Sroubek texts to Ardern released under OIA

Texts to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the decision to grant Kaerl Sroubek residency were requested under the Official Information Act.

RNZ:  Texts to prime minister about Sroubek released

A text message from social justice campaigner Richie Hardcore to the prime minister thanked her for granting Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek residency.

Jacinda Ardern’s office released the text message following pressure from the Opposition last year.

The text message was in response to Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway granting Sroubek residency.

The minister subsequently issued him a deportation notice after new information came to light.

Mr Hardcore’s text said he and his friends wanted to pass on their respects and praise for the residency decision and, while Sroubek had made a “bunch of really bad choices”, deep down he was a good guy.

Ms Ardern didn’t respond to the text, which was sent at the end of October, not long after Sroubek’s case hit the headlines and it was revealed Mr Lees-Galloway took less than an hour to approve his residency.

A second text message was also received by Ms Ardern on 9 November from convicted fraudster Alex Swney.

It said: “U r too polite to say it but I will – Bridges & the Nats r being bastards about this Sroubek saga. I want to assist with information I hve included in an email I hve copied u in on. If I can please advise [redacted] … Best – Alex.”

Swney spent time in prison with Sroubek.

A spokesperson for Ms Ardern…

…said the government was deporting Sroubek and “Ministers did not have all the critical information when making the first decision, but now that we have all the info he is being deported”.

“This correspondence proves the PM had no involvement in this case or any of the decisions made about it. Text messages to her were sent after the first decision. They were unsolicited and not replied to.

“People write to the prime minister and offer their opinions about government decisions every day. She can’t control their opinions but has taken the step of changing the phone number she’s had for years, to limit unsolicited contact on her phone.”

Surprising it has taken over a year to switch to a more private phone number.

National Party immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse:

“Why was Sroubek’s main supporter texting her directly to pass on his ‘respect and praise’ over the decision to allow Sroubek to stay in New Zealand in spite of Sroubek’s criminal history and the fact he came here on a false passport?”

“Why was one of Sroubek’s fellow inmates – Alex Swney – texting and emailing the prime minister information on the case, which has only now been revealed in spite of months of questioning? And what was that information and what is her relationship with Mr Swney?

“The whole thing stinks. Karel Sroubek should never have been granted residency, the government should never have tried to keep it secret, and the prime minister should not be involved in any way in such a decision, especially ones which allowed a convicted criminal to remain in New Zealand.”

Ardern’s office:

There had never been an issue with releasing the messages, “but [we] wanted to get guidance from the ombudsman to make sure we don’t infringe on others’ rights to privacy, the spokesperson said.

“Given that advice we are happy to release them now.”

On Friday afternoon, a time favoured for releasing unfavourable information, texts have been released.  Ardern is heading to Europe, which will increase the impression that she is avoiding fronting up on this issue.

Matthew Hooton was one of those who requested that the texts be released.

 

 

Hooton: “the real corruption in the New Zealand media”

Matthew Hooton gets good coverage in media, but he is quite critical of the hand that feeds him publicity in ‘I’m completely squeaky clean’: an interview with Matthew Hooton (The Spinoff):

“I think the real corruption in the New Zealand media comes from so-called academics frankly and Labour Party operatives embedded in the media.

“If I look at the people in PR who commentate and the people who work for unions I don’t think they represent any threat to the integrity of the New Zealand media compared with people who are basically political activists posing as journalists.

“…in New Zealand – and it’s a worldwide problem – commentary has moved into reporting. It’s terrible. When I started doing political commentary 30 years ago the basic facts of what might have occurred were established by reporters and reported in quite a bland almost boring manner. And then there were the commentators.

“One of the big risks, one of the problems that’s occurred, and Fox News is the most notorious, is the merging of reporting and commentating. That’s a far greater issue than some PR person or union boss popping up and saying what they think.”

I think he could have a solid point here – especially as the media has control of which PR person or union boss pops up and what is published, but at times seem out of control with their own involvement in commentating and influencing politics rather than just reporting. At times the lines between journalism and activism seemed badly blurred.

