Too many white guys?

Yesterday Hekia Parata announced she won’t be standing again in next year’s election.

Patrick Gower opined in Hekia Parata gives John Key a ‘white guy’ problem:

Hekia Parata quitting might give John Key a space in Cabinet – but the problem is a massive queue of white guys lining up to join a line-up of white guys.

Parata’s resignation and Nikki Kaye’s health issues means there are now just five women in Key’s 20-person Cabinet. In contrast, there are 12 white guys – hardly representative of New Zealand in 2016.

As both a woman and a Māori, Parata gave the ministry a real point of difference. More importantly, she was there on merit too.

The inconvenient truth for Key is there is a dearth of females and ethnicities in his Caucus.

There are only 17 women out of the 59 MPs (by contrast, 12 out of 31 Labour MPs are female). And only six of the male National MPs aren’t Pakeha.

National’s gender balance improved slightly when Mike Sabin resigned from Northland and they lost the by-election (with a white male candidate).

When Tim Groser resigned he was replaced with Maureen Pugh as next on the National list.

If Parmjeet Parmar wins the Mt Roskill by-election National will get another woman off the list, Misa Fia Turner. That would only bring them up to 18/59, about a third female, but it will improve their ethnic balance.

If Labour’s Michael Wood wins Mt Roskill they won’t improve their gender imbalance of 12/31, nor their ethnic imbalance. If he loses it will improve both slightly.

Also yesterday Phil Goff announced that Bill Cashmore would be his deputy mayor. Penny Hulse was regarded as too closely associated with the Len Brown era, and it is claimed she didn’t get on well with some councillors. Cashmore is described at The Spinoff as “constructive and dependable, he is a kind of centre-right National-aligned twin to Goff, which should help the mayor secure majorities in council”.

A reaction from Twitter:

Goff won the Auckland mayoralty easily, with his closest rival being an inexperienced (in politics) woman, Vic Crone.

So is there a problem with white male politicians?

There are more white male candidates so it’s nor surprising there will be more white male politicians, especially when, like Goff, they are leading candidates.

Goff stood as an independent, sort of.

But parties choose their electorate candidates and their lists. Are they biased in favour of white men?

Often the successful candidate is determined by party selections prior to the election but ultimately it is the voters who choose electorate candidates, and via the party vote they give the only 50/50 gender party the Greens about a tenth of the vote. Other things seem to be more important to voters than gender balance.

Are white men inferior as politicians?

Or is there a lack of non-white, non-male candidates willing to put themselves forward?

It can’t be ruled out that a majority of females and non-whites prefer white male candidates.

Diversity in political representation is important, but competence, and choice of the voters, should still be given some weight.

Parmjeet Parmar standing for National in Mt Roskill

In very unsurprising news it has been announced that current list MP Dr Parmjeet Parmar will stand for national in the Mt Roskill by-election. She stood in the same electorate in the 2014 general election.

She has joined Michael Wood standing for Labour to replace Phil Goff, and the People’s Party which was launched recently has confirmed Rohan Nauhria will stand as their candidate.

Greens won’t stand a candidate to try and help Labour, and ACT won’t stand a candidate to try and help National.

Over 40% of voters in Mt Roskill were born overseas. Immigration, law and order and housing are expected to be high profile issues.

The official announcement:

National selects Mt Roskill candidate

Parmjeet Parmar has been selected by the National Party to contest the Mt Roskill by-election.

Dr Parmar entered Parliament following the 2014 election. Since then she has worked as National’s List MP based in Mt Roskill.

“This election is about ensuring people in the Mt Roskill electorate have a dedicated local MP to stand up for their interests. I’m really excited to be running,” Dr Parmar says.

“Despite no Government ever winning a by-election off the Opposition, and the deal done by Labour and Greens for the seat, I will run a strong campaign to offer a clear choice to Mt Roskill voters.

“Mt Roskill is an area I’m passionate about because it truly reflects the best about Auckland and New Zealand. It’s full of diverse families who care about one another and work hard. There are a huge range of businesses, large and small, providing job opportunities for people from right across the city.

