Political year review – the parties 2018

A lot of politics and politicians fly under the media radar. Some MPs make the headlines, because the have prominent jobs, because they seek publicity, or because publicity seeks them, or they cock up. Here’s a few of my thoughts and impressions on the 2018 political year.

Party-wise I don’t think there is much of note.

National and Labour have settled into competing for top party status through the year, with the poll lead fluctuating. It’s far too soon to call how this will impact on the 2020 election, with both parties having problems but still in the running.

Greens and NZ First have also settled in to competing for second level party honours. Nothing drastic has gone wrong for either, but they are both struggling to impress in the polls, and they keep flirting with the threshold. again too soon to call how this will impact on the next election.

ACT is virtually invisible, and unless something drastic changes will remain largely an MP rather than a party.

TOP is trying to reinvent itself without Gareth Morgan leading but Morgan is having trouble letting go of his influence. They have a lot of work to do to build a new profile with whoever they choose as new leader. As with any party without an MP they have an uphill battle with media and with the threshold.

The New Conservative Party is not getting any publicity, apart from their deputy leader posting at Whale Oil, which won’t do much for their credibility. The media seem disinterested, which is the kiss of political death.

No other party looks like making an impression.

With NZ First and Greens expected to struggle to maintain support while in Government (as have support parties in the past), one prospect is that the political landscape and the next election will be a two party race, with Labour and National competing to earn the votes to become a single party Government, which would be a first under MMP.

It’s too soon to call on this. A major factor could be whether voters are happy to see support parties fade away out of contention, or whether enough voters decide small party checks on power are important to maintain.

If the latter this may benefit the Greens IF voters aren’t too worried about a Labour+Green coalition who would have confidence in getting more revolutionary with a second term mandate.

For NZ First much may depend on how let down some of their support feels over a lack of living up to their promises on things like immigration and dumping the Maori seats. A lot may also depend on how Winston Peters weathers another term and whether he stands again.

Winners?

Labour have won back a position as a top dog party after struggling for nearly all of the nine years they were in Opposition.

National continue to win a surprising level of support as long as individual MPs aren’t trying to sabotage the party. The Ross rampage is unlikely to be repeated as other MPs will have seen it as little more than self destructive of an individual’s political future.

So joint winners, sort of but with no prize, and no party deserving of a runner-up place.

Political polls for 2018

Political polls for the year haven’t shown any drastic changes, with Labour and National swapping the lead a few times after Labour had risen to be competitive late last year after the election.

I presume there will be no more political polls for 2018. Colmar Brunton (for 1 News) are the only ones left doing polls, and they have just published what will be their last one for the year.

Reid Research (Newshub) did just two polls this year, in January and May. Roy Morgan have up given doing New Zealand polls. Their last poll was in November 2017.

Labour looked dire mid 2017 but Jacinda Ardern’s leadership turned things around for them enough for them to  be able to form a government, thanks to NZ First.

NZ First have remained in the MMP danger zone, peaking on the 5% threshold but dropping as low as 2.4% (in May).

After polling mostly in the 10-15% range in the first half of last year Greens dropped drastically after the Turei fallout, and through this year holding their support just over the threshold in the 5-7% range. So their support has halved from the support they got for most of last term.

It seems normal for coalition support parties to struggle to maintain support.

After the latest poll Ardern was criticised for claiming that Labour “finishing the year stronger than we started it”, but she is correct, sort of, by a small margin and she is comparing two different polling companies.

Reid Research did an unusually early poll in the political holiday period 18-28 January, and had Labour on 42.3%. In May they had Labour on 42.6%.

Colmar Brunton’s last poll (24-28 November) had Labour on 43% (rounded so could have been as low as 42.51% or as high as 43.49%). However Colmar’s first poll of the year (10-14 February) had Labour at 48% so Labour have dropped back from that Colmar high.

Ardern also said “polls do move around a bit these are all still within the margin of error” –

We can only see trends from Colmar – here are Labour’s results for the year.

