Bill English speaks

The probable soon to be ex-Prime Minister, Bill English, is giving a media conference.

Seems fairly relaxed in his speech. Thanks the usual.

From here he says the National Party will regroup.

Asked if he feels robbed he says it is MMP but smaller parties have the opportunity to form a government.

Did NZ First asked for too much? He avoids answering that directly, just says he thought they proposed a good robust governing arrangement an thinks would have been a successful government.

He says they had satisfactory negotiations.

Moral authority? National were given an opportunity but it’s about being able to form a government.

Humble and gracious, and no sign of bitterness. I think the result wasn’t unexpected to National.

He has not yet decided what he will do about leadership. Far too soon to jump. No rush for National, they are best to take there time and do any leadership change (I expect it will happen) properly rather than hurriedly.

 

The Winston Show today

The Winston Show continues today. We don’t know whether the big announcement this afternoon, announced by Winston Peters yesterday, will be the final act or not. The Greens at least seem to want an epilogue for themselves.

Peters is producing, directing and starring in his show. The NZ First appeared in one act but they have since dispersed, leaving their star in the limelight.

National and Labour are bit players. They don’t know what the announcement is going to reveal, they don’t know what part if any either of them may play. Bill English and Jacinda Ardern have allowed themselves to be sidelined after offering the baubles they think will buy them power.

I voted so I can moan when I find out what is revealed today. Or I can groan and wait another day or two.

Beware of assumptions. Yesterday:

Today this dawned on them:

I’m not sure that everyone is hoping for that, many are probably past caring. Or preparing themselves for three years of the Winston Show.

An announcement about an announcement…

A short time ago Winston peters made an announcement that he will make an announcement about the NZ First decision on government tomorrow afternoon, Some time. Maybe.

But there will be more to do from there, the Greens won’t make their decision and announcement until they now what the NZ First decision is.

Winston’s full press release:

New Zealand First will be in a position tomorrow afternoon to make an announcement on the result of negotiations following the 2017 General Election.

New Zealand First Leader Rt Hon Winston Peters said he had spoken to the leaders of the National Party and the Labour Party today and, amongst other matters, advised them of that.

That announces very little.

Reports from Stuff  Live: Choosing a new government on what the greens will do from there:

From what I understand speaking to Green Party people off the record, that standing conference call with their members to ratify any deal won’t be tonight. In fact it can only happen after Peters makes his decision public tomorrow (and of course only if he decides to go with the left). Which means if he does go that way we could have an announcement from Peters in the afternoon but no confirmed government until the evening.

It’s also possible that Peters could send Labour a final agreement document before actually making a decision, and the Greens could get their Labour/Greens package ratified – all before Peters makes anything public. There are going to be a lot of moving parts tomorrow morning.

Green leader James Shaw says the party will not be holding its conference call, with its up to 155 delegates, tonight.

He said the decision not to go ahead with the call tonight was made mid-afternoon.

So it predated Winston Peters’ public statement that he would make an announcement on Thursday on the result of negotiations following the 2017 General Election.

I won’t be planning my Labour weekend around this, but a few MPs and Parliamentary workers may be busy.

UPDATE: another announcement, this one from Bill English:

National is holding a caucus meeting tomorrow at 11 am in Wellington to provide MPs with an update on coalition talks. A separate teleconference will then take place with the National party board.

We stress that we have had no indication of what decision New Zealand First will make.

We have no further comment at this stage.

Bitterness under the bus

Nicky guided a big bus over Whale Oil in 2014, and John key and National walked away. Cameron Slater is still bitter in a big way.

Slater used to promote politics done as dirty as possible, and tried to drive a few buses over others – most notably Len Brown immediately after the 2013 mayoral election, trying to upset a democratic result, and also Colin Craig in 2015. Slater seemed to revel in doing maximum damage and seem to care nothing about destroying reputations and careers both as a game and as a mercenary.

But he is not so keen when on the receiving end – the Whale has been wailing every since Nicky Hager bussed him, and since he was left in the dust by National.

His bitterness has been apparent in the recent election campaign, wishing disaster on National and on Bill English and National MPs and staff.

