Labour’s ongoing bungling of dealing with assaults within the party

The Labour Party badly bungled how they handled the complaints of assault that happened at a Young Labour Summer Camp in 2018 – the accused person has just pleaded guilty to two charges of assault.

Worse than this, stories keep emerging of far more serious sexual assaults by a Labour staffer working in the prime Ministers’s office.

The responsibility for this disturbing mismanagement lies mostly with the party president, Nigel Haworth, but Jacinda Ardern is also tainted by association, especially by apparent close association regarding the staffer.

The party tried to deal with the Summer Camp problem internally until complaints went public, an inquiry was ordered, and police lay charges. Haworth and Ardern vowed to sort out their procedures for dealing with complaints. But they have botched again.

It finally got to trial last week, and after chargees were dreduced the trial ended with guilty pleas.

RNZ on September 4 2019:  Man accused of Young Labour camp assaults pleads guilty

The man accused of assaulting teenagers at a Young Labour summer camp has pleaded guilty to two charges of assault on the third day of his trial.

The 21-year-old, who has continued name suppression, was facing five charges of indecent assault in relation to four teenagers.

He was accused of touching the genitals of two young men, kissing and licking a young woman on her neck and face and groping another young woman’s breast and bottom.

Today, midway through the trial, he pleaded guilty to assaulting two young men at the camp near Waihi last year.

The indecent assault charges, in relation to the two young women, were dropped this morning.

The third indecent assault charge, in relation to one of the young men, was dismissed.

The man’s lawyer Emma Priest had earlier asked the jury to consider whether or not the defendant was the sexual offender the Crown suggested he is, or just a young man at a party “caught up in a political storm”.

She has indicated she will apply for a discharge without conviction.

After the charges were withdrawn, Ms Priest said her client had always been prepared to take responsibility for the two assaults.

The man will be sentenced in November.

Judge Russell Collins said he hoped what happened at the camp wouldn’t put young people off being involved in political groups.

It sounds like the assaults were relatively minor but of a sexual nature, and there were multiple victims.

While the man’s name remains suppressed there have been suggestions he may be related to someone senior in the Labour Party.

Following the trial which brought up Labour’s poor handling of the assaults, more details and claims emerge from the party problem in Parliament.

It appears that the Labour Party is failing assault victims badly here. On Sunday from Stuff:

Young Labour abuse victims barred from Parliament offices

​Labour’s president Nigel Haworth barred complainants and witnesses in an alleged bullying and sexual harassment case from one of Parliament’s main buildings.

Leaked emails show Haworth and other senior officials instructed the women, all Labour party members, to stay away from the Labour party offices in Bowen House, where the man at the centre of their complaints works.

Monday from The Spinoff:

A Labour volunteer alleged a violent sexual assault by a Labour staffer. This is her story

A Labour party staffer is alleged to have committed a serious and sustained sexual assault on a 19-year-old volunteer early in 2018. The volunteer told the Spinoff the assault was compounded by the resulting inquiry, during which the alleged perpetrator was not stood down from any duties, which included the supervision of Young Labour volunteers.

The complaint process, undertaken entirely by people within the Labour Party, has left her feeling “angry, quite fearful and desperate”.

The alleged perpetrator has ties throughout the party hierarchy. The woman, who remains a member of the Labour Party, said the man’s level of influence left her constantly frightened of the impact of speaking out.

Over the course of numerous in-depth interviews with The Spinoff, Sarah – whose name has been changed to protect her identity – detailed how she was pinned down and sexually assaulted at the man’s home during a private meeting to discuss party business in early 2018. The process that followed, beginning in April 2018 during the post-Labour Camp review undertaken by Maria Berryman, has completely eroded her faith in the party.

Sarah is one of at least seven people who made formal complaints in relation to the individual, ranging from bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment through to sexual assault. She described him as having a “pretty senior and active” role in the party, and being well-connected with several high profile Labour MPs.

The Party is running out of carpet to sweep this under. Nigel Haworth’s position must be in jeopardy.

Why Labour president must resign over sexual assault allegations

Ardern can no longer pretend that sexual harassment is someone else’s problem.

It will be a painful realisation, but Labour must accept that it has a toxic culture and does not look after its young members.

The first step in addressing that is to fire Haworth, the man who badly failed all the complainants.

This time, the party must protect them – and not turn away.

The Spinoff Editorial: Labour has failed vulnerable young members for a second time. There must be consequences

n the aftermath of revelations about an alleged sexual assault at a 2018 Labour youth summer camp, party leader Jacinda Ardern fronted the media to express her dismay. Both at what had happened, and how her party had responded to it.

“We failed the young people who told us they had been hurt – this failure left them feeling abandoned and I am deeply sorry for that,” she said.

Ardern and the party president Nigel Haworth vowed that such an experience and outcome was unacceptable, and when an inquiry was launched, announced that its scope would not simply be limited to the events at the camp, but open to other historical allegations, too.

Watching all this unfold was a young Labour member who had her own harrowing experience within Labour. Hearing their words, she found it within herself to approach the lawyer appointed to lead the investigation. After hearing from the lawyer that the summer camp allegations were taking priority, she met with the party president and assistant general secretary, who formed a panel to investigate her claims.

