‘Dirty politics’ and NZ First financial issues

It looks like ‘dirty politics’ is back, with Winston Peters repeating insinuations made a number of times on Whale Oil 2.0 (The BFD) that look like trying to discredit an ex-NZ First official who has become a whistleblower.

On Wednesday at The BFD: Lester Gray & Nick Smith Playing Games with Parliamentary Processes

Lester Gray is using National MP Nick Smith to continue his wonky jihad against NZ First and now they are wanting to use parliamentary processes to try and destroy the party that Gray used to be the president of. Nick Smith seems intent on provoking the substantial lawsuit that is hanging over his head by continuing his own jihad against NZ First.

Smith went public revealing multi million dollar legal threat made against him by NZ First lawyer Brian Henry – see Brian Henry threatens Nick Smith and Guyon Espiner damages claim “as high as $30,000,000.00”.

‘Cameron Slater’/Whale Oil used too throw around legal threats (which turned out badly for Slater), but the Slater influence seems to have crept in to The BFD, which appears to have been set up to avoid court and liquidator actions.

Word has it that NZ First are relishing Lester Gray and Colin Forster trying this on.

We have it on good authority that some of the likely questions the select committee may ask will be as follows:

1. Why did Gray resign rather than go through the judicial process over his bullying of other party members?
2. Why is Forster complaining now? Is it because he was voted out of his position by the party?
3. What has NZ First done to support those bullied by Gray?
4. Why won’t Gray & Forster face NZ First MPs in a select committee?
5. What is Gray’s mental health condition and why did he request NZ First not comment on it, and does he believe that he should be questioned about it now he has demonstrated he is fit to appear before the select committee?

They don’t seem to have thought this through. Labour and the Greens will hammer hell out of them at the select committee even if NZ First does not have any MPs present. Those questions may prove rather detrimental to any barrow they are trying to push.

That is posted under the author ‘SB’ (Spanish Bride/Juana Atkins) but looks to me like same old ‘Cameron Slater’/Whale Oil style dirty politics.

This is part bullshit. From “Word has it that NZ First” it looks like The BFD is straight out shilling for NZ First – are they being paid for this?

“We have it on good authority that some of the likely questions the select committee may ask” sounds like bull, unless NZ First were going to tell Labour MPs on the select committee what dirty ‘attack the messenger’ questions to ask.  That’s unlikely – the Labour MPs blocked Gray and Forster from appearing before the committee anyway.

This isn’t the first time The BFD has raised “Gray’s mental health condition”.

This hardly seems a coincidence: Winston Peters lashes out at ex-NZ First party officials for request to give evidence

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has accused his former party president Lester Gray of having “mental health problems” – a claim strongly denied by Gray, who has previously raised questions about the party’s finances.

The accusation emerged after National’s electoral law spokesman Nick Smith told Parliament that Labour MPs on the justice select committee refused a request for Gray and former treasurer Colin Forster to appear before it in a private session during their inquiry into the 2017 election.

Peters then suggested outside the House that Gray had mental health issues and it would not have been appropriate for him to give evidence to a select committee.

Ironic that Peters is using ‘mental health’ to try to discredit someone, when it looks to me like NZ First or one of their agents is using Slater’s dirty politics tactics at The BFD.

Smith said it was “appalling the lengths to which the Deputy Prime Minister is going to silence anybody that raises questions”.

Smith may have stepped over a select committee line (but claims not to have):

Labour is thought to be considering a privileges complaint against Smith to the Speaker for revealing closed business of a select committee – although MPs have absolute privilege in the House.

Gray and Forster made their request to appear in the wake of revelations about large donations to the New Zealand First Foundation, which funds party activities from donations that don’t have to be declared.

The pair wrote to the committee last week asking to be heard in its inquiry.

Specifically they cited “the recent serious revelations over the failure to disclose major donations, the significant expenditure on unauthorised campaign activities and the inappropriate running of a separate foundation without proper oversight of elected party officials.”

“The inquiry is a safe place for us to disclose our knowledge of what has taken place.”

Gray resigned in October two weeks before the party convention and according to Stuff, his resignation letter said he was unable to sign off the party accounts.

“I refuse to sign off the 2019 Financial Reports with the information I have been provided,” he wrote.

“As president, the limited exposure I have had to party donations and expenditure leaves me in a vulnerable position.

“This type of operation does not align with my moral and business practice values, and I am therefore not able to support the Party any longer.”

Peters outside the House questioned why Smith wanted to hear Forster and Gray.

“The reality is he wants to hear evidence from somebody who is no longer treasurer of the party and knew nothing about anything because he wasn’t there at the time so why would he be an expert witness on something he could not possibly know anything about?”

Asked about what would be wrong with Lester Gray giving evidence to the justice committee, Peters said: “Lester Gray’s lawyer wrote to me and my board and asked if we would have regard to his current then mental health problems and I have respected that letter and never said a thing about it but we are not going to sit here and take that sort of behavior hereon in.

“In short, if his lawyer pleads with us to give some understanding on his mental health problems, then perhaps the corollary should be that she should not try and think that some select committee because of his present state of mind is the proper place for him to make submissions.”

Someone seems to have provided The BFD with this mental health information some time ago. A post from 21 November: Brian Henry puts Bridges & Smith on Notice

Brian Henry has smacked Simon Bridges and Nick Smith hard, threatening to sue the cowards for smearing him in parliament.

So, Nick Smith is a coward and won’t repeat his allegations outside of parliament. The amount talked about are the direct provable losses that Simon Bridges and Nick Smith have caused Brian Henry because of their false accusations in the house.

That was posted under ‘SB’ but it doesn’t look like normal SB style to me.

