Claim that Peters was briefed on NZ First Foundation operations

Winston Peters has kept distancing himself and his party from the NZ First Foundation some connections have been obvious, and now it has been claimed that Peters was briefed on the operations of the Foundation.

ODT yesterday: Peters remains upbeat about election chances

Peters said the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation had not hurt the party.

“The SFO investigation was … forced to go public and say that not one New Zealand First member or party member wasn’t any way anything other than exonerated.”

The SFO did nothing like exonerate anyone. It stated that “neither defendant is a Minister, sitting MP, or candidate in the upcoming election (or a member of their staff), or a current member of the New Zealand First party”.

But Peters wouldn’t respond to questions about whether either of those charged had been party members. And there’s the obvious possibility that party members, MPs and even party leaders could have been associated with the alleged fraudulent actions but not to the level required for charges to be laid.

Also yesterday: Urgent appeal in New Zealand First Foundation donations case dismissed

RNZ, Stuff, NZME and TVNZ have – once again – argued the public have a right to know who the two defendants are ahead of the election polls closing this Saturday evening.

Last week RNZ, Stuff, NZME and TVNZ challenged an interim name suppression order sought in a series of court hearings the media was not present for that currently protect their identities.

The media argued there was compelling public interest in knowing who the accused are before the election is over and any secrecy around the identities impinged on the public’s right to be fully informed before they cast their vote.

The district court ruled against the media; finding one of the defendants had proved an arguable case for name suppression and granting both defendants interim name suppression until their first appearance on 29 October.

After hearing the submissions, Justice Jagose said he found the decision to grant interim name suppression in the case was the right one and dismissed the appeal.

Charging documents state the two defendants used more than $700,000 in a “fraudulent device, trick or stratagem” to pay expenses for the New Zealand First party.

They say the pair used deception to obtain control over $677,885 deposited into the bank account of the New Zealand First Foundation account between 21 April 2017 and 14 February 2020.

The defendants are also charged with using $68,996 deposited into a bank account of a company run by one of the defendants between 31 October 2015 and 20 October 2017.

Today revelations continue: NZ First Foundation financials presented to Winston Peters one year before scandal broke

NZ First leader Winston Peters and high-ranking MPs were briefed about the NZ First Foundation’s expenses and activities one year before it first made headlines, Stuff can reveal, contradicting Peters’ consistent claims the foundation had nothing to do with his political party.

Stuff has seen an internal party report that, according to a source familiar with the matter, was presented to Peters in November 2018.

The report, dated 21 November 23, 2018 [sic], was written by former party president Lester Gray. It is understood that it was hand-delivered to Peters’ home mailbox in Auckland on Sunday, November 25, ahead of a meeting about the matter.

The report referenced money in NZ First Party’s Kiwibank account as well as money in the Foundation’s ASB bank account. It totalled expenses incurred by the ASB account and classed them as party costs.

It is understood that Gray then briefed Peters, MPs Fletcher Tabuteau and Clayton Mitchell in Tabuteau’s office in Wellington on Tuesday, November 27.

Stuff has also seen a separate memo written by the party’s then acting treasurer, John Thorn, to the “board of directors”, dated May 5, 2017. It reveals that the foundation was originally proposed to be a “capital-protected fund”, meaning contributions would never be spent, only profits from the fund’s investments. It was originally meant to be operated “at arm’s length” from the board.

The memo states the foundation would be modelled on the National Party’s National Foundation, which is a capital-protected fund. It states: “there can be little doubt that the model is legally sound and is operated in a manner that meets all legal and ethical obligations”.

However, previous Stuff stories have revealed the New Zealand First Foundation actually operated as a party slush fund. The capital was spent on all manner of party expenses, including campaign headquarters, office furniture, wages and other campaign costs. Some donors who thought they were donating to the party were actually donating to the foundation.

This won’t be helpful for Peters or NZ First in the last two days of the election campaign, but it’s unlikely to do much more damage either at this stage.

More details on NZ First Foundation SFO charges

More details on the charges against two people in relation to NZ First Foundation handling of NZ First Party donations have been revealed, but the identities of the two people charged are still suppressed pending a reserved decision.

RNZ: Pair charged after SFO’s investigation accused of using ‘fraudulent device’

The pair charged after the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation are accused of using a “fraudulent device, trick or stratagem” to secure more than $700,000 then used to pay expenses for the New Zealand First party.

