National’s Law and Order ‘discussion document’

The release of National’s Law and Order Discussion Document has prompted a lot of discussion.

I can’t find a way to see the actual discussion document, it is supposed to be here but it appears that you have to answer a questionnaire before you get to see the document.  Ah, ok, I have worked out how to view the document, it’s in a document viewer.

David Farrar has summarised major proposals at Kiwiblog:

  • Using social investment to reduce offending and prevent crime and harm
  • A specialist anti-gang taskforce within Police
  • Gang members whose offending is gang-related lose eligibility for parole
  • Gang-related offending to be added as an aggravating factor in the Sentencing Act
  • Possibly remove the ability of the court to do concurrent sentences for the most serious offending (ie if you rape three people you get three sentences for rape, not one sentence which is only slightly longer)
  • Make victim notifications when criminals are released the default (ie opt out, not opt in)
  • Murderers who don’t reveal where bodies are, lose parole eligibility
  • Will wider clean slate scheme for young offenders so offences wiped at age 18 if they have only one minor conviction, they do extra community service, get Level 2 NCEA numeracy and literacy and stay out of trouble until they are 25
  • All prisoners (unless dangerous) to be in work, education or training
  • Parole eligibility for low and medium level offenders to require NCEA Stage 2 literacy and numeracy

Some of those seem sensible, and in fact some are already being done to some extent, for example prisoners “in work, education or training”.

Some seem unworkable or unfair – “Murderers who don’t reveal where bodies are, lose parole eligibility” means that those who have been wrongly found guilty and get a life sentence would have no way of getting parole.

And “Parole eligibility for low and medium level offenders to require NCEA Stage 2 literacy and numeracy” is unfair on those with genuine learning difficulties, and a lot of those who end up in prison have basic literacy and numeracy deficiencies.

This media release headline is lame: National is the Party of law and order.

This one is appealing to voters National to put victims at the centre of Justice:

“National believes victims should be at the heart of the justice system. Victims often report feeling let down at sentencing when the person who committed multiple crimes against them only has to do the time for one offence.”

More has to be done to address concerns of victims, but offenders and potential have to remain a major focus.

“We believe communities should be kept safe from the most dangerous criminals so there are fewer victims of crime.”

Oh wow, that’s innovative. That’s not worth discussing.

National proposes banning gang patches in public:

National is proposing banning gang patches and insignia in public so we can take back control from the gangs.

That’s been proposed before but has never happened. I have no idea how it would “take back control from the gangs”. And I have no idea how they would define ‘gang’ and “patches and insignia”.

Parole is a privilege, not a right

The National Party is today proposing tougher measures for prisoners to get parole so that the privilege is not abused.

A major change in sentencing?

“National is the largest and most popularly supported party in Parliament.”

That’s debatable. The latest poll suggests otherwise. Saying it doesn’t make it so.

“National is the largest and most popularly supported party in Parliament. We’re doing the work in Opposition so we’re ready to hit the ground running in 2020. We’re also the party of law and order. The current Government wants to lower the prison population but has no plan to reduce crime. We will ensure criminals are punished for committing crimes, but also that prisoners are rehabilitated so they go on to lead productive lives.”

This is odd promotional crap for a press release.

National to speed up the court process

Having been a victim of very slow and inefficient and unfair court processes – prosecutors should have to comply with court rules and not continually abuse them – this sounds like a good idea. This year’s review into the justice system hardly seems to have tried to address this.

We’d also like to see Justices of the Peace used more for minor offences and traffic cases to free up judges time and courts used at night and on weekends. Most courts sit for four hours a day. Where there is legitimate need, and where the Court can sit, we would extend those hours to ensure people don’t have to wait months for their cases to be heard.

To use courts at night and weekends you would need a lot more JPs, judges and staff.

Judges do a lot of work outside of sitting times, so it is not just court hours that slows things down.

