Ardern’s positive politics pledge

I’m all for more positive politics (and less negative, dishonest and divisive politics), so Jacinda Ardern’s pledge for “a positive, factual and robust campaign” sounds very good. But, unfortunately, Ardern has a history of not matching rhetoric with actions.

From labour.org.nz:

Running a positive, factual and robust election campaign

This week Labour MPs descended on Martinborough for the annual Labour Caucus retreat. It was here that Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern set our intention for the year ahead – to run a positive, factual and robust campaign.

Speaking to caucus, Jacinda Ardern said: “New Zealanders deserve a positive election. I don’t want New Zealand to fall into the trap of the negative fake news style campaigns that have taken place overseas in recent years.”

In light of this, Jacinda Ardern took the opportunity to announce that the Labour Party is signing up to Facebook’s new advertising transparency rules.

“It means voters can see who is behind paid advertising online, how much they are spending and who they are targeting. The measures help avoid anonymous fake news style ads,” said Ardern.  “These rules are compulsory in the US, UK, Canada and the EU amongst others, but not here. We think it’s the right thing to do to voluntarily adopt them anyway and set a clean tone for the election.”

Ardern also confirmed Labour will have its major election policy costings independently verified so voters can be sure of what they are voting for.

So, sounds good – in theory.

But I hope that this time, Ardern (and Labour MPs and the party) deliver.

At this same time last year Ardern promised a ‘year of delivery’ – “”For us domestically it doesn’t really matter what the international community does or says, it only matters what we deliver”.

“2019 I think for us as a team is going to be characterised by the word ‘delivery’. 2018 was obviously a huge year for us: bedding in as a new Government, setting up the infrastructure for a significant change in direction for New Zealand, reinvesting in those core services – health and education and housing in our budget.”

“That work has now been set in place. 2019 is now the year that a lot of delivery will be required of us and is actually already underway.”

“We do not claim perfection but we do claim a considerable advance on where we have came from.”

The Government has delivered on some things, as any government does. But at least as notable are the things that haven’t been delivered. The big election promise and post election commitment, Kiwibuild, has largely been a failure and has been dumped. The light rail commitment seems to have been so lightweight it has floated away.

Ardern campaigned last election on ‘openness and transparency”. In her government’s first year Ardern was embarrassed by her minister of Openness and Transparency, Clare Curran, being secretive and misleading. Ardern dumped her.

This government seems no better than the last in it’s abuse of the Official Information Act that is supposed to ensure openness and transparency.

Ardern seems impotent when it comes to the negativeness and determination not to be open by NZ First ministers Winston Peters and Shane Jones, but she should have an influence on her own Labour ministers and MPs.

Will there be no more Labour MP references to ‘9 years of neglect’ and misleading claims of National Government reduced spending?

Will Labour MPs more openly share facts with the public, especially when asked?

Will this year see a turnaround of the toxic politics of the past? Will we get a positive campaign, by Labour at least?(National’s negative attack politics is another disappointing story).

I hope so. Ardern has time to plan her campaign this year, and time to make it clear to her MPs, candidates and party promoters that she wants a positive, factual campaign. She has no control over some in social media like on Twitter and The Standard, but her and her party’s campaigning really is positive and factual perhaps that will filter down and influence the actions of Labour leaning activists.

Perhaps she can lead by example, and lift the quality and tone of this year’s election. If she and Labour can deliver on that it is likely to improve their vote and their chances (and Greens), especially if it contrasts with NZ First and National attack campaigning.

Ardern named Pacific Person of the Year

Another international accolade – NZ PM Jacinda Ardern named ‘Pacific Person of the Year’

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been named ‘Pacific Person of the Year’ by regional publication Islands Business magazine.

The magazine’s editor Samisoni Pareti said each year his publication attempted to look at the person, people or organisations that had made an impact on the Pacific.

Mr Pareti said Ms Ardern was given the 2019 title because of her work at the Pacific Islands Forum to bring consensus around the issue of climate change.

“It was prime minister Ardern’s skills at negotiation, diplomacy and her charisma… that saved the day for Pacific Island countries, Pacific Island leaders.

“She got, particularly her counterpart across the Tasman Sea, Scott Morrison to come to a middle ground when it comes to a climate change position.”

Mr Pareti said her handling of the Christchurch terror attacks was also commendable.

“That really drew our attention to Prime Minister Ardern and from then on we started watching how she performed, not only in parliament but in her dealings with crisis and her own electorate and country.

Mr Pareti said Ms Ardern had been a breath of fresh air in terms of political leadership in the islands.

“She is a young person, she is a woman, she is a mother. She has got everything that I guess one would wish upon a Pacific Island leader.

I’m not sure why those attributes would be “everything…one would wish upon a Pacific Island leader”. I don’t know of any other Pacific leaders who are as young, or women or mothers

“She listens, she is decisive, and she always tries to bring people together and is not too divisive,” he said.

She certainly appears to listen, especially in times of crisis, and is relatively non-divisive for a politician (in contrast to the deputy PM Winston Peters and MP Shane Jones, whose divisiveness is unchecked by Ardern.

Her degree of decisiveness is debatable, especially in domestic politics.

Previous people named ‘Pacific Person of the Year’ included Fiji Prime Minister Frank Banimarama and the late Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva.

It is only the second time the title has been given to a person of non-Pacific heritage, with former Australian Prime Minister John Howard being a previous recipient of the honour.

Interesting to see Howard was also a recipient.

Trash and trashing – #turnardern and nasty politics

Since Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister there has been ongoing petty and nasty attacks against her, from calling her names she had once been reported to not like to making derogatory animal references and running campaigns against her ability to be a PM and mother at the same time.

This has been prevalent in social media like  Twitter and Facebook, and is also very evident on right leaning blogs like Kiwiblog and The BFD.

This isn’t new in politics. John Key was subjected to a barrage of similar type attacks and snarkiness, except for being a father and PM, also in social media and blogs like The Standard.