  • 10-14 February 48%
  • 7-11 April 43%
  • 19-23 May 43%
  • 28 Jul – 1 Aug  42%
  • 15-19 October 45%
  • 24-28 November 43%

The 48% for Labour looks to be a polling outlier – it could have been accurate at the time, but Labour settled in and remained in the low forties for the rest of the year. While they will be disappointed to be trailing National this is a fairly solid result for them, considering their pre-Ardern polling had them dropping in the twenties. Colmar had them trending down to 24% in July 2017.

National’s results from Colmar this year:

  • 10-14 February 43%
  • 7-11 April 44%
  • 19-23 May 45%
  • 28 Jul – 1 Aug  45%
  • 15-19 October 43%
  • 24-28 November 46%

They were behind Labour in February and in October (affected by the Jami-Lee Ross mess) but this is remarkably consistent for a party in Opposition, and with new leader Simon Bridges (since 27 February) who is struggling to make a mark.

Looking at the Labour and National polling for the year there is little in it, and little significant change in most polls.

Media have tried to make big stories out of their polls, but the reality is quite mundane.

I think we have a real problem with how polls are reported. Obviously media try to get bang for their bucks – polling can be expensive – but they usually make mountains out of mole polls, often blatantly misrepresenting what individual polls mean.

Media try to make each of their polls look like some sort of mini election, which is nonsense. They can only be approximate indicators of support, and the year after an election most of the people care little about politics most of the time.

If media were doing proper journalism they would report on the political polling without sensation and misrepresentation. And mostly that would be (and should be) quite boring.

How should the media get value for the money spent on polls? Perhaps they should also poll on things of real public interest at the same time, and make their big stories about that.

1 News blew that opportunity in the last poll. They did ask a one-off question – Should Simon Bridges boot Jami-Lee Ross from Parliament using waka jumping law?

The results of that mean nothing (and were inconclusive, with 31% saying they didn’t know). Most people have moved on from one MP self-destructing – actually most people probably took little notice when the media were going hard out with headlines.

1 News would probably like to encourage National to chuck Ross out of the waka (that would be out of parliament, they have already chucked him out of the party) because that could be headlined as a sensational political somersault or something.

Rather than aiming for short term headlines 1 News could do a really public service (they are a public media company after all) doing a series of meaningful polls on issues that really matter to people, but it would take months if not years to get a return on their investment. They seem too obsessed with short term ratings and clicks.

So I expect more of the same form polling next year, another non-election year. It’s a shame we are so poorly served by media who do polling, but I don’t see that changing.

Something worse has become prevalent – online polls run by media. They are cheap, and nasty, very unreliable so they are of no useful purpose.

Labour concede to NZ First on employment law changes

Unions had big hopes for Labour putting through significant employment law changes, but they have been pruned by NZ First.

Newsroom:  Labour concessions secure NZ First support for employment law changes

Labour has made two key concessions to employment law reforms to secure the support of coalition partner New Zealand First.

The two crucial tweaks were announced ahead of the Employment Relations Bill returning to Parliament for its second reading today.

The first change clarifies that an employer must enter into bargaining for a Multi-Employer Collective Agreement, but that the new legislation “does not compel them to settle an agreement”.

The second change confirms that union representatives will be able to enter workplaces as of right, but only where “union members are covered by or bargaining for a collective agreement”.

In all other cases, consent will be required from the employer before a union representative can enter a workplace.

NZ First leader Winston Peters first indicated his party was seeking alterations to the Bill in September when he said it was “a work in progress”. The issue was one of a number of outbreaks of friction between the coalition partners on a range of policy issues at the time. Peters today said NZ First’s contribution to the changes had been to “give small business a fair go”.

“We have looked out for small and medium-sized business to ensure that the law reflects their reality,” he said. “We heard that changes needed to be made to ensure small businesses weren’t unfairly treated under the legislation.”

So NZ First have been a moderating influence on this.

What about Green input?

The Green Party was also a signatory to the statement outlining the changes, although its contribution to the internal negotiations between the parties of government was not initially obvious.

