Too many white guys?

Yesterday Hekia Parata announced she won’t be standing again in next year’s election.

Patrick Gower opined in Hekia Parata gives John Key a ‘white guy’ problem:

Hekia Parata quitting might give John Key a space in Cabinet – but the problem is a massive queue of white guys lining up to join a line-up of white guys.

Parata’s resignation and Nikki Kaye’s health issues means there are now just five women in Key’s 20-person Cabinet. In contrast, there are 12 white guys – hardly representative of New Zealand in 2016.

As both a woman and a Māori, Parata gave the ministry a real point of difference. More importantly, she was there on merit too.

The inconvenient truth for Key is there is a dearth of females and ethnicities in his Caucus.

There are only 17 women out of the 59 MPs (by contrast, 12 out of 31 Labour MPs are female). And only six of the male National MPs aren’t Pakeha.

National’s gender balance improved slightly when Mike Sabin resigned from Northland and they lost the by-election (with a white male candidate).

When Tim Groser resigned he was replaced with Maureen Pugh as next on the National list.

If Parmjeet Parmar wins the Mt Roskill by-election National will get another woman off the list, Misa Fia Turner. That would only bring them up to 18/59, about a third female, but it will improve their ethnic balance.

If Labour’s Michael Wood wins Mt Roskill they won’t improve their gender imbalance of 12/31, nor their ethnic imbalance. If he loses it will improve both slightly.

Also yesterday Phil Goff announced that Bill Cashmore would be his deputy mayor. Penny Hulse was regarded as too closely associated with the Len Brown era, and it is claimed she didn’t get on well with some councillors. Cashmore is described at The Spinoff as “constructive and dependable, he is a kind of centre-right National-aligned twin to Goff, which should help the mayor secure majorities in council”.

A reaction from Twitter:

Goff won the Auckland mayoralty easily, with his closest rival being an inexperienced (in politics) woman, Vic Crone.

So is there a problem with white male politicians?

There are more white male candidates so it’s nor surprising there will be more white male politicians, especially when, like Goff, they are leading candidates.

Goff stood as an independent, sort of.

But parties choose their electorate candidates and their lists. Are they biased in favour of white men?

Often the successful candidate is determined by party selections prior to the election but ultimately it is the voters who choose electorate candidates, and via the party vote they give the only 50/50 gender party the Greens about a tenth of the vote. Other things seem to be more important to voters than gender balance.

Are white men inferior as politicians?

Or is there a lack of non-white, non-male candidates willing to put themselves forward?

It can’t be ruled out that a majority of females and non-whites prefer white male candidates.

Diversity in political representation is important, but competence, and choice of the voters, should still be given some weight.

‘Ending Homelessness’ report

The ‘Ending Homelessness in New Zealand’ report was released yesterday following a ‘cross-party inquiry’ involving Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party.

Executive Summary

The hundreds of submissions and pieces of evidence presented to the Cross-Party Inquiry into Homelessness show that the level of homelessness in New Zealand is larger than any other time in recent memory and is continuing to grow. The housing crisis is causing an extreme level of homelessness, particularly in Auckland, with families forced to live on the streets, in cars, and in garages.

While New Zealand has had an underlying level of homelessness for some time, there has been a substantial increase in recent years driven by a lack of affordable housing. Many of the problems causing homelessness track back over 30 years, but the current Government has exacerbated the situation by allowing the housing crisis to spin out of control. It has the power to fix it if it is prepared to take the necessary steps.

Homelessness is no longer dominated by the stereotypical rough sleeper with mental health issues and is now more often a working family with young children. Māori and Pasifika communities have disproportionately suffered, along with new migrants who also face substantially higher rates of homelessness. Submitters told us that the vulnerability of other groups such as people with disabilities, the rainbow community and people with mental health issues is exacerbated by homelessness.

The small steps taken by the Government so far are insufficient. To address the problem the Government needs to implement a comprehensive set of measures that address the housing crisis at every level. There needs to be a substantial scaling up of resources to tackle homelessness using Housing First and Whānau Ora approaches.

