“Jacinda Ardern should have been able to recite the Treaty”

I thought this media nonsense over Jacinda Ardern not jumping to a journalist demand about literal knowledge of the Treaty of Waitangi was over, but Heather du Plessis-Allan continues it with: Jacinda Ardern should have been able to recite the Treaty

That was embarrassing.

You’d be made of ice not to feel sorry for Jacinda Ardern. Put on the spot like that, asked to recite the articles of the Treaty.

Article One, what does it say? came the question.

“Oh. Article One? On the spot?”

You feel sorry for the PM because you know she’s not that unusual. How many of us can recite the three articles of the Treaty?

I’d guess that most journalists couldn’t recite the Treaty unprepared.

How can you deliver on the promise of the Treaty if you don’t know the promise of the Treaty?

Not being able to recite it has nothing to do with delivering on the Treaty.

David Farrar covered this well last Tuesday: PM fell for the quiz trick

The story here isn’t that the PM didn’t know what Article One says, and needed Willie to help her out.

The story is the media doing a “gotcha” story where they treat politics as a quiz night. You ask an MP a question with the hope they can’t answer it on the spot, and then have a story about how ignorant or out of touch they are.

The classic is how much is a loaf of bread. Others are what is the current inflation rate. Who is the best selling NZ musician etc etc.

MPs should refuse to play these games. If a journalist asks a question along these lines, the best responses are:

  • I’m a Member of Parliament, not a quiz show participant.
  • If you don’t know the answer, go Google it
  • This is silly gotcha politics and I’m not playing along

I think it is petty and irrelevant to what is important.

I wonder how many journalists can recite Article 1 of the  Press Council Principles:

1. Accuracy, Fairness and Balance

Publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission. In articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view. Exceptions may apply for long-running issues where every side of an issue or argument cannot reasonably be repeated on every occasion and in reportage of proceedings where balance is to be judged on a number of stories, rather than a single report.

Is it fair to demand precise answers to questions that are designed to try to catch politicians out?

I don’t think so. These are cheap shots by journalists, trying to create a story out of nothing of importance. And Allen is still milking it, five days after the non-story ‘broke’.


Belt faked ‘Dodgy Unions’ review?

Whenever there is fund raising on Whale Oil some of the endorsements look like promotional jack ups. They can do what they like on their own blog regardless of ethics or credibility.

But faking reviews on Amazon is a different story – and it appears that the suspiciously prompt review on Cameron Slater’s book was posted by Whale Oil moderator/banner/message controller Pete Belt. This is very dodgy.

The review was under the name of B Edwards:

Didn’t want to like it, but it is unique both in New Zealand politics and political books, and for that alone it needs to exist. Although Cam Slater’s personal distaste of unions is clear and provided as a rider from page 1, the actual content appears factual. The main take-away point for me is that Labour allow themselves to be controlled by the union movement but are actually getting very little in return. If the book achieves anything, I would hope it makes the Labour Party take note and change its direction in proportion.

Brian Edwards, Brent Edwards and Bryce Edwards all denied it was them.

As posted at The Standard – Dodgy reviews by Natwatch – someone did a bit of simple investigating on the ‘B Edwards’. Clicking  on the profile of ‘B Edwards’ profile and then on the Public Wish List (1) link:


‘Keep track of Pete Belt’s Wish Lists’ is a bit of a give-away.

Deceit on Whale Oil is one thing, but deceit on Amazon is a very poor look. Apart from the deceit Amazon states in their ‘Conditions of Use’ under REVIEWS, COMMENTS, COMMUNICATIONS, AND OTHER CONTENT:

You may not use a false e-mail address, impersonate any person or entity, or otherwise mislead as to the origin of a card or other content.

Fake reviews and self promotions are a major problem on sites like Amazon (Trip Advisor has also had major problems with fake reviews). It was recently reported that Amazon was trying hard to deal with fake reviews:

Computer says no: Amazon uses AI to combat fake reviews

Amazon is using artificial intelligence to combat fake product reviews and inflated star ratings.