“Employment relations have become out of balance in New Zealand and this legislation shows the government is listening and making the progressive changes that will benefit New Zealanders,” co-leader Marama Davidson said.

A vague statement, so hard to know.  The concessions show that Labour is listening to NZ First – that’s MP in action.

Barry Soper:  Beehive raises white flag to NZ First over Workplace Relations Bill

Labour’s flagship policy of giving unions more power in the workplace has run into rough seas, with the Beehive raising the white flag to New Zealand First and sinking the unions’ Good Ship Lollipop.

This bill, debated in Parliament’s bear pit last night, now has Peters’ party written all over it from the 90-day probationary period, which now applies only to business with 20 or more workers. Of course larger businesses have HR departments which can devise inventive ways of getting rid of people anyway. Labour wanted to get rid of what the unions call the fire-at-will trials until Peters put his highly polished shoe down.

Through gritted teeth the Council of Trade Unions have had to grimace and bear the peeling back of the changes they and Labour wanted. They rightly said most employers won’t notice the changes because this country already has similar provisions in law.

They acknowledge the MMP environment can make robust law change more of a challenge but are hanging out for further reforms in the near future.

That seems unlikely while NZ First remains in the mix.

Lusk and Slater further connected to NZ First

Winston Peters has been a very successful political strategist over the decades, apart from the occasional hiccup, like losing the Tauranga and NZ First being dropped from Parliament in 2008, and losing the Northland electorate in 2017.

So it is odd to see him appearing to work with Simon Lusk and Cameron Slater. Slater is a discredited political activist and lacks support now even on Whale Oil. Lusk is not someone to promote on a politician’s CV given his negative methods and thrill of the political kill.

Richard Harman at Politic suggests more connections – Dirty politics, Russell McVeagh and Winston Peters. The bizarre story of two high priced dinners

One of the key players in the 2014 National Party “dirty politics” allegations appears to have become involved with NZ First.

The Hawke’s Bay political consultant, Simon Lusk, attended two recent NZ First “business networking” evenings with NZ First Leader, Winston Peters.

Lusk featured prominently in the “dirty politics” allegations along with his close associate, Cameron “Whaleoil” Slater.

The news of Lusk’s involvement comes at the same time as one of his longest term clients, Jami Lee Ross, has announced that he will give his proxy vote to NZ First but that they will cast it with National.

POLITIK has spoken to two business people who attended the functions.

They both said Lusk appeared to be very busy during the events in some sort of administrative role.

What is unclear is whether Lusk had any role broking the agreement for New Zealand First to cast Ross’s proxy vote while he is away from the House.

Peters and Slater share the same lawyer, Brian Henry who is also the NZ First constitutional officer who chaired the lengthy debate about re-writing the constitution att heir conference.

The impression must now be that Lusk and Slater are supporting New Zealand First and that Peters appears to go along with that.

Slater has shown obvious intent to inflict as much damage to National that he can since the party distanced themselves from him after Dirty Politics in 2014, and especially through last year’s election campaign and since Simon bridges took over the leadership.

This fits with Winston’s aims. Last year he had thought NZ First could take over Labour’s position as second biggest party, until Jacinda Ardern replaced Andrew Little.

He now seems to think that he can dump on National and take over from them, which fits with Slater’s agenda.

How will NZ First supporters and voters view this? Many of them were anti-National so may not be fussed on supporting New National.

And if NZ First score Jami-lee Ross as a candidate – see Ross to stand for NZ First in Botany – plan or joke? – that is not going to do much for their credibility. They already have a questionable line up of MPs.

Lusk has been promoted as some sort of master political strategist, but it’s hard to see a NZ First/Ross/Slater combination doing well with voters. Perhaps it’s the best of very limited options.

Harman:

The networking evenings bizarrely, were hosted in Wellington and Auckland by the top-drawer law firm, Russell McVeagh and drew around  60 prominent business people and industry lobbyists at each venue.

Among the attendees in Wellington, is believed to have been Business NZ CEO, Kirk Hope.