The Government must step in and address the overall housing crisis by cracking down on speculation in the property market and building significantly more affordable houses. An expansion of state and community housing to provide long term affordable rental accommodation is vital. Without an increase in permanent housing for the homeless to go into, the issue will not ultimately be addressed. We have also identified through the inquiry, a range of other practical measures to reduce homelessness. These steps make up the 20 recommendations of our Inquiry.

Fixing homelessness won’t be cheap. The proposals in this report, when fully adopted, would require significant investment. However this needs to be considered against the cost of doing nothing. Submitters told us it costs around $65,000 to keep a person homeless. When we have 4,200 people without shelter that is over $250 million a year homelessness is costing us.

To deliver all of this, the Government must develop a nationwide strategy to end homelessness. This needs to set out exactly what it will deliver and how to end the chronic levels of homelessness that New Zealand is now facing.

The submissions to the Inquiry showed that this issue is now more important than ever, and we call on the Government to act boldly and urgently.

Summary of Recommendations

1. Roll out Housing First as the primary response to severe homelessness.

2. Increase the State housing stock.

3. A systemic fix to the housing crisis: Build more affordable houses, reduce the cost of building a home, and tackle speculation in the property market.

4. Create a national strategy to end homelessness.

5. Support Kāinga Whenua housing and develop greater flexibility to recognise multiple owned property title.

6. Long term funding for Community Housing Providers to build houses.

7. Retain the Official Statistics New Zealand definition of homelessness and collect regular data on homelessness.

8. Expand housing for the elderly.

9. Income related rent subsidies for existing community housing tenants.

10. Greater security of tenure for renters.

11. Review the Accommodation Supplement.

12. Use vacant state housing stock for emergency housing.

13. Homes for people leaving state care.

14. Information sharing between agencies addressing homelessness.

15. Work with Pasifika aiga to create Pasifika homelessness services.

16. Permanently remove the Housing New Zealand dividend.

17. More support for homelessness workers.

18. Expand agencies able to undertake needs assessments and refer tenants to emergency housing. 19. Improve the quality of rental housing.

20. Increase youth housing and services.

Full Report: Ending Homelessness in New Zealand  (PDF)

When’s the last time Greens dazzled anyone?

Danyl makes some curious comments at Dim-Post in the post And so it goes as well as in comments.

It’s conventional wisdom on the left that Key et al are morons, and the left is morally and intellectually superior, and I’m not sure how this squares with Key and his party constantly doing very smart things, and the left’s parties and leaders mostly, consistently being pretty dumb.

Ortvin Satapuu queried this:

The Greens don’t count as part of the left, right?

Danyl responded:

I think they do. When’s the last time they dazzled anyone with their strategic acumen?

If I remember correctly Danyl was on the campaign team that succeeded in getting James Shaw into the co-leadership position.

And Insider said…

Oh I dunno, maybe when they made appointments to their campaign committee…

…and linked to Voluminous disclosure from 31 March this year when he revealed:

Rob Salmond and Matthew Hooton had a discussion about commentators and ‘paid political operators’ and conflicts of interest, which seems like a good time to disclose that I’ve recently done a bit of paid contract work for the Green Party (research, writing).

Also, and possibly more significantly, as of last week I’m a member of the Greens’ Campaign Committee, which is tasked with planning and implementing the party’s 2017 election campaign. So I will not be a totally disinterested commentator when analysing the upcoming campaign or politics in general.

I don’t really do any of the mainstream media political commentary that Hooton and Salmond do. And no one in the Greens asks me to write or say certain things on the blog. (They have, in the past, but the requests were so lame I did not comply.) I find that my bias is mostly one of omission.

I get confused about what I know that is and isn’t confidential, so I basically mostly say nothing about the Greens so I don’t get in trouble. If the party somehow becomes so newsworthy that I have to write about them, and I have to check what I’m writing with the staff or leaders I’ll make sure I disclose that. Otherwise they’ve got nothing to do with any of my pontificating.