“Like any part of Auckland, it also has challenges. Local residents need an electorate MP who understands their concerns and advocates tirelessly for them to   ensure both central and local government is delivering results.

Dr Parmar says the National-led Government has worked hard to deliver more for Mt Roskill and her campaign would give a strong account of that work.

“From National’s strong economic management, to the comprehensive plan that is increasing the housing supply, to record investment in vital infrastructure like transport and health.  

“I’ve been working hard in Parliament for the people of Mt Roskill for the last two years, so this by-election is a fantastic opportunity to talk about the issues that I know people care about.”

Biographical Notes – Dr Parmjeet Parmar

Dr Parmjeet Parmar is a scientist, businesswoman, broadcaster and community advocate.

She was born in India and migrated to New Zealand in 1995. A proud mother of two sons, she lives in Auckland with her husband Ravinder.

Dr Parmar holds a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Auckland, as well as Bachelor and Masters degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Pune in India.

Prior to entering Parliament, Dr Parmar was the Operations Director of her family’s Auckland-based Kiwi Empire Confectionery, a confectionery and natural health product manufacturing enterprise. She knows first-hand the challenges of running a small business.

Naturally community-minded, Dr Parmar has also served as a Families Commissioner, a Community Representative on the Film and Video Labelling Body, and as Chair of the NZ Sikh Women’s Association.


Attention turns to Mt Roskill

Now that Phil Goff has cruised into the Auckland mayoralty and will resign from his Mt Roskill electorate political attention has already turned to the by-election.

This has already anticipated by parties:

  • Labour have already selected Michael Wood to stand for them.
  • Greens have already announced they won’t stand a candidate, due to their Memorandum of Understanding, to give Wood a better chance of retaining the seat for Labour.
  • National list MP Parmjeet Parmar has been positioning herself to stand (but hasn’t been selected yet).
  • The People’s Party was launched recently and Rohan Nauhria has now confirmed he will stand as their candidate.

NZ Herald covers this and more in Another contender in fight for Mt Roskill.

The new People’s Party will stand in the upcoming Mt Roskill byelection caused by Phil Goff’s mayoral victory – targeting the 40 per cent of residents who are Asian.

Rohan Nauhria confirmed to the Herald that he will be running as a candidate for the People’s Party, which he also leads.

The businessman was one of the founders of the party that launched earlier this year, with the aim of attracting votes from the Indian and other Asian communities.

Nauhria said he would campaign in Mt Roskill on two or three issues, the first being law and order, with concerns among ethnic communities that they were increasingly a target for burglaries and other crime.

There have been claims (from the left) that the People’s Party has been set up to help National but competing for the large ethnic Indian vote may reduce rather than increase National’s chances.

Despite Goff winning Mt Roskill by clear margins National got 41.87% party vote to Labour’s 35.35% in 2014 so it isn’t a foregone conclusion for Wood and Labour.

In 2014 Goff won with an 8000-vote majority over Parmar but National got 14,275 party votes – about 2000 more than Labour.

Whatever the outcome it’s hard to know whether any indicators will come out of the by-election of what might happen in next year’s general election.

Andrew Little and Metiria Turei have applauded their parties successes in the local body elections, but similar successes in 2013 didn’t translate into success for either party in the 2014 general election.

Of course by-elections can do funny things, as happened in the last by-election, when Winston Peters won Northland. But that was under extraordinary circumstances with National’s incumbent MP Mike Sabin resigning just after the election under a cloud. And Peters is far from an ordinary candidate.

Mt Roskill gives voters a chance to express themselves however they like, whether on national issues or on local issues. It’s impossible to know what they will end up deciding their vote on.

Unlike their Northland embarrassment a loss for National would be little more than nothing gained for them in Mt Roskill, although picking up an extra seat in Parliament would be significant, as it would give them their majority (with ACT or with Peter Dunne) again. So they will be keen to do well, but by-elections tend to go against parties in Government.

More pressure will be on Labour. The loss of an electorate would be seriously embarrassing for them. This will be a test for Matt McCarten in his new position as Labour’s Auckland campaign guru – he has had very mixed successes in the past.

