English to be Prime Minister

In what Peter Dunne as referred to as “as quick and slick a contest as I can recall” Bill English was confirmed as the next Prime Minister this afternoon as endorsements from National MPs kept rolling in through the day, and then Judith Collins conceded early this afternoon, followed by Jonathan Coleman late this afternoon.

So it is confirmed that English will take over from John Key, presumably as planned early next week.

His deputy is still to be decided by the National caucus, possibly by vote on Monday, but it looks like his heir apparent Paula Bennett will get that spot.

English has already indicated that Steven Joyce will take over from him as Minister of Finance.

There will be a lot of interest in who English names in his Cabinet, with special attention on whether Collins and Coleman will retain or improve their rankings or get demoted, and how the carrots get dished out to supporting MPs.

National should benefit from having been seen to have at least some semblance of a contest rather than an uncontested passing of the PM batten, but this was a quick and ruthless leadership change.

Soon Parliament will shut down for the summer break so that will give English and his new team (which may contain more than a smattering of same old)  to sort themselves out ready for an election year.

With a likely by-election if David Shearer leaves for a UN job in South Sudan talk of an early election has increased, but I suspect English will be wanting to take advantage of improving financial conditions and get a budget under his Government’s belt.

Time will tell how well the National caucus works with their new leader.

Collins: “I am polarising”

Judith Collins has just been on Paul Henry. It was a friendly environment for her because Henry is openly a fan of hers. She has promoted “I am polarising” but her performance suggested otherwise.

I have to say that Collins presented herself very very well.


Her visuals have deliberately softened her image, quite feminine which I guess is to contrast with the two blokes, Bill English and Jonathan Coleman. Smart.

But most impressive is the calm clear determined way she speaks. No bull.

Ironically she says she is polarising – I guess she could be to an extent – but has done a lot in this appearance to appear non-polarising and non-threatening.

Henry put her on the spot once, asking what she would do about Pike River. She didn’t avoid the question, she stated that she thinks it is too risky to enter the mine and it should be closed up as a permanent tomb.

There’s no doubt that Collins offers the biggest change for National and for Government. Coleman and English will struggle to differentiate themselves from each other and from the same old.

Collins would be a risk for National. John Key was a risk.

There is probably a bigger risk if National appears to be much the same but minus Key. They could easily lose the public next year.

I think that Collins looks up for the challenge and a real prospect if National wants real renewal.

Collins versus Andrew Little, Collins versus Winston Peters, Collins versus Metiria Turei, that would make next year’s election a really interesting contest.

I’m not backing Collins, just saying that she has impressed (and I don’t get to choose anyway). I’ll evaluate how Coleman and English present themselves too.

If you are interested in the National leadership check out Collins’ interview when it’s up on Newshub.

‘Anonymous MP’ cuts Collins

Newshub are reporting that ‘unnamed sources’ in the National Party are saying that the leadership contest is effectively Bill English versus Jonathan Coleman with Judith Collins a distant third.

English versus Coleman: ‘Two horse race’

A National Party MP has revealed to Newshub the leadership race is down to just two candidates.

The anonymous MP says the true competition to become the next leader of the National Party is between Finance Minister Bill English and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

My guess is that Newshub is being used. Any ‘unnamed sources’ and anonymous MPs within National have some sort of vested interest, in this case trying to eliminate Collins from the caucus reckoning because it suits their agenda.

The MP also told Newshub there is a “sentiment for change” within the party – which could be expressed in a different style of management, or an unexpected leader or deputy.

English is hardly ‘change’, he is as close to a continuation of the same as anyone could be.

‘An unexpected leader or deputy’ sounds like someone promoting Coleman.


English, Coleman and Collins

So Bill English has decided to have a go at being Prime Minister, but he has to be chosen by National’s caucus first. Jonathan Coleman and Judith Collins have also put themselves forward,

It is excellent to see a good contest on offer. It would have been a real shame to see English get the job unopposed, but after  a decade of no contest it is not surprising there’s interest from multiple contenders.

There could be more to join  the contest, but Amy Adams and Simon Bridges have ruled themselves out.

The three already in offer a good variety of options, from much the same  minus Key to something quite different, a distinctly new phase in Government and for national.

English is the early favourite with about 8 Cabinet Ministers pledging support but there are 59 National MPs who get to chose their new leader.

