Paternalistic Speaker protecting Ardern in Parliament

There have been claims already that Speaker Trevor Mallard has protected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament when under attack by the Opposition.

This came up again after an exchange in Question Time yesterday, where Simon Bridges moved from questions about CGT effects on KiwiSaver to Ardern’s business experience:

Hon Simon Bridges: In light of her comments on fairness, is it fair that under the proposed capital gains tax, the small-business owner will have to pay tax on a third of their business when they sell up for retirement?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, alongside the recommendations around a comprehensive capital gains tax, we’ve acknowledged that, for simplicity, that was what the Tax Working Group suggested. They also put alongside that, increasing the threshold for provisional tax from $1,500 to $5,000, increasing the closing stock adjustment, an increase in the automatic deduction for legal fees, a reduction in the number of depreciation rates.

So there was a suite of options in there, and, again, Mr Speaker, as I know you know, but as I wish the Leader of the Opposition would hear: we have not settled on any of the final recommendations of the report. We are still considering them as a Government.

Ardern brought the Speaker into the discussion.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the problem with answering my questions that she doesn’t understand small business very well?


Hon Simon Bridges: When she told Mike Hosking last week and this morning that she’d run a small NGO that helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I did not tell him that this morning.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she said last week on Mike Hosking that her running a small NGO had helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, I spent more time talking about the fact that my first jobs were all in small businesses. The point that I was making at that time—and actually, I continue to make—is that, as a Government, we are considering all of the issues that have been raised. That includes whether it be residential rentals, whether it be small business, whether it be KiwiSaver.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the NGO she spoke of the International Union of Socialist Youth?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member knows how to use Wikipedia—well done.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has talking to international comrades helped her with her small-business policy development in New Zealand?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the Prime Minister will sit down. We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House. It’s a final warning, and I think Mr McClay will be the first out.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I stand by the fact that I have worked in small businesses, that I have been in charge of hiring and firing, and I’d be interested in how many times he’s had to do that as a Crown prosecutor.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given all the—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Ah, the businessman!

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Mr Brownlee will now stand, withdraw and apologise.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. What was the problem there? I called him a businessman; I apologise for that.

SPEAKER: The member knows well that he interjected while a member was asking a question. He will now leave the Chamber.

Hon Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.

Ex MP Tau Henare:

Ardern was noticeably irritated from early in this exchange.

Richard Harman at Politik: Temper flash from the PM

What appeared to be a flash of temper from the Prime Minister in Parliament yesterday is an indication of how much the capital gains tax debate seems to be getting to her. She and Ministers are getting bogged down in detail as they answer endless questions about how the tax might work…

Audrey Young: Simon Bridges gets the better of Jacinda Ardern over small business experience

Ardern’s loss of form was Bridges’ capital gain as the National leader and the Prime Minister went head to head over a comprehensive capital gains tax (CGT) proposal.

It was a variation on fish and chip shop theme, from the previous day in which slaving over a fat vat in an after- school job gave her insights into how small business owners would be feeling about having to pay 33 per cent tax when they sold up their business for retirement.

Ardern had disputed the NewstalkZB host’s claim that none of the cabinet had experience running a small business.

It was Bridges’ moment but Mallard was having none of it. There are no rules for when applause is tolerated and when it is not. That is decided by the mood of the Speaker who clearly did not like National ganging up on her.

Mallard: “We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House.”

Ardern looks under pressure over the Capital Gains Tax. She and her Government seemed badly prepared for dealing the widely expected recommendations of the Tax Working Group. With a decision still a month or two away, expect National to keep hammering Ardern on this.

Both Mallard and Winston Peters appear to be trying to protect Ardern in Parliament. Grant Robertson also stepped in to help. This looks paternalistic, and doesn’t help Ardern’s case.

Ardern won’t be able to come up with answers on CGT for a while yet, but she at least needs to find a way of handling the questions better – on her own.


Is Trump experienced or expert enough to stuff things up more?

President Donald Trump is having some successes and some things are going his way, but he also looks like an incompetent disaster waiting to happen. But despite his obvious inexperience and lack of expertise, is their much risk of him stuffing things up any more than past US administrations?

