SFO charges involve two $100k National donations

Newsroom: Not one, but two $100k donations to National in court

Court charging documents released to the media by order of Auckland District Court Judge Edwin Paul today show that three of the four defendants – whose names are suppressed ahead of a hearing next week – each face two joint charges of deception over a sum of $100,000 donated to National in 2017 and $100,050 donated to the party in 2018. The maximum penalty if convicted on the charge is seven years’ imprisonment.

The fourth person is charged jointly with the others only over the second $100,050 donation – but also faces one charge of providing misleading information to the SFO.

The SFO’s wording for the joint deception charges says: “By deception or without claim of right directly or indirectly obtained for the National Party possession of, or control over, any property, namely a $100,050 [for the 2018 charge] donation made to the National Party between June 1, 2018 and June 8, 2018 (“the 2018 donation”) in circumstances where the identity of the donor was not disclosed in the National Party’s Annual Return of Party Donations.”

The SFO describes the offending over the donations in these words: “The defendants adopted a fraudulent device, trick or stratagem whereby the … donation was split into sums of money less than $15,000 and transferred into bank accounts of eight different people before being paid to, and retained by, the National Party.”

For the fourth person’s charge of misleading the SFO, the charging document says: “In the course of complying with a requirement … of the Serious Fraud Act 1990 supplied information knowing it was false or misleading in a material particular.”

The SFO says of that charge that this defendant told investigators a $100,000 sum transferred to their account was a deposit for a building on another person’s property – when the money had been intended as a donation to the National Party. Further, in 2019 the defendant created, signed and back-dated a contract to that end, when no real contract for that work existed. The office alleges the made-up contract copied wording from an unrelated contract.

While none of the four charged are directly connected to the National Party (according to National), and it’s possible National are innocent recipients of the donations, at best this still doesn’t look good for National, and could still get much worse.

Will National pay both donations back? If so that will drain their coffers somewhat.

Bridges botches tax plan accouncement

Simon Bridges launched an economic plan today that was high on rhetoric but low on specifics. The lack of detail left a vacuum that has been quickly filled with a focus on a sloppy (at best) statement on average earnings tax rates.

In his speech:  National’s economic plan for 2020

We will announce our full tax plan that will see people on the average wage better off and keeping more of what they earn.

People on the average wage shouldn’t be paying almost 33 per cent in the dollar.

People on ‘the average wage’ have little or none of their earnings taxed at a rate of 33%. Many others have pointed out that average wage earners are taxed closer to 17% overall on earnings.

Alex Brae at The Spinoff:  Good news for Simon Bridges: his big tax idea is already happening

Bridges said during the announcement that in a future announcement he “will announce our full tax plan that will see people on the average wage better off and keeping more of what they earn.” So let that be announced.

And then he declared: “People on the average wage shouldn’t be paying almost 33 per cent in the dollar.”

So what is the average wage then? Stats NZ figures from last year put the median weekly income at $1016, which added up per annum comes to a shade under $53,000.

So what is the effective tax rate for someone on the median wage? Fortunately, IRD has a calculator which can tell you exactly this information. Here it is:

Calculated out, someone on the median wage ends up paying about 17% of their income in income tax.

There is another potential way of calculating it though, which could bring it closer to the mark. Stats NZ’s latest Quarterly Employment Survey shows an average income of $1,243 a week, or $64,650 a year. The difference is over ‘medians’ or ‘means’ – either the middle number selected in a set of numbers, or the sum total of a collection of numbers which is then divided by the number of numbers, which can be heavily skewed by upper outliers.

Such a figure would create a whole new share of tax being paid – you can see that here:


So in either case no earnings are taxed at 33%, let alone all of them.

This is either highly ignorant of Bridges, or the alternate assumption is that he has tried to deliberately mislead.

The National media release:  National’s economic plan for 2020 and beyond

National Leader Simon Bridges has today outlined National’s economic plan heading into election 2020.

“National understands the economy and how it impacts on New Zealanders day to day lives.”

Big whoops.

Either way it looks poor, and is an embarrassing way to try to present National as competent on economic matters.

Here are their bullet points.

Only National has a strong economic plan. This includes;

  • Keeping taxes low
  • Keeping debt low and being responsible managers of the economy
  • Growing incomes and lowering the cost of living
  • Investing more in core public services
  • Creating more jobs and opportunities for all New Zealanders.