And he still holds a bus sized grudge over John Key deserting him.

Yesterday he posted: No hard feelings John, but no one gives a stuff what you think anymore

That’s kind of ironic, given how many stuffs are given to what Slater thinks now.

John Key’s phone must have stopped ringing, so he’s decided to come out and offer up his advice for coalition negotiations.

Key was opening of a new Trading Room at the Business School at the University of Canterbury and was asked. He didn’t write multiple blog posts every day.

What a dickhead. He saw this coming and bolted for the door that’s how much he cared about the situation. Now he has the temerity to offer up his opinion.

Piss off. He quit, that means STFU.

No it doesn’t, it means he is free to do and say what he likes.

We don’t care anymore what he thinks. What an attention seeking effwit…phone stopped ringing eh John?

No hard feelings, eh?

Sounds very much like projection of Slater’s on situation . He seems to hate that his phone stopped ringing three years ago, and still holds a grudge.

Comments and ticks were carefully scathing of Slater.

Christie’s comment was strongly supported:

He was opening the new Business School at Canterbury University. His comments were made probably in response to a journalist asking if he was in touch with Bill English. My belief is that he resigned when he did for the reasons he stated – particularly when there was another election coming up.

Bill English’s family have been treated with some respect by the media, but John Key’s kids were always fair game. Perhaps he felt – like many of us did – that a local rapper, being paid public money, writing a song about raping his daughter was a bit too much for him. Who could blame him? I don’t blame him for resigning – I just wish he hadn’t.

George Carter’s too:

Whether it was part of a speech or in a response to a journalist his point is fairly light and non intrusive. We’ve heard far more from other ex-PM’s and MP’s so i’m not sure why you’re so dismissive of his comments.

SpanishBride joined the wailing in response:

Probably because when John Key threw him under the bus after we were hacked and our private e-mails turned into a book for profit by Nicky Hager after working with the criminal Rawshark, John Key sent a message to him saying “No hard feelings.”

I suspect she misinterprets what “no hard feelings” meant there.

Wanarunna sort of supported the post:

Quite understand Cam’s reaction here. People don’t have to agree with it, and I don’t, but hey, this is Cam’s blog where Cam says what Cam thinks. Sometimes when I read comments on this blog I get the impression that some people think that Cam speaks for the Whaleoil Community (if there is such a thing), and if he says something they don’t agree with, then somehow he has it wrong. No, he’s just seeing things from his perspective, not yours.

A response to that resulted in a thinly veiled threat from Slater…

WhaleOilNoHardFeelings

…but those two responses have now disappeared.

Such is the thin skin and censorship at Whale Oil. Slater has obviously got hard feelings after three years of being belted by a bus, and shows a lack of hardness when the political booting is from the other foot.

His attacks on Key and English and National are petty and largely impotent.

Slater claimed that National without his support would tank, and he predicted them polling in the thirties. One of the more notable outcomes of the election was how well National’s support held up in the mid forties, unprecedented in attempting to win a fourth term.

They seem to be managing quite well without Slater’s dirty politics.

Whale Oil survives as a popular niche blog, but not as a political player of any importance.

Some of the silliest speculation

The secrecy in government forming talks seems to have been very effective – political journalists seem to have had few if any leaks to work with. This seems to have frustrated them big time, they don’t like being excluded from the gaming.

So all they have had to write about who is arriving at and leaving meetings, the lack of progress, and speculation.

The speculation covers things like possible governing arrangements – Winston Peters has claimed their are nine possibilities, with no indication which may be preferred or more likely – and also possible policy agreements and ministerial positions.

Trying to second guess Peters is a mugs game. There are indications he doesn’t know things himself, given his time line assurances that have proven quite inaccurate.

After yesterday’s NZ First board meetings and then ‘secret’ meetings between Peters and Bill English, and separately with Jacinda Ardern, gave up nothing of substance some the speculation seemed to get sillier.

Audrey Young: Winston’s two offers: Why it could get personal

Which ever party leads the Government, New Zealand First could expect an unsolicited electoral arrangement in 2020 to assist the party’s survival in Northland or Whangarei – which would never be spoken of.