Some of the attendees are believed to have made substantial donations at the $300 a head functions to the party.

Perhaps Lusk and Slater don’t care as long as there’s money in it for them.

Ross to stand for NZ First in Botany – plan or joke?

It is easy to take this comment as a bit of a joke:

Funny thought ….. JLR jumps to NZF, a bit of theatre from Winny on saying XYZ, then JLR enters a by-election … wins for NZF and gets a plumb role in govt.

Oh so so funny

That seems ridiculous, but lets join a few dots.

That was said by someone with a close association with Cameron Slater.

Early last year Winston Peters’ lawyer represented Slater in his defamation case versus Colin Craig (unsuccessfully).

For many years Slater had criticised and ridiculed Peters, but suddenly last year switched to supporting Peters and NZ First through the election campaign. This may have simply been a way of trying to damage Bill English and National, who he had fallen out with, but it did raise some questions of why the sudden switch.

This year Slater has continued to attack National, and has attacked Simon Bridges since he took over the leadership.

When Jami-Lee Ross was ejected from the National caucus and took leave from Parliament (again) Slater became prominent in his support of Ross, and used information and secret recordings from Ross to attack Bridges and National. Some of Slater’s Whale Oil helpers have continued with their anti-bridges/National agenda.

Yesterday Peters announced that NZ First would proxy vote for Ross in Parliament – see NZ First proxy voting for Jami-lee Ross. Peters sounded uncomfortable trying to explain this unusual arrangement.

RNZ:  NZ First to hold Jami-Lee Ross’ proxy vote

Speaking to reporters at Parliament, Mr Peters said the decision was made in the “spirit of representation” to ensure Botany voters were heard in Parliament.

“We’re not here to kick the National Party,” Mr Peters said.

“We are here to say to the people of Botany… you deserve to have your voice heard.”

As long as Ross stays away from Parliament the voice of the people won’t be heard in Parliament, so this is a strange claim – unless Peters is just trying to impress Botany voters perhaps.

Back to the ‘funny’ comment – I would have thought that Peters was too politically astute to stand Parliament’s most discredited MP for NZ First in a by-election. But Slater and his mates could be silly enough to think it is a cunning plan. He and the person who made the comment have histories of trying some fairly stupid stunts.

I guess anything is possible but it is very hard to see Ross stand any chance if he tried to keep his Botany seat, even if he happens to recover from his claimed health problems in time for the campaign – someone who is unable to do their job in Parliament would struggle to get votes in an electorate.

Peters must realise this, so it’s hard to see him going for this unless he thought it was a way to kick National – when he says something like “We’re not here to kick the National Party” that raises suspicions that that is exactly what his intention actually is, akin to his ‘with the greatest respect’ comments.

It would be remarkable if Ross could get anywhere near close to winning Botany.

If he somehow managed that, getting “a plumb role in govt” would also be a stretch. That would mean he would take over responsibilities of a current NZ First minister, which would be unlikely to go down well. And Labour would be nuts to accept Ross in their Cabinet.

So this all seems to be a big joke – except that I wouldn’t put it past Slater and his mates to think it was a cunning plan.

It would go something like this:

  • Ross too sick to attend Parliament
  • NZ First proxy votes for Ross
  • Ross resigns from Parliament
  • Ross now not sick and stands for NZ First in Botany by-election, and wins
  • Ross appointed Cabinet Minister, replacing Tracey Martin as Minister of Children and Minister of (Internal) Affairs

Yes, it’s a joke.

NZ First proxy voting for Jami-lee Ross

Winston peters has announced that NZ First will proxy vote for Jami-lee Ross in Parliament in his absence – the vote will be the same as the national party vote. Peters has claimed it is for democratic integrity and ensuring Ross’ electorate gets a vote in Parliament, but that sounds bogus. The vote will make no difference to anything.

Peters said that NZ First whips were asked ‘weeks ago’ by Ross and have just agreed to vote on his behalf, despite Peters saying that Ross should resign.

