Finlayson: negotiations ‘essentially a fraud’

Chris Finlayson, who was Attorney General  in the last government and is now Shadow Attorney General, was scathing of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and the coalition negotiations in his Address in Reply speech in Parliament yesterday.

He says that “the negotiations after the general election were essentially a fraud”, and that National has “dodged a bullet”.

From draft Hansard:

I do want to comment a little bit on the campaign. I normally stand up and say here that it’s great to be back, but it’s kind of good to be back.

I would much rather be on the other side than where I am here, but I have to say I’m in that category in the National Party that said we dodged a bullet, because while I have some regard for some of my New Zealand First parliamentary colleagues, I have absolutely no regard for the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and I have had no regard for him from the time I acted for the National Party caucus in the early 1990s, when he was removed from the caucus for disloyalty.

Old habits don’t change very quickly. He has made absolutely no contribution to New Zealand, in my view, and it is becoming abundantly clear, as Judith Collins said recently, that the negotiations after the general election were essentially a fraud.

So I believe we’ve dodged a bullet, and I’m very happy that the National Party conducted itself with propriety and dignity.

Last week from Newshub: Winston Peters ‘not genuine’ in coalition talks – Judith Collins

Judith Collins says the post-election negotiations between her party and Winston Peters appear to have been a fraud.

It was revealed on Thursday the New Zealand First leader’s legal action against journalists, the head of the Ministry of Social Development, a number of National MPs and their staff was filed the day before the General Election, which was held on September 23.

Ms Collins told The AM Show on Friday morning it now appears Mr Peters was playing the National Party, and never intended to sign a coalition agreement with them.

“At the time, we were very much convinced on our side there were genuine negotiations going on. But I’ve got to say, it’s not looking like it was quite so genuine anymore.”

“I think Winston Peters should really explain himself to the public because there were a lot of voters who were disappointed in his decision,” said Ms Collins.

“I think New Zealanders are owed an explanation. Was he being genuine, or was it just a play?”

I think voters are owed an explanation, but I doubt that Peters will give a straight answer.

The first call in Court on Peters’ legal action was on Monday. Stuff – Winston Peters’ lawyers aim sights at journalists involved in leak:

The NZ First leader’s legal team served court papers last week on nine people including former National Party government ministers, journalists and a government department chief executive over the leak which occurred in the leadup to this year’s election.

Peters’ lawyers are requesting documents from the parties named in the legal action to try and get to the bottom of where the leak came from, and who was involved.

The first call for Peters’ case was heard in front of Justice Anne Hinton on Monday morning at the High Court in Auckland. It was a largely procedural hearing, with all parties represented by lawyers.

Peter’s legal counsel Brian Henry told the court some of the journalists who were leaked the story may have been politically motivated, and not neutral reporters.

Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy and Newshub journalist Lloyd Burr were both served documents as they knew about the leak before it became public.

“The situation is about an illegal act, not dirty politics. When it comes to the journalists, it is our understanding some of the journalists were not ‘journalists’ but political agents,” Henry said.

“This was a political set up from woah to go,” he said.

Henry said they were considering challenging the pair’s journalistic privilege.

Justice Hinton told Peters’ lawyer they will need to file documents with the court detailing exactly what they are alleging against the parties involved.

Justice Hinton set down a hearing for March next year where it will be ruled if the parties will need to disclose the documents.

In a statement on Monday morning, the National Party said: “The National Party people named all continue to refute any suggestion they had any involvement in the leak of this information and will be responding accordingly.”

With this action planned since before the election coalition between NZ first and National seems an unlikely outcome of negotiations, or if it had happened it would have started with a degree of tension and toxicity.

On making his announcement after extended negotiations Peters had claimed that the decision to support a Labour led Government was made 15 minutes before making the announcement.

Perhaps that refers to a decision on something like ‘will we accept what Labour has offered us or push for more?’.

 

The Nation – Judith Collins

Judith Collins was interviewed on The Nation this morning. Their news item generated from the interview:

Interview.

Transcript:

Lisa Owen: Revenue Minister Judith Collins joins me now. Good morning.

Judith Collins: Good morning, Lisa.

Lisa Owen: Minister, why is it that corporate charities like Sanitarium, some Brethren charities, some iwis don’t pay tax on their income or profits?