I have seen a sustained petty and nasty campaign against Ardern by a bunch of numpties on Twitter. This reflected poorly on right wing politics, because that is what this group were seen to be a part of.

Recently and somewhat ironically this group started a relatively lame ‘protest’ that moved off Twitter and into real life. They started to turn magazines and books that featured Ardern in bookshops to hide her and the cover. It just seemed like more silly antics, until NZ Herald took it mainstream, revealing both the campaign and the identity of the ‘team leader’ to a much wider audience (albeit in the quiet Christmas period).

NZH (21 December):  The mystery man leading the bizarre online #turnardern campaign against Jacinda Ardern

The numpties seemed to enjoy the publicity, thinking it added some sort of weight and credibility to their antics.

Their right to conduct a harmless protest was supported by some – that’s something I agree with. I doubt they harmed book and magazine sales, in fact they were more likely to more draw attention to publications featuring Ardern.

But their petty nasty campaign provoked a nastier reaction, which has reflected very poorly on the left of politics, with doxxing and death threats being the worst of it.

Ani O’Brien (Stuff): Turn down the hysterics on #TurnArdern, or risk alienating many on the Left

In the last few weeks, a small group of Kiwis led by a 66-year-old Christchurch man has been quietly turning around books and magazines featuring our Prime Minister in stores around the country.

They contend that she spends for too much time on photoshoots and fluff pieces and not enough time working on the eradication of child poverty, homelessness, and the housing crisis.

Fair enough, right? We don’t necessarily have to agree with this, but good on them for peacefully demonstrating their political discontent with our Prime Minister and her Government.

The book turning campaign itself wasn’t a big deal but this group have a sustained record of nastiness on Twitter, so #turnardern shouldn’t be judged in isolation.

What should have been a flash-in-the-pan, barely noticed protest has now made not only national headlines but it has also been featured in international press.

This is thanks to the characteristically hysterical response of the increasingly militant and intolerant section of the Left who are determined to attribute the most horrendous of social crimes to anyone who holds opinions contrary to theirs.

The founder of the #TurnArdern movement has had his private and business information published online, been threatened, and – along with all who have participated – been labelled a misogynist, racist, white supremacist extremist.

Now, I do not know the people involved with the protest, but as far as I can tell turning books around is about as benign as political objection can get.

On it’s own it was benign, but because it was associated with years of snarkiness and nastiness it should be seen in a wider context.

It is also reminiscent of those who hid books about John Key when he was Prime Minister and if I recall they were not labelled anything other than ‘petty’ by their political opponents.

Again, this gutter level of politics isn’t new, it has been hap;ping for a long time – Helen Clark was also subjected to many nasty attacks (and still is).

The intolerant Leftists call the action a dog-whistle to more sinister motives. But it is their hyperbolic response that is a dog whistle to an increasing determination by the chattering classes to police political opinion, speech, and even thought.

Evident in the way angry tweets and reports about #TurnArdern almost always reference its founder’s working class job, the New Zealand hard-Left seem determined to uncritically follow the road to opposition that their counterparts took in Australia, the US, and – most recently – the UK.

The Left – of which I reluctantly remain a part – must reflect on to what extent the new values and rhetoric they’re espousing are no longer compatible with those who have been their core voters.

Politicians on the Left must be aware that parroting the neo-academic liberalism of their pals on Twitter will inevitably alienate those for whom economic stability and traditional values are most important.

If we learn one thing from our international counterparts it should be that you cannot spend election year insulting the working class and calling them bigots and then expect them to turn around and vote for you.

Intolerant leftists – here in Aotearoa that is largely Labour and Green supporters – are causing problems for the parties they are trying to boost by booing at the other side of politics. It looks ugly and it is ugly.

Intolerant righties cause similar problems for right leaning parties, here mainly National. It may be worse at the moment with Simon Bridges seemingly intent on dog whistling to the right, and moving National to the right (perceptively at least).

While there is little new in political animosity, intolerance and nastiness biggest loser here is democracy. This sort of bad behaviour excites those who are active in politics, both positively and negatively, but it tends to turn off ordinary voters who tend to see political nastiness as a whole dirty stain rather than one colour or another.

Political trash trashing others is a very poor reflection on politics and wider society.


Unfortunately at this time in politics nastiness and lying is getting a lot of an airing via the Political Trasher in Chief, Donald Trump, who sets a very poor example for a supposed world leader – he is probably the most divisive force in politics,

Labour staffer ‘sexual assault’ report

As some predicted the report into the accusations against a Labour staffer who worked in Parliament has been released just prior to Christmas.

And predictably the outcome has dismayed some people, particularly the complainants.

Concern has been expressed over the welfare of some of the complainants, with reports that a mental health crisis assess team was called for one complainant, and another had been treated in hospital.

RNZ: Sexual assault allegations against ex-Labour staffer ‘not established’

The inquiry into the allegations of sexual assault made by one Labour member against another has cast major doubts over the accuracy of the chief complainant’s story.

Labour released the executive summary of the report – conducted by independent lawyer Maria Dew QC – this afternoon.

It found “insufficient evidence” to back up the most serious allegations and ruled critical elements of the complainant’s version of events were incorrect.

It also said the complainant had since admitted providing “misleading information” to the investigation.

The man at the centre of the sexual assault allegations said the report came after a “thorough investigation” and a fair and transparent process.

RNZ has not named the man, but in a media statement through his lawyer, he said he had answered all questions and provided all of the information, asked of him.

He says the report backs up his repeated denials of serious sexual assault, finding no evidence to substantiate the claims.

The allegations had taken a toll on him and family, he said, and he thanked those who had supported him.

The complainant had given media a screenshot of an email and an attached document which she said she had sent to the Labour Party outlining her complaints of sexual assault.

Ms Dew concluded, on the balance of probabilities, that document was not attached.

The report also rejected the complainant’s claim that she had outlined her complaint in person to Labour’s investigation panel, saying that was “improbable” when assessed against the weight of other witness evidence.

RNZ includes a copy of the Executive Summary of the report.