It does nothing to give Botany voters representation in Parliament – only Ross can do that, or better, by resigning someone with a mandate could do that.

Peters may think this is getting one over National but it just makes him and NZ First look stupid.

Peters sounded grouchy when interviewed on Checkpoint trying to explain this.

 

Stemming the surge in superannuation costs

The cost of providing universal superannuation has been contentious for decades. As the 65+ population grows, so does the already considerable costs.

Attempts have been made in the past to make changes.

UnitedFuture tried to nudge National towards ‘flexi-super’ where people could choose the age they started to get super (with varying rates) a couple of terms ago. National fobbed this off by allowing an investigation that was always going to achieve nothing under John Key’s leadership.

In 2013 Labour proposed an increase in the age of eligibility to 67 but got hammered by the left so dropped their proposal. With NZ First holding the balance of power there seems no way that the age will be increased this term.

But a NZ First MP has proposed a change that will cut the costs.

ODT: Cutting cost of superannuation

Last month, a New Zealand First private members’ Bill in the name of MP Mark Patterson, who is based in Clutha-Southland, was put forward. It proposes increasing the minimum residency requirement from 10 to 20 years after the age of 20, so a childhood in New Zealand would not count. The current 10-year law only stipulates five of those must be after the age of 50.

Given the last National-led government proposed an increase to 20 years, there should be sufficient support for a Bill to pass. Mr Patterson cites Berl research which says the change to 20 years could save $4.4 billion over 10 years.

That will only reduce the ongoing costs slightly.

And it’s fair to ask why NZ First staunchly defend the age of eligibility for non-immigrants while they want to toughen things up for immigrants.

But is even 20 years enough? The 2016 policy review by retirement commissioner Diane Maxwell recommended 25 years, noting an average in the OECD of 26. Any change would not apply to those living in New Zealand now. She calls for action now in part because of the time lag. Superannuation cost $30 million a day and that would rise to $98 million in 20 years’ time, she said.

The 10-year rule goes back to 1972. Most migrants were from Britain and the UK state pension could be taken off NZ Super. But these days many come from the likes of China where there is no state pension. There is a clear monetary incentive for Chinese residents to try to bring out their parents under family reunification. After only 10 years they can be receiving this country’s state pension, as well as public healthcare.

It may look racist trying to double the residency requirement now there are proportionally a lot more Asian immigrants, but a lot of other things have changed since the 1970s. The age of eligibility was increased from 60 to 65 in the 1990s.

Twenty years is still a long time. To be eligible for super at 65 you would have to be resident in New Zealand by age 45.

How else can the increasing cost of superannuation be limited? Or should it?

Grading one year of government

After a year in charge here are some gradings of the parties in Government.

Labour: B-

There have been some wins, let’s be clear about that.but at some point the pain of those on the bottom must shame this Party into actually doing something, not just pretty words and symbolism.

Jacinda continues to be their strongest performer with Grant Robertson, Andrew Little, David Parker, Willie Jackson, Kiritapu Allan, Deborah Russell, Marja Lubeck, Tamiti Coffey, Damien O’Connor, Greg O’Connor and Michael Wood being star performers to date.

Lot’s of talking, very little walking at this stage.

NZ First: B+

…they’ve done enough to keep their voters happy. The weird thing about the NZ values was just laughable. If Jones can get the forestry side working from planting, to cutting to working the wood here to building with it, he will be one of the greatest economic architects NZ has ever produced.

Greens: C-

After the meltdown of the 2017 election, there have been some wins, of that there can be no doubt, while Chloe, Jan Logie and Julie Anne Genter continue to be their best performers…but unfortunately it’s the fuck ups that gain media attention.

The Greens have become a middle class vehicle for alienating woke identity politics…

The Greens have gone backwards every election for the last 3 elections, tone policing on Twitter (I’m not making that up, there really is a ‘tone policing’ call out) doesn’t seem the way forward.

