Bridges claims ‘deceit and dirty politics’ – but who did the dirty?

Simon Bridges and National continue to go hard out on the leak of budget information two days before Budget day.

But who is playing dirty here?

RNZ Week in politics: National set the trap and Robertson walked into it

National used the information it found on Treasury’s website to set a trap – and it worked far more effectively than Simon Bridges could have imagined after Gabriel Makhlouf made his “we have been hacked” announcement.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson walked into a trap set by National when he linked the Budget “leak” to illegal hacking.

It was no such thing, and National had known it all along. A simple website search had given the Opposition details of some of the spending in yesterday’s Budget.

At the same time, Mr Bridges was giving a hand-on-heart assurance that National had acted “entirely appropriately” while refusing to say how it had obtained the information.

At that point, National had probably expected the usual response to a leak – condemnation of such behaviour and the announcement of an inquiry.

What it could not have expected was Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf dramatically announcing that his department’s website had been systematically hacked, and that he had called in the police on the advice of the GCSB.

That was a game-changer, and Mr Robertson seized it. “We have contacted the National Party tonight to request that they do not release any further material, given that the Treasury said they have sufficient evidence that indicates the material is a result of a systematic hack and is now subject to a police investigation,” he said.

The implication was obvious – National had either hacked the website or received the information from someone who had. Whoever did it, their actions were illegal.

It turns out what National did wasn’t illegal – but I still think it was highly questionable. They were trying to do a dirty on the Government to grandstand prior to the budget going public.

Mr Bridges raged about unjust smears on his party and accused Mr Makhlouf and Mr Robertson of lying. The Treasury secretary’s position was untenable and Mr Robertson should resign.

He claimed Treasury had quickly discovered the huge chink in its security and had “sat on a lie” while his party was being accused of criminal behaviour.

This leaves some very big questions which have not yet been answered. If Treasury’s IT people knew what had happened, why did Mr Makhlouf go public with his hacking announcement?

Was he misled by his own department, by someone who didn’t want it known that a blunder had been made with the uploading? That’s hard to believe, because it must have been realised that National was going to blow the whistle on the website search.

Did Mr Makhlouf make the decision to call in the police on his own? Mr Robertson says he didn’t know until after the fact, but Mr Bridges rejects that. It’s unthinkable, he says, that a department head would make a call like that without first informing his minister.

The way Mr Bridges sees it, the hacking was a cooked up story to smear National and take the heat off the government and the Treasury.

But the whole thing was cooked up by National in the first place.

Bridges acted offended when accused of hacking, but he hasn’t hesitated accusing Robertson, without any evidence. And he is also accusing Treasury.

RNZ:  Treasury knew there had been no hack on Budget information – National Party leader

The National Party is confident the investigation into Treasury’s claim Budget information had been hacked will prove that Treasury “sat on a lie”.

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett, who asked the SSC to investigate, said her party would let the inquiry play out but stands by its assertion that Mr Makhlouf mislead New Zealanders.

It has previously said Mr Makhlouf should resign.

Mr Makhlouf says he acted in good faith.

National Party leader Simon Bridges told Morning Report today there were two possible scenarios, and the situation was likely a bit of both.

“You’ve either got bungling incompetence, and I think we can all believe that could well be the situation, or you have some broad form of deceit and … dirty politics.

“And we need to see what’s going on here.”

He said the GCSB told Treasury and the Minister of Finance that there had been no systematic hack, but Treasury came out after this and said there had been.

“The reality of this situation is it’s pretty black and white isn’t it.

So as a result of a deliberate and concerted effort by National to exploit a data vulnerability at Treasury in an attempt to embarrass the Government we now have two inquiries, and National have called on the Minister of Finance and the head of Treasury to resign. It has also jeopardised Makhlouf’s new job in Ireland.

MSN:  Gabriel Makhlouf’s next job at Ireland’s top bank under threat

Irish politicians say they’re concerned New Zealand Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf will become the country’s next Central Bank governor amid the Budget “hack” scandal.

Pearse Doherty, finance spokesperson for left-wing Irish republican party Sinn Féin, told The Irish Times Maklouf should not start his role with the Central Bank until the investigation has concluded.

Doherty said it “wasn’t a small issue”.

“We need to make sure that someone in the highest position in the Central Bank has proper judgement,” he told The Irish Times.

Ireland’s Fianna Fáil party member Michael McGrath has also reportedly sent a letter to the Irish Finance Minister.

“The governor of the Central Bank is one of the most sensitive and important roles in our States,” the letter says.

“It is vital we have full confidence in the holder of the office.”

So National may succeed in ruining Makhlouf’s career. Robertson is unlikely to resign – and I think it would be a disturbing result if he is forced to.

