More on NZ First Foundation use of funds

More revelations on the use of the NZ First Foundation that handled party donations apparently without reporting correctly to the Electoral Commission (currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office).

RNZ: NZF Foundation spent $130k on company run by Winston Peters’ lawyer

Tens of thousands in donor’s funds given to the New Zealand First Foundation were spent paying expenses, wages and bills for people closely associated with the New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

The foundation, which has bankrolled NZ First using secret donations from rich business people, spent more than $130,000 on a company run by Brian Henry – the personal lawyer and close friend of Peters.

Documents obtained by RNZ show that between January 2018 and July 2019, the foundation took in $224,000 in donations from supporters – and overall, spent at least $368,000.

Of that, at least $137,000 of foundation funds were spent on a company called QComms.

Company office records show the sole director and shareholder of QComms is Brian Henry, who is a trustee of the foundation and the judicial officer of the New Zealand First party.

The two people who did most of the work for QComms were also closely linked to the party.

Jamie Henry, Brian Henry’s daughter, received $64,500 in wages and expenses, which included seven identical amounts, totalling $3010, referenced as ‘rent’. All those costs were paid by the foundation.

Jamie Henry would not comment when contacted by RNZ.

The other key worker for QComms was John Thorn, who received $61,000 in wages and expenses in just over a year, all paid by the foundation.

Thorn, who has now left the party, was the vice-president for the South Island and the NZ First official who authored a paper first setting out a proposal that the party establish the New Zealand First Foundation.

Asked if he knew anything about the payments to QComms, Peters said he had nothing to do with it “in that context”.

That’s an evasive response.

“I think you should ask Mr Henry or the Serious Fraud Office.”

He said he was “absolutely relaxed about that” and would not comment further.

Brian Henry did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

I think it’s expected that Henry or Peters wouldn’t want to comment while it is being investigated by the SFO, but these revelations add to an ongoing problem for Peters and NZ First.

That the Foundation was paying a company owned and directed by a trustee of the Foundation on it’s own looks dicey.

The company dates back to 2002 but the original name DOBSON & LANE LIMITED was changed from to GOLDMAN HENRY LIMITED in 2014, to HENRY MERCHANTS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED in 2015, and then to QCOMMS LIMITED on 16 February 2018.

Cannabis referendum could be ignored or low priority by incoming Government

We get to vote on the cannabis legislation that allows for recreational for those 20 or older bit with strict controls.

But will the next Government honour the result if a majority vote in favour? There’s no guarantee of that as it is not a binding referendum.

The cannabis reform bill got this far due to a governing agreement between Greens and Labour at the Green Party’s request. The Greens have not had a strong influence in Government (they operate outside Cabinet) and the Bill is quite conservative.

And it could still be ignored or put on the back burner. At best it could take a year or two to happen, depending on what priority the Government gives it in the next term.

If Greens don’t make the threshold, or just get in again with a small number of MPs, or are rejected by Labour in the next governing arrangement (NZ First may make a condition of support being that Greens are left out), then Greens may have little or no say.

NZ First + Labour may not honour the referendum result, but that would be a ridiculous stance for NZ First given their insistence on referendums to let the people decide.

If National lead the next Government they may ignore the will of the people, they have been very conservative on cannabis reform.

But a possibility that should not be ignored is if Act get a few seats and enable National to govern – they may insist on change.

Peter Dunne discusses these issues except the last point (Newsroom):  Cannabis questions dropped in too hard basket?

Given that the moves towards freeing up the recreational cannabis market were primarily Green Party initiatives that neither Labour nor especially New Zealand First were all that keen about, the proposal that has now emerged hangs together reasonably well. It is an improvement on the current de facto situation, and for that reason alone is worth supporting in the referendum.

However, possibly reflecting the awkwardness of its development, it is far from perfect, with a significant number of issues either apparently unresolved, or seemingly parked in a very deep too hard basket.

What happens if the referendum supports change?

The present Government has made it clear that while it will not regard the outcome as binding, it will undertake to introduce reform legislation at some unspecified time during the next Parliamentary term.

There is no guarantee within that commitment that any such legislation will mirror the referendum proposals or that the Labour Party will even support it beyond its introduction stage. If, for example, the Greens have less influence in the next government, what influence will that have on the shape of legislation? Conversely, if the next government is more reliant on New Zealand First, what assurance is there that a Bill will even make it to the introduction stage?