“Corruption” was the word he chose in August last year to describe TV3 political editor Tova O’Brien’s reporting on the Simon Bridges expenses story – which, of course, ended up mutating into the Jami-Lee Ross saga. His remarks at the time seemed – how to put it? – a bit hysterical.

“Oh, it’s a phrase,” he breezed. “They enjoyed that and ran it on the news. It was good for their ratings.”

‘Good for their ratings’ is a major factor in the evolution of political media. Most functional politics is quite boring and un-newsworthy, so there tends to be an overemphasis on the sensational and over-sensationalised.

“It’s hyperbole. That was taken from a talkback context and they put it on the news, right? It’s all fine. But that’s the biggest risk in the New Zealand media I think – where does reporting stop and where does commentating begin?”

One change has been more prominence given to the reporter over the report – media (mainly television) try to make celebrities out of reporters.

Another change is the way news is presented to us. Newspapers (the print versions) still tend to have news sections and opinion sections so you have a good idea what you are getting in each part of the paper, but online (on their own sites these articles are arranged by popularity and clickbaitability.

Or by Twitter or Facebook, who may not care about differentiation between news and opinion.

There is probably nothing we can do about this. Some of us may be discerning and able to differentiate between news, commentary, opinion and activism, but to most people it is mostly a big mash up and they see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.

But this has diverted from a key claim made by Hooton – “the real corruption in the New Zealand media comes from so-called academics frankly and Labour Party operatives embedded in the media”.

However this angle was not explored in the interview. This deserves more attention.

It’s well known that many journalists get recruited in political PR departments – but ‘Labour Party operatives embedded in the media’, if true, is a serious accusation with no sign of evidence.

Journalism versus political hit jobs

There has been discussion and questions asked lately  about why some media (Newshub and RNZ in particular) have been publishing conversations that had been secretly recorded by Jami-Lee Ross. It has appeared at times as of they are aiding ongoing attacks on Simon Bridges and National on behalf of Ross and/or Cameron Slater and/or Simon Lusk. They have at least aided and abetted the attacks.

Some of the latest headlines on it from Newshub:

That ‘expert’ was an employment consultant, and the issue being covered had nothing to do with employment.

An indication of how agenda orientated these are is that this sort of article is being repeated at Whale Oil – and most other media are not covering it with anywhere near the same attack style.

The Newshub approach prompted an interesting discussion on Twitter:

Matthew Hooton: People complaining that is campaigning to get rid of Bridges don’t understand current media ethics. etc are doing . They think Bridges is too socially conservative so they think they need to protect NZ from him by getting rid of him

Tim Watkin: Matthew, I’m putting this into your ‘wind-up’ category. Because I assume you do actually know what advocacy journalism is… and know that’s NOT advocacy journalism.

Liam Hehir: Advocacy journalism is more like what John Campbell does – or did – right? What do you call it when you simply go out to wreck politicians and degrade public trust in the institutions of politics?

Time Watkin: Advocacy journalism explicitly advocates for a cause or argument. Sometimes for a group of people/victims. It takes a viewpoint & transparently says it’s not balanced. Saying Tova is not balanced is insulting & undeserved. I don’t like lazy insults.

Lawrence Hakiwai: I think what is saying is that there is a clear and obvious attempt by members of the media to unseat as leader of the National Party by using manufactured and imagined crises. The issues this Government faces are real and far more newsworthy.

Tim Watkin: Well if that is what he’s saying, then I think he’s very wrong. (And I’m sure he knows that’s not true). If any journalist in NZ set out to try to unseat a politician they would be fired. Anyone claiming that has never been in a NZ newsroom. Let’s value our independent media.

Matthew Hooton: Don’t make me laugh. Journalists of a certain kind constantly speak privately in terms of “we’re gonna get her/him” as you very well know. This is exactly what is happening in this case.

Russell Brown: On this one point, I agree with you. I hate hearing journalists brag about “scalps”, as if ending a political career is what they’re there for. But that’s quite different to your original allegation. It just happens to weakened leaders, because that’s safer and easier to do.

And I don’t even know that that’s what’s happening in this case. Maybe it’s more about a supply of newsworthy material for people who are under constant pressure to deliver news. That’s why some journalists used to hold their noses and deal with Slater.