Nick Smith also, rather stupidly, continued the attack with Question 9, despite having been informed of the action and then even more stupidly tabled his legal letter in parliament, though with some redactions regarding Lester Gray and the real reasons why he left NZ First.

The BFD has obtained copies of the letters and they are outlined below…

So, now we are starting to find out the real reasons behind the rather sudden departure of Lester Gray from NZ First.

Sources tell us…

There is also the rumour that …

Sounds very much like Slater/WO dirty politics (although the style hints that it may not have been written by Slater either).

…when this was discovered by people close to Lester Gray he suddenly had his “mental health” episode.

It looks to me like someone with close links to NZ First is providing information to if not writing posts for The BFD.

So Dirty Politics appears to be back, this time via NZ First/The BFD but with a lot of similar tactics used by Slater/Whale Oil.

Foreign donations bill passes after ugly debate, more ugliness likely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Smith also took a swipe at the Greens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Answer the question.

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

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

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What is?

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

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

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.

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

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Read the Hansard.

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

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes, you do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I withdraw and apologise.

Bickering continued. Later:

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

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

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Tell us about your foundation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Beehive announcement on the bill:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It looks like ugly debate on donations will continue.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brian Henry threatens Nick Smith and Guyon Espiner damages claim “as high as $30,000,000.00”

Lawyer Brian Henry, closely associated with Winston Peters and NZ First, has threat to sue National MP Nick Smith and RNZ’s Guyon Espiner for defamation “for general damages together with special damages which from the information to hand could be as high as $30,000,000.00”.

This looks remarkably heavy handed – Smith claimed intimidating – and potentially a chilling effect on our democracy and journalism. One thing it does is ensure is that Henry becomes even more in the spotlight.

Meanwhile stuff continues to risk threats of legal action: ‘I am the dark shadow of NZ First’ – what party candidates claim Winston Peters’ lawyer said

Brian Henry’s role in the unfolding NZ First donations scandal is now under close scrutiny. In addition to being Peters’ right-hand man, lawyer and NZ First’s judicial officer, he is also a trustee of the New Zealand First Foundation. The foundation appears to have been taking political donations, while operating as a political slush fund for the NZ First political party.

Henry also runs QComms, a company which Stuff understands runs the party’s Nation Builder website – a campaigning and membership tool.

Some party members call Henry “Peters’ attack dog”. People turn skittish when the name is mentioned in interviews. Numerous people connected to NZ First who spoke to Stuff feared lawsuits and retribution for doing so.

Numerous sources have confirmed to Stuff that, during a candidates briefing in at a hall in Takanini near Manukau in the lead up to the 2017 election, Henry gave NZ First candidates a lesson in how the party really works.

“I am the dark shadow in this party that you don’t want to receive a phone call from,” attendees told Stuff he said. “My job is to make sure Winston Peters gets the position he deserves and none of you are going to get in the way of that,” Henry said, according to sources present at the meeting.

Henry’s comments have surfaced as a raft of former NZ First officials have come forward to Stuff – both on the record and on the condition of anonymity – complaining that they were kept in the dark about party finances, the existence of the New Zealand First Foundation. Anyone who challenged Peters, Henry or Doug Woolerton, a former MP, party president and the other trustee of the NZ First Foundation, was forced out, sources have told Stuff.

“We started off in the party and believed in its ideals and policies,” the person said.

“But the longer you are there, the more you notice these backroom deals and as soon as you start to get close, or start challenging Winston on it, you get moved aside pretty quickly.

The influence of Henry within the party is enormous and across all aspects of its operations, numerous sources told Stuff.

“Winston Peters calls Henry to back people down,” one former MP said. “He’s an attack dog. People are afraid of being tied up in litigation.”

This doesn’t surprise me and probably won’t surprise journalists. Peters threatened me with defamation action many years ago (through a lawyer I think, I can’t remember who that was).

Peters has claimed that the party is operated democratically, but it isn’t referred to as Winston First for nothing.

RNZ: NZ First Foundation trustee threatens lawsuit against National leader and MP

National has been pursuing New Zealand First and the prime minister over allegations about the handling of party donations.

Yesterday, National’s Nick Smith made a comment in Parliament about the donations.

This afternoon he tabled an email that he and National Party leader Simon Bridges received today from Mr Henry.

It said media reports had been “false and malicious”, adding that the loan activities to the party were lawful.

In the email, Mr Henry invited Dr Smith and Mr Bridges to “repeat what you said in the House in public or apologise”.

“Please note if you oblige with this request I will sue you for defamation for general damages together with special damages,” the email reads.

Speaking to reporters outside the House, Dr Smith said he needed to be very “constrained and careful” about his choice of words, given the legal threat, but he described the email as “extremely worrying”.

He said it was very concerning that an MP “going about their duties of holding the government to account” should be threatened in this way.

“I feel very strongly about the importance of New Zealand having a high level of transparency, I take great pride that when National left government New Zealand had the top ranking in the world as the least corrupt country and want to make sure that’s protected,” Dr Smith said.

“It makes you very nervous of that work when effectively the financial wellbeing of your family is being threatened.”

Letter from Brian Henry sent to National MP Nick Smith and leader Simon Bridges.

Mr Henry said in his email there was one loan from the foundation of $73,000, which was repaid in full over two years.

However, in a statement the Electoral Commission told RNZ that according to NZ First’s returns, there was one loan of $73,000 entered into in Dec 2017, another separate loan of $76,622 was disclosed in May 2018. The Commission said it understood that loan was to replace the first loan. Then there was a further loan of $44,923 disclosed in April 2019.

Going by the continuation of media reports after the defamation threat Henry’s threat does not appear to have buried the story.

Media are repeating what Smith said in Parliament – ‘this is a rort with a capital R’ – as they are protected from legal action when reporting what is said under parliamentary privilege.