As The Spinoff’s reporting showed this morning, some of the experiences which motivated the young Labour members to get in touch were incredibly harrowing. The allegations they carried with them were about a single party member, and ranged from bullying to abuse of power to assault to sexual assault.

The very fact of engaging with the party was intimidating. The man they were speaking out about was an influential staffer, well-connected within the party and its parliamentary wing. The fact that it was the same party investigating made them worried about the security of their information, and unsure about where loyalties lay. Yet they fronted up on a Saturday in March, and told their stories to a panel comprised of three members of Labour’s governing council.

That panel appears to have been more intent on containing the story for political reasons, with victims claiming they have been treated badly.

As reported on Sunday by Stuff, the alleged perpetrator remains in his role. And Haworth, who has now presided over two acknowledged failures, remains in his.

He, and his party, need to quickly decide whether that is a state of affairs which should continue. At the very least they need to pledge immediately and unequivocally that all future inquiries will be run by qualified individuals independent of the party.

It has been a long and torturous process. A process which began when a young woman decided to come forward after hearing the most senior individuals in the party encourage her to do so. At the time the party acknowledged having “failed” its young people. Unconscionably, another group of young people are today living with that same sensation – of a party which they loved having badly let them down.

Jacinda Ardern had to front up at her weekly media conference yesterday.

The Spinoff:  ‘Incredibly frustrated, deeply disappointed’: Ardern speaks on Labour inquiry

The prime minister and leader of the Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern, has this afternoon responded to questions relating to allegations of sexual assault by a Labour staffer, and the controversial process surrounding an inquiry into his behaviour. She was “incredibly frustrated and deeply disappointed” by the way it had been handled, she said.

“I want to make it very clear that I am deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated by the process that has been undertaken by the Labour Party, but also obviously by the nature of the allegations,” she said, speaking to reporters at her weekly post-cabinet press conference.

“I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual in nature. That is obviously directly counter to what is now being reported.”

Ardern said she had “sought assurances that they were not [sexual in nature] in the very beginning. I have obvious since seen and heard questions in the media raised as to whether or not that was accurate.”

Perhaps party management and the inquiry panel have tried to shield and distance Ardern from the issues, but their bungling has put Ardern in a very difficult position.

Ardern said she had attended a meeting of the New Zealand Council, the governing body of the Labour Party, on August 10, after the story was broken by Newshub. She had “very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour by members of the Labour Party, but particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault, and that would be their view, too”, she said.

Following that meeting, Maria Dew, QC, was appointed to undertake a review of the original inquiry.

The prime minister would not say whether the individual at the centre of the inquiry had been stood down from his role in the Labour Party, but that “the person referenced in the article has not been on the precinct … for roughly five weeks now and will not be on the precinct at least for the duration of the inquiry that’s being undertaken by a QC appointed by the Labour Party.”

She said she does not believe the alleged is still attending party meetings and events.

Ardern should know exactly what the situation is with the staffer accused of multiple assaults. David Farrar claims that as party leader Ardern has the power to terminate the employment of the staffer: The clause Jacinda refuses to use

The staffer should at least be suspended pending the outcome of the latest inquiry. That is standard practice in other workplaces.

When asked if she retained confidence in the president of the Labour Party, Nigel Haworth, Ardern said: “I absolutely believe that the president wants to do the right thing by those involved and by the party. But I have had competing reports now on the nature of the allegations and the complaint process. It was a month ago that I expressed complete dissatisfaction with the way it had been handled by the Labour Party. And I’m now going to await the findings of the QC’s report.”

Awaiting the findings will allow this to fester further, but Ardern seems to want to continue with this hands off approach. She should at the very least be talking sternly with Haworth, now.

Ardern said the QC would report directly to her, rather than the NZ Council.

“I need absolute clarity. I have not received it through the competing reports to date … I do need a third party, a reliable, trusted individual to give me clarity and I will act on the findings decisively.”

That’s what she and the party should have demanded over the summer camp assaults issue, and when the Parliamentary staffer story broke.

She added: “I will be seeking assurance that the party will provide all the information that it was provided during the original investigation to the QC.”

She should be demanding that for herself right now.

Newsroom: Labour fails to learn from its mistakes

A little over a year ago, Labour Party president Nigel Haworth promised the party he had presided over since 2015 would change.

In the wake of claims that four young supporters were sexually assaultedduring one of the party’s summer camps, Haworth announced Labour had accepted all the recommendations of a review into the events.

Among them was a commitment to review or develop policies for sexual harassment and assault, bullying and the party’s code of conduct, as well as introducing “a new open complaints process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with the appropriate degree of specialist advice”.

Now, claims about Labour’s approach to allegations made against one of its employees suggests the party has not changed as much as it should have – but its president may have to.

…it is Haworth who is the constant in both cases, and Haworth who left Ardern expressing her concern and frustration about the Labour Party’s process.

The Prime Minister would not directly state that he had misled her, but her comment when asked if she had confidence in him that he had “articulated to me that he only wants to ensure he has done the right thing” smacked of damnation with faint praise.

Speaking after the complainants’ concerns came to light, Ardern said the investigation had been “a test of whether or not we’ve now learnt from” the summer camp scandal.

It is a test the party appears to be failing – and Haworth may be the one who has to pay the price.