Matthew Hooton: “used to”?

Liam Hehir: The nihilistic approach to covering political news here, with its emphasis on corroding trust in institutions & assuming the worst about everyone, will continue to have purchase since at any one time, half the audience just laps it up with little regard to how they felt earlier.

Matthew Hooton: It’s like the thing. A total colossal fuck up of course. But “gotcha” reporting didn’t start speculating on how it all happened (which would be of huge interest) but on whether he would resign (which is neither here nor there).

Russell Brown: To be fair, the gotcha was the key message of the Opposition party. National doesn’t *actually* think ILG has committed a resigning offence, but must be delighted that the more biddable commentators have bought into the idea.

Whether the sort of journalism being discussed is a result of pressure to produce headlines and clicks with a fast turnover of stories, or whether some journalists get sucked into the thrill of the political kill (there is probably some of both) this is a serious issue facing both journalism and politics in New Zealand.

One symptom is media making virtual demands that politicians resign over embellished stories that can look more like hit jobs than reporting.

Communism by stealth, or ‘Corporate-Capitalist Welfare by design’?

PartisanZ saved me the trouble of stating this topic:


Matthew Hooton: ‘Communism by stealth’ is here – NZHerald

“Infamously, Key then entrenched Working for Families as Prime Minister, and Ardern and Robertson have further locked in middle-class dependency with their December 2017 Families Package.

In fact in 2004, the left-wing critique of Working for Families was stronger than Key’s, that it would operate as a subsidy of low-paying employers.

That is, using Key’s original numbers, if there was a job to do worth $60,000 a year, an employer could hire someone with two kids, pay them just $38,000 a year, and they’d end up with almost the same pay in the hand.”

It’s an interesting and convoluted argument, demonstrating, IMHO, that we are no longer involved in a Left-vs-Right contest but merely exist on a neoliberalism continuum where the challenge is how to make the failed economic paradigm ‘appear’ to be working …

It’s not really about an actual economic paradigm. It’s about the ‘semblance’ of an economic paradigm. About trying to prove the mirage is the reality. I believe we need to find a coherent, comprehensible name for this phenomenon because it affects us all, whether we want a UBI or vehemently oppose it.

‘Simuliberalism’* perhaps? The similitude or simulation of neoliberalism?

“And don’t expect National to be able to do anything about it. With the financial status of so many working families now as locked in to welfare as any other beneficiary, abolishing Working for Families is becoming ever-more politically impossible.

It has transferred the primary economic relationship that determines family income from being that with the employer to that with the state. It is indeed communism by stealth. Clark and Cullen knew exactly what they doing when they set it up.”

Whatever it is, it certainly IS NOT communism … since the means of production aren’t owned by the State on behalf of its citizens … they remain largely in private hands pushing wealth upwards towards the very few … and this means it CANNOT BE communism by stealth.

Corporate-Capitalist Welfare by design more likely … Simuliberalism?

 

Nash withdraws from fund raiser, Hooton goes ahead anyway

This is just weird – Labour Minister Stuart Nash had organised a $1,000 a pop fund raiser for today – see Another Labour big money fundraiser – but withdrew because ‘friend’ and joint fund raiser Matthew Hooton criticised Labour this week. However Hooton went ahead anyway.

NZH: Labour MP Stuart Nash pulls out of his own fundraiser citing attacks on Labour by friend and right-wing lobbyist Matthew Hooton

Labour MP Stuart Nash pulled the pin on his own fundraiser at the Northern Club today, saying it would be inappropriate to attend because of the involvement of right-wing lobbyist Matthew Hooton.

Hooton is an old friend of Nash’s and had been involved in organising the fundraiser of about 20 of Nash’s friends since 2014.

Nash’s decision came after the Herald learned the $1000-a-head lunch was also a fundraiser for Hooton.

Nash said his decision to pull out was because Hooton had criticised Labour and his fellow Labour Minister David Parker in recent days over the ban on foreign buyers in New Zealand – criticism Parker has said was unwarranted.

“In light of Matthew’s attacks on the Government, in particular David Parker, I’ve decided it is no longer appropriate to attend the fundraiser with Matthew so I have pulled out.”