Should the National Party lead the next government, the prospects for any form of legislative change following on from a positive referendum vote seem pretty low, based on statements to date from its various spokespeople.

They reinforce my own experience working as Associate Health Minister responsible for drug policy, in the last National-led government where National was extraordinarily wary of any changes to drug laws.

How long it will take to pass such legislation?

Typically, a Bill of this type takes between six and nine months to pass through all its stages in the House, including the select committee process and the hearing of public submissions.

Even if such a Bill were to be introduced early in the life of the next government, it would most probably be the latter half of 2021 at the absolute earliest before it would be passed by Parliament. Again, typically, allowing time of say two to three months as a minimum for the development and implementation of the regulatory regime to follow, it would most likely be late next year at the earliest before recreational cannabis could be legally available.

So if the law change is supported will people wait until it actually becomes law? If not, how will the Police deal with it?

In the meantime, assuming a vote for change, there will be a strong public feeling that having voted for change it should be permissible to use cannabis recreationally immediately.

That would put the police in a very awkward position. Would they be quietly encouraged to go lightly on the current law, because it is about to change, which would be a very dangerous precedent, or would they be expected to keep enforcing a law that everyone knows is about to be overturned?

Either way, their position is invidious, and does not appear to have given been sufficient consideration. Certainly, to date, the Government has given no indication of its thinking on this point, which is not helpful.

Maybe they haven’t thought about it. The Greens should be making sure the Government does think ahead on this.

Presumably, the police would be expected to enforce these new restrictions vigorously, otherwise they are pointless. But enforcement of this type would lead to more people coming before the Courts for diversion, a fine, community service, or even possible imprisonment.

However, the current law on illegal use has been barely enforced by the police for years now, so it is an open question whether they would be any more diligent in enforcing any new, tighter law. And if they are not going to do so, what is the point of making the law tougher?

Current policing attitudes notwithstanding, one of the strongest criticisms over the years from cannabis reform advocates has been of what they have seen as the clogging of the Courts from cannabis prosecutions and the consequent labelling for life of many people with criminal records as drug offenders.

Yet under the new regime, this could potentially intensify, making the situation much less satisfactory than at present.

An unintended consequence could be more arrests and convictions.

All this could be rendered moot if the majority vote against change.

If a small majority vote for change it may give National or NZ First (or Labour without the Greens) to drag it out over years, or ignore it altogether.

The best way to make it difficult to ignore the referendum result is for a significant majority to vote in favour of the modest reform being proposed, but it could be difficult getting enough to see it this way.

Questions after NZ First files “materially different” donation return

NZ First seems to have changed the way it is reporting donations given to the NZ First Foundation in the party’s latest annual electoral return, which has raised further questions about whether they were correctly reporting donations in past years.

Electoral law professor Andrew Geddis said the return this year was “materially different” to last year, with much more money declared.

The NZ First Party is currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over how it has been handling donations via the NZ First Foundation trust.

Winston Peters has claimed the party has never broken any electoral laws.

From RNZ in April:  SFO decision over NZ First Foundation will come before election

The Serious Fraud Office says it is on track to make a call before this year’s election on whether to lay charges in relation to the New Zealand First Foundation, which has been bankrolling the New Zealand First Party.

When the SFO first decided to look into the case, on 11 February, Peters challenged it to find the evidence and proof to make its case.

“They would have no such proof and no such evidence and we’ve got a legal opinion to back up what we have said.”

Yesterday from RNZ:  Foundation donations not named on NZ First electoral return

New Zealand First has once again opted not to name any donations from the mysterious foundation bankrolling the party on its electoral return.

But an electoral law expert said the party did for the first time seem to be including donations to the New Zealand First Foundation in an aggregated total – which called into question the accuracy of returns from previous years.

And for the first time since 2008, the party has named two external donors in its returns – a Wellington property investment company that agitated strongly against a capital gains tax and a wood exporter who owns a private island in the Bay of Islands.

Under electoral law, as well as naming donors who give more than $15,000 in a calendar year, parties must also declare the total amount of any smaller donations of $15,000 or less.

In its return, NZ First declared just over $317,000 in such donations, including 13 donations between $5000 and $15,000 – totalling just under $155,000.

It is not clear whether the individual donations the foundation received are included in that total, some of which were just under the $15,000.01 level at which the donors’ names would have to be made public.

Otago University electoral law professor Andrew Geddis said the return this year was “materially different” to last year, with much more money declared.

That raised questions about how the party had declared donations in previous years, Geddis believed.