Coleman was regarded as an outside chance but it’s now up to him to make a case.

Slater has still been plugging Collins and rubbishing the rest, indicating his personal interests have a higher priority than being an objective political commentator. Whale Oil is a device to push his interests more than a right wing blog.

I don’t care who wins this battle. It’s a fascinating time in politics, and a critical decision required from the National caucus.

Who next for Prime Minister?

If things go according to John Key’s suggested time frame then the National Party caucus will choose a new Prime Minister within a week. Breathtaking. This is a very tight timeframe for all MPs other than Bill English to consider their near future ambitions and to decice whether they are willing to hand over their time and their privacy to the country.

A UMR poll done from 27 September to 14 Octoberasked about preferences for a Key replacement:

  • Bill English 21%
  • Steven Joyce 16%
  • Paula Bennett 11%
  • Judith Collins 6%

Others mentioned as possibilities are Amy Adams (she seems to have preferred to work hard out of the public eye) and Simon Bridges (too soon for him). Jonathan Coleman has also been mentioned.

Key has  said he will support English if his current deputy decides to put himself in the reckoning. English appears to be the only one who knew about Key’s intentions well ion advance.

One thing is certain – politics and the country will continue on next year without Key as leader, and those who rise to fill gaps will take over the media and Opposition heat.

Labour will be rubbing their hands together, thinking that Key gone straight after their Mt Roskill by-election success will give them a better chance in next year’s election. It will – but how much remains to be seen. Key’s resignation won’t fix Labour’s problems and it’s hard to see them getting a 10-20% boost.

When an English-Little contest was suggested on Twitter journalists lamented the lack of excitement. This is one problem with our media, the Prime Ministers and Parliament are supposed to be running the country with a minimum of fuss, intervention and disruption.

They are not supposed to be click bait entertainers.

Added – poll number cruncher with a leftish viewpoint, Swordfish (from a Standard comment):

Here’s my March 2016 overview of public opinion on a post-Key successor (Polls over the last 5 years)


National battles in Clutha-Southland

There seems to be some taking of sides in the Clutha-Southland electorate after it was reported yesterday that someone is challenging MP Todd Barclay for the very safe seat that Bill English vacated in 2014.

ODT/NZME: Horse-trading begins ahead of Election 2017

Simon Flood,  a 52-year-old former Merrill Lynch investment fund manager, plans to challenge Clutha-Southland incumbent Todd Barclay.

It is understood Mr Flood was widely expected to get the selection in 2014 but pulled out at the last minute for family reasons.

Mr Barclay’s first term has been blemished by resignations of long-standing staff and reports of disputes.

Barclay was rated 2/10 by the 2016 Trans Tasman MP report.


John Key is staying neutralish: Bill English refuses to back embattled MP Todd Barclay

Prime Minister John Key says he has met Mr Flood before, but didn’t know him at Merrill Lynch, where he also worked.

“Firstly, he came from a different division of Merrill Lynch, it’s worth noting that,” he says.

Mr Key rejects the challenge against Mr Barclay has been orchestrated by the National Party hierarchy.

“We don’t engineer challenges, or stop them. If someone decides to go and challenge a sitting MP, they’re free to go and do that.

“If you’re a sitting MP who’s working hard, that’s developing your electorate, then the cards are stacked in your favour,” says Mr Key.

Bill English too: Bill English refuses to be drawn on Todd Barclay’s future

Finance Minister Bill English, who held the seat for 18 years before going list only, is declining to make any specific comments on Mr Barclay’s situation, or even saying whether or not he endorses him.

“I’m not a delegate, I’m not participating in it. It is a matter for the local party, that’s how the National Party runs these things.”

When specifically asked if Mr Barclay had done a good job in the role, Mr English said “he appears to have done a good job.”

But National MPs were prepared to state a preference. Judith Collins:


That was ‘liked’ by MPs Barbara Kuriger, Kanwaljit Bakshi and Sarah Dowie.


That was ‘liked’ by MP Tim McIndoe

Cameron Slater is clearly taking sides. Is this just a continuation of bad blood feuds or a vested interest?

Board skullduggery in the Clutha Southland Selection

There is skullduggery going on  in Clutha-Southland with a shabby move against Todd Barclay which is being orchestrated quietly by the former MP, currently residing in Karori, and assisted by at least one stroppy board member intent on taking the presidency.