I haven’t seen if Danyl is still on the Greens’ Campaign Committee, but whether he is or not he seems somewhat disillusioned with their lack of progress given his “consistently being pretty dumb” and his questioning of their “stategic acumen”.

Shaw has not set the political world on fire. Are he and his supporters not strong enough to influence the direction that the Greens are taking? Are they marking time? Are they resigned to being kept out of power by Labour’s lack of promise?

Whatever, it seems that the Green camp is not exactly united or enthusiastic.

Greens would stand aside for Labour in Mt Roskill

Greens have announced they won’t stand a candidate in the Mt Roskill by-election, should Phil Goff win the Auckland mayoralty and resign from Parliament.

Stuff: Greens won’t stand candidate in any Mt Roskill by-election

The Greens will not stand a candidate in a Mt Roskill by-election if Labour incumbent Phil Goff wins the Auckland mayoralty and vacates the seat, the party has announced.

The deal is part of a memorandum of understanding the two left-wing parties signed earlier this year – but the Greens say the move has “no bearing” on its plans for the 2017 election.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the party had decided not to stand a candidate in the seat “after several weeks of internal discussions”.

“The Mt Roskill by-election will be closely contested, and we don’t want to play any role in National winning the seat.” 

Turei said the decision showed the success of the memorandum of understanding between the two parties, which includes an agreement to co-operate in Parliament and investigate a joint policy and/or campaign.

The party was making the announcement now to be clear with its supporters and the public, given the “considerable interest” in a likely Mt Roskill by-election.

I think the timing of this announcement is odd, before the results of the local body election are known.

The Greens risk a backlash over this – perhaps this is a deliberate test of what the reaction might be in advance of next year’s general election.

Last election Barry Coates stood for the Greens in Mt Roskill. He will soon replace Kevin Hague as next Green off the list in Parliament. A by-election would have given him a chance to raise his profile but he has to defer to a party decision to stay away.

The Greens may think that not standing in order to help Labour candidate Michael Wood will give them and their MoU with Labour good publicity, but it could just as easily backfire. I guess it’s best to test this now before taking a bigger risk in next year’s election.

ACT’s David Seymour is highlighting the change of attitude to electorate jack-ups by both Greens and Labour.

Mt Roskill arrangement shows hypocrisy of opposition

The Opposition’s hypocrisy over ‘dirty deals’ is brazen, says ACT Leader David Seymour as the Green Party confirms that they won’t stand a candidate in Mt Roskill as part of an arrangement with Labour.

“Michael Wood’s campaign in Mt Roskill is set to be a brazen display of hypocrisy,” says Mr Seymour. “Two years ago he was bemoaning John Key’s endorsement of a vote for me in Epsom as a ‘dodgy deal’. Now look at him.

“The Greens ought to be just as embarrassed, with Julie-Anne Genter having called John Key’s Epsom endorsement ‘undemocratic’. Clearly, this was nothing more than faux-outrage.

“Strategic voting is a reality of MMP, but hypocrisy is optional. Labour and the Greens have shown how cheap their words are by participating in a deal that far eclipses the electoral arrangements they criticise every election.”

Wood stood for Labour in Epsom last general election and has been selected as Labour’s candidate in Mt Roskill should Goff resign.

It will be interesting to see if ACT stand a candidate in Mt Roskill. That would give them more opportunity to bash Greens and Labour with a hypocrisy hammer – but it could also jeopardise the National candidate’s chances.

ACT didn’t stand a candidate in Mt Roskill in 2014.

Cross party support for family violence proposals

The Press editorial: Government’s $130 million family violence package is a solid start

A $130 million plan announced by the Government this week to crack down on violence in Kiwi homes has been welcomed by most victims, support and advocacy groups, and politicians on both sides of the House.

While there are some concerns and reservations, it is good to see cross party support for this.

Greens: Family violence law reforms will help

It is heartening that the Government is finally starting to address the failure of our justice system to provide protection for victims of family violence or support abusers to change,  the Green Party said today.

“Family violence is currently embedded in New Zealand culture and we all need to be brave to face the level of changes needed to address it,” Green Party women’s spokesperson Jan Logie said.

