Same old Winston, same old NZ First

One of the few new aims reported from the New Zealand First conference is to rustle up more members and more money. Otherwise it seems to be same old Winston and same old Party.

Stuff summarises in Winston Peters jumps into race debate at NZ First party conference.

Winston Peters flung himself into a race row yesterday, suggesting Samoan-born Sam Lotu-Iiga was qualified to run prisons because he is Polynesian.

As usual, Peters was impatient with detailed questions from the media.

Same old Winston.

The “New Kiwi Deal” was repackaged existing policy, to pay the unemployed a “community wage” to work on tree-planting and river clean-ups.

Even MP Tracey Martin recognised the idea, tweeting:  “Been policy of NZ First for over a decade.”

“New Zealand First does not need to change its policies … All the rest might try now, to parrot what New Zealand First has been saying but they don’t mean it,” he bellowed in a 30-minute speech.

“A policy that is right for this country is never going to be old. The new part about it is we are going to make it becomes a reality. That’s what new,” he deflected.

Same old aim to make policies “become a reality” – isn’t that one of the main aims of all parties since forever?

Peters had already axed a proposal to revise the party’s 15 founding principles.

He won’t allow a rethink.

A plan to look at establishing a youth wing was unanimously agreed to – but Peters immediately indicated it would be vetoed.

Can’t have young upstarts having a say in the party.

From Peters bigger than democracy?:

Mr Peters also vowed to grow the party membership by more than 10,000 members, or he’ll resign. Moments later, he did a dramatic U-turn, claiming he didn’t say that.

He also took a swipe at one of his favourite old topics, immigration (from NZ Herald):

He differentiated NZ First by focussing on its two decades’ old call for low levels of immigration – and said there was no need for the party to unveil new policy.

And he went back a lot further than two decades:

Referencing the dire economic conditions that led to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s The New Deal, Mr Peters called for a “New Kiwi Deal” and a turn away from “free market dogma and neo-liberal dictum”.

The New Deal dates back to the 1930s – that’s even before Peters was born.

Same old Winston. That means same old New Zealand First.

Peters bigger than democracy?

The prospect of power seems to be going to Winston Peters head.

It’s good, even essential, for politicians to be ambitious. It’ doesn’t look so good when they appear to put themselves above democracy.

3 News reported: Peters: NZ First will decide 2017 election

At a glance that looks like a poor headline. Up until now voters have decided elections.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says he will be more powerful than ever by the next election and will decide the next government.

Obviously Peters wants to hold the balance of power after the election and play National off against Labour, trying to use more power than the voters have given him. He may think he is due more power after the voters left him fairly powerless after the last three elections. But i a democracy parties don’t accumulate power credits that they call on in one hit.

Mr Peters’ first job of the day was to hurl criticisms at the media – “your polls are crap”, “stop this nonsense” and “you ask some stupid questions”.

And yet the media keep flocking to feed the beast.

Mr Peters also launched an attack on the Greens, saying it cost the Left last year’s election by attacking Labour, adding the Greens will be irrelevant by 2017.

His memory is different to mine. The Greens wanted to work closely in the campaign with Labour and look like a united option for Government, and Labour turned up their nose at that.

Internet-Mana scared voters away from the left.

While some vote for NZ First to stick one up National the fear of Peters overplaying power almost handed National a majority on their own.

But the biggest culprit of the Left losing last year was Labour.

“Every Green voter knows they can’t make it,” says Mr Peters.

That’s stupid talk. I think in general Green voters have more passion and belief than others – especially Winston voters.

“I expect us to do better than we’ve ever done before by miles.”

Votes are earned, not expected. It looks like Peters’ success in Northland has gone to his head.

Mr Peters also vowed to grow the party membership by more than 10,000 members, or he’ll resign. Moments later, he did a dramatic U-turn, claiming he didn’t say that.

“Maybe I didn’t hear it properly.”

He seems to only hear what he wants to hear. Maybe he didn’t think it through before making a rash promise.

Politicians need to be ambitious, but if they look too cocky, if they look like they want to overplay the power that voters give them, and if they make claims that they don’t mean then it can make enough voters wary to cause an electoral backlash.

Peters will be loving all the attention he gets at his party’s conference, but that looks like it’s going to his head and over inflating an already large ego.

One of Peters’ aims is to out-poll the Greens to give him more coalition negotiating power than the Greens.

Greens co-leader James Shaw tweeted: “Dreams are free.”

“James has been in the game five minutes,” says Mr Peters.

And Peters would hate to have to play second fiddle to a five minute leader.

Another of Peters’ aims will be to be in a position to play National off against Labour. If National and Labour end up close, within a few percent, then Peters may get away with it.

But if National retain a healthy margin over Labour and Peters negotiates baubles of power with Labour over National – and Labour will be more desperate to lead the next Government, then whatever gains NZ First might make this term will probably evaporate, and then some.

If Peters loses credibility again, alongside Labour, then it risks being a one term Government and if that happens it would likely be the end of Peters political career, effectively if not actually.

One thing is certain – there will be many more things in play than Winston Peters come the 2017 election. One thing will be Peters having to divide his attention between holding his Northland electorate and campaigning nationally.