That’s from Martyn Bradbury in One year of the new Government: The faded hope of a hollow promise – grading Labour, NZ First & Greens

Conclusion:

There have been small victories but essentially the neoliberal bureaucracy and Ministries rule this Government, not the other way around and unless Labour, NZ First and the Greens find a way to shame the Ministries into reform, the Wellington Elites will continue to run the agenda, not the representatives of the people.

So the revolution driven by the Auckland Left has not transpired, yet at least.

Another left wing view (David Cormack): The politics of doing jack-all

Government, it’s time to start dominating the story. This last quarter you did jack-all and went up in the polls anyway.

When you started you were a shambles. You were disorganised, you didn’t know what you were doing, you clearly hadn’t expected to be in government and you out-sourced all your actual governing to others.

Oh sure you have done some things, and you’re running a lot better now, but if the government was a movie, this last year felt less like an action packed resolution scene, and more like a long establishing shot. An establishing shot full of working groups.

So while the past 12 months has been marked by the Government slowly getting its act together …the next 12 months promise more. But with that promise comes risk, because there’s a lot of hype about this politics of kindness. And if people start to feel like they’re not getting what they voted for then you’ll burn through a lot of capital. And it’s debatable whether you’ve earned much capital to burn.

More from Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Verdicts on the Government’s first year

And an editorial from ODT: Labour’s satisfactory first year

The passing of the one-year mark by the coalition Government has provided opportunities to assess its performance. Generally, these reviews have been positive, and we agree with these opinions.

But, when all is said and done, the Government will flourish or flounder on economic conditions. If the lack of business confidence is reflected in employment and growth, if changed industrial laws affect competitiveness, if New Zealand becomes too expensive and less efficient as it is in danger of becoming then Labour will suffer.

Just as the strong United States economy has helped add a layer to President Donald Trump’s support, so Labour’s success will depend on the economy and on-going effects of Labour’s policies on people’s monetary wellbeing. So far so good. Labour and its coalition have navigated the first year satisfactorily.

And they are still in, which has exceeded some expectations. They have the opportunity to do a lot more over the next two years and live up to some of their promise and promises.

 

After a year how transformative has the Labour-led Government been?

Not much, yet.

The Labour-NZ First-Green government is now a year old. Thomas Coughlan at Newsroom asks whether the current Government is truly a government of change – One year on: Change worthy of its name?

Transformation is a word we hear a lot to describe this Government.

The Government’s speech from the throne promised a “government of transformation”, and followed that up in May with a Budget that Finance Minister Grant Robertson said was “the first steps in a plan for transformation”.

The second word we hear a lot is “transition”.

What they mean to say is “government of change”, which was Ardern’s wording in what became known as her reset speech, which she made in September.

All governments change things, and the world changes. The pertinent question here is whether Ardern and her government are living up to her hype.

The Government has finished just 18 KiwiBuild homes (although it has started construction on more), the waitlist for social housing has grown, and the $2.8 billion investment in fees-free tertiary education hasn’t changed enrolment numbers, although the University of Auckland has tumbled down global league tables.

As for climate change, apparently our “nuclear-free moment”, under the current Government, big dairy can still dial up a a $600 million M. Bovis bailout for a self-inflicted crisis, while the much-lauded Green Investment Fund gets just $100 million.

Nuclear-free moment? Pardon me, but I think I can smell the methane on your breath …

The problem for this Government is that it knows what change looks like and it’s afraid.

It knows that true change is ugly and real people get hurt.

People living under the big-change governments of the 1980s knew they were living in a time of massive change.

So, can Ardern be kind and transformative at the same time?

One year on, we’ve seen this Government’s definition of change.

With the exception of KiwiBuild, its flagship change policies signal change in direction without enacting specific policy.

Supporters say this means the change will be more lasting – and they’re probably right. Both the Child Poverty Reduction Bill and the Zero Carbon Bill have bipartisan support, meaning they will likely survive into the future. Likewise, the Wellbeing Framework has the potential to change how we look at the economy, although proof of that is many years away.

But, especially on the issue of climate change, its slowly-softly policy platform absolves the current Government from making any of the tough decisions necessary when implementing change.