It will be interesting to see how much Andrew Little injects himself into the campaign. He has to be actively involved, because a lot will be riding on the result for him.

Little also needs campaign experience. He has lost both his electorate campaigns in New Plymouth, so as far as Labour is concerned his by-election performance will be closely watched.

The People’s Party are unlikely to come close to competing with National and Labour but they could cause serious problems for both, depending on which of the big parties they suck votes off.

However the People’s Party will a have good opportunity to put the spotlight on issues of concern to the large number of Indian voters, so may get some wins via Government promises.

NZ First MP Mahesh Bindra stood in Mt Roskill in 2014 but didn’t do well, getting only 717 votes (2.15%). NZ First also got a relatively low 5.29%, and their anti-immigration rhetoric may not appeal to an electorate with many immigrants.

There will be a lot of interest in the by-election, amongst political junkies at least. Whatever the result is it will be interesting, possibly even fascinating, but it may ask more questions than answers about what may happen next year.

Kermadec and coalition repair job

National have cocked up the Kermadec Sanctuary. They seem to have rushed the announcement to give John Key a bit of glory in a speech to the UN. And Nick Smith seems to have a real problem with consulting with Maori.

The ACT party have pulled their support due to lack of due diligence over existing fishing rights as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

There has been suggestions that the Maori Party could take things further and withdraw from their guaranteed support of the current Government. I think that’s unlikely, stable government has been a major selling point for the Maori Party. But they have leverage.

RNZ political editor Jane Patterson writes in Govt seeks safe harbour over Kermadecs controversy

The row over the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary is not about getting the legislation over the line, it is about National allowing the Māori Party to save face and keep the two parties’ confidence and supply agreement in place.

The last thing National would want is to enter into such a controversy, a year out from a general election with race relations still a delicate balance, and the Māori Party a present and potentially future support partner.

But it only has itself to blame for the lack of true consultation.

Prime Minister John Key announced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary with great flourish at the United Nations last year.

But a September 2015 Cabinet Paper from the Environment Minister Nick Smith, pays mere lip service to the treaty issues; it describes the fishing quota held by the Crown and TOKM (effectively set at zero percent) as “an administrative quirk”, and states no compensation should be given because with no fishing activity, there is no loss.

The paper goes on to say options would need to be “carefully considered” with TOKM, to ensure there is no “perceived or actual undermining” of the 1992 settlement.

It is obvious from the paper the government had no intention of consulting either TOKM, or the two far north iwi recognised as tangata whenua, before the Prime Minister’s announcement in New York – it also came out of the blue for the Māori Party.

Things have got progressively worse, to the extent that Key put the Sanctuary legislation on hold until the mess is sorted out.

The Māori Party has now been brought in as a broker at the request of the Prime Minister, which in itself shows National recognises the political risk in letting this spiral out of control.

National needs to ensure they have the Maori party as a support option after next year’s election.

The Sanctuary has created an unusual political situation.

The government has the support of the Greens to pass the legislation. Even with that party’s strong position on treaty issues in the last ten years in particular, it is, at heart, an environmental party.

The Greens will vote for the sanctuary even if that causes some tensions with its Māori MPs or supporters.

Labour, as a supporter of the sanctuary, is in a similar position and will manage any internal tensions with its Māori caucus – the last thing it needs in the lead-up to the election is to become embroiled in a racially charged debate and alienate its Māori vote.

So there’s a lot of careful negotiating around these issues required from several parties.

However Nick Smith.

– NZH Park proposal treading water

Smith has been at the centre of the Government mismanagement of housing issues too, and that could really damage National.

When will we see an announcement that he won’t be standing again next year? Will that be too late?


Cross party support for family violence proposals

The Press editorial: Government’s $130 million family violence package is a solid start

A $130 million plan announced by the Government this week to crack down on violence in Kiwi homes has been welcomed by most victims, support and advocacy groups, and politicians on both sides of the House.

While there are some concerns and reservations, it is good to see cross party support for this.

Greens: Family violence law reforms will help

It is heartening that the Government is finally starting to address the failure of our justice system to provide protection for victims of family violence or support abusers to change,  the Green Party said today.