Two people have been charged with obtaining by deception after the SFO’s investigation into the foundation and its handling of donations.

Charging documents released to RNZ today show the two defendants used more than $700,000 in a “fraudulent device, trick or stratagem” to pay expenses for the New Zealand First party.

It was more than $740,000 of donations.

They say the pair used deception to obtain control over $677,885 deposited into the bank account of the New Zealand First Foundation account between 21 April 2017 and 14 February 2020.

The defendants are also charged with using $68,996 deposited into a bank account of a company run by one of the defendants between 31 October 2015 and 20 October 2017.

“Those undeclared funds thereby become available to [a company run by one of the defendants]/New Zealand First Foundation to use as the defendants saw fit, and were used to pay expenses of the party and to develop a fundraising database for the benefit of the party and [a company run by one of the defendants].”

The New Zealand First party took the SFO to the High Court last month seeking to suppress the announcement of the charges and the existence of their court action until after a new government has been formed.

The court ruled against the party, saying there was “a significant public interest in the New Zealand voting public being informed during an election campaign about criminal charges of serious fraud against people or organisations related to political parties”.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has said his party has been completely exonerated by the investigation and stressed the foundation and party are entirely separate entities.

Peters repeated his ‘completely exonerated’ claim in last night’s leaders’ debate but that looks ridiculous.

He also said last night:

“I have welcomed the Serious Fraud Office inquiry from day one, and I welcome its outcome. Let me tell you one thing – I’ve got rid of two former Serious Fraud [Office] leaders – two, not one – and I’m not concerned about this at all.”

That also sounds like nonsense to me considering the lengths the party went to to try to hush up any mention of the case.

Meanwhile Labour is having their own problems: Ginny Andersen tells voters she’s been cleared by Commission, but Labour hasn’t

Labour’s Hutt South candidate, Ginny Andersen, has been cleared by the Electoral Commission for any potential wrongdoing in a local electorate scandal.

However, the Electoral Commission is still looking into potential wrongdoing by the Labour Party which has not declared the very low rent it has received for its Hutt South office as a donation.

Should voters have known about NZ First Foundation charges?

Winston Peters is justified in feeling annoyed about the timing of the SFO announcement that they had “filed a charge of ‘Obtaining by Deception’ against two defendants in the New Zealand First Foundation electoral funding case”.

The charge was filed on 23 September but the announcement was delayed due to a flurry of legal actions taken by lawyers acting for NZ First.

Tim Murphy covers the legal proceedings here – NZ First’s desperate flurry for court secrecy

As the Serious Fraud Office prepared to announce charges against two people in its New Zealand First Foundation investigation, the New Zealand First political party and one of the accused were so desperate for secrecy they launched a blizzard of legal action claiming to involve three courts at once.

Even the courts and judges appeared to struggle to keep up with applications being sought, withdrawn, granted, appealed and delayed as New Zealand First and Co tried to stop the news of the “obtaining by deception” charges, which carry penalties of up to three years’ imprisonment, from being made public.

In the end, the public’s right to know such information in the lead-up to the election won the day.

While the timing is tough on Peters and NZ First, do voters have a right to know about the charges? Suppressing this information from voters until after the election may have been a worse option. Murphy also tweeted:

With Peters and NZ First so heavily involved in this it is impossible to separate the Party from the Foundation.

Peters has attempted to do this, saying “today’s decision by the Serious Fraud Office exonerates the New Zealand First Party of any electoral law breaches”. It doesn’t exonerate anyone.

As the people being charged aren’t current MPs or candidates it seems fair to suppress their names for now, but it’s ridiculous claiming it has nothing to do with the Party. The Foundation was set up by the Party for the Party.

Andrew Geddis via RNZ: NZ First Foundation arrangement ‘unprecedented’ – law expert

The New Zealand First Foundation arrangement with the New Zealand First Party “is completely unprecedented,” law expert Professor Andrew Geddis told Checkpoint.

“The NZ First Party has tried to draw a distinction… between its foundation and the National Party, which has a foundation as well. But the National Party foundation is run completely in line with electoral law, and is simply a way of gaining long term donations which are then invested,” Professor Geddis said.

“This was a foundation where people would put money into the [NZ First] foundation rather than give it directly to the party. Because it was put into the foundation it wasn’t being declared to the Electoral Commission as the law required, and then the money was being spent on New Zealand First Party activities rather than the party spending its own money.