It’s an unpalatable truth that change means picking losers as much as picking winners.

The question hanging over the Government now is whether there is time to implement what it calls a “just transition”, to a halcyon economy of low unemployment, high productivity, and fair incomes.

“Just transition” is essentially the oil and gas exploration ban writ large — big change, but slowly. But a just transition doesn’t need to be slow and there’s nothing just about waiting 30 years for house prices to stabilise.

Just transitions could mean using the power of the welfare state to cushion the pain of change, like the governments of the 1980s should have done.

There’s little room to be complacent. The window of opportunity is closing.

Change is the sword of Damocles hanging over all our governments. And while this Government thinks the lesson from the 1980s is that slow change is best, it would be wise to pay attention to the other lesson from that decade: governments are not the only agents of change and those who fail to act in time will often find their hand forced by events.

Governments are always forced by events to act. They need to manage forced change along with reforming or transformative change, if they can.

In their first year the Government has changed some things, but they have only talked about most changes they propose, and it’s still not clear what they are going to change this term as they await the outcome of their many working groups/inquiries etc.

Also from Newsroom – One year in: the fault lines ahead

The first anniversary has provided a chance for Ardern and her team to look back on their successes and failures so far – but what challenges lay in wait for them before the next election?

Here are some of the fault lines the Government may need to navigate if it is to hold onto power in 2020:

Waterfall of working groups

National’s gleeful mockery of the coalition’s working group fixation seemed a little insincere at the start, given the party was not averse to the odd policy review and panel during its first term.

However, there is a kernel of truth in that the Government is now waiting on the results of numerous inquiries into some critical policy areas, some of which will not report back until just before the next election, until it takes action.

As the reports and recommendations trickle in, the potential bill for implementing all that is asked for will slowly mount up.

Justice reform:

The Government’s plans to shake up the criminal justice system loom as perhaps its highest-risk, highest-reward reforms.

If Justice Minister Andrew Little and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis succeed, the prison population will be reduced by 30 percent within a decade, addressing what Bill English once called the “moral and fiscal failure” of prisons.

However, National’s cries of the coalition being “soft on crime” provide a taste of its likely campaign against any firm proposals for reform, as well as the outcry which may result from any crimes following law changes (no matter their merit on balance).

Tax reform:

Part of that proliferation of working groups, but worthy of mention in its own right, is the Government’s Tax Working Group – a political slow-burner that could divide the coalition right up to the next election.

Chaired by former finance minister Michael Cullen, it will present its final report on the future of New Zealand’s tax system next February.

However, the Government has committed to putting any recommendations from the group to the electorate in 2020, meaning any changes would not be implemented until at least April 2021.

The sticking point is the issue of a capital gains tax.

So at best this will be a plan for transformation put to voters at the next election.

Climate change

It’s one thing to call climate change the nuclear moment of our generation, it’s another to do something about it.

Climate Change Minister, and Green co-leader, James Shaw said the IPCC report was broadly in line with the Government’s direction on climate change. But talk, as they say, is cheap.

There have been some climate-related policy changes, including a ban on new oil and gas permits and the establishment of a $100 million green investment fund. Also in the wings are a Zero Carbon Bill, emissions trading scheme changes and the creation of a Climate Change Commission.

The biggest pressure on the Government is its own rhetoric. Those disappointed by the environmental record of Helen Clark’s Labour-led coalition will be looking to the Green Party to push the Government into taking stronger, tangible steps.

Ardern has talked big on climate change, but we are yet to see how her Government will transform things.

Also, not mentioned in the Newsroom article, is another issue that Ardern has staked her reputation on, child poverty. Her Government quickly increased some benefits, but there has not been much sign of a revolution on poverty yet.

The Government has another two years to prove to voters that they are capable of walking the walk and delivering meaningful transformation at the same time as they competently manage normal management and also dealing with things that are thrown at them.

Greens also have a lot at stake – they have talked about a green revolution for long enough. They have to deliver something significant to justify voters’ trust in them.