“Family violence is currently embedded in New Zealand culture and we all need to be brave to face the level of changes needed to address it,” Green Party women’s spokesperson Jan Logie said.

“Too many families have been further traumatised and indebted trying to get legal protection through our courts. Changes to legal aid and the Family Court last term prioritised cost-saving over protecting victims. These reforms will hopefully go some way to addressing that harm caused.

“All New Zealanders need to hear loud and clear the message that family violence, intimate partner violence, and violence against children is unacceptable.     


UnitedFuture leader, Peter Dunne has welcomed the changes proposed today to strengthen New Zealand’s Family Violence laws.

“Our families are the bedrock of our communities and the rates of family violence we have in this country are appalling.

“These changes signal a much-needed shift in the way we respond to family violence,” said Mr Dunne.

“The key issue that needs to be focused on in New Zealand is the alarming fact that it is estimated nearly 80% of family violence incidents go unreported.

“If these reforms make any difference towards providing help to those people who currently do not feel safe or are not comfortable coming forward with their plight, then these policy initiatives will result in positive and meaningful reform.

“UnitedFuture congratulates the government for constructively responding to this unacceptable behaviour that is a blight to our families and communities”, said Mr Dunne.

ACT Party: ACT welcomes beefed up family violence laws, but…

ACT has welcomed the boost to family violence laws announced today, but questions why non-fatal strangulation isn’t a strike offence.

“ACT believes the justice system should always put the victim first. In that spirit, we’re relieved to see new protections for victims of family violence,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Reducing the cost and complexity of obtaining restraining orders is a no-brainer, and legislating against coercive marriage is an overdue protection of basic personal freedom.

“We also support the introduction of an offence for non-fatal strangulation. However, it’s perplexing to discover that non-fatal strangulation will not be included as a strike offence under the Three Strikes for Violent Crime legislation.

“The Three Strikes law, an ACT initiative, has been working well to keep repeat violent offenders behind bars and away from potential victims, so it’s disheartening to see it undermined by the current legislation. Strangulation, like all violent crime, is a serious offence and should be treated as such.”

NZ First via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

New Zealand First MP Denis O’Rourke said the measures were a step in the right direction.

“Fundamentally, what they’re saying is there needs to be more guidance, information and education on the one hand but also harsher penalties. I would have thought that that two-pronged approach is the right way to go,” Mr O’Rourke said.

Labour via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

Labour’s associate justice spokesperson Poto Williams said tighter bail conditions would increase safety for women and their children.

But she said the government should have made it easier for offenders to access services to help them stop violent behaviour.

Maori party via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said having witnessed domestic violence as a child, he hoped the changes would help reduce the appalling statistics.

Mr Flavell said family violence was prevalent in almost every neighbourhood and changes were certainly needed.

He said it was all too often swept under the rug.

“I’ve sat on a bunk next to my cousins and I’ve heard the smashing of the walls. I’ve heard the throwing of pots around the place. I’ve seen the black eyes – and no-one talks about it.”

Cabinet documents showed police attended an average of 280 family violence incidents each day.

Mr Flavell, who is Māori Development Minister, said everyone had a part to play in bringing down those rates.

“That’s the key – you’ve got to start bringing it out of the cupboard. We’ve got to put it out on the table.”

“There’s a part to play by the actual government, by changing laws but actually families have got to talk about it and do something about it.”

Flavell is right, it is not just up to Parliament and the Government to make improvements.

Families and communities “have got to talk about it and do something about it“.

While there are details to be worked out it is promising to see all parties supporting this attempt to reduce our insidious levels of family violence.

Kermadec sanctuary stuff up

It looks like Nick Smith and the Government may have really stuffed up on consultation over the setting up of the Kermadec sanctuary.

Maori who had fishing rights (and rights are rights) are unhappy.

The Maori Pary party are unhappy – there’s been talks of threats they might pull out of their governing arrangement with National, \I don’t think they will do that but they could make things quite awkward.

And David Seymour has pulled his support due to inadequate handling of ownership rights.

There looks to be a bit of pre-election year manoeuvring going on, but there are also important principals involved versus a mix of complacency and arrogance from National – third term curse.