Similar from Newsroom: Labour: report finds no sexual assaults, harassment

The Spinoff – ‘Worst nightmare’: Labour staffer complainants respond to Dew report

Complainants involved in the Labour Party inquiry into the conduct of a party staffer say they are “angry” and “disappointed” following the release of a report into their allegations. The Spinoff has spoken to some of the former Labour volunteers since the release of a summary of findings by Maria Dew QC into allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and bullying by a Labour staffer. Despite hearing from five complainants, Dew found that almost all the allegations were “not established”.

Citing the confidentiality agreement that all complainants and the respondent were required to sign, the woman who alleged sexual assault said she could not address the details of the report. She did, however, say that she had only received a full version of the report this morning, and stressed that she stood by her account as shared with The Spinoff. She said she also wished to acknowledge the “huge plethora of women who aren’t able to prove sexual assaults”.

“This isn’t the result that we wanted and we are disappointed,” another complainant involved in the process said. “I still believe all the complainants and their stories and am proud of the work that they did in coming forward.” Another described experience as a whole as amounting to “the worst nightmare” for anyone considering speaking up about sexual violence. “I just feel shattered.”

Newshub – Labour Party sexual assault investigation: Complainants distressed claims not upheld

Complainants have told Newshub how distressing the report is and say they asked for more time before the investigation findings were released on Wednesday.

The report also found while the staffer’s other actions didn’t amount to unlawful bullying, the staffer had accepted his conduct was at times overbearing and aggressive, and that he had made three comments of a sexual nature.

But he denied the more serious allegations.

“We are not here to seek blame or seek malice,” Ardern said on Wednesday. “We are here to try and restore a process that should have been in place in the first place.”

Labour Party president Claire Szabo said she “would like to acknowledge the discomfort and distress that these matters have caused a number of our people”.

One complainant told Newshub the report has caused significant distress to some of the complainants and that’s been communicated to the party.

They’re worried significantly for the welfare of some of the complainants and had to call a mental health crisis assess team for one complainant, while another had been treated in hospital.

Newshub informed the Prime Minister that complainants are distressed that the investigation’s findings have been released.

She replied: “None of this should have been dealt with in this way.”

Alison Mau (Stuff): Labour sexual harassment complainants ‘told PM of suicide risk’ from report’s release

The prime minister’s office was warned the release of the Maria Dew report into sexual harassment by a former Labour Party staffer posed an immediate suicide risk to some of the complainants, one of the group claims.

Stuff understands a sexual assault counsellor told the office on Wednesday that at least two of the young people who participated in the review were at risk of harming themselves, and should be given more time to look at the report before it was released publicly.

A spokesperson for the prime minister confirmed “mental health” issues had been discussed with a support professional on Wednesday afternoon, but maintained the issue raised was not more time needed, but the release of any information at all.

He said Labour had been clear from the start that “some form of summary” would be made public.

He said the report’s release was intended to avoid the results being “played out” in the media.

“We understood that there were concerns, but we also ensured there was adequate support in place.”

The complainant said she was first alerted to the report’s imminent release in an email from a solicitor at 7.30pm on Tuesday. The email included a draft press release timed for 12 noon on Wednesday.

She said she and others in the survivor group asked the solicitor to go back to Labour and plead for more time. “We didn’t have enough notice,” the woman told Stuff.

Through tears, the woman said she was frantically worried about one of the other complainants, who had “gone AWOL” and had not been in contact with anyone since reading the report.

The woman said she had been told that any release process would be done with full collaboration with the complainant group.

“They haven’t done that. They have said this is what we are going to say, and they’ve gone ahead and done it anyway.

“The rationale was that they wanted the party not to be asked too many questions. We needed more time and they ignored it.”

So again Labour’s handling of this issue is being questioned.

The prime minister’s spokesperson confirmed to Stuff that all complainants, witnesses, and the alleged perpetrator had been asked to sign confidentiality agreements both at the beginning of the process as a condition of their participation, and again before being allowed to read the report on Wednesday.

He said these were not Non-Disclosure Agreements that would prevent complainants from sharing their thoughts about the report or the process.

“It was done to ensure that personal details didn’t enter the public domain. The requests around confidentiality primarily came from the complainants,” he said.

Complainants were asked to sign confidentiality agreements to ensure they didn’t put their details into the public domain? That seems odd.

The report had been delayed. Labour may have wanted this issue dealt with and closed off before the end of the year, but this timing would always be viewed cynically.

And it looks like the issue has not been closed off effectively.

More plastics to be ‘phased out’

The Government has announced that more ‘single use’ plastics will be phased out, in particular:

  • Our first target will be to move away from single-use packaging and beverage containers made of hard-to-recycle PVC and polystyrene. Examples include polystyrene meat trays, cups and takeaway food containers. We will work towards ensuring that these are made of high-value alternatives like PET, HDPE and polypropylene, which can be recycled and reprocessed

Beehive: Govt pledges next steps on plastic waste

The Government will phase out more single-use plastics following the success of its single-use plastic bag ban earlier this year and the release today of a pivotal report for dealing with waste.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed the Rethinking Plastics in Aotearoa New Zealandreport, released by her Chief Science Advisor Prof Juliet Gerrard.

“Our ban on plastic bags has already made a difference as we confront our enormous long-term challenge to tackle plastic waste,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Many New Zealanders, including many children, write to me about plastic – concerned with its proliferation over the past decade and the mounting waste ending up in our oceans.

“I share this concern for our natural environment – one that sustains our tourism, trade and our national identity.