I think that after two major failures Haworth should step down, and if not he should be stood down.

But there is a bigger political price that may be paid.

This is seriously threatening Brand Jacinda. She has talked strongly about new standards of decency in politics, but has failed to match her own rhetoric with her distancing from these serious issues. I think it is quite possible this will impact on Labour’s re-election chances significantly.

But that’s just a political consequence.

The worst aspect of this is the victims who continue to be very poorly protected and listened to by the party they had thought was better than all of this.


Update: It looks like the problem for labour is growing, with more people and claims coming out today.

Another person (male) has gone to media, corroborating what others have claimed, and claiming the accused man took a swing at him when he confronted him over his treatment of women, and claims a separate physical assault.

Labour assault investigation retraumatised victims – witness

A man who says he was assaulted by a Labour Party staffer would like to meet with Jacinda Ardern to discuss the party’s handling of claims of sexual abuse and assault.

The Prime Minister has refused…

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018712678/labour-assault-investigation-retraumatised-victims-witness

This is a problem that doesn’t look like going away for Ardern and Labour. Waiting weeks for the outcome of the QC inquiry to be completed may be too little, too late to avert or stem irreparable damage.

RNZ also gave credence to the open letter.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018712686/ardern-urged-by-labour-members-to-act-on-assault-complaints

As did One News.

It comes after an open letter sent by some of the alleged victims of a Labour Party staffer asked for the Prime Minister to “do the right thing”.

Also:

A complaint has been made to Parliamentary Service against the person at the centre of the Labour Party staffer allegations.

It was made by a person who does not work at Parliament, meaning Parliamentary Service cannot act on it.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/complaint-made-parliamentary-service-against-labour-staffer

This may or may not be a different complainant again but the claims are a little different to what was said on RNZ.

Former Labour party volunteer says he raised allegations with party president Nigel Haworth

But one of the 12 complainants told Stuff he directly raised the matter with the investigating panel in March this year.

He has provided Stuff with an email he sent to Haworth in May which refers directly to “this investigation …which involved elements of predatory behaviour, sexual violence and physical violence.”

And the man says he spoke about it in a two-hour meeting with Haworth in early July.

Haworth has been approached for comment but has not replied.

“I definitely had those conversations with him and there is an email proving it,” the complainant told Stuff.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/115693354/former-labour-party-volunteer-says-he-raised-allegations-with-party-president-nigel-haworth

Cabinet considering extending employer Kiwisaver beyond the age of 65

NZ First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says that Cabinet is considering extending the age when employers have to contribute to employees’ Kiwisaver. The age employers are required by law to contribute is currently 65.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that no decisions have been made.

And Seniors Minister Tracey Martin says “we need older people to stay in paid work”.

RNZ: Peters and Ardern send mixed messages over KiwiSaver changes

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Minister for Seniors, Tracey Martin, were at a Grey Power conference yesterday to announce an injection of more than $8 million to revamp the SuperGold card website, a new app and in funding digital literacy training for seniors.

During the announcement Ms Martin stressed the importance of maintaining a workforce over the age of 65.

“We are going to increasingly need older people to stay in paid work if they want to. We can not have 1.2 million seniors dropping out of the workforce,” she said.

At the conference, Horowhenua Grey Power president Terry Hemmingsen, who was called in to work after he had retired, asked why his employer – the government – had scrapped its contributions to his fund.

“The day you turn 65, that 2 percent employer contribution stops. With government agencies, so being in education, I could keep paying in myself, and did. But I lost the 2 percent. Now that’s discriminatory on the basis of age, wouldn’t you think?”

On that basis you could also say that paying people National Superannuation from age 65 is discriminatory on the basis of age.

But Hemmingsen has a point. People employed with negotiable wage rates can factor in things like the the employer contribution. The KiwiSaver contribution is part of an overall remuneration package, and once that ceases at 65 theoretically at least pay rates can be renegotiated.

But people employed by the Government with industry wide rates of pay, like teachers, may not be able to do that.

Perhaps a solution is for public servant pay rates to be adjusted once someone turns 65.

NZ Herald: Deputy PM Winston Peters says Cabinet is looking into changes to NZ Super eligibility

He said that Cabinet is considering changing the KiwiSaver rules so people over 65 were able to have their contributions matched by their employer.

speaking at the Grey Power annual meeting today, Peters hinted that changes were on the way in this area.

“Something like 70,000–80,000 people have come into our country … and whether they pay tax or not, have acquired full superannuation just like some of you who have worked 45 years,” he told those gathered.

“The issue of being able to arrive in our country and get full super after just 10 years is being addressed as I speak.”

Speaking to media after the speech, he said the Government was looking into increasing the amount of time someone has to live in New Zealand before being eligible for the scheme.

Asked if the Government’s position on the issue would be unveiled before the 2020 election, he said: “Very much so, yes”.

At the moment, if someone over 65 is still working their employer is not obligated to match their contribution.

Peters said this was “not right”.

“And the Government and Cabinet are looking at that matter as we speak – trying to see why that would be fair and, more broadly, why would we not keep on encouraging older people to keep on saving?