The Measures we will use to hold ourselves accountable include;

  • Lifting New Zealand’s economic growth back to at least three per cent per annum
  • Lifting New Zealand’s GDP per capita growth to the top ten in the OECD
  • Reducing the after-tax income tax gap with Australia
  • Reducing the number of New Zealander’s who feel they have to leave for opportunities overseas
  • Reviving business confidence so that businesses feel like they can take more risks and create opportunities for you and your family.

“National will release a full package of policies leading up to the election which will address tax, regulation, infrastructure, small business and families.

A lot more care will need to be taken over the full package, but today’s announcement has set things off badly for Bridges.

Labour opposition leaders have been slammed in the past for fluffing economic policy announcements, by media and by National.

Bridges deserves similar scrutiny and criticism on this performance.

 

 

Will National’s support solid through leadership changes endure?

Support for National has remained fairly substantial and solid, despite the stepping down of the popular leader John key, and also the retirement of his replacement Bill English.

The current leader Simon Bridges has been far less popular, and party support has dropped a bit over the last couple of years that is to be expected for a party relegated to Opposition. National Party support seems to not be affected very much by leadership changes.

Here is how the polls have tracked since the last election.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

Bridges’ leadership doesn’t seem to have impacted much on that.

It’s still half a year until the election and anything could happen in that time, but especially with the diminishing of small party support National looks likely to get a reasonable share of the vote again this year (but may struggle to get enough to get back into government).

Josh Van Veen considers  Simon’s Dream: The enduring appeal of National in the Twenty-Twenties 

National supporters might look back wistfully on the early 2010s. But they long ago dispelled the notion that the party’s fate rested with one individual. In that regard, the National Party of 2020 is ‘Tolstoyan’… Despite losing the 2017 election, National remained the largest party by a wide margin. With 44.5 percent of the party vote to Labour’s 36.9 percent, English could boast of having led his party to an impressive result.

For a third term in government party that was a good result, not a lot down on the 47.04% that National got in 2014.

While Bridges’ personal support languishes behind that of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, National continues to poll higher than Labour. It is clear that a significant number of New Zealanders would vote for party over leader. Almost three years to the day of Key’s resignation, a 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll forecast a National victory. If an election had been held in December 2019, according to this poll, Simon Bridges would be the country’s 41st Prime Minister. The poll can’t be dismissed as an outlier. It was the second consecutive poll to indicate the same result. Not only that, but numerous other polls have suggested a tight race. At best we can say the odds are even.

I think that the outcome is certainly too hard to call at this stage.

So why is National still popular? Ask a journalist or commentator and they will most likely tell you that it is because the new government hasn’t delivered. Labour’s promise to fix the housing crisis and end child poverty turned out to be empty. Not to mention the incompetence of certain ministers, bad communication and disunity between the governing parties. They say “Oppositions don’t win elections, Governments lose them.” This explanation would be more convincing if Labour had won a numerical victory in 2017. There would be ground to lose to National. In fact, the numbers suggest that nothing much has changed since election night.

A more plausible explanation is that National’s appeal runs deep in the New Zealand psyche. To understand this, we have to forget about policy details, sensational headlines and the day-to-day vagaries of social media. In practice, there isn’t much difference between the way Labour and National behave in office. One is slightly more generous when it comes to the redistribution of wealth, the other has a reputation (deserved or not) for being meticulously scrupulous with public finances. Where ideology is concerned, Labour and National have both converged on the liberal centre. That is to say, the two major parties share a moderately liberal outlook on issues of public importance. Both have embraced globalisation, diversity, environmentalism, the redress of Treaty breaches, and poverty alleviation.

Beyond political rhetoric the actual policy paths of both National and Labour are much more similar than different. The current Government has tweaked more than lurched.

So perhaps it should be unsurprising if the party of John Key, Bill English and Simon Bridges can be identified with a vaguely utopian belief that New Zealand is still a land of plenty where rugged individuals can prosper – with just a bit of help from the government. According to this cherished belief, there isn’t much wrong with New Zealand.

To National supporters, few things are more repugnant than denying the archetypal New Zealander the fruits of his or her labour. But even more insulting is the imposition that those who ‘got ahead’ by hard work and enterprise should feel guilty about others left behind. To suggest that homelessness is a societal problem is to implicate everyone who has in some way profited from the housing market. To say that child poverty exists because we don’t pay enough tax is to accuse people of being selfish.

Yet there are no reasonable grounds for assuming that a National voter cares any less about impoverished children than a Labour voter. According to the 2017 New Zealand Election Study, 86% of National voters agreed with the proposition that “the government should provide decent living standards for children”. A majority (67%) also believed that the government had a responsibility to provide decent housing to those who could not afford it.