The Government’s most important policy – family violence

The National led Government is often criticised for doing or changing little of significance, for being a dabbler that at best makes incremental changes. That may in general be fair comment.

But yesterday they announced what I think is the most significant policy of their three terms and of critical importance for New Zealand.

John Key has been at the forefront of the announcement.


Family violence is widespread and insidious. It has many and often severe repercussions. It not only adversely affects relationships, families and children, it also impacts on health, education, crime and imprisonment and mental well being.

If family violence can be significantly reduced and the effects of violence better handled this could have a huge effect on individuals, families, communities and New Zealand society as a whole.

National’s media release on this (from Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley):

Early and effective intervention at heart of family violence changes

Sweeping reforms to our laws will build a better system for combatting abuse and will reduce harm, says Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.

The Government is proposing a broad overhaul of changes to family violence legislation, stemming from the comprehensive review of the 20-year old Domestic Violence Act.

“New Zealand’s rate of family violence is horrendous. It has a devastating impact on individuals and communities, and a profound impact that can span generations and lifetimes,” Ms Adams says.

“Our suite of changes are directed to earlier and more effective interventions. We are focused on better ways to keep victims safe and changing perpetrator behaviour to stop abuse and re-abuse.

“This is about redesigning the way the entire system prevents and responds to family violence. The reforms are an important part of building a new way of dealing with family violence.

“For many, family violence is an ingrained, intergenerational pattern of behaviour. There are no easy fixes. Our reforms make extensive changes across the Domestic Violence Act, Care of Children Act, Sentencing Act, Bail Act, Crimes Act, Criminal Procedure Act and the Evidence Act.”

Changes include:

  • getting help to those in need without them having to go to court
  • ensuring all family violence is clearly identified and risk information is properly shared
  • putting the safety of victims at the heart of bail decisions
  • creating three new offences of strangulation, coercion to marry and assault on a family member
  • making it easier to apply for a Protection Orders, allowing others to apply on a victim’s behalf, and better providing for the rights of children under Protection Orders
  • providing for supervised handovers and aligning Care of Children orders to the family violence regime
  • making evidence gathering in family violence cases easier for Police and less traumatic for victims
  • wider range of programmes able to be ordered when Protection Order imposed
  • making offending while on a Protection Order a specific aggravating factor in sentencing
  • enabling the setting of codes of practice across the sector.

“These changes are the beginning of a new integrated system but on their own have the potential to significantly reduce family violence. Changes to protection orders and the new offences alone are expected to prevent about 2300 violent incidents each year,” Ms Adams says.

The package makes changes to both civil and criminal laws, and provides system level changes to support new ways of working. It will cost $132 million over four years.

“Legislation is part of but not the whole change required. These legislative reforms are designed to support and drive the change underpinning the wider work programme overseen by the Ministerial Group on Family and Sexual Violence. The work is about comprehensive and coordinated system change with a focus on early intervention and prevention,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Social agencies and NGOs I’ve been speaking with are desperate for a system-wide change so we can make a real shift in the rate of family violence.”

“Laws alone cannot solve New Zealand’s horrific rate of family violence. But they are a cornerstone element in how we respond to confronting family violence. It sets up the system, holds perpetrators to account, and puts a stake in the ground,” Ms Adams says.

The full pack of reforms are set out in the Cabinet papers and are available at

This is getting cross party support, which is a very positive sign. This is too important to get bogged down by partisan politics.

Violence is not just a male versus female problem. It can also be female versus versus male, and adult versus child.

It’s good to see the Prime Minister John Key strongly promoting this, but it is perhaps not a coincidence that both Ministers driving this, Adams and Tolley, are women.

If the Government and all parties in Parliament can make a real difference on reducing family violence they will leave an admirable legacy for this term.



ACT versus National on tax

This week’s ACT Free Press is highly critical of National “boasting that they’ve increased wealth redistribution”.

From a press release from Steven Joyce – Significant income redistribution after tax reforms:

New data from the Treasury shows that income redistribution across New Zealand’s income tax and support system continues to increase, with the top 10 per cent of households forecast to pay 37.2 per cent of income tax in 2016/17, compared with 35.5 per cent in 2007/08.