Sure Makhlouf and the Government may not have handled the budget leak well. But this was a dirty politics style hit job by National, serving no positive purpose, and highly questionable as ‘holding the Government to account’.

They would have hoped to cause some embarrassment, and got lucky when it precipitated a shemozzle, leading to two inquiries and careers in jeopardy – not because of the initial problem, but because of how it was mishandled. This is classic negative politics.

For what? Some budget information was publicised two days before it was going to be made public anyway. National well know that budgets are kept secret until announced in Parliament, and there’s good reasons for this.

This sort of thing really puts me off politics – especially off politicians who try to engineer scandals that really has nothing to do with holding to account.

If there wasn’t other things keeping me going here I think I could happily pack up and go and do something else as far from politics as I can get.

This political debacle sets a very poor example. It is a form of bullying – political bullying, where dirty means are employed to cause problems that needn’t happen. Shouldn’t happen.

Another thing that may keep me involved is looking at ways of getting our politicians to set positive examples, and save the hard ball holding to account to when it really matters.

Is there any chance of that? I’m probably wasting my time here.

Ngaro continues as National list MP while ‘talking’ about new party – farcical

It is really an extraordinary situation  now where Alfred Ngaro is still working as a National list MP, while talking to people about whether to set up a new party.  It’s surprising that Simon Bridges tolerates the situation.

Ngaro was interviewed on Newshub Nation, where he suggested that if he starts a party he would consider a coalition with the Tamaki/destiny party.

It is remarkable that he agreed to be interviewed when he would have known a possible party would be a major topic he would be questioned about (why else would Newshub invite him?)

So has Coalition New Zealand jumped in ahead of you? Have they stolen your limelight?

Look, I’m not about race. This is not a race, and I think people will know that any form of politics — it’s a long game not a short game.

An odd comment.

Although yesterday Hannah Tamaki said, ‘Alfred Ngaro, come and join us.’ They extended an olive branch. Do you want to join them??

Okay, well, will you rule that out then?

Well, the thing is that I’m focusing on those, and there will be opportunities where lots of people are coming to talk to me, and, like I said, people— I’ve got invitations now to talk. I’ve had no phone calls and that. That just happened yesterday, so for my mind, stick to the task. I’m performing my role as a National list MP and at the same time having lots of conversations.

They want you to come along and say that you’re looking for a home, but do you think there’s enough space for two faith-based parties in parliament — or even to run at the election?

Yeah, well, if you think about the history of New Zealand, as far as faith-based or values-based organisations or parties that have been there, they’ve often formed coalitions if they’re to make it there. You can think about in 1996 — you’ve got the Christian Democrats with Graeme Lee and then you also have Christian Heritage,—

But they’ve been—

…so the way forward is to— actually, you would have to form a form of a coalition collectively together.

Right, so that’s a possibility, say with the Coalition New Zealand, then? You’re not ruling that off the table?

Well, the only two parties that are here on the table that we know of is the New Conservatives and this now Coalition Party. I don’t have a party, as I said. Last Friday there were conversations, so hand on heart, I don’t have a constitution. I haven’t been planning a party. What I’ve been having is people coming to me, and I’ve been humbled, Simon, by the conversations that people have said. That actually this is something that maybe we should consider.

Yes. Well, obviously you have to be considering it, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me. You must be quite serious about this.

I’ve gone on the record, and I’ve said that I am considering it.

Yeah, so what’s the time frame?

Well, I think it’s something— I want to be really clear and careful that I don’t— I’m loyal to the party, and I think that’s really important. I don’t disrupt the direction of what they’re doing as well. So that time frame’s going to have to be fairly soon.

I think he has to decide very quickly. He can’t be talking with people about forming another party and remain loyal to National.

Unless National are supporting what he is doing – which would be another remarkable situation.

What makes you think that there’s a place for a faith-based party in government — where everything seems to be based on evidence, in terms of decision-making?

Well, faith is evidence as well. It’s the value system that people have, and so when people act out of it, you can’t say their faith doesn’t have evidence. It’s actually the evidence of the values that people have in the way they exercise them.

Faith is not evidence based.

But faith is belief. It’s not a scientific evidence.

That’s right. That’s right, and so you and I would say that, for instance, when we say that we show love, care and compassion — well, that’s faith that you and I have, right? We believe in each other. We believe in the people around us that they would act justly, kindly and caringly. Those things are really important.

So he has now contradicted himself on faith being evidence.

Well, that’s values-based decision-making, isn’t it?