“If it has started to treat money to the New Zealand First Foundation as if it was money to the New Zealand First party … it raises the question of why that didn’t occur in previous years.

“It also calls into question the robust assurances that [NZ First party leader] Winston Peters has given that the law was correctly followed in those earlier years.”

From Electoral Commission Party donations and loans:

NZ First total party donations:

  • 2019: $369,535.17
  • 2018: $87,689.60
  • 2017: $546,253.77

NZ First total party loans:

  • 2019: $44,923.00
  • 2018: $76,622.00
  • 2017: $73,000.00

2017 was election year so higher donations are to be expected, but the big drop in donations reported for 2018 looks remarkably low.

As Geddis says there are problems with the high threshold for declaring donors:

The underlying problem was the $15,000 threshold before a donor’s identity had to be declared, Geddis said.

That was “a lot of money”.

“What we see is, in essence, the New Zealand First party has received something like $150,000 from 13 individuals. We have no idea who those 13 individuals are, we’ve no idea of their links to the party, what they might want from the party – and, frankly, I don’t think that’s really a good enough situation to have in New Zealand.”

Maybe it wouldn’t be a problem if parties didn’t try to game the rules to hide larger donors.

In January the Serious Fraud Office filed criminal charges against four people in relation to donations paid into a National Party electorate bank account – see SFO National Party Donations

No hunting and fishing under Level 4 restrictions

A NZ First tweet yesterday suggested that “hunt the roar” (deer hunting) was an allowed activity during the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown, but that has been ruled out.

The tweet, now deleted, had graphics depicting hunting and said:

“Having to self-isolate doesn’t necessarily mean being locked indoors. You may go for a walk or exercise or hunt the roar, but keep a 2 metre distance from people at all times.”

If allowed that would have given many people an excuse to roam the countryside as long as they had firearms, while everyone else was confined to home or nearby.

Covid-19 Alert Level 4 states:

Public spaces

  • Places where the public congregate must close.
  • All bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate must close their face-to-face function.
  • Playgrounds are classed as an area where people congregate and so are off-limits.
  • People can exercise outdoors but must maintain a two metre distance from others.
  • People are expected to stay local when leaving the home.

Recreation or exercise

  • You can go for a walk, run, or bike ride. Exercise is good for people’s mental health.
  • If you do, it must be solitary, or with those you live with.
  • Keep a 2 metre distance.
  • However, if you are unwell, do NOT go outside.
  • DOC has closed all its campsites and huts.
  • Do not go hunting or hiking, and especially not on overnight trips.

The day before the NZ First tweet NZ Fish & Game posted under Covid-19 Information:

5.10pm 24 March

The Government’s clear intention at this stage is that fishing and hunting are prohibited during the Alert Level 4 lockdown period. If and when we receive other advice from the Government we will change our position.

Therefore, Fish & Game New Zealand are urging all anglers and hunters to do the right thing and stay at home while New Zealand is at COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

“Unfortunately, being at Level 4 means that anglers and hunters aren’t able to do the pursuits that they love,” Fish & Game New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Taylor says.

“The advice we have is that at Alert Level 4 anglers and hunters should not undertake activities that expose them and others to higher levels of risk. We are also advised that DOC huts and campsites are closed as they do not meet minimum separation requirements.”

New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) is asking people to stick to simple outdoor exercise and avoid areas where they could get lost or require search and rescue. NZSAR want to ensure that emergency services are available to help those in the greatest need. Fishing and hunting, even close to home, inherently carry a degree of risk and it is important for anglers and hunters not to further burden our emergency services and healthcare system. Staying in and around home is simply the right thing to do.

“It is heart-breaking to not be able to spend time in the outdoors, especially as for many of us this is our main way to destress, but we all have our part to play to beat COVID-19,” Mr Taylor says.

“The point of the next four weeks is to kill the virus in New Zealand so that life goes back to normal as quickly as possible. Let’s stay home for four weeks then we can get outdoors and back into angling and hunting.”

The Level 4 lockdown period is scheduled to end prior to the start of the game bird season, and if we are all responsible during the next four weeks the game bird season is on.

We ask for your patience while we piece together the complexities of what we are facing. In particular, we will have further advice on pegging day as soon as possible.

It is our intention to give anglers and hunters ongoing updates on our facebook page and website.

Please keep up-to-date with all the most recent Government guidance around COVID-19 here

If hunters and fishers were allowed to roam where ever they liked, which would often have involved travel first, it would have encouraged others to push limits and it could easily have become an unmanageable farce.