Perhaps that is why it has become fashionable in right-wing circles to dismiss talk of kindness as mere ‘virtue signalling’. Ardern might have spoken with more empathy than English but they both professed a moral conviction that it was their duty to help the poor. Most voters agreed. The crucial difference is that English did it without offending the sensibilities of New Zealanders who believe that wealth is acquired only through hard work and sacrifice.

The enduring appeal of National can’t be explained by Labour’s failure to deliver or brilliance on the part of Simon Bridges. Rather, it is due to the million or so voters who find some emotional coherence in what the party represents on an individual level. It would be a mistake to dismiss these voters as reactionary bigots or selfish boomers. While such people undoubtedly exist, few lack a moral compass and concern for others. Just about everyone is offended by the sight of human suffering.

But the simple truth is that most New Zealanders are comfortable and few understand material hardship. They have difficulty accepting that strangers doing it tough can’t just go to Work and Income for help. Homelessness and child poverty, while troubling, only exist in the news media. For them, New Zealand is still a land of plenty. Any statement to the contrary is a personal attack.

I think there may well be many who see not much wrong with Aotearoa as it is – for those prepared to work.

When leftists say “tax the rich to feed the kids” and demand justice for beneficiaries, it is as if they are speaking a different language to everyone else. Ardern’s decision to permanently rule out a capital gains tax confirmed that National, not Labour, is closer to the mythic New Zealand ideal. Whatever his shortcomings as a leader, Bridges’ sense of history is clear. He knows that National can win in spite of any one individual.

Labour must now make a difficult choice: whether to rely on NZ First and the Greens or go head to head with National in a contest for the political centre. This choice will define New Zealand politics for the next decade. To get it wrong would be Simon’s dream.

Labour is moving more towards being reliant on the Greens at least – the Labour-Green ticket. And they will also need to grapple with how much to associate themselves with NZ First as an  essential part of their continued coalition chances.

National may not manage to lift their support to get into power later this year, but they are still seen as a large single party with solid support.

 

Three more National MPs announce retirements

Three more National MPs have announced they won’t seek re-election this year. Two were expected, but one was a reversal of a previous commitment.

It is normal for a bit of turnover of MPs from a party that has switched to opposition, but this brings the National MP exodus to about 13 this term.

RNZ: National Party to lose three more MPs before elections

Sarah Dowie, Nicky Wagner and David Carter announced in quick succession they will not be running in the September election.

The three politicians are the latest in a string of National MPs stepping down at this election.

Amy AdamsNathan GuyMaggie Barry and Alastair Scott all announced last year they would not be running.

Bill English and Steven Joyce have already retired since the 2017 election. Not sure who else.

Carter and Wagner retiring are no surprise.

Dowie is a surprise, as she has already been selected by National to stand again for the Invercargill electorate she holds. She cites family reasons:

Dowie is currently the MP for Invercargill, but she said she had opted not to seek re-election for family reasons.

“I went to Parliament when Christabel was four and Hunter was two.

“What has become clear is that my children are at a pivotal age and I wish to be 100 percent present to share in their successes,” she said.

She was involved in adverse publicity last year involving Jami-Lee Ross, partly brought upon herself, but I think it is understandable that she has reassessed her life priorities and has chosen children over politics.

Newshub/Reid Research poll – February 2020

The first political poll of election year is of interest but doesn’t change much.

  • National 43.3% (down from 43.9)
  • Labour 42.5% (up from 41.6)
  • Greens 5.6% (down from 6.3)
  • NZ First 3.6% (down from 4.0)
  • ACT Party 1.8% (up from 1.4)

No surprises there, all margin of error movements.

On those numbers National/ACT are short of getting a majority but not far away and if NZ First miss the threshold it opens possibilities.

Labour+Greens are close to a two party majority of seats.

The others:

  • Maori Party 0.9% (up from 0.7)
  • New Conservative Party 0.7% (down from 1.0)
  • The Opportunities Party 0.6% (down from 1.1)

None of those parties look like getting anywhere near the 5% threshold. The Maori Party are going to contest seats to try to avoid needing the threshold.

Stated margin of error: 3.1%

Newshub: National and Labour neck-and-neck in new Newshub-Reid Research poll

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern 38.7% (up from 38.4)
  • Simon Bridges 10.6% (up from 6.7)

Newshub poll: Simon Bridges breaks 10 percent as preferred Prime Minister

Polling period 23 January – 1 February, before Bridges ruled out NZ First from any coalition deals, and before Waitangi Day week.