It would simply be in both parties’ interests.

Tracy Watkins: Coalition talks gather pace with secret meetings

With the policy discussions out of the way, those talks are likely to centre on ministerial portfolios, the structure of the next government – are the Greens in or out for instance – and assurances about 2020.

In National’s case that would likely require cast iron assurances that it will not try to kill NZ First off again – as it very nearly did this time round, when it ran its “cut out the middle man” campaign.

Future assurances might include an acknowledgement that NZ First is first cab off the rank in any future coalition deals – maybe even back channel commitments about an Epsom-style deal in Northland.

I think it would be utterly ridiculous to try to get commitments on the next election campaign, let alone coalition negotiation terms in future terms.

Many things could happen in the next two and a half years that could change things. One likely possibility is that Peters won’t stand again, so any assurances to him would be worthless.

Promising not to compete in a future election would be preposterous and an insult to democracy.

If either National or Labour formed a government now based in part in promises about not competing or assisting in the next campaign, and this government fell apart (and Peters has history on not lasting out a term in coalition) any governing party that was then seen to do a deal with NZ First in advance of the next election would be at high risk of being punished severely by voters.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and Greens turned out to be ill advised and fell to pieces after competing power plays leadership changes. And it doesn’t seem to have done the Greens much good, appearing to have been shunted to the sidelines by Peters, aided and abetted by Labour.

Assurances by Peters have proven to be unreliable – except that one thing he has staunchly stuck to is not indicating any preference for any other party in election campaigns.

For him to make an agreement to cosy up to one or the other of Labour or National in the next election seems as likely as him campaigning in shorts and t-shirt.

In the absence of actual news speculation is bound to fill the vacuum, but it seems to be getting sillier as the limbo period continues.

Spitting out pieces of their broken luck

Like a number of party activists on blogs Anthony Robins has been busy at The Standard over the last couple of weeks trying to promote Labour’s chances of getting into government, and trying to trash National.

A recent attempt: Nats – lousy at government – “brilliant” at opposition

National have been a lousy government. They have enriched the rich and impoverished the poor. They have inflated a housing bubble and done nothing for the homeless. They have let the environment degrade and made a mockery of our global warming commitments. They have let social institutions degrade, along with practical services like health and education. They have engaged in dirty politics in blatant lies. And for what?

A common refrain from the left – exaggerated generalities.

What will they be remembered for? Oh they “got us through the financial crisis” – yeah just like every other country on the planet (and it was our slowest ever recovery from a recession).

This diss is very lame. New Zealand is acknowledged to have done very well at weathering and recovering from the GFC, and our economy is now in a relatively healthy state compared to most countries.

They “got us through the Christchurch earthquakes” – yeah ask some people who live in Christchurch about that.

There’s no doubt that many people in Christchurch have had a tough time since the earthquakes, and there is more to sort out yet.

What National are “brilliant” at is opposition. They poll and focus group relentlessly, they have heaps of money, they attack like rabid rats in a sack. They have essentially spent the last nine years running opposition against Labour. They have been very successful at this, witness Labour’s long poll doldrums, and the fact that most of the “reasons” for those doldrums are memes of the Nats making.

Robins is really trying to blame National for Labour’s poor performance and their revolving door leadership over the past nine years.

When I say “brilliant” at opposition, the quote marks are because it’s only brilliant if you accept that tactics like dirty politics and outright lies are acceptable, that the ends of power justify any means. That way lies political madness.

All politicians have difficulty avoiding lying, and National is not the only party that has resorted to dirty politics.

Aside from disgruntled opposition activists I think National is regarded to have governed reasonably well over the last nine years, although of course there have been stuff ups, failures and some sleeping at the wheel, especially over housing and health.

I think National’s 9 years compares fairly favourably to an also successful 9 years of government led by Labour’s Helen Clark. There will always be justified criticisms of any Government, but New Zealand has been led and governed relatively well and successfully so far this century.

Robins is unlikely to have any influence on the current negotiations. He is preaching to a protected niche who are already convinced that National is evil and hopeless.