NZ First probably just need to deliver Winston Peters to the voting papers for the party to survive.

As a whole the Government has been far more talk (and working group) than walk.  They may end up sprinting to the next election hoping voters will pass them the baton for another term.

More on ‘Kiwi values’ and NZ First and MPs

One of the things to come out of the NZ First conference last weekend was a call for legislation to ensure immigrants comply with some vague ‘Kiwi values’. There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for it from Labour, Greens and National, but they weren’t the voter demographic that NZ First would have been targeting.

Danyl Mclauchlan (The Spinoff):  Whistling on migration yet leaving migration high: what’s Winston playing at?

But here’s the thing about Peters’ perennial race-baiting – given airing most recently following a remit at the party’s 25th birthday over the weekend. He campaigns on the immigration issue every election, but Peters has been in the powerbroker position in government three times now, and each of those governments has seen very high levels of net migration of what his supporters and voters consider “the wrong sort” of people.

There are a few reasons for this. Most populist, anti-migrant politicians believe what they say about “our values” and “preserving our way of life”, and at least attempt to reduce migration when they get into office. Trump has his Muslim-ban; the conservatives have Brexit. But Peters’ statements about migrants appear to be as meaningful as so much else he says, ie nothing. It is useful for him to race-bait by grandstanding about immigration but never useful for him to ever do anything about the issue.

He could probably make the government reduce its intake of non-white migrants, if he was so inclined: we’ve just seen the passage of the waka-jumping bill; it appears that Peters can get Labour and the Greens to do pretty much anything. But so long as his voters and the true-believers in his party never figure out the nature of his MO there’s no incentive for him to act.

If Peters actually forced a significant reduction in immigration it would remove one of his campaign tools – attacking immigrants to attract votes from suckers.

…New Zealand First’s donors in the fishing and forestry sectors rely on high levels of migration to preserve a low-wage workforce working in high risk conditions. Maintaining those conditions is core business for Peters and Shane Jones. The people who pay for the party, who occupy the boardrooms of the fishing industry, are far more exacting than the suckers occupying the TV rooms of the retirement villages, who vote for it.

And talking about values, Andrea Vance (Stuff):  NZ First MP campaigning for ‘Kiwi values’ was ruled unfit to run a pub

The NZ First MP behind a “values” bill which could expel migrants was once judged unfit to run pubs because of his criminal record.

Clayton Mitchell wants new migrants to sign up to a cultural “code of conduct” that includes a commitment not to campaign against the legality of alcohol.

Mitchell is a former publican – but his licence to run a bar was cancelled after a series of incidents. They included a suspended prison sentence for assault – which a judge called an act of serious violence – and a dangerous driving conviction.

Two years later, Mitchell won back his certificate –  supported by a reference from former police officer Brad Shipton, who was subsequently disgraced over a rape conviction.

Those values have been under a lot of criticism lately, with #meto and the controversy over the appointment of Wally Haumata as Deputy Police Commissioner – Haumata has what looks like close links with Peters and another NZ First MP, Fletcher Tabuteau.

A couple of ex-MPs joined the discussion on Twitter:

 

Perhaps we need better vetting of the values of party list MPs before we worry too much about immigrants.

Oh, and talking of MP values, this is what Mitchell said when informed Vance was investigating his past:

The second term MP initially didn’t want to be interviewed by Stuff. “Is this one of your dirty little stories? You better get your facts right, because I tell you what, you better get your facts right or you’ll get yourself in a hell of a lot of trouble,” he said.

Taht sort of threat ois more likely to get Mitchell in trouble, but that’s unlikely with Peters who often attacks and threatens journalists.

Vance hopefully got these facts right.

In a subsequent response to emailed questions, however, he acknowledged:

* A conviction of assault with intent to injure in what a judge described as an “act of serious violence on your part.”
* A conviction for dangerous driving.
* A conviction for a “lock-in” at one of his bars – allowing customers to drink outside of the licensed hours.

They came from Mitchell so they should be accurate.