It would also have potentially been dangerous, as if they were to comply with requirements to keep isolation within households many hunters and fishers would have had to hunt and fish alone.

Last night NZ First changed their Facebook profile picture to:

and a Winston Peters video reinforces this message:

Drip feed continues on NZ First Foundation donations

The media drip feed continues as more details have been published about donations to the NZ First Foundation.

Yesterday RNZ: Concerns over secret fisheries donations to NZ First Foundation

One of the country’s biggest fishing companies, Talley’s, and its managing director donated nearly $27,000 to the New Zealand First Foundation, which has been bankrolling the New Zealand First Party.

The foundation received $26,950 from seafood giant Talley’s and from managing director Sir Peter Talley between 2017 and 2019, according to records viewed by RNZ.

It received the money from Talley’s in four amounts – all of which were below the threshold for public disclosure and so have not been publicly revealed until now.

Greenpeace was concerned by the donations and believed the New Zealand First Party had too much sway over fishing policy and the party was too close to the industry.

These don’t seem big amounts or a big deal, nor a surprise. I think Talleys and the fishing industry have are well known to have supported NZ First. The difference here is that donations are allegedly being hidden by channelling them via the Foundation rather than to the party where public declarations are required.

Today at Stuff:  Billionaires among the full list of donors supporting NZ First

A raft of multimillionaire rich-listers are among the funders of Winston Peters’ NZ First party, donating large and undisclosed sums to a slush fund now being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

Stuff can reveal a longer list of donors to the NZ First Foundation up to April 2019 – which appears to operate as a political slush fund – based on Foundation documents seen by Stuff. It includes New Zealand’s richest man, Graeme Hart, and the billion-dollar Spencer family.

Business magnates, property developers, a chicken farmer, and thoroughbred horse breeders are among the wealthy known to have contributed heavily to the foundation, which tallied more than $500,000 in donations.

There is no suggestion the donors have done anything wrong or acted illegally.

Former NZ First MP Doug Woolerton, a trustee of the NZ First Foundation and a government lobbyist, told the Politik website last year that the party has “always thought [its] constituency was the guy who owns the shop, the guy who fixes the tractors”.

“It’s not the farmers. It’s the people who service the farmers who do the grunt work day to day,” he said.

But the donations show NZ First retains the support of some of New Zealand’s business elite and wealthiest individuals.

A WORKING-CLASS PARTY

Despite gathering financial support from New Zealand’s lofty elite, NZ First maintains it is the party dedicated to meeting the needs of working-class Kiwis.

Newshub yesterday: Shane Jones concerned New Zealand First donors will be put-off in election year

Shane Jones is concerned about donors to New Zealand First being “depicted as some type of leper” as new revelations emerge about donations to the New Zealand First Foundation.

The NZ First MP said he is “genuinely not aware” of the functioning of the NZ First Foundation, which is currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over allegations it’s been hiding donations for the party.

Jones said he’s worried about a “clear agenda” designed to “spook and quite frankly stigmatise industries” that New Zealand First relies on for support as a political party.

There may be a bit of that, but politicians under scrutiny often claim to be the victims of agendas. Winston Peters has often claimed to be a victim of the media and other things.

But none of this would have happened if NZ First hadn’t use a Foundation to, apparently, hide donations.

The Electoral Commission announced earlier this month that following an investigation it found the NZ First Foundation had “received donations which should have been treated as party donations for the New Zealand First Party”.

The Electoral Commission referred the matter to police who then referred it to the SFO which confirmed this month that an investigation had been launched.

Jones, a Cabinet minister, said he “accepts that there is a statutory process in place”.

He told Newshub: “I genuinely feel as an MP that people who think that I represent a force for good in New Zealand politics and the economy… I’m very concerned that they may be depicted as some type of leper.”

Jones does have a history of involvement in the fisheries sector, having chaired Te Ohu Kaimoana – the Māori Fisheries Commission – and seafood company Sealord.

The Minister for Regional Economic Development said he has nothing to hide, pointing to a donation he received from Talley’s in 2017 for $10,000 which was declared in his electorate candidate donation expenses form.

“It’s a matter of public record that over the course of various elections I have received donations from the fishing industry,” Jones told Newshub.

“My role of advocacy for fishing, the red meat industry, for the mining industry – it’s an open book… I will never shirk or shy away from standing up for industry.”