It is employing a new AI machine-learning system that the online retailer built in-house to boost the prominence and weight of verified customer purchase reviews, those marked as helpful by other users and newer, more up-to-date critiques on its site.

Can you trust that five-star review?

That means marketers have taken to attempting to influence star ratings, especially in the initial stages of a product going on sale on any particular site. They post fake, inflationary reviews or pay users to do so on their behalf.

The practice known as “astroturfing” – fake grassroots campaigns – is widespread across a variety of sites and services. Amazon, as one of the world’s largest online retailers, is a significant target.

Belt may have achieved what he wanted – a lot of attention to Slater’s book on Amazon.

But it appears that he is trying to cover his tracks (too late, once outed online it’s out).  Since Belt was outed the reviewer name has been changed:

DodgyUnionsGotchaChanging a fake and misleading name to ‘GOTCHA!’ is as dumb as the fake review. If he had any sense he would take down the review, but sense is obviously in short supply with him.

The user (Belt) had previously posted one review in April 2013, and another two reviews yesterday which looks like a lame attempt to cover his intent.

Now Belt has blocked access to the identifying Wish List – “This customer has chosen to hide some activity” –  but too late.

This is a sad sideshow that won’t help credibility of Slater’s first book – and any promotion or review of the book or any of his subsequent (promised) books will be looked on with suspicion.

Spanish Bride, I know you will be checking this post – taking down the review and publicly acknowledging the stupidity and apologising may repair some of the damage. Otherwise this will hover over any Whale Oil related promotion. The Internet doesn’t forget.

And a side issue – why was ‘Dodgy reviews’ posted under the occasional ‘author’ NATWATCH at The Standard? It’s fairly well known that Slater is now like a fart in a National lift.

Lastly a bit of irony – The Daily Proverb on Whale Oil today:

Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.

Picking your fights versus a ‘gotcha’ frenzy

There was a brief media frenzy over what John Key knew and when he knew about the Sabin police investigation. It was legitimate raising eyebrows over some aspects of Key’s handling of it.

Labour leader Andrew Little had a quick kick when he was pushed into saying he thought Key had lied. Then he wisely backed off. It wasn’t a fight worth getting involved in, yet at least.

In his weekend column John Armstrong says Frenzy over Key’s knowledge of Sabin affair pathetic. He has a point.

Put to one side reform of the Resource Management Act. Ignore the Reserve Bank’s warning that the Auckland housing “bubble” is about to burst. Stop trying to picture the Greens without Russel Norman. Don’t fret about the safety of our soldiers when they eventually head for Iraq.

It truly beggars belief, but when it comes to assessing what is currently the most pressing issue or matter dominating New Zealand politics right now, a visitor from Mars, observing the copious amount of coverage of the subject, would have to pick the frenzy which has the media and some Opposition politicians pointing the finger at John Key and demanding he reveal exactly when he was first told of the “personal issues” which prompted one of his lesser-known MPs to suddenly resign from Parliament a week or so ago.

With discussion of the actual story being apparently suppressed by the courts Key’s opponents set about thrashing trivial aspects.

They tried the well worn and rarely successful approach – little political damage could be inflicted through the main story so they tried to nail key on trivial points, especially on his handling of the story.

It became the classic attempt at ‘gotcha’ politics.

There is one word that adequately describes this latest instalment in Key’s enemies’ long-running fixation with typecasting the Prime Minister as being nothing more than money merchant turned political huckster who, at times, enjoys a strange and somewhat strained relationship with the truth.

That word is pathetic.

There’s certainly a degree of patheticness alongside ongoing desperation to demolish Key.

Cue Labour’s revival of the old game of “what did the Prime Minister really know and when did he know it?”

The same old approach that has failed far more than it has succeeded. And the accumulation of failures contributed to the big failure in last year’s election.

Sure, there have been times when Key’s behaviour has resulted in him falling well short of being Saint John.