“There’s more to do and our next steps to tackle plastic waste include:

  • Setting goals to shift away from low-value and hard-to-recycle plastic
  • ·Stimulate innovation and development of solutions to the soft plastic problem
  •  

    Accelerate work with local government and industry on better and more consistent kerbside collection of recyclables

  • With industry, continue work to develop a labelling scheme for packaging, including plastic packaging

 

 

Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage said the report reaffirms and extends the Government’s ambitious plan to reduce waste, which includes:

  • A container return scheme for drink bottles and cans
  • Regulated product stewardship schemes for tough waste issues such as e-waste, tyres and batteries
  • A National Resource Recovery work programme in response to China and other countries’ bans on importing waste and recyclables
  • Improving waste data
  • Expanding and improving the landfill levy to help fund more ways to recover, re-use and reprocess materials
  • A $40 million Provincial Growth Fund investment to turn plastic waste into useful material for businesses and consumers.

“Our goal must be to make Aotearoa an economy where plastic rarely becomes waste or pollution. As Prof Gerrard says there is no silver bullet and we need a systems change. The recommendations in this report will help us to achieve this.

“I aim to have the full Government response to the Rethinking Plastics report confirmed within six months,” Eugenie Sage said.

Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced globally and nearly 80 per cent of that has gone to the dump or been discarded in the environment. Some 36 per cent of plastic produced today is single-use packaging.

Newsroom: Sequins in our seafood: NZ’s plastic problem revealed

We know there are tiny traces of plastic in New Zealand’s water, soil and seafood, but we don’t know how widespread the problem is or how it’s affecting our health.

We do know that scientists find tiny particles of the stuff virtually everywhere they test for it. Even lettuces have shown they are capable of accumulating micro-plastics, although so far only in the artificial environment of a laboratory.

Until we learn more, we’d better be cautious about the spread of plastic, says a new report from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser, Juliet Gerard.

Meanwhile, we know that wasted plastic is killing millions of sea creatures.

In the future, says Gerard, teenagers will look at you funny if you don’t carry your own reusable food container. We will see fewer and fewer bits of washed up fishing rope, and all the plastic we use will be recycled in this country, biodegrade, or go to a leak-proof landfill, stopping toxins reaching the environment.

But getting there is going to require regulation, and better information, the report says. Right now, we don’t even know how much plastic New Zealanders purchase each year, let alone the best alternatives.

Rethinking Plastics is based on work by a panel of 11 experts, covering every part of the plastics chain.

The report is 264 pages, but the Newsroom article details some of the findings.

I think that while in it’s many forms plastic can be a very useful, there is no doubt that the use of plastic has gone too far. Limiting excessive use of plastic is an essential means of limiting unnecessary damage to the environment.

Serious claims against Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi

It may be coincidence but the Broadcasting Minister could be in serious trouble, again, the time Kris Faafoi, who has been accused of abusing power in trying to do a favour for a friend over an immigration application.

The first Minister of Broadcasting in the current Government, Clare Curran, resigned in September 2018 after she made a mess of her job. That wasn’t a surprising crash and burn as Curran was seen as a weak link.

In contrast Kris Faafoi has generally been as one of Labour’s best junior ministers, until now. But yesterday Newshub reported:

‘I’m on it bro’: Messages show Kris Faafoi offering help to friend Jason Kerrison over immigration case

Text messages obtained by Newshub show Faafoi appears to have breached Cabinet rules by offering to help Kerrison with his family’s declined immigration case.

An offer to “speed things up” was among reassurances made by the former Associate Immigration Minister to Kerrison, who spoke to Newshub in October about his step-father’s partnership visa application being declined.

Messages Faafoi sent to the singer of Kiwi band Opshop ask for details of the case before he says he has a plan and promises to talk to the right people.

In one communication on Facebook, Kerrison sent a direct message to Faafoi drawing his attention to a post with Newshub’s article.

Faafoi replied: “Hey bro – I will make a call on Monday. I know it is genuine as I know you travelled for the wedding a few years back. I will talk to the people that can speed things up.”

Kerrison’s mother, Jude Kerrrison, and Mich Obadiah met online in 2009. She’s visited him in Kenya eight times, and they were married in an intimate ceremony more than two years ago.

But Immigration NZ questioned the legitimacy and credibility of their relationship.

“I understand his personal situation to be genuine and I think he did have a case, which is why I offered to speak to his local MP,” Faafoi told Newshub.

Facebook messages between Faafoi and Kerrison show them discussing the immigration case, but he denies offering to do an immigration favour for a friend.

But Faafoi asked Kerrsison to “Yes – can you please send me surname and immagration nz file number [sic]” – which Kerrison did, before the conversation moved to texts.

Faafoi and Kerrison also discussed the case in a Facebook phone call.

When Kerrison thanks him, Faafoi replies “Whanau whanau brother.”

In November the conversation moves to text. Faafoi assures Kerrison “Im on it bri… o (BRO).”

But Faafoi may have a ‘Shane Jones’ defence – that his impropriety didn’t lead to a successful outcome.

But then things go cold.

Kerrison asks: “Hi bro how’re we doing”… “Where are we at” and repeats back to Faafoi “Whanau whanau mate.”

It’s after that on November 15 that Faafoi assures Kerrison, “Bro, its moving. I can’t put anything in writing”.

Faafoi told Newshub on Thursday: “I think he’s been trying to contact me but I haven’t been responding because it wouldn’t be appropriate.”

But while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seems impotent when it comes to NZ First ministers she may be compelled to take action against a Labour minister.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Newshub she has “clear expectations of her ministers to uphold the highest standards at all times”.

In practice that only seems to apply to Labour ministers. Ardern may want to be seen as tough at least with her own.

 

‘Urgency’ for ‘virtue signalling’ foreign donation ‘ban’

Again the Government is talking big and doing little, this time under urgency in Parliament. It has been described as little more than “virtue signalling”.

Beehive: Government to ban foreign donations

The Government is taking action to protect New Zealand from foreign interference in our elections by banning foreign donations to political parties and candidates, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today.

Legislation will be introduced to Parliament this afternoon and passed under urgency.

“There’s no need for anyone other than New Zealanders to donate to our political parties or seek to influence our elections,” Andrew Little said.

“We need to protect the integrity of our elections. These changes will reduce the risk of foreign money influencing our election outcomes.

“We don’t want our elections to go the way of recent overseas examples where foreign interference appears to have been at play.”