This is a challenge being orchestrated by National Party Board Member Glenda Hughes, who is trying to muscle into the democratic processes of electorates selecting their own candidate, to force out Todd Barclay, the current MP. Hughes wants to appoint her chosen outside candidate, imposing her will on the Clutha-Southland electorate.

This is an absolute disgrace.

The National Party board should not be involved in selections in any partisan way. They should not be involved at all, except to undertake their constitutional duties and ensure local electorates select the person they think best suits their electorate. Board Members with integrity will not be involved the kind of tearing down of MPs that Glenda has been doing.

If Glenda Hughes wants to play political games in National Party selections she should do the honourable thing and immediately resign her board position. If she continues to interfere we will be forced to continue to draw readers attention to Hughes’ hamfisted attempts in other electorates selections, not just Clutha-Southland.

The last time the board tried meddling in a local selection it turned into a PR disaster for them. Do they really want that again?

Slater has a history of trying to meddle in candidate selections, prepared to dish out dirt to try to destroy the chances of some people. He tried this in Northland for the by-election. His motives weren’t clear there, but it would be odd if he tried to orchestrate a Winston win.

Is Michelle Boag spinning against Todd Barclay?

Hot on the heels of the attack on Todd Barclay in the ODT came a predictable attack on him on Radio Live. Radio Live reckon that Barclay is going to be beaten by challenger Simon Flood, “a Merrill Lynch Banker”.

The tip line is saying that Glenda Hughes’ ally Michelle Boag is all over this. Boag is forever meddling in electorates she has no business being in, and Hughes is stupid to get an Aucklander involved in the deep south.

Funny, is he aware at all of his hypocrisy? Slater is an Aucklander getting involved in the deep south. Does he have business there?

The article is from a journalist who simply doesn’t understand the National Party selection process, or who has spent any time on the ground in Clutha-Southland.

How does Slater know how much time Eileen Goodwin has spent “on the ground in Clutha-Southland”? She has been around down here for quite a while, reporting on Barclay’s employment issues earlier this year , and also on Clutha-Southland during the 2014 election campaign – see here.

What Glenda Hughes wants doesn’t matter. It is what the large number of delegates from around Southland want that matters. The media should stop buying into Glenda Hughes’ bullshit.

This could be just ongoing hits on Hughes and Boag, who Slater has bitterly attacked a number of times in the past.

Slater hasn’t always favoured Barclay. Last year he posted ‘Todd Barclay is a gutless little twerp.

English said, “It is a matter for the local party, that’s how the National Party runs these things.”

So why is there so much interest from Hughes, Boag and Slater?

Interestingly Boag is credited with helping recruit John Key as a candidate – along with Slater’s father, John.

Key went on to successfully challenge long serving MP Brian Neeson for selection to stand in Helensville.

Will history repeat itself in Clutha Southland?

Seymour v Collins on euthanasia checkpoints

David Seymour kicked off Question Time in parliament yesterday by quizzing Minister of Police Judith Collins on whether she believed “the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety.”

Collins avoided answering this and follow up questions by claiming she couldn’t respond even in general due to a specific incident being referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.


PoliceRoadside Testing and Collection of Personal Information

1. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Police: Does she believe the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety; if not, why not?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Although there is no ministerial responsibility for the genuinely held views of members of the New Zealand public, and both section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 and the Cabinet Manual preclude my intervention—in particular, with policing operations—I can confirm that the Commissioner of Police has referred this incident to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.

David Seymour: Does the Minister believe it is a good use of Police resources to interrogate law-abiding people attending a peaceful meeting of an advocacy group, given an 18 percent spike in burglary reported by Statistics New Zealand just this week?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think I have answered that question very clearly. This is not a matter that I can comment on. It is currently with the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and for me to make a statement about it or have any sort of view would, in fact, actually try to influence the IPCA—and this is not a Labour Government; this is a National Government.