“It’s a serious question, we’re looking at that right now.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was less enthusiastic, but also non-committal:

“New Zealand First has long held a policy in this area and it’s absolutely within any party leader’s rights to reiterate that,” she said at a post-Cabinet press conference today.

“But I note that the Deputy Prime Minister also acknowledged that no decisions have been made.”

“When we make any decision related to retirement or savings, they will be announced – I’m not going to speculate on any other policy work that is being done, or has been done”.

I am concerned that Cabinet could be discussing this possibility and could make a decision according to Peters without proper public discussion and debate.

There is no reference to KiwiSaver in the Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement.

Government under-delivery continues with ‘dismal’ social welfare tweaks

The Government year of under-delivery continued last week with an announcement of social welfare reforms tweaks being buried on Friday afternoon when it would have been anticipated that most news coverage would have been of Pike River mine re-entry – which also didn’t deliver.

Green co-leader Marama Davidson sounds deflated and resigned to under-delivery this term at least.

Yes I affirmed that these first steps and changes have come too late for too many.

I know change is long overdue, and people deserve support now. Can guarantee I’m committed to that change and the hard work it requires. It’s right people demand we just sort this out asap.

Sue Bradford:

“The government’s response to the findings of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) is dismal.”

A Welfare Expert Advisory Group was set up with an expectation it would report back with transformative reforms – which it did, with 42 recommendations. But the Government announcement on Friday indicated that only one of these would be implemented straight away, and another two would have to wait another year. And these are really only relatively minor tweaks.

In the 2017 election campaign the Green Party nearly died in a ditch when  co-leader Metiria Turei launched a major promotion for social welfare reform by revealing her experiences with claiming more benefits than she was eligible for. Support for the Green Party slumped.

Turei resigned and the Greens survived the election, but their number of MPs dropped from 14 to 8, and their share of the vote dropped from10.7% to 6.3%. They managed to negotiate their way into Government with Labour, but outside of Cabinet, and with what have turned out to be vague commitments. On social welfare the Confidence & Supply Agreement states:

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

In April 2018 Marama Davidson was appointed as the new female co-leader of the Greens – Marama Davidson wins Green Party co-leadership race

She spoke about winning back voters who the Green Party had lost to Labour in the 2017 election – but also reaching out to new voters from her own background in poorer communities.

“In order to be a genuine and relevant voice for modern Aotearoa, we need to reflect its diverse reality. We need more members from all backgrounds and communities,” Davidson said.

“I know what it is to struggle to find a home to rent. I know what it is to not have enough food for your tamariki. And I know that no parent should have to go through that.”

“The community I come from is at the coalface of the most pressing issues we face as a society: rising poverty and inequality, the housing and homelessness crisis, polluted rivers and poor health and education outcomes.”

She said a massive economic shift was needed to a system that put the wellbeing of people and the environment above simple GDP growth.

Co-leader James Shaw said Davidson’s campaign had “lit a wildfire through the party.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called Davidson to congratulate her.

“The Green Party is a valued confidence and supply partner of this Government and I look forward to working with Marama to build a stronger, fairer and more inclusive country,” Ardern said.

“I am sure our work will be strengthened with the addition of Marama Davidson helping to leading this important work alongside me, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, and Green Co-leader James Shaw.”

It looks like Davidson has not strengthened much if anything on social welfare reform.

The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) was established in May 2018, with twelve ‘experts’ appointed. The Terms of Reference stated:

1. …It is timely at this critical juncture to evaluate whether our social welfare system remains fit for purpose in contemporary New Zealand.

2. The Government’s vision is for a welfare system that ensures people have an adequate income and standard of living, are treated with and can live in dignity and are able to participate meaningfully in their communities.

Objective

5. The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (the WEAG) is being established to provide advice to the Government on options that could best give effect to its vision for the future direction of the social welfare system.

They delivered their Report to the Minister for Social Development on 26 February 2019.

On Friday afternoon (3 May 2019) the Government announced that “its vision for the future direction of the social welfare system” would amount to a few minor tweaks.

Marama Davidson’s initial response promoted just one of the tweaks:

The Confidence and Supply Agreement between the and commits to removing excessive sanctions. This starts with today’s announcement.

In response to comments on Twitter she acknowledged the failure to deliver urgent reform.

Davidson:

I know change is long overdue, and people deserve support now. Can guarantee I’m committed to that change and the hard work it requires. It’s right people demand we just sort this out asap.

She sounds disappointed and deflated.

Sue Bradford (The Spinoff): No hope for progressive welfare reform from this government

The government’s response to the findings of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) is dismal.

It appears the only substantive welfare reform we can expect during this parliamentary term is the removal of the financial sanction against sole parents who can’t or won’t name their child’s father. That’s great, but that’s it.

Both Labour and the Greens went into the 2017 election promising the elimination of this sanction. It could have been axed as soon as they took power. Instead, it is now clear that the government has deliberately delayed action until the WEAG reported back, just so they could point to at least one reform of substance after the expenditure of $2 million on the working group.

The sole parent sanction won’t be removed until April next year, and the Government has confirmed there will be no backdating.

…I am so angry that this government has not had the courage of any convictions in responding to the WEAG’s heartfelt mahi.

We are seeing the weakest possible response to the WEAG’s sterling efforts. There is no commitment to any significant change during this parliamentary term. To talk about transforming welfare in three, five or 10 years as Sepuloni does is simply meaningless.