“This latest data confirms that New Zealand’s income tax and support system significantly redistribute incomes to households in need,” Acting Finance Minister Steven Joyce says.

The rich are paying a bigger proportion of the income tax:

“Higher income households are paying a larger share of income tax than they were in 2008, and lower income households are paying less – the 30 per cent of households with the lowest incomes are forecast to pay just 5.4 per cent of income tax, compared with 6.3 per cent in 2007/08.

“This is before the effect of redistribution from Working For Families and benefits. The Government has increased support for low income families to help New Zealanders through times of need. So at any particular time, a large number of households effectively don’t pay income tax,” Mr Joyce says.

“It’s appropriate to maintain a tax and income support system that helps low and middle income households when they most need it.”

And 42% of households will pay less income tax than they receive from than they receive from welfare benefits, Working for Families, New Zealand Superannuation and accommodation subsidies. This is up from 39% in 2007/2008.

This won’t include what GST they pay though, which can be where about half of the income of the poor people now goes.

ACT Free Press:

Housing is the Underlying Driver
Also last week the Ministry of Social Development released its update of household income inequality from 1982-2015.  It measures income inequality before housing costs and after housing costs. 

Dr Bryce Wilkinson of the New Zealand Initiative says there has been no significant change in income inequality over the last 10, 15, 20 or even 25 years depending on the measure used, before housing costs.  However the bottom 20 per cent of households (by income) spent 29 per cent of their income on housing in the 1980s compared with 54 per cent now.

Free Press concludes:

The National Party is taxing top earners hard, then shovelling the money at low income earners who pay more for housing.  Free Press suspects that it is mostly top earners who benefit from rising house prices, so completing the money-go-round.  This is nuts.

When the money-go-round is spinning fast it can be hard to slow down and difficult to hop off.

What would ACT do?

It is time to give taxpayers relief.  As ACT has said before, the best way to do this is to index tax brackets to inflation (this would have saved the average household $2,500 in tax since 2010 by ending bracket creep).  Ideally we should cut the top rates, clearly the ‘rich’ (read hard working PAYE earners) are paying their share. 

I agree that tax increases by stealth – allowing bracket creep without adjustment – should be dealt with differently.

At the same time, there needs to be serious land use and infrastructure funding reform to get the housing market functioning again.

There’s been a lot of talk but little tangible change on housing, apart from prices continuing to escalate.

However if National reduced income tax for higher earners and if they reduced tax redistribution to poorer people there would be political hell to pay.



Post-truth, or the diss-information age

‘Post-truth’ is a term that has come to some prominence. It’s a lie – or more accurately, a lot of deliberate lies told by politicians.

The heralded age of information seems to have morphed into the disinformation age, or alternately the diss-information age.

From Art of the lie at The Economist – “Politicians have always lied. Does it matter if they leave the truth behind entirely?”

CONSIDER how far Donald Trump is estranged from fact.

Mr Trump is the leading exponent of “post-truth” politics—a reliance on assertions that “feel true” but have no basis in fact. His brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power. And he is not alone.

Winston Peters stands out as a long time maker of assertions that “feel true”but have scant basis in fact, or that he has no evidence for, or that he doesn’t provide any evidence of.

Most of the time Peters gets away with it, aided and abetted by an often willing media and sufficient gullible voters to keep him in Parliament. Sometimes it backlashes on Peters, for example when Tauranga voters rejected him in 2005 – although NZ First was still in a position to decide that Labour and not National or the Greens would be in Government with them.

And in 2008 when Peters tried to take the Tauranga electorate back and lost to Simon Bridges by 11,742 votes, and NZ First failed to make the threshold getting just 4.07% of the votes.

But Peters came back in 2011 and is now widely expected to again dictate which parties will govern after next year’s election. His bull continues, with a brazenness that is not punished, but is taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power.

Stacey Kirk shows that Peters is far from alone in New Zealand with brazen bullshit in Personal prejudices the fuel of a political post-truth era

There’s dealing in grey, and then there’s dealing in unashamed drivel. 

