Kris Faafoi to stand on list only this year

RNZ: Labour MP for Mana Kris Faafoi says he will run as a list candidate at this year’s election

He said that the decision has been made with a heavy heart, but creates space for new talent to come through at the election to bolster the Labour team in Parliament.

It will give ‘space for new talent to come through’ as an electorate MP, but won’t ‘bolster the Labour team in Parliament’ – increase the number of Labour MPs – as that is determined by the party vote.

“The time has come to make intentions clear in terms of nominations, so that’s my intent, and I think it’ll be good for the party, and hopefully … good for the government too,” Faafoi said in a statement.

Whether this turns out to be good for the government or not will depend on the outcome of this year’s election.

It could be good for the party. To me it makes sense for senior MPs, especially ministers, to be full time in their portfolio and party jobs, with newer MPs learning the ropes in an electorate.

Actually it seems nuts that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and others with large workloads still have to attend to electorate duties.

Bill English is I think the only person who has been Prime Minister as a list MP, but he had held an electorate for 24 years before going list only (this seemed a sensible move).

“What I’ll miss about being an electorate MP is the proximity to a community…

This is one of the positives of electorates. It gives constituents easy access to an MP, and also ensures an MP work with a whole community outside of their party interests.

MPs who have only ever been on the list tend to associate with their own crowd. This is a particular problem for parties like the Greens and NZ First who are wholly list MP parties. They can become embubbled.

Faafoi has been an electorate MP since 2010 when he won a by-election in Mana.

Prior to this he had been a journalist and political commentator, and had then been Labour leader Phil Goff’s chief press secretary. He had looked like a party plant in Mana, but despite this background he has turned out to be generally a respected and competent MP and minister.

He has had some hiccups recently, apologising to the Prime Minister last year over his involvement in a immigration application.

And has has just been checked by Cabinet after trying to rush through a merger of RNZ and TVNZ (before a business case had been made).  If he is still Minister of broadcasting next term he will have more time to do things like this properly.

Serious claims against Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then things go cold.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Curran’s partial dumping news survives the weekend

The news conference late on Friday afternoon announcing that Clare Curran had been dumped from Cabinet but retained two portfolios has been widely seen in media as a cynical attempt to bury the news in the weekend. This appears to have been unsuccessful.

NZH:  Minister Clare Curran’s forgotten meeting to cost her $46,000 a year in lost salary

By being kicked out of cabinet, by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Curran’s annual salary drops from $296,007, to $249,839, the salary of ministers outside cabinet.

As well as being removed from cabinet, Curran resigned from her government digital services portfolio and her open government responsibilities. She remains Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, and Associate Minister of ACC.

So half the ministerial responsibilities and a bit less pay.

Jonathan Milne:  Public can have no confidence in broadcast minister – and neither can Prime Minister

But still, the Prime Minister retains confidence in her to serve New Zealand as broadcasting minister.

This is surprising, because it is the second time Curran has been caught out failing to disclose meetings with high-profile broadcasters – first Radio NZ’s news boss Carol Hirschfeld, now Sky TV director Derek Handley.

Both meetings came as the Government prepared to take significant decisions affecting those broadcast organisations: whether to fund Radio NZ to set up a new public service TV channel; whether to support Government MP Clayton Mitchell’s private member’s bill guaranteeing New Zealanders free-to-air sports.

So it is not just Curran’s performance in the open government and digital services portfolios that should be called into question, but also her transparency as broadcasting minister.

Curran keeping Broadcasting has raised a number of media eyebrows.

NZ Herald Editorial: Jacinda Ardern has ‘sacked’ her first minister

Now she has been demoted for a second offence of a similar nature. She met businessman Derek Handley to discuss something to do with the Government’s appointment of a chief technology officer. This time the meeting was in her Beehive office at a time, 8pm, when staff were not present and the meeting was not recorded in her diary.

A month later she failed to disclose the meeting in answer to a parliamentary written question from a National MP. The Prime Minister learned of this last Monday and announced Curran’s dismissal from the Cabinet on Friday afternoon.

She made it clear that, once again, Curran’s wrongdoing was not the meeting but the failure to properly record it and report it to Parliament when asked. That, said Ardern, created an “impression and perception that lacks transparency and is not something I will tolerate, particularly from a minister for open government.”