Their last poll was in October 2019 – Newshub Reid Rese

Polling for this term: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

NZ: Turnout of voters matters more than swing voters, candidates or policies?

Does  apply US: Turnout of voters matters more than swing voters, candidates or policies? to New Zealand politics? Will it affect this year’s election here? Is the outcome of our election virtually determined already? (Going by our history of rarely dumping a first term government, quite possibly).

Our politics is much different, far less polarised than in the US, and less red and white due to MMP.

Maybe with less polarisation and demonisation  (and demons) swing voters, candidates and policies play a bigger part here.

But the theories in the above article probably favour Jacinda Ardern success. Apart from some frothing on the fringes there doesn’t seem to be a strong anti-Ardern sentiment here. There also doesn’t seem to be a strong anti-Green sentiment.

Sure National have already been campaigning along anti-Labour lines, but one of the most consistent criticisms of the Labour led government is that they are under performing. This is actually helpful for there chances – the more conservative voters who don’t like radical change probably won’t be strongly motivated to replace Ardern and Labour.

Climate change policies are mostly long term with wide support, some strong and some soft, with few fears about what changes they will force on us.

The economy is not causing any great concerns, with Grant Robertson hardly being seen let alone being feared by the right.

I think there’s likely to be more motivation to stay with what we currently have than to switch right to National.

The noise over NZ First may not matter very much. Most voters are not motivated for or against them. Whether they survive or not will depend on whether a small niche of voters want them to remain enough, but I doubt there are strong feelings on that. And whether NZ First survives or not may not make any difference to Ardern’s and Labour’s overall chances.

There’s unlikely to be a strong anti-National/Act motivation here, but neither is it likely there will be a strong anti-incumbent motivation.

With all this in mind and National lacking in coalition options then Labour+Green looks to have the inside running, with a side issue of whether NZ First is retained or dumped, and if they survive whether Labour need them to govern or not.

Political posturing and petulance at Waitangi

In the past it was common at Waitangi for protesters to target politicians with posturing and petulance, but yesterday it was political leaders doing the dick waving.

Simon Bridges walked onto the lower marae with an expression that appeared to attempt an air of gravitas, but was closer to ass. he seemed to think that a four lane highway was a priority for Northland Maori.

Winston Peters manouvered James Shaw and smirked, then pulled rank on Shane Jones to take over his speaking slot, characteristically laughing at his own humour, but claiming he was incensed at Bridges (and the media) politicising the day, as he further politicised the day.

And Shane Jones took politics further, saying he intended to ‘take down National in Northland’.

One News:

Newshub:  New Zealand First’s Shane Jones reveals plan to take down National in Northland

Relations between Simon Bridges and Winston Peters have gone from frosty to arctic at Waitangi, and this might make things worse: Shane Jones has exclusively revealed to Newshub there’s a plan afoot to take down National in Northland, with him at the centre of it.

Jones, the self-proclaimed champion of the regions and boy from the north, has put in a bid with his party to run in Northland, the seat his boss Winston Peters – leader of New Zealand First – seized from National in 2015 but lost to them again in 2017.

The rift between New Zealand First and National escalated to all-out war at Waitangi on Tuesday when politicians were welcomed onto the upper marae.

Peters didn’t pretend to hide his disdain, laughing and ridiculing National leader Simon Bridges right through his speech. Even Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern got caught in the act, sharing a giggle with veteran Maori activist Titewhai Harawira.

And when Bridges’ speech wrapped, Peters refused to stand.

This confirms that Bridges had no choice but to rule doing any sort of post election deal with NZ First, but Peters seems to think that isn’t a solid commitment.

RNZ: Winston Peters convinced National Party would be open to coalition

Winston Peters says he knows for a fact the National Party will still be open to coalition talks with New Zealand First after the election, despite the party’s leader Simon Bridges ruling it out.

Bridges says he can’t trust Peters and his caucus is united behind his decision to rule out working with New Zealand First.

Any credibility Bridges may have by the election would be annihilated if he changed his mind after the election.

The BFD (Whale Oil renamed to avoid legal and financial issues) is still pimping for Peters and NZ First. They seem to think that Bridges could be rolled and he and Paula Bennett (and everyone else who Lusk and Slater don’t like) dumped after the election and a new leadership would join force with Peters. That’s as likely as Slater shedding his political toxicity.

And Jacinda Ardern has indicated that Labour won’t help Jones and NZ First in Northland.