Then there will be how well National weather their third term, whether Andrew Little and Labour manage to look competent, whether Colin Craig is silly enough to through a few more million dollars at an ambition that is now surely futile, whether a hacker feeds Nicky Hager ammunition for another campaign impacting book, whether Kiwis embrace the idea of a new flag identity, and other things we don’t know about yet.

Much of Peters’ success is being seen as anti-power, the maverick fighting against powerful odds.

If Winston promotes power hunger and power monger to much it could backfire on him and New Zealand First.

Democracy has a way of dealing to politicians who play power above the people’s preference.

Bribe and jibe season

Labour and New Zealand First campaign launches included voter bribes – offering more ‘free’ stuff, but of course taxpayers (other voters) will pay for the policies if they succeed.

Along with the bribes are the jibes – political jibes, racist jibes, anything to get some media attention and coverage to pander to the greedy, needy and the prejudiced.

NZ Herald reports in Winston’s digs come with jokes:

A Chinese name joke, a dig at this country’s “Mr Spray and Walk Away” Prime Minister, and a promise of $1000 and a KiwiSaver account for every newborn baby – all featured in the New Zealand First campaign launch yesterday.

“It’s so they can get out of university without a large albatross around their neck.

Taxpayers eventually have to wear the albatross.

And more jibes:

He repeated his intention to crack down on foreign ownership, saying National’s claim that Labour had done it as well was not vindication.

“Just because your predecessor did it too does not make your actions sensible. As they say in Beijing, two Wongs don’t make a right.”

Peters and some of the NZ First MPs tried to defend that joke but were unconvincing.

Vernon Small at Stuff comments on Labour’s biggest and best shot:

David Cunliffe has fired Labour’s biggest and best shot with his $280m health spending promise, taking aim squarely at the vote-rich elderly – Winston Peters’ happy hunting ground.

It leaves Cunliffe and finance spokesman David Parker with just under $200m of their election war chest left to spend…

“Their election war chest” is taxpayer money, not their lollies to scramble voters with.

More from Stuff in Labour’s health plan cost queried.

A battle has erupted over the affordability of taxpayers funding GP care for the elderly after Labour pledged to make their doctors visits free.

With the over 65s paying on average $31 a visit, Labour is hoping to match the huge success of the existing scheme for children by extending it to the over 65s.

The elderly and the very young were the big winners – with Labour making a grab for the pensioner vote with its promise to roll out free doctors visits and prescriptions to over 65s.

Whether you call them election promises or bribes this is a bad way to dump spending policy on the public in a mass of election rhetoric. Voters get to choose who they prefer in Government but they don’t get to debate the pros and cons of each promise of increasing spending of their money.

In closing hsi launch speech David Cunliffe said:

If you want an end to politics as usual and to build a New Zealand that works for everyone.

Mr Cunliffe, if you were serious about ending politics as usual you wouldn’t be resorting to bribes and policy that looks driven by election desperation. It’s your political future but it’s our money.

Small party priorities post election

Small party (and Green) leaders were asked in a The Nation debate what their priority policy would be in post election negotiations.

Summary:

  • United Future: Flexi-Super
  • Maori Party: Whanau Ora
  • Mana Party: the elimination of child poverty within the first five years
  • Act Party: economic growth
  • Conservative Party: binding referenda
  • NZ First: non-committal
  • Green Party: expect to have a very comprehensive coalition agreement that meets a whole range of objectives

    Details:

United Future

Right, I wanna talk about relationships in MMP, and I’m coming to Mr Dunne. I want to know that if you get into a confidence-in-supply agreement with the next government, what would be the one thing you would be pushing for in return?

Dunne: I think probably top of our list would be to make progress on our flexi-super proposal, which would see people being able to take a reduced rate of super from the earlier age of 60 or an enhanced rate if they deferred to 70, and with the standard age remaining 65. I think that would be the one thing we’d wanna push most strongly.

That’s a repeat of last election.Dunne negotiated a discussion paper on Flexi-Super with National after the 2011 election and that which was released last year but National are luke-warm on doing anything on it

UnitedFuture’s plan which would allow people to take a reduced rate of New Zealand superannuation from the age of 60, or an enhanced rate if they deferred uptake until 70. The rationale was to give people more choice over retirement income and to recognise that for some people 60 was the age to leave the paid workforce, but that they were currently unable to do so for financial reasons.

Māori Party

Te Ururoa, you say that you could go with either Labour or National, so what would be your top priority as a policy to get?

Flavell: …the major platform that the Maori party has always been on about is final order. We say that if we’re able to consolidate, not only just social—the MSD-

So you would be pushing that if you were with the next government, you’d be pushing to keep–?

Flavell: It’s an absolute must from our perspective that final order will be at the centre of our platform, our policy. It is right now, and it will be.

‘Final order’ is a mistake in the transcript, it should read ‘Whānau Ora’ which is the Māori Party’s flagship policy.

Whānau-ora: restoring the essence of who we are; putting the vibrant traditions from our people at the heart of our whānau

Whānau Ora begins with you. Whānau is the heart of our people, it is the foundation on which our country thrives. It is about reaffirming a sense of self-belief.