But here’s the evidence, right? If you don’t have a principle to act on, then the actions that you take is the evidence of those beliefs. You and I know that when we see people who don’t act with kindness, who don’t act justly, then that’s the evidence that there’s a lack of principles. So you can’t divorce them. You can’t just say that, ‘Well, here’s evidence, and here’s faith or here’s some values.’ You and I act every day, in this nation, around this country, everybody acts with a set of principles. That’s what drives us.

Good grief. he doesn’t seem to have anything of substance to say.

So you believe out there on issues like end of life, abortion law reform, maybe even cannabis, there is a wave to ride into power?

Well, Simon, I don’t need to believe that’s out there; it is out there.

There’s certainly opposition to those issues being reformed, but but it would take more than Ngaro’s vagueness to ride a wave to power. It will be difficult enough for Ngaro to win an electorate leading a new party, and very difficult to make the 5% threshold.

You say that you’ve got people approaching you, there’s all these issues that this is riding on, but is it more a political thing where Simon Bridges says he’s giving you space to consider your options — National didn’t have a coalition partner to get into power last time. Has that party, has National, asked you openly or quietly, to do this?

So the long answer is no.

That’s the short answer.

Well, the thing is that it is no. This has not come out of the National Party. There is no one in the leadership that’s turned around and said, ‘Hey, we should consider this.’

So they’re happy for you to do this though?

Well, put it this way — they’ve asked me, and— Look, I’m really thankful. I’m grateful for the fact that they’ve given me space, and I’ve been to Simon, and Simon — as he declared — that I went to see him. In fact, I went to go and see him two months ago, just to say to him, ‘Look, people are coming to see me and talk.’ I want to be respectful to his role of leadership—

Ngaro has been talking about the new party idea for two months, including talking with Bridges about it. And he is still being ‘given space’ to continue while still supposedly working as a National list MP.

If you do this, are you going to take other National MPs with you?

No.

Just going to be you?

Well, put it this way — I’m not going to go and actually take people away from what their roles are. People are free to choose, to make their choices. I’m not seeking to divide the party. I’m not seeking to distract from the party, and if it means that, for instance, even when I was speaking down at the LNI Conference last Sunday, I withdrew myself. Why? Because no one person is bigger than the party.

So it is affecting his job as a National list MP.

And while he says he is not going to poach other MPs from National he sees it as up to them to choose if they want to split with him.

Okay, well, let’s see if you own this. Will you confirm right now that at the next election you’re going to be leading a faith-based party?

I can’t confirm that.

Why can’t you do that? Now is the time to do that.

Well, Simon, when you say you’re considering, that’s what consideration means. If you say you’re planning, then that’s different.

So what are you doing here right now? If it wasn’t serious, you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me.

I tell you what I’m serious about. I want to clarify things. Okay, that’s really important. I want to clarify the fact is that where my position is. Okay? People have been coming in, and I chose to come here, as opposed to some of the other programmes by the way, because I wanted to have a conversation like this, so we could actually talk through what those issues are. They’re coming to me and saying, ‘Where are we going to have a voice for our values in the House of Representatives?’

And when are you going to answer them?

Well, Simon, here’s the thing — I’ve got a political career that I’ve been a part of for eight years, I’ve got a family, also I’ve got a party that I’ve been hugely grateful and thankful for. That’s not something that you make lightly. I did not make that announcement last Friday, by the way. These were just conversations that people were having—

So the ball’s in your court now, and you’re not giving us an answer—

The ball is in my court. No, what I’m telling you is, ‘Watch this space.’ Rest assured, I’m not going to leave people hanging. I think that’s really important.

This is looking more and more like a farce. Ngaro looks to be way out of his depth. And this looks increasingly like it could be quite damaging for National.

I don’t see any chance that this Ngaro party will fly. It is barely flapping on the ground.

National – “Robertson concedes defeat on budget rules”

National’s finance spokesperson Amy Adams has responded to Minister of Finance Grant Robertson’s announcement yesterday that the Government core debt target would change to a range (see Grant Robertson: shift from net debt 20% target to 15-25% range).


Robertson concedes defeat on budget rules

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has today thrown in the towel by scrapping his self-imposed debt target, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Grant Robertson has been backed into a corner by allowing the economy to slow, over promising and making poor spending choices. Now, instead of a fixed target Grant Robertson has lifted the debt limit by 5 per cent. That loosens the purse strings by tens of billions of dollars.

“This is a blunt admission the Government can’t manage the books properly, it is not wriggle-room. This makes the fiscal hole look like a puddle.

“You can almost guarantee that means debt at the upper end of the range of 25 per cent. This is an admission of defeat from a Finance Minister who has repeatedly used these rules to give himself the appearance of being fiscally responsible.

“This decision will mean billions of dollars more debt because the Government can’t manage the books properly and wants to spend up on big wasteful promises in election year.