Any beneficiary expecting a sudden onset of empathy from this government can forget about that, apart from those who will directly benefit from the ending of the naming-father sanction.

None of the existing lot are going to do anything serious. It would require a kind of courage and commitment not in evidence when it comes to standing up for the rights and wellbeing of beneficiaries. The Greens have a legacy of fine welfare policies and Marama Davidson and others do seriously support the kind of recommendations made by the WEAG. However,  this is not backed up by the practice of the Greens in this term of Parliament, near-silenced in their role as support party, and with a tendency to skitter away from hard battles under any kind of pressure.

That’s scathing of the Government, but especially scathing of Bradford’s own Green Party (she may have ditched them now but was an MP and stood for leadership in the past).

If we’re ever going to hope for transformative and progressive welfare reform, it is now clear it will need to be championed by a party that is not yet in Parliament.

There is no sign of such a party, so it not just a dismal under-delivery, the outlook for social welfare reform looks dismal.

 

 

 

Leaked Cabinet paper on cannabis referendum ‘out of date’

A Cabinet Paper detailing cannabis law reform referendum options has been leaked to the National Party (who insist on misnaming the drug) just before the issue will be considered by Cabinet, but Green MP Chloe Swarbrick says that it is out of date.

National: Cabinet Paper shows NZ not ready for (cannabis) referendum

A Cabinet Paper leaked to National which will be considered by the Government tomorrow shows New Zealand will head into the recreational marijuana referendum with many unanswered questions, National’s Drug Reform spokesperson Paula Bennett says.

“Cabinet will tomorrow consider four different options for the referendum but no matter which option it choses, there are huge holes.

“The Cabinet Paper is clear that smoking marijuana when you’re under the age of 25 is detrimental for development of the brain, and yet it recommends that the legal age should be 20. The legal age seems to have been plucked out of thin air.

“The paper acknowledges that regular marijuana use increases the risk of developing depression, psychosis and schizophrenia and is especially harmful to those under 25-years-old. It also acknowledges that there is a one in six chance of young people becoming dependent. This would result in further demand for mental health services.

“Only one of the options being considered will give New Zealanders some certainty about what they’re voting for – the other options will mean a huge lack of information.

“Every option takes us straight to legalisation instead of decriminalisation. Many other countries consider decriminalisation first before leaping straight to legalisation.

“National understands that as usual with this Government, the coalition has been unable to reach a consensus and the decision around which option they will choose has been holding up the process.

“The problem with that is there isn’t time for yet more coalition disagreements on an issue this important.”

The 2020 Cannabis Referendum proposals outline four options including;

  • A general question consistent with the undertaking in the Confidence and Supply agreement: “Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis?” This would not be accompanied by any legal framework or other policy decisions and it would be left to a subsequent Parliament to determine what to do in the event of a ‘yes’ vote.
  • A questions referring to a specific policy framework document setting out the basic principles of what legalisation for personal use of recreational cannabis in New Zealand would entail: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with [published policy document]?” A ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact law changes consistent with that policy document;
  • A question referring to draft legislation that outlines the regulatory model for cannabis: ‘Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis in accordance with [published draft legislation]?” Similar to option 2, a ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact the legislation.
  • A question referring to legislation already enacted but conditional on an affirmative vote on the referendum: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with the [Drug Reform] Act 20XX?” A ‘yes’ vote would trigger the legislation coming into effect.

A leak of a Cabinet paper is rare and serious, and national are playing it hard.

Paula Bennett has been invited a number of times to work together with Government parties on cannabis law reform, but National has chosen to try to spoil and disrupt the issue as much as possible, in this case aided by a leak.

It’s very disappointing if Cabinet are seriously considering any but the last of the above options.

It’s also disappointing to see National trying to make a mess of the issue. Paula Bennett has handled this appallingly, presumably with the approval of Simon Bridges.

Labour, NZ First and National are all at risk of letting the majority of New Zealanders who support cannabis law reform down by playing petty politics and possible trying to get out of fronting up properly on this issue.

If Labour yet again fails on a key policy due to not getting NZ First support, and if National mess things up by not working positively on this, then they will piss a lot of people off.

Andrew Little vague on timing and form of cannabis referendum

I am seeing increasing uneasiness about what form the recreational cannabis referendum might take, in particular whether the vote is on confirming legislation already decided by Parliament.

The commitment from the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement:

19. Increase funding for alcohol and drug addiction services and ensure drug use is treated as a health issue, and have a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at, or by, the 2020 general election.

That’s unfortunately quite vague, leaving the decision up to Labour and NZ First Ministers in Cabinet.

Yesterday on Newshub Nation:

Okay, let’s talk about the referendum on the personal use of cannabis. You confirm you’re taking a proposal to Cabinet next week?

No, look, we’re still going through a process with our coalition and confidence-and-supply partners. We will make announcements on the issue about that hopefully very soon.

So not happening next week?

Look, I’m not going to say exactly where we are in the process, but we have been in a process, negotiating this through. I think we’re at a pretty good point. Eventually, we’ll get to the point where Cabinet will make a decision, and once that happens, we’ll make announcements.

Could we have a timeline?