Mana Party

All right. Mr Harawira, Mr Cunliffe says that you’re not gonna be part of his government. But you say he’ll pick up the phone if he needs you. So if he rings and says, ‘Hone, I’m offering you confidence in supply, that’s it, no ministers’, what do you want from him?

Do you think he has the vision to lead this country?

Harawira: What I know is this – if the polls keep trending the way that John Armstrong of the NZ Herald says and hit 5% even before the campaign starts for Internet Mana, I’m guaranteed to get a call on the night of September the 20th. And if he asks us, is there one policy, if there’s one thing that we would want to see changed, it would be this – the elimination of child poverty within the first five years.

The ‘elimination of child poverty’ seems idealistic, especially when it is usually a statistical figure based on families below the median income and on that basis there will always be some ‘in poverty’ – below the arbitrary line.

I can’t find a reference to the five year target on the Mana website but they have a range of policy points addressing “economic justice’, for example:

Work towards implementing a Universal Basic Income where everyone in Aotearoa aged 18 and over would receive a minimum, liveable, tax free income after which progressive tax would kick in. This would eliminate the huge costs involved in administering the current shame and blame WINZ system, and do much to end poverty and address growing inequality.

Act Party

Jamie Whyte, if you had a confidence and supply agreement, what would you be after as your top priority policy?

Whyte: Well, almost all problems, practical problems, are remedied by becoming wealthier. And so economic growth is by far our priority. And so the policies that we’ve been promoting on – cutting taxes and reducing the regulatory burden, which would promote economic growth, those would be our priorities in a negotiation with the National party.

That’s straightforward.

Short to medium term goals should include reducing the level of government expenditure below 28 per cent of GDP and lowering the top tax rate to 24 cents.  ACT’s Regulatory Responsibility Bill should be passed.

Conservative Party

Mr Craig, your policies are almost the same as NZ First. You’re the doppelganger in this room, so why would people vote for you when we’ve got the real thing right here.

What would be your top policy that you’d be after?

Craig: We’ve said publicly that we think governments should not be able to ignore overwhelming vote in referenda. The anti-smacking law, tough on law and order, reducing the MPs, all right quite rightly should have been implemented by government, because there is a point at which people need to know they control this nation. It’s their country.

Craig has already stated a bottom line on binding referenda.

ON OUR WATCH REFERENDUMS WILL BE BINDING

At the heart of the democratic system is the principle of the citizens initiated referendum. It’s when a single issue is thought to be so important, all voters are asked to make their opinion heard.

No specifics are given on exactly what this would entail, Conservative ‘Issues’ or policies are brief and vague.

New Zealand First

Mr Peters, your bottom lines or things that you really don’t wanna budge on are no foreign land sales, no race-based parties, buy-back assets and keep the super age at 65. You’re gonna be on the cross-benches, aren’t you, with that list?

Peters talked about a range of policies but was typically evasive and vague.

Peters: Your assumption is that at six weeks out from the election, we’re gonna make decisions now and tell the public, ‘Forget about you, doesn’t matter what happens in six weeks’. Behind close room deals. Now, I’m gonna leave it to the public to decide who’s gonna be standing there at the election, and it won’t include some parties standing here right now.

Many alluded to but no bottom lines revealed before the election.

Green Party

All right, let’s go to Metiria Turei there. (asked about working with NZ First)

Turei: The Green party in government will be a very large part of that government, and we will have significant influence. We will expect to have a very comprehensive coalition agreement that meets a whole range of objectives – a cleaner environment, a fairer society and a smarter economy. And we will have—we won’t settle like other parties might for a single achievement. We want to see our whole plan, our whole agenda being rolled out.

Turei wasn’t asked specifically about a priority but her answer was more befitting of a medium sized party with potentially a significant influence in a coalition.

Greens are excluded from major party debates despite the chances of them getting half the votes of Labour, and they could be a quarter to a third of a left wing coalition so could reasonably expect to include a number of their key policies in negotiations.

Source: TV3 The Nation – Debate: Multi-party election campaign debate

NZ First bottom lines

Winston Peters had a typically rambunctious interview with Patrick Gower on The Nation, but he did give some indications about NZ First bottom lines in any coalition negotiations.

In summary:

  • The Super eligibility age must be a bottom line.
  • Peters suggested NZ First has strong asset buy backs, foreign property ownership and foreign fishing policies but there was sufficient vagueness to be uncertain what exactly would be bottom lines.
  • Peters ruled out working with UnitedFuture or the Maori Party, the two other parties most likely to be in contention for coalition negotiations whether National or Labour form the next government.
  • Peters continues to insist that John Key has lied about Kim Dotcom.

Right from the start of the interview Peters made a point about NZ First not being a one person party.

NZ First not a dictatorship

Winston: Well first of all, I’m grateful that you said New Zealand First and not, try to personalize it as everybody else has sort to do. We’re a democratic party and we make decisions as a caucus, and as a board and as party supporters.

And again soon afterwards.

If your party is having its 21st birthday, in July of this year, which means we haven’t been around because one guy’s been running the show by himself like a dictator. We consult, we ensure that everybody signed up, even to these sorts of arrangements and talks…

On buying back power companies

So that means buying Genesis back?