“So it was like a shadow parallel funding structure that paid no attention to electoral law, even though it ought to have.

“It’s very hard to say how these two things can be separate, when it was the New Zealand First Party that decided it wanted to set this thing up, and the NZ First Party benefited from the NZ First Foundation paying all its bills,” Professor Geddis told Checkpoint. 

“So I don’t care what technical legalities you throw at it, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s probably a duck.”

In response to Peters’ warning the case cannot be discussed as it is sub judice, Professor Geddis said: 

“We can’t talk about the people who has been charged, we can’t speculate on that because there’s name suppression, but in terms of discussing the outline of the case, discussing the background facts and so on, those are all in the public record. 

“Sub judice is something people throw around when they don’t want to talk about an issue. It doesn’t mean you can’t talk about anything to do with the case.”

Obviously it doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the case (except for what is suppressed). Peters had his say at the media conference yesterday and in his statement, and closed saying ““Neither I nor any other party is allowed to make any further comment on this matter because it is now sub-judice.”

That’s just an attempt to stop questions being ask, or is an excuse to not answer questions.

But predictably it hasn’t stopped comment.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): Winston Peters’ smoke and mirrors fails to hide the truth

The news amounted to a validation of an investigation by Stuff journalist Matt Shand published last November, and subsequent reporting from RNZ’s Guyon Espiner, reporting that financial records showed donations to the foundation had been used to fund an array of campaign and political expenses, but with the donors’ identities not disclosed.

Not that you would have learned as much from the first few minutes of the New Zealand First leader’s remarks.

The party had been “fully cleared”, Peters claimed – largely ignoring the fact that two people had been charged, and instead leaning on the SFO’s clarification that neither of those was a sitting MP, staffer, candidate, or current party member.

Of course that doesn’t exclude people who may have been any of those things at some time in the past.

He claimed “a James Comey-level error of judgement” had been perpetrated against his party, harking back to the former FBI director’s ill-fated decision to reopen an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server on the eve of the 2016 United States election.

But that analogy crumbles at the merest examination. The primary problem with Comey’s decision was that Clinton had already been investigated and cleared over the matter earlier in the year, with the FBI director publicly reopening the matter against official guidelines only to reach the same verdict.

The SFO has clearly found enough evidence to feel a prosecution is worth pursuing, and while the accused are certainly entitled to a presumption of innocence, a decision not to lay any charges whatsoever would have been another matter altogether.

The New Zealand First leader has habitually sought to distance himself and his party from the foundation’s operations, a strategy he turned to on Tuesday: “The foundation is an entirely separate entity [from the party] but that distinction will be lost on some, and deliberately confused by others.”

At a superficial, technical level, Peters is correct. But that ignores the broader truth: that the foundation appears to have funded a number of the party’s activities in recent years, from a guest appearance by boxer Joseph Parker at its 2017 conference to legal advice for an MP and a swish new website and donations platform.

The specifics of how foundation money was spent have yet to be tested at trial, but New Zealand First has not contested that it benefited financially from the trust – merely that it believed the foundation’s structure was legal, and in any case was separate from the party.

But separate does not mean independent, and if the party has benefited from the foundation it seems fair for it to take some responsibility for any wrongdoing, even if not in a strictly legal sense.

But Peters continues to distance himself from any involvement or responsibility.

Technicalities may make a difference in a legal Court, but not so much in the court of political opinion, and that seems to have had a say in polls through this year.

While the February announcement of the SFO investigation may have played some role in its electoral decline, it is nobody’s fault but the foundation’s if (as the agency has concluded) it has a case to answer in court, while there are myriad other unrelated factors that have hobbled the party. 

Polls have fluctuated quite a bit for NZ First through this term, but have been low a number of times prior to the February 2020 announcement. here are some:

  • February 2018 – 2.6% (CB)
  • May 2018 – 2.4% (RR)
  • January 2019 – 2.9% (RR)
  • February 2019 – 3.0% (CB)
  • March 2019 – 2.3% (RR)
  • May 2019 – 2.8% (RR)
  • January 2020 – 2.5% (RR), 3.6% (RR)
  • February 2020 – 3.3% (CB)

The highest NZ First polled in 2018 was 5%. The highest they polled in 2019 was 4.3%. So they were struggling before the SFO investigation.

