NZ maintains high score in corruption index

Transparency International has released the 2014 Corruption Perception Index. New Zealand drops from first to second place but maintains it’s 2013 score of 91. It was 90 in 2012. Denmark increased from 91 to 92 which put it just ahead on ranking.

The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). A country or territory’s rank indicates its position relative to the other countries and territories in the index.

Top twenty:

RANK COUNTRY 2014 2013 2012
1 Denmark 92 91 90
2 New Zealand 91 91 90
3 Finland 89 89 90
4 Sweden 87 89 88
5 Norway 86 86 85
5 Switzerland 86 85 86
7 Singapore 84 86 87
8 Netherlands 83 83 84
9 Luxembourg 82 80 80
10 Canada 81 81 84
11 Australia 80 81 85
12 Germany 79 78 79
12 Iceland 79 78 82
14 United Kingdom 78 76 74
15 Belgium 76 75 75
15 Japan 76 74 74
17 Barbados 74 75 76
17 Hong Kong 74 75 77
17 Ireland 74 72 69
17 United States 74 73 73

That’s a very good result, but it isn’t being reported like that. Firstline started their item just now saying we had dropped, and it was introduced as saying ‘plummeted’ – not sure if it was tongue in cheek or not. And an expert commentator corrected the perception.

A misleading NZ Herald headline: Politics: Is NZ becoming more corrupt?

New Zealand has been knocked off its perch as the least corrupt country on earth, slipping to number two on the just-announced Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. So does this mean we’re becoming more corrupt?

And, with so many corruption stories and allegations in the media and politics over the last year, shouldn’t we have expected our ranking to drop further than just one place? Why hasn’t Dirty Politics translated into an international ‘telling off’ for New Zealand?

Should New Zealand have fallen further?

The first thing to note about the New Zealand’s drop in the corruption index is that the raw score for the country remains the same: 91 out of 100. By contrast Denmark has increased its score to 92, which explains the loss of the number one ranking. Therefore this is hardly bad news for New Zealand’s reputation.

Despite Edwards and the Herald portraying it as bad news.

And 3 News reports: Don’t take NZ’s corruption rating for granted – Labour

We might be seen as one of the least corrupt countries, but it’s important not to become complacent, Labour’s justice spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern says.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index released on Wednesday ranked New Zealand second for least perceived corruption in the public sector, beaten out only by Denmark.

It’s the first time since 2006 New Zealand’s been knocked off its first-place post which it shared last year with Denmark.

Ms Ardern says in a year of reports into unsavoury political and public activity, the drop in placings should give everyone pause to think.

“Today’s report shows we cannot take anything for granted if we want to maintain our hard fought for reputation.

“Good governance, transparency and vigilance in the face of a changing globalised environment are all key if we are to maintain a well-functioning democracy.”

My headline for that item would be “NZ maintains high corruption score but Labour still grizzles”.

Tacked on the end of the article:

Justice Minister Amy Adams said New Zealand’s public sector is internationally renowned for low levels of corruption and noted a number of anti-corruption initiatives had been passed by the Government this year.

But that doesn’t make a good headline.

Back to Edwards in the Herald.

Why are allegations of corruption increasing?

A caution about the perceptions of increased corruption in New Zealand also needs to be made. Just because there are many more media stories and allegations of corruption made by politicians, this doesn’t actually mean that New Zealand is becoming more corrupt.

While the media promote stories about allegations of corruption it “doesn’t actually mean that New Zealand is becoming more corrupt”, it just means media is getting more dramatic and less accurate.

And we should take allegations about corruption from various politicians with even more caution. Such allegations are the new weapon of electioneering. In a period when policy is less important or divergent in New Zealand politics, it is now issues of integrity that have become the main battleground for the political parties. They can often score easy hits against opponents by impugning their reputations.

Again the most pertinent commentary was relegated to the end of the article, well below the misleading headlines.

Media are often willing participants in promoting “allegations about corruption from various politicians” without providing sufficient examination of the validity of the claims.

They are often pawns of attack politicians. Is there a corruption index for media?

Different impressions of Jamie Whyte

Contrasting impressions of ACT leader Jamie Whyte in recent interviews.