That’s right…at no greater price than they pay for it .

And so does that mean the other power companies as well?

It means exactly that, that’s what our position has been for some time.

So that’s a priority for you in any negotiations?

It is a priority and it also has the best things in terms of economic calculations from treasury. If what they said about selling off 49% is correct then it goes for the whole lot.

So in terms of walking away, we’re not even walking in until we get what we believe New Zealand economically and socially needs.

So that’s a deal breaker essentially if either side doesn’t want to buy back the assets yet?

Well if either side prefers to sell out New Zealand’s long term heritage, then they can line up and find their own support. But if they want to line up with the mass majority of New Zealanders as the latest polls says on this issue of asset sales, then they can perhaps line up with New Zealand First.

So that’s a deal breaker, buying back the assets is a deal breaker?

Hang on; I’m not going to be sitting here like some sort of uh, star chamber, federal case in the United States while you think you’re going to nail me down. I think you need to understand one thing about MMP. And it goes like this. Even the old system went like this. The voters vote first, and then they decide in what numbers that the parties and parliaments are comprising parliament. Then you know what you’re dealing with. Here we are six months out from election. We don’t know whether for example National is going to re-nuclearise New Zealand so to speak. Or whether Labour is going to come up with some policy…

So that seems to imply asset that power companies buybacks are a non-negotiable priority – but we won’t know what NZ First is dealing with until the voters have decided.

It sounds like definitely, maybe. I don’t know how NZ First will determine from the election vote what policies to make non-negotiable.

On raising the National Super eligibility age

Let me tell you what happened in 2011. We saw a Labour party come out and announce an increase in the retirement age, and putting GST on, and taking effect…not GST no…capital gains tax on, and it would take effect in 2017. As for the increase in age…2021. We said straight away then, we can’t go into any arrangement with these people and so we made a statement and said we’re going to the cross benches between 2011 and 2014. And we did.

And that would stand again if Labour tries to change the retirement age, you’d go to the cross benches again?

Look, I think they can be persuaded, if that was the issue, I think they can be persuaded that that fatally cost them the election. All the old people coming near 65 heard was, not 2021, they just heard the age is going up.

Raising the Super age would seem to be a deal breaker, and it would probably be a party breaker of NZ First changed their stance on this.

On foreign ownership

Let’s look at foreign ownership and the restrictions on essentially foreign buyers or non New Zealand citizens. You want an immediate ban on them buying residential property with either government?

Look, the non-New Zealand buyer, if that non-New Zealand buyer is buying into a new business here to create new exports and new work, or to move their family here and put their heart and soul for the rest of their lives into this country, then we don’t have a problem as we didn’t have with the labour…

No ban if there’s business involved or for genuine residency, but that may be difficult to determine in advance and difficult to police. What happens if a foreign buyer says they will live most of the time here but travel overseas a lot?

Yeah, I’m talking about residential property, do you want to an immediate ban on non-New Zealanders?

Well I’m not going to stand around while somebody from off shore with 77 homes, and has now become a major landlord in Auckland and filtering in, and gouging money out of our economy…

That’s a sort of a “no way”.

Who is this person?

Well it’ll come out in time, but we’re a long way from the election and some of the doubters in this country are going to get some facts in this campaign.

With a big “but”.

You want an immediate ban on foreign ownership of property?

Well first of all I want to know why we have not got in place a land and house register so that authorities and bureaucrats, know what they’re dealing with and what numbers they’re talking about, rather than if they go around likening anyone like me to being xenophobic.

A register that determines detailed numbers would take some time (far longer than a coalition negotiation period) so this would have to involve a commitment to set up a register. But it’s very vague about what would allow and what would rule out ownership.

Immediate ban’s your policy, so you’d want that in place. That would drive down property prices. Are you happy with that?

No, with the greatest respect it would not. What it would do, you would see at some ends of the market…

No challenge to “immediate ban’s your policy, so you’d want that in place” but it’s left unclear and vague.

On foreign involvement in fishing

The fishing industry, what do you want to do there? You know a lot about fishing…

Well our policy is for the New Zealandisation of the industry, just like Iceland, just like Norway, who understand something about this. It’s Norway’s number one income earner, its Iceland’s survival. Here’s my point; we want the New Zealandisation of the industry, so our fish is caught by New Zealand boats and New Zealand fishermen and is added value that is packaged here and sold here and sold offshore. I don’t see how we can get any advantage from foreign crews sending the raw product to China, and have it tinned back to our supermarkets.

So how do you enforce this? You ban foreign crews, you’d ban processing offshore?

Well I’m not saying banning processing offshore; they will not take it off shore. But we’ll give them an exit strategy and make sure they’re compensated – but we want this great resource, which is ours and we’re lucky people to have it, to be part of the growth and the employment and wealth creation of this country. For goodness sake, the Maori people have got a sizeable chunk, as you know, of the Maori fishing industry and who’s catching Maori entitlement or Maori quota fish? Foreigners are. Who’s working on…

So would you ban it? Would you ban foreigners if they were taking all the chunks?

Well I make it very clear that our policy was specified that those days will be over.