Other countries ban foreign donations. Foreign or anonymous donations cannot be accepted in Australia over $1,000, Canada over $20 or the United Kingdom over £500 respectively.

The Bill contains a minimal threshold of $50, to ensure that small-scale fundraising activities such as bucket donations and whip-rounds won’t be affected. But big donations will be gone.

What the Beehive/Andrew Little don’t say is that all they are doing is lowering the threshold, from $1500 to $50. So donations are not being banned, they are just more limited than they were.

The Bill also introduces a new requirement that party secretaries and candidates must take reasonable steps to ensure that a donation, or a contribution to a donation over the $50 foreign donation threshold, is not from an overseas person. The Electoral Commission will issue guidance on what ‘reasonable steps they might take to check the origin of the donations.

The Bill also requires Party Secretaries to reside in New Zealand, to make it easier to enforce parties’ compliance with the donations rules.

It also extends the requirement to include name and address details on election advertisements to apply to election advertisements in all mediums.

Another couple of tweaks.

The threshold reduction is unlikely to have much effect on donations – and leaves large loopholes open (that have been used by NZ First and National foundations).

Newsroom: Govt’s foreign donation ‘ban’ leaves loopholes untouched

At first glance, the changes seem reasonable: a ban on foreign donations is a topic on which nearly all political parties agree, and the threat of foreign interference in elections (such as the Brexit vote and the United States presidential elections) is a growing concern around the world.

On closer reading, though, the changes seem to create as many problems as they solve.

The “ban” is not in fact a ban, but a reduction in the overseas donation limit from $1500 to $50, designed to protect smaller fundraising efforts such as whip-arounds.

But in 2017, overseas donations of the type being curtailed made up less than a quarter of a percent of all party donations that year (or $26,272 out of a whopping $11.4 million).

Even the Ministry of Justice concedes (in its regulatory impact statement for the bill) that the rationale for a ban is not about the amount of money being donated, but “the implicit message that allowing foreign donations sends to domestic political parties and prospective candidates, and those who are not part of New Zealand’s electoral system” – virtue signalling, if you will.

And it won’t stop loopholes from being used – Jacinda Ardern admits political party ‘foreign donation ban’ won’t close loopholes

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has admitted it won’t stop an apparent loophole: big foreign donations of over $100,000 being funnelled through New Zealand trusts, businesses or foundations.

In August, the Prime Minister accused the National Party of operating”outside the spirit of the law”, for accepting a $150,000 donation from a Chinese billionaire channelled through a New Zealand business.

Electoral law expert Andrew Geddis explained to Newshub: “It doesn’t matter if that company is owned by an overseas person – the law allowed it and will continue to allow it.”

But the Prime Minister appeared to have a different view. She said she “absolutely acknowledges” that the law change wouldn’t completely close loopholes in the law.

In fact, she said the law change wouldn’t catch donations like the one she once described as “outside the spirit of the law” at all.

“It does not cover the substantive issues that some have raised around how the National Party have used donations,” she told Parliament.

The Electoral Commission is currently looking into allegations New Zealand First has been hiding donations through the New Zealand First Foundation.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wouldn’t say if the law change would prevent foreign donations to foundations like the New Zealand First Foundation.

If NZ First are supporting the changes, and supporting urgency to ram through the changes, then it is unlikely it will impact on how NZ First are using the NZ First Foundation.

Newsroom: Govt’s foreign donation ‘ban’ leaves loopholes untouched

The “ban” is not in fact a ban, but a reduction in the overseas donation limit from $1500 to $50, designed to protect smaller fundraising efforts such as whip-arounds.

But in 2017, overseas donations of the type being curtailed made up less than a quarter of a percent of all party donations that year (or $26,272 out of a whopping $11.4 million).

Even the Ministry of Justice concedes (in its regulatory impact statement for the bill) that the rationale for a ban is not about the amount of money being donated, but “the implicit message that allowing foreign donations sends to domestic political parties and prospective candidates, and those who are not part of New Zealand’s electoral system” – virtue signalling, if you will.

It seems that virtue signalling is now done under urgency by the Government.

In Parliament yesterday (Tuesday):

URGENCY

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I move, That urgency be accorded the passing through all stages of the Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2), the third readings of the Farm Debt Mediation Bill (No 2) and the National Animal Identification and Tracing Amendment Bill (No 2), and the second reading of the Maritime Transport (Offshore Installations) Amendment Bill.

The Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2) takes action to protect New Zealand from foreign interference in our elections by banning donations to political parties and candidates. It’s an issue that is being faced around the world, and, of course, it is one that we will face next year in our election year. The Government believes it’s important that the measures in the bill are put in place as early as possible before election year gets under way, which is the reason that we are asking the House to pass it through all stages under urgency.

It’s likely that consideration of the Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2) will continue into tomorrow morning, meaning that select committees will not meet. In order to make optimum use of the House’s time, the third readings of the Farm Debt Mediation Bill (No 2) and the National Animal Identification and Tracing Amendment Bill (No 2) and the second reading of the Maritime Transport (Offshore Installations) Amendment Bill are also included in this motion. Both of the agriculture sector bills make important contributions to safeguard the future of the country’s most important industry.

The Farm Debt Mediation Bill (No 2) is scheduled to commence in part on 1 February next year, and the Maritime Transport (Offshore Installations) Amendment Bill also commences at the start of next year. It’s important that these bills complete their passage through the House this year, which may not be possible without the granting of urgency.

I do want to undertake it publicly, as I have given an undertaking to the shadow Leader of the House, that the Government does not intend to progress with urgency beyond 1 p.m. tomorrow, so that the House’s regular business of question time and members’ day can resume in the afternoon.


A party vote was called for on the question, That urgency be accorded.

Ayes 63

New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8.

Noes 57

New Zealand National 55; ACT New Zealand 1; Ross.

Motion agreed to.


