Twyford’s big little mistake

More trouble for Phil Twyford, self inflicted.

He was one of Labour’s most active and critical MPs in when in opposition. In Government he was given big and relatively many ministerial responsibilities.

He has struggled with the transition from Opposition, and with his new jobs, particularly the very demanding Housing portfolio in which Labour had been very critical, and made some big promises. As National had discovered as the number of houses kept falling behind a rising population, it can be a very slow behemoth to turn around, especially with our restrictive, time consuming and expensive RMA requirements.

Last week Twyford was reprimanded by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for referring to ‘kids at Treasury’ when he disagreed with a housing forecast. Ardern put on a show of telling him off but agreed with the thrust of his criticism. Twyford said “Some of these kids at Treasury are fresh out of university and they’re completely disconnected from reality”.

Interest.co.nz: Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf says he is “disappointed” with the Housing Minister’s comments that his officials are “kids… disconnected from reality”

Now another controversy has flared, with Twyford being  reported by a member of the public for making a cellphone call on plane after the doors had been closed.

This may seem like a trivial offence breaching what seems like a pointless airline rule.

But it is highly embarrassing for Twyford, because as Minister of Transport he had responsibility for Civil Aviation.

Twyford has admitted his mistake. He also ‘offered to resign’ in a statement:

I recognise that I made the call when I shouldn’t have.

This is inappropriate for anyone, but particularly inappropriate for me as Transport Minister. I apologise unreservedly.

I have apologised to the Prime Minister and offered my resignation as Transport Minister.

She has declined my offer but chosen to transfer my responsibility for the Civil Aviation Authority to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter.

I have referred the matter to the Civil Aviation Authority who will follow whatever processes they deem appropriate,

So he didn’t actually resign, he left it to Ardern to make a show of declining it, and she also appropriately appropriately stripped him of Civil aviation responsibilities. Regardless of the offence reducing his workload seems like a good idea.

This is being compared to Gerry Brownlee’s breach of security at Christchurch airport in 2014 while he was Transport Minister. he was fined $2,000 for that.

It can be argued that Brownlee’s offence was worse, or potentially not as dangerous (if there is any danger from using phones on planes), but that’s largely irrelevant. This is four years later and Twyford is the current Minister and he has earned some flak.

This will probably blow over fairly quickly except for ongoing attempts to niggle away at the Government by opponents – unless Twyford keeps making mistakes and inappropriate comments. It’s time for him to measure up as a minister, or he could find more of his responsibilities slipping away.


Update: This irony is being reported on RNZ, from July 2014: PM too quick off mark – Labour

Labour transport spokesperson Phil Twyford said John Key had been too quick off the mark in deciding not to accept Mr Brownlee’s resignation and should have waited for the outcome of the CAA investigation.

“The Prime Minister did say that he was going to hold National Party ministers to a higher standard of accountability, so I would have hoped that the prime minister would have waited for the facts to be on the table about what regulations Mr Brownlee might have breached.”

Mr Twyford said it was important Mr Brownlee was held to account, and pointed to the prosecution of John Banks when he was Police Minister for using his cellphone during a flight.

“Well I think it’s very important, for the public, that politicians are seen not just to make the laws but to follow them, as well, and that’s a pretty fundamental principle of our democracy.”

 

 

National’s campaign on roading

The National Opposition has revved up early in the political year with a campaign on roading. Over the last two days they have launched a number of press releases and petitions:

National Party launches bid to save highway projects

The National Party has today launched a series of petitions aimed at saving regional highway projects at risk because of the Government’s obsession with Auckland trams…

MPs launch bid to save road of national significance

National MPs Todd Muller, MP for Bay of Plenty and Scott Simpson, MP for Coromandel have today launched a campaign to ensure the Katikati to Tauranga four-lane Road of National Significance proceeds as planned by the previous National Government.

Four-lanes crucial to Canterbury growth

Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon has today launched a petition aimed at saving plans to extend State Highway 1 between Christchurch and Ashburton to four lanes.