Very clear that it’s NZ First policy but not clear what they would actually insist on and no indication it would be a bottom line.

The first option for coalition negotiations – the party with the most seats

Okay so in terms of negotiations you’ve said it’s a constitutional convention – your words – to negotiate with the biggest party first. That’s right isn’t it?

Look, as I said – and it’s all on our website, been there for 20 years – that we will negotiate in the first instance with the party with the most votes. That is in the first instance. But if there is no possibility of a sound coalition from them, then you would talk to others.

So that negotiation, does that mean a phone call, the first phone call? Or do you actually enter negotiations in that scenario and start to look at what policy gains you can get?

Well I suppose if we’re talking about logistics then it probably starts with a phone call, because if nobody is phoning each other then there’s no conversation.

Yeah but after that do you negotiate with that biggest party first, do you sit down and talk with them?

Well I think you’d have a preliminary discussion about what do you think your priorities are and what do you think ours might be.

So you would sit down with John Key for instance first before you sat down with David Cunliffe?

Not necessarily would it be a leaders discussion, because frankly, I assume he hires key people with far more experience than him in this matter…like Wayne Eagleson for example. Helen Clark had…

So you’d prefer to sit down with the chief of staff before you had even talked to John Key?

No I didn’t say that, I said the chiefs of staff would go across and map out the talking grounds. And then you might have the discussion.

I think it’s standard for chiefs of staff to set the groundwork for negotiations, and Peters has had a lot of experience in this process, so nothing unusual about this.

How far down this path do you go before you go to the other side?

Well ideally you’d start with one and you’d ensure that the other one is not left out. Because frankly…

So you’re talking to both sides…

If you cannot get reconciliation over here then you need to have some chance of getting reconciliation over there. As distasteful as it is to you, and others, the public is demanding a stable Government, and that is the number one responsibility of anybody in politics.

That sounds very much like NZ First will negotiate with both sides (National and Labour) from early on.

Peters’ relationship with John Key

I want to turn now to John Key and what is essentially your weird relationship with him. You’ve called him arrogant, pretentious, a liar; you’ve said his Government was incompetent; you said he worked in Merrill Lynch, which you called corrupt. You really don’t like him. Now, how on earth are you going to work with this guy, and will you make John Key Prime minister?

I’ve heard you burbling away on TV every night describing this relationship as toxic. You know nothing about it. Now cut it out. I happen to see John Key at the races, I said gidday to him, I see him around the place we say hello. I walked into a coffee bar and shook his hand.

That doesn’t sound like a close relationship, far from it. And it doesn’t give any indication of respect or rapport. Saying hello occasionally is not a political relationship.

You called him an arrogant liar, you think that he’s spied on you…

All right, well I’ll explain this to you. I’ll explain this. When he gave witnesses to that event about which he spoke I knew that person could not have been there, because I checked the persons diary and I thought well who else is the person making the information. But here’s the real point here. Of course he worked for Merrill Lynch. Merrill Lynch is one of the companies that brought the western economies to their knees. The global financial crisis was never a global crisis.

The upshot is how could you make him Prime Minister when you talk about him like this?

No, no I want you to have a debate where we have a chance to have our say. The western financial crisis has cost the world plenty. Now when I say he’s arrogant, he has been arrogant. He comes in and says I want certainty about the election I’m giving you September. This is balderdash.

Let me ask you one last time. Can you make the man you call an arrogant liar Prime Minister?

OK one more point. Do you think he’s telling the truth on the GCSB? Because there’s not one western leader who would believe…

You haven’t answered the question. But you’re saying he’s a liar on what he knew about Kim Dotcom aren’t you?

I am.

Insistence that Peters believes Key has lied about Dotcom

Yep. Will you make him PM then? If you’re saying he lied about what he knew about Kim Dotcom will you make him the Prime Minister?

Paddy we’ve got a long way to go until the election, and when it emerges that there’ no way the SIS and GCSB leader of this country’s administration, namely John Key, could not have known, I think you might look with different eyes at that matter.

Peters appears to believe that it will be proven that Key has lied before the election. If that happens then for Peters to be consistent he will demand that Key resigns.

If Key doesn’t resign before the election then Peters would be very hypocritical if he negotiated a coalition agreement with Key.

The only out here is if Key resigns than NZ First may then be able to negotiate with the new National leader.

Rules out working with UnitedFuture and the Maori Party

Can you work with UF in government?

Well, you know, can I tell you the truth? In 2005 I was the one who went to Peter Dunne and said to him, Peter do you want to be a minister. Not Helen Clark.

Will you make him a minister again in the next government? Would you give him the go-ahead?

Well no. Given how he’s behaved…

So he’s out. What about the Maori Party? Can you work with them?

I’m not working with a party that believes in racial separatism.

That rules out NZ First working with them but it doesn’t necessarily rule out a coalition with National or Labour that also involves United Future or the Maori Party. Coalition agreements are between the major party and individual minor parties. The minor parties don’t negotiate with each other, nor do they have to work together.

There’s no indication here a coalition arrangement that involved NZ First would have to rule out United Future or the Maori Party being in the coalition.