About 20 people, a mix of Hooton’s clients and old friends and acquaintances of Nash, were due to attend the lunch at the Northern Club today.

The event went ahead without him and Nash said he had offered refunds, minus the cost of the lunch, to all those who turned up but would keep the “donations” of those who did not want a refund.

Nash has been connected to right wing political operators before.

Political circles are small in New Zealand, and fund raising circles seem even smaller.

The Herald had learned some of those attending were to contribute their $1000 towards Hooton’s legal costs in a case taken by former National minister Steven Joyce rather than to Nash.

A fund raiser for costs to cover legal actions taken against him buy an ex National MP.

Why Nash associated himself with that in the first place is, ah, curious.

No cost benefit analysis of oil and gas policy

Matthew Hooton is suggesting that James Shaw has done no Cost benefit Analysis of the Government’s oil and gas policy.

The response from James Shaw to an Official Information Act request:


Dear Matthew

I write regarding your Official Information Act request of 15 April 2018 for

all advice to you or other ministers from Treasury, MBIE, MfE or other relevant departments on the effect on New Zealand and global CO2 and CO2 equivalent emissions of the new oil and gas policy announced by the Government last week. This includes short-term, medium-term and long-term effects.

I have been advised verbally by MfE that not exploring for more oil and gas would prevent emissions from oil and gas rising any further than they would anyway if all known reserves of oil and gas are burnt. I cannot speak for other ministers.


It took over three weeks to effectively say ‘none’. What Shaw has responded with is vague verbal waffle.

More important is what Shaw doesn’t say – this indicates he received no advice on the short term, medium term or long term effects of the oil and gas policy announced by the Government last month.

This is what Shaw said after the oil and gas policy announcement:

The Green Party is heralding today’s announcement ending new fossil fuel exploration in New Zealand’s oceans as a massive step towards a stable climate and to protecting our marine life and beaches.

“The Green Party and thousands of New Zealanders have been working for decades towards this day and this decision – that fossil fuels are not our future,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“Ending deep sea oil and gas exploration has long been a key goal of the Green Party and today, in Government, we’ve delivered on it.

“This is truly the nuclear free moment of our generation, and the beginning of a new and exciting future for Aotearoa New Zealand,” said Mr Shaw.

The Green Party have been working for decades towards this, however Shaw effectively admits he has received no advice from any Government department on the effect on New Zealand of the policy.

 

Hooton apologises to Steven Joyce

There were claims that retiring MP Steven Joyce threatened to take Matthew Hooton to court for defamation over Hooton’s final column in NBR in early March. It appears that Joyce may have progressed such a threat after Hooton issued a public apology to Joyce today.

On Facebook:

APOLOGY TO HON. STEVEN JOYCE

On 2 March 2018 a column I wrote was published in the print edition of the NBR and on the NBR’s website. It was titled: “Joyce sacking first test of Bridges’ leadership”.

This article could reasonably be understood to suggest that the Hon. Steven Joyce had engaged in unethical, dishonest and/or corrupt behaviour during his tenure as a Minister in the previous National Government.

Nothing in the column was intended to convey such suggestions, which would be untrue. I apologise to Mr Joyce for any harm caused as a consequence.

END

Also on Kiwiblog “Matthew Hooton has asked Kiwiblog to publish this”: Matthew Hooton apology to Hon Steven Joyce

I don’t know why it was required there, it could have been due to comments at the time, as I don’t recall Farrar posting anything critical of Joyce. He did post Joyce resigns

This is a big blow for National. Steven wasn’t just a top performer in the House, but had been an integral part of National’s strategy and campaign team for well over a decade. They will miss him.

There has been no post about this on Whale Oil yet, but that’s not unusual, it has become common for little reaction for stories of interest emerging during the day until the following morning.

It will be interesting to see whether a couple of posts at Whale Oil stay as they are – Slater may have tidied things up, or he may be a bit edgy about the possibility of more legal challenges.

An interesting reaction:

There has also been quite varied reactions to Scott on Twitter.