Strike Force Raptor Unit proposed to tackle gangs

National is proposing a new unit within the Police which would crack down on gangs and allow us take back control. A unit like ‘Strike Force Raptor’ would interrupt gang activity. If someone was punched outside a nightclub by a gang member, the unit would take over the case. If gang members didn’t pay their traffic fines, it would follow up to ensure their driver licences were taken away.

I think there’s a lot more serious things than those examples that need more attention. Those are really odd examples. Do gang members care about drivers licences now?

The specialist officers would check gang clubhouses and use council rules to shut them down for shoddy workmanship or unconsented work. If alcohol was being served at the gang pad, it would invoke legislation so the gangs need a liquor licence. Officers could check benefit payments and tax records for taxpayer assistance gang members weren’t entitled to.

I think that more attention should be given to trying to address things like violence and drug pushing.

I’m cynical – most of those looks like dressed up populist promotional material. Rhetoric in opposition usually doesn’t come to much when coming up against the realities of government.

Newsroom: Strike Force Raptor unit won’t stop organised crime

The National Party wants to set up a special police unit designed to disrupt, and ideally do away with, gangs.

The unit would be modelled after New South Wales’ Strike Force Raptor Unit, which was set up a decade ago, after a violent gang murder at a Sydney Airport.

The purpose of the unit is to disrupt activity of outlaw motorcycle gangs, by going after gang members and associates at every available opportunity.

But an Australian gang experts says a lot of resources go into the unit’s work, with little reward, especially when it came to the broader issue of organised crime and drug trafficking. Meanwhile, there were some concerns about the conduct of the elite squad.

Maybe National could do it better.

In October, police put the total number of patched gang members at 6735. The number of gang members has risen by about 1400 since this Government came into power.

While thereare many complex factors that have led to the rise in the number of gang members, the proliferation of methamphetamine, and related crime, National has attributed it to this Government’s “soft on crime” approach.

Hudson said gangs peddled misery in communities through manufacturing and dealing drugs, and carrying out violence.

“A unit like Strike Force Raptor would interrupt gang activity,” he said, as the party launched its law and order discussion document.

It may interrupt some gang activity, but would it really have a major affect on crime? Criminals generally find ways to work around the laws, whatever they are.

Do the strike force units work?

Goldsworthy said he had reservations about the amount of police resources and time that went into this type of policing for not a lot of reward.

While they were disrupting gang members regularly, he questioned whether they were actually stopping organised criminal activity, or just stopping a gang member for going to the pub. Goldsworthy noted the general crime rate continued to rise, despite these types of initiatives.

Bikie gangs in Australia committed less than 1 percent of all crime, he said, adding that this did not match up to the amount of focus and resources thrown at gangs.

Like many other gang and organised crime experts, Goldsworthy said the focus on bikie gangs missed the wider issues surrounding organised crime.

Not every member of a bikie gang engaged in criminal activity, and members that did engage in serious criminal activity like drug trafficking often did not do so as part of a gang chapter but rather outside the group.

There needed to be a smarter focus on those who were committing crime, rather than focusing on patched gang members because they were visible, and it was an easy political win.

Goldsworthy referenced some European countries that were moving towards focusing on markets, rather than groups of people. For example, if wastewater testing showed high levels of cocaine, law enforcement resources would be put into disrupting the market, rather than going after a group of people assumed to be trafficking.

Bridges from his speech:

To me it all raises one fundamental question. Are we serious or not? Like most New Zealanders, National isn’t fooled by gang PR campaigns. We know gangs peddle misery in the form of meth and violence and so we are serious. The Government I lead will harass and disrupt gangs every single day I am Prime Minister, with the single minded goal of eliminating them.

Will that include harassing innocent people because they are perceived to be a gang member?

 

Plenty to discuss from that.

 

 

 

National committed to a bipartisan approach to climate change

In response to Wednesday’s announcement on the Climate Change Response Act and the establishment of an an independent advisory Climate Change Commission the leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges, indicated his support and his party’s commitment to finding “a bipartisan approach to climate change”, but he qualified that with “that delivers the best outcomes for New Zealand”.