Brian Edwards said on on Firstline this morning he thought Whyte was “particularly unimpressive as a leader”.

‘Wyndham, George’ commented at The Standard:

Jamie Whyte is shyte. He was interviewed by Michael Wilson on TV3 and was a blithering stuttering mess!

A comment closer to home (from someone who has never backed ACT and is never likely to):

He sounds very thoughtful.

After pointing out some hesitancy in Whyte’s responses:

It looked like he was having to think through questions he wasn’t prepared for, but spoke honestly about what he thought. Not political, no bland bull.

Wyndham, George is a political opponent of Whyte. Edwards trains politicians to speak to the media.

The other opinion was an ordinary person outside of the political arena.

Key on cannabis – avoiding the elephant

There are major issues looming over the use of legal highs and associated cannabis use.

John Key was asked about legal highs and cannabis on Firstline this morning – PM: Legalising cannabis won’t kill legal highs

Prime Minister John Key says decriminalising cannabis will not prevent people from smoking synthetic highs.

Respondents to a Campbell Live poll last week overwhelmingly voted in favour of decriminalisation of cannabis (see Campbell Live cannabis ‘poll’), but appearing on Firstline this morning, Mr Key said that would send the wrong message.

“The Government making it legal I think we accept is a step we could take. It would be a very, very difficult and challenging step to take, it wouldn’t actually eradicate society of these products,” says Mr Key.

Yes it would be difficult. And it wouldn’t eradicate legal highs.

But it would give people who wanted to (and will) use drugs a legal choice so could better choose risks. At the moment it appears as if there are major problems with some or all of the legal highs that are still available, including significant addiction issues.

A  question has to be seriously asked – is cannabis safer than legal highs? If so why isn’t it given at least the same legal status as synthetic drugs?

Is cannabis one of the least worst options?

“In the end, drugs of any sort are a road to nowhere in my view, and we want to encourage New Zealanders not to use them.”

That’s fine but it won’t stop many people from seeking and using drugs.

Banning the 41 legal high offerings still on the shelves is harder than it sounds, says Mr Key.

“If you ban Kronic, for instance, they just change the chemical formula. Some of those chemicals are used in products that New Zealanders wouldn’t want to see banned.”

From 2015 all psychoactive products will need to be proved safe before they can be sold, and the Government hopes the cost of getting products tested will be so high, none will.

“The balance of proof, if you like, will change,” says Mr Key.

“Instead of saying, ‘here’s a product, is it actually harmful?’ they’ll actually have to prove it’s not harmful before you can get it on the shelves.”

What if none of the synthetic drugs are found to pass the ‘low harm’ threshold and they are all banned? We will have a large number of drug users who suddenly have no legal options.  They will either switch back to (illegal) cannabis or source illegal synthetics.  Neither will address the issues, and they could create more issues and problems.
This is something that needs urgent attention from Government. Just waiting and seeing what happens as the Psychoactive Substances Act kicks in fully would be a very risk experiment.
Cannabis is an elephant in the House. John Key must take a lead on this and look at how to deal with cannabis versus legal highs.

Cunliffe well rehearsed on Firstline

David Cunliffe gave a very well rehearsed and sensible performance on Firstline this morning. Perhaps he was away researching and rehearsing yesterday, he was absent from Parliament yesterday – reported as ‘at a meeting’ in Auckland.

His demeanour and body language may be an issue but he has to get the content sorted first.

Most of his responses were reasoned and sensible.

He declined to comment on the Dotcom case as it is currently a judicial matter – a wiser approach than Russel Norman’s.

He carefully distanced himself Shane Taurima but at the same time made it clear he thought Taurima had acted very unwisely. He made it clear that he would stick to his policy of not commenting on candidate selections.

He backed Shane Jones’ tactics in promoting issues about Countdown under Parliamentary privilege. A number of people have commented on how Jones is, ah, doing what a leader should be doing.

When asked about his leafy suburb faux pas Cunliffe recited something that sounded very familiar. Ironically I saw something similar yesterday on a blog that slammed him, Dimpost’s Gut feeling update. ‘Tim L’ commented:

“Bit of a shame really [for Labour], because Labour could probably use David Cunliffe’s success to their advantage if it were framed right.”