About your transparency now. You’re shutting essentially 95 percent, maybe 90 percent, of the New Zealand voters out of the equation with your balance of power. What is fair about that?

How did you possibly extrapolate this conversation to that extraordinary conclusion?

Because you won’t be transparent. You don’t say, you won’t say anything about where you’re going.

You see Paddy you’re back to you again. You’re not listening to anything I’m saying. What I said was that we’re going to see what happens in the next six months we’re going to ensure as a party we make a democratic decision that includes caucus, and the board and our support base.

So no more transparency.

Now the next thing is that the mass majority of New Zealanders, including 35% of National voters, don’t like the sort of deals you advocate. They think they’re odious. They think they’re anathema. And so do I. And one last thing. You must be much smarter than me but I’m not able to play cards I’ve never seen.

Asset sale buy-back and keeping the Super eligibility age at 65 appear to be non-negotiable.

Everything else seems to depend on what happens between now on the election, what the voters say (except they only vote, they don’t say what bottom lines they want)  and what the NZ First caucus, board and members democratically decide they want.

The bottom line

The Super age has to be a bottom line. Giving in on that would be like the Greens giving in on deep sea drilling, it’s totally against what NZ First stands for.

Peters working with Key would be very hypocritical. Peters claims that Peter Dunne lied and Judith Collins lied, and because of that he insists they should resign. Peters also insists Key lied.

The rest looks up for negotiation. Even apparent bottom lines could be fudged, like asset sales buybacks – there could be an agreement that buy backs be investigated and take place “when economic conditions allow”. Foreign property purchases and foreign fishing positions appear to be strong but they are vague.

There are only two bottom lines that appear to be certain.

  1. Leave the Super eligibility age at 65.
  2. Anything else is possible.

And the voters will decide one thing – whether Peters and NZ First get the opportunity to negotiate. If they give NZ First 5% little else is certain.

Note that this interview did not examine how NZ First might work with Labour, nor whether NZ First would agree to a coalition that involved the Greens.

Source of transcript- Scoop The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews New Zealand First leader Winston Peters

“Mountain of persuasion” on boat people jail plan

National’s Nathan Guy is struggling to get support for his bill to lock up non-existent boat people. From Stuff:

Human Rights Watch refugee programme director Bill Frelick called the Immigration Amendment Bill a scare tactic rather than a rational plan, saying Guy’s belief the legislation sent a signal that queue-jumpers wouldn’t be tolerated was “fundamentally flawed”.

“First, there is no queue. And second, the legislation does punish people who might indeed have genuine claims for refugee status.”

The bill got past the first reading to committee stage but Guy doesn’t have sufficient support to get it past the second reading. He would need the support of either United Future’s Peter Dunne, or a New Zealand First or Maori Party MP.

United Future leader Peter Dunne has called the plans inhumane and said he would need a “mountain of persuasion” to change his mind.

The Maori Party still discussing the issue.

NZ First leader Winston Peters refusing to give any assurances.

Priorities?

Bill English has been using the “not a priority” excuse for dismissing  bills like Paid Parental Leave and dismissing discussion dealing with Super. They are both issues that deserve attention (Super demands attention).

So why are National promoting a bill that would draconally protect New Zedaland froma threat that doesn’t currently exist?

This bill should be well down the priority pecking order.

New Zealand First and Referenda

Winston Peters and all NZ First MPs voted against the marriage equality bill because they wanted it to be decided by a referendum. He closed his speech with:

Therefore, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill without a referendum is opposed by New Zealand First. We oppose this Parliament again ignoring the people’s view, whatever the people’s view may be. I ask: why are so many here not prepared to trust the people on these issues?

Peters has made more statements about letting the public decide:

Let people make the decision – Peters

Take responsibility off politicians and give it to the public – that was the challenge from NZ First leader Winston Peters at a Taranaki Young Professionals meet last night.

Hot on the heels of Wednesday night’s decision to progress a bill to allow same-sex marriage, a bill Mr Peters voted against, he was justifying his vote on the merits of public referendum.

“I don’t understand why politicians can be so arrogant as to think they can address such an issue on behalf of the country.”

I’m a strong believer in referenda – when justified.

I’m a strong believer in MPs consulting (far more) with the people.

But MPs are elected as representatives of the people. Parliament is our House of Representatives. We have a representative democracy.

Issues like marriage equality and the purchase age of alcohol (and all the other alcohol reform issues currently being considered) need to be extensively consulted on and debated. It’s hard to see how a referendum could deal adequately with the complexitites involved.

There’s also the time required to have a referendum – far too long for normal parliamentary business.

And the cost would be substantial.

Peters has not made it clear to what degree he wants to have referenda.He has been talking a lot about it, for example:

Calling For Appropriate Referenda – Radio Live Column

16 August 2012
Rt Hon Winston Peters

There has been plenty of media coverage about New Zealand First’s calls for binding referendum on two issues – same sex marriage and proposed changes to our MMP electoral system.

It has been suggested in some quarters that our position on proposing referenda is an attempt to avoid issues or muddy the political water. Nothing could be further from the truth.

New Zealand First’s manifesto states that we want to form a practical partnership with New Zealanders by the judicious use of direct public referenda.