“Too many families have been further traumatised and indebted trying to get legal protection through our courts. Changes to legal aid and the Family Court last term prioritised cost-saving over protecting victims. These reforms will hopefully go some way to addressing that harm caused.

“All New Zealanders need to hear loud and clear the message that family violence, intimate partner violence, and violence against children is unacceptable.     


UnitedFuture leader, Peter Dunne has welcomed the changes proposed today to strengthen New Zealand’s Family Violence laws.

“Our families are the bedrock of our communities and the rates of family violence we have in this country are appalling.

“These changes signal a much-needed shift in the way we respond to family violence,” said Mr Dunne.

“The key issue that needs to be focused on in New Zealand is the alarming fact that it is estimated nearly 80% of family violence incidents go unreported.

“If these reforms make any difference towards providing help to those people who currently do not feel safe or are not comfortable coming forward with their plight, then these policy initiatives will result in positive and meaningful reform.

“UnitedFuture congratulates the government for constructively responding to this unacceptable behaviour that is a blight to our families and communities”, said Mr Dunne.

ACT Party: ACT welcomes beefed up family violence laws, but…

ACT has welcomed the boost to family violence laws announced today, but questions why non-fatal strangulation isn’t a strike offence.

“ACT believes the justice system should always put the victim first. In that spirit, we’re relieved to see new protections for victims of family violence,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Reducing the cost and complexity of obtaining restraining orders is a no-brainer, and legislating against coercive marriage is an overdue protection of basic personal freedom.

“We also support the introduction of an offence for non-fatal strangulation. However, it’s perplexing to discover that non-fatal strangulation will not be included as a strike offence under the Three Strikes for Violent Crime legislation.

“The Three Strikes law, an ACT initiative, has been working well to keep repeat violent offenders behind bars and away from potential victims, so it’s disheartening to see it undermined by the current legislation. Strangulation, like all violent crime, is a serious offence and should be treated as such.”

NZ First via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

New Zealand First MP Denis O’Rourke said the measures were a step in the right direction.

“Fundamentally, what they’re saying is there needs to be more guidance, information and education on the one hand but also harsher penalties. I would have thought that that two-pronged approach is the right way to go,” Mr O’Rourke said.

Labour via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

Labour’s associate justice spokesperson Poto Williams said tighter bail conditions would increase safety for women and their children.

But she said the government should have made it easier for offenders to access services to help them stop violent behaviour.

Maori party via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said having witnessed domestic violence as a child, he hoped the changes would help reduce the appalling statistics.

Mr Flavell said family violence was prevalent in almost every neighbourhood and changes were certainly needed.

He said it was all too often swept under the rug.

“I’ve sat on a bunk next to my cousins and I’ve heard the smashing of the walls. I’ve heard the throwing of pots around the place. I’ve seen the black eyes – and no-one talks about it.”

Cabinet documents showed police attended an average of 280 family violence incidents each day.

Mr Flavell, who is Māori Development Minister, said everyone had a part to play in bringing down those rates.

“That’s the key – you’ve got to start bringing it out of the cupboard. We’ve got to put it out on the table.”

“There’s a part to play by the actual government, by changing laws but actually families have got to talk about it and do something about it.”

Flavell is right, it is not just up to Parliament and the Government to make improvements.

Families and communities “have got to talk about it and do something about it“.

While there are details to be worked out it is promising to see all parties supporting this attempt to reduce our insidious levels of family violence.

Post-truth, or the diss-information age

‘Post-truth’ is a term that has come to some prominence. It’s a lie – or more accurately, a lot of deliberate lies told by politicians.

The heralded age of information seems to have morphed into the disinformation age, or alternately the diss-information age.

From Art of the lie at The Economist – “Politicians have always lied. Does it matter if they leave the truth behind entirely?”

CONSIDER how far Donald Trump is estranged from fact.

Mr Trump is the leading exponent of “post-truth” politics—a reliance on assertions that “feel true” but have no basis in fact. His brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power. And he is not alone.