Joyce threatens NBR and Hooton

Another MP has threatened media and a political commentator with legal action, this time over critical claims in an NBR column by Matthew Hooton

Newshub: Steven Joyce threatens Matthew Hooton and NBR with legal action – reports

National’s finance spokesperson Steven Joyce is threatening the National Business Review (NBR) and Matthew Hooton with legal action, Newshub understands.

On Friday, NBR published a column in which Mr Hooton was highly critical of Mr Joyce.

A source told Newshub that NBR received an “aggressive” letter about the column, which said it has until 5pm on Monday to retract or apologise.

The NBR’s publisher Todd Scott says Mr Joyce won’t be getting either a retraction or an apology.

He told Newshub if Mr Joyce is successful in launching legal action, NBR will subpoena a number of senior National MPs including Simon Bridges and Amy Adams.

Hooton promoting his column:

In today’s NBR, I kindly provide some useful advice to the new National Party leader over his upcoming reshuffle, while dangerously commenting on his, Natalie and their kids’ magazine appeal.

The column is behind a paywall at NBR: Joyce sacking first test of bridges’ leadership

Opinion: National MPs have finally been allowed to express what they really think of the party’s unelected strategist.

That sounds like Hooton is trying to put pressure on Bridges and Joyce. Hooton is not elected either, and his motives are questionable given he is a professional lobbyist. He should disclose any client interest if there is any, or should state that this political activism is a personal crusade only.

This comes after NBR have (apparently) sacked Hooton as a columnist. A recent exchange between Fran O’Sullivan and NBR publisher and owner Todd Scott:

That debunks claims of a niche blogger with huge chips on both shoulders and his supposed ‘sources’.

UPDATE: From Hooton on Facebook:

Just on this NBR thing: I rang Todd Scott early on Saturday afternoon after seeing his tweets and he confirmed he didn’t want to run my weekly column anymore. That’s absolutely his prerogative. A weekly column is a privilege not a right, and it his newspaper and he can decide who writes in it.

He was very clear that he appreciated I had never once abused my position as a columnist by mixing my commentary role with my commercial activities, and that all he was wanting to do was protect the NBR brand from future allegations of that nature. Fair enough.

On the Joyce matter, he said he would back me and his editors to the hilt, and he has been as good as his word.

For what it’s worth, I think the NBR is now a far better business newspaper than when I joined it as a columnist nine years ago and that has much to do with the investment Todd has made in the first-class news team. Good luck for the future guys – and sorry Deborah LaHatte that, in nine years, I’m not sure I ever quite made deadline!

UPDATE 2: NZH – Steven Joyce claims NBR column ‘highly defamatory’

National Party MP Steven Joyce has confirmed he made a formal complaint to NBR about a column which was highly critical of him, saying it was “highly defamatory.”

The column last Friday was by right-wing commentator Matthew Hooton following Joyce’s unsuccessful bid for the leadership of the National Party.

Joyce said the column was “highly defamatory and includes a significant number of factual inaccuracies”.

It is understood the letter from Joyce’s lawyers sought a retraction and apology.

NBR has not yet agreed to do either and it is understood any legal action Joyce took would be defended, including calling National MPs to give evidence in court should it get that far.

Politicians throwing around legal demands and threats are at risk of ‘the Streisand Effect’, drawing far more attention to critical comments than would otherwise have happened – and NBR is a low circulation publication behind a paywall.

This can hardly help Joyce in his political career that must be at a crossroads after his unsuccessful bid for leadership.

It’s hard to see this turning out well.

Honorary Consul for Mongolia

I wonder how one gets an honorary job like this?

Last year the Honorary Consulate of Mongolia in New Zealand “closed permanently”. Until now by the look of things.

Honorary Consulate of Mongolia

SPECIAL NOTICE:

Regrettably, I announce that, due to my retirement, the Honorary Consulate of Mongolia in New Zealand closed permanently from 15 March 2017.

I am unable to confirm exactly what future visa processing arrangements will be and, in the meantime, all visa and general consular enquiries should directed to Mr K. Khos-Erdene, Attaché at the Mongolian Embassy in Canberra…

We wish to thank all those people we have had contact with over the past 10 years and hope that you will remember our tenure with fondness.  We have always tried to provide a level of service that would enhance the reputation of Mongolia in New Zealand; to encourage people to find out more about Mongolia and its people and to visit to see the wonders of Mongolia in person.

