to call for change.

Former Attorney-General and National MP Chris Finlayson was sufficiently exercised to use his valedictory speech in Parliament last year to say he was concerned over funding of political parties by non-nationals.

Finlayson called for both major parties to work together on party funding rules, saying it was his personal view that it should be illegal for non-nationals to donate to political parties.

“Our political system belongs to New Zealanders and I don’t like the idea of foreigners funding it … we need to work together to ensure our democracy remains our democracy.”

The issue has also festered with the long-serving veteran National MP Nick Smith who revealed to the Herald this week he also wants reforms to ensure the integrity of the NZ electoral system.

If Ross is of a decent mind he would chalk up a minor victory on this score as having focused National MPs’ attention on behind-the-scenes dealing in their party.

National is not going to wash its dirty linen in public but the allegations their former party
whip raised are of sufficient merit for police to finalise that particular probe.

I don’t think we can rely on Ross being ‘of a decent mind’, he seems more intent on personal revenge.

And we can’t rely on the Police to do a decent investigation of political funding, they seem to prefer to avoid political investigations.

Unfortunately I think that much of the media is more interested in the personal lives of politicians becoming public fodder.

But a proper examination of funding methods and of possible Chinese influence in the National Party is where journalist attention should be focussed

Marama Davidson claims to have ‘outed’ anonymous donations

Green co-leader Marama Davidson has received support (and some criticism) after she claimed to have outed anonymous donations made to the National Party. These are donations that were disclosed by National by April in accordance with electoral law.

Davidson:

I’ve called for ALL parties to bring public confidence back to our system and step up to tighter rules. The vast majority of our donations were less than $100 (over 85%) and the ave amount was 48 bucks.

I don’t know that the public cares much about party donations.

Greens get a lot of small donations – they regularly ask for small donations from supporters. But I’m not sure why they feel that larger donations should be more strictly controlled.

There is a chance that large donors expect something in return from the parties they donate to. I’m sure that unions who make large donations to Labour hope for union friendly legislation from a Labour led government.

Greens focus on small donations – but they also use their donor and support base to lobby, via petitions, via bulk submissions. What is the difference apart from their method? Greens may in fact be using donors directly in their lobbying more than some big business donors.

Yesterday Davidson followed up, claiming to have ‘outed’ National:

Davidson has claimed to have ‘outed’ donation information that was filed by April this year with the Electoral Commission, and is easy to see here:

https://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/bulk-upload/documents/national_party_-_annual_return_2017.pdf

A Green Party media release from Davidson: $3.5 million in anonymous donations to National in 2017, it needs to be fixed

Over $3.5 million in anonymous donations to the National Party in 2017 shows why we urgently need donations reform in Aotearoa New Zealand, Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said today.

“$3.5 million in anonymous donations is a huge sum of money, it is unlikely this is made up of coins or small notes dropped in a bucket of given at a bake sale.

“This spells out powerful vested interests tipping huge amounts of money into the coffers of the National Party, hiding behind anonymity.

“With this scale of funding comes influence, and at the moment we don’t truly know who these powerful vested interests are that are influencing our politicians. Our Parliament is ripe for influence by big corporations, and potentially corruption.

“It needs to end. After this past few weeks it is clearer than ever that New Zealanders want big money out of politics. It is time for our Parliament to be returned to the community.

“The Green Party are calling for anonymity to only be maintained for donations under $1000. This means that small donations at local fundraisers aren’t mired with red tape, but also means politicians will find it much harder to hide donations from powerful vested interests”.

In other words, she wants to protect the Green way of fundraising but wants to restrict the way other parties fundraise. Given that this would impact on Labour and NZ First as well as National I doubt that she will get much support.

It seems to be more ‘Green way or the highway’ anti-big business rhetoric.

Ardern on political donations

Jacinda Ardern has been interviewed on RNZ this morning on political donations.

Zhang Yikun has attended a Labour fundraiser, in Sept 2017, Ms Ardern acknowledges. “If he’s made any donations that’s declarable, we would’ve declared it.”

“I make a point of not being involved in donations to the party.” Ms Ardern says she’s met Zhang Yikun at a number of events but doesn’t know him personally.

Parties would be mad to not comply carefully with current rules over donations. Despite claims by Jami-lee Ross there is no evidence that they don’t comply.

“We do not have a practice of splitting donations to avoid them being declared,” Ms Ardern says. “I would love an environment where we didn’t have to go out & fundraise & seek donations.”