Winston Peters stands out as a long time maker of assertions that “feel true”but have scant basis in fact, or that he has no evidence for, or that he doesn’t provide any evidence of.

Most of the time Peters gets away with it, aided and abetted by an often willing media and sufficient gullible voters to keep him in Parliament. Sometimes it backlashes on Peters, for example when Tauranga voters rejected him in 2005 – although NZ First was still in a position to decide that Labour and not National or the Greens would be in Government with them.

And in 2008 when Peters tried to take the Tauranga electorate back and lost to Simon Bridges by 11,742 votes, and NZ First failed to make the threshold getting just 4.07% of the votes.

But Peters came back in 2011 and is now widely expected to again dictate which parties will govern after next year’s election. His bull continues, with a brazenness that is not punished, but is taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power.

Stacey Kirk shows that Peters is far from alone in New Zealand with brazen bullshit in Personal prejudices the fuel of a political post-truth era

There’s dealing in grey, and then there’s dealing in unashamed drivel. 

The latter is becoming the norm, though thankfully not on a Trumpian scale – just yet. 

Dipping their toes into the post-truth waters however, New Zealand’s politicians are trying the mantle on for size, seeing how flows and gaining surety in it as they walk. They’re dissembling through their teeth and embarrassingly, a significant group of New Zealanders are lapping it up. 

Kirk lists some examples:

  • Government politicians claim income inequality had not worsened, contrary to official reports from both MSD and Statistics NZ.
  • Finance Minister Bill English was forced to admit he used incorrect figures to veto an extension to paid parental leave, despite the correct figures being written in the veto certificate he himself tabled.
  • Education Minister Hekia Parata was caught out making up an official body, to support changes around special needs education when she claimed she had the support of the “Special Education Association”. What association was that?  “All those who are involved in the delivery of special education with whom I have had these discussions”.
  • NZ First MP and anti-1080 campaigner Richard Prosser claimed cats, rats, and native birds had “coexisted” for more than 200 years, yet accused the Government’s “Predator Free by 2050” of being based on “unsubstantiated” science.
  • Trade Minister Todd McClay was publicly rebuked by his own Prime Minister for being economical with the truth, over what was known about fears of Chinese trade retaliation.
  • Auckland Mayoral candidate John Palino has claimed iwi leaders were holding building consent-seekers to ransom for $50k a pop.

Even the ‘clean’ Greens indulge in blatant bull.

  • More children will suffer under a re-elected National government because it’s “in denial” over the reality of child poverty in New Zealand, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says.
  • “The New Zealand Government makes all sorts of promises on the international stage in relation to children’s rights, but when it comes to policy at every stage they fail our kids,” also from Turei.

And these sorts of assertions are taken as evidence by many of the willingness of the Greens to stand up for the poor kids.

There is a problem with bald faced bull, in New Zealand at least – the US has major problems, not just potentially with Trump, but also with Clinton (both Bill and Hillary) and it’s politics in general.

Greens have solid and loyal followers who think John Key doesn’t care about or hates kids, but they seem to have hit a ceiling of support.

Labour’s assertions that they finally have a leader who can look Prime Ministerial seem to have a limited gullible audience too.

But Peters seems to be on a roll, with NZ First polling far better at this stage of a term than they have for yonks.

Yet the masses fall into line based on what “feels” like it might be true. 

And I get it, voting is an emotional experience as much as it is logical. Even the most well-researched voters can’t block out that gut-feeling when they’re faced with a ballot paper – the option that they feel is the right one.

Many Americans (and some Kiwis) are convinced that Trump is ‘the right one’. And it seems a growing number of New Zealand voters are buying Winston’s bull and bluster.

That politicians deal in lies is not new. What is, is the way the truth has become secondary to reaffirming people’s latent prejudices. 

Pandering to prejudices and entrenched misconceptions is not new either (Peters has done it for decades) but it seems to be growing.

Politicians lie, media do call them out on it, but they double down and repeat. Why? Because they’re not trying to convince anyone that requires it of anything. They’re consolidating a mob – Us vs Them.