Newsroom: Stonewalling on donations saga but many questions remain

NZ Herald: NZ First Leader Winston Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry threatens to sue a National MP for $30m

New Zealand First has upped the ante in the saga over its mysterious foundation, with party leader Winston Peters’ long-time lawyer Brian Henry threatening to sue National for $30 million.

In the House, senior National MP Nick Smith tabled a letter in which Henry issued a clear ultimatum to the veteran MP.

“Repeat what you said in the House in public or apologise.”

A spokesperson for National said the party would not be commenting on the letter or the threat.

But speaking to Newstalk ZB, Smith said he stood by the comments he made in the House.

He would not, however, repeat the comments he made in the House under privilege for “obvious reasons”.

This threat from Henry just escalated the NZ First donations and PGF application issues to a higher level.

Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill appears to be still stalled

National MP Nick Smith introduced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to Parliament in March 2016.

The sanctuary was a part of both governing agreements between Labour and NZ First and the Green Party, but after the bill was transferred to incoming Labour Minister of the Environment David Parker the bill seems to have stalled. In nearly three years it hasn’t progressed from it’s Second Reading.

Smith recently stated:

“It is embarrassing for the Coalition Government that it has made no progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary after 18 months in Government.  The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill, originally in my name but transferred to David Parker with the change in Government in 2017, has sat on the bottom of Parliament’s Order Paper for 18 months.

Timeline:

8 March 2016 – Bill introduced to Parliament

15 March 2016 – First Reading

22 July 2016 – Select Committee

15 September 2016Govt remains committed to Kermadec sanctuary

The Government is disappointed it has been unable to reach agreement with Maori fisheries trust Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) on the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, despite lengthy negotiations, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“We have tried very hard to find a resolution with TOKM, with 10 meetings involving ministers during the past 10 months. TOKM wanted to be able to maintain the right to fish and the right to exercise that at some time in the future. We wanted to protect the integrity of the sanctuary as a no-take area.

“The Government has amended the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to provide a dual name, the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary Bill, to include Maori in the new Kermadec/Rangitahua Conservation Board, and to provide for their inclusion in the 25-year review. We remain committed to the changes to the proposal despite not being able to secure an agreement with TOKM.”

24 October 2017: Governing Agreements

Labour NZ First Coalition Agreement:

    • Work with Māori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and New Zealand First.

Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement (24 October 2017):

8. Safeguard the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems and promote abundant fisheries. Use best endeavours and work alongside Māori to establish the Kermadec/ Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary and look to establish a Taranaki blue whale sanctuary.

11 May 2018Winston Peters says the Greens can have a Kermadec Sanctuary – with a catch

Hope for a Kermadec Sanctuary is back on the table and NZ First leader Winston Peters is confident he can do a deal with the Green Party by the end of the year.

The deal would involve a compromise from the Greens though – accepting that the sanctuary won’t be a 100 per cent no-fishing zone.

While the previous government’s bill to establish it passed its first reading unopposed in 2016, iwi bodies and fishing companies subsequently filed legal action against it. NZ First, which has close ties to the fishing industry, raised serious concerns about the legislation.

To keep the fishing industry happy and to ensure iwi with fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi are on board, Peters is proposing a mixed model that allows for roughly 95 per cent marine reserve and 5 per cent fishing.

Peters says it’s entirely possible to preserve species while allowing a small percentage of fishing to keep interested parties on side.

He said the Greens would need to decide whether it was more important to have the best part of a sanctuary, or no sanctuary at all.

23 June 2018 – David Parker address to the Forest & Bird Annual Conference

I am also trying to progress the Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary, which I have Ministerial responsibility for. I am working to see if I can find a way through that.

24 July 2018Winston Peters confident of Kermadec Marine Sanctuary deal by end of year

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is confident the deadlock over the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary can be broken by the end of the year.

Environment Minister David Parker and Mr Peters have been working on a compromise for the best part of this year.

Mr Peters insisted an end-of-year deadline was realistic.

“If we keep working on this issue with the level of commitment that has been exhibited thus far then it’s very likely we can have it resolved by the end of 2018.”

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said there was more than one way to uphold Treaty rights and keep the Kermadec Islands a sanctuary.

“We’re committed to a sanctuary, it’s with our confidence and supply agreement with Labour and that’s what we’re committed to keep working towards. I haven’t actually seen details of exactly what Mr Peters and Mr Parker might be working on.”

Greens seem to have been sidelined.

12 February 2019Prime Minister’s Statement at the Opening of Parliament

Cabinet will also consider options to resolve outstanding issues around marine protection for Rangitahua/the Kermadecs.

While the sanctuary Bill seems to have stalled since 2016, despite the coalition and C&S agreements, it seems to remain stalled.

Nick Smith: Kermadec sanctuary lost at sea

World Oceans Day today highlights the Government’s failure to make any progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary in the past 18 months, Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says.

There seems to have been little progress since mid-2016, nearly three years ago.

“New Zealand has responsibility for one of the largest areas of ocean in the world, yet less than one per cent is fully protected. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would protect an area twice the size of New Zealand’s land mass, 15 per cent of our ocean area and it would benefit hundreds of unique species, including whales, dolphins, turtles, seabirds, fish and corals.

“Nothing has been done by the Government to progress the Sanctuary, despite commitments in the Coalition Agreement with NZ First and the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Greens to establish the sanctuary.

“National will continue to push for the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. There is strong public support and between National and the Greens, there is a clear majority of Parliament in favour of its establishment.

“We support progression of the Government Bill now at second reading stage. I also have a Member’s Bill in the Ballot to make progress if necessary. The Government needs to make progress on this Sanctuary a priority.”