That’s been happening at The Standard over the last nine years, and it’s an approach to political activism that hasn’t helped Labour’s case (or more recently and increasingly the Green’s case) for improving their credibility or gaining support.

I think it’s noteable that Labour’s recovery and rapid rise under Jacinda Ardern’s leadership is due to her positive approach to politics. She has actually commended Bill English’s stewardship of the Finance portfolio, and she has acknowledged the relative success and strength of the New Zealand economy.

Robins and The Standard seems stuck in old school negative politics. If they stopped sounding so bitter, looked at the positives, and looked at ways of doing better they would get onside with the Ardern approach to politics and would help improve left wing credibility and respect.

Spitting out pieces of their broken luck, oh, The Standard should get over that and like Ardern look at how they can build a better political environment.

Adding value is far more likely to end up in success, if not this term then put them in a strong position next term, than bashing and trashing.

(Line borrowed from Aqualung)

Negotiations, decisions could be some time yet

NZ First party discussions on who to form a government with will continue into today, and even when they make a decision it could still take time from then to know what the outcome is.

There seemed to be no great urgency to get things under way yesterday morning as NZ First MPs and board members trickled into Wellington. They were reported to start meeting at 10.30 am.

Late yesterday afternoon Winston Peters issued a brief statement:

The New Zealand First Board and Members of Parliament are continuing with their discussions around post-election negotiations.

It is expected the meeting will go on for several more hours.

Later advice was given that things wouldn’t be complete on Monday.

NZH: More talks ahead as NZ First decides on government

The nine NZ First caucus members and 14 board members were sequestered away for the day getting meals taken into them rather than leaving for food. The meeting broke soon after 6pm and the board left through a back entrance. Only NZ First MP Shane Jones left past the waiting media, saying they were going to get dinner.

…after 6pm media were told there would be no public statements and the board would return again this morning.

Peters said little during the day and would not confirm whether his discussions with one party were more advanced than another. He did confirm English was correct that he had not discussed ministerial portfolios in negotiations.

He has also said the board and caucus were yet to consider what form of government NZ First would settle on – from the cross benches to a full coalition.

Although NZ First leader Winston Peters said he expected to announce NZ First’s intentions as soon as possible after that board meeting, English said that even if NZ First made its decision on which side to go with there would have to be further negotiations before a final deal and government was settled on.

So one of Peters’ assurances, that a decision may be made by the end of this week, may be his most accurate, albeit typically vague.

And that may not be the end of it. English:

“They won’t be looking at completed agreements because there are still a number of issues related to forming a government that have not yet been dealt with. The policy discussion was completed but there is not yet an agreement including the type of government, ministerial positions to put to our caucus or party board.”

He said working out those final details should not take long although if NZ First continued to negotiate with both sides on those issues it could be more difficult because of the added “complexity” on the Labour side because of the inclusion of the Green Party.

The Greens appear to be yet to take any options to the party for consideration.

The Green Party has also again held off holding its Special General Meeting to seek 75 per cent approval from about 150 delegates for its deal with Labour. It has been ready to hold that meeting for days.

If the delegates don’t reach agreement it may have to go to all party members for consultation and making a decision, if one can be made. There may be some concerns over getting into a governing arrangement when NZ First seem to have so much sway.

Earlier, Peters had told Newstalk ZB it was a complex decision and all options for a government formation were still on the table – from the cross benches to a full coalition. He wanted the party to decide based on policy gains rather than ministerial roles.

He said NZ First had worked over the weekend to firm up the precise agreements with National and Labour, and contact had been “reasonably extensive”.

So negotiations were nowhere near complete by Thursday, the original deadline indicated by Peters.

I don’t care how long they take, but media seem to be getting increasingly frustrated with being strung along without getting any stories of substance to report on.

Do we need government formation rules?

While I think that many voters care little if at all that we don’t have a new government yet, but the political limbo has given the media a chance to fill the vacuum with calls for a different, quicker or more definite way of forming governments.

It is obvious that one thing the media hates is not being talked to, and National and Labour in particular have very effectively stone-walled on negotiations. There has been a unusual lack of leaks of information, hence the media consternation.