National actually supports lowering the threshold, but not doing it under urgency. Nick Smith in the First reading:

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): This is an extraordinary situation where we have our Parliament in urgency being asked to rush through changes to our electoral law, where the Opposition party only received a copy of the bill at 11 a.m. this morning, after our caucus had even started, and where the bill is proposed to go through its first reading, its committee stage, its second reading, and become law by today. The question the Parliament has to ask is: why on earth is the Minister of Justice panicked into this sort of shoddy parliamentary process? The honest answer is this: firstly, the Government’s just had a bad poll, so they want to be looking like they’re doing something, and the second thing is they are behaving like a wounded bull in response to the very serious disclosures of the New Zealand First Foundation and what is going on within the Government.

National supports a reduction in that limit, but we should not pretend that, somehow, this is a magic solution to the inappropriate use of foreign donations. Everybody knows, and the Minister accepts, that all a foreigner needs to do is set up a New Zealand registered trust with a lawyer friend or set up a company in New Zealand, and that company could quite legitimately make donations under this bill. That is why this bill is all about politics and not really contributing to the improvements in the fairness of our democracy and ensuring that it is protected from some of the growing influences of foreign individuals.

So every single bill of an electoral nature under the nine years of the previous Key Government, introduced by justice Minister Amy Adams, Judith Collins, or Simon Power, involved extensive consultation with the Opposition and involved more than a majority, and that involved compromise. I contrast that with respect to the record of Mr Little. This is the fourth electoral amendment bill that he’s brought to this Parliament without any consultation with Opposition parties at all. We had it with the waka-hopping law, we had it with the law on referendums that’s just gone through its third reading, we had it with the Electoral Amendment Bill, and now we have it with the Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2). Andrew Little is on the public record saying that electoral bills should be consulted with the Opposition.


Pushing this through under urgency has raised some eyebrows about the Green Party involvement, given their history of supporting sound democratic processes.

Co-leader Marama Davidson in the First reading:

The Green Party are very clear that we need to fight strong and long for a democracy and a public decision making process that people with a connection to New Zealand can absolutely trust, that people can feel confident is here for the will of the people of our country. So the Green Party welcomes and supports the Electoral Amendment Bill; the changes that we are making to ban overseas donations in our electoral processes.

For some time now around the world, and, certainly, here in our own country, public confidence and trust in our democratic processes has been waning. We need to have the public interest of the people who are connected to this country at the heart of every decision that we are making, rather than any overseas interests or influence or advocacy, and so, again, really leaning into why the Greens are strong in our support of this bill.

So they support abusing one democratic process to tweak rules around another process.

I wanted to pick up on the time restraints that were identified by officials, that we need to start getting these changes put into place before the 2020 election, and that it is essential that we are giving parties, the electoral systems, the authorities involved, and our own political system enough time to be able to make sure that we have got these changes—that we’ve got the system set up to be able to take on board a ban on overseas donations and, again, a raft of other measures that need to be put into place as well. So I understand and accept and hear the justification that has been given to make sure that we get these changes through, to get us towards a better engagement, a better public confidence in our system.

Urgency gives no time for normaal democratic processes, making a mockery of “it is essential that we are giving parties, the electoral systems, the authorities involved, and our own political system enough time to be able to make sure that we have got these changes”.

It seems that the Greens don’t care about democratic processes if it gets them laws that they want.

So, once again, to close—it is of the utmost importance for us to be working together to address the big crises that are facing the future of our world, and the big issues that we are going to have to work together on. It is in the utmost interests for all of us to have a strong, transparent, and equal access democratic system.

Tweaking donation rules is addressing a big crisis?


But urgency wasn’t enough to get it through last night:

Part 1 Amendments relating to overseas donations

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): I look forward to this very important stage of the House and the extensive time we’ll have available for the remainder of this session. This bill is very important. It does a very important thing. It’s meaningful, it’s real, it deals with a serious risk, and it will make a serious difference for the conduct by parties and their general secretaries to make sure that our electoral system has integrity. It’s not called the electoral integrity bill; it is called the Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2), but it is about integrity. What is similar between this bill and that bill of the other name is the catastrophising that goes on by members opposite, and they do it every time there’s a very minor but important technical change to our law, as it is in this case. But this bill and this part of the bill—

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Ruth Dyson): I’m sorry to advise the Minister, but the time has come for me to leave the Chair.

Sitting suspended from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. (Wednesday)

Labour/Government spending on schools

In her Speech to the 2019 Labour Party Conference Jacinda Ardern gave details of plans provide money to all schools for maintenance.

…next year almost every single state school in New Zealand will receive a one-off payment of up to $400,000 to upgrade their classrooms and facilities.

This is the biggest cash injection for school maintenance in at least 25 years.

It will create jobs in every community in the country while helping to make our schools the special places they deserve to be.

Every school will get a payment of $693 per student, capped at a maximum of $400,000, while no school will get less than $50,000 regardless of how small their roll is.

@henrycooke: The funding maxes out at $400k per school but also has a $50k floor. This creates some wild ratios, eg: Auckland Grammar, with 2421 students, will receive the max of $400k – $165 per student. Papanui Junction School, roll of 7, will receive the minimum of $50k – $7k per kid.

Be it classroom upgrades or extensions, ensuring classrooms are warm and dry so our kids can learn, replacing coal boilers with new clean and energy efficient heating, improving play areas with resurfacing and landscaping, replacing roofing and guttering – this money is to ensure that the projects that schools have often had to defer can now get done.

But this isn’t just about schools – it’s about jobs. And especially trades jobs.

We want schools to engage local builders, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, landscapers – this is an opportunity for work at a local level in every town and city in the country.

Now this is just the first part of our infrastructure package, and one element of our work to rebuild New Zealand.

And it will leave a visible mark on every school in the country.

Now I know that what happens to our school buildings is one thing but what happens within them matters even more.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

She also announced a Ministry of Education offer to pay all school support staff at least ‘the living wage’.

So I want to finish by acknowledging that on Friday, the Ministry of Education made a new offer to settle the school support staff collective agreement, which, if accepted, will see teacher aides and other support staff receive at least the living wage.