What does “judicious use of direct public referenda” mean? The marriage equality bill is relatively minor, and seems to be a very selective target fora referendum.

In New Zealand First’s Fifteen Fundamental Principles the only mention of referenda is:

  • Electoral reform will be determined by the electors.   The Government’s duty will be to ensure the fair representation of all views and the holding of appropriate referenda.

They also list:

  • All policies not contained in the party manifesto, where no national emergency clearly exists, will first be referred to the electorate for a mandate.

Did NZ First refer the marriage equality issue to the electorate? Or is that what they mean – if it’s not in their manifesto there should be a referendum. Here is what their manifesto says:

GREATER USE OF PUBLIC REFERENDA

New Zealand First wants to form a practical partnership with the New Zealand people by the
judicious use of direct public referenda where:

  • there is neutrality and impartiality in the question;
  • there is fair dissemination of all of the facts on both sides of the argument;
  • there is certainty in the poll (i.e. the question can be clearly understood);
  • there is appropriate time for debate to be conducted; and,
  • the referendum’s objective is capable of being met within the country’s fiscal constraints.

Consultation on major constitutional changes, on the ownership of assets, on important social policy, on significant economic strategies, and on New Zealand’s relations with the world is fundamental to a healthy democracy.

‘People  power’ by means of referenda should, where possible and practicable, replace MPs’ conscience votes.

Binding referenda will be triggered by petitions achieving support of 10% of the electorate. Both government and members’ bills that have the support of parliament can, where stipulated, also trigger a binding referendum.

Referenda will be conducted either on the first Saturday of November each year or in conjunction with a general election.

Referenda qualifying before March 1 will be conducted in the following November to provide sufficient lead-in time.

A revamped Electoral Commission provided with greater resources will conduct up to four citizens initiated referenda, as well as any government or parliament designated referenda each year, and will also be responsible for ensuring that balanced dissemination of all of the facts on both sides of the argument occurs in timely fashion.

A successful referendum result will be achieved by simple majority and may only be vetoed by the vote of 75% of all Members of Parliament within one calendar month of the result being declared.

So the NZ First call for a referendum on marriage equality is consistent with this – but to be consistent shouldn’t they also be calling for a referendum on alcohol reform?

I used to think we should make much more use of referenda. But there are many problems with referenda, especially the timeframe involved, the cost, and trying to deal with complex legislation with simple questions.

I think that almost all parliamentary business can and should be dealt adequately by MPs as representatives.

What is needed is a better connection between MPs and the public on an ongoing basis.

How much did NZ First consult with the people on the marriage equality bill? And how did that affect their votes – all voted against it. All other parties voted for marriage equality or split, reflecting mixed views of the public.

There seems to be some inconsistency in democratic principles here.

Russel Norman, jobs and mining

On Backbenches last night (not yet online) the first question put to Russel Norman was on the proposed opening up of  mining in Northland, and related jobs for the highly unemployed far north.

Norman didn’t answer directly, but his response made it clear about his priorities – he thought the long term “need” to leave mineral resources untouched in the ground outweighed what he called short term jobs.

Mining and Drilling

There is Green policy and campaigning on stopping and preventing mining, stopping fracking and preventing drilling.

On Lignite:

It makes no sense to destroy valuable farmland to dig up coal that harms our 100% Pure brand. Instead, we need to invest in jobs and a vision to create a future which we all can enjoy.

So they want to stop and prevent some job opportunities. Where are the Green jobs going to come from?

Jobs

Jobs were one of the big three Green campaign issues in the 2011 election.

Our plan will create 100,000 new jobs through direct government investment in housing, by ensuring our state-owned energy companies capture the massive export opportunities in the renewable energy sector, and, most importantly, by shifting the drivers for green jobs in the private sector.

From 100,000 green jobs for New Zealanders:

How we’re going to do it
Our plan is detailed and fully-costed. It includes plans for direct government investment, building sustainable infrastructure, supporting the greening of our small and medium enterprises (SMEs), driving innovation, introducing smarter
regulation, getting the prices of resources and pollution right, protecting our brand, reforming capital markets, making our workplaces fairer, and measuring progress differently.

Here are three of the highlights:

  • Direct investment
    We will ramp-up the Heat Smart home insulation programme ensuring it is rolled out to a further 200,000 homes over the next three years, costing $350 million and employing 4,000 people directly — 10,400 if you include indirect and upstream employment effects.
  • Keep it Kiwi
    We will retain ownership of our state-owned enterprises while creating the right incentives for them to partner with clean tech entrepreneurs in the private sector and develop renewable energy solutions that we can patentand export abroad. With the right incentives in place, if we can capture just 1% of the global market for renewable energy solutions, we’ll create a$6 to $8 billion export industry employing 47,000–65,000 people in new green jobs.
  • Support for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
    Through a mix of government procurement policies, tax incentives, startup funding, and a $1 billion boost to R&D funding, we’ll support SMEs to step up and drive new job creation in the cleantech sector.

The Heat Smart home insulation programme has already been going for the past few years. They don’t say if the jobs they claim will be created are additional, nor how likely they are to happen. It depends on availability of resources, and the willingness of people to install insulation.