It is unclear how much NZ First MPs knew about the Foundation.  Even Peters claimed to know nothing about it, but his story keeps changing, he also claims to know everything the Foundation didn’t do.

There have been suggestions that the Foundation effectively managed party finances and donations without the party officials being involved at all. Some officials have resigned over it, and may be the source of the information being revealed.

It seems unlikely the SFO case will get to court before the election. There’s even doubt whether they will announce whether they will prosecute, they are currently just investigating.

It has been claimed that the Foundation paid expenses on behalf of the Party. Somme of those details could be interesting.

Racing clubs not happy with Racing Bill seizure of assets provisions

Tim Antonio, the Chairman of the Dargaville Racing Club, has written an open letter to Winston Peters expressing concerns over the Racing Bill currently at committee stage in Parliament (it passed it’s first reading in December).

Included in it’s provisions is the power to stop a racing club from racing and to dissolve the racing club, and remarkably to transfer any assets to ‘the racing code’.

Many small racing clubs have been established and maintained by local communities. It has been proposed that twenty racing clubs be dissolved, and appear at risk of having all assets taken from them.

Image

here is the proposed Bill (PDF):

Click to access 362429780labourandnewzealandfirstcoalitionagreement.pdf

It is known that people with ‘racing interests’ have donated to the New Zealand First Foundation, which is now under investigation by the serious Fraud Office after the Electoral Commission found that donations weren’t passed on to the NZ First Party.

See RNZ: NZ First Foundation received tens of thousands of dollars from donors in horse racing industry

The New Zealand First Foundation has been receiving tens of thousands of dollars from donors in the horse racing industry in payments which fall just below the $15,000.01 at which party donations are usually made public.

As racing minister, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has delivered significant benefits to the industry, including millions of dollars of government money spent on tax breaks and scrapping betting levies.

It has long been known that Peters has promoted some racing interests, and that some racing interests have already received tax breaks from Peters (the current Government). The Spinoff:  Winston Peters stages his own Moment of Truth, live on Facebook

“How do you respond to the horse racing industry donations to your party as the horse racing minister?”

“For 30 years,” Peters said, “I’ve been talking about the need to save this industry.” Why would there be any surprise that he was supported by individuals interested in the industry, and related companies, to the tune of $80,000 in 2017, according to RNZ?

Besides, Peters observed, the current racing policy is the result of an independent report by Australian racing expert John Messara. He omitted to mention that Messara’s report was submitted in July 2018, and two months earlier in May Peters had announced a $4.8 million in tax breaks for “high quality” horse breeders, which officials estimated may blow out to $40 million and which was the only tax cut in the coalition’s first budget.

The 2017 New Zealand Labour Party & New Zealand First Coalition Agreement gave Peters the position of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Racing, and commits Labour to…

  • Support New Zealand First’s Racing policy

That’s a remarkably open or blanket commitment.

Maybe Mr Antonio and others concerned about the Bill would be better targeting the Green MPs who also voted for the First Reading. But are they committed to supporting the Bill? Maybe. From 2017 New Zealand Labour Party & Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Confidence & Supply Agreement:

Relationship to other agreements

Both parties to this agreement recognise that Labour will be working with other parties both in terms of
coalitions and confidence and supply arrangements.

Labour agrees that it will not enter into any other relationship agreement which is inconsistent with this
agreement and the Green Party and Labour agree that they will each act in good faith to allow all such
agreements to be complied with.

It appears that the Greens are committed to allowing the Labour-NZ First agreement “to be complied with”.

But Mr Antonio would also need to appeal to National who also supported the Bill at its first reading. But National MPs have expressed concerns about the power of the Racing Minister and the ability to seize racing club assets.

Hon DAVID BENNETT:

Now, in the bill the Minister has made it very clear that he has the ultimate discretion over who will run the racing industry, going forward. That is a lack of accountability, a lack of ownership, and a lack of respect for those people that are in the industry. For example, the Minister can appoint the board to replace codes if he needs to do so. So the codes that may be out there, the racing codes of thoroughbred, standard bred, and dogs, can be replaced. Their boards can be replaced by the Minister at his whim under this legislation. The Minister can also appoint a commissioner for any disputes between the three codes, giving him ultimate discretion, again, to dictate what may be done.

But the greatest discretion this Minister has is in regard to the assets of clubs and the relationship they have with codes. Racing clubs, under this bill, will have to abide by the rules of their relevant code.