I would hope sooner rather than later. I would expect in the next few weeks as opposed to, you know, too much later than that.

And have you got all your coalition partners on board on this?

I’m very pleased with where things are at. In the end, what—

Is that a yes?

Well, in the end, what is most important is Cabinet gets to make a decision. Once Cabinet has made a decision, then we’re in a position to announce—

Have you decided the wording of the question?

Look, I don’t want to go into a whole lot of detail. This has been, obviously, the subject of discussion. it’s been very intense discussion; I think very constructive discussion. I’m pleased with where things are at. Cabinet will be poised to make a decision fairly soon, and once they do, then we’ll make those announcements.

Cabinet. NZ First. No Green MPs.

I think there is cause for concern.

Robertson ‘surprised’ by reaction to CGT capitulation – yeah, right

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson has belatedly tried to defend the decision of Cabinet to drop any plans for a Capital Gains Tax, and the decision of Jacinda Ardern to rule out trying to bring in a CGT at any time under her leadership.

A CGT had been a prominent Labour Party policy, and was the main focus of the Tax Working Group led by ex-Labour Finance Minister, Michael Cullen.

It has been justifiably been noted that Ardern and Robertson did little to promote or sell the CGT after the release of the Working Group recommendations.

NZ Herald: Finance Minister Grant Robertson leaps to defence of PM Jacinda Ardern over Capital Gains Tax ‘leadership’ claims

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he was surprised that the capital gains tax decision was getting such a strong reaction and he said claims that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had shown a lack of leadership over it was “ridiculous.”

“I’m not surprised that there are people who feel strongly about the importance of getting better balance back into the tax system.”

He understood they were disappointed, as he was.

“What I am a bit surprised about the extent to which people are defining the Government by this decision when I believe we have done a lot to be proud of in terms of making New Zealand a fairer and better place, including within the tax system by closing GST loopholes, extending the brightline test and ring-fencing of rental income losses.

Ardern and Labour have been blasted by people on the left who had been sold the idea that a CGT was a significant policy that would help create ‘a fairer and better place’.

“I feel that we have done a lot that is progressive and important, so I am a little bit surprised by that reaction,” Robertson told the Herald.

Robertson shouldn’t be surprised (and I doubt that he is surprised much if at all).

“It would have represented a shift at the core of our tax system so I understand why people see it as significant but there are other ways of achieving fairness and that is what we are focused on.”

Are they focussed on standing up to or sidelining Winston Peters?  If they want to deliver the sort of ‘fairness’ and transformation that Ardern has sold the political left then they should be dealing with their biggest problem.

“In the end, we cannot beat the maths of the Government and that’s the reality of where we are.

Robertson and Ardern and Labour were there as soon as they formed a coalition government with NZ First in 2017. But they have strung everyone along with their Tax Working Group for fifteen months. They can’t have only just worked out the maths of their Government.

“The Prime Minister has shown immense leadership over recent months on a number of topics. It’s just on this particular issue, the Coalition couldn’t find consensus.”

It’s not just on this particular issue, but it is a significant failure for Labour.

Robertson said the Labour Party’s New Zealand Council were consulted about taking the policy off the table.

“I’m sure many of the New Zealand Council were disappointed in the same way I was that we couldn’t get it over the line this time,” said Robertson. “But they were certainly consulted and were part of this decision.”

A part of the decision? It’s hard to see this involving any more than being told that Winston said NO. Perhaps the Labour Council was a part of Ardern’s decision to rule out any CGT under her leadership in the future – but what about the Labour members who thought that CGT was a big thing?

“There will be plenty of ideas inside the party around how we can create the fairest possible tax system. It’s just it won’t include a capital gains tax.”

“The fairest possible tax system”, minus whatever NZ First don’t agree with. But more than that, minus any possible future CGT, with a good chance NZ First won’t be around to stop it.

“I know most members of the Labour Party understand the importance of being able to be in Government and make change and every now and then there will be something we don’t do that we would like to do but we are achieving a lot alongside that.”

What a lot of unconvincing waffle.

Robertson was largely silent when the CGT needed to be promoted. This is far too late and too unconvincing.  This just reinforces the suggestion that he and Ardern had given up on getting a CGT long ago, probably as soon as they signed the coalition agreement with NZ First.

I’ll ask again whether this was a done deal in the coalition document that Labour have refused to make public.

The left lambasts Labour’s CGT capitulation

Labour didn’t just limit what the Tax Working group could include in any Capital Gains Tax, they didn’t just water down the subsequent TWG recommendations, they didn’t just drop any changes to capital gains taxing, Jacinda Ardern ruled out doing any CGT while she remains leader of the Government.

It wasn’t just a capitulation to Winston Peters. Ardern back down from a policy she said she supported. She ruled out going to the next election with any sort of CGT proposal as she had previously promised, presuming she is still leader then.

And the left, who wanted so much to have a ‘fairer’ tax system, and who wanted the Government to live up to it’s own labelling as transformative, are pissed off.

From Political Roundup: Progressives despair over the CGT decision

Danyl Mclauchlan argues that the CGT programme was one of four key policies agendas for this Government – the others being KiwiBuild, the Carbon Zero Act, and the Wellbeing Budget – and there are clear problems now in delivering them – see his column, Four months in, Labour’s ‘year of delivery’ is a disaster.