Yes, they are pandering to mob mentality. But do the media call them out on it? Sometimes, but they are also guilty of feeding it. That’s how Trump got within a whisker of the White House.

And here Key and his Ministers and their PR teams play the media. Peters is an expert at extracting maximum bang for his bull from the media. The Greens are hardly held to account by the media.

The only party that is failing with the media and the gullible voters is Labour. Are they the worst liars – or the worst at lying?

This is a two-sided game, and this kind of politics only works if people are buying it.

New Zealanders have a right to expect evidence and be given information that can and should be used at the ballot box, next year. 

For that to happen, we all need to check our own biases first.

A lie is only effective if you fall for it.

This could be as true for media as it is for voters.

PR churn is a major problem. Giving bullshit from politicians the headline, not always holding them to account, giving counter claims secondary exposure, giving politicians the opportunity to keep repeating their misleading and false assertions – this is a problem accentuated by the Internet, where clicks are the revenue makers.

Social media, with many more ways of lying and a myriad of competitors for eyeballs and eardrums, has just made an old problem worse.

Forums for debate are largely ineffective. Try arguing about socialism or climate change or Islam or any of a wide range of topics, and you will find that most participants start with entrenched views regardless of the facts and are more likely to end up with their views reinforced rather than challenged.

We must stop using fossil fuels or the planet is doomed. When Muslims get to 5% of the population a country is doomed. If people with different languages or customs or religions emigrate our country is doomed.

If these sorts of assertions are repeated often enough – and there are parties and lobby groups and activists who go to great lengths to keep repeating assertions to try and make them stick – then there are significant numbers of people who will believe them, regardless of the facts.

Post-truth, lies, unsubstantiated assertions, smearing hit jobs, none of these a re new but  they seem to be becoming more prominent and powerful.

Post-truth is a lie. A lot of what politicians and media perpetuate are lies, or untruthful claims, and assertions, or smears. Or a mixture of bullshit.

The only thing I’m not sure about is how much is deliberate lying, and how much is ignorance of people who actually believe their own lies.

The age of the Internet, the information age, seems to amplify the worst and seems to have become the disinformation age.

And where negative attack politics seems to rule, or at least try and rule, the diss-information age, where false information is deliberately used to attack, smear and discredit.

Are we doomed?


Radicalisation of the Greens and Labour

Losing Russel Norman last year and now losing Kevin Hague are blows to the Green Party. Their replacement MPs move Greens more towards a radical social activist party.

Norman did a lot to try and ‘normalise’ the Greens, to make them appear as if they were credible on business and economic matters in particular. He succeeded to an extent.

But last year he decided to move on (to Greenpeace). He was replaced by next on the list, Marama Davidson, who is more of a social activist who has attracted some attention, currently to the forefront of the inquiry into homelessness.

Hague tried to take over Norman’s co-leadership position but was rejected. Hague was one of  the Green’s best assets as a practical and hard worker who backed his principles but was prepared to work with anyone from any party or political leaning to try and achieve results.

Hague is now moving on to head Forest and Bird. So both he and Norman have moved on to environmental roles, and away from the Green Party.

Hague’s replacement will be next on the list, Barry Coates. He used to head Oxfam, and  aid organisation that has become more active in promoting social reform.

Coates has been leading anti-TPP protests in New Zealand. Social activism.

Norman’s replacement as co-leader, James Shaw, has not made a huge impression yet.

Greens’ other co-leader Metiria Turei has been involved in social activism for some time.

Greens could soften their radicalisation somewhat if they elevated Julie Anne Genter, but despite quiet rumours there is no solid sign of Turei stepping aside or down. Fortunately Genter at least looks to be a stayer at this stage.

While Greens do promote environmental issues such as clean rivers and climate change they appear to be moving more towards social activism with a strong socialist tinge.

Greens were ambitious last election so were disappointed not to increase their share of the vote in 2014, despite Labour’s weakening. They seem to have hit a Green ceiling.