RNZ: No NZ First -Labour electoral pact in Northland – Ardern

Ardern said Labour would not be stepping aside for New Zealand First in Northland.

“I didn’t do deals last election, I have no plans to do deals this election,” she said.

When asked if Prime will be campaigning at full capacity Ardern said “you can bet on that”.

So National has ruled out NZ First, and Ardern has ruled out helping NZ First. I think that Labour has to play hardball in their own interests, cosying up to Peters and Jones would damage their chances of retaining power.

Talking of power, Ardern would have much more of it as Prime Minister if she didn’t have Peters dictating to her as virtual co-leader (who thinks he deserves to be the boss).

And with Bridges trying to look serious and instead looking silly as he jousts with Peters and Jones, The antics at Waitangi may be a signal that the day of the dick waver is over.

Ardern usually does well at big events, and after yesterday without doing anything but be there her re-election chances look quite a lot better.

Bridges rules out National working with NZ First to form a government

Simon Bridges has done what seemed inevitable, ruling out working with NZ First to form a Government after the election later this year. It would be a farce if they had kept the option open after what happened last election and what has happened since then.

Winston Peters has responded saying that Bridges has a lot to learn about politics in narrowing down their governing options – but bridges has no doubt learned something from John key ruling out NZ First in 2008 and Peters losing his electorate and NZ First being dumped from Parliament.

National rules out working with NZ First

National Party Leader Simon Bridges has today ruled out working with NZ First to form a Government after the 2020 election.

“A vote for NZ First is a vote for Labour and the Greens,” Mr Bridges says.

“National wants New Zealanders to have a clear choice and certainty about what they’re getting when they go to the ballot box. A vote for National will mean more money in your pocket, more transport infrastructure and safety for your family. We will get things done. Our decisions will be about what’s best for New Zealanders, not what’s best for NZ First.

“This Labour/Green/NZ First Government has failed to deliver for New Zealanders. The cost of living has gone up, taxes have been piled on, there’s been no new infrastructure, and crime has risen making your family less safe. New Zealanders have been let down and we can’t afford another three years of this incompetence.

“I don’t believe we can work with NZ First and have a constructive trusting relationship. When National was negotiating in good faith with NZ First after the last election, its leader was suing key National MPs and staff. I don’t trust NZ First and I don’t believe New Zealanders can either.

“National had a constructive working relationship with ACT while in Government. We developed the partnership schools model and worked together to reduce red tape. We would again be open to working with ACT.

“New Zealanders have a clear choice heading into this year’s election. The Government I lead will result in families who are better off, can get to work and school on time and are safer in their communities.

“A Labour/Greens/NZ First Government will mean more incompetence and wasteful spending, and you’ll pay for it with more taxes, costs, and burdens on you and your family.”

In response:

NZ First Response to National Ruling the Party Out

New Zealand First Response to National Ruling the Party Out as a Possible Coalition Partner

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is unfazed by today’s announcement by National Party leader Simon Bridges ruling the party our as a potential coalition partner after the 2020 General Election.

‘Let me say this – he’s got a lot to learn about politics. Narrowing your options can be the worst strategic move you will ever make, Mr Peters said.

‘Having been in politics a long time, and a member of the National Party for over 25 years, the one thing New Zealand First is confident about is that if voters deliver that possibility, and if Mr Bridges doesn’t pick up the phone, someone else within his caucus will do it for him. He has also demonstrated he has no insight into what a unified caucus looks like, stated Mr Peters.

‘As Douglas McArthur said, there’ll come a time soon when he’ll want to see me much more than I want to see him.’

But this also narrows NZ First options down to Labour or Labour + Greens – it;s hard to see NZ First and the Maori Party being in the same government (should the Maori Party get back intio Parliament).

 

 

Foreign donations bill passes after ugly debate, more ugliness likely

Party donations are still in the spotlight due to the passing of  foreign donations bill under urgency. The debate has been ugly.

RNZ: Dirty laundry aired as foreign political donations bill passes third reading in Parliament

A bill cracking down on foreign political donations has passed its third reading in parliament, with MPs using it as an opportunity to air the dirty laundry of other parties.

National used this morning’s debate on the bill to highlight questions around New Zealand First and the party’s foundation, and its handling of donations.

MP Gerry Brownlee questioned why the government had introduced a bill for anonymous foreign donations, rather than for a much bigger issue.

“We are ignoring the fact there is a massive loophole here available and used so far by New Zealand First and available to others, to avoid the scrutiny of where the money comes from,” he said.