He has fumbled and bumbled on the Sabin issue but that was never going to be career ending.

Key, however, is not the only one who could usefully take a lesson from Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics. It is a lesson that Labour and other Opposition parties seem reluctant to take on board: pick your fights with Key very, very carefully.

Given the centre-left was well and truly thrashed by John Key-led National in last September’s election – not to mention the two previous ones – you would have thought it would have dawned on those occupying that part of the political spectrum that devoting time and energy to catching the Prime Minister out has not been very productive. If anything, it seems to be counter-productive, reinforcing Key’s standing, rather than undermining it.

The common sense involved in picking one’s fights with care is lacking further to the left. It sounds like The Standard will be thrashing this again with yet another post today.

That Key gets away with things that trip up other (and lesser) politicians is a source of immense frustration for the centre-left.

It is one reason why Key is not just disliked by Labour activists. He is detested. Finding the means of destroying his seemingly hypnotic hold on Middle New Zealand has become an obsession for Labour.

And more of an obsession with the further to the left activists who are so desperate to strike a mortal political blow they fail to see the futiluity in fights that don’t really matter beyond a short news cycle.

As it is, the Labour leader called Key a liar – a sign that he thinks he must confront him on the strongest possible terms.

Key expressed disappointment that Little was going down the same path as other Labour leaders in choosing to resort to personal denigration.

Key’s “disappointment” was actually delight. In calling Key a liar, Little had effectively vacated the moral high ground.

Little realised he had gone too far and refused to repeat the accusation when questioned subsequently.

Little has shown a number of thimes he has the perceptiveness to realise when he pushes things too far, and he has an ability to learn from these over-eggings.

The paucity of information has wiser heads withholding judgment on Key’s handling of the matter.

More information may emerge that damns Key sufficiently to strike a damaging blow or two.

But rehashing bugger all is self defeating. If much ado keeps being made about very little when something worth holding Key to account over comes along there’s a risk of it being lost in the ongoing noise.

In fact Key is adept at capitalising on these ground hog day attacks. When something more embarrassing comes up he just shrugs it off as ‘same old’.

Key’s opponents have instead seized what might have seemed an opportunity to castigate him which was, in fact, never there.

They have allowed themselves to be dragged into a dead-end street by the seductive siren calls of the media whose threshold for news is still set at a silly-season low and whose appetite for politics is determined more and more by its capacity to be a blood sport.

Expect the left to continue trying to squeeze blood out of a stone.

Occasional fights well fought are far more effective than numerous skanky skirmishes.

‘Gotcha’ frenzies usually end up doing little more than frustrating the frantics.

Shearer’s vulnerability on standards

David Shearer already seems to have turned his back on his own words. In February, in Stuff’s Shearer not buying into ‘gotcha’ politics:

“I’m not the kind of leader who believes in rival tribes playing ‘gotcha’, where bickering and partisanship are prized. Of course that’s what a lot of people look for. They want to score the game, give points for the best smart remark in Parliament. But that’s not what most New Zealanders want,” Mr Shearer told an Auckland Grey Power meeting yesterday.

He made it clear he would not be pushed into changing his timetable, or turn himself into the sort of politician he dislikes.

“I want a new kind of politics, pragmatic and attentive to what works, not tied up in the squabbles of the past … our future policies have to pass this test: `Does this idea help us achieve the New Zealand we want to create 10 years from now?”‘

He is now fully involved in  Labour’s ‘gotcha John Banks’ campaign. Has he already become ‘the sort of politician he dislikes’?

And is Shearer setting himself up for more exposure? He is pressing John Key to sack John Banks:

Key’s credibility damaged by clinging on to Banks – Shearer

“John Key is clinging onto John Banks for political convenience because he needs his vote. He’s doing that despite the fact three witnesses have given sworn testimony that John Banks knew about the Kim Dotcom donation. That is just not credible.