“This will pay for things like Shane Jones’ slush fund, fees-free tertiary and KiwiBuild – in other words, it’s wasteful spending.

“Debt isn’t free. It will have to be paid for by higher taxes in the future.

“The debt target is the latest broken promise by the Government as the ‘year of delivery’ continues to be an embarrassing string of failures.

“It took the last Labour Government two terms to lose its fiscal discipline. This Government has given up in 18 months. This confirms you simply can’t trust Labour with the economy.”

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passes first reading vote

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passed it’s first reading in Parliament yesterday by a vote of 119-1.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw:

“This Bill provides the framework, institutions, guidance and targets New Zealand needs to plan climate action that will help limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“It also puts in legislation the requirement to develop a national adaptation plan to address the impacts of climate change.”

The National Party vote for the Bill to proceed, but expressed ‘major concerns’, and didn’t guarantee support right through the process.

“National is supportive of efforts to reduce emissions, however we must also ensure our approach manages economic impacts and is in line with a global response.”


Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passes first stage in Parliament

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading in Parliament with near unanimous support.

“Today’s vote across political party lines to pass the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill through its first reading signals strong bipartisan support for most aspects of this proposed climate legislation,” the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, said.

“Now New Zealanders have the opportunity to make their submissions to select committee on what they think the final shape of this key legislation should look like,” James Shaw said.

“This Bill provides the framework, institutions, guidance and targets New Zealand needs to plan climate action that will help limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“It also puts in legislation the requirement to develop a national adaptation plan to address the impacts of climate change.

“I appreciate the broad support the Bill has received in Parliament to take it to select committee.

“I particularly want to acknowledge the National Party’s willingness to continue in the spirit of good faith with its support to send the Bill to select committee.

“I acknowledge that there are differing views on aspects of what’s been drafted. Select committee is the chance where people can put those views and argue their merits. I urge New Zealanders to do so, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of that process,” James Shaw said.


Shaw has aimed to get wide consensus across Parliament for this bill, which he sees as essentially to make enduring changes towards ‘zero carbon’.

This bill is a big deal for Shaw and the Greens, and also for Jacinda Ardern who has saikd that climate change is one of the big issues of the present time.

The current National party position:


National supports Climate Change Bill, but with major concerns

National has decided to support the Climate Change Response Act Amendment Bill through its first reading, but with serious concerns around the proposed methane target and the potential economic impact, Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“National is supportive of efforts to reduce emissions, however we must also ensure our approach manages economic impacts and is in line with a global response.

“National supports many elements of the Bill including establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission, a framework for reducing New Zealand’s emissions and a framework for climate change adaptation.

“We have serious concerns about the target level that has been set.

“The proposed 24 – 47 per cent reduction in methane is not reflective of scientific advice and is too much too fast. A range of scientific reports have suggested agriculture would contribute no further warming with a 10 – 22 per cent reduction, which would be a more reasonable target.

“This is exactly the sort of decision the newly formed Climate Change Commission has been set up to consider and provide advice on. Unfortunately the one thing the Commission should be advising on is the one thing they haven’t been asked to do.

“The Regulatory Impact Statement for the Bill raises some big concerns around the economic implications for New Zealanders.

“In total, $300 billion is forecast to be shaved off the New Zealand economy between now and 2050, New Zealand’s economy will be nine per cent smaller under this target compared with the existing 50 per cent reduction target set by National.

“This figure already banks on new technology such as a ‘methane vaccine’ that allows farmers to reduce emissions. It assumes electric vehicles make up 95 per cent of our fleet, renewable electricity makes up 98 per cent of all electricity supply and 20 per cent of our dairy, sheep and beef land is converted to forestry.

“Without these assumptions, forecast costs quickly double or even quadruple.

“We need to reduce emissions and support global efforts to avoid climate change, but we also need to be open and honest about the potential costs of doing so.

“National is aware that we are talking about the future standard of living for us all, so we’re calling on the Environment Select Committee, who will now take the Bill forward, to consult with New Zealand’s science community and focus its attention on understanding an appropriate target level for New Zealand.”


I think that’s a fairly responsible approach from National – supporting the aims in general but questioning aspects of concern.

Bridges confirms talks on breakaway Christian party

There were reports last week that National MP Alfred Ngaro could lead a new Christian Party. With cooperation from National Ngaro would have a reasonable chance of winning an electorate, which is the only way around a prohibitive MP threshold for new parties.

The only new parties to have succeeded in getting into Parliament under MMP are those with incumbent MPs.

Yesterday National leader Simon Bridges confirmed he has talked to Ngaro about the possibility of splitting, but was vague about details. However significantly Bridges did not deny the new party being considered.