So why has this bill stalled?

Is David Parker not doing enough to push it?

Are negotiations with Maori interests still getting nowhere?

Are NZ First holding out for their deal or no deal?

Mallard “best and worst of Speakers”

Some of what Trevor Mallard has done as Speaker is innovative and relatively effective, but he remains dogged by his political bias and his personal baggage with some MPs, which seem unlikely to change.

Audrey Young: Is it time for fresh challenges for Speaker Trevor Mallard?

Mallard’s performance as Speaker this week has not done the Government any favours.

He is seen as simply part of the Government and the Government is seen to be throwing out National MPs – leader Simon Bridges and Nick Smith – from Parliament.

It has been so bad, that if Ardern is casting around for a capable minister to add to her ranks for the June reshuffle, maybe she should consider bringing Mllard back into the ministry.

Mallard was one of the most highly valued and competent ministers in the Helen Clark.

Mallard is a problem for the Government as Speaker, and he would add something that labour lacks in the current Cabinet – experience. I wonder how he would do as Minister of Housing, or Health. The current ministers are struggling to perform adequately.

While Mallard also has ample experience for his role as Speaker he also has a history of animosities that he seems unable to separate from the job.

I have covered Parliament under seven Speakers and Mallard is both the best and the worst, rolled into one.

When he’s good, he’s brilliant, but on a bad day he’s a House-wrecker.

The good:

On a good day (and there have been two in the past six sitting days) question time can be brilliant.

Because of the rules Mallard instituted, the flow of questions and answers is seamless and his intervention is evident only when he insists on a fuller answer.

He listens to questions and answers very carefully. he does not give diatribes when explaining why he has made a decision.

With oversight over written parliamentary questions, he has also demanded a better standard from ministers and twice this year has awarded National an extra 12 questions because of sloppy written answers from Shane Jones and David Clark.

The bad:

Mallard at his worst is when he abuses the inherent power of the chair by punishing Opposition MPs and then punishes them for reacting under extreme provocation.

That is how Simon Bridges came to being kicked out.

Bridges was kicked out for calling Mallard “unprofessional”. Under Parliament’s rules it was not an unfair punishment. But Bridges was right: Mallard had been unprofessional.

What is happening is that Mallard is giving himself licence to insult MPs but as soon as they bite back they are punished.

Mallard insulted Bridges several times on Tuesday, demanding he knew show “leadership” at a time he knew Bridges was facing leadership pressure. The apparent intention was to humiliate Bridges.

The absolute worst:

However Mallard was at his absolute worst when he refused to put leave on behalf of Nick Smith to give priority to a Bill next members’ day that provided roadside drug testing of drivers.

Smith wanted to know why and Mallard said that he himself had objected. That is unprecedented for the so-called umpire.

When objected, not unfairly, Mallard ordered him to leave the house.

As Speaker, Mallard has power, and he doesn’t want that challenged even when he misuses it.

When Smith abused Mallard on the way out Mallard ordered him back in and named him, suspending him from all proceedings for a day.

The abuse hurled at Mallard by Smith warranted serious punishment, but Mallard’s refusal to put leave was extreme provocation and an abuse of his position.

In contrast, Mallard is quite lenient with government MPs, like Winston Peters.

At times he also appears to protect the Prime Minister and other Ministers.

Mallard has the experience to be a good speaker, and has made worthwhile improvements to how things are done, but he has always had a problem with his temperament, and that is not easily resolved.

Would Ardern consider moving him from the Speaker’s chair to a ministerial responsibility? Would Mallard want to?

Nick Smith named and suspended from Parliament for “grossly disorderly conduct”

National MP Nick Smith was ‘named’ and suspended from Parliament today.

Another MP, Michael Woodhouse, had already been told to leave the Chamber.

Question No. 12—Police

12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Police: Does he stand by all his statements, policies, and actions?

Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Yes.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he stand by his statement to TVNZ on roadside drug-testing last December, in response to the Matthew Dow tragedy in Nelson, in which he said—and I quote—”There’s a discussion document that has been approved by Cabinet that’s going to go out to the public early next year”.

Hon STUART NASH: First of all, let me say that if a person is impaired by drugs or alcohol they should not be driving. It is against the law. We are looking at a new strategy to improve road safety during 2019. An immediate $100 million increase of funding was made to improve road safety when we took office. However, more announcements will be made shortly.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether he stood by an important statement.

SPEAKER: The member very clearly got a “no” out of that. Carry on.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I certainly didn’t hear a “no”. I heard a comment on the issue. I heard nothing about—look, he said Cabinet had approved something.

SPEAKER: Order! Order!

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Did Cabinet, last year, approve a discussion paper on enabling police to do roadside drug testing? If not, why did he tell TVNZ and the people of New Zealand that it had approved such a discussion paper?

Hon STUART NASH: That member’s been around long enough to know that we don’t discuss what goes on in Cabinet in the House.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: No, no. I don’t need it. The member had a straight question, and it was a very clear question. It related to a direct quote from him. We had already commented that a paper had been approved by Cabinet. I’m sort of taking Dr Nick Smith’s word that the quote is accurate, and it’d be pretty serious if it’s not, but, taking that at face value, he cannot say on television that Cabinet approved something and then say that it’s not his role to say so in this House.

Hon STUART NASH: What I can say is I do not recall saying that, but what I will say is work is undergoing in this area.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister apologise to the mother of Matthew Dow, who would’ve turned 25 today if not killed by a reckless drug-driver, given that he misled her in saying that Cabinet had approved a discussion document and that it was to be released earlier this year?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest respect, this is certainly no way to treat human tragedy in the way it’s being played out politically in this House, and we, on this side of this House, seriously object. We don’t diminish, in any way—

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is the question out of order or not?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —the harm or the hurt that the family might have felt, but this is not the way for this Parliament to behave, surely.