Judith Collins: Well, some businesses, you could say, charities running certain businesses, they have to comply with the Charities Act, which was set up in 2003, from memory. And their activities are audited as such by the Charities Services, which is part of the Department of Internal Affairs, which is not my area. But Revenue, certainly, does investigate any instances where they believe people should be paying tax because of either their activities or because they’re not actually really engaged in charitable purposes.

Lisa Owen: Yeah. Do you think that it gives them an unfair advantage? Isn’t it anti-competitive that they’re not paying tax?

Judith Collins: I think it is significantly difficult for a lot of businesses if they’re dealing with any competitor who they believe isn’t paying their fair share of tax. And the problem with these questions is that Revenue doesn’t tell me about any individual cases, and you can imagine why; you wouldn’t really want the Minister of Revenue being involved in deciding who gets to pay tax and who doesn’t and knowing what’s– obviously because there are privacy provisions as well, under the law. But I think one of the issues is if anyone does believe that someone should be paying some tax and they’re not paying it and they’re rorting the system as such, they need to go to the charities.

Lisa Owen: I’m not talking about specific companies when I ask that. I’m talking more generally. But you do have, sort of, Brethren charities who own dairy and kiwifruit enterprises – huge, huge conglomerates – and they’re competing in a market against other businesses.

Judith Collins: Well, it all depends on what the money’s going to. For instance, if profits are going into charitable purposes, which is often religion or education or helping the poor – those are all charitable purposes – then they will obviously be meeting charitable purposes. So it’s a different thing if it’s going into things that are not charitable purposes; then there’s a possible breach of the law, and that means that the Charities Services and the Department of Internal Affairs should be notified.

Lisa Owen: But do you believe that simply spreading your religion or your religious word is enough to warrant a tax break?

Judith Collins: It’s not a matter of me believing it; it is the fact that that is the law.

Lisa Owen: It is the law, yeah.

Judith Collins: It’s been the law since the first Queen Elizabeth.

Lisa Owen: But do you think it’s a good law? Should it be the law?

Judith Collins: Well, let’s put it this way. I mean, I’ve often thought that there’s quite a lot of business that goes through charities, but that is the law. It has been there forever. That would mean that every church that’s involved in things like, for instance, some of the shops that people get– you know, obviously, they sell clothes and sell these other things – that they would then suddenly become subject to tax. We’ve got other things that we can do in tax, and actually, going after charities that are actually complying with the law and using their profits for charitable purposes, which is helping the poor, education, those sorts of things, that’s not the biggest priority I have right at the moment.

Lisa Owen: But what if they’re not doing those things in any great numbers? Because there is no legal requirement for them to give a certain amount of what they make to charity. It’s left up to them, isn’t it?

Judith Collins: Well, no, there’s the Charities Services part of the Department of Internal Affairs. And Inland Revenue tell me – and I believe them – that they are almost religious, actually, in their wish to get in every cent of tax dollars that they believe they should be getting in, and they work very closely with Charitable Services in Department of Internal Affairs to do that. So just because someone is operating a charity doesn’t mean to say every part of their business activities is tax-free because some of that money may be going for non-charitable purposes.

Lisa Owen: Right. But for example, I mean, there’s all sorts of ones that fall under the category of charities. Church of Scientology – their return for 2015, they brought in income of almost $2.5 million; grants paid out within New Zealand – zero. Another one – Salvation Army, by comparison, paid out $30 million in evangelical programmes, $57 million in community and training job programmes, $35 million in social and health programmes. You know, those are stark comparisons. And here we’ve got an iwi, Ngai Tahu – $533 million income; grants paid out in New Zealand – $12 million in the same year. So are all these charities created equal in terms of what they’re doing and the breaks that they’re eligible for?

Judith Collins: Well, I think, quite clearly, that not all are doing exactly the same as each other. But the fact is that if there are concerns, then the right people to go to are Charitable Services, the Department of Internal Affairs, which is another minister’s portfolio.

Lisa Owen: So you’re fine with how the law stands at the moment?

Judith Collins: No, I say that is the law, and at the moment, I’ve got other things that I’m doing.

Lisa Owen: But do you think it needs to be reviewed?

Judith Collins: I think it’s something that is clearly in a lot of people’s radar at the moment, but right at the moment, my big issues are dealing with things like child support but also dealing with things like multinational companies. That’s where my focus is right at the moment.

Lisa Owen: OK. And I want to get on to international companies. Australia has changed its rules around charities in 2014, and only income directly related to charitable activities that are paid out, you know, you get a tax break on that. So why couldn’t we just do the same here?