Stuff: Simon Bridges confirms he’s talked with MP about a breakaway Christian party

​National leader Simon Bridges has confirmed he’s talked with MP Alfred Ngaro about the establishment of a “values-based, religious party”.

Bridges says it’s an “alluring idea” and he’s giving Ngaro, a former National party minister, “space” to explore the idea.

But he’s being vague on who is behind the nascent party, and sending mixed messages on whether there will be an electorate deal.

“I am not setting up a religious party…I don’t think I’m giving him support or not, I’m just giving him space,” Bridges said.

Bridges would only be ‘giving him space’ if he did not oppose the idea of a split.

Bridges says Ngaro was approached by “some people” in the last few months. He claims not to know who they are.

Sounds like a deliberate ‘plausible denial’ situation.

“Look, I am not interested in electorate deals, that is certainly not something I have canvassed with Alfred or anyone else…

“I can confirm to you I have not done any deals, I have not talked about any deals and actually I am pretty unlikely to want to get into that.”

He won’t want to get into that with the media, but he hasn’t ruled anything out there.

Bridges says he spoke to Ngaro once about the fledgling party. He wouldn’t be drawn on whether the post-Christchurch political environment was the right time to be launching a party hinged on religious values.

“I’ve simply said to them ‘ok let me know how you get on’. We haven’t had other conversations on this…

“We have seen in the past, these sort of values based, religious parties can do very well and I suppose that’s why Alfred and others are exploring this…there potentially is a gap in the market for a Christian or a value-based party.”

Bridges sounds quite amenable to the proposition.

As I have already said, I think that a Christian based party with a good chance of getting into Parliament is a good idea. Doing it with a sitting MP splitting is probably the only of succeeding inn spite of the 5% threshold, which has effectively stopped any new parties getting into Parliament, unless they have an MP with an electorate seat.

I am unlikely to vote for a Christian party, but I strongly support aa party that can get a few percent of people voting for them being represented in Parliament.  That is what MMP should allow, and a number of viable smaller parties would result in better representation in Parliament. Currently the threshold effectively disenfranchises people who prefer niche parties.


Update: bridges is being about this on RNZ. He stated that National will stand an MP in the Botany electorate next election (Botany was mooted as an electorate that Ngaro could stand).

Christian party split from National?

There has been quite a bit of speculation that MP Alfred Ngaro is considering splitting from National and setting up a Conservative Christian party. He would possibly stand in the Botany electorate, a safe National seat currently held by the now independent Jamie Lee Ross.

There has been no strong denials, suggesting that it is an option being seriously considered, and not opposed by National who badly need partner parties

Ngaro would probably be a fairly moderate conservative, and a largely  uncontroversial MP, so would be well suited to this if it happens.

If Ngaro wins an electorate then the party wouldn’t need to reach the 5% threshold to get a few list MPs into Parliament with him.

I think this would be a positive move. There is an obvious constituency for Christian conservatives. In the  past Christian parties have got up to 4%, even with oddball leaders like Colin Craig. They should be able to be represented in Parliament.

I don’t see much chance of the New Conservative party getting anywhere near serious contention, so a new party is the obvious option to take.

I’d actually like to see more party splits. Under MMP the ideal set up is a large party with multiple small party options in governing arrangements. This avoids the tail wagging the dog type scenario (which is happening currently to an extent with NZ First), and ensures generally that majority will gets it’s way.

Bennett refuses to appear alongside Swarbrick in cannabis discussion

National deputy leader Paula Bennett has refused to appear alongside Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick on Q&A last night to discuss the cannabis referendum. This is a continuation of Bennett, National’s ‘Spokesperson for Drug Reform’, refusing to take part in drug reform discussions.

This is extraordinary arrogance (that an opposition MP can ill afford), or fear of being shown up by Swabrick, who is very well informed on cannabis issues. Bennett has a habit of misrepresenting cannabis information, and scaremongering.

This isn’t the first time that Bennett has refused to discuss cannabis issues with Swarbrick. She has repeatedly  has refused to join a cross party group dealing with cannabis law reform.

 

I think that’s a fair response from Swarbrick.

It turns out that Andrew Little is going to lead the cross-party group, but National made a different excuse to not take part.

More on this from Stuff in National Party won’t commit to enacting result of 2020 cannabis referendum:

National Party leader Simon Bridges said his party cannot commit to enacting the result of the 2020 cannabis referendum if elected as he has not seen the draft bill yet.

Sort of fair enough on this. But…

“I would need to see the law and I would need to have answers to some basic questions like: What’s the tax rate going to be? Will gangs be able legally to sell drugs in New Zealand? Will edible gummy bears be legal?” Bridges said.