National and Labour have also been connected to SFO investigations this term. It would have been unfair on them if NZ First had their connections to an investigation and charges suppressed until after the election.

NZ First may even benefit from the current publicity, something they have been struggling to get much of this term.

Looking grim for Peters and NZ First

Both poor poll results and also a lack of traction in media are pointing increasingly towards NZ First being dumped from Parliament this year, and with the lack of energy and lack of success for Peters this campaign that would likely mean the end of his long political career.

Peters first stood (unsuccessfully) for Parliament in 1975, and became a National MP in 1978 after winning a High Court electoral petition that overturned the election night result.

He left National in 1993 and retained his Tauranga seat as an Independent MP in a by-election, after which he established the NZ First Party.

Peters and NZ First unexpectedly enabled the National Bolger government in 1996, but he broke off the coalition, and NZ First were punished in the 1999 election, failing to make the threshold (they got 4.4%). The party survived through Peters retaining his electorate.

NZ First formed another coalition in 2005, this time with Helen Clark’s Labour government.

In 2008, NZ First was again punished by voters, coming short of the threshold with 4.07% of the votes. Poll results were relatively flat:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2008_New_Zealand_general_election

Peters also lost his Tauranga electorate (to Simon Bridges) so NZ First failed to make it back into Parliament.

NZ First made it back into Parliament in 2011 after a late surge in support, after Peters, aided by the media, made the most of the ‘tea pot tapes’ controversy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2011_New_Zealand_general_election

In the 2014 NZ First increased their vote to 8.66% with support increasing during the campaign.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2014_New_Zealand_general_election

In the three months up to the election NZ First poll results ranged from 3.4 to 8.4% with most being over the threshold.

In 2017, up to when Andrew Little handed over the Labour leadership to Jacinda Ardern, NZ First were often polling over 10% and up to 13%, but they dropped off a bit ending up with 7.2%.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2017_New_Zealand_general_election

This time Peters keeps rubbishing the polls, but it’s unlikely they are all wrong. His big play last week, playing a well worn race card, failed to make much impression. That may have been his last chance to play a get into Parliament free card.

The poll trend looks bad for NZ FirstL

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

Splashing money around the provinces via the Provincial Growth Fund doesn’t seem to have helped. Money doesn’t seem to buy elections in New Zealand.

Shane Jones seems to have given up in the Northland electorate where a poll showed him trailing in third place. He has a reputation for not being a diligent campaigner anyway,.

So the campaign has been left to Peters. He has been busy touring the country but has just failed to fire.

Even Grey Power seem to have tired of Peters.

Stuff: Collins goes on the offensive at public meeting in Nelson

National Party leader Judith Collins went on the offensive at a packed public meeting in Nelson, taking aim at the Government’s “tremendously stupid” decision-making.

The event was organised by Grey Power, with most of those in attendance belonging to the older demographic.

Since getting 3% in a Roy Morgan poll in March NZ First has been under that, and got only 1% in the latest Colmar Brunton poll, down from 2.4% last week. In between those polls they were 1.9% in a Reid Research poll.

It’s possible a miracle may happen but time is running out for Peters to find something to grab the limelight. And history is against NZ First, as they have done poorly after being in Government twice in the past.

Peters will have to try something a lot more positive than ‘we’ll stop Labour doing stuff’, but it looks like he simply can’t compete with Ardern’s popularity that he has in part enabled.

Peters complains about polls in warts and all coverage

Winston Peters has been busy touring the country in his bus trying to build back support for NZ First. He is usually good at extracting publicity from media.

As usual he is complaining when the coverage he gets isn’t favourable, and he is complaining about the polls. And he is attacking journalists, clashing a number of times with Katie Bradford from 1 News.

Last time NZ First were in Government, in 2005-2008, they ended up being thrown out of Parliament by voters after failing to make the threshold, getting just 4.07%, and Peters failed to hold his Tauranga electorate.

Polls from a month before the election weren’t far from the mark.

1 News Colmar Brunton: 2.6%, 2.1%, 3.0%, 2.4%
Herald/Digipoll: 2.1%, 3.9%
Roy Morgan: 4.5%, 4.5%
NZ First election result: 4.07%

So overall the polls weren’t too far off, allowing for the margin of error and late shifts in support.

Last election NZ polling a month before the election was actually often better than their election result.