Today, I can also announce that we intend for the Ministry to extend the living wage offer to all non-teaching staff in schools including cleaners, caretakers, and grounds people.

A lot of people will like this expenditure, and many will benefit from it. It won’t do any harm for Labour’s election chances next year either.

Who’s got the best team – Ardern or Bridges?

Post from Gezza:

Labour needs to be more than just Jacinda Ardern

The booklet for this weekend’s Labour Party conference features 13 separate photos of its leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and none of any other MP. Grant Robertson gets in to one picture on the side, but only alongside his leader.

Leaders are always important to political parties, but the degree to which Ardern defines Labour is extreme. This is a party supposedly built on the backs of cooperation between workers and not a single person, no matter how strong their brand is.

The Labour Party is still in need of some rebuilding after nine years of atrophy. A large part of that rebuilding will be standing up convincing and exciting candidates in every single electorate for next year’s election.

Labour is of course never going to win Clutha-Southland, or many over deep blue seats. But you get party votes everywhere, and Labour is not strong enough in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch to win whole elections there.

The image of Labour as a party that only has strength in big cities is unfair, but only by a smidgen. The conference is in Whanganui this weekend, a seat Labour thinks it could win next year.

But an email sent out to Labour supporters said the conference was in Whangarei – a town with a somewhat similar name that is hundreds of kilometres away. Mistakes like this – probably made by someone in Auckland or Wellington who would only ever fly over these places – fulfil every stereotype of Labour as an uninterested urban party. Standing uninteresting candidates in hard electorates would set those stereotypes in stone.

Labour are still in the process of selecting their candidates, and could well end up with some exciting newcomers. But for now it can feel dominated by people who have done their time with the party, with several standing and losing last time.

This makes sense for some people. Young lawyer Steph Lewis in Whanganui increased the party vote by 5000 in the last election, and is exactly the kind of candidate Labour will want to put itself forwards with.

There are some other choices that are less obvious. Rachel Boyack significantly underperformed the party vote in Nelson in 2017 against an exceptionally unpopular minister, but has once again been selected. Unionist and party senior vice president Tracey McLellan has been selected for Port Hills despite being tarnished by her involvement in the assault allegation mess earlier this year. There’s something to be said for experience – but also the excitement of the new.

More notable is the absence of flashy well-known people from outside. There is no one of Chris Luxon’s stature running for Labour. Some of the most qualified people in the party’s orbit have picked other jobs – like new president Claire Szabo, who would have made an excellent MP.

To be fair to Labour, recruiting big names doesn’t always work out. John Tamihere’s career in Parliament is proof of that. But right now Ardern’s modernising influence on the party is not very apparent in its candidates. And it seems unlikely she will exert much influence on safe seat selection races like the one in Dunedin South.

Ardern herself is uncomfortable with how much the party’s fate rests on her shoulders. Ironically, fixing that will require her getting even more involved.

Henry Cooke puts his finger on a problem with Labour.

But the media itself (& especially television news) puts so much focus almost entirely on the party leaders & PM of the day that party spokespeople & even Cabinet Ministers often don’t get much attention & promotion.

National was basically John Key, John Key, John Key, before he became Sir John, with the occasional Cabinet Minister getting public attention when they got uncomfortably pushed into the limelight by some crisis (like releasing beneficiary details, or tv news showing people living in cars) or some other event that the news media fastened onto for its shock or entertainment value, like a thrown dildo.

Labour has some senior Ministers who aren’t very eloquent & stumble in dealing with Pakeha media (like Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis), or who just seem to come across as clowns, (like Willie Jackson, & Phil Twyford), so pushing them more to the fore is probably not a good idea because the media sharks can make make mincemeat out of them.

Grant Robertson & David Parker on the other hand for example, generally do well handling media interviews.

Shane Jones’s eloquence has become legendary (as he obviously intended) to the point where he can now even upstage Winston Peters at times; not an easy thing to do. But he doesn’t seem able to convince many people that his overall responsibility for the PGF is delivering much if anything in the way of measurable worthwhile results. Pork barrel politics & Jones seem to be always-associated words.

Polls show that, as John Key was for National, Jacinda Ardern is still Labour’s biggest asset. Their party vote polls however suggest her Ministers are perhaps viewed with less public approval & confidence.

National has the reverse situation – the party still polls well but Bridges doesn’t. My own gut reaction to Bridges’s announcements & media appearances is nearly always unfavourable (although I like to think I don’t allow gut reaction to decide my vote). To me he’s relentlessly negative (as Andrew Little was when Labour’s leader) appears disingenuous & I have no great confidence he’d be a good PM (but the awful grating nasally sound of his voice & his seemingly contrived body language may be driving that!). His team doesn’t generally really inspire me much either.

However, it’s noticeable that in their Law & Order policy paper National has made a particular point of including pages from each one of their Law And Order Team. So they seem to be onto the idea of marketing themselves as a team now – their government-in-waiting.

Will this make a difference to their polling? Will Bridges stand back & let the spokesperson team do more of the talking in the coming months? Will the media co-operate?

Is this what Henry Cooke’s suggesting Labour needs to do, to counteract National’s strategy? Could they pull that off, with their Ministers?

If it looks or sounds like Trump…(or Peters or Bridges)

Winston Peters blasted the media ((yet again) for publishing stories that exposed him and NZ First’s Foundation that seems to be a devise to hide donations, He said that when he returned from an overseas trip he (actually ‘we’) would “sort out the media.”

Simon Bridges has been promoting PR/policy that is divisive and of questionable integrity.

They are nowhere near as bad as Donald Trump, but the Trump playbook was successful and the US Republicans are largely still supporting or protecting him, sol they must see some chance of success in next year’s US elections. So it’s not surprising to see some politicians here trying to copy Trump’s tactics.