SPEAKER: First of all, I want to deal with the person who interjected during that point of order. Who was that?

Hon Michael Woodhouse: That would probably have been me, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber.

Hon Michael Woodhouse withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: No. I’m contemplating dealing with this point of order. This is a very serious matter. It involves the death of a loved one. I think many of us are concerned at the approach that is being taken in the House now, but in my opinion it is a matter of, at the moment, judgment of good taste and good taste rather than a matter, at the moment, of order. So if Dr Smith wants to restate his question with that proviso—the clear indication from me that there’s a question of taste and appropriateness involved here—but he is a very senior member, and, obviously, the public will make their judgment on it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have rightly noted this is a serious matter. A key part of that is the accuracy of the quote, and I accept that—

SPEAKER: Order! The member has been invited to ask his supplementary question again, as he did previously before he was interrupted by the Deputy Prime Minister. No one has doubted his word as far as the accuracy of that quote is concerned. All we’ve had is the Minister saying that he can’t recall saying it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister apologise to the Dow family and to the people of New Zealand for his false statement, and I quote, “There’s a discussion document that’s been approved by Cabinet that’s going to go out to the public early next year” when that was untrue?

Hon STUART NASH: I have absolute sympathy for the Dow family, and your loss—I cannot imagine it. I will not apologise for something I have absolutely no responsibility for. For every family that has lost someone on our roads because there is a drink- or drug-driver, I have absolute sympathy. What I can say is work is going on in this area, though. Another thing I would say is Mr Scott brought a member’s bill to the House last year. I sat down with him and I tried to work with him on this, because we felt that the scope of his bill was too narrow. We asked to work with him. He refused to do that, so this Government undertook to address this in a way that actually addressed the issue.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary.

SPEAKER: No. The member’s run out of supplementaries.

POINTS OF ORDER

Land Transport (Roadside Drug Testing) Amendment Bill—Leave to Set Down as First Members’ Order of the Day

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I seek leave of the House for the Land Transport (Roadside Drug Testing) Amendment Bill to be set down as the first members’ order of the day on the next members’ day on 22 May.

SPEAKER: Leave is not going to be granted for that.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You need to put the leave.

SPEAKER: Well, I’ve made it absolutely clear that I won’t grant leave for it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh, you’re opposed to helping getting drug-drivers off the road as well?

SPEAKER: I have made it absolutely clear that I am very unhappy with the member and his approach—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: For standing up for my constituents?

SPEAKER: The member will leave the House.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Soft on drugs like the Government.

SPEAKER: Order! Right, no—come back, please. The member will resume his seat.

NAMING SUSPENSION OF MEMBER

SPEAKER: I’m invoking Standing Order 86. I name Nick Smith for grossly disorderly conduct.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: No. There is no point of order at this point.

The question now is, That Nick Smith be suspended from the service of the House.

A party vote was called for on the question, That Nick Smith be suspended from the service of the House.

Ayes 63

New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8.

Noes 56

New Zealand National 55; Ross.

Question agreed to.

Hon Dr Nick Smith withdrew from the Chamber.

The Points of Order, Naming and vote start at 7:00 minutes into the video:

Following that:

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder in what close proximity to today’s most recent events we might see the release of the Debbie Francis report into parliamentary bullying.

SPEAKER: If the member would care to come either to the Business Committee or the Parliamentary Service Commission, as he is entitled to, he will find out.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would the Speaker be prepared to take a late submission to that report?

SPEAKER: No.


@GraemeEdgeler

During a term of Parliament, the first time an MP is suspended from the service of the House, it lasts 24 hours. While suspended an MP may not enter the Chamber, vote (incl as part of a whip-cast party vote), serve on a committee, or lodge questions or notices of motion.

A second suspension is for 7 full days. A third and any subsequent suspension is for 28 full days.

Each day a member is suspended means a deduction of 0.2% of their salary. I am not sure if this means 0.2% or 0.4% for Nick Smith.

This will be the first time (in some time at least) that an MP has had salary deducted for being suspended. MPs used to be under the impression that being suspended meant they lost their salary, but this never actually happened, because the Civil List Act didn’t allow for it.

It took me two submissions – first on the Standing Orders Review in 2011 and then on the new Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Services) Bill to get to oversight remedied, but the law now provides for salary deductions for suspended MPs.

 

 

 

Labour MPs change minds about Chinese expert submissions

A quick change of stance after Labour MPs block China expert from speaking at select committee.

RNZ: Labour MPs backtrack on Anne-Marie Brady committee decision

Labour MPs have backtracked on their decision to block China expert Anne-Marie Brady from speaking at Parliament after push-back from the Opposition.

Professor Brady had asked to address MPs about foreign interference in elections as part of a justice committee inquiry, but the request was turned down yesterday when the four Labour MPs voted against it.

A government spokesperson said the committee chair, Labour MP Raymond Huo, had a rethink overnight and the committee would briefly reopen submissions to the public later this year.

Mr Huo declined to be interviewed by RNZ, but in a written statement he said he “welcomed” new submissions.

He said yesterday’s decision to block Prof Brady was “purely procedural” and denied he had shifted stance under pressure.

“That’s my own initiative,” Mr Huo said.

However, just hours earlier Mr Huo made no mention of that position in a separate statement sent to RNZ.

“As Committee Chair, I am satisfied that the correct procedure has been followed and that the [intelligence] agencies will keep the committee well informed about any issues of foreign interference that may arise,” he said.

Public attention seems to have had an effect.

Committee member and National MP Nick Smith yesterday called for the committee to reconsider, saying Parliament should hear from New Zealand’s most published academic around the risks of overseas interference in elections.