1 News/Colmar Brunton: 10.0%, 9.0%, 8.0%, 6.0%, 4.9%
Newshub/Reid Research: 9.2%, 6.6%, 6.0%, 7.1%
Roy Morgan: 11.5%, 6.0%
NZ First election result: 7.2%

This election (up to a month before election day):

1 News Colmar Brunton: 1.8%, 2%, 2%
Newshub/Reid Research: 2.0%
Roy Morgan: 1.5%, 2.5%

So while polls are just a rough indication of voter support for parties at the time they are taken, it’s fairly obvious that NZ First have hit a rough patch.

And Peters is getting grumpy.

1 News: ‘Boring, laughable, ridiculous’ – Winston Peters goes on attack after another poll puts NZ First out of Parliament

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has once again gone on the offensive when quizzed about his party’s consistently low polling in the lead up to next month’s election.

“Geez, Kate, could you get off your boring narrative about the polls, so to speak?” an exasperated Peters said to 1 NEWS reporter Katie Bradford during a media conference in Kerikeri today. 

“I hope on election night that you’re going to fly a white flag and resign because of countless questions you’ve asked on this silly question.”

He said he knew the National and Labour parties “seriously believe that New Zealand First is going to make it,” asking, “What do they know that you don’t know?”

Of course Peters could be just making that claim up. National and Labour won’t be counting NZ First out, but I doubt they “seriously believe that New Zealand First is going to make it”.

National’s Curia polling had NZ First on 3% at the end of July, and UMR who poll for Labour had NZ First on 3.9% at the end of August.

Leading into the 2017 election UMR had NZ First on 8% (1–8 Aug 2017) and 9% (11–16 Aug 2017), and Curia had them on 6% 20 Sep 2017 with NZ First getting 7.2%.

“You can’t write us off when there’s thousands and tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of forgotten New Zealanders whose only hope is New Zealand First,” Peters said.

He said he “didn’t bother to see” last night’s poll.

While New Zealand First has ranked poorly in political polls in the past, Peters has long been an opponent of what he called “rubbish.”

“I don’t like rubbish. I don’t like rubbish and I don’t like rubbish pollsters,” he said.

“Katie, with the greatest respect, you owe New Zealand First better coverage than this.

“To come along every day and talk about your boring polls is actually risable, it’s laughable, it’s ridiculous and it’s contemptuous of a fair coverage of a political party this campaign.”

Peters said people “deserve better coverage on your national TV than the bias” of 1 NEWS.

This is just Winston-speak for him wanting favourable coverage and no unfavourable coverage.

Peters expressed concern over a Labour-Greens government, saying they “don’t have the experience.”

They have just spent the last three years in Government (with NZ First), so that’s experience.

The popularity of Jacinda Ardern, who is not much more than half Winston’s age (she was born after Peters first became an MP in the Muldoon era), suggests that a lot of voters have moved on from old school politics.

He was also against a National-ACT government, telling Bradford to “do the mathematics.”

“You’re the one that’s always banging on about the polls. Do the mathematics, Katie, and be consistent for five seconds.

“You know that they’re 40 per cent shy of even making it, and if you’re going to bang on about the polls, try and be consistent about it, but I don’t believe in those sorts of polls because New Zealand First, our voter base, has never been fairly represented by them.”

Typical Peters, asking a journalist to be consistent while demonstrating his inconsistency.

Actually it appears that 1 News have been providing a range of good and not so good coverage of Peters campaigning. Over the last week:

That seems like a reasonable range of coverage.

Peters attacking journalists is normal for him. I think it is his way of trying to bully or coerce them into giving him better coverage.

But he has a real problem competing with Ardern’s niceness approach to politics.

And he is also competing for support with a resurgent ACT Party, and also with other parties seeking niche votes like New Conservatives and Advance NZ.

Peters has promoted NZ First as the anti-government party with some success in the past, but that’s difficult for him this time having just enabled the Labour led Government for three years.

He may still find some issue with which he can strike a chord with voters, but with Covid and Ardern dominating he is running out of time.

NZ First may hang on, but if they do they will likely be a lot weaker next term. Labour probably won’t even need them to form a Government.

Kudos to Katie Bradford. She has been in close contact with Peters on the campaign trail and she has the gumption to ask him difficult questions, and to report on Winston warts and all.