The latter is becoming the norm, though thankfully not on a Trumpian scale – just yet. 

Dipping their toes into the post-truth waters however, New Zealand’s politicians are trying the mantle on for size, seeing how flows and gaining surety in it as they walk. They’re dissembling through their teeth and embarrassingly, a significant group of New Zealanders are lapping it up. 

Kirk lists some examples:

  • Government politicians claim income inequality had not worsened, contrary to official reports from both MSD and Statistics NZ.
  • Finance Minister Bill English was forced to admit he used incorrect figures to veto an extension to paid parental leave, despite the correct figures being written in the veto certificate he himself tabled.
  • Education Minister Hekia Parata was caught out making up an official body, to support changes around special needs education when she claimed she had the support of the “Special Education Association”. What association was that?  “All those who are involved in the delivery of special education with whom I have had these discussions”.
  • NZ First MP and anti-1080 campaigner Richard Prosser claimed cats, rats, and native birds had “coexisted” for more than 200 years, yet accused the Government’s “Predator Free by 2050” of being based on “unsubstantiated” science.
  • Trade Minister Todd McClay was publicly rebuked by his own Prime Minister for being economical with the truth, over what was known about fears of Chinese trade retaliation.
  • Auckland Mayoral candidate John Palino has claimed iwi leaders were holding building consent-seekers to ransom for $50k a pop.

Even the ‘clean’ Greens indulge in blatant bull.

  • More children will suffer under a re-elected National government because it’s “in denial” over the reality of child poverty in New Zealand, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says.
  • “The New Zealand Government makes all sorts of promises on the international stage in relation to children’s rights, but when it comes to policy at every stage they fail our kids,” also from Turei.

And these sorts of assertions are taken as evidence by many of the willingness of the Greens to stand up for the poor kids.

There is a problem with bald faced bull, in New Zealand at least – the US has major problems, not just potentially with Trump, but also with Clinton (both Bill and Hillary) and it’s politics in general.

Greens have solid and loyal followers who think John Key doesn’t care about or hates kids, but they seem to have hit a ceiling of support.

Labour’s assertions that they finally have a leader who can look Prime Ministerial seem to have a limited gullible audience too.

But Peters seems to be on a roll, with NZ First polling far better at this stage of a term than they have for yonks.

Yet the masses fall into line based on what “feels” like it might be true. 

And I get it, voting is an emotional experience as much as it is logical. Even the most well-researched voters can’t block out that gut-feeling when they’re faced with a ballot paper – the option that they feel is the right one.

Many Americans (and some Kiwis) are convinced that Trump is ‘the right one’. And it seems a growing number of New Zealand voters are buying Winston’s bull and bluster.

That politicians deal in lies is not new. What is, is the way the truth has become secondary to reaffirming people’s latent prejudices. 

Pandering to prejudices and entrenched misconceptions is not new either (Peters has done it for decades) but it seems to be growing.

Politicians lie, media do call them out on it, but they double down and repeat. Why? Because they’re not trying to convince anyone that requires it of anything. They’re consolidating a mob – Us vs Them.

Yes, they are pandering to mob mentality. But do the media call them out on it? Sometimes, but they are also guilty of feeding it. That’s how Trump got within a whisker of the White House.

And here Key and his Ministers and their PR teams play the media. Peters is an expert at extracting maximum bang for his bull from the media. The Greens are hardly held to account by the media.

The only party that is failing with the media and the gullible voters is Labour. Are they the worst liars – or the worst at lying?

This is a two-sided game, and this kind of politics only works if people are buying it.

New Zealanders have a right to expect evidence and be given information that can and should be used at the ballot box, next year. 

For that to happen, we all need to check our own biases first.

A lie is only effective if you fall for it.

This could be as true for media as it is for voters.

PR churn is a major problem. Giving bullshit from politicians the headline, not always holding them to account, giving counter claims secondary exposure, giving politicians the opportunity to keep repeating their misleading and false assertions – this is a problem accentuated by the Internet, where clicks are the revenue makers.

Social media, with many more ways of lying and a myriad of competitors for eyeballs and eardrums, has just made an old problem worse.