National welcomes Climate Change Commission

The National Party welcomes today’s announcement of proposed amendments to the Climate Change Response Act as a positive step towards establishing an independent advisory Climate Change Commission, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“While we have found common ground on the Commission’s form and function, the net-zero target for long lived gases, and the separate treatment of methane, we have serious reservations about the expected rate of reduction for methane.

“National was clear on its position, as I outlined at my speech at Fieldays last year. We have taken a principled approach to these negotiations, including seeking different treatment for separate gases, and I am pleased to see this reflected in the Bill.

“We are not convinced that the proposed 24-47 per cent reduction for methane meets our test in terms of science, economic impact or global response.

“We’re committed to taking short term politics out of climate change policy, by having an enduring Commission which will give science-based advice for successive governments.

“New Zealand has been a global leader in sustainable agricultural production. For this leadership to be enhanced the sector must continue to embrace change, but this target goes beyond credible scientific recommendations.

“We have signalled to the Government in earlier discussions that it is exactly the sort of decision a newly formed Climate Commission should advise Parliament on, rather than politicians cherry picking numbers. Waiting five years to finally assess whether it’s fit for purpose is not acceptable.

“National remains committed to finding a bipartisan approach to climate change that delivers the best outcomes for New Zealand.”

National’s ‘identity crisis’ in opposition

After nine years in Government Labour went through a number of identity crises in opposition until a last minute gamble by Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern pulled victory out of what looked like inevitable defeat.

I followed The Standard during this period and there were many ructions and arguments over Labour’s identity.

So now it is the National Party’s turn to adjust to the shock of demotion into the mainly impotent role of Opposition. And the complaints are coming persistently from Kiwiblog and Whale Oil about what National stands for, or should stand for now. And the Leader of the Opposition (currently Simon Bridges) is also under increasing scrutiny and criticism as he hasn’t restored National to power already.

Opposition is a good time to re-evaluate what a party stands for, now (not a hundred years ago).

Thomas Coughlan asks Who is the National Party?

It takes a while for opposition parties to adjust to the murk and plotting of Parliament, after becoming used to the lofty glow of government. Labour’s memories of instability and plotting are fresh, National’s aren’t.

Understandably, Labour views National’s ructions through the lens of its own knotty history. It sees the choice in fairly blunt terms: Bridges is the Phil Goff leader – an obvious successor to the previous, popular government, but unlikely to embody the change needed to get the party over the line come election.

Collins is the David Cunliffe candidate: madly popular with the party base, but polarising to the political centre who would likely migrate left if the National party pivoted right.

From Labour’s experience, National’s rightward drift seems inevitable; it’s an obvious and natural response to the identity crisis of opposition.

So what is National’s response?

The question of what to do about the base is squarely in National’s court.  Unlike Labour, members have no role in selecting their leader: it’s all caucus.

National operates as a representative democracy party, where MPs theoretically represent the wishes and preferences of their members.

There’s benefit to that. Members don’t like to hear it but professional politicians often know what they’re doing when it comes to what works and what doesn’t. Their livelihoods depend on it and the best spend more time travelling the country, hearing diverse points of view not just listening to party bases, which can get stuck in a narrow political bubble.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the base either. Especially in opposition. Come election, the base knocks on doors, makes phone calls, puts up hoardings and, most importantly, donates.

Nationals donations seem to have remained at healthy levels – see National Party donations in 2018 topped $700,000 – more than any other party

n the 2018 leadership race, a large plank of Judith Collins’ campaign was centred around her popularity with the base. Members want to see her, and other MPs invite her to their electorates to speak and mingle. These are the people National needs to mobilise if it’s to win, and they’re not going to open up their wallets if they don’t feel they’re being listened to.

But there’s an even greater question of just who constitutes the base. Traditionally, membership of a party was more or less synonymous with being a part of that party’s base. But as fewer and fewer people decide to become members of a political party, the gap between a party’s official membership and its base – which might be understood as people who regularly vote and donate to a party – has grown.