He despairs that Labour axed the tax after first initiating “one of the most bafflingly disastrous public policy debates imaginable, making John Key’s flag-change campaign look like the Normandy landings”.

He says any strategic wins from ditching the tax, will come “at a cost of one of Labour’s most important, long-term policies, and it was their failure to control their coalition partner or even attempt to make the argument for taxation reform that forced them to pay such a bitterly high price.”

Mclauchlan argues that Ardern could have won the debate and got a mandate for the changes, but simply didn’t bother.

That’s how it appears. She appeared to do nothing to fight for the CGT she proposed. It also appears she left James Shaw and the Greens out in the cold. Shaw has tried to paper over the cracks but sounds unconvincing (see James Shaw on “do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?”)

No Right Turn…

…is now calling for a leftwing boycott of the Labour Party: “If you want change, don’t vote Labour, don’t donate to Labour, don’t volunteer for Labour. Give your vote, your money, your time and effort to another party, any other party that promises change, than the one who betrayed you. Because if you don’t, Labour will continue to treat you like a fool, and continue to promise change while delivering none” – see: Don’t get fooled again.

They also argue the decision means the Government won’t have the money to afford many of their future policy goals: “Effective policy costs money, and this government has just robbed itself of that vital tool. Remember this next time they plead “poverty” as an excuse for not doing something: they chose to be poor. They chose to have a government which could not afford things. They chose to not be able to do the things they promised” – see: The cost of cowardice.

Inequality researcher Max Rashbrooke…

…argues that many other Government priorities will now be hamstrung by the lack of future revenue: “building more state homes, eliminating introduced predators, and repairing mental health services, among others – also require significant funds, again well above what will be generated under existing tax settings” – see: Capital gains tax shutdown threatens govt’s other plans.

In particular, “Consider the Prime Minister’s pledge to halve child poverty within a decade, possibly the political priority closest to her heart. It is very difficult to see how that can be achieved without the $3.4 billion a year that the capital gains tax was, according to the most recent estimate, going to raise.”

Some loyal Labourites had tried to put some spin on the backdown, like at The Standard (currently down so can’t link).

And former Labour Party President Mike Williams…

…suggests that although there are “elements of, particularly the unions and the extreme left of the Labour Party, which would be annoyed”, he “did not think the wider Labour Party base would be too worried about the CGT rejection”.

But Newshub’s Anna Bracewell-Worrall reports that…

…”Labour is facing a massive backlash from its base for ditching any hope of a capital gains tax (CGT) – even Young Labour and the ever-loyal unions are fuming” – see: Young Labour furious at capital gains tax backdown, leak reveals.

“Newshub’s been leaked a discussion from a secret Young Labour Facebook group revealing they’re frustrated with the decision. The Labour Party faithful say they’re ‘mighty disappointed’ and ‘exponentially angry at New Zealand First’s role’, and complaining of ‘unfulfilled promises’.”

And media are asking questions too.

Thomas Coughlan asked the very pointed question of Ardern: “Are you worried you now lead the party of capital, rather than labour?” And now he’s followed this up with an article suggesting that rather than Ardern and her Government implementing transformation, it’s actually them who are transforming – into a cautious and weak government not willing to make the hard and necessary decisions – see: Capital gains tax: Let’s not do this.

The Dominion Post asked if the decision came out of “cowardice or pragmatism”, but suggested the two are indistinguishable anyway. The editorial suggested more debate and leadership had been required for the CGT proposals to get off the ground: “Labour voters were evenly split on the pros and cons of a capital gains tax. It is a situation where brave political leadership and persuasion were required but for whatever reasons, a deep and thorough debate about fair and unfair tax failed to eventuate” – see: Capital gains tax: Political capital but for what gain?.

The newspaper says that Ardern had a “a failure of nerve”, and laments that an opportunity has been missed: “If there was ever a moment when significant change to the tax system could have happened, as the fairness and transformation her Government promised, that moment was now.” And there’s the question of “if the Tax Working Group was merely an expensive waste of time with a predetermined outcome.”

Likewise, according to the New Zealand Herald, “The decision has the hallmarks of pragmatism rather than strong leadership”, leaving “little evidence so far that Ardern will make tough but unpopular decisions to deliver on her convictions” – see: Capital Gains Tax surprise raises doubts on coalition.

It is going to be a challenge for Ardern and Labour to recover from this. They may survive in Government, but they have lost a lot of credibility from the left.

Ardern’s ‘pragmatic realism’ doesn’t sit well with political activists and idealists who thought that with Labour and Greens in  Government there would be substantial changes.

NZ First on the Capital Gains Tax capitulation

NZ First have prevented the Government from proceeding with any changes to capital gains taxes, despite a CGT being a core policy of Labour, backed by Jacinda Ardern, and despite it being something Greens have wanted for a long time (and James Shaw stated earlier this year that the Government didn’t deserve to be elected if they didn’t introduce a CGT).

New Zealand First Leader media release:

Tax Working Group Report

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters has welcomed Cabinet’s decision not to implement an extension of capital gains taxation, following the Prime Minister’s statement in response to the Tax Working Group Report.