David Seymour: Can the Minister comment on whether she is completely satisfied with how Police currently allocates its resources, given increases in assault, sexual assault, abduction, kidnapping, robbery, and extortion, but no reported increases in rogue advocacy groups in Maungaraki?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Clearly, the member is not aware that road policing is actually funded out of the Ministry of Transport, not out of Police. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Does the Minister agree with the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, when he said “there would be pretty troubling aspects” to an operation that used the statutory power and, indeed, funding provided under the Land Transport Act to gather personal information for a different purpose?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not sure how many times I need to tell that member that I have no intention of wading into an investigation that the Independent Police Conduct Authority is undertaking. I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I would refer the member to not only section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 but also the Cabinet Manual on this issue. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Does the Minister have any views about how a police force should operate and how it should allocate its resources?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, I do. One of the ways I believe that police should operate is to not have politicians telling them how to do their job. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

David Seymour: Will she guarantee that someone will eventually be held accountable for this gross breach of civil liberties?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the member is jumping to conclusions. I suggest he leave it to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, which is the right and proper place and people to look into this issue.

Seymour followed up with a press release:

Minister ducks for cover on inappropriate use of police resources

The Minister of Police has failed to reassure New Zealanders that someone will take responsibility for any misuse of police resources to target euthanasia groups. She hides behind due process today while she is happy to crow about police operations when it suits, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“When New Zealanders see a blatant abuse of civil liberties, they expect someone to be held accountable. At the very least they expect the appropriate Minister to have a view on the principles of good policy. New Zealanders should be disappointed on both counts today.

“Astoundingly, Judith Collins refused to acknowledge what anyone can see: that surveillance of assisted dying advocates is ethically wrong and legally dodgy, not to mention a complete waste of police resources when burglary is spiking 18% in the last year.

“The Minister refused to share any view on this behaviour, saying it would be inappropriate given an inquiry is under way by the Independent Police Conduct Authority. ACT respects this due process, but it needn’t prevent the Minister from expressing a general view, particularly one who is not usually reluctant in sharing her opinions.

“She hasn’t shied away from crowing about other initiatives such as recent anti-burglary measures. Core police operations suffer when resources are thrown at harassing advocacy groups, but the Minister offers no comment. Apparently she only likes to comment on good news.”

It would be good if the Minister of Police could at least assure the public that breath testing checkpoints won’t be used illegally to detain members of the public travelling legally.

Prisons “a moral and fiscal failure”

Today’s Dominion Post editorial says that More prisons are not the answer.

A recent announcement from Corrections Minister Judith Collins claimed that levels of crime are down but, and this may seem paradoxical, the prison population is up. According to Collins, this necessitates a massive $1 billion plan to create another 1800 beds in prisons.

Cynics might wish that houses could be built with such speed and commitment.

Yet our imprisonment rates are already more than a third higher than Australia and the UK, with an alarmingly high number of reoffenders. Figures show that 69 per cent of people starting new sentences have been sentenced previously, according to Act leader David Seymour, who calls the “prison population blowout largely a reoffending blowout”.

Which is what the ‘3 strikes’, introduced by the Act Party, was supposed to address? Locking up more people for longer will inevitably lead to more prison beds unless something else changes.

Has ‘3 strikes’ failed to deter recidivist criminals?

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English famously called our prisons a “moral and fiscal failure”. That line has come back to haunt the Government. 

As it should. The Government continues this moral and fiscal failure.

Advocacy groups such as the Howard League argue persuasively that reoffending could decline if education and training was more accessible to prisoners, nearly 65 per cent of whom have literacy levels below NCEA level 1.

That’s a failure of our education system, and a failure of parenting.

By contrast with Corrections’ big spend, only a fraction of the $15 million recently allocated by Prime Minister John Key to tackle the methamphetamine problem will go towards treatment and education programmes in schools and prisons. Despite some gestures by this Government towards more sophisticated social investment approaches, the numbers tell a different story about populist, simplistic answers to complex crime and punishment questions.

Perhaps we need something different than prisons for drug addicts.

Something appears to be going badly wrong when our imprisonment rates are a third higher than Australia and the UK.

Talking tough may appease some lobby groups and voters. It’s a lot tougher finding solutions that work.

Building prisons is taking crime seriously?

Morning Report: Is Govt’s $1B figure for building 1,800 new prison beds far too low? We crunch the numbers with Judith Collins.


Interview (audio): Corrections Minister Collins on the prison muster blowout

It may more the consequence of reacting to pressure to increase prison sentences.

A minority of prisoners are straight out bad and may be beyond rehabilitation.

But many of those in prison are failures of our society. Locking away those failures doesn’t address the causes.