As of 2018, National had roughly 20,000 or so members. A sizeable cohort, but it pales when you place this alongside another measurement of the party’s “base”, which was polled for in the New Zealand Election Study after the 2017 election.

In that study, a full 26.56 percent of people said they were “close to” National. If you were to map that onto the 2.6 million people who voted in the 2017 election, you find that nearly 700,000 voters would say they were “close to” National.

Now, experience suggests that only a fraction of that base is actually going to get out door knocking — but it does illustrate two problems bedevilling National: one, the difficulty in knowing exactly what and where their base is; and two, the knowledge that whatever it is, it’s likely to be massive.

It’s not just the base that’s important for a major party – there is also the all important ‘centre’ or floating voter.

And under MMP support parties have (so far) been critical in winning the Government benches.

Without any friends on the right, National has the unwelcome task of soaking up votes in the centre, whilst mobilising the right wing base. This is more difficult for National than other parties, as its base contains both right-leaning an left-leaning factions.

National’s odd decision to oppose the UN Migration Pact, a cause championed on some of the darkest corners of the internet, and completely at odds with the party’s record as a champion of migration, was an example of the party struggling to do two things at once. The catastrophic “emotional junior staffer” saga was an example of what happens when this goes wrong.

Bridges’ problem (therefore national’s problem) is that he lacks support parties and is failing to impress the base and also the floating voters.

The future success of the National party, unless a new party emerges, depends on it being able to mobilise both on the right, and in the centre. It’s no easy task. Even one of MMPs greatest political forces, Helen Clark, knew she couldn’t win by campaigning on the left.

I have voted National at times in the past, but they are nowhere near close to earning my vote next year. My impression is that they are moving further from where I would consider them as a viable option.

Perhaps it will become clearer next year who the modern National Party is, and who they want to represent.

Their lack of clear identity isn’t a crisis, yet, But it could be next year.

 

National Party support for the the Arms Amendment Bill

National MPs worked with the Government on the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill and gave their full support and votes for the bill, which passed it’s third and final reading in parliament yesterday.

CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South):

I rise on behalf of the National Party to lend our support to the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill, and, in the start of my contribution, I want to, on behalf of the party, acknowledge the Prime Minister for her remarks in opening this third reading debate, and also acknowledge her leadership in the hours and days and weeks following the shooting. I have received many comments in the last few weeks around your leadership, Prime Minister, and I think all of New Zealand has been impressed by your steadfastness at a time of great trial for our country.

I also want to acknowledge the Minister Stuart Nash, who’s worked quite collaboratively with those of us in the Opposition on this regime that we’re about to pass into law, and I want to acknowledge Michael Wood, who chaired the committee, I think, in a very good fashion—a quick fashion, but a very good fashion.

Now we have the Labour Party in Government alongside New Zealand First, and I acknowledge the braveness of the position that they took, Mr Patterson and Ron Mark and the Rt Hon Winston Peters, as Deputy Prime Minister—quite a brave position, actually, for them to take alongside a Labour Cabinet to work alongside the National Party and the Green Party as well for Parliament to speak with as unanimous a voice as possible. Hopefully, the politicking around this will now, essentially, cease, because we are going to say once and for all that, with very rare exceptions, military-style weapons are not welcome in New Zealand.

IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei):

It gives me, well, I guess it’s a privilege, really, to have an opportunity to speak on what probably is a historic piece of legislation for this House. I too want to acknowledge the Prime Minister and the efforts of the leadership of this House and all parties—almost all parties—within it. I also wanted to acknowledge the chair of the Finance and Expenditure Committee and, above all, the officials.

I’d like to think that this piece of law might go down in history as a benchmark in legislation-making, but I accept that the short consultation time is probably not ideal for most of our law.