Tauranga to Hamilton expressway extension at risk

National’s petition to extend the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Tirau and from Cambridge to the Kaimai Range was launched today, announced MPs for Tauranga and Hamilton East…

Napier to Hastings Expressway at risk

MP for Tukituki Lawrence Yule has today launched a petition aimed at saving the project that would ensure the four laning of the Napier to Hastings Expressway…

Waimak MP backs petition to save motorway project

MP for Waimakariri Matt Doocey says the Christchurch Northern Motorway from Belfast to Pegasus should not be put at risk while the Government attempts to divert billions of dollars…

Petition launched to support East-West Link

National MPs Denise Lee, Simeon Brown and Jami-Lee Ross have today launched a petition to gather support for the East-West Link which is now uncertain under the new Government.

Until now the Government has seemed to be on holiday, but this has dragged Minister of Transport Phil Twyford into the new year in a hurry. He has responded in part.

ODT: Transport concerns unfounded: minister

Suggesting the Government was not going ahead with roading projects which do not exist is misleading, a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Phil Twyford says.

Responding to National Party transport spokeswoman Judith Collins claims the Government was diverting financing, Mr Twyford’s spokeswoman said the New Zealand Transport Agency had advised funding for road upgrades could not be redirected into rail.

“National’s concerns are unfounded. The Mill Rd Corridor upgrade is an Auckland Transport project and planning is continuing.

“The Labour-led Government has not altered any existing roading projects except Auckland’s East-West link and officials are working to identify a lower-cost, better-value option.”

Mr Twyford’s spokeswoman said it was important to note the other “highway projects” referred to in National’s petition did not exist.

They were election campaign promises made by National in August last year and never costed or funded.

“To suggest the Government isn’t going ahead with projects that don’t exist is misleading. And to suggest non-existing funding be diverted into rail is nonsensical.”

National’s spokesperson for Transport, Judith Collins, is coordinating the petitions.

Ms Collins launched national petitions yesterday aimed at saving national regional highway projects.

Regional highway projects were at risk because of the Government’s obsession with Auckland trams, she said.

Ms Collins said the Transport Minister now had several of those projects under review.

”That’s not good enough. Our regional communities deserve them and the National Party is committed to fighting for them.”

Twyford has a lot on his ministerial plates -n he has already been put under the Housing spotlight. It looks likke being a busy year for him.

The Nation: Simon Bridges

Lisa Own will interview Minister of Transport Simon Bridges on The Nation this morning “about Auckland’s traffic woes and whether the right projects are being funded”.

It’s likely this subject will also come up:  Rail proposal that Minister’s office tried to block released

Kiwirail has publicly released the proposal for a new Auckland railway line which the Transport Minister Simon Bridges wanted to be kept secret.

New Zealand First released a series of emails last week showing Mr Bridges’ office had urged Kiwirail not to release the business case for the rail line, saying the prospect made it “extremely uncomfortable”.

The emails showed Kiwirail had planned to release the document in full, but many parts of the business case released today have now been redacted – including its benefit to cost ratio.

Following the release of the emails between Minister Bridges’ office and Kiwirail, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier wrote to Prime Minister Bill English seeking an assurance ministers were not flouting the law when dealing with requests for official information.

NZ First leader Winston Peters has now requested the Chief Ombudsman to formally investigate the matter.

Mr Bridges said he was not aware of the business case or what his officials were doing, but he argued they had every right to be contesting the release of the information.

He said parts of the Third Main business case were “materially wrong”.

Delays, manipulation and flaunting  of the Official Information Act by Ministers is a growing issue, and helps reinforce perceptions of third term arrogance.

Also from RNZ: Ombudsman urges ministers to follow OIA rules

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has written a letter to Prime Minister Bill English after the Transport Minister’s office tried to stop KiwiRail from releasing a report.

He said such incidents risked eroding public confidence in the government and democracy.

It can also erode support in a Government.

Simon Bridges became an MP when National came to power in 2008, beating Winston Peters in the Tauranga electorate, so has always been in government.He hasn’t experienced what it is like seeking information as an opposition MP.

He stood for deputy leadership of National after John Key stepped down and Bill English took over the party, but withdrew when it became clear Paula Bennett had the numbers.

It will be interesting to see how he comes across this morning.


Bridges says he feels confident about the Govt’s contribution to Auckland’s infrastructure.