It might be wondered in passing, whether open government was well served by the decision to announce Curran’s fate on Friday afternoon when all attention was going to be on events in Canberra.

Curran remains Minister of Broadcasting and a minister overseeing the Accident Compensation Corporation. Apart from a drop in salary and status, she has not lost very much. If she is not up to task of a Cabinet minister, she should not be a minister.

Ardern needs to do what prime ministers must do when a person they have appointed is not up to job.

Kate Hawkesby: More concerning than a flaky Clare Curran is a soft Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Two token portfolios taken off her – Government Digital Services and Open Government removed from her watch, and getting lumped outside Cabinet.

But she gets to keep her plum roles as Broadcasting and ACC Minister. Why?

Strong leadership is always more desirable than someone willing to offer lots of second chances to a recidivist offender.

I would have thought the fact Derek Handley is on the board of Sky TV is all the ammunition you need to fire your Minister of Broadcasting.

So what are you waiting for Prime Minister?

That last article was republished in the ODT (who covered Curran’s demotion extensively in their Saturday edition as she is a Dunedin MP).  They are running an online poll:

Has Clare Curran paid a fair price for twice failing to properly declare meetings?

  • Yes: 18%
  • No she has been treated to harshly. She should have stayed in Cabinet: 2%
  • No she has not been treated harshly enough. She has stuffed up too many times and should no longer be a Minister: 80%

That is at best only a rough indication of public opinion, but it’s a rough look for Curran on home turf.

I expect that this issue will be raised at this afternoon’s weekly media conference with Ardern.



Griffin had offered to resign, doesn’t want to stay at RNZ

As soon as Clare Curran was appointed Minister of Broadcasting chairman of RNZ Richard Griffin offered to resign, but she asked him to stay on ‘during the transition’.

Griffin has been chairman for nine years, three three year terms, but does not want to have a fourth. It is unlikely he would be offered another term anyway.

ODT (NZME): RNZ chairman offered resignation to Clare Curran

“I proffered my resignation to her the day she was appointed. I think it was the honourable thing to do,” Griffin told the Weekend Herald.

Curran, he said, was gracious and asked him to stay on during the transition to the new Labour Government.

“It’s no secret Clare and I aren’t exactly bosom buddies but I thought it was a reasonable thing to ask and I was happy to do so given that it was going to be a difficult time for all of us.

“But not quite as difficult as it has turned out to be.”

Griffin’s third term as chairman of the RNZ board finishes at the end of April, nine years in all. He doesn’t anticipate an invitation for a fourth, nor would he want one.

“No I would not,” he said emphatically. “I think I’ve run my course and I’m sure they do too.”

He said he was very embarrassed and at times was noticeably annoyed when questioned at the select committee meeting on Thursday, and his annoyance also comes through in an interview with the Sunday Herald.

His biggest regret of his nine years with RNZ? “The last few weeks.”

“I really regret that a great talent and an interesting woman is now having to suffer the slings and arrows. I’m sorry for her. I believe that Carol thought her loyalty to the Minister checkmated her loyalty to the company and I can understand how that could happen.

“I don’t know what possessed her and I don’t know what possessed the Minister. It’s such a pity.”

He has seemed reluctant to criticise but lets a bit out here, suggesting that Hirschfeld’s loyalty to Curran was why she kept lying. On Curran – “I don’t know what possessed the Minister”.

Griffin seems undecided on whether to hand over the recording of a phone call from Curran to him. This would clarify who is being straight on what Curran said to Griffin, and whether Curran tried to encourage Griffin not to appear before the committee.

The recording either clears Curran of trying to block Griffin’s appearance at the select committee to set the record straight on her meeting with Carol Hirschfeld or it could damn her if, as Griffin claims, she suggested it would be better for him not to appear and that a letter would suffice.

Griffin will spend this weekend at his home in Ruby Bay, west of Nelson, deciding whether to voluntarily hand over the voicemail on his mobile phone.

He had asked RNZ to retrieve the voicemail after it was requested by the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee following his and RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson’s appearance on Thursday.

But even as efforts were being made to extract the voicemail, Griffin was reconsidering. He worried that refusing to hand over the recording could further damage RNZ but said there was nothing to be achieved by releasing it.

“I will decide over the weekend,” he said.

He seems torn between protecting RNZ’s reputation and causing more of a ruckus, but there is guaranteed to be more attention given to this tomorrow as media will wanting to know if he is going to voluntarily comply with the request to hand over the recording.