Judith Collins: Well, we don’t just do the same like that in New Zealand. We actually put out discussion documents and things.

Lisa Owen: But we like to be in line with our trading partners, don’t we?

Judith Collins: Well, in some cases. We have a very open tax system, and ours is much more simple than many other countries’, including our trading partners. We have a lot of trading partners. But in terms of the charities thing, it is certainly something that Charitable Services and Revenue look at, and it’s certainly something that I’ve asked for some advice on as to what is actually happening, what are the rules, what’s happening on it. But that’s actually for another time because I’ve got other issues I deal with.

Lisa Owen: OK. So, the advice you asked for, what prompted that? What concerned you that you want to–?

Judith Collins: Oh, because people like yourself– obviously not you personally in this one, but people like yourself who raised the issues. So I think it is important to know the extent of any issues.

Lisa Owen: So you are looking into it?

Judith Collins: Well, no, I’ve asked for some advice on it, and that advice is that at the moment, they don’t believe that it’s such the issue that people might think it is, and that is because they’re working so closely with Charitable Services.

Lisa Owen: So after petrol and multinationals, you might get to it?

Judith Collins: Well, we have to wait and see. I’d have to be back in the role, wouldn’t I, after an election?

Lisa Owen: This week Labour said it’s going to crack down on multinationals not paying their fair share of tax.

Judith Collins: Oh, yeah. Bit late to the party, aren’t they?

Lisa Owen: But does anyone think that’s a bad idea?

Judith Collins: Well, I think we’ve already been doing that. I mean, earlier this year, Steven Joyce and myself released discussion documents on exactly that. And it’s called ‘BEPS’ or base erosion profit-shifting, and that’s some of the stuff that some multinationals have been undertaking in New Zealand and elsewhere.

Lisa Owen: So why aren’t your numbers as good as Labour’s? You’re talking about getting back between $50 million and $100 million a year over a period of time. Their projections are $200 million a year.

Judith Collins: Well, actually, it’s wrong, because the figure of $100 million was put in the budget for this budget year, and, of course, most of our measures that we’ve been consulting on and which I’ll be taking to– Steven and I will be taking to Cabinet in the next little while – we are looking for an announcement within the next month or so – those are obviously spread out over the next couple of years. So we will get to– we believe we will get to at least $300 million.

Lisa Owen: OK. So, diverted profits tax.

Judith Collins: Yes.

Lisa Owen: Why not have that? And I know you say we don’t like to follow all our trading partners.

Judith Collins: No, we don’t.

Lisa Owen: But you have said that we do like to be in line with some of our trading partners. And Australia has introduced a tax like this. The UK’s got one. We’re out of step, aren’t we?

Judith Collins: No, we’re actually in-step with the rest of the OECD. And in fact, recently I signed us up to a multilateral instrument, which is basically a massive treaty with 67 other countries – and I think now about 70; some more have added on to it now, over 70 – where we have actually signed up to a lot of the measures to actually deal with this very issues. Diverted profits tax is a very draconian measure. It basically says if we think you are doing anything to shift your tax liability, we’re just going to stick a 40% tax on what we think you should be paying. Now, that is a pretty harsh measure, which might sound great, but even Labour are saying they’re not expecting much of it. Australia are saying that they’re expecting–

Lisa Owen: So you’re ruling it out totally?

Judith Collins: No, Australia are saying that they’re expecting $100 million. In their size of their economy, you know, five, six times our size, we believe we can do better with what we’re doing – following the OECD and working with other countries. Because this is all around things like–

Lisa Owen: So we’re definitely not going to do it.

Judith Collins: No, no. What we’ve said is that we’re not ruling it out, but what we’re not doing is rushing into it. We believe we can get pretty much the same result or even better working with the OECD and working with all these other countries. Just imagine if Revenue decided that we were going to add this massive tax on to everything else that people have and then other countries…

Lisa Owen: You’re saying it will scare business away because other countries are not?

Judith Collins: …did the same to our companies. We are an exporting nation; we need to be very careful how we do these things. And what we don’t want to do is end up with a situation where we’re considered to be a difficult and dangerous place for businesses to operate in.

Lisa Owen: So are you not holding them to account simply because you fear retaliation?

Judith Collins: No. I’m holding them to account, but we think we can get a far better outcome working with the OECD, which, after all, when you’ve got 70-odd countries signed up to it all working together– And when you’re dealing with that, that’s a much stronger position, we believe, than simply adding on another tax, which we may never be able to collect.