The National Party does not accept that lack of independence and clarity as worded in this bill. It is very difficult to see how clubs can have any autonomy under this legislation. They are, essentially, at the whim of the code, and if the code is not effective in putting pressure on, they can then be at the whim of the Minister. This bill gives the Minister the ability to override the club’s decision and to vest their assets and their landownership in the code. It is, effectively, a mechanism where the Minister can nationalise racing portfolios and racing clubs, and can take away their ability to have independent racing operations.

On behalf of Labour: Hon KRIS FAAFOI

In terms of property, it is worth emphasising here that the preferred approach for property decisions is negotiation and for the community interests to be recognised. The bill introduces a suite of changes to resolve historical property issues that have contributed to the decline of the industry. Two property objectives are introduced to guide decision making by the industry: first, the value of racing property should be retained in the industry and used for maximum industry benefit, and, two, statutory provisions are introduced to support negotiations between clubs and codes on using surplus venues. The bill also introduces as a backstop a statutory decision-making process for the Minister for Racing to recommend an Order in Council to allocate property to the code. Provision is also made for payments to the club and community where it is warranted.

So the assets of clubs can be decided on by the Minister for Racing.

Also from Labour: KIERAN McANULTY

The Labour Party’s proud to support this bill. It is a bill that is needed, and it is a bill that will support an industry that many of us love.

It is a fantastic industry that supports many regions and provinces where many of us here in this House live, and I think that this bill, under the leadership of the Minister for Racing, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, will be seen and looked back on in history as the thing that rejuvenated this industry. I commend it to the House.

The Bill appears to do the opposite of supporting the regions, especially the South Island.  NZ First mustn’t get many votes of donations from the South Island.

BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki – King Country)

We recognise the need for change in the industry. We are supporting the intent of this bill, and we are supporting it to first reading, as we look to help the racing industry transform into the competitive market that it does have the potential to be. But where we disagree, and where we want to have a good discussion at select committee, is that this bill gives too much power to the Minister when it comes to decisions around these racing venues and racing tracks around the country. In particular, we can’t support Subpart 2 of Part 1 in its current form, because this Subpart 2 refers to the transfer of assets and surplus venues. Really, this will be like a red rag to a bull to many in rural provincial New Zealand.

So, clause 25, that allows the Order in Council recommended by the Minister to grab these properties if an agreement can’t be reached by local clubs, is a step too far for the National caucus, because we believe in private property rights and we know that these people have put a lot of effort into this over a period of time.

No Green MPs spoke on the Bill.

It’s not just the potential seizure of assets, the forced closure of courses is a big deal for regions.

Look at the clubs that could be closed in the South Island: Reefton, Greymouth, Hokitika, Motukarara, Timaru, Kurow, Oamaru, Waimate, Oamaku, Winton and Gore.

That guts racing from West Coast and the bottom half of the South Island, and not just country clubs. Places like Timaru and Gore have been significant in racing for a long time.

 

Winston Peters, WO/BFD and the Media Party meme

Winston Peters referred to “Media Party” in a tweet on 13 February:

This is more Wellington bulldust. The ‘Media Party’ are outraged because someone, not us, did to them what they do to others all the time. Corporal Jones was right, they dont like it up ’em.

That prompted suggestions on Kiwiblog that it sounded like CameronSlater/Whale Oil/The BFD language, for good reason. The post that started the furore that Peters was referring to closed with:

Corporal Jones was dead right when he said they don’t like it up ’em.

The BFD posted a transcript of Winston Peters’ Message to NZ First Supporters as a part of their ongoing support of Peters. It included:

That this is a political campaign by the ‘Media Party’ is clear.

The BFD keeps pushing the Media Party meme. One of their content contributors Chris Trotter has joined in with it in RNZ Must Have No Dogs In The September Fight.

Winston Peters is encouraging voters to think of RNZ as belonging to “The Media Party”. He wants them to see it as a politically partisan institution with its own, vicious attack-dogs in the electoral fight. If he succeeds, it will be, and probably should be, the end of public radio in New Zealand.

Trotter has defended contributing to The BFD:

I happily accepted Rupert’s cheques (even if they did bear the logo of INL!) Likewise, I’m happy to bank those from both “The BFD” and “The Daily Blog”. It’s called freelancing, mate.

It’s his choice of course, but he is looking a bit like he’s a member of the Winston/BFD party.

The BFD even include the term in their ‘dictionary’:

The Media party A Whaleoil blog meme to describe how the media act like a political party in opposition to the National government due to the woefully poor performance of the Labour party. It is a way of saying that, essentially, due to the gap left by an underperforming opposition, the MSM have stepped in to counter and criticise the government. They have made it their job so they have become a political party.