On Friday:

If Griffin doesn’t decide to hand it over he could be compelled to by the Speaker. Trevor Mallard has been involved in controversial situations involving Curran in the past:

Stuff: Whistleblower wins defamation appeal

The woman who accused Labour MP Trevor Mallard and a top public servant of destroying her reputation has won an appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 2007, whistleblower Erin Leigh accused Mallard, then Environment Minister, of defamation.

This was after she raised questions about political interference and alleged former minister David Parker pushed for Clare Curran to be appointed to a communications role with the Ministry.

All three Labour members involved are currently sitting Members of Parliament.

At the time Mallard was asked an oral question on the matter in Parliament and spoke negatively about Leigh.

He told the House she had “repeated competence issues” and said Curran had been appointed to “fix up the mess”.

That’s a long time ago, but is somewhat ironic in the present situation.

In its decision released today, the Supreme Court found Gow’s interaction to be covered by qualified privilege but said he could not face a defamation claim unless Leigh could prove he acted with ill-will.

“The issue is whether the public servant, or whoever else communicates information to the Minister, needs more than qualified privilege in order to enable the Minister, and the House as a whole, properly and efficiently to deal with parliamentary questions.”

The Court found that was not necessary and said it was a “no bad thing” that public servants were prevented from acting with ill-will when advising a minister.

“It is very much in the interests of the proper functioning of the House that those communicating with a Minister in present circumstances, whoever they are, have a disincentive against giving vent to ill will or improper purpose.”

Also ironic.

Questions asked of Digital Advisory Group

Minister of Broadcasting Clare Curran is setting up a Digital Advisory group that will be consider 11 questions:

  1. What is the current state of the ICT sector and ICT capability throughout the economy, society, and government?
  2. What are the possible future scenarios and their relative merits?
  3. What would be required to achieve an optimal future state?
  4. What should a Blueprint for digital inclusion and digital enablement look like?
  5. How might we most effectively work together to build our digital economy, improve productivity and increase the economic benefits of the internet?
  6. How might we better understand the ‘digital divides’ between people who can have access to the internet and can use digital tools, and those who do not?
  7. What would it take to eliminate digital divides by 2020?
  8. How might we identify develop the skill sets needed for the work of the future?
  9. Do we need to take steps to accelerate/optimise infrastructure rollouts such as UFBl/2/2+, RBl2 and 5G? If so, what steps could and should we take?
  10. How should Government evolve its own ICT use in sectors where it plays a prominent role, such as health, education and justice?
  11. What would be needed for New Zealand to:
    1. Increase its position relative to other countries in measures like the Networked Readiness index
    2. Increase the amount that ICT contributes to GDP so that it is the second largest contributor to the economy by 2025?

Digital advisory group to be established

A new advisory group is to be set up to advise the Government on how it can build the digital economy and reduce digital divides.

Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Government Digital Services Minister, Clare Curran, called for expressions of interest today.

“I’m committed to reducing the gap between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. This group will help us achieve that,” Ms Curran says.

“Digital technology is changing the way Kiwis live their lives, affecting the way we do business, work, and interact with each other and our communities. Given the pace at which our world is changing, we need to ensure no-one is left behind.

“The advisory group will bring immediate focus and a plan to ensure all Kiwis have affordable access to digital services, and the motivation, skills and trust to fully participate in our digital world.”

Its first task will be to provide advice to the Government on the development of a Blueprint for digital inclusion and digital enablement.

“I’m also keen for the group to consider possible future scenarios and identify what’s needed from government to enable everyone – businesses and individuals – to take advantage of the opportunities provided by digital technology,” Ms Curran says.

“There’ll be up to 15 people in the group, with the ability to bring in additional members or expertise to address particular issues. I’m particularly keen for it to reflect New Zealand’s diverse communities and to include all age groups and ethnicities, including perspectives from Māori.

“Genuine collaboration is needed if we are serious about increasing productivity, growing the digital economy and reducing the digital divides. That’s why I haven’t pre-determined the group’s membership and am seeking the best thinkers across the community.

“I want to harness the enthusiasm and great work that’s already happening across the country, and to see what we can deliver together for New Zealanders,” Ms Curran says.