PGF wouldn’t fund Green school

This looks like a continuation of the campaign scrap between NZ First and Greens, who appeared to be trying their hardest to mutually destruct.

It appears that Shane Jones has fed a story to Newshub (PGF applications mustn’t be confidential: Green School previously turned down for Provincial Growth Fund cash

Newshub can reveal the nearly $12 million of taxpayer money netted by the controversial Green School wasn’t the first time they’d tried to dip into the public purse.

The Green School – now one of New Zealand’s most well-known schools for all the wrong reasons.

And it scored millions of dollars of Government funding signed off by Green Party co-leader James Shaw in his capacity as Associate Finance Minister – a decision at odds with the Green Party’s policy to phase out funding for private schools.

Shaw has described it as “an error of judgment for which I apologise”.

It turns out Shaw’s error of judgment – demanding the green light for the Green School’s request for cash – wasn’t the school’s first rodeo.

“The Green School made an application to the Provincial Growth Fund. It was rapidly nixed,” says NZ First MP Shane Jones, who oversees the PGF as Regional Economic Development Minister.

A document obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act shows the school had a crack at getting far less funding last year but failed.

It wanted just under $1m – that was declined. But when it applied for 12 times that – the funding was approved.

“James got his nose out of joint and fought for it to be restored through the shovel-ready money,” Jones says.

The application was refused partly because it wouldn’t create sustainable new jobs. The school’s now promising to create 200 jobs.

In the 2019 application – for a fraction of the funding – the school was promising in excess of 100 new jobs.

Documents say: “the applicant estimates that the project will bring in around [redacted] in economic benefit on annual basis and will create at least 100 jobs linked to the project.”

But officials in the Provincial Development Unit which determines PGF funding were sceptical.

“The success of the Bali operation may not be an appropriate indication of the likelihood of success for a venture based in Taranaki. There is insufficient market research to justify that it will be successful.”

It may be that after failing with the PGF application the Green School did more work on their market research, or on the presentation of their application.

Jones declared on Newshub Nation he was determined to kill off his Government sibling.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure the Greens do not survive,” he said.

So this looks like a hit job by Jones. His problem is that he is performing poorly in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate, and polls suggest that NZ First is struggling to get near the 5% threshold, so NZ First are at real risk this election.

I think that this sort of minor party conflict is likely to drag both parties down.

Peters attacks Labour

The Government lasted nearly three years lasted nearly three years trying to portray the three party arrangement as solid and working well together.

But with the election looming and the fear of failing to make the threshold rising Winston Peters is attacking both the Greens and Labour. This post is on the Green target.

NZ Herald: Winston Peters takes swipe at Labour over response

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters relaunched his election campaign at a brewery but instead of taking a swig, he took a swipe at his Government partners.

He wrapped up the morning visit by saying the Auckland outbreak of Covid-19 was because Labour ministers were in charge of the key areas of the response.

“We could have done better on Covid-19. That’s a fact. If we could compare ourselves with Taiwan, we haven’t done as well as we could have done. We let our guard down.”

“Too many things fell through the traps, or the holes so to speak, that were deliberately left there by the bureaucracy … The fact of the matter is that the Labour ministers are the only ones in charge of all that.”

“I’m pointing the blame, but we’ll never get anywhere if everyone thinks we’ve done the best job in the world. We haven’t done as well as we could have done.”

Peters seems to be trying to claiming credit for ‘we’ doing the best job in the world but Labour Ministers stuffing up.

Peters said there were mistakes made and “it’s better to own up to them” – though he sits around the Cabinet table and is in Zoom meetings with Labour ministers when many of the important decisions are made. He will be in a Cabinet meeting on Friday morning.

He said if NZ First MPs were in charge, they would have brought in the military much sooner.

“Don’t keep on gilding the lily and saying everyone’s fine when it wasn’t going fine.

“The testing wasn’t going on, the surveillance wasn’t going on, the oversight and scrutiny that should have been done by the military was not happening. And masks were not used.”

Similar criticisms have been made by others including National, but this is one coalition partner taking swings at another.

It is also worth pointing out that Peters is doing this now as he launches into campaign mmode, not while the decisions were being made – by the Cabinet he and other NZ First ministers were a part of.

In fact, Peters has implemented a “no mask, no ride” policy on his NZ First campaign bus – but it apparently doesn’t apply to the party’s leader or deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau who climbed aboard with their faces uncovered.