“Of course I trust the public, it’s the Government I don’t trust.”

This is nonsense. The public will vote on whatever the Government produces in their draft bill. Bridges is effectively saying he wouldn’t trust the decision made by voters who get a chance to judge the draft bill for themselves.

Bennett has rejected invitations from Green spokeswoman on drug reform Chloe Swarbrick to join this group in the past.

She said today she would be happy to join if it was led by a minister.

“I just don’t see how with all respect a junior member of Parliament that is not part of Government is the spokesperson on drug reform which could change the social fabric of this country,” Bennett said.

“If they are serious about cross-party, put a cabinet minister in there and I will happily sit with them and any other member of Parliament,” Bennett said.

If Bennett was serious about contributing to drug law reform she would have been contributing to the cross-party group already.  It sounds like excuses from her – and the excuses keep changing.

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Andrew Little confirmed he would be leading the group.

Bennett still did not commit to joining the group.

“We will want to see terms of reference and what the group will be doing before deciding,” Bennett said.

This is a very disappointing attitude from Bennett and National. Their petty arrogance in Opposition, and their apparent determination to disrupt drug reform initiatives, is likely to hurt their support amongst the all important floating voters.

Leaked Cabinet paper on cannabis referendum ‘out of date’

A Cabinet Paper detailing cannabis law reform referendum options has been leaked to the National Party (who insist on misnaming the drug) just before the issue will be considered by Cabinet, but Green MP Chloe Swarbrick says that it is out of date.

National: Cabinet Paper shows NZ not ready for (cannabis) referendum

A Cabinet Paper leaked to National which will be considered by the Government tomorrow shows New Zealand will head into the recreational marijuana referendum with many unanswered questions, National’s Drug Reform spokesperson Paula Bennett says.

“Cabinet will tomorrow consider four different options for the referendum but no matter which option it choses, there are huge holes.

“The Cabinet Paper is clear that smoking marijuana when you’re under the age of 25 is detrimental for development of the brain, and yet it recommends that the legal age should be 20. The legal age seems to have been plucked out of thin air.

“The paper acknowledges that regular marijuana use increases the risk of developing depression, psychosis and schizophrenia and is especially harmful to those under 25-years-old. It also acknowledges that there is a one in six chance of young people becoming dependent. This would result in further demand for mental health services.

“Only one of the options being considered will give New Zealanders some certainty about what they’re voting for – the other options will mean a huge lack of information.

“Every option takes us straight to legalisation instead of decriminalisation. Many other countries consider decriminalisation first before leaping straight to legalisation.

“National understands that as usual with this Government, the coalition has been unable to reach a consensus and the decision around which option they will choose has been holding up the process.

“The problem with that is there isn’t time for yet more coalition disagreements on an issue this important.”

The 2020 Cannabis Referendum proposals outline four options including;

  • A general question consistent with the undertaking in the Confidence and Supply agreement: “Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis?” This would not be accompanied by any legal framework or other policy decisions and it would be left to a subsequent Parliament to determine what to do in the event of a ‘yes’ vote.
  • A questions referring to a specific policy framework document setting out the basic principles of what legalisation for personal use of recreational cannabis in New Zealand would entail: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with [published policy document]?” A ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact law changes consistent with that policy document;
  • A question referring to draft legislation that outlines the regulatory model for cannabis: ‘Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis in accordance with [published draft legislation]?” Similar to option 2, a ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact the legislation.
  • A question referring to legislation already enacted but conditional on an affirmative vote on the referendum: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with the [Drug Reform] Act 20XX?” A ‘yes’ vote would trigger the legislation coming into effect.

A leak of a Cabinet paper is rare and serious, and national are playing it hard.

Paula Bennett has been invited a number of times to work together with Government parties on cannabis law reform, but National has chosen to try to spoil and disrupt the issue as much as possible, in this case aided by a leak.

It’s very disappointing if Cabinet are seriously considering any but the last of the above options.

It’s also disappointing to see National trying to make a mess of the issue. Paula Bennett has handled this appallingly, presumably with the approval of Simon Bridges.

Labour, NZ First and National are all at risk of letting the majority of New Zealanders who support cannabis law reform down by playing petty politics and possible trying to get out of fronting up properly on this issue.

If Labour yet again fails on a key policy due to not getting NZ First support, and if National mess things up by not working positively on this, then they will piss a lot of people off.

Half arsed apology, Ardern ‘reins in’ MPs, but Willie Jackson ‘hits back’

Labour list MP Willie Jackson remains defiant despite a half arsed apology, after he was criticised for questioning how Māori Paula Bennett is. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was reported to have reined him in, but instead Jackson has ‘hit back’.

For background see Labour Maori versus Paula Bennett continues.