That’s ridiculous. A primary job of media in a democracy is to hold the Government to account, which includes criticism. NZ First is a part of the current Government, but are whining because the media are criticising them.

The media certainly deserve criticism at times, but in politics they get far more than they deserve when politicians


The “Media Party” meme seems to have been started by Slater in the first newsletter of the subscription INCITE in December 2015:

The Advent of the Media Party – Cam Slater writes about why the media have moved from neutral, dispassionate observers to players in the political game, and why the public no longer trusts them.

And Slater/WO/BFD and now Peters have been banging the media bias drum ever since.

Media have been players in politics pretty much as long as there has been media, and accusations that they aren’t neutral have been around for as long, so this isn’t a big revelation.

Which is quite ironic really. Much of Winston’s past successes in politics is because he was accomplished at using playing the media and coaxing them into giving him free publicity.

And the success of Whale Oil was largely due to them feeding stories to the media, who then amplified them. Without the help of the media WO would never have succeeded like they did.

And now both Peters and The BFD grizzle when the media coverage isn’t favourable for them. They want media promotion, but get all cry baby when the media exposes their crap.

The media are far from perfect. In politics they can make or break candidates, and they can turn support for or against parties. They carry a huge democratic responsibility, and they don’t always do a good job.

But they are far better than the alternative, no media.

And they are far better than The BFD, who claim to be media:

The BFD is the fastest-growing media organisation in New Zealand. Its brand of news, opinion, analysis and entertainment is finding fertile ground with an audience that is feeling abandoned by traditional news media.

Whale Oil grew quickly, until Dirty Politics exposed them and the use of them by the National Party in 2014. John Key and National quickly distanced themselves, as did the media.

They were taken down due to financial and legal problems, but reappeared as The BFD. While they have some neutral content, one of their primary agendas is promoting NZ First and attacking National, National’s leaders, as well as Labour and the Greens.

In a post yesterday Why The BFD?

But if the media won’t do it The BFD is only too happy to oblige. If it weren’t for the majority of MSM sucking up to Ardern there would be no place for us here at The BFD at all. We only exist to fill the gap in the public’s demand for more factual, balanced reporting and a platform for honest, open discussion.

Do they really believe that?

Here at The BFD, unlike the MSM,we are free to declare our political allegiance if we choose to.

Funny. It’s obvious they are working for NZ First, but they choose to not declare what that relationship actually is.

The must be Big Dummies if they think they are fooling anyone.

The rest of the media are obviously not one ‘party’. They hold to account all parties to varying degrees, depending on what is newsworthy.

At The Standard they frequently claim that the media (companies and state run) are hopelessly biased towards National and the right, or worse.

At Kiwiblog they frequently assert that the media (journalists) are hopelessly biased towards Ardern, Labour and the left.

At The BFD they seem to think everyone is against them and NZ First. In other words everyone who calls bullshit on their agenda.

The “Media Party” is simply a figment of their perceived or claimed victimhood when their bias and agenda are exposed. s a meme it’s ridiculous.

The Winston Blog is closer to the mark.

 

 

James Shaw speaks on NZF/BFD use of photos against journalists

After growing pressure to make some sort of statement Green co-leader James Shaw has commented carefully on NZ First handing photos to an attack blog who then threatened the journalists.

NZ Herald: NZ First Foundation saga: Greens break silence on ‘chilling’ photos of journalists

The Greens have broken their silence and expressed alarm at published photos of an ex-NZ First president with journalists who have been reporting on donations to the party.

The photos were published on website The BFD, which has been linked to Whale Oil, the blog at the centre of the 2014 book Dirty Politics.

The BFD has increasingly been used to promote NZ First and to attack the Greens, Jacinda Ardern, Simon Bridges, National and the media.

Shaw told the Herald that the details of what had happened were unclear.

“But regardless of who took the photographs and why, the fact they were passed to a blog that is designed to undermine trust in our political system is a concern.”

Shaw also took a step further in relation to questions about the NZF Foundation and whether it has properly declared donations to the NZF party.

“The allegations are concerning and due process must be followed while they are investigated,” Shaw said.

“We know New Zealanders will be looking at this issue and worrying about what it means for their democracy, which is why we are focused on making the system more transparent and fair.”