“This decision provides certainty to taxpayers and businesses. We in New Zealand First wanted first and foremost for New Zealanders to have time to discuss and debate the contents of the report,” stated Mr Peters.

“During that time we have listened very carefully to the public.

“There is already an effective capital gains tax through the Bright Line test brought in by the last National Government and New Zealand First’s view is that there is neither a compelling rationale nor mandate to institute a comprehensive capital gains tax regime,” said Mr Peters.

“We also welcome the announcement that the coalition government will be urgently exploring options with the Inland Revenue Commissioner, in concert with central and local government, for taxing vacant land held by land bankers and reviewing the current rules for taxing land speculators. Tightening these rules was a priority for New Zealand First.

“Current tax policy, rigorously enforced by an Inland Revenue Department properly resourced will by itself 1) improve the administration of existing tax policy, and 2) target those multi-nationals not paying their fair share of tax,” Mr Peters said.

There was nothing about a CGT in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement. This was the only reference to tax:

  • Increase penalties for corporate fraud and tax evasion.

Peters via Twitter yesterday:

Despite the claimed hearing and listening, Peters has done what he has said he would do for a long time.

During the 2017 election campaign (Politik): Peters ready to throw spanner in Labour’s capital gains tax plans

Peters says he is not ready to support any moves labour might want to make to extend capital gains taxes.

Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson has arrived at a neat compromise. Labour would set up a Taxation review once it got into Government.

Phil Twyford (on The Nation): “In the first three years we’re going to do a taax working group that will redesign the entire tax system”.

Robertson (on NZ Q&A): “We will have a working group that will have a look at getting a better balance into our tax system between how we tax assets and how we tax income”.

Peters though is adamant.

“I am not for an extension of the capital gains tax” he told POLITIK.

Peters is critical of the review and Labour’s plan to provide details on it’s water levy policy after the election.

“How many times can you get away with this sort of nonsense” he said.

So why did Labour insist on going ahead with the Tax Working Group that had an aim of recommending a capital gains tax?

It seems to have been a wasted exercise, unless the intention was to provide Peters with an opportunity to say NO CAPITAL GAINS TAX.

Reid Research party support poll

A Business New Zealand Reid Research poll on party support slipped under the radar this week. It was taken from 15-23 March, the day of and just after the Christchurch mosque attacks, so it should be treated with more caution than normal.

  • Labour 49.6%
  • National 41.3%
  • Green Party 3.9%
  • NZ First 2.3%

Labour are up from 47.5% in the RR February poll (which was up 4.5% from the previous poll). It isn’t surprising to see an (small) increase in support for Labour at the  time of a major adverse event. Jacinda Ardern’s adept handling of the attack aftermath has been rewarded in the poll.

National have hardly moved, down just 0.3% from the February poll, but had dipped 3.5% to a record low in the previous poll. They may struggle to hold even at that after Simon Bridge’s performance since.

Labour’s gain has been Green’s loss.

Greens have dropped from 5.1% to 3.9%, which must be a concern to them. James Shaw was largely unseen after the Christchurch killings, with Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman being more prominent, and they tend to be polarising – popular in part but also annoying many.

NZ first have slipped 0.5% to 2.3%, after dropping by the same amount in February. Winston Peters and NZ First fully backing the Arms Amendment Bill happened after the poll period so they could easily slip further. They have disappointed a lot of their 2017 supporters.

The Business NZ Reid Research poll of 1,000 voters was taken from March 15-23 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent. 750 were interviewed by phone and 250 online.

Source NZ Herald – Claire Trevett: Poll puts Labour support up after mosque attacks but tax is back in debate

 

Labour’s bob each way CGT petitions just double barrelled contact harvesting

With the ease of setting up ‘petitions’ they have become a farce, none more so that Labour’s latest bob each way effort, two petitions with opposite questions.

Yes, I support a Capital Gains Tax

The independent group of experts our Government asked to review New Zealand’s tax system has released their final report. The Tax Working Group (TWG) found that our tax system is simple and efficient – but in some places, it’s unfair.

The TWG has recommended the introduction of a Capital Income Tax – sometimes called a Capital Gains Tax.

If introduced, it would mean people who make money from selling assets like rental properties or businesses would have to pay tax on their profits.

Do you support a Capital Gains Tax?

Alternatively, if you don’t support a Capital Gains Tax – sign here instead.

No, I oppose a Capital Gains Tax

That doesn’t even make sense.

The independent group of experts our Government asked to review New Zealand’s tax system has released their final report. The Tax Working Group (TWG) found that our tax system is simple and efficient – but in some places, it’s unfair.

The TWG has recommended the introduction of a Capital Income Tax – sometimes called a Capital Gains Tax.

If introduced, it would mean people who make money from selling assets like rental properties or businesses would have to pay tax on their profits.

Do you support a Capital Gains Tax?

Alternatively, if you do support a Capital Gains Tax – sign here instead.

What’s the point of this farce? They are trying to harvest names, phone numbers and email addresses, with a poor opt out option in fine print:

This is what they hope you won’t notice:

That’s not being open and transparent. It’s an unfair  attempt to deceive people into signing up to a contact list.

Petitions are pretty much stuffed as a means of people power, political parties have trashed the concept (it’s not just Labour doing it, but this is the first double barrelled farce that I’ve seen.