The US has made a mess of many things over the last half century and more – the Korean war was in the 1950s and still isn’t resolved. Cuba, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Russia…

Mathew J. Petersen at Intellectual Takeout: Thank God Trump Isn’t a Foreign Policy Expert

What Trump Lacks
In fact, many on the Right and Left over the past two years have suggested their main worry about Donald Trump is the fact he now represents America to the rest of the world and will cause a devastating disaster, nuclear or otherwise.

I propose some simple, evaluative questions and a thought experiment to set the minds of the nation at ease the morning after the most significant moment of the Trump presidency.

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to give away as much to North Korea as the American foreign-policy establishment, with all its experience, top-shelf degrees, and stratospheric test scores, has given away in the past 30 years?

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to keep the hostile stalemate the American foreign-policy establishment created and fostered with North Korea since America first waged the Korean War?

For that matter, does Trump even have the experience and caste of mind to start a war, say, in the Middle East, that costs trillions of dollars and disrupts and inflames the region as President Bush and his entourage did? Does he even know how?

Does Trump have the expertise to take over the wreckage of such a war and support jihadist rebels, help create ISIS and a global refugee crisis, and give Russia the most power it’s had in the region since the peak of the Cold War, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did?

The truth may alarm you. Trump has never even started a war before—not even a little one.

Trump is such an ignoramus, forget war—for decades the uniparty American foreign policy establishment’s most basic solution to problems overseas has been to supply the gift of training and weapons to people in other countries who then end up becoming terrorists or some other version of our worst nightmare. That’s an inside the beltway American tradition, for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Does Trump even know this?

Departing from “the Norm”

There’s sure as hell no way Trump knows yet how to meet with a foreign dictator like Kim Jong-un and come to an agreement that ultimately doesn’t change anything or makes things worse, like all our sane and competent leaders have been doing since the Cold War ended. Thus, we should indeed all consider the possibility that Trump might somehow be different.

Assuming North Korea has some desire to reform itself—admittedly, the very assumption we are now testing—the biggest obstacle to peace on the Korean Peninsula is the disastrous legacy of Hillary-Obama foreign policy, which mimics decades of earlier, similar American failures.

Regardless of the spin on both sides, remember: whatever the ultimate result of the Singapore summit, it will not be determined, as it has been in the past, by the slow-moving, Byzantine maneuvers of the foreign-policy expert class, the members of which Michael Anton aptly calls “priests” in “America and the Liberal International Order.” This priest class has tried to make a science of “international relations” that somehow abstracts from prudence and the plain old study of human nature, history, and politics.

Trump upended their order. What matters now is the result of two men in a room, representing their respective people, sizing each other up, and speaking directly to one another.

There is no guarantee this will work any better (or less worse) than past military and diplomatic attempts, and there will almost certainly be some negatives to the inexpert bluster of Trump, but he doesn’t need to achieve much to improve on past efforts.

Ok, there is a risk that Trump will blunder bigly and something really crappy will happen in Korea, the Middle East or with Russia, or somewhere else the US has been involved or decides to interfere, but those risks were there under past presidents too.

In shaking the old norms up Trump may create chaos, but out of that we may end up with a better world. May.

Labour experience and turnover

A lot has been said about Labour’s failure to replace and replenish it’s caucus.

Therefore an interesting comment from Antoine at The Standard:

I’ve been comparing the Labour Cabinet of 2005 with the current Labour caucus.

1. Clark – GONE
2. Cullen – GONE
3. Anderton – GONE
4. Maharey – GONE
5. Goff – GONE
6. King – GONE [Not yet, leaving in September]
8. Hodgson – GONE
9. Horomia – RIP (God bless)
10. Burton – GONE
11. Dyson – STILL HERE (Apparently)
12. Carter – GONE
13. Barker – GONE
14. Benson-Pope – GONE
15. Dalziel – GONE
16. O’Connor – STILL HERE
17. Cunliffe – GONE
18. Parker – STILL HERE (And actually still in a senior role)
19. Mahuta – STILL HERE (Apparently)
20. Cosgrove – STILL HERE [Just, leaving in September]
21. Sutton – GONE.