Dr Smith this afternoon told RNZ he was pleased Mr Huo had had a “change of heart”, but said it was only because he had spoken out.

“It’s blatantly obvious that the Beehive has recognised that silencing an academic on as issue as sensitive as protecting New Zealand from foreign interference was a really bad look and they’ve had to reconsider.”

Newsroom: Govt set to U-turn on Brady block

Committee chairman and Labour MP Raymond Huo, who has featured in Brady’s work for his supposed ties to Chinese government representatives, defended the decision on Thursday, saying it was “purely procedural” given the close of public submissions.

However, a spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Newsroom that Huo had reconsidered the Labour MPs’ original decision upon reflection.

He would discuss the inquiry at the committee next week, with a view to reopening it to public submissions from Brady and others.

While the decision to prevent Brady from speaking had been procedurally correct, the spokesman said there was merit in hearing from her and any others who wished to submit on the issue of foreign interference.

Neither Ardern nor anyone in her office had spoken to Huo about the committee’s initial decision, the spokesman said.

Jacinda Ardern said on 1 News tonight that the Labour MPs had had a change of mind and she thought that was a wise change of position, but kept a distance from that change of stance.

Bridges urges RMA reform now, but National blew it while in Government

Simon Bridges has joined the chorus singing for RMA reform, but Peter Dunne has given a timely reminder that National were off key and blew their chances of reform while in Government.

RNZ: National leader Simon Bridges urges RMA reform over $100m for Māori land ownership

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced that the government’s Provincial Growth Fund would spend $100 million on supporting Māori landowners to make better use of their land.

Today Mr Bridges told Morning Report the government was just throwing money at the issue and although $100 million sounded like a lot of money it would just “scratch the surface” for a select few.

“It may be a bit harsh but I think it’s a waste of money. You’re throwing it at a select few but you’re not actually going to help Māori.”

Mr Bridges said he would instead help Māori land ownership through law reform.

At yesterday’s announcement Ms Ardern said 80 percent of Māori freehold land was under-utilised and unproductive because the special status of some land made getting loans difficult.

Mr Bridges said the government was making the same mistake as it had with KiwiBuild.

“The one thing that is required is Te Ture Whenua Māori land reform. That’s what’s got to happen because the complex legal intricacies of multiple owners mean it’s always going to be incredibly difficult to do this unless you get that law reform. It’s not a question of the financing.”

“They think if they splash some cash at something there’s good politics in it. But just as with Kiwibuild what you actually have to do is hard law reform around the Resource Management Act,” he said.

Fair point. It is widely known that the Resource Management Act generally is stifling development.

Last month Dave Cull, president of Local Government New Zealand, said RMA ‘broken’, not fit for purpose for local government

To build at scale, the Government is looking to give the UDA the power of compulsory acquisition to assemble large parcels of land and the ability to shortcut the onerous public consultation processes required under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

It is an acknowledgment that the RMA is too consultative and encourages a tragedy of the anti-commons. This is where everyone gets a say in a development, not just affected parties, and as a result many worthwhile projects never get off the ground.

The RMA’s consultation requirements also vastly complicate the already fiendishly difficult matter of assembling land for urban development.

The current Government is trying to work around the RMA with new Urban Development Authority (UDA), responsible for delivering on the Government’s KiwiBuild programme.

The Government is also going try to fix the RMA: Two-step RMA reform to start by fixing the previous government’s blunders

The changes are separate from the legislation to set up an Urban Development Authority to fast-track housing and urban development projects.

“The Resource Management Act is underperforming in some critical areas and needs fixing,” David Parker said.

Stage One will reverse some objectionable changes made by the previous government in 2017 that were widely criticised.

For example, the Bill would repeal measures that prevent public notification and appeals by applicants and submitters in residential and subdivision consent applications.

Another change, recommended by Regional Councils, is the ability to upgrade groups of consents in line with updated standards. This will help speed the cleaning up of our rivers, which otherwise can be delayed for decades.

A Bill addressing changes that can be made straight away will be introduced to Parliament early next year.

It will address particular issues with resource consenting, and monitoring and enforcement processes in the RMA.

Stage Two will be a more comprehensive review of the resource management system. It will build on current Government work priorities across urban development, climate change, and freshwater, and wider projects being led by various external groups. Stage Two is currently being scoped and is expected to start in 2019.

Good luck with getting agreement with both the Greens and NZ First on meaningful reform. This could take some time.

National tried to reform the RMA while in Government, but failed. Now National blames MMP, minor parties for housing crisis

A National MP has blamed the former Government’s partners for his party’s failure to stop house prices rising beyond the reach of many Kiwis.

“We did a lot in housing – we did a lot of work around the Resource Management Act (RMA). The problem with MMP is we had a partner that actually wouldn’t allow us to make the changes that we wanted to make.”

National actually did poorly in addressing the growing housing problem. This was a significant reason why they failed to retain power in 2017.

RMA changes passed into law in April 2017 after changes were made to satisfy minor partner the Māori Party, while United Future and ACT voted against.

Bridges has also blamed ACT and United Future for National’s failure to reform the RMA

David Seymour has been scathing – ‘Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise’: David Seymour rips into National’s ‘failure’ in Government

On Thursday, National Party leader Simon Bridges expressed regret at his party’s failure to reform the Resource Management Act (RMA), and said it was getting a new RMA reform bill ready.

“The reality is, we should have [reformed the RMA] in the first term,” Mr Bridges said, blaming later support partners for failing to allow changes to be passed.

“The reality is though, by second and third terms we were reliant on partners whether it was the Māori Party, whether it was Peter Dunne – they weren’t up for changes there.”