 I think it’s essential that we get that done and that we get it done urgently and make that publicity work. It’s going to be difficult to get to some people, because, as I’ve said earlier, there will be people in New Zealand who have got no idea they’ve got these weapons in their possession and who don’t have a licence to own them and have never needed to have a licence to own them because they didn’t know they were there.

I think that will be much more common than we believe, because some of what, effectively, could be 100-year-old pieces of equipment that are no longer legal have sat in houses for years and years. So it is essential that we get that publicity done and get it done very well.

It’s essential also that that buy-back scheme, when it is instigated, is—as I think I heard the Prime Minister say earlier—effective, that it’s fair, and that it gives people the incentive to get these guns out and in the police’s hands, or in hands of the buy-back scheme, as quickly as we possibly can, because for it to work effectively, we need to get them all.

That’s the next piece I want to turn to, because I think that as this Act is reviewed going forward—and it no doubt will be—and as the second tranche of legislation comes to the House, it’s essential that we find ways of extracting the weapons out of those people who have no reason to own them and have no licence to own them, because the underworld will have many of these guns. There will be many of them in unknown places in New Zealand.

ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua):

The values that we hold in this country around tolerance for one another, and the ability to get along with one another, are what make New Zealand so wonderful. I, like many of you here in this House, went to many of the Muslim communities, and I went there to give my support, as you did.

What I received back from my Muslim communities was much more. What they offered me was hope, a sense of resoluteness, and they had an unerring sense of purpose. They see themselves as New Zealanders, and they’re committed to being good citizens—playing their part to make a better New Zealand.

Prejudice is such a corrosive element in any society and is unwelcome here in New Zealand. So this is one of those moments—a moment of unity, a unity of intent, and an intent to act as one. So we’re about to pass the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill. I note it is our duty to protect New Zealand and New Zealanders from the unlawful use of these high-velocity weapons, but I think it’s also important that we respect the rights of New Zealanders to own and safely use guns here.

I want to finally just acknowledge the Prime Minister for the role that she has shown in leading this debate. I also want to acknowledge the Minister for bringing this legislation in in a very short period of time and working with the committee. I also want to acknowledge the members of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, who worked in a collegial and collaborative fashion.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the officials, many of whom are sitting up in the gallery here today. They worked tirelessly, and I say thank you from me personally, but certainly on behalf of the committee.

Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney):

It’s a pleasure to take a call in this the third reading. Can I acknowledge the Prime Minister first of all. I was very grateful of the fact that she shared with us some insights around how it crystallised in her mind, the leadership that was required, and then, of course, the Parliament coming together to bring this bill to the House to make the changes that we needed.

I’d just like to say that this is an important piece of legislation. We are sending a very clear message as a Parliament and as a country that we don’t see the need for military-style, high-powered semi-automatic weapons in this country. We don’t. You can’t justify their use—other than in fact the exemptions that we’ve clearly stated.

BRETT HUDSON (National):

Parliament decided—it was a choice, and Parliament decided—to take the process we have with this bill to reach the point we have now and where, I would predict, we are about to get to. As adults in the room, we can fully support that—those decisions, those actions, and where we are—and still critique the process which underpins it. There is certainly simply no way a select committee can address a bill of substance in such a short period of time and give it the same scrutiny that it could do if it had an extended, normal, or longer period of time.

With all the will in the world, and with all the effort of members and officials—and I acknowledge the hard work of all the officials—there is simply not, in a shortened period of time, sufficient opportunity to hear all of the voices, to give all of the consideration to all matters raised, to debate every point, or to look at every possible alternative. Shortened time simply does not permit that.

I endorse the decision Parliament took, and it was Parliament’s decision. The Government put forth a proposition to do this bill under an extremely short period of time, but it was Parliament that agreed to do so.

We now find ourselves in the last few minutes of a decision to rid New Zealand of weapons, of firearms, that no normal citizen needs, but with enough careful consideration that where exemptions are warranted, they have been granted, with enough thought and consideration to help inform elements that might take part of the next phase of the firearms reform.