MP Nick Smith told Parliament foundations and societies should be included in the the law change.

“We should not put up with the farce of New Zealand First having a foundation that collected over half a million dollars of secret donations,” he said.

Mr Smith also took a swipe at the Greens.

“How is it possible that the Green Party has championed banning foreign donations for the last five years, but has got 50 times more foreign donations according to the regulatory impact statement than any other party?”he said.

But Minister of Justice Andrew Little didn’t let National’s attacks go unanswered.

“There is only one party in this Parliament that is currently the subject of a serious fraud office investigation, it happens to be the National Party,” Mr Little said.

“There is only one party, who in their returns in the 2017 general election showed an extraordinary number of donations to candidates from their head office and that is the National Party,” he said.

The bill just passed will have little effect on donations, apart from giving party secretaries a lot more work to do checking smaller donations (above $50) to assure themselves they aren’t from foreign donors.

But it has stirred up the whole issue about party donations.

One of the biggest stirrers was Winston Peters, who ironically accuses others of hypocrisy and lying, but himself making unsubstantiated accusations under the protection of parliamentary privilege. His speech on the bill started:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): I decided to make a speech here this morning because I’ve sat in my office and other committee meetings, hearing these attacks on a party called New Zealand First from the biggest bunch of you-know-whats this Parliament has ever seen.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Answer the question.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Answer the question, Mr Smith. I’ll answer the question. That’s a man who told Parliament that he’d made a declaration to the Parliamentary Commissioner, excepting when I asked the Parliamentary Commissioner, she wrote to me and said he did not. So, in short, did he tell the truth to Parliament? No, he didn’t.

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): Order! I really don’t—I think that is against Standing Orders—

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What is?

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): To accuse a member of deliberately misleading.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I didn’t say that, did I? That’s your inference from my conclusion in my speech. I said, “except Margaret Bazley told me that he didn’t.” Now you infer from that he’s a liar. Go right ahead, but I didn’t say it.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): Well, I’m sorry, but just a minute. I am dealing with my concern about the comment you made following that, which then accused Dr Smith of telling an untruth.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Read the Hansard.

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): Well, I don’t have to because—

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes, you do.

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): —I’m the Speaker.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: You’ve got to provide evidence like everybody else. You’re not a law unto yourself here.

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): Excuse me. Excuse me. Actually, I am in the Chair and I’m trying to deal with this. I would ask you to withdraw and apologise because you have made an unparliamentary accusation against a member.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Madam Chairperson, I want to know what the accusation was that I’m meant to be apologising for.

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): I’ve explained that to you.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, no—you haven’t, madam. You’ve made the claim, but you haven’t provided the evidence, and you, in your position, are required to do that.

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): I am not. I am asking the member to withdraw and apologise.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I withdraw and apologise.

Bickering continued. Later:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No—of course I don’t like it. I don’t like people with a capital “H” as their major feature of their character. The people who are screaming out over there evince that.

Last night, there was a speech made in this Parliament that should have made the headlines all around this country. It was about a political party—and I want to know how this Part 1 is going to catch this sort of behaviour—that went offshore and raised $150,000. Just one donation—one donation—$150,000. All the emails and all the texts and everything associated with that arrangement were offered to this Parliament, but not one of those people over there, acting as though they’re as pure as the driven snow, asked for a shred of evidence. You know why? Because they’re as guilty as sin, and they’re not going to win getting away with the kind of behaviour they thought to get away with.

You can look as cross-eyed as you like, Mr Penk, but you’re not going to win here. The fact is he was the one that shouted out last night. He shouted to Jami-Lee Ross. He said, “But you did it.” See? There he was, a colleague of the very guy that did it, and he’s shouting out “But you did it.”, as though, somehow, that sort of behaviour, or that sort of comment, exonerates their attempt to get around, in the most devious way, the law of this country.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Tell us about your foundation.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I’m very happy to tell us about the foundation, because it’s based on the National Party’s foundation. Isn’t it amazing? It’s based on the National Party’s foundation. Oh no—these people are so born to rule—

More irony from Peters, who seems to think he deserves to rule in his later life at least. More bickering. Finally:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Speaking to the bill in Part 1, the reality is that all these matters should be transparent within the law. Can I say, with respect to the last question from over the other side there, in respect of New Zealand First, this matter is being examined by the very authorities qualified to do so. But they don’t include the biased media, and they don’t include the biased, prejudiced, and deceitful members of the Opposition. Simply this: it won’t stop there, of course, because I’ve got senior National Party members contacting New Zealand First saying, “Why on earth did they start this attack, because it’s going to rebound on us.”

CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): Could we talk about the bill?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yeah, well, I want to know—if we speak to Part 1—how does the Minister feel about that? Is there going to be some sunlight—is there going to be the disinfectant of truth—shone on a certain political party that has had for years in excess of $100 million never disclosed ever. They have the gall and the audacity to rise in this Parliament and condemn by attempts by innuendo and slight a party that has behaved within the law and will be proven to be so. We are the ones who are volunteering to the Electoral Commission the information. We’re not asked for it. No, no—we’re volunteering it. But here comes the rub: you’re next, Mr Brownlee.

A hundred million dollar accusation with no substance, as is typical of Peters. Just after saying “So, in short, did he tell the truth to Parliament? No, he didn’t.”

With this sort of carry on (with donations and in Parliament) it’s no wonder the public has a very poor view of parties and politics.


The Greens have supported rushing this bill through under urgency, which seems contrary to their principles on proper democratic processes.

The Beehive announcement on the bill:

The Bill also introduces a new requirement that party secretaries and candidates must take reasonable steps to ensure that a donation, or a contribution to a donation over the $50 foreign donation threshold, is not from an overseas person. The Electoral Commission will issue guidance on what ‘reasonable steps they might take to check the origin of the donations.

I wonder if this is a bit of an own goal for the Greens. They rely on a lot of smaller donations solicited online. They may now have a lot more work to do ensuring that dominations they receive are not from “an overseas person”. They provided political backing for the bill, but it could add substantially to party administration. Same for labour (and all parties).


More on donations from NZH: Former NZ First officials want private hearing on donations with justice committee

The former president and treasurer of the New Zealand First Party, Lester Gray and Colin Forster, want to appear before the justice committee to reveal what they know about the party’s donations.

“We want to shed some light on the inappropriate internal workings of the party that seemingly aren’t monitored or controlled by electoral law,” the pair said in a joint letter to the committee.

“Our major concern is that the party affairs have effectively been taken over by the caucus [despite] public comments saying the opposite.”

The justice committee will tomorrow decide whether to allow them to appear or not.

“The committee needs to be aware that we face substantial legal and personal threats should we make public statements on these issues,” the letter says.

NZ First lawyer and Foundation trustee Brian Henry made a multi-million dollar legal threat against Nick Smith and National last week.

It said the committee’s inquiry into the 2017 election would be a “safe place for us to disclose our knowledge of what has taken place.”

“We are happy to make our submission to a closed committee without New Zealand First officials present and will make ourselves available at the earliest opportunity.”

Nick Smith’s distribution of the letter follows a row in Parliament today in which New Zealand First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters accused National in Parliament of failing to declare $100 million of donations.

It looks like ugly debate on donations will continue.


Stuff: Winston Peters says the NZ First foundation is similar to the National Party’s foundation. Here’s how it isn’t

“It’s based on the National Foundation,” he said.

But while the initial brief for the NZ First Foundation did name-check the National Party’s foundation, in practice it has operated completely differently.

National Party spokesman Mark Nicholson said the National Party Foundation is treated by the Electoral Commission as the same entity in terms of donations.

“All donations to the National Foundation are treated as donations to the political party and recorded,” he said.

Nicholson said a system to aggregate donations is in place and all donations are declared by the party secretary in their annual returns.

Electoral returns from New Zealand First do not match up with donation amounts into the foundation bank accounts.

In 2017, NZ First declared 13 donations of more than $5000 to $15,000 but bank records show at least 26 donations within the same range were deposited into foundation accounts.

In 2018, NZ First declared just five donations between $5000 and $15,000 but bank records for the foundation showed 10 across three months of records.

“The Foundation will be a key part of the activities of the NZ First Party but will not be involved in policy development, organisation, structure or day-to-day operation of the party.”

However, bank records show the capital was spent on party-related expenses including: campaign headquarters, legal advice, internet, signage, advertising, website, storage, political advice, staff and reimbursed MPs for travel expenses.

Who’s got the best team – Ardern or Bridges?

Post from Gezza:

Labour needs to be more than just Jacinda Ardern

The booklet for this weekend’s Labour Party conference features 13 separate photos of its leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and none of any other MP. Grant Robertson gets in to one picture on the side, but only alongside his leader.

Leaders are always important to political parties, but the degree to which Ardern defines Labour is extreme. This is a party supposedly built on the backs of cooperation between workers and not a single person, no matter how strong their brand is.