This is something, but seems a lot more measured than Green condemnation of John Key and National when Hager’s Dirty Politics in 2014 revealed the use of Whale Oil for political attacks.

Shaw has previously answered questions about the foundation by saying that the country’s electoral system needed to be strengthened.

He is now calling for an independent citizens’ assembly to “clean up” political donations, which have been clouded by questions over the NZF Foundation, as well as the SFO charges laid in relation to a $100,000 donation to the National Party.

Perhaps an alternative to fixing the laws would be a good idea, rather than politicians dominated by the large parties who receive large donations doing what suits their own interests.

Shaw’s response tends towards too mild and too late.

Jacinda Ardern has remained fairly silent on the NZF/BFD issue, and has been widely criticised for this.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said there remained many unanswered questions about the “chilling” photos.

“It beggars belief to think that somehow by chance these journalists were photographed with Lester Gray and the photos somehow found their way onto a blog.”

if the National Party had been involved in such a thing, Labour and the Greens would be shouting from the rooftops.

“The Prime Minister appears to be hiding. Her silence is damning. Has she asked who took the photos, did they pay for it, and how did they end up on the blog?”

National were involved in this sort of thing up until 2014, but then distanced themselves from Whale Oil. Cameron Slater then turned his attacks on Key, National, Bill English, Paula Bennett and Bridges. This has continued at The BFD, although Slater now seems to have a more peripheral role.

While the change of position from National is stark it does turn pressure towards Ardern.

Asked about Bridges’ comments, a spokesperson for Ardern said the Prime Minister was focused on the issues New Zealanders care about.

“New Zealand First Party matters are for them to respond to,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

That is a very lame response. Ardern will no doubt be questioned about this in her weekly media conference – and will no doubt have some sort of response prepared. It will have to be much better than her spokesperson.

Links between NZ First and The BFD journalist threat agenda

David Garrett at Kiwiblog suggested I also post this here. Thanks for your advice David. Funny to see you playing interference for NZ First and The BFD.


In response to a post at Kiwiblog on The mute PM

Ardern and Shaw silent on Peters and NZ First concerns

Also: Jacinda Ardern’s silence on Winston Peters is deafening

Jacinda Ardern is yet to say anything at all about the fact the Electoral Commission made absolutely clear on Monday that the way NZ First was treating donations to its foundations was wrong.

Instead of properly taking this on, Ardern has hidden, as politicians often do, behind the perceived inappropriateness of commenting while some process is still active.

Following the Electoral Commission’s finding, Ardern would have been totally within her rights to say, at the very least, that she thought these donations should have been declared to the commission. She could have said she was disappointed that a coalition partner appeared not to have been as fulsome as it could have been with informing the authorities – all without alleging any kind of crime. Trying to hide your donations, even legally, is a political act that politicians should be happy to talk about.

This silence got even louder on Thursday when it became clear that NZ First had some kind of involvement in two covertly taken photographs of journalists reporting on the Foundation story, which found their way onto a right-wing blog. Peters told Magic Talk on Tuesday that “we took the photographs just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”, but later backtracked to say a supporter just happened to see the journalists and thought he or she should snap a photo.

When a politician’s story keeps changing it warrants more suspicion that something deserves exposure.

The thing is, the Cabinet Manual does have a section about ministers upholding and being seen to uphold “the highest ethical standards” at all times, not just when doing ministerial business. Ardern has all the ammo she needs to give Peters a dressing-down over this, but instead she defers. Things don’t have to be illegal to be wrong.

Worse, this rot of silence has also infected the Green Party, which, as a confidence and supply partner, has plenty of legitimate room to criticise such tactics. You don’t need to tear the Government up or demand that Peters is fired – you can just say what the journalists’ union said on Friday, that Peters needs to explain himself and apologise.

Instead the Greens just talk about how the law needs to be changed – which most people agree with, but isn’t the point. The topic at hand isn’t underhanded but lawful behaviour, it’s stuff that is potentially illegal – hence the police referral. The party should grow back its spine.

There is quite a lot of pressure on the Greens online to speak up.

It is blindingly obvious why Ardern is so blind to Peters’ actions. He is not the kind of man to take a telling-off sitting down, and it would probably all get messier as Peters extracted some kind of utu for her daring to criticise him.

But she is the leader of this Government, and of a party that is vastly larger in both power and popularity. Her words set the standard of behaviour for ministers – she is in this sense the most powerful political pundit we have. It’s well past time she found that voice.

But that doesn’t look likely unless someone like Helen Clark starts tweeting about it.