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura):

I am so proud of us. We have worked so hard over quite a short period of time, and we have worked in the Finance and Expenditure Committee to get the best bill that we could in the shortest amount of time. Even when we have not agreed, we have been able to be civil and adult, and that is something that I think we can pat ourselves on the back for.

In the National Party, we felt we could have done more for those people who are sports shooters and who engage in international competitions—our competitive shooting sports. We would like to hope that, in the second tranche of legislation, that could be addressed. I was personally, and I think we all were, very impressed with the quality of the submission from the pistol shooters’ association. They have a very good system, which I’ve heard of before, obviously, but to have them run through exactly how it worked gave me a lot of confidence in that system being able to be used for people engaged in sporting events where some of these higher calibre or higher-capacity weapons are used—that we could bring that in for them.

It’s not often that peace breaks out in Parliament, but to most intents and purposes—I won’t say “all” because not entirely—it has over this matter. We have all been deeply moved by what happened in Christchurch, by the murder of 50 people and the attempted murder of many more. We have all been deeply moved. It could have happened anywhere. It happened in two mosques. It could have happened in a kindergarten. It could have happened in a church. It could have happened in a school.

For any New Zealanders who think, well, it wasn’t some place that they would go, it could have been. It could have been anywhere. It’s the sort of thing that I think happens, and we could say a person who has done this has done this for particular reasons. It’s not only that person we need to be concerned about and worried about that they have access to firearms—people with those sorts of thoughts and those drivers—but there are other people as well.

This has been a good opportunity for the Government and the Opposition to work together for New Zealand, and I would hope that the Government will keep us informed and ask for our support on other matters pertaining to these firearms laws.

Apart from one dissenter (David Seymour, ACT) the Bill was strongly supported by a united Parliament, Obviously most MPs realised they had a responsibility to do something significant in the wake of the Christchurch mosque massacres.

SFO investigating National Party donation

More problems for the National Party and Simon Bridges after a complaint made by ex-National MP Jami-lee Ross to the police has been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.

This is an investigation, not a finding, but it doesn’t look flash for Bridges or National.

Newsroom: SFO to investigate National donation allegations

The Serious Fraud Office will investigate allegations of electoral donation fraud levelled against the National Party and its leader Simon Bridges by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross.

Ross has claimed vindication over the news, but Bridges has expressed confidence his own hands are clean and called on party officials to fully cooperate with the SFO inquiry.

Police started looking into the allegations after Ross spoke to them last year, but now appear to have elevated the issue into specialist hands.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, police said they had referred a complaint they received last October to the SFO, “in relation to the disclosure of political donations under the Electoral Act”.

“The complaint has been referred to the SFO as they hold the appropriate mandate to look further into matters raised by the investigation to date.”

Police said they could not comment on their own investigation while the SFO was looking into the allegations.

Also from Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross rides again

The former National MP accused of bullying and cheating during his time in Parliament has written to all his Botany constituents asking not to be judged “on a month where personal and health-related matters became a distraction”.

The Serious Fraud investigation was made public yesterday in a two sentence statement from police:

Ross held a press conference claiming he had been doubted repeatedly but each time in this controversy had proven his critics wrong.

He’s a bit premature there, nothing has been proven about the donation yet.

National should be bold with a new leader

The latest poll by Newshub/Reid Research has confirmed that party support has been volatile, with National getting a similar result in the first poll of this year to the first poll of last year, and not far away from a poll in October.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_next_New_Zealand_general_election

National are doing fairly well for a party in opposition after nine years in Government.

But the poll confirmed again that Simon Bridges is not doing well as leader.  Why?

Kate Hawkesby: Exactly what is it about Simon Bridges that voters don’t like?

Another poll, another bad day at the office for Simon Bridges.

So what is it voters don’t like about Simon Bridges? Is it the voice? Is it his perceived weakness? Is it his inability to bat away Jami-Lee Ross?

Is it just bad luck being the guy who had to follow John Key? Is it that people still don’t know him?