“The Prime Minister’s claim that he has no option but to rely on John Banks’ word is utter nonsense and desperate political spin. John Key is risking his own credibility by taking the word of a Minister whose reputation is in tatters.

“The Prime Minister has an obligation to get to the ‘bottom of the facts’, just like he demanded Helen Clark do in 2008 over Winston Peters. At that time, he said she should stand Winston Peters down because he had failed to put up a ‘credible explanation’ and had ‘misled the New Zealand public’ and the Prime Minister.

“It’s the same story today, but John Key isn’t applying the same standard. It’s absolute hypocrisy for him to turn a blind eye given his previous political attack on Helen Clark and Winston Peters.

“What he should do is summon John Banks to the Beehive and ask him face-to-face whether he has lied. Ask him why he told media and his own Chief of Staff that he didn’t know about the donation and yet Kim Dotcom, his bodyguard and his lawyer all say he did.

“John Key has no option but to sack John Banks or lose the respect of New Zealanders for failing to show the integrity expected of a Prime Minister,” said David Shearer.

And Shearer has clearly defined what he thinks what action Key should take, albeit confusingly saying Key should “get to the ‘bottom of the facts’” but regardless of those facts “has no option but to sack John Banks”.

John Key has found that claiming high standards can come back to haunt you (with the help of willing opposition ghosts).

How long will it take for David Shearer’s standards to be focussed back on himself?

Garner: Mallard to Shearer – “gotcha”

On live chat this morning Duncan Garner commented on Labour’s gotcha.

Comment From Pete George
What do you think of the contrast between Shearer’s views on better politics, eg ““I’m not the kind of leader who believes in rival tribes playing ‘gotcha’, where bickering and partisanship are prized.”, and Mallard’s campaign of gotchas?

Duncan Garner:
Gidday Pete,

Gotcha politics has been part of opposition politics as long as I have been there and well before that. Shearer in my view may have wanted to be a different kind of leader – but they all get dragged into it. Mallard is on a dirty mission though isn’t he? Does he know this is the end – so he’s going out with a mission to be as dirty as ever? Who knows but Shearer certainly isn’t pulling him back.


Because it’s been a part of politics for yonks doesn’t mean we should just sit back and keep accepting it.

David Sheare, – have you given in to Mallard on this already?

Dunedene on Shearer

ODT’s Dene Mackenzie interviewed David Shearer when he was in Dunedin in the weekend.

Shearer confident in his role

If Labour leader David Shearer feels insecure about his job after four months of leading the party, he was not showing it during a visit to Dunedin yesterday.

Mr Shearer said he and deputy Grant Robertson brought a new look to the leadership.

No doubt about that.

The Labour MPs were getting to grips with their new portfolios and were bringing enthusiasm to their roles.

Very mixed performances.

Asked about the ongoing criticism in the media about his leadership, Mr Shearer said that most articles were written without talking to him.

The most recent rumour was that his new chief of staff, Alistair Cameron, had been brought into support Mr Robertson in his push to replace Mr Shearer. With Mr Cameron sitting next to Mr Shearer at a Dunedin cafe, the Labour leader said he would have been “pretty dumb” to hire someone who was going to work to have him replaced.

And it would be “pretty dumb” of Cameron to not fully support the leader he is working for.

On Friday, Mr Shearer gave a speech in which he acknowledged that contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (Cullen Fund) were unlikely to be reinstated by a Labour-led Government until the country’s economic woes were well behind it.

That was part of the party being honest to its supporters and voters throughout New Zealand, he said.

His visit to the regional conference was about talking to members about the party review, making sure they felt the party was moving in the right direction and to remind supporters there was a three-year “end-game” in process.

That’s all sensible.

“There is a degree of instant gratification in politics but everything doesn’t turn around 100% overnight. We have to earn the respect of people and that doesn’t happen by itself.”

He has to have the confidence to stick with his three year plan and not get too worried about and reactive to the media and blog pressure for “instant gratification”.