However ACT Party leader David Seymour says he’s heard similar promises before – but National has always failed to deliver.

“They promise action in Opposition, win Government, fail to do what they said they would, and then apologise after New Zealanders boot them out.

“The four stages of the National Party political cycle are: Promise. Win. Fail. Apologise.”

Mr Seymour says part of the blame of that cycle is down to National’s governance style, which he claims operates “from the left” despite the party “campaigning from the right”.

“Only ACT has been consistent on fundamental RMA reform. The next Government will need a stronger ACT to get National back on track,” he said.

Peter Dunne has explained why National failed to get the support of United Future and ACT in Peter Dunne looks at the challenges for a possible ‘blue-green’ party and the National Party’s quest to get the numbers to allow it to govern:

There is also the delicious irony of National‘s excitement at the prospect of such a party emerging occurring the same week that it blamed previous support partners, UnitedFuture and Act, for the current housing crisis because they would let it gut the Resource Management Act the way it wanted.

National’s approach then was all or nothing – I well recall their Minister telling me he was only prepared to negotiate about the RMA if I gave him an assurance in advance that we would reach an agreement. On another occasion, that same Minister told me he was unwilling to talk further because he suspected (correctly) that I was also consulting with Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the architect of the RMA, and he did not want that.

I think that minister was Nick Smith. He was probably National’s biggest problem with failing RMA reform and letting the housing problems escalate.

Yet, all the while, right up to the eleventh hour, UnitedFuture and Act were putting up separate proposals to the Government for possible changes to streamline the way the RMA operated, and to remove perceived procedural roadblocks. UnitedFuture even suggested bringing the provision of affordable housing into the objectives of the RMA but that was rejected because we would not agree to National’s planned watering down of the RMA’s principles and objectives.

Ideally with something as important as the RMA both Labour and National should work together to sort out it’s weaknesses while retaining important environmental protections.

But National, with a near majority Government, could not work out decent RMA reform with two one MP parties, and still blames them for their own failure.

The Government is trying to throw money at Maori land development, and it’s fair for National to question that approach. They can’t undo their reform blunder while in Government, but they could put petty politics aside and work with Labour on lasting RMA reform.

 

Nick Smith suggests electoral reform

Nelson MP Nick Smith covered a range of topics in his 24th annual speech to Nelson West Rotary, including suggested electoral reform. Smith is National’s spokesperson on electoral reform – but his suggestions are not National policy. This was reported on by Stuff:

Entrench the entire Electoral Act so any change would require a 75 per cent majority in Parliament or a referendum.

“It is an abuse of power for parties in Government to amend the electoral law so as to help them win the next election. Our system is particularly vulnerable to the scrum being screwed this way having no second house or constitution and change being possible with a simple majority.”

There were six entrenched provisions out of 315 in the act covering aspects such as the three-year term and the voting age of 18 but hundreds of others were open to amendment by a simple majority, he said. The entrenchment clause itself could be repealed by a simple majority.

It seems to make sense to require more than a bare majority for amending electoral law, to avoid changes of convenience for the government of that day which tends to have not much more than a 50% majority.

Ban all foreign donations to parties and candidates

Seems sensible – but there is a risk that donors and parties would find a way around it.

Defer the re-drawing of electoral boundaries due to the failed census

This probably should happen. Re-drawing boundaries without reliable up to date information seems to be a bad idea.

Extend the Electoral Commission’s role to local elections

Currently each local body manages their own elections. Some consistency might help – but what if people in different parts of the country want different things, like different voting systems?

A referendum on a four-year term.

The problem with our current short term of three years is that governments spend their first year getting a handle on the job, a year doing it and then the third trying to get re-elected. It would be logical to shift local elections to a four-year timetable two years through each Parliamentary cycle to keep a healthy separation of local and national elections.

Is it a problem? Perhaps for parties who get into government and want to do more then the three year cycle allows – but is this a good thing for the public?

Graeme Edgeler on A four-year parliamentary term? (written in 2013 but still relevant):

The strongest argument I have seen is that a longer term would enable governments to do unpopular but (objectively?) good things, in the hope that short-term pain may have subsided in time for the election. There are obvious flaws with this analysis.

This is a democracy, and politicians should seek mandates for their actions. And I simply do not accept that the vast majority of voters are unable to make tough choices if they are fairly presented to us; sometimes, others may not like the choices we make, but they are ours to make. And as unpopular as we are now told Roger Douglas’s reforms starting in 1984 were, the Government he was a part of was re-elected in 1987. I don’t really see that countries with longer terms are doing all that much ‘better’ that we are in this regard. The ability of economies in Europe to take ‘tough choices’ arising from the Eurozone crisis seems entirely unrelated to their electoral calendar.

We are being asked to relinquish a very real measure of our democratic control for the vague promise of a better tomorrow. If someone want to make the case – with actual evidence – please do. Do democracies with longer terms actually have better long-term planning? What reason is there to believe that a four-year term will actually enable us to ‘fix’ anything that might be ‘broken’ with our system?

And just because our three-year term is somewhat of an international outlier does not mean we should leap from the bridge that every other country has. Differences in the New Zealand political system strongly tell in favour of a shorter term.

The push for a four-year term has failed at the ballot box twice. I don’t really remember the vote being held on either occasion, but it seems to me that those pushing change failed to convince enough people it was actually a good idea. It’s time for those who want this to actually convince a good sized-majority of everyone else that they are right.

Like us Australia is supposed to have 3 year terms. I’m not sure that Australians would be keen on giving their governments a longer shot at stuffing things up.

The US has four year terms for president, but seem to be keen on shortening that by impeachment. The rest of their electoral system is complicated.

The UK has a five year term, unless a Prime Minister has a brain fart and calls an early election as happened in 2017, leading to the current Brexit mess.