Probably all of those things – and more. You can add to that a lurch right on issues like cannabis law reform, euthanasia, abortion, and a conservative Bridges looks out of touch with modern New Zealand.

Or is it just that National’s base likes strong sassy and old-school – in the form of a Judith Collins?

Some like Collins, but I’m far from convinced she is a good choice to take over. While there is some strong support for Collins in National circles, there also seems to be strong opposition. Twice she has put herself forward for the leadership and she hasn’t come close.

I see another problem with switching from Bridges to Collins. They are both from National’s last Government. The country has moved on from that.

After Helen Cl;ark was defeated in 2008 and stepped down Labour went through a few years of giving MPs a go who had been there for yonks waiting for a go (Goff, Cunliffe), and trying newer MPs who didn’t look new (Shearer, Little). They all failed.

National should face the reality that it will be difficult for them to get back into power next year. By 2023 Bridges or Collins will be even more old school and potentially stale and out of touch.

If National really wants to look ahead I think they need to seriously look at choosing a leader for the future, and accept that next years election is likely to be a learning exercise.

I have no idea who would be suitable. I just think it is likely to be someone not on the leadership radar at the moment.

National may simply be too conservative to make a bold move, but they have done it before, backing the inexperienced John Key, and that proved successful.

Choosing a relatively inexperienced MP now who has obvious leadership potential, targeting 2023, seems like a pragmatic approach. And if Labour fail to deliver and crash next year, there is enough experience in national’s ranks to help a new Prime Minister – they should be in a better position to do this than Labour were with Ardern.

We need strong leadership of at least the major parties. Bridges doesn’t cut it.

I would like National to be bold and look to the future, but they don’;t seem to be ready for this yet. They may need another election loss to hammer home the need for real revitalisation and modernisation.

Simon Bridges promoted as cartoon caricature

I really wonder who thought presenting Simon Bridges as a cartoon character was a good idea.

“Gidday, I’m Simon” sets a cringey scene.

It is unlikely to enhance his image as a serious political proposition. Probably the opposite.

And it has

Promoting a party leader and aspiring Prime Minister as a dopey cartoon character is a great idea…said nobody…ever.

The cartoon really does start with “Gidday, I’m Simon” – voice and subtitle. It continues “I know Kiwis are finding it increasingly difficult to get ahead…”

With this sort of cringe Bridges is likely to find it increasingly difficult to get ahead in political leadership.

 

More important questions for National than ex-lover spat and personal revenge

The turning rogue of Jami-Lee Ross and the text of Sarah Dowie has been a big story for months now, but a part of the issue that has been largely overwhelmed by the social saga side is what this has exposed about the National Party. Some have recently written about this.

Graham Adams (Noted & Stuff) looks at and beyond Parliament’s star-crossed lovers who crossed each other, starting with Jami-Lee Ross’s maiden speech in Parliament 2011.

In his speech, Ross also quoted the school’s aim to produce “good and useful citizens”. Most people will conclude he isn’t good but he has certainly been useful already if you look beyond the narrow interests of the National Party to the wider interests of the nation.

Ross has given us insights into our political life that only an insider could know, including how donations are handled and how much influence some donors expect (or hope) to have over candidate selection in the National Party.

His disclosures about wealthy Chinese donors has also sparked increased interest in Professor Anne-Marie Brady’s research into how United Front activities run by those close to the Chinese Communist Party have infiltrated our political life.

And Ross could prove himself to be even more useful if he told us much, much more about how our politics are entwined with the push by the CCP to influence perceptions of China overseas and policy towards it.

For starters, he might enlighten us on the role of Dr Jian Yang — that mysterious figure in National’s caucus who was part of China’s intelligence community and a member of the Communist Party, and who refuses to speak to journalists (or at least English-speaking ones).

It would be entirely appropriate for Ross to perform this service, not least because in his speech he declared himself to be passionately opposed to socialism.

He should be very happy then to expose the deep links between National — the party purportedly of “individual freedom and choice” (number 4 on its list of values) — and the communist regime in China that is one of the most repressive and repugnant on the planet.