Lisa Owen: OK. We talked earlier in the interview about being returned to government and what portfolio you might have.

Judith Collins: Well, who knows?

Lisa Owen: So let’s imagine for a minute that National gets a fourth term.

Judith Collins: That would be great.

Lisa Owen: What’s your dream portfolio?

Judith Collins: Whatever I’m given, actually.

Lisa Owen: Oh, come on. You’re more ambitious than that, aren’t you, Mrs Collins?

Judith Collins: I’ve actually always been very happy to be a minister in a National-led government. And every portfolio I’ve had, I’ve loved every one of them. And, you know, tax is something I just love, the Revenue area, I love the energy and resources, the ethnic communities – these are all really important. And as a former tax lawyer, I’m happy as anything in there.

Lisa Owen: So you don’t think you’ve got more to offer? There’s not more ambition? You’re number 15 in…

Judith Collins: I’ll tell you what, number 15 in government is a lot better than number 3 or 4 in opposition. I can tell you that, Lisa.

Lisa Owen: But is number 6, 7 and 8 in government better than number 15?

Judith Collins: Oh, look, you just do the role.

Lisa Owen: Are you more ambitious than that, minister? I mean, you were tagged as a future prime minister.

Judith Collins: By others. But my view is this – that just being in government and being able to actually do the best we can for New Zealanders is much better than saying where you’re ranked or whatever. I know some people get very excited about that. I’m not excited about that. I don’t get excited about that…

Lisa Owen: OK, so happy to stay where you are

Judith Collins: …because it doesn’t make any difference in terms of your ability to actually do what you have to do.

Lisa Owen: You heard it here – Judith Collins happy to stay where she is.

Judith Collins: I’m always a happy person.

Lisa Owen: All right.

Petrol price rip off

A report from the Government suggests that we are being ripped off with petrol prices, especially in Wellington and the South Island.

Judith Collins:

Fuel Market Study released

A study into New Zealand’s retail fuel market confirms that it has features which may not be consistent with a workably competitive market, Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins says.

The Study found that retail fuel margins have increased significantly over the last five years while fuel margins for aviation and commercial road users have been flat or falling. It also found that higher petrol prices in the South Island and Wellington are not explained by higher costs in those areas.

“There were difficulties in comparing the information received from the companies, and some very specific information that was required could not be obtained.

“As a result, the Study doesn’t definitively answer whether fuel prices are reasonable or not. However, the Report does conclude that “we cannot definitely say that fuel prices in New Zealand are reasonable, but we have reason to believe that they might not be.”

“This is a very complex area and the Study takes us a significant step forward in our understanding. I have now instructed my officials to assess the recommendations of the Study and report back to me by November.

“Furthermore, the Market Studies powers announced recently by the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs will give the Government the option to direct the Commerce Commission to undertake a further competition-specific fuel market study, backed by the ability to require comparable data across companies. There is currently no legal mechanism to do this.”

“I would like to thank Z Energy, BP, Mobil and Gull for taking part in the Study.”

The Fuel Market Financial Performance Study, MBIE summary of the Study and the Cabinet paper are available here.

Collusion between fuel companies or lack of real competition?

Petrol pricing is complicated, probably deliberately, by fuel card and coupon discounts, that mask the real retail prices, and really rip you off if you need to get petrol from a service station that you can get a discount from.

Q+A – multi-nationals paying tax

On Q+A at 9 am this morning:

Judith Collins is our lead interview on Sunday. Political Editor Corin Dann asks her how she plans to get multi-nationals to pay their fair share of New Zealand tax.

Also…

…how’s the economy treating you? We’ve got a panel of economic experts to examine this week’s OECD report and give their take on how you and our economy are really doing.

Clampdown on multinational tax avoidance?

A Government announcement is expected today on attempts to clamp down on multinational companies avoiding paying tax in New Zealand.

This is a difficult world-wide issue so it will be interesting top see what is proposed. The Government has been looking into what it might be able to do about this for some time.

Stuff: Multinationals face nervous wait on tax

Long-awaited measures to clamp down on multinational tax rorts are expected to be unveiled by Revenue Minister Judith Collins on Friday morning.

Company tax makes up 15 per cent of New Zealand’s total tax take of $63 billion, but a Cabinet paper said there were concerns multinationals were not paying their fair share.