Ms Ardern could introduce state-funding of parties to scrap political donations, but her question is if there’s mandate. “It would be much easier political environment if we didn’t have campaigning, fundraising, but that would mean it’d go back on the public purse.

The Greens have jumped on their state-funding crusade again, but there seems little inclination from Labour or National for any significant changes to how donations are regulated and managed.

‘Cash-for-candidates’ claims and party funding

The Jami-Lee Ross saga has raised to issue of whether candidates can influence candidate selections with donations.

I think that Colin Craig’s and Gareth Morgan’s money may have influenced their candidacy, but they are extreme examples.

It is difficult separating financial interests from political interests these days. Prospective candidates wanting to stand especially for National or Labour and especially for an electorate need to be in a position job-wise and financially to spend months campaigning, likely for more than one election.

It seems common for both the large parties to give first time candidates a go at a hopeless (for the party) electorate before earning their right to stand in a winnable electorate .

NZ Herald: National Party denies cash-for-candidates policy

The taped conversation between Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross is opening the National Party to accusations of a cash-for-candidates policy, prompting the Green Party to call for sweeping changes to political donations.

Despite Ross’ comments on the recording, Bridges said this morning that he did not believe they discussed candidacy at the dinner.

“This was a very convivial dinner and we did not discuss that.”

He denied National Party list places were for sale.

“We have incredibly robust processes to become a Member of Parliament. It involves selection processes and competition … and what that’s about is the best man or woman winning the job on their merits.”

They do have contested selections, but that doesn’t rule out influence for a variety of reasons. And it doesn’t rule money (costs) being involved. Some National MPs have paid Simon Lusk and Cameron Slater to enhance their selection prospects, or probably more accurately, paid to fuck over opponents.

His comments were supported by National MP Melissa Lee, who said: “I did not pay to actually get here, and I don’t think anyone else has either.”

But it will have cost them money and probably also lost earnings opportunities, that’s the reality of modern democracy.

I think the Greens have always been opposed to big business donations.

But Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the recording suggested that National list positions could be bought.

She said the current law allowed too much room for anonymous donations, and New Zealanders deserved to know who was trying to buy influence.

“It could be oil and gas. It could be tobacco lobbying. The Greens have an ethics committee to approve all donations over $5000. We will not accept – and have refused in the past – any donations that don’t sit with our charter.

I don’t think any party will want to be seen to have accepted unethical donations.

“It’s very clear that at the moment we are a bit ripe for corruption, and this is why the Greens are calling for powerful vested interests and big money to get out of influencing political parties.”

Large donations for The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand include:

  • Philip Mills $65,000 (November 2016)
  • James Jenkins $30,080 (April 2015)
  • Spoon Limited $48,295.40 (August 2014)

Should it be assumed that they are not trying to buy influence? If so, should it be assumed that any large donation is not designed to buy interest unless proven otherwise?

Another donation to the Greens:

  • Estate of Elizabeth Beresford Riddoch $283,835.99 (August 2016)

It would be safe to assume that a dead person couldn’t demand influence, wouldn’t it?

NZH:  Greens say big donation a mystery

The Green Party has received its largest ever donation, and says it knows nothing about the donor.

The party declared a donation of $283,835 last week from the estate of Elizabeth Riddoch.

Did they do a full ethics check first?

Helm said most of the Green Party’s fundraising was based on small, regular payments.

“We do have a quite comprehensive fundraising programme but a large bequest like this is extremely unusual for us.

“We tend to get a lot of small and medium-sized donations from people who perhaps have some disposable income but aren’t the very wealthy in society.”

So there could be some self interest involved trying to curb large donations when their own donations are mostly small and medium sized. As all the Green economy companies grow and thrive what if they offer to donate to the Green Party? Would that be seen as unethical?

Davidson called for sweeping changes, including removing anonymity for donations over $1000, capping individual donations at $35,000, banning overseas donations and increasing public money for campaigning.

They want state funded political parties. There’s a real danger that would favour parties already in Parliament, like the advertising funds dished out for election campaigns.

But New Zealand First leader Winston Peters disagreed.

“I don’t believe the taxpayer should be funding political parties to the degree that the Green Party says. The reality is, if you’ve got a consumer demand politically, people out there will back you.”

He said New Zealand First had never taken money in exchange for political influence, but the recording told a different story for National.

“It’s clear from those tapes that the National Party has a cash-for-candidates policy.”

It wasn’t clear.

What is clear is how brazen Peters is claiming “New Zealand First had never taken money in exchange for political influence”. It is unlikely to be a pure coincidence that fishing and racing donors to NZF happen to be pleased about the policies that Peters coincidentally gets pushed through as a priority in their coalition arrangements.