The Labour Party was a party of ideas and often people wanted to talk to him about their idea.

All parties and political people have ideas, so that’s not surprising.

Not all associated with or supporting Labour are interested in other ideas though, I often get abuse and personal attacks when trying to discuss Labour orientated ideas – happening more than usual yesterday.

Because he was not part of the Helen Clark governments, Mr Shearer found he did not have to defend everything that had been done in the past.

The “not Helen” gambit – but it is a definite advantage he has. Last term Labour failed to put forward a fresh post-Helen face and wasted a term of recovery.

He was prepared to push fresh ideas in the knowledge that the party’s policies would not be brought out in force until 2014, in time for the next election.

I hope this is done better and more successfully than last year.

However, the party had done a lot of work laying solid policy platforms before the last election – some of which it had not been sold well to voters.

I  wouldn’t describe them all as “solid policy platforms” and the voters seemed to think similarly. But he’s right about the poor selling job.

He said he led a united caucus and one of the best things about last year’s leadership contest was that it was open and conducted throughout the country.

That’s a claim I wonder about. While Shearer is busy getting aroundn then country meeting as many people as possible (good idea) there seems to be a few MPs doing their own thing, or at least trying to.

Just over a week ago David Cunliffe gave a speech that could be seen as a leadership type dabble. It was said he had another speech coming but he seems tonhave been quiet since then.

Trevor Mallard has been running his gotcha campaign – he was still promoting it in the weekend. This seems at odds with Shearer’s stated mode of politics, and it also seems at odds with Labour recovering credibility with the wider public.

Shearer is doing some good work at this stage of his leadership (although his major speeches have been underwhelming), making himself known and slowly building support and credibility.

That will count for little if the rest of his Labour caucus don’t get behind him and support both him and his leadership style ideals.

MPs on ‘gotcha’ politics

I am contacting all MPs and asking the following:

Do you support “gotcha” politics where attacks and accusations are made to try and damage parties and to discredit and potentially end the careers of fellow MPs? Yes/No?

A comment is welcome. This will be published online.

NOTE: The question refers to what is beyond holding Government and parties to account, it is negative politics aimed at scoring political points and inflicting political damage regardless of the personal consequences and regardless of the reasonable democratic process.

Voters elect MPs and choose preferred parties. It should not be up to party strategists and dirty tricks operatives to try and determine who they want to be forced out of their place in our House of Representatives.

I will post all responses here.