Forums for debate are largely ineffective. Try arguing about socialism or climate change or Islam or any of a wide range of topics, and you will find that most participants start with entrenched views regardless of the facts and are more likely to end up with their views reinforced rather than challenged.

We must stop using fossil fuels or the planet is doomed. When Muslims get to 5% of the population a country is doomed. If people with different languages or customs or religions emigrate our country is doomed.

If these sorts of assertions are repeated often enough – and there are parties and lobby groups and activists who go to great lengths to keep repeating assertions to try and make them stick – then there are significant numbers of people who will believe them, regardless of the facts.

Post-truth, lies, unsubstantiated assertions, smearing hit jobs, none of these a re new but  they seem to be becoming more prominent and powerful.

Post-truth is a lie. A lot of what politicians and media perpetuate are lies, or untruthful claims, and assertions, or smears. Or a mixture of bullshit.

The only thing I’m not sure about is how much is deliberate lying, and how much is ignorance of people who actually believe their own lies.

The age of the Internet, the information age, seems to amplify the worst and seems to have become the disinformation age.

And where negative attack politics seems to rule, or at least try and rule, the diss-information age, where false information is deliberately used to attack, smear and discredit.

Are we doomed?


Radicalisation of the Greens and Labour

Losing Russel Norman last year and now losing Kevin Hague are blows to the Green Party. Their replacement MPs move Greens more towards a radical social activist party.

Norman did a lot to try and ‘normalise’ the Greens, to make them appear as if they were credible on business and economic matters in particular. He succeeded to an extent.

But last year he decided to move on (to Greenpeace). He was replaced by next on the list, Marama Davidson, who is more of a social activist who has attracted some attention, currently to the forefront of the inquiry into homelessness.

Hague tried to take over Norman’s co-leadership position but was rejected. Hague was one of  the Green’s best assets as a practical and hard worker who backed his principles but was prepared to work with anyone from any party or political leaning to try and achieve results.

Hague is now moving on to head Forest and Bird. So both he and Norman have moved on to environmental roles, and away from the Green Party.

Hague’s replacement will be next on the list, Barry Coates. He used to head Oxfam, and  aid organisation that has become more active in promoting social reform.

Coates has been leading anti-TPP protests in New Zealand. Social activism.

Norman’s replacement as co-leader, James Shaw, has not made a huge impression yet.

Greens’ other co-leader Metiria Turei has been involved in social activism for some time.

Greens could soften their radicalisation somewhat if they elevated Julie Anne Genter, but despite quiet rumours there is no solid sign of Turei stepping aside or down. Fortunately Genter at least looks to be a stayer at this stage.

While Greens do promote environmental issues such as clean rivers and climate change they appear to be moving more towards social activism with a strong socialist tinge.

Greens were ambitious last election so were disappointed not to increase their share of the vote in 2014, despite Labour’s weakening. They seem to have hit a Green ceiling.

This year they have entered into a Memorandum or Understanding with Labour so they can campaign as a combined Labour-Green ticket.

Labour under Andrew Little’s leadership also seem to be trying to move left and have also become more involved in social activism, promoting a number of petitions and joining the Greens in the homeless inquiry, and also appear in part at least to oppose the TPP.

With the growing radicalisation of the Greens and their closer association with a more radical Labour it’s no wonder Winston Peters sees growth potential for NZ First in the centre.

Greens and Labour may think their future lies in popular movements similar to Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK but neither of them have succeeded yet beyond exciting a vocal minority.

While our next election is probably more than a year away Greens and Labour have tied their colours to the campaign mast – fairly red colours with a tinge of green. They either know something about the future intention of voters that isn’t apparent, or are taking a huge punt.

It’s probably about 50/50 whether National would need NZ First to form the next government. It’s closer to 90/10 that Labour+Greens would require NZ First.

A more radical Greens+Labour plus the determination of Peters to remain an unknown quantity will be a hard sell to voters. Add to that recent policy announcements on education and housing indicate an attempt to outdo Labour’s large spending promises and we could have a fairly radical option next year, versus National plodding along.