It makes for sobering reading. The only remaining senior Labour MP with experience of actually getting stuff done in Government is David Parker.

That is a nearly complete turnover in talent, albeit over 12 years. If Mallard manages to get back in on the list he will be Speaker or backbench so is unlikely to feature in Caucus.

The current top 21 and the year they entered Parliament:

  1. Andrew Little (2011, list, party president 2009)
  2. Jacinda Ardern (2008, list until this year, has worked in Clark and Goff offices prior)
  3. Grant Robertson (2008 Wellington Central, worked in Clark and Hobbs offices prior)
  4. Phil Twyford (2008, list, 2011 Te Atatu, on Labour’s policy council prior)
  5. Megan Woods (2011 Wigram)
  6. Chris Hipkins (2008, Rimutaka, advisor to Mallard and Clark prior)
  7. Kelvin Davis (2008 list, 2014 list, 2014 Te Tai Tokerau)
  8. Carmel Sepuloni (2008 list, 2014 Kelston)
  9. David Clark (2011 Dunedin North)
  10. David Parker (2002 Otago, 2005 list)
  11. Nanaia Mahuta (1996 list, since 1999 Maori electorates)
  12. Meka Whatiri (2013 Ikaroa-Rawhiti, senior adviser for Horomia prior)
  13. Stuart Nash (2008 list, 2011 not in Parliament, 2014 Napier)
  14. Iain Lees-Galloway (2008 Palmerston North)
  15. Aupito Su’a William Sio (2011 list, 2008 Mangere)
  16. Sue Moroney (2005 list) – leaving this year
  17. Damien O’Connor (1992 West Coast, 2009 list, 2001 West Coast-Tasman)
  18. Kris Faafoi (2010 Mana)
  19. Jenny Salesa (2014 Manukau East)
  20. Peeni Henare (2014 Tamaki Makaurau)

Parker, Mahuta and O’Connor are the only MPs from that list with experience in government who have a chance of returning.

Ruth Dyson has been a low level minister (ACC, Senior Citizens) in the Clark government but is currently ranked 25.

Labour’s top twenty are unlikely to all get into Cabinet if Labour form the next Government.

Based on current polls if Labour and Greens manage to increase their support proportionally then about a third of Cabinet should be Green MPs, and at least a quarter.

But a Labour+Greens+NZ First triumvirate is looking more likely (unless NZ First go with National) and on current polling that is only 60% Labour, or just over half of Cabinet if done proportionally, which would be 12-15 ministers depending on how many are appointed.

Any party that is out of government for 9 years is going to shed a lot of experience, but if Labour get into government after this year’s election they would be one of the least experienced taking office, with no Green government experience and only Winston Peters from NZ First having been in Government or Cabinet before.

Opposition short of Cabinet experience

Fran O’Sullivan points out in Jacinda Ardern needs to put in the hard yards (and yes, Ardern does need to show she can do the hard yards in major spokesperson roles):

There will be only three former Cabinet ministers left in the Labour caucus at election time: Parker, Ruth Dyson and Trevor Mallard.

Wow. A party is bound to loose experience when in Opposition for none years but that’s a paltry remainder. Plus:

  • Mallard wants to be Speaker so if Labour form the next government he won’t be in Cabinet. And going list only he is at risk of not making it back into Parliament unless Labour improves it’s support.
  • Dyson is currently ranked 24 with minor spokesperson roles so will struggle to figure in a coalition Cabinet involving at least one and probably more parties.

And there are none in the Greens caucus.

Not only is there no Green MPs with Cabinet experience, none of them have been in Government before. If they succeed this election it will be a huge learning curve for them.

And if NZ First are added to the mix only Winston Peters has Cabinet experience amongst them. Ron Mark was Senior Whip in the 1996-1998 coalition with National, so there is scant experience there too.

If Labour+Greens or Labour+NZ First or Labour+NZ First+Greens form the next government it would have to be the least experienced line up for a long time.