Profit-shifting has prompted G20 nations to back a crackdown by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, called Beps.

An Inland Revenue briefing to Collins released last month confirmed officials were working on proposals to tighten transfer pricing and “permanent establishment” rules and hybrid instruments and on limiting the interest payments that foreign firms could deduct from the profits of their New Zealand subsidiaries.

Judith Collins only took over the Revenue portfolio late last year. Previous Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse put this out last September:

BEPS proposals released for consultation

A strategy used by some large multinationals to shift profits overseas and minimise their New Zealand tax is the focus of international tax proposals released for consultation today, says Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse.

“A discussion document which proposes that New Zealand adopt the OECD recommendations on hybrid mismatch arrangements was today released for consultation,” says Mr Woodhouse.

“Our international tax rules are sound, but the Government considers that New Zealand’s rules on hybrids can be stronger.

“Hybrid mismatch arrangements are one of the base erosion and profit shifting strategies used by multinationals to exploit the difference between how two countries might treat a cross-border transaction, resulting in less tax.”

The OECD recommendations remove the advantage of using hybrids.

“It is important that our rules complement those of other countries, particularly Australia and the UK who have both announced their intentions to adopt the OECD recommendations in this area.”

IRD in November:

Addressing hybrid mismatch arrangements

Hybrid mistmatch arrangements are one of the main base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) strategies used by some large international companies to pay little or no tax anywhere in the world.

The OECD developed recommendations for anti-hybrid measures in its 15 point Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan.

A Government discussion document, Addressing hybrid mismatch arrangements, seeks comments on how the OECD recommendations could be implemented in New Zealand:

Part I of the document describes the problem of hybrid mismatch arrangements, the case for responding to the problem, and a summary of the OECD recommendations.

Part II of the document explains the OECD recommendations in greater depth and discusses how they could be incorporated into New Zealand law.

Submissions closed on 11 November 2016 (extended from 17 October 2016).

Perhaps today’s announcement is a result of this.

Hybrid financial instruments and transfers

The First Discussion Draft defines a hybrid financial instrument as any financing arrangement that is subject to either different tax characterizations under the law of two or more jurisdictions such that a payment will have different tax treatments (e.g., a loan in one jurisdiction and equity in another), or different manner in which tax will be assessed on the instrument (e.g., deduction in one jurisdiction while the other jurisdiction gives an exemption). The different tax characterizations will result in a D/NI outcome.

From Neutralizing hybrid mismatch arrangements under BEPS Action 2

Punitive imprisonment versus rehabilitation

New Zealand has one the highest imprisonment rates in the developed world, and despite a target of reducing re-offending by 2017 by 25% (that won’t be met) $1 billion more will need to be spent in the next five years to house all the prisoners.

The public psyche is punitive, with pressure on politicians to lock more offenders up for longer. That will cost more – and that cost is not just borne by the country (that is, all of us), there is a high cost to families and children affected by imprisoned parents.

New Prime Minister Bill English wants to apply his ‘social investment’ theories to prison numbers and re-offending rates. He has signalled a change in approach by removing Judith Collins as Minister of Corrections and replacing her with Louise Upston, who is also now Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment.

Fixing the  lack of education and work skills that are prevalent in the prisoner population is an important part of rehabilitation and reducing re-offending.

The Government doesn’t just have to turn around rising imprisonment rates, it also has to turn around punitive public preferences. Neither will be easy.

Dr Jarrod Gilbert at NZH: Bill English faces tough job shifting the ‘lock ’em up’ penal policy

For a number of years Bill English has quietly championed a prison reform approach that should appeal to fiscal conservatives and social liberals alike. As prime minister, he now needs to sell it.

At stake is a billion dollar spend on a new prison caused by a prison population that recently hit 10,000.

In 2012, the government and the Department of Corrections set a bold target of reducing reoffending by 25per cent by 2017.

They are going to fall well short. Undoubtedly, many people will make a big deal of that failure, and perhaps that’s reasonable, but it ought be applauded for its bold intent.

It was the ambition of the target that challenged corrections staff – from policy analysts to prison guards – to fundamentally rethink what they were doing. Instead of simply containing prisoners until their release, they were instructed to think about creating an environment and initiatives that rehabilitate them.

It was never going to be a quick or easy thing to fix, but rehabilitation needs to be addressed.

Nearly three quarters of released prisoner were reconvicted of an offence within five years, and more than half were returning to prison.