If the Labour comms or strategy team were half way competent, Cunliffe would’ve said something along the lines of “yes, I do live in a fancy house in a wealthy street, and I got there because I got an excellent free education, healthcare etc. and had support from the state. I want all NZers to have the same opportunity that I did. That’s the difference between me and John Key: he’s pulling the ladder up after himself. I want to strengthen it.”

That would be reinforcing the whole fairness and opportunity narrative that they’re trying to create. It’s not rocket surgery. But you can’t win or create a narrative if you can’t win the day, and the MPs and staff seem quite incapable of doing just that.

Cunliffe said something very similar to Tim’s suggestion, it almost sounded word for word at times. Well researched, well rehearsed, playing to the base.

The past week has been terrible for Cunliffe and for Labour. This performance is a sign that Cunliffe is trying to get back on the horse and repair some of the damage from the kicking he has received.

He has a long way to go but this was a sensible and reasonably assured start.

It was wisely careful but still looked a bit contrived. Once Cunliffe gets his stories and responses right he has to discover how to look like his natural self – if that would help his cause.



Labour and Greens on “coincidental” power policies and timings

Where there three remarkable coincidences of Labour and Greens:

  • working on very similar power pricing policy independently of each other,
  • they were both planning to announce their policy at about the same time, and
  • the timing had nothing to do with the Mighty River Power share float?

Or are Labour’s David Parker and Green’s Gareth Hughes not being truthful?

They were both interviewed on The Nation yesterday and were both asked about the coincidence of Labour and Greens working on similar power pricing policy.

Rachel Smalley interviewing David Parker…

Rachel: How long have you been working on this policy?

David: Me personally off and on over the years I’ve been working on this since 2006, 2007 to be honest.

Rachel: This specific policy?

David: Well the options that we have to improve our electricity system yes.  This specific system pushing it forward to this the last month.

Rachel: Pretty much a month.  Was it a Greens’ policy that Labour jumped on?

David:  No, it’s an absolute coincidence that we put out a press release last week saying we were announcing this week.  They then phoned us and said they had a plan for this week.  We got together and we found our plans were very similar.

Rachel: You weren’t comfortable appearing with the Greens though alongside us here on the programme?

David: We didn’t want it to be thought that this is Greens’ policy.  This is actually independent Labour policy.  The Greens I think have a similar view in respect of theirs, they’ve arrived at a similar conclusion independently of us.

Rachel Smalley interviewing Gareth Hughes:

Rachel: So let’s talk about this new power policy and what you’re going to be doing with the electricity market, whose policy was this.  Who thought of it first this joint plan if you like?

Gareth: Well we’ve been working on it independently.  We started talking to Labour after their press release on Sunday, realised we had very similar proposals, so we decided to work together on launching them together.  I think it shows the solutions we’re both proposing are commonsense, they’re smart, they’re going to be effective, we both independently reached them.

Well I’ve been thinking about how do we make a fairer more affordable electricity system for some while.  We have been working on this mostly this year.  

The conclusions we’ve both reached independently are broadly similar. 

Putting these two responses together we have:

  • Hughes has been “been working on this mostly this year”.
  • Parker claims “this specific system pushing it forward to this the last month”.
  • Labour “put out a press release last week saying we were announcing this week”.
  • Hughes: “We started talking to Labour after their press release on Sunday”.
  • Parker “Greens phoned us and said they had a plan for this week”.
  • Parker “We got together and we found our plans were very similar”.
  • Hughes “realised we had very similar proposals, so we decided to work together on launching them together”.
  • Parker “it’s an absolute coincidence “.

And there’s a third coincidence.

Rachel: Okay, your timing is at best coincidental.  At worst it’s pretty cynical it has to be said.  You’re toying with Mighty River Power here, it’s an asset that’s valued at around one and a half billion dollars.

Gareth: It is coincidental.

Smalley asked Parker:

Rachel: Is this a genuine economic policy Mr Parker or is this a stunt to derail asset sales?

Parker avoiding answering that, and Hughes claimed MRP float timing “is coincidental”, but that’s at odds with both of their leaders.