Prison numbers, big $s

Today the Government announced that ‘prison capacity’ will be increased by about 1800 beds on existing sites.

Stuff says it will cost $1 billion: Government’s $1b plans to sleep 1800 more prisoners creating ‘schools for crime’ – Labour

The Government’s plans to spend a billion dollars on more beds for New Zealand’s burgeoning prison population shows it is “deadly serious” about cracking down on methamphetamine and violent crime, Corrections Minister Judith Collins says.

Collins announced the plans for another 1800 beds around the country, saying that although levels of crime had reduced, the number of prisoners had increased “faster than projected”.

Government claims crime is reducing and reoffending rates have reduced by 7% so is this all due to longer sentences? Or what?

Prime Minister John Key said the higher prisoner numbers reflected the changing nature of crime, with the overall crime rate falling but violent and drug-related crimes on the rise.

“It’s a bit of an international trend: you saw overall crime rates falling internationally for a while and we were consistent with that, and they continue to fall in total numbers, but as I say, that hardened end [is] definitely going up a bit.”

Fewer crimes but more serious crimes, so longer sentences.

NZ Herald puts the cost at $2.5 billion – Tax cuts could be affected by $2.5b plan for more prison beds

The booming prison population will hit the Government’s books by an extra $2.5 billion over about five years – with Finance Minister Bill English saying it will “limit choices” about other spending.

The $1.8 billion surplus announced last week is just for one year.

Asked if the outlay could reduce possible tax cuts, English said, “it will have an impact because it’s a very large spend”.

“I wouldn’t want to judge that because it is a bit early. But certainly spending this kind of money on prison capacity is going to reduce other options.

“This is something that has to be done…we’d certainly prefer to be in a position where this wasn’t happening.”

Not surprisingly there has been a lot of criticism of money having to go into prison beds rather than hospital beds and other comparisons,

Government media release:

The Government has approved plans to increase prison capacity on existing prison sites by approximately 1800 beds, Corrections Minister Judith Collins says.

Despite significant progress in reducing crime the number of prisoners has increased faster than projected. This is because the proportion of offenders charged with serious crimes has risen, meaning more people are being remanded in custody and serving more of their sentences in prison.

“We have to respond through new investment or we will create unacceptable safety risks for staff, prisoners and the public, and be less effective at rehabilitating prisoners.

“We’re already adding 341 prisoner places through the use of double bunking and converting facilities to accommodate prisoner beds. This is part of the financial commitment we made in Budget 2016 to Phase One of the Prison Capacity Programme, but as we look out over the next five years this will not be enough.

“To meet the growth in the prison population we need to invest in a further 1800 prisoner places in the network under Phase Two of the Programme, at a construction cost of around $1 billion.”

The Government has approved an increase in double bunking in the Northland Region Corrections Facility at Ngawha by 80 beds. It has also approved a new accommodation block to be built at Mt Eden Corrections Facility, adding 245 beds.

Ministers will next month consider a detailed business case for formal approval of a new 1500 bed facility at the existing Waikeria Prison in the Waikato. Corrections will also propose increasing the delivery of rehabilitation programmes including Drug Treatment Units, reintegration programmes, education and training programmes and Special Treatment Units to help address violent and sexual offending.

“Phase Two of the prison programme won’t be just in bricks and mortar but will also be aimed at the drivers of crime, drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence.”

The new facility at Waikeria Prison will be operated by Corrections but built and maintained by a Public Private Partnership, the same model currently being used by Corrections in building its new maximum security facility in the grounds of Auckland Prison.

“The construction of a new facility for around 1500 prisoners at Waikeria which could be delivered in two stages – would be a significant contribution to ensuring that Corrections can accommodate the forecast numbers of prisoners.”

Most of the forecast demand is expected to come from the upper North Island and Waikeria is in a good location to serve this demand. Being close to the areas of need reduces the costs of operating the prison network and helps keep prisoners close to family and support networks.

The Government is committed to ensuring value for money for taxpayers and all the proposed beds are on prison land where a lot of the infrastructure is already in place.

At Mt Eden Corrections Facility the earthworks platform already exists for the new structure. The current development was built with future expansion a possibility, and at Waikeria Prison there’s ample space for a facility to hold the increased number of prisoners.

“Getting this proposal underway now will help ensure the growth is well planned, and that the prison network can help keep our communities safe in the future.”