Party donations will always be contentious. And cast aspersions of influence will always be a weapon used by opponent parties.

Chinese influence in New Zealand politics

The issue of political donations in return for political influence and even candidacy has come up in the Jami-Lee Ross saga, even though it now seems that Ross has not come close to delivering on his accusations.

The related issue of Chinese influence in New Zealand (and world) politics has also come up.

I think we have to be careful here separating legitimate engagement in our democracy by registered voters, and alleged influence from China. Chinese New Zealanders (NZ and foreign born) make up about 5% of the population so presumably make up about 5% of the voting population. They have a right to stand for Parliament, to support parties, to donate and to vote, like anyone else here.

But there are concerns about influence from China, and some of these concerns may be reasonable.

Martyn Bradbury posted National looks less like a political party and more like a front for Chinese business interests

As China regresses into a censorship totalitarian state, we need to ask how much influence our largest Political Party is under from Beijing and in whose interest does National rule? New Zealand’s or the People’s Republic of China?

The Woke Left feel terribly anxious about any questions like this as they see it as nothing more than Xenophobia, but when we have this level of influence over a Party and when academics are having their homes broken into, such attempts to shut down the debate and questioning is naive at best and aiding China at worst.

That was just a general swipe (and before facts of the Ross allegations became clearer), but a comment from Iain McClean was more informative.

Yes; our Allies are worried:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/28/new-zealands-five-eyes-membership-called-into-question-over-china-links

An example / insight in how some of this infiltration works.

From Your NZ.org:

https://yournz.org/2018/10/17/open-forum-forum/#commentsrobertguyton

robertguyton
/  October 17, 2018
“Explain the primary role of the United Front Work in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The United Front Work Department of the CCP is an integral part of the Party structure, down to sometimes the lowest levels and coordinated at the very top by a United Front Leading Small Group initiated by Xi Jinping. The Department works to reach out, represent, and guide key individuals and groups within both the PRC [People’s Republic of China] and greater China, including Chinese diasporas. The goals include to have all such groups accept CCP rule, endorse its legitimacy, and help achieve key Party aims. Because United Front Work has officially been extended to those who emigrated after 1979 as well as those Chinese studying abroad, some 50 million or more, United Front Work is now of direct relevance and sometimes concern to an increasing number of foreign governments, notably Australia, Zealand, Canada and the United States. United Front Work abroad is not limited to only these countries though.”

https://thediplomat.com/2018/02/chinas-united-front-work-propaganda-as-policy/

And if we do nothing……? This is heading our way.!!

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-09-19/digital-dictatorship-china-exerts-control-over-population-through-social-credit

I would suggest the same tentacles are within Labour as well.
We need to ‘keep an eye out’.

So we should have concerns about influence from China. If it can be found that political donations are coming from China then we should be concerned (is there any evidence of this or is it just scaremongering?).

But this should not spread out to general attacks on registered New Zealand voters with Chinese ethnicity.

Today in NZ Herald – Tze Ming Mok: Here is the big deal about Bridges’ ‘Chinese’ donations

During his epic Tuesday presser, MP Jami-Lee Ross carefully stated he didn’t think Zhang Yikun did anything wrong by trying to donate money that Ross alleges was illegally separated into legal-seeming bits.

Putting aside whether Mr Zhang (MNZM, gonged by Labour) himself has any links to the Chinese Communist Party, there is no reason anyone who actually is overly close to the Chinese Government would think it wrong to hand over bulky donations to New Zealand politicians, given the embrace of CCP-linked cash by senior figures on both sides of the House for years.

There has been little informed public debate of the scale of such funding, or what it means for the independence of New Zealand’s foreign and domestic policies.

Only one China expert here has spoken out consistently on this, Professor Anne-Marie Brady, infamously subjected to burglaries alleged to be the work of Chinese state operatives. When other local experts publicly equivocate or fail to comment about Brady’s research into the United Front campaign in New Zealand, the public is led to believe the scale of Chinese government influence here can’t be that bad, or at least that the situation isn’t clear.

This chilling effect is harming Chinese people in New Zealand. Many people cannot differentiate Chinese people from the actions of the CCP (I mean hey, many people can’t tell a Chinese from a Korean), but this is made worse when hardly any authorities on the topic will address the issue openly. Concerns can only erupt as xenophobia against the Chinese and “Asian” population.