Jaskson was interviewed on RNZ yesterday morning where he apologised to those who he may have offended (that is, a half arsed insincere apology) – Jackson sorry for offence after Māori comments (audio):

Employment Minister Willie Jackson has sparked a heated debate about which MPs are allowed to identify as Maori. Mr Jackson called National MP Paula Bennett’s heritage into question, saying she doesn’t know from one day to the next whether she’s Maori. National’s Paula Bennett says she’s identified as Maori since she was born, and the comments made in the House went too far.

Jacinda Ardern got involved – Prime Minister reins in MPs over attacks on Paula Bennett’s Māori heritage

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reined in two of her Ministers for getting personal about Paula Bennett’s Māori heritage.

A very public slanging match erupted this week when three senior Māori members of the coalition government went on the attack against the National Party deputy leader and her whakapapa.

Mrs Bennett described it as a “racist attack” and out of sync with Ms Ardern’s attempts to make Parliament a kinder place.

She said the rhetoric from senior Māori Ministers doesn’t gel at all with what Ms Ardern has been saying she wants to change about politics.

“So we have a prime minister who is constantly saying that she wants to change the way that Parliament is and how Parliamentarians treat each other, and she now has senior Māori ministers going out there and categorising other MPs as not being Māori enough, and I don’t think that gels at all with the kind of Parliament that she’s trying to create,” Mrs Bennett said.

The comments spilled into Question Time on Thursday when Mrs Bennett bit back using Mr Jackson’s Mana in Mahi youth employment programme to ask him whether you needed Māori-sounding surname to participate or would he be telling people with the name Bidois that they should go back to Italy.

That prompted deputy prime minister Winston Peters to go into bat for Mr Jackson.

Then Whanau Ora Minister Peeni Henare also joined in.

Mr Jackson walked back his comments somewhat on RNZ this morning, saying his point was that Mrs Bennett didn’t support National MPs like Nuk Korako who do contribute to kaupapa Māori.

“Of course she’s Māori, I’ve never said that she’s not Māori. I said in Question Time yesterday that she whakapapa’s Māori, how you identify with being Māori is by your whakapapa – is Paula Māori? One hundred percent.

“So she’s twisted this and spun it and she’s got away from the real deal here, which is her reluctance and her non-support of a tremendous Māori MP who has advocated kaupapa Māori and te reo Māori everyday,” Mr Jackson said.

Jackson is the one twisting things. More about that soon.

“I think the point he raised was valid and raised in only the way Willie can. And my experience and upbringing tells me whakapapa certainly is one thing but if we look at what makes a Māori through a Pakeha lense then we’re only looking at either a classification or a blood quantum and what i’m saying is that is one part of it but there’s so much more to being a Māori,” Mr Henare told Radio Waatea.

This is disappointing from Henare. Surely being Māori is different for different people, and so it should be.

The Prime Minister has had to go into damage control.

A spokesperson said while the Prime Minister understood her MPs’ desire to hold all members to account on the work they do for their local communities, she has an expectation that this doesn’t become personal.

The Prime Minister didn’t respond to questions about whether she had spoken to her ministers and what message she had passed on.

So despite the headline there is no sign of Ardern reining in anyone.

And Jackson is not acting reined in. He posted at The Daily Blog yesterday: Willie Jackson hits back

Well what a busy last couple of days I’ve had in the House. Yesterday after supporting International Worker’s Day (May Day), I decided to attack the Māori MPs in National in my General Debate.

The main reason I did that was because they have showed very little support for a fine man and good Māori advocate, Nuk Korako, who resigned because he was basically sick and tired of the zero support he would get for Māori issues.

I called some of the National MPs useless and singled out Jo Hayes, Simon Bridges, Dan Bidois and Paula Bennett – I make no apologies for calling them useless. When you’re in the Chamber, particularly in the General Debate, it’s all on and you take no prisoners. That’s how it’s always been and you can either handle it or not.

That’s not how it’s always been for all MPs, Some like Jackson seem to think it gives them licence to launch over the top attacks, but most MPs manage to not launch outlandish attacks.

She is trying to spin the line that I don’t think she’s Māori which is not what I said in my speech – I said some days she’s Māori and some days she’s not, and that’s an undeniable fact.

What Jacksons thinks Bennett may think on a day to day basis is obviously not factual, it’s his opinion. He can’t know how she thinks.

And what he claims he said in Parliament is inaccurate. He said” Paula Bennett, well, she doesn’t know if she’s a Māori, some day’s she does and some days she doesn’t”.

Again, not facts, just assertions, he cannot know  what he claimed.

“has she ever advocated for Māori; has she ever taken a pro-Māori stance or a Kaupapa Māori stance – and the answer to that is unequivocally no.”