In many cases if the underlying causes of crime aren’t resolved then offending is likely to continue.

More importantly, reducing reoffending wouldn’t just reduce costs, it would also mean fewer victims of crime. There is perhaps no clearer example of a classic win/win.

That’s something that the public need to understand.

On this basis, the government launched a reform agenda, but it hasn’t taken the country with it. And this is a mistake. Without building a broad public consensus on the approach’s goals and merits, it is at risk from moral panics and knee-jerk politics.

Our base instinct to punish criminals is natural and punishment is an important function of prison.

Lock-em-up proponents tend to be more vocal, more pushy for more imprisonment.

But often there will be no sentence long enough to placate distressed victims or their loved ones, so as a society we must weigh-up those desires with the interests of the public good.

Media play a major part in this. It’s common for them to push the victims of crime to speak after sentencing, and in most cases unsurprisingly they usually say sentences were not sufficient. This just feeds the longer sentence pressures on politicians.

And here’s where we need to start the conversation and build a consensus around the balance between punishment and rehabilitation.

Extending the debate beyond punishment may not be easy. New Zealand has been sold the idea that longer sentences are the solution by both major parties for years.

Populist tougher sentence policies pander to what voters seem to want.

Penal populists say harsh sentences act as deterrence by making people think twice before committing crime. Deterrence arguments aren’t without merit but studies show that likelihood of apprehension is a far greater deterrent than severe punishments.

So wouldn’t an extra billion dollars be better spent on policing rather than on prisons?

But media and public pressure works against this.

When Philip Smith escaped to Brazil in 2014, for example, there was an immediate clampdown on temporary releases that allow prisoners to work outside the wire in paid employment.

Despite the escape being a consequence of corruption rather than policy, the Department of Corrections feared a public backlash and restricted temporary releases even though they were widely seen as a successful rehabilitation tool.

One high profile escape adversely affected many others.

Having removed Judith Collins from the Corrections portfolio, English has very publicly signalled that the harder-edged and populist approach does not curry his favour.

But can he change public attitudes in the way Judith Collins and others so cleverly played up to them?

Can English convince the country that although the Department of Correction’ re-offending target won’t be met, its modest gains and the change of thinking it represents is nevertheless the best hope of bringing the prison population down?

That won’t be easy.

I don’t know the answer to that; the punitive approach in the New Zealand psyche is so strong we’ve become one of the most imprisoned populations in the developed world without even flinching.

The loudest calls are for even longer prison sentences.

Do we really want more prisons?

Or can we see the sense in more policing, more rehabilitation and less offending?

One thing that Gilbert doesn’t mention is drug and alcohol links to a lot of offending. Addressing addictions is a critical part of rehabilitation.

Collins happy with new portfolios

Judith Collins has been move to three new portfolios – Revenue, Energy and Resources, and Ethnic Communities. Some have described it as a demotion, but Collins says otherwise.

And so does Bill English who denies ‘payback’ behind Judith Collins, Jonathon Coleman demotions:

Bill English says Judith Collins and Jonathan Coleman weren’t demoted as “payback” after they challenged him for the leadership of the National Party.

“It isn’t payback time. Look, we have been focusing on refreshing the Cabinet – that means moving some people up. They can’t all sit in the same seat. So a number of the ministers who’ve been around a while have found their individual rankings dropped a bit.

“But look, it’s what this Cabinet does rather than the intricacies of who’s sitting in number nine and who’s sitting in number 11.”

Collins seems happy (and is probably grateful) to have new challenges.

NZ Herald: Judith Collins speaks out after Prime Minister Bill English’s reshuffle: ‘I’m not wounded at all’

It has been portrayed as a demotion but Collins said she had long been interested in taking on more business-focused portfolios.

“I’m not wounded at all. I’m actually interested that so many people think I would be.”

Although she had made a name for herself in the Police and Corrections portfolios, Collins said she had long wanted a business-related portfolio and believed serving in a range of areas was important to become a well-rounded minister.

“The problem is you get terribly pigeon-holed and I’ve always really enjoyed them, and I’ve really enjoyed the people. But I do have a lot of law and tax experience and as Bill rightly said, it hasn’t really been used in the past.

She is a former tax lawyer and is currently studying health and safety so said both portfolios fitted well with her.

“I’m probably one of the few people in Government that gets excited about areas like tax policy.