Some will think it’s the very least a man who professed in 2011 to be devoted to “individual freedom” and who in 2018 dedicated himself to exposing the “rot within the National Party” could do.

Fran O’Sullivan (NZ Herald): Bigger issues to deal with than emotive texts

There are more pertinent issues at play.

Despite the public front National has adopted on the donations issue, it has still not satisfactorily dealt with Ross’ claim that he was effectively asked to wash a $100,000 donation from Yikun Zhang by ensuring it was split into smaller amounts.

National Party apparatchiks denied there was a $100,000 donation. National Leader Simon Bridges said at the time a “large sum of money” came into the party from multiple sources through donations from Zhang and supporters through Ross’ electorate account in Botany in the first instance.

The issue here is one of “substance over form”.

Nor has Bridges dealt satisfactorily with the clear implication from the tapes that Ross leaked, of a prior conversation that suggested he favoured effectively trading positions for different ethnicities on National’s list, in return for donations.

These issues — which strike at the heart of democracy and business ethics — have been obscured in the general furore over Ross’ meltdown.

It is obvious that there is sufficient underlying truth to Ross’ claims on this score to have provoked senior National MPs to call for change.

Former Attorney-General and National MP Chris Finlayson was sufficiently exercised to use his valedictory speech in Parliament last year to say he was concerned over funding of political parties by non-nationals.

Finlayson called for both major parties to work together on party funding rules, saying it was his personal view that it should be illegal for non-nationals to donate to political parties.

“Our political system belongs to New Zealanders and I don’t like the idea of foreigners funding it … we need to work together to ensure our democracy remains our democracy.”

The issue has also festered with the long-serving veteran National MP Nick Smith who revealed to the Herald this week he also wants reforms to ensure the integrity of the NZ electoral system.

If Ross is of a decent mind he would chalk up a minor victory on this score as having focused National MPs’ attention on behind-the-scenes dealing in their party.

National is not going to wash its dirty linen in public but the allegations their former party
whip raised are of sufficient merit for police to finalise that particular probe.

I don’t think we can rely on Ross being ‘of a decent mind’, he seems more intent on personal revenge.

And we can’t rely on the Police to do a decent investigation of political funding, they seem to prefer to avoid political investigations.

Unfortunately I think that much of the media is more interested in the personal lives of politicians becoming public fodder.

But a proper examination of funding methods and of possible Chinese influence in the National Party is where journalist attention should be focussed

Can National rebuild itself for the future?

The National Party seems complacent due to sustaining quite remarkable support in polls – probably more to do with their opponents not earning more support yet. More of the same old (party), with a new but more conservative leader failing to inspire, is not a good formula for future success.

E.A. Blair – KiwiFirewalker:

National can not get itself out of the political doldrums that they now listlessly drift in as leader or no the party is only marginally representative of the political landscape in NZ (and only the most idiotic believe that a new leader will change that around).

Simon Bridges cops most flak as leader but he is not the core problem, the National Party is what needs to change, significantly.

They could do with a major rethink and rebuild into a party of a future government, but they look little different to how they were when they failed to retain power in 2017 except having a less popular leader.

As leader Bridges should lead a revitalisation, but so far there is no sign of anything like that happening – if anything he is pulling National back to a more conservative party further out of touch with modern New Zealand.

Bridges may come back next year with exuberance and a grand plan for a modernised party of the future, but that would seem out of character for both Bridges and National.

 

Jami-Lee Ross gives proxy vote to National

After over a week of absence Jami-Lee Ross resurfaced yesterday with a notice that he has given his proxy vote to National. He is now an independent MP but hasn’t been in Parliament since he was hospitalised a week and a half ago.

Making a point about ‘the maintenance of proportionality’ may be an attempt to thwart possible attempts to have him removed from parliament under the new waka jumping bill (Simon bridges recently said he has no intention of trying to invoke that at this stage).