But it’s worth questioning whether we need a more definite way of forming a government after an election. There is some justified concern that a 7% party leader seems to be calling most of the shots.

Stacey Kirk: Reining in a kingmaker requires integrity above politics. Are our lot capable?

‘Our lot’ doesn’t refer to the media, who are largely responsible for creating the Winston as kingmaker thing.

New Zealand has had MMP for 21 years now, a relative infancy. It’s time MMP evolved.

The negotiation process to deliver New Zealand its next Government has given a 7 per cent party more power than either of the major parties.

It isn’t the process that has given Peters this power. It was created largely by media, and has been allowed to happen this way by National and Labour. It is not the system that’s the problem, it’s those who don’t use the system well – both politicians and journalists.

The leverage, of course, diminishes the second the governing group sign together on the dotted line, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that a 7 per cent party will likely get more than a 7 per cent share of the spoils in Government, such is the way NZ First leader Winston Peters is allowed to play the major parties off one another.

We don’t know yet, but it’s little different to the last seven MMP elections where potentially parties with small levels of support can appear to negotiate more than their share.

But this can’t be measured let alone controlled.

If ever there was a case for a written rulebook for the weeks following the election, the unedifying farce that’s played out the past three weeks would be it.

Has it really been a farce? Peters has been caught out failing to keep a promise, and making excuses and deferring to his board, but apart from that the most unedifying thing has been how media have conducted themselves, demanding answers before they can be given.

Enter the governor-general.

It’s a largely ceremonial role, but it’s not without power in New Zealand. In the UK – although they work to a First Past the Post system – the Queen still invites the largest party to attempt to form a Government in her name.

As a post-election convention, that makes even more sense under MMP and we should allow our governor-general to do it.

Following a buffer period until the special votes are counted and finalised, where absolutely nothing happens, the governor-general would allow the largest party a set period of time to attempt to form a Government.

That is a reasonable suggestion that merits consideration.

Should they fail in that time, then the opportunity is passed to the next-largest party.

And that is a sensible progression.

The burden of power is at least partially more weighted towards the major party holding the negotiations, rather than a minnow cracking a long whip. And perhaps most importantly, there is less danger of a 7 per cent party negotiating for far more than 7 per cent of the power.

It has been ridiculous to see Peters orchestrating the negotiations, but it needs to be remembered that National, Labour and the Greens have allowed him to do that. Parties with a combined vote of 87.6% of the vote enabled peters to call the shots. That’s not Winston’s fault, nor the system’s fault.

No legislation can force proportional power on negotiations and outcomes of government forming.

But it does make sense to give the party getting the most votes in an election the right to have say two weeks after the writ has been returned to try to form a government. If they fail then the next largest party gets a shot at it.

This certainty would make it easier for parties to begin talking and negotiating before the final results as they would know the likely outcome.

It would stop a small party from dictating the terms of negotiations.

It’s worth noting that NZ First has 7.2% of the vote, but we could have been in the same situation if they had only five MPs rather than 9.

After last election ACT or United Future or the Maori Party could have tried to call the shots. They didn’t, and the media hadn’t spent a year talking them up as potential kingmakers, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen next election.

If there was a rule that the largest party runs negotiations and and has a set time to try to form a government it would reduce the chances of parties misusing the system as has happened this time.

It seems reasonably democratic to me.

And it would give the media some degree of certainty, albeit a small amount, in the limbo period after an election.

NZ First decision Monday, Tuesday, maybe

Inexplicably Winston Peters changed from a promise of a decision on the new Government by Thursday to deferring the decision to the NZ First board. And indicating this may have been an unexpected change of mind the board wasn’t anywhere near ready to meet and decide.

The current plan is for the NZ First board to assemble in Wellington on Monday and to meet all day, and then for the NZ First caucus to make a decision, and then announce it, maybe on Monday night, maybe on Tuesday, maybe.

This suggests that the negotiations have not gone to plan for Peters. It suggests that there has been more to discuss and work out than he anticipated, or that the decision is not as clear cut as he thought it would be. He claimed that he had no idea which way the decision should go.