This draws to a close a 25 year relationship that I have had with Mongolia about which I have very fond memories of the friendliness and hospitality of Mongolian people.

I wish the Mongolian people well in their efforts to maintain a thriving democratic, market economy in central Asia and I hope that some day, in the not too distant future, Mongolia will once again have direct diplomatic representation on the ground in New Zealand.  In the meantime Bayarlalaa, Bayartai

I don’t hear much or know much about Mongolia. Large but sparsely populated  – estimated about 3 million people, population density 1.97/km2, compared to 17.9/km2 here in New Zealand.

What can English do now?

In the wake of the Todd Barclay mess a lot of suggestions have been made about what Bill English should do.

Andrew Little said on RNZ: ” Barclay is causing chaos, and that it’s totally unacceptable that Bill English hasn’t insisted he cooperate with the police”, but it would be totally inappropriate for English to insist that Barclay do something he isn’t legally required to do.

There have also been calls (not by Little as far as I’m aware) for English to dump Barclay from standing again in Clutha-Southland .

This may not be easy or advisable as @MatthewHootonNZ explains.

  1. Those asking to announce he is cutting loose need to read r115-116 of constitution.
  2. You can find it here: https://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/National_party_rules_0.pdf
  3. Then ask yourself what happens if just said “nah”.
  4. Then ask how long it would take for the necessary decisions under rules 115 and 116 to be made.
  5. Take into account that each of those decisions are subject to judicial review.
  6. Then ask whether it really would be a good example of leadership for to make the bold demand for his resignation sought.

Here are rules 115 and 116:

Withdrawal of Endorsement

115. If it appears to the Electorate Executive that formal withdrawal of Party
endorsement of a selected constituency candidate is in the interests of the
Party, and the candidate is unwilling to withdraw his/her candidature, the
following procedure shall apply:

(a) Approval shall be sought by the Electorate Executive through the
Regional Chair from the Board for the Board to undertake a meeting
to consider withdrawal of endorsement;

(b) If such approval is given by the Board, then at least two days prior
notice of the Board meeting at which the withdrawal of the Party’s
endorsement of the candidate is to be discussed, and the fact that
such withdrawal is to be discussed, shall be given to the Board
Members and to the candidate; and the chairperson of the electorate
and the Regional Chairperson who shall be entitled to attend the
Board meeting.

(c) The candidate shall be invited to attend the said meeting and prior
to any motion being put to the meeting to withdraw the Party’s
endorsement of him or her, he or she must be informed of the reasons
for dissatisfaction with his or her candidacy and given an
opportunity to state his or her case; and

(d) A resolution of the Board withdrawing the Party’s endorsement shall
be effective immediately if passed by a majority of those present and
voting.

116. If it appears to the Board that formal withdrawal of Party endorsement of
a selected constituency candidate is in the best interests of the Party as the
actions of the candidate are prejudicial to the interests of the Party and the
candidate is unwilling to withdraw his/her candidature, and the Electorate
Executive has determined not to initiate withdrawal in terms of Rule 115(a),
then the following procedure shall be apply:

(a) The Board shall convene a Board meeting with the Chairperson of the
Electorate concerned and the Regional Chair of the Region concerned
to consider withdrawal of the endorsement;

(b) If a meeting is convened, then at least two days prior notice of the
meeting as which the withdrawal of the Party’s endorsement of the
candidate is to be discussed and the fact that such withdrawal is to
be discussed shall be given to the Electorate concerned and to the
candidate;

(c) The candidate shall be invited to attend the said meeting and prior
to any motion being put to the meeting to withdraw the Party’s
endorsement of him or her, he or she must be informed of the reasons
for dissatisfaction with his or her candidacy and given an opportunity
to state his or her case; and

(d) A Resolution of the Board withdrawing the Party’s endorsement shall
be effective immediately if passed by a majority of those present and
voting.

There are good reasons why it is deliberately difficult for a Prime Minister to dump MPs. Candidates are chosen by electorates, not by the party leader.