It’s tragic that only Western countries with openly xenophobic leadership such as the US and Australia, have found the political capital to address China’s influence campaigns.

New Zealand needs to be the unicorn that can resist CCP influence as a way to uphold the rights of its own Chinese populations to political independence. We deserve better than to be trapped between knee-jerk racists and Xi Jinping Thought. Abandoning us to this fate is racism too.

And we should have about 6 ethnic Chinese MPs if they are going to be proportionally represented.

A poll last May showed how Chinese voters intended to vote (compared to how they voted in 2014:

If an election was held tomorrow, who would you vote for?

  • National 73.5% (down from 74.1%)
  • Labour 15.8% (up from 14%)
  • NZ First 4.7% (up from 1.1%)
  • ACT 3.6% (down from5.7%)
  • Greens 2% (down from 2.4%)
  • Conservative 0% (down from 2.4%)
  • Other 0.5% (down from 1.6%

– NZH Rise in Chinese voter support for New Zealand First, survey finds

Note that that was before the swing in support back to Labour after Jacinda Ardern took over in August. Another poll in September 2017:

  • National 71.1%
  • Labour 21.6%
  • NZ First 2.4%
  • ACT 2.4%

National will be back in Government if Chinese voters had their way

So there support seems reasonably fluid.

Law and order, health care and education were the issues that mattered most to Chinese voters according to the poll.

National List MP Jian Yang is believed to be the Chinese MP who would be the one to most effectively serve the Chinese community in the next three years on 44.8 per cent, followed by Labour’s Raymond Huo on 18.8 per cent.

Jian Yang cops quite a bit of flak because of his past in China, but he is verywell supported by ethnic Chinese voters in New Zealand.

 

Where to start on Jami-Lee Ross versus Bridges and National?

There is a huge amount of material around after yesterday’s unprecedented developments, where Ross was dumped from the National caucus but resigned anyway and also resigned from Parliament.

This will trigger a by-election in Botany that Ross says he will contest as an independent, saying it will be a vote on the leadership of Bridges. I’m not sure what voters will think of using democratic processes to advance a personal and party feud.

Ross says he will go to the police today after making accusations of corruption (that he says he played a part in). He seems to be trying to portray himself as some sort of principled whistle blowing hero.

Bridges denies everything and he and other National MPs have attacked back against Ross.

It may take some time to unravel the facts of this unravelling of Ross and National.

As Newsroom says, Jami-Lee Ross leaves more questions than answers

Ross denies being the original leaker of Bridges’ travel expenses. The expenses were leaked to a Newshub journalist in August and the PwC report commissioned by Bridges showed no correspondence between Ross and the journalist. The report said the leaker had not been identified “with certainty”, but the evidence pointed to Ross.

Ross has admitted to being the leaker of the text from the person claiming to be the expense leaker (stay with us). The text calling for the leak inquiry to be called off was leaked to a different journalist, from a different organisation. Ross said he passed the details of the text to the RNZ journalist because he disagreed with Bridges’ decisions regarding the leak saga, including his decision to push forward with an investigation despite the leaker revealing they had mental health issues.

So Ross denies being the original leaker but supported that leaker by leaking texts from them.

Ross is also now facing allegations of harassing at least four women. He was confronted by Bridges, deputy leader Paula Bennett, and National chief of staff Jamie Gray about three weeks ago. They said there were complaints from four women, and they were aware of a “pattern of behaviour”. Bridges said the women did not want to take the matter further.

Last night Bennett told Newsroom it was wrong of Ross to claim she and Bridges had raised allegations of sexual ‘harassment’ with him. “We just put to him some form of inappropriate behaviour for a married man. We had a private conversation with him. It was sensitive, but it is him who has chosen to go public about it being around sexual harassment.”

This is very touchy ground for MPs who generally don’t go public on the private behaviour of other MPs. I’ve seen a range of accusations but will wait for substance and evidence.

Ross denies ever harassing a woman, saying he was raised by his mother and grandmother to respect women. He then strangely referenced the Brett Kavanaugh affair in the US, saying a man who was accused of harassment these days found it almost impossible to clear their name. Ross said these allegations led to him having a “mental breakdown” and caused him to take leave. He said he was better now.

Odd, Ross wasn’t publicly accused of harassment. He outed himself, claiming to be the victim of false accusations of harassment.

Ross said Bridges filed false returns for electoral donations. One of those was a $10,000 donation from an organisation called Cathedral Club, which Ross alleged was a front for Bridges’ friend. Bridges said there was a clerical error regarding two donations totalling $24,000, as they were listed as candidate donations, rather than party donations. The return was amended and resubmitted.