This may mean that both National and Labour have given him heaps of policy concessions.

Or it may mean they have both played hardball, and offered NZ First policies in keeping with their 7.2% level of support.

Peters has said that now the offers are on the table there may be minor clarifications sought but no more meetings and no more negotiations.

“No. There will be clarification, but contrary to whatever is said we are not running a Dutch auction here.”

That suggests that both the deals may be good enough for him to go with as they are.

But can we take Peters at his word? Hardly. A fresh look at things by the board could feasibly raise overlooked issues.

And will that be the final word? Does anyone know?

It sounds like both National and Labour are waiting for Peters to announce the NZ First decision. We don’t know if that will be the final decision, or whether National or Labour can then choose to opt in or opt out.

And then there’s the Greens, but that’s worth a post on it’s own.

We have been assured of a NZ First decision by Monday or Tuesday or however long it takes, but that will be followed by public reaction, media reaction and possible reaction from National and Labour party members and supporters.

There is no real urgency, but there is no certainty either about what will happen next week.

Yang didn’t disclose Chinese intelligence connections

National list MP Jian Yang didn’t disclose all of his Chinese work history in his application for New Zealand citizenship.

NZH: Jian Yang didn’t disclose Chinese intelligence connections in citizenship application

A newly reelected National Party MP said to have been investigated by New Zealand’s intelligence agencies didn’t disclose links to Chinese military intelligence when becoming a citizen, documents show.

Newly unredacted documents from Jian Yang’s 2004 citizenship application show Yang, who moved to New Zealand in 1999, did not list the 15 years he spent studying and working at the People’s Liberation Air Force Engineering Academy and the Luoyang Foreign Languages Institute from 1978. Both institutions are part of China’s military intelligence apparatus.

In his citizenship disclosures, Yang only lists his work and study history at the Australian National University and the University of Auckland.

The citizenship file had been released, following public clamour, the week prior to the election, but heavy redactions – said to protect Yang’s privacy – meant it was impossible to see what, if any, disclosures he had made about spy history in China.

The Herald complained to the Ombudsman about these redactions, forcing a rethink at the Department of Internal Affairs.

A spokesman for the Ombudsman’s office yesterday afternoon said: “DIA have reconsidered its decision to withhold Dr Yang’s answers to the study and work history questions on the citizenship application.”

In a press conference after news of his background broke, Yang said he had served as a civilian officer in the PLA and was required to not to name the institutions as a condition of being allowed to leave China.

He said he was not a spy, but conceded he was involved in training spies to assess intercepted communications.

Yang said he instead referred on applications to “partnership” civilian universities who had a relationship with the military institutions. “It is not that I am deliberately trying to cover-up. It’s because the system asked me to use the partner university,” he said.

At the time Yang denied making false declarations when becoming a citizen – a prerequisite to being able to enter parliament – but said he was reviewing his citizenship application to make sure it was correct.

The Herald say they have filed more OIA requests for information on Yang, but some may prove hard to get.

This week the SIS declined again to answer any questions about Yang, citing national security as a reason for withholding information.

“NZSIS does not comment on specific cases or individuals,” a spokesman for the spy agency said.

“I can neither confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of information.”

The University of Auckland has refused to release information relating to his appointment in 1999 as a senior lecturer in political science, citing Yang’s privacy. This refusal is also the subject to a complaint to the Ombudsman.

Immigration NZ is still considering whether to release information relating to Yang’s residency applications, a precursor to his citizenship.

Is there any cause for concern about what Yang has done as a New Zealand citizen, or as an MP?

Or is it just possible concerns due to his past in China?

Should all immigrants who become citizens and then become MPs be scrutinised?

Perhaps Julie Anne Genter should be investigated just in case she’s working for the CIA.

William Sio could be check out in case he’s a Samoan secret agent.

Or if it’s only Chinese we are concerned about what about Raymond Huo? He’s probably fine but why not be sure?

Perhaps also of interest – why was  Jian Yang investigated, who prompted it, and why was his history revealed during an election campaign?