Bridges says selling assets to fund infrastructure is a decision for Auckland Council to make.

“As we do more, of course we want to see the Council do more as well”

I don’t know whether it’s bridges or Auckland traffic but I can understand why most people are not interested in politics.

The interview finishes on the OIA – and Bridges waffles around “the substance of what we are talking about here”.

He claims that he and his office were entitled to their opinion and disagree with the business case that they were not allowing to be published, or something.

Good governments should always support as much transparency as possible, and they shouldn’t try to manage and manipulate official information.

 

 

 

Speaker condemns Simon Bridges’ ‘level of arrogance’

In Question Time in Parliament today the Speaker gave Minister of Transport Simon Bridges leeway after being advised his response to an initial question by Green MP Julie Anne Genter would be lengthy.

12. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport : What percentage of the National Land Transport Programme announced yesterday will be spent on new rail infrastructure?

Mr SPEAKER : Before I call the Hon Simon Bridges, I have been advised that this answer may be longer than normal.

Part the pay through the reply the Speaker gave Bridges further opportunity to detail his response despite protestations of Genter.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I would be grateful is the member would show some courtesy to the Minister and to the House. I announced at the start of the question that it would be a longer answer than normal. As I am listening to the answer, it maybe is a reason why a percentage will not be given. If the member would only listen to the answer before raising a point of order, I think we would all be far more grateful. Would the honourable Minister wish to continue with his answer.

The lengthy answer resumed.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : In regards to the 2015-18 National Land Transport Plan, we are investing over $2 billion in public transport regarding rail, some $380 million going on passenger rail subsidies, $40 million on park-and-ride infrastructure, and $172.6 million towards other rail infrastructure—about 1.5 percent. Of course, in Budget 2015 there is a further $210 million for KiwiRail and another $190 million signalled for thereafter. The member should stop being tricky, should stop cherry-picking the statistics—

Bridges was stopped by the Speaker there. The questions and answers continued. Afterwards, following Labour MP Damien O’Connor being ordered to leave the House, Russel Norman raised a point of order.

Russel Norman : This is to do with the answer given by the Minister to question twelve. I would ask you to look at the record of the Hansard, because the question on notice written down was a very simple straight question and in the answer the Minister attacked the Member asking the question, accusing her of being tricky and various other things.

I think that is completely unreasonable, and i would think, I would ask you to intervene when a Minister does those kinds of personal attacks on a very straight question, and actually hold the Minister to account.

Mr SPEAKER :That is a very fair point of order that’s been raised, the Minister’s office advised my office just prior to Question Time it would be a longer answer than normal. I think the Minister genuinely attempted to answer the question.

His last comment was, ah, to accuse the Member of being tricky, that was a very unnecessary and in fact inflammatory remark. As soon as it occurred I brought that answer to a conclusion.

But answers like that from any Minister show a level of arrogance that does not show them in good light in this House.

In some ways this seems like a minor infraction and a minor point but the snarky dig from Bridges was totally uncalled for after he had been given leeway to give a lengthy answer.

Being condemned as arrogant by the Speaker (who happens to be from the same party) is a justified reprimand for Bridges.

Ministers should be above this sort of petty arrogance.

Brownlee offers resignation

Gerry Brownlee has offered the Prime Minister his resignation as Minister of Transport.

Brownlee resign

It’s an offer to resign rather than an acceptance of resignation from the Prime Minister so presumably it’s a gesture rather than the real deal.

This is how to front foot a mistake.

UPDATE: Confirmed that the resignation wasn’t accepted.

Key rejects Brownlee’s offer to resign. Says he’s “very disappointed” with his transport minister’s airport barge though

 (lawyer and prolific online legal adviser)

Huh. Brownlee appears not to have broken the law. The offence in the act only requires you to leave if asked and the infringement offence in the rules allows a defence for people who hold boarding passes.

Brownlee barges past security to get on plane – and he’s Transport Minister. Will John Key brush this off too?

Big Gerry is many things but a threat to airline security isn’t one of them. The lolly basket, possibly.

Gerry Brownlee didn’t think much of it until Aviation Security contacted him. “I suddenly realised, ‘Hell, this is a pretty serious matter’.

3 News: Bronwlee addresses media