This year they have entered into a Memorandum or Understanding with Labour so they can campaign as a combined Labour-Green ticket.

Labour under Andrew Little’s leadership also seem to be trying to move left and have also become more involved in social activism, promoting a number of petitions and joining the Greens in the homeless inquiry, and also appear in part at least to oppose the TPP.

With the growing radicalisation of the Greens and their closer association with a more radical Labour it’s no wonder Winston Peters sees growth potential for NZ First in the centre.

Greens and Labour may think their future lies in popular movements similar to Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK but neither of them have succeeded yet beyond exciting a vocal minority.

While our next election is probably more than a year away Greens and Labour have tied their colours to the campaign mast – fairly red colours with a tinge of green. They either know something about the future intention of voters that isn’t apparent, or are taking a huge punt.

It’s probably about 50/50 whether National would need NZ First to form the next government. It’s closer to 90/10 that Labour+Greens would require NZ First.

A more radical Greens+Labour plus the determination of Peters to remain an unknown quantity will be a hard sell to voters. Add to that recent policy announcements on education and housing indicate an attempt to outdo Labour’s large spending promises and we could have a fairly radical option next year, versus National plodding along.


No early election – but what about two?

Very unsurprisingly John Key has said he has no intention of precipitating an early election. There is currently no good reason for one, and the Government would be nuts go there.

Newstalk ZB: Key shoots down prospect of early election

Prime Minister John Key has shot down Winston Peters’ prediction that there will be an early election next year.

The NZ First leader said on Monday the government wouldn’t last a full term and would have to call an early election because it was having a bad run and had made too many mistakes.

Mr Key doesn’t think so.

“There’s nothing I can see that would indicate an early election, and on the basis of that it will be in the back half of next year.”

Mr Key says he’s likely to announce the date early next year.

That’s standard practice for Key, as it should be, with plenty of prior notice of the next election expected.

There’s been speculation and posturing about the possibility of an early election, but I think two elections are more likely, one near or at the end of the term as it should be, and another soon after if Peters holds the balance of power and proves too difficult to deal with (and Greens unwilling to support a national government).

If negotiations after next year’s election reach a stalemate due to National and Labour+Greens refusing to accept Winston’s terms for a governing arrangement then we may have to go to the polls again.

That could backfire on NZ First if they are seen as the cause of inflicting another election campaign on the public so soon after an extended barrage of bull.

It would also be very difficult for Labour in particular to finance another campaign.

I hope we don’t get a double barrelled barrage through two elections, but I think there’s more chance of that than an early election.

Voters (enough to make a difference) may choose to avert this, as they have done for the last few elections.

Hague to leave Parliament

Kevin Hague has announced that he will leave Parliament to head Forest and Bird.

He stood for Green co-leadership last year but was beaten by James Shaw. He has been their health, conservation, ACC, Sport & Recreation and Rainbow spokesperson.

Kevin will be a big loss to the Greens. He is their most practical, pragmatic MPs, prepared to work with whoever could help achieve goals.

He will be an asset to Forest and Bird. before becoming an MP in 208 he was CEO of the West Coast District Health Board.

He will be replaced on parliament by next person on the Green list, Barry Coates, who has previously headed Oxfam and who has been prominent organising anti-TPP protests.

Thin end of the ‘ethical investment’ wedge

Last week it was reported that some Kiwisaver funds invested in munitions and tobacco companies. This prompted a lot of comment about ‘ethical investments’.

An ODT editorial looks at Socially responsible investments:

Last week, Commerce Minister Paul Goldsmith said in Parliament there were indications several KiwiSaver providers had broken strict laws banning investments in cluster bomb makers.

A newspaper investigation analysed more than 100,000 individual assets held in nearly 500 KiwiSaver funds looking for 169 companies blacklisted by the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.

The analysis found half of KiwiSaver providers — mostly smaller boutique providers — have avoided blacklisted investments, but some people were unwitting investors in big tobacco companies and makers of banned weapons.

The investigation found three KiwiSaver providers have made investments worth a total of $2.3 million in a trio of United States companies blacklisted by the New Zealand Superannuation fund due to their production of cluster bombs.