I’d like to see far more compelling reasons for changing from three to four years here, from people other than politicians wanting power for longer.

David Farrar has posted on Smith’s proposals: Five electoral reform ides from Nick Smith

NZ First’s $300k clause is old news

It’s surprising to suddenly see that NZ First have a clause in their constitution that seeks to impose a $300,000 dollar cost on and MP who resigns or is expelled from the party.

Surprising because it is not news – I posted on this four years ago


May 2014

NZ First’s $300,000 fine threat

NZ First have a clause in their party constitution that tries to enable the party to fine any list or electorate MP who resigns or is expelled  $300,000 at the discretion of the Board.

NEW ZEALAND FIRST PARTY CONSTITUTION 2013

57 Parliamentary Division

(g) Upon a member of the Parliamentary Division ceasing to be a member of the Parliamentary Division because he/she has resigned from or has been expelled from the New Zealand First parliamentary caucus, or has ceased to be a member of the Party, then whether the member is a constituency member of parliament or a list member of parliament, he/she must resign his/her parliamentary seat as soon as practicable and in any event not later than 3 days after the date of cessation.

(h) In order to provide the means for enforcement of the preceding article 57(g) concerning the obligation of a member or former member to resign his/her parliamentary seat, and as a condition precedent to selection as a New Zealand First parliamentary candidate, and in consideration of selection as such, every member who agrees to become a candidate, and every member who stands as a candidate, and every member who is elected as a New Zealand First list member of parliament or as a New Zealand First constituency member of parliament, before being selected as a candidate, before standing as a candidate, before election as a New Zealand First member of parliament, and before accepting his/her seat in parliament and before being sworn in as such, and at any other time when required by the Board to do so whether before or after election and whether before or after being sworn in as a member of parliament, shall agree to give and shall sign a written undertaking, intended to be a legally enforceable contract (the resignation obligation contract) , under which he/she agrees to uphold observe and perform all of the provisions of this article 57 of this constitution and its amendments, and in particular to a fundamental term of the contract which will be the essence of  the contract, and which will impose a liability for liquidated damages in the sum of $300,000 (three hundred thousand dollars) for any breach of article 57(g) of this constitution and its amendments, concerning the obligation of a member or former member to resign his/her parliamentary seat, if he/she ceases by any means and for any reason and in any circumstances whatsoever to be a member of the Parliamentary Division during the term for which he/she has been elected. The Board may however compromise the amount of liquidated damages payable or waive the imposition of liability for liquidated damages in its sole and unfettered discretion without having to have any reason for doing so, without having to give any reason for doing so, and without being under a any obligation to do so or to consider fairness, natural justice, or any other consideration whatsoever;
and the Board shall not enforce the resignation obligation contract under this article 57(h) at any time that legislation exists which requires or determines that a member of Parliament to resign or relinquish his/her parliamentary seat upon the grounds contained in or similar to those specified in article 57(g).

NZ First  Party rules:  nz_first_constitution_nov_2013.pdf

Law professor Andrew Geddis takes it apart: I’m right, Winston’s not, so there

The $300,000 figure here clearly is designed to present an MP who leaves NZ First with Hobson’s choice. Either quit as an MP, or face ruinous financial consequences. And because the rule has this effect – it is designed to force an MP from Parliament – I don’t think it will be enforceable in court. And a rule of this nature only has teeth if there is a court that is prepared to, as a matter of law, make someone actually pay up the penalty figure.


But it has become a thing today for some reason. National call it Revelations, which it clearly isn’t. It’s a rehashed story four years later.


NZ First MPs signed $300k good behaviour bond

Revelations that Government MPs are required to sign a legally enforceable contract meaning they must pay $300,000 if they do not follow their Leader’s instruction is an affront to our parliamentary democracy, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“The 2016 amendment to NZ First’s constitution states its MPs must pay damages of $300,000 if they personally disagree with Winston Peters, turning them into indentured workers with an extraordinary price tag hanging over their heads.

“It means every time an NZ First MP votes or comments on an issue, they have 300,000 reasons why they should just parrot Winston Peters and not to speak out even if doing so would be in the public’s best interests.

“This is abhorrent. These types of contracts are illegal in other workplaces and would be unconstitutional in most democratic countries, so why are they at the core of our current Government? They turn elected representatives into puppets of a party leader who is now attempting to impose the same restrictions on free speech on Parliament’s other MPs, in spite of universal opposition to the Waka Jumping Bill.

“It is a sad commentary on the NZ First Party and Mr Peters that such draconian contracts are required to maintain caucus discipline – and now to keep the Government together.

“It also contradicts Mr Peters’ previous hollow position that MPs ‘have to be free to follow their conscience. They were elected to represent their constituents, not to swear an oath of blind allegiance to a political party’.

“The contracts were revealed after I was contacted by a concerned NZ First source who advised that all NZ First MPs had signed them except Mr Peters.

“NZ First must publicly release the full details of these contracts, outlined in article 57 (h) of its constitution, so the public can see the restrictions imposed on its elected MPs. This is even more important with NZ First playing such a pivotal role in the current Government.

“Disclosure is also required to be consistent with the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever, a claim looking increasingly ridiculous when even the Minister responsible for Mr Peters’ Waka Jumping Bill, Andrew Little, had no idea about the clause.

“That’s despite his legislation increasing the legal weight given to party rules and his acknowledgement that MPs should be able to do their job with being subjected to such restrictions.

“New Zealand needs MPs who are not bound by orders or instructions but whose responsibility is to act as representatives of the people.

“The existence of these contracts opens the question as to whether New Zealand needs additional protection to prevent its parliamentary democracy from being manipulated by these sorts of oppressive contracts.”