I think that that claim is unequivocally false.

The National Government that Paula Bennett was a part of took a number of pro-Māori stances. Leading ‘significant policies’ at Fifth National Government of New Zealand (Wikipedia):

Treaty of Waitangi/Settlements

The involvement of the National government within this particular area was seen through their approach in settlements. National government’s involvement of Treaty affairs:

  • Ngai Tuhoe deed of settlement[1]

These involved discussion and planning of guidelines which were negotiated with two significant iwis of Taranaki. This also involved Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Christopher Finlayson.

  • Apology to affiliate Te Arawa[2]

In relation to past Treaty breaches and the actions of the previous governments at the time of the land wars. John Key apologized for the actions and doings of the abuses to the Te Arawa iwi and hapu.

  • Negotiation with Te Atiawa and Taranaki iwi[3]

Through the nine years of government Key/English/Bennett worked with the Māori Party on many policies, bills and initiatives advocating for Māori interests.

Māori Party: OUR ACHIEVEMENTS (Just some of our achievements from October 2008 to June 2017)

The Māori Party has influenced more than $3 billion for kaupapa Māori initiatives and almost $3 billion for all New Zealanders.

They detail a number of achievements while in Government with National. They could only have done that with the support of National, including the support of Bennett.

I’m not a fan of Bennett, but I think that Jackson is wide of the mark with these ongoing attacks on her. Also Peters (not surprising from him) and Henare (I thought he was better than this).

In particular, it’s getting dirty questioning someone else’s ethnicity, whakapapa, and their authenticity. Bennett is correct saying this is a form of racism.

 

Media frenzy over National leadership

Yesterday the political media were persistently pushing for declarations of trust from Simon Bridges and declarations of loyalty from Judith Collins, knowing that neither would be frank. This is political theatre at it’s worst.

The National caucus had a longer than usual meeting yesterday, prompting the attention after doubts have grown about the ability of Bridges to hold on to the leadership.

Newshub claim to have some sort of scoop:  Newshub understands Sir John Key has shown support for Judith Collins

Newshub understands former Prime Minister Sir John Key has shown some support behind the scenes for Judith Collins to be National leader.

Key would not confirm this to Newshub, only to say, “I don’t comment on leadership issues” – but because of his standing in the party, MPs still go to him for advice and he commands huge respect in the National Caucus.

An endorsement – or even a subtle nod – could be a game-changer.

Or not – Key has no vote on the leadership, and he should be reluctant to get involved in leadership issues.

Newshub was also leaked details of the National Party’s Caucus meeting on Tuesday, which included a specific warning to MPs not to talk to Newshub.

Simon Bridges survived another day as leader of the National Party as well as his first showdown with MPs after some started laying the groundwork for a coup in favour of Judith Collins.

National’s Caucus meeting was Bridges’ first face off with all his MPs in two weeks and since some of them started seriously stirring against his leadership, saying the numbers are firming up for Collins.

National MPs holed up for more than two hours in the meeting, and Bridges emerged victorious.

This is emotive language in lieu of actual news. ‘They are ‘holed up’ for every caucus meeting.

Bridges didn’t emerge victorious, he came out with no change to his leadership.

The rest of the Newshub report is not deserving of being repeated. It is poor nonsense from political editor Tova O’Brien.

This from Politik (prior to yesterday’s meeting) is more reasoned:

It is.clear that National’s membership is becoming impatient; that it wants to see the party produce a plan for the future and engage less in day to day brawling with Labour.

There has been an amount of credible media speculation that this is

There was almost a tacit acknowledgement of that yesterday with a lengthy defence of his leadership by his deputy Paula Bennett.

“There are things you want in a leader,” she said.

“I want somebody who is intelligent.

“I want someone that is going to work harder than me, because that is what I expect in my leader.

“And without sounding it, I work pretty bloody hard for this party and this country.

“But he works harder than I do.

“He works harder than any of our other MPs.

“I want someone who has a vision for this country and puts that first.

“And someone who knows that whatever discussions we are having in the caucus are not about who is sitting in what seat but what is best for this country.

“That is what I want in a Leader, and that is what you have got in Simon Bridges.”

National has three more regional conferences to go. There were signs in Hamilton that the grassroots party members want change, possibly big change. The challenge over the next three conferences will be for the leadership to demonstrate that they are listening. Otherwise those standing ovations will become even more reluctant.

Working harder is not good enough if it is simply not working, and that’s how it appears with Bridges. Too many people cringe whenever he speaks on television.

Some of the media sharks smell leadership blood and are more than circling, they are trying to force bites.

National will take their own time to work out what to do about Bridges, who shows no sign of giving up.