The latest KiwiSaver report shows more than $28 billion is invested in KiwiSaver by 2.5 million New Zealanders.

Although the amount invested is a tiny percentage of  total KiwiSaver funds, it is still unacceptable some funds have broken the law.

The KiwiSaver providers should have been more careful to adhere to the legislation specifically forbidding investments in such companies.

Yes, if it’s illegal to invest in a certain type of business it is simply unacceptable.

But it can get tricky because many investments are not simple and easy to identify. The investigation found that Kiwisaver funds from the ANZ and ASB invested in other funds that invested in munitions and tobacco companies.

And it can get more convoluted. The Fisher Fund invests in the ANZ in Australia, so could be seen to be (very) indirectly linked to cluster bomb manufacture.

But the rest of the problem becomes murkier.

It is still legal to smoke in New Zealand and there will be some KiwiSaver investors who are relaxed about their funds being invested in tobacco companies.

In total, New Zealanders were found to have $102 million in tobacco companies, a small proportion of the total amount invested.

I certainly wouldn’t choose to invest in tobacco. But would it matter if the fund I invested in indirectly had a small amount in tobacco? It would make no difference to tobacco production or use if I was minutely and remotely connected or not.

The Government has rightly said it was unlikely to further regulate the KiwiSaver sector and the choice of the fund — and where to draw lines on what was an acceptable investment —  was up to individuals.

This stance has outraged Opposition MPs who want the Government to step in to tell the funds where they can and cannot invest.

Telling New Zealand KiwiSaver providers where to invest is a thin edge of something rather larger.

And that wedge was given a nudge last week. For example Kevin Hague tweeted “No doubt you’re shifting your KiwiSaver account to a company that doesn’t invest in cluster bombs. When you shift, think fossil fuels too”.

Currently, about 50% of New Zealand investors hold shares in Australian companies, including mining companies dealing in fossil fuels and extractive industries such as uranium, a key component of nuclear energy generation.

If all investment ceased in fossil fuel and other extractive industries it would create chaos around the world. While natural energy like wind and solar is great we are still very reliant on oil.

No government has the right to decide whether New Zealanders can invest in liquor or tobacco companies.

It is the individual’s responsibility to ensure they ascertain where their money is invested.

But the Greens seem to want to hammer the ‘ethical investment’ wedge. Julie Anne Genter:

Govt must set the ethical standard on KiwiSaver investments

The Government needs to set higher ethical investment standards for its default KiwiSaver providers, the Green Party said today.

“Profiting from the production of cluster munitions, landmines, and nuclear weapons is immoral, and most Kiwis wouldn’t want their Government directed savings invested anywhere near these companies,” Green Party finance spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said.

“Default KiwiSaver Funds need to be legally invested, at a minimum, and preferably ethically invested, so that New Zealanders have the best choices over where their money goes.

Obviously investments need to be legal. But ‘ethical’ is quite different.

New Zealanders already have the choice where their Kiwisaver funds are invested. As they should.

But I have concerns about Government setting ‘higher ethical standards’ for investments.

An interesting New Yorker article on whether divestment (ethical reinvestment) makes any difference – DOES DIVESTMENT WORK?

And there can be a costly downside as the ODT reports in City pays cost for divesting

Some of the Dunedin City Council’s divestment decisions have cost the city, it was revealed at yesterday’s council finance committee meeting.

The council voted last May to scrap any investments the fund had in the munitions, tobacco, fossil fuel extraction, gambling or pornography industries and to bar future investment in those industries.

The fund had produced $783,000 in profit during the eight months to February 29. However, this was $1.657 million down on the budgeted $2.44 million profit.

Some of the unfavourable variance was because of divestment losses, Mr McKenzie said.

The Dunedin City Council has a strong green lobby, and they succeeding in forcing divestment from companies they considered to be unethical. At a cost.

Kiwisavers should have choice. That could cost them. Apart from ensuring illegal investments are avoided the Government should not dictate what we can invest in.