“If we can capture just 1% of the global market” – if. Wishing doesn’t make it happen. National has discovered how hard it is to improve the job market.

Green solutions seem to be to stop some industries (like mining and drilling), pour money into creating jobs that may or may not eventuate, and may or may not provide a return on the investment.

At the same time they want to increase the costs for many businesses – farming is the most important industry we have, Greens want them to pay more for emissions, more for water, and more tax. They haven’t “detailed and fully-costed” the effects of this.

There’s no doubt the Green Party provides an important “voice” in Parliament. It’s good to be made aware of and debate the issues they raise.

The big question facing voters is how much Green do we want? This especially important when viewd alongside the continued weakness and turmoil in Labour.

What if our next Government is one third Green? Something around there is quite likely, unless Lanbour miraculously sees what it’s been doing wrong and reforms and rebuilds.

What if our Government is one half Green? That’s probably a stretech for 2014, but that’s a long way away.

It’s quite likely we could see a more balanced combination of Labour, New Zealand First and Greens.

We need to at least start seriously considering the likley effect of a Green Associate Finance Minister and a Green Minister of the Environment. Minister of Transport?

Greens have until now been more of an interesting sideline. To date Labour have managed to keep them out of Government, and Greens won’t go in to Government with National.

But our next Government could be the first time we see a significant Green component. There are competent Green MPs, but none have any experience about the reality of being in Government.

How Green a government can we risk? Alongside a weak Labour and a more inexperienced NZ First?

The next election will be interesting.

Prisoner reoffending reform

In a pre-budget announcement Corrections ministers have commited to spending on reform targetting reducing prisoner reoffending by 25%. This is a big target, but it’s well known that rehabilitation has not been given anywhere enough attention.

Budget 2012: $65m on reducing reoffending

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley and Associate Corrections Minister Dr Pita Sharples said the ‘reprioritised’ operational funding was aimed at reducing reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017.

It would go towards alcohol and drug treatment, increased education, skills training and employment programmes for prisoners.

Mrs Tolley said the funding would mean 18,500 fewer victims of crime and 600 less prisoners in jail in 2017 than last year.

“It’s time to get serious about breaking this vicious cycle of prison and reoffending.

Dr Sharples said represented a shift towards the rehabilitation and restoration of prisoners to their whanau and communities.

“This is a more humane response to offending, and it is cheaper and more effective.

As usual the media has found people who are able to find something critical about this, but it’s more interesting to see who is supporting it – the Howard League for penal reform, who’s chief executive is well known Labour official Mike Williams.

Howard League backs reform plan

Oppostion parties, a drug and alcohol counsellor and the Corrections Association are skeptical about whether a 25% reduction can be achieved.

But Howard League chief executive Mike Williams says international research shows such programmes work.

The Government says the target is bold but achievable.

The Corrections Department says it can achieve a 25% reduction in prisoner reoffending by 2017.

Chief executive Ray Smith says currently about 27% of prisoners reoffend when released and are back in prison within one year.

He wants this number to reduce to about 20% and says providing more participation in programmes for prisoners will lessen the likelihood of reoffending.

This sounds like an overdue no-brainer.

Jobs needed first

New Zealand First says the Government needs to create jobs for prisoners if it wants to reduce reoffending. Corrections spokesperson Asenati Lole-Taylor says there must be jobs for prisoners when they are released.

But Labour says jobs are scarce in the current economic climate, so finding work for ex-inmates is going to be difficult.

Of course proper rehabilitation means getting ex prisoners into jobs, and they can be hard to find, but it’s nonsense waiting until there are enough jobs – when will that be? Why can’t reducing reoffending and increasing jobs happen concurrently?

This is a good example of parties working together in coalition, with the support of organisastions and people, where the priority is on finding what is most likley to work best, without getting bogged down with politics.

Reducing prisoner reoffending will result in whole of society benefits – less tax to fund police, courts and prisons, and less victims of crimes.

 

Richard Prosser: statement on MP ethics

MPs were asked “Do you support ‘gotcha’ politics?” where attacks and accusations are made to try and damage parties and to discredit and potentially end the careers of fellow MPs?

Richard Prosser, first term list MP for New Zealand First,  replied:

No I don’t support it.

Whilst there are, by definition and indeed of necessity, always going to be differences of opinion and philosophy in politics, it behoves us as Parliamentarians to play the ball and not the man (or woman), and to address such differences, and attempt to influence policy, through reasoned debate and by keeping an open mind, and above all by having regard to the wishes of the voting public and the best interests of the nation.

While we may not agree with the views or positions of any particular Member or Party, it has to be remembered that most MPs enter Parliament with genuinely held beliefs and with honourable intentions, and we owe it to the future of our Parliamentary democracy to respect that fact.

Beyond holding Members and Parties to account as regards their current and intended actions, and their present and past indications of character, we have a duty to be fair in our dealings, and to conduct our affairs in the dignified manner which the public has a right to expect.

Best regards

Richard Prosser

An excellent statement on MP ethics and behaviour so posted here in full. Richard Prosser links:

The New Zealand First website is currently undergoing a redesign so is offline.