Ross also alleged Bridges had received $100,000 from Chinese businessman Yikun Zhang, which Bridges asked Ross to collect and split up so it could be filed anonymously. The outgoing National MP said he would be taking information regarding the alleged “corruption” to police on Wednesday.

But:

So that may distance Bridges from prosecution (National’s party secretary could be in the firing line), but if substantiated it is likely to leave Bridges in political difficulty, especially as a leader.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow said the party could find no proof of Ross’ allegations, which seemed “inconsistent with the donor information we have to date, including information previously supplied by Mr Ross”.

If Ross proves wrongdoing he may be culpable himself.

Bridges’ handling of the leak saga, and his popularity both in and out of the party, have been questioned during the past two months. The leader said the party was united and all 55 MPs had voted to expel Ross. He also said his leadership had not been discussed by caucus but the party was united. He repeatedly referred to Ross as a “lone-wolf MP”, who was “leaking”, “lying” and “lashing out”.

However, this will not be the end of the saga for Bridges, who may now be at the centre of an investigation into alleged electoral fraud. He’s in a stronger position than Ross at this stage but nothing’s a sure thing in politics.

I think it’s too soon to know how this will impact on Bridges’ leadership and on the National Party.

David Farrar is on RNZ right now saying ‘it is bad for both National and Bridges, they only questions are how bad and for how long”.

If the police launch an inquiry that is almost certain to drag things out for some time.

The Botany by-election will drag things out for a couple of months or so if they can fit it in before Christmas.

And Ross seems intent on revealing a lot of information including a recording and communications.

School donations another delayed promise

A Labour promise to pay schools extra so parent donations aren’t required has had an evolving target, from “in our first budget” to “three Budgets on which to deliver on them”.

Below the Beltway:

Education Minister Chris Hipkins – After promising repeatedly to offer parents relief from school donations in the Budget, Hipkins insists its omission is not a broken promise but a delayed one.

Labour policy: Schooling

  • Ensure that schooling is genuinely free by offering an extra $150 per student to state and state integrated schools that don’t ask parents for donations

Labour: Education Manifesto

  • Labour will provide all State and State Integrated schools that opt-in an additional $150 per student per year in exchange for their agreement not to ask for parental donations

July 2017: Labour taking action on school ‘donations’

Labour will end so-called voluntary school donations for the majority of parents across the country under its $4 billion plan to revitalise the education sector, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. James talks with Labour education spokesperson Chris Hipkins on this.

James: So the school will get this immediately, as soon as you become Government the schools will get this extra $150 per child?

Hipkins: Ah look it might have to be, obviously we’ve got to pass a budget first, so it probably won’t be the beginning of next year, it’s probably be the beginning of the following year but we’ll be doing it as quickly as we can.

James: How long does it take to sort that out, a year?

Hipkins: Well the government budget’s normally done in May, so you’ve got to appropriate the money first.

James: Haven’t you done the figures already?

Hipkins: Yep. The money, we’ve certainly done the figures but we’ve actually got to win the election and get into Government first, and then it takes a wee while to pass an additional budget. The budget for next year has been already been set by Mr English and Mr Joyce.

Almost as soon as they got into Government,26 October 2017: ‘We’ve got to fund schools fairly’ – Labour determined to take the axe to ‘voluntary’ school donations:

Incoming Education Minister Chris Hipkins said a new Labour initiative would be introduced in the 2018 budget that would see some schools given extra government funding instead of asking parents for a donation.

Hillary Barry: End of school donations, how are you going to ensure that those are gone?

Chris Hipkins: Well that’ll be in our first budget. We’ll be making sure that school funding is enough to deliver the curriculum so that schools don’t have to rely on the ability of parents to pay, because that’s creating real unfairness…

In November: Labour’s $150 per student per year promise ‘over and above current funding’, minister says

New Minister of Education Chris Hipkins…

The new Government would commit an extra $150 per pupil per year to any schools that agreed not to ask for donations, and that money would be “over and above their current funding”, he said.

Hipkins was confident many schools would prefer the new approach to asking parents to “dig ever deeper into their own pockets”.

“I know parents and schools will be keen for this change to be made as soon as possible and work is getting under way,” he said.

It had already softened to “as soon as possible”.

A month later Labour announced their first budget, a mini-budget that included major new spending like delivering on the free-fee tertiary policy. This was their first budget they chose not to address the school donation policy then.