Name Party Yes/No Comment
Adams, Amy NAT
Ardern, Jacinda LAB
Ardern, Shane NAT
Auchinvole, Chris NAT
Bakshi, Kanwaljit Singh NAT
Banks, John ACT
Barry, Maggie NAT
Bennett, David NAT
Bennett, Paula NAT
Blue, Jackie NAT
Borrows, Chester NAT
Bridges, Simon NAT
Browning, Steffan GRE
Brownlee, Gerry NAT
Calder, Cam NAT
Carter, David NAT
Chauvel, Charles LAB
Clark, David LAB
Clendon, David GRE No Personality driven politics  based on personal attacks is seldom helpful and can further alienate people from the political process..  There is a responsibility to reveal and critique behaviour that does not meet the standards that people might reasonably expect of MPs, but in general we should seek common ground where possible, and debate policy differences otherwise, but steer clear of point scoring and denigration.
Coleman, Jonathan NAT
Collins, Judith NAT
Cosgrove, Clayton LAB
Cunliffe, David LAB
Curran, Clare LAB
Dalziel, Lianne LAB
Dean, Jacqui NAT
Delahunty, Catherine GRE
Dunne, Peter UF NO Most certainly not. There is plenty of substance in the issues to be debated, without descending to gutter politics.
Dyson, Ruth LAB
English, Bill NAT
Faafoi, Kris LAB
Fenton, Darien LAB
Finlayson, Christopher NAT
Flavell, Te Ururoa MAO
Foss, Craig NAT
Genter, Julie Anne GRE
Goff, Phil LAB
Goldsmith, Paul NAT
Goodhew, Jo NAT
Graham, Kennedy GRE
Groser, Tim NAT
Guy, Nathan NAT
Hague, Kevin GRE No Certainly not as an end in its own right, although it is important to hold Government and Members (particularly Ministers) to account for their behaviour. For example, it was legitimate to expose Ministers who misused their credit cards or used parliamentary travel for personal business interests. It was legitimate to expose a Minister who intervened inappropriately in the case of a friend dealing with a department that was accountable to him. It would not be legitimate to publicise the fact that an MP was having an extra-marital affair, as this would have nothing to do with that MP’s performance of his or her role.
Harawira, Hone MAN
Hayes, John NAT
Heatley, Phil NAT
Henare, Tau NAT
Hipkins, Chris LAB
Horan, Brendan NZF
Horomia, Parekura LAB
Hughes, Gareth GRE
Huo, Raymond LAB
Hutchison, Paul NAT
Jones, Shane LAB
Joyce, Steven NAT
Kaye, Nikki NAT
Key, John NAT
King, Annette LAB
King, Colin NAT
Lee, Melissa NAT
Lees-Galloway, Iain LAB
Little, Andrew LAB
Logie, Jan GRE
Lotu-Iiga, Peseta Sam NAT
Macindoe, Tim NAT
Mackey, Moana LAB
Mahuta, Nanaia LAB
Mallard, Trevor LAB
Martin, Tracey NZF No
Mathers, Mojo GRE
McClay, Todd NAT
McCully, Murray NAT
McKelvie, Ian NAT
Mitchell, Mark NAT
Moroney, Sue LAB
Ngaro, Alfred NAT
Norman, Russel GRE
O’Connor, Damien LAB
O’Connor, Simon NAT
O’Rourke, Denis NZF
Parata, Hekia NAT
Parker, David LAB
Peters, Winston NZF
Prasad, Rajen LAB
Prosser, Richard NZF  No  See below
Robertson, Grant LAB
Robertson, Ross LAB
Roche, Denise GRE
Ross, Jami-Lee NAT
Roy, Eric NAT
Ryall, Tony NAT
Sabin, Mike NAT
Sage, Eugenie GRE
Shanks, Katrina NAT
Sharples, Pita MAO
Shearer, David LAB
Simpson, Scott NAT
Sio, Su’a William LAB
Smith, Lockwood NAT
Smith, Nick NAT
Stewart, Barbara NZF
Street, Maryan LAB
Taylor, Asenati NZF
Tirikatene, Rino LAB
Tisch, Lindsay NAT
Tolley, Anne NAT
Tremain, Chris NAT
Turei, Metiria GRE
Turia, Tariana MAO
Twyford, Phil LAB
Upston, Louise NAT
Wagner, Nicky NAT
Walker, Holly GRE
Wall, Louisa LAB
Wilkinson, Kate NAT
Williams, Andrew NZF
Williamson, Maurice NAT
Woodhouse, Michael NAT
Woods, Megan LAB
Yang, Jian NAT
Young, Jonathan NAT

Richard Prosser:

No I don’t support it.

Whilst there are, by definition and indeed of necessity, always going to be
differences of opinion and philosophy in politics, it behoves us as Parliamentarians
to play the ball and not the man (or woman), and to address such differences, and
attempt to influence policy, through reasoned debate and by keeping an open mind,
and above all by having regard to the wishes of the voting public and the best
interests of the nation.

While we may not agree with the views or positions of any particular Member or
Party, it has to be remembered that most MPs enter Parliament with genuinely held
beliefs and with honourable intentions, and we owe it to the future of our
Parliamentary democracy to respect that fact.

Beyond holding Members and Parties to account as regards their current and intended
actions, and their present and past indications of character, we have a duty to be
fair in our dealings, and to conduct our affairs in the dignified manner which the
public has a right to expect.

Best regards

Richard Prosser