I’m very pleased to have the Revenue and the Energy and Resources portfolios because they are such important business portfolios, economic portfolios. They are both areas that are incredibly important to New Zealand’s future so I’m very happy to have those. And Bill has asked me to really run with them and get right into them and I will be.”

Although Revenue tends to be a low-profile portfolio, she will have some problems to sort out. Top of the list is Inland Revenue’s $2.6 billion ‘Business Transformation’ programme upgrading its ageing IT infrastructure which is at risk of getting bogged down in delays and cost blowouts.

Collins said English had also given her the Ethnic Affairs portfolio which she had held previously. “He said he wanted me to do that because I’d done such a good job last time, which I took as a compliment.”

There’s a lot of consideration that has to be given to decide who gets which portfolio. It sounds like Collins has quite an appropriate set to work with – and that’s what she has to do, do her best with them in her service to Government and to the country.

Judith Collins’ new challenges

There has been suggestions that Judith Collins has been demoted in the latest ministerial assignments.

She has lost Police and Corrections and been given Revenue, Energy and Resources, and Ethnic Communities. And she has slipped down the rankings slightly to 16 – while that might have a slight ego factor it makes very little difference in reality.

Jo Moir at  Stuff: Who are the winners and losers in Bill English’s Cabinet reshuffle?

THE LOSERS

Judith Collins – Minister of Revenue, Minister of Energy and Resources, Minister for Ethnic Communities

“It’s the PM’s day and I won’t be commenting”. That was all the dumped Police and Corrections minister had to say after English announced his new Cabinet. The demotion comes after Collins contested English for the leadership, along with Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, who has kept his portfolios.

I think ‘demotion’ is questionable. Collins was demoted in 2014 when she was dropped from Cabinet. She has been given different challenges here.

Rachel Smalley in Women the winners and the losers in Cabinet reshuffle:

Upston’s promotion comes, to a certain degree, at Judith Collins demotion. She loses not just Corrections but also Police — two portfolios she really stamped her name on. She is now Minister of Energy and Resources, Minister of Revenue and Minister of Ethnic Communities too, so she’ll be busy but she’ll be busy out of the public eye.

Those three portfolios are much lower profile than Police and Corrections, so if Collins still has leadership aspirations, she won’t be in a position to build her public profile while she’s in charge of those three portfolios — certainly nowhere near the profile she gained as Minister of Police, and Minister of Corrections.

That said, it’s widely reported that Collins wanted Revenue, and as a former tax lawyer, she lobbied John Key for some time for that portfolio. Still, she drops two places to 16. It can’t be viewed as anything other than a demotion.

Audrey Young at the Herald: Bill English shakes it up: team rejuvenated at the topBill English shakes it up: team rejuvenated at the top

English has moved to keep Judith Collins in check by removing Police and Corrections from her and giving her portfolios from which it will be difficult to build any public following: Revenue, and Energy and Resources. No politician has gained in popularity by being minister in charge of taxation.

It is understood English was not very impressed by Collins using the leadership contest against him to press her case for extra police officers.

While she was particularly fond of Corrections, she won’t be too unhappy with her new mix. With a master’s in taxation studies as well as her law degree, she had lobbied John Key in the past for Revenue.

So Collins seems to be well suited to Revenue and has been interested in the portfolio. Her background may be very useful with major upgrades under way in IRD systems and with a move by the Government to address tax avoidance by overseas companies.

Collins also has credentials for working with Ethnic Communities – which are important especially in relation to immigration.

And Energy and Resources could become important in limiting the appeal of the Greens.

So there are challenges for Collins in her new roles.

I think the ‘demotion’ angle is being overplayed. She is still in Cabinet with new roles that suit some of her strengths.

I also don’t see the relevance of “out of the public eye”, ” difficult to build any public following” or “no politician has gained in popularity by being minister in charge of taxation”.

Collins should be safe with a 5,000 vote majority in her Pakuranga electorate (although her personal vote of 46.07% was less than the National party vote of 51.01%).  Public profile through her portfolios won’t make much if any difference there.

And if Collins still has leadership aspirations, perhaps with an eye towards opportunities should Bill English fail in next year’s election, a public profile is no use. National leaders are voted by their caucus only. So competence in taking on new challenges, and being able to work well with other MPs, are far more important than getting on the telly occasionally.

The most important thing for Collins is she is still in Parliament and still in Cabinet, so she is still in the mix.