In February this year Schools split on Government’s plan to overhaul donation system

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the policy would be considered for Budget 2018.  “No-one should be denied an opportunity to realise their potential through education because of financial barriers,” he said.

“As it is Budget sensitive I can’t comment further at this point.”

By then it was “would be considered”.

But it was absent from the budget announced this month (May).

In Parliament on Wednesday Nikki Kaye probed Hipkins:

7. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all his promises in education; if so, does he stand by his statement in February 2018 regarding ending school donations, “As it is Budget sensitive I can’t comment further at this point”?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes, and yes.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Why did he say, in January, to the Nelson Mail that a school donations proposal was working its way through Cabinet and “This restricts me from making any comment further at this stage.”, and when did that schools donations Cabinet paper go through?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Because it was working its way through the process. It was called the Budget process.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he reimburse schools and parents who are contacting electorate offices saying they relied on his broken promise to end school donations in the first Budget, and how will they find funding from somewhere else?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government has been very clear that we have three Budgets in which to deliver the commitments we made in the Speech from the Throne. We have, thus far, delivered one of the three Budgets.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he promise that funding will be provided in Budget 2019 to end school donations?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: All of the commitments in the Speech from the Throne are subject to further Budget consideration if they weren’t funded in this year’s Budget. There are two further Budgets that the Government will be delivering over this term of Government.

Hon Nikki Kaye: How does he justify breaking his explicit promise to parents to scrap the school donations in his first Budget when his Government is budgeting a surplus of $3.1 billion, the tax take is up by $1 billion, and the Government can afford to give millions to wealthy students, Swedish diplomats—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: To be clear, the Government was never going to be able to deliver all of the commitments we made in our first Budget, and we’ve always been very clear that we weren’t going to be able to deliver those things in our first Budget. That’s why we have a three-year term, and three Budgets on which to deliver on them.

So it’s been a moving target:

July 2017: “Probably be the beginning of the following year” (2019)

October 2017: “Well that’ll be in our first budget” (not clear whether mini-budget in 2017 or full budget in 2018)

November 2017: “…this change to be made as soon as possible…”

February 2018: “would be considered for Budget 2018”

May 2018: “three Budgets on which to deliver on them”

If Labour gets back into Government in 2020 Hipkins will have another three budgets to deliver on his promise, sort of.

 

Labour propose $4b boost to education

Labour say they will stop schools asking for donations and have pledged a big boost in education spending.

RNZ:  Labour pledges $4bn boost for education sector

The party said it would give an extra $4 billion to education over the next four years, which it said would lift the quality of the education system and reduce pressure on early childhood centres, schools, tertiary institutions and parents.

Note that $4 billion over 4 years is an average of $1 billion per year. Parties have a habit of quoting costs over multiple years.

“We need more qualified early childhood teachers, school teachers who aren’t swimming in paperwork, and tertiary institutions that drive excellence in teaching and research,” Mr Little said.

We need more of everything except inefficient and unnecessary spending.

As part of its education policy, it would give an extra $150 per student to every school that agreed to stop asking parents for a donation.

Labour leader Andrew Little said schools would still be able to request parents pay for extracurricular activities, such as camps, but those that accepted the extra money would not be able to ask for a donation.

“Labour has always been committed to a world-class free education system that’s accessible to everyone and today we’re reaffirming that commitment,” he said.

“That’s why we’ll end so-called voluntary school donations for every school that takes up our scheme.

“Under National, school donations have jumped by 50 percent and they continue to rise due to National’s freeze on schools’ operational funding last year.”

It does look like operational funding for 2016 and 2017 are the same – see:

2016 party donations

Stuff has details of party donations for 2016: National tops donations with almost $2m given to the party in 2016

The total donations disclosed for 2016 were:

  • National: $1,943,324
  • Greens: $860,746
  • Labour: $563,915
  • Conservatives: $139,450
  • ACT: $108,730
  • NZ First: $54,946
  • Maori Party: $42,237
  • United Future: Nil
  • Mana: Nil

National and Greens are doing well, Labour is still lagging badly. Labour are doing more to try to get small donations after building contact lists, but that didn’t show up much in last year’s totals.

How does this compare to donations in 2013, the year before the last election?

  • National: $1,037,537
  • Greens: $386,711
  • Labour: $486,506
  • Conservatives: $197,570
  • ACT: $138,840
  • NZ First: $3,050
  • Maori Party: $74,409
  • United Future: Nil
  • Mana: 28,374

So National and Greens are well ahead, while Labour is up a bit but their fundraising last term was woeful. They have a lot of work to do this year.