The Labour Party is still in need of some rebuilding after nine years of atrophy. A large part of that rebuilding will be standing up convincing and exciting candidates in every single electorate for next year’s election.

Labour is of course never going to win Clutha-Southland, or many over deep blue seats. But you get party votes everywhere, and Labour is not strong enough in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch to win whole elections there.

The image of Labour as a party that only has strength in big cities is unfair, but only by a smidgen. The conference is in Whanganui this weekend, a seat Labour thinks it could win next year.

But an email sent out to Labour supporters said the conference was in Whangarei – a town with a somewhat similar name that is hundreds of kilometres away. Mistakes like this – probably made by someone in Auckland or Wellington who would only ever fly over these places – fulfil every stereotype of Labour as an uninterested urban party. Standing uninteresting candidates in hard electorates would set those stereotypes in stone.

Labour are still in the process of selecting their candidates, and could well end up with some exciting newcomers. But for now it can feel dominated by people who have done their time with the party, with several standing and losing last time.

This makes sense for some people. Young lawyer Steph Lewis in Whanganui increased the party vote by 5000 in the last election, and is exactly the kind of candidate Labour will want to put itself forwards with.

There are some other choices that are less obvious. Rachel Boyack significantly underperformed the party vote in Nelson in 2017 against an exceptionally unpopular minister, but has once again been selected. Unionist and party senior vice president Tracey McLellan has been selected for Port Hills despite being tarnished by her involvement in the assault allegation mess earlier this year. There’s something to be said for experience – but also the excitement of the new.

More notable is the absence of flashy well-known people from outside. There is no one of Chris Luxon’s stature running for Labour. Some of the most qualified people in the party’s orbit have picked other jobs – like new president Claire Szabo, who would have made an excellent MP.

To be fair to Labour, recruiting big names doesn’t always work out. John Tamihere’s career in Parliament is proof of that. But right now Ardern’s modernising influence on the party is not very apparent in its candidates. And it seems unlikely she will exert much influence on safe seat selection races like the one in Dunedin South.

Ardern herself is uncomfortable with how much the party’s fate rests on her shoulders. Ironically, fixing that will require her getting even more involved.

Henry Cooke puts his finger on a problem with Labour.

But the media itself (& especially television news) puts so much focus almost entirely on the party leaders & PM of the day that party spokespeople & even Cabinet Ministers often don’t get much attention & promotion.

National was basically John Key, John Key, John Key, before he became Sir John, with the occasional Cabinet Minister getting public attention when they got uncomfortably pushed into the limelight by some crisis (like releasing beneficiary details, or tv news showing people living in cars) or some other event that the news media fastened onto for its shock or entertainment value, like a thrown dildo.

Labour has some senior Ministers who aren’t very eloquent & stumble in dealing with Pakeha media (like Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis), or who just seem to come across as clowns, (like Willie Jackson, & Phil Twyford), so pushing them more to the fore is probably not a good idea because the media sharks can make make mincemeat out of them.

Grant Robertson & David Parker on the other hand for example, generally do well handling media interviews.

Shane Jones’s eloquence has become legendary (as he obviously intended) to the point where he can now even upstage Winston Peters at times; not an easy thing to do. But he doesn’t seem able to convince many people that his overall responsibility for the PGF is delivering much if anything in the way of measurable worthwhile results. Pork barrel politics & Jones seem to be always-associated words.

Polls show that, as John Key was for National, Jacinda Ardern is still Labour’s biggest asset. Their party vote polls however suggest her Ministers are perhaps viewed with less public approval & confidence.

National has the reverse situation – the party still polls well but Bridges doesn’t. My own gut reaction to Bridges’s announcements & media appearances is nearly always unfavourable (although I like to think I don’t allow gut reaction to decide my vote). To me he’s relentlessly negative (as Andrew Little was when Labour’s leader) appears disingenuous & I have no great confidence he’d be a good PM (but the awful grating nasally sound of his voice & his seemingly contrived body language may be driving that!). His team doesn’t generally really inspire me much either.

However, it’s noticeable that in their Law & Order policy paper National has made a particular point of including pages from each one of their Law And Order Team. So they seem to be onto the idea of marketing themselves as a team now – their government-in-waiting.

Will this make a difference to their polling? Will Bridges stand back & let the spokesperson team do more of the talking in the coming months? Will the media co-operate?

Is this what Henry Cooke’s suggesting Labour needs to do, to counteract National’s strategy? Could they pull that off, with their Ministers?