Norman was interviewed on Firstline on Friday:

The timing of the policy announcement has been questioned, coming four days into the three-week sale of Mighty River Power shares. Dr Norman says they chose to release the details now, rather than later, so Kiwis considering buying in know what the future might bring.

“We think it’s important that people know, so if you’re thinking about buying Mighty River Power shares it’s only fair enough you know.”

David Shearer said…

…it was not an attempt to derail the Government’s Mighty River share offer which began this week or the wider asset sales plan.


He said it was likely to have an impact on share prices so he had written to the board of Mighty River Power, 49 per cent of which is about to be floated on the stock exchange by the Government, and to shareholding ministers asking them to issue a supplementary disclosure.

“This will allow Kiwis who have applied for shares since Monday to reconsider”

That’s contradictory.

Should we believe the similarity in policies, both parties independently planning an announcement at the same time, and the timing of the announcements in relation to the Mighty River Power share float, were all “an absolute coincidence”?

Source The Nation:

Labour confused on power policy

Labour Leader David Shearer and Finance Spokesman David Parker still appear to differ on whether power generator SOEs will pay a dividend under the party’s new electricity policy.Mr Shearer issued a media statement yesterday saying the party would forgo dividends.But today,…

Greens deny political games

Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes echoed David Parker’s statement by denying the two parties co-ordinated their announcement as a political…

Breakfast versus Firstline

Fluff versus facts?

TVNZ’s Breakfast and TV3’s Firstline compete for audience from 6 am. There’s overlap, but there’s a clear difference and they are clearly addressing different markets, as these promotional tweets illustrate this morning.

TVNZ’s Breakfast@BreakfastonOne

15 minutes to on air and we are waiting for our lovely Director @shegelouise to return to the Control Room.

Rachel Smalley@Rachel_Smalley

Good morning, and we’re on-air. @FirstlineNZ No fluff, just the facts. 🙂

We each take our pick. Further illustrating the difference – here are their tweets from yesterday during their shows:

TVNZ’s Breakfast@BreakfastonOneToday we are talking ‘The State of the Nation’. @DavidShearerMP lays out his plan then @johnkeypm talks unemployment and apprenticeships.

What would be on your ultimate bucket list? A new comps been launched to find the best list so shortly @Lacey_Wilson dreams about hers!

Here’s the link to our chat with a TVNZ Current Affairs Producer who worked with @paul_holmes in the early days.

Firstline@FirstlineNZ232 die in panicky stampede in Brazil club fireBorrow more money, Govt toldTriple-dip recession looms for UK

No ‘super city’ for Wellington – mayor

Arts and music key to waterfront’s success

Shearer defends policy-free speech

Trotter: Good start to the year for Shearer

Mega: Service improves as visitors drop off

Pilgrams gather at the Ganges

I prefer facts without the fluff so usually have Firstline on (if there’s no live sport to watch), but most of my attention is on the Internet, looking for a range of news and commentary sources, and of course compiling blog posts.

And I keep an eye on Twitter so am influenced by the tweets announcing upcoming items.

Interviews with Hone Harawira

Felix Marwick’s interview with Hone Harawira yesterday:

Harawira on his ‘house n****r’ comments

Chief political reporter Felix Marwick talks to Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira about his use of the term ‘house niggers’ in a Facebook post in relation to Maori MPs and the issue of a national hui on water rights

Online report: Harawira denies calling MPs ‘n*****s’

TV One on Breakfast (video):

‘I didn’t call anyone a house n*****’ – Harawira

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says he “didn’t call anybody a house n*****”, and New Zealand needs to “mature”.

News report: I have ‘nothing to apologise’ for – Harawira

TV3 Firstline (report and video):

Hone claims win for Sharples’ hui u-turn video

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says his “house nigger” comment on Facebook yesterday led to the Maori Party’s u-turn on attending a hui on water ownership.

Despite admitting his choice of words was questionable, Mr Harawira is claiming victory for convincing Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples to attend.

Campbell Live (Thursday – report and video)

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira says his ‘N-word’ slur was never directed at his former Maori Party colleagues.