Apart from doing a good job in her new portfolios the best thing Collins can do to enhance her career is maintain a distance between herself and Whale Oil. The Minister of Ethnic Communities is unlikely to want to be associated with a blog that keeps giving ethnic groups derogatory descriptions and wages a campaign against Muslims. Especially as Slater promises more dirty politics.

Coleman, McCully, Collins and Smith

Prior to the Ministerial reshuffle there was particular interest in what might happen to Murray McCully, who is retiring next year, Nick Smith, who is considered a friend of Bill English and who has struggled dealing with housing in Auckland, And Jonathan Coleman and Judith Collins who challenged English for the leadership.

McCully has kept his Foreign Affairs portfolio to help with transition but will be replaced on May 1. English said:

“I am keen for Murray to stay on for this transitional period to ensure I have the benefit of his vast experience on the wide range of issues that affect New Zealand’s vital interests overseas.”

Jonathan Coleman has slipped down the order from 5 to 7 (to accommodate a promotion for Simon Bridges) but retains his Health and Sport and Recreation portfolios. He had indicated an interest in Foreign Affairs.

English could take over Foreign Affairs when McCully goes, or could give it to Coleman.

Michael Woodhouse has jumped up from 16 to 9 but doesn’t have heavy duty portfolios (he kept Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety, but had Revenue swapped for ACC), so could pick up Health, a field he has experience in.

Collins has dropped from 13 to 16 and has lost Police and Corrections, picking up Revenue,
Energy and Resources  and Minister for Ethnic Communities.

There is some irony in the latter portfolio, probably not deliberate of English, after a post by Collins promoter and fan Cameron Slater yesterday:

But bizarrely, Little made Michael Wood, the bland white man that parking meters are taller than, the ethnic communities spokesman. Imagine if National had Todd McClay, a man who is whiter than white appointed as Ethnic Communities Minister because he has some brown people in his electorate. That is precisely what Labour have done and there is not even a mention, nor a mutter, nor a murmur about it from the usual outraged suspects. Total silence.

I guess from this that Slater didn’t have advance notice of the appointment of Collins to the Ethnic Communities portfolio.

Wood also has responsibility for Revenue for Labour. He could find Collins tough to deal with.

Media and pundit knives were out for Nick Smith as he hasn’t exactly had a stellar year, struggling to deal with Housing and stuffing up liaison with Maori on both housing issues and the Kermadec sanctuary.

Smith has slipped down the pecking order from 11 to 15, which is a significant drop. But he retains Environment, and Building and Housing has morphed into Building and Construction. What’s the difference between Building and Construction?

Social Housing is a separate ministry, and has been transferred from Paula Bennett to Amy Adams.

Perhaps adding to leadership rivalry, Bennett has taken over Police from Collins.

Hugging a political corpse

There’s a saying in politics that it’s unwise to hug a corpse, and it has been quoted often by Cameron Slater, but he seems to be intent on assassinating PM heir apparent Paula Bennett’s credibility to pave the way for his favoured Judith Collins.

I thought Collins acquitted herself well in her brief leadership bid last week, and I have found her to be the most approachable and most willing to provide information of Ministers. But her bid didn’t come close to seriously challenging Bill English.

In Unwrapping 2016’s winners – and the turkeys who had a shocker  Duncan Garner writes:

Judith Collins: Once the hard-arse darling of the party, now she can count her supporters on less than one hand. She could have been the National Party leader and prime minister by now if she’d played her cards right. But she didn’t. She played hardball, looked arrogant and treated people too roughly, not to mention her questionable ethics. The party lost faith. And she lost her chance. Judith’s loss became Paula’s gain.

During the leadership contest Slater promoted Collins often and rubbished English more often, but the National caucus ignored him.

After English was anointed as Prime Minister Slater continued to rubbish him and National.

Then when Bennett won the deputy spot he turned on her and now frequently tries to discredit her.

The obvious implication is that Slater wants English and National to lose next year’s election, allowing Collins to emerge from the fray as new leader ahead of Bennett.

But according to Garner and a number of other journalists Collins hasn’t got a chance of becoming leader – she might continue as a competent Minister if English keeps her in the Cabinet, but she has too little support across the Caucus (despite Slater’s claims she had been busy winning over the back bench when she was stood down from Cabinet thanks to him) to be a serious contender.

But it appears that Slater is intent on ignoring his own advice as he continues to hug a political corpse. A toxic corpse with his continued association.