Expressions of interest close on 31 January 2018. Terms of Reference and an application form is available at: :

Note for Editors:

In her first scene setting speech at Nethui on 9 November the Minister set out her priorities which involved:

  • Setting up this advisory group and two others in three main portfolios areas to look at Broadcasting & Digital Media; ICT/ Communications; and Open Government. The brief for each is to build a consensus view of the current state of its sector, to pose scenarios of possible future states, and to state what would be required from Government to achieve the optimal future state. 
  • Laying the ground work for establishing the position of a ‘Chief Technology Officer for NZ’ with responsibility for preparing and overseeing a ‘National Digital Architecture’ or roadmap for the next 5-10 years.
  • A blueprint for digital inclusion
  • Setting the framework for the establishment of RNZ+ as the centre-piece for a full non-commercial, public media service for all New Zealanders.
  • Establishing a process for the pro-active release of government information
  • A framework for strengthening citizens’ rights in the digital environment

Curran: Chief Technology Officer a priority

Clare Curran, in a keynote address at NetHui 2017 as new Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Government Digital Services, has promoted the need for a Chief Technology Officer.

She also emphasised the need for ‘digital inclusion’.

20/20 Trust:  Digital inclusion: “We must never leave anyone behind” – Hon. Clare Curran

In her  wide ranging speech – her first keynote speech as Minister – Clare Curran covered many digital issues, with one strong and consistent thread being digital inclusion and addressing the rise of digital inequality in NZ.

She said that being open and transparent, diverse, open for debate,  future-focused, solution-focused and collaborative were attributes of InternetNZ’s NetHui – she has participated in virtually every one – that the new government hopes to emulate and she intends to demonstrate.

Lack of home internet access highest factor in social deprivation

Talking about the digital divide (39 mins into video), she highlighted that Otago University’s Social  Deprivation Index has identified the lack of home access as the highest weighted factor affecting social deprivation for working age Kiwis.

1 in 5 Kiwis are no or low users of the internet

The World Internet Project report estimates that 19-20% of New Zealanders are no or low net users – that is 1 in 5. Affordability was a key issue (42 mins). Acknowledging the work of the 20/20 Trust, Computers in Homes, Spark Jump and other charitable initiatives, she went on to say “We don’t need to, and cannot afford to, exclude anyone from the benefits of digital connectivity. …. New Zealanders must have access to technology as a right.  …  our aim is to close the Digital Divide by 2020. ”  Digital inclusion, innovation and economic development could all be done.  … “We must never leave anyone behind.”

Priorities for first 100 days

Her priorities for the first 100 days are:

  1. Groundwork for a new position of chief technology officer for the government, with responsibility for preparing a national digital roadmap for the next 5 to 10 years
  2. A Blueprint for Digital Inclusion
  3. The framework for the establishment of Radio NZ Plus as the centrepiece of full, non-commercial public media services in NZ for all New Zealanders
  4. Process for proactive release of Government information.
  5. A framework for strengthening citizen’s rights in the digital environment

Her speech starts 27 minutes in, digital divide approx. 41 mins:

Press Release: New Zealand Government

Government signals Chief Technology Officer a priority appointment

The Government has outlined its priorities across digital technology, media and open government signalling that the establishment of a Chief Technology Officer is at the top of the list.

Delivering the keynote speech at NetHui 2017, the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Government Digital Services and the Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government), Clare Curran, said that the Chief Technology Officer would be responsible for preparing and overseeing a national digital architecture, or roadmap, for the next five to ten years.

Ms Curran also said that the Government would begin work on a blueprint for digital inclusion to address the emerging digital divide, establish RNZ+ as the centrepiece of a full non-commercial public media service for all New Zealanders, institute a process for the proactive release of government information and create a framework for strengthening citizens’ rights in the digital environment.

“This Government will be modern, future-focused and innovative. We will also work collaboratively with industry, non-government organisations and communities.”

Further, Ms Curran said she would convene reference groups in her key portfolio areas and task them with pulling together leading thinkers and actors in each area, from inside government and across industry, local government, Māoridom, non-government organisations and community groups to ensure that the best thinking is applied to realising Government policy.

“This Government intends to progress its goals to close the digital divide by 2020, and to make ICT the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025.”
“New Zealanders rightly expect that their government
should behave in a predictable, open and transparent way and ensure that nobody is left behind. The internet and digital tools are fundamental to us achieving these goals,” Ms Curran said.

The Minister’s full NetHui speech here.