Linda Clark at Newsroom suggests If it looks or sounds like Trump: Press delete

Democrats are ‘human scum’, farmers are ‘rednecks’,  journalists are ‘psycho’ and the Labour-led Government is a bunch of ‘c****’. Welcome to modern politics, folks. I can’t be the only one who feels uncomfortable about where this is heading.

It is getting uglier, and some of that is here in New Zealand – Shane Jones called protesting farmers ‘rednecks’ (some of the protester signs were awful), and Peters called a journalist ‘psycho’ for asking questions he didn’t want to answer.

In New Zealand one of our quiet superpowers has been that our political system is steady and, mostly, civil. By and large, for all that we disagree on issues, we have far more in common than divides us. So the majority of New Zealanders support progressive taxation, a safety net for families in stress, (mostly) free health and education, a fair superannuation system, the ACC scheme, treaty settlements.

What’s really happening, of course, is that the centre of the political spectrum is holding firm. In some elections the governing arrangements might tilt a little left, other times a little right. But under MMP no major party can garner the necessary votes to become Government if it alienates those voters and values that sit in the middle.

Elsewhere in the world that kind of politics has been turned on its head.

Said Donald Trump recently: ‘Our opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice and rage. They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.’ In Trump’s world only he stands between voters and some kind of imagined apocalypse.

Trump has – quite literally – rewritten the political rule book. He lies, he screams, he tweets abuse in the middle of the night. He’s vulgar, coarse and, it increasingly appears, surrounded by sycophants and crooks. Any one of those ‘qualities’ ought to see him cast out and yet…. He may even be re-elected.

That Trump is seen as the best option in the US shows how dire their democracy has become. Neither the Republicans or Democrats had anyone better in 2016, and Trump continues to dominate political attention (but consistently polls worse than recent US presidents who were all at least at times much more approved of) – see https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/

Trump’s brand of politics is deliberately apoplectic and extreme. He wants voters to be angry and he fuels that anger daily with tweets, rallies, chants and social media sledging. The more emotional the rhetoric (because Trump completely disproves the theory that it’s female politicians who are emotional), the more polarised is the public and political response. The effect is increased hostility and decreased public confidence in political institutions.

What’s really happening, of course, is that the centre of American politics has collapsed as politicians and voters adopt Trump’s paradigm that everyone is either with him or against him. The divide runs deeper than just posturing over policies. In fact it’s not even about policy; it’s much more personal. A recent survey reported in The Atlantic noted that political tribalism is now so heightened that 45% of Democrats say they would be unhappy if their child married a Republican. Yep, someone who votes differently in a democracy. In 1960 fewer than 5% were prepared to say the same.

The political divide, recently driven further apart by Trump, is far worse than in New Zealand. Peters has been the only one trying to push it here, but now he has Jones doing similar, and Bridges also looks in danger of heading in the populist divisive direction.

Ask yourself, do you like how Trump acts? If the answer is no then don’t support or encourage anyone who emulates him. The politicians, the broadcast jocks, the influencers, even the share brokers; if they name call or marginalise or engage in mocking vilification – tolerate none of it. Anyone who wants to polarise and divide us, who wants us to get angry with each other (old versus young, male versus female, town versus country, born here versus immigrant etc) – don’t buy it, don’t share it and definitely don’t vote for it.

If you go to Kiwiblog you will see that there is a strong pocket of support for Trump (not from David Farrar but in comments, see them in Farrar’s latest Trump post The deranged conspiracy theory.

Fortunately that is a small segment of New Zealand. And there are counter views, like this:

I love these responses.

DPF: Here are some facts contradicting what Trump says.

Trumpers: Haha. Facts! Who cares about those? Let’s ignore them and just assert that DPF is a deranged Trump-hater with no basis for his position.

I sometime wonder whether the Trumpers here on kiwiblog are actually Russian trolls.

Some may be, it’s hard to tell sometimes, but there are a core of Trump fans in Aotearoa, even some commenting here (with NZ IP addresses).

This is a time for cool heads, not hot tempers. New Zealand faces enormous challenges managing climate change, global uncertainty and entrenched social inequalities. These are all long standing issues that need durable solutions which can only be reached if the political centre holds.

I don’t see any indication that the centre isn’t holding here. Peters has always only had niche support, and it’s too soon to tell how successful the Bridges/National PR campaign will be, or how far they’re prepared to divide to try and conquer.

The Prime Minister talks a lot about the politics of kindness but I prefer the politics of community; where all those who can put their energies into drawing out the connections we have with one another, rather than the differences. New Zealand is a cluster of different communities but among and across those communities we can find common ground – if we are prepared to look and listen for it.

The non-politicians amongst us do this all the time in our sports groups, our school boards, our fund-raising committees. We don’t agree on everything but we work out ways of working together positively and in ways that maintain community connections. Now more than ever, if we want to avoid Trump’s polarising virus, the national conversation needs the same goodwill.

So that means promoting decent debate, confronting crap but remaining positive about our country’s future and being positive about our politics.

Whale Oil tried to drag our politics into a dirty cesspit and in part succeeded before crashing and burning. The BFD seems to be trying to pick up the dirt mongering but is ignored by media and has a diminishing audience that is now more likely to rubbish some of the  outlandish  ‘Slater/SB’ authored posts.

Most people don’t see blogs and care little about most politics. They only see bits of media stories. The impression our political leaders make is important.

Peters is well known and doesn’t look like widening his support significantly. He and his party are in danger of being dumped in next year’s election.

Jacinda Ardern has at times been a revelation in decency and empathy, and retains wide support, despite the problems her government is having in delivery on key policies and promises.

The Greens generally have a decent approach to politics. Marama Davidson has been more contentious but seems to have toned down.

David Seymour has been praised for his cross party work in getting the End of Life Choice Bill through Parliament.

Beyond their PR palaver National aren’t totally into driving wedges – they supported the Zero Carbon bill, perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation this decade, providing it is implemented over the next decade.

I think a lot depends on Bridges and National, and how far they promote division for votes. Over the next few months the polls should tell us – and them – whether the Trump style will lead them to power and Aotearoa to division or not.