Peters may have thought that Labour should have made the plebs wear masks but that shouldn’t apply to him.

But the pair did make the effort to scan CovidTracer QR codes.

Tabuteau logged into every business and Peters at least opened his app at the first venue, but didn’t appear to actually scan in.

A politician ‘rules for others, not for me’ trick.

Ardern has responded – It’s a ‘disservice’ to say New Zealand hasn’t done well with Covid-19, says Prime Minister

The Prime Minister has hit back at Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters for saying New Zealand was “gilding the lily” about its response to Covid-19.

Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had done “exceptionally well”.

“I think we do a disservice to every single New Zealander whose been part of that team effort if we don’t acknowledge that.

“I think we need to take into account, relative to other countries, how well New Zealanders have done and the results that have been generated.”

Peters did take that into account in saying the Government had done relatively well, it was just the Labour part of the Government that had stuffed some things up.

I’ve seen quite a bit of speculation about how National may have managed Covid if they had been in Government, from much the same as Labour (which is probably close too the mark) to killing thousands of people in order to allow businesses to make money (from the type of people who said similar of National pre-Covid).

But if the Covid response was negotiated just after an election with Peters holding the balance of power how well would we have done?

We would have still probably done fairly well with a few mistakes.

Peters seems a bit annoyed that he and NZ First haven’t had a lot of influence in the Covid response, with Ardern and Labour ministers getting most of the attention coming up to an election, but that is largely because the Prime Minister led the response and Labour ministers held the key portfolios of Finance and Health.

The military was called in but Minister of Defence, NZ First MP Ron Mark, got little exposure for that.

The NZ First initiated and run Provincial Growth Fund was diverted into the much larger Covid Recovery Fund, which shifted the handing out from Shane Jones to Labour ministers.

But Peters is limited in how much he can attack the Government he is a part of.

He hasn’t yet targeted Ardern herself, and I think that’s unlikely as that would likely be a political fools errand.

Peters came into the current Government seemingly positioning himself as virtual Prime Minister, seeing his long experiencing easily overshadowing the inexperienced leader Ardern.

But Ardern has stepped up big time on the big issues, the Christchurch mosque murders, the Whakaari eruption and now Covid. She has been widely praised for her leadership, leaving Peters looking like a barely relevant and fading sidekick.

Peters will probably keep attacking Labour but without being able to go head to head against Ardern without great risk his past it’s prime brinkmanship may overshadow his statesmanship.

Peters has been out-leadered by Ardern, and he has another problem that may be insurmountable – Ardern represents a new generation of politics, while Peters is a cranky political grandfather with more grate than gravitas.

I think NZ First’s political future may be largely out of Peters hands. They seem to be largely reliant on whether voters decide for themselves whether to moderate Labour’s power – we haven’t had a one party majority under MMP – and whether voters desert or come back to National.

Covid still dominates the news and public concerns. Peters can’t compete with that.

Similar to last election the Greens have managed to grab attention by shooting themselves in both James Shaw’s feet. When Metiria Turei gambled and lost support for the Greens slid, but so did NZ First support when Ardern stepped up for Labour.

Peters never reached great heights in preferred Prime Minister polls but he now barely gets a mention.

And NZ First don’t have a plan B if plan Winston isn’t working. Shane Jones has never win an electorate so winning an election seems something he can’t even buy. Who is the NZ First deputy?

It could be a tough campaign for them.

Peters attacks the Greens

The Government lasted nearly three years lasted nearly three years trying to portray the three party arrangement as solid and working well together.

But with the election looming and the fear of failing to make the threshold rising Winston Peters is attacking both the Greens and Labour. This post is on the Green target.

Newshub: NZ First and Greens fighting for survival, trying to kill each other off amid Green School debacle

The James Shaw political pile-on is off the charts after Newshub revealed he strong-armed ministerial colleagues to get funding for the controversial privately-owned Taranaki Green School.

NZ First leader Winston Peters is calling it one of the worst things he’s seen in his political career and is warning of “repercussions” over the funding, while National says the Greens should be ashamed and that Shaw must resign. 

Labour, NZ First and the Greens almost held it together an entire term, but as the election drew near, the raw disdain between the Greens and New Zealand First bubbled forth.

Peters said in July his party “opposed woke pixie dust”, while Shaw described New Zealand First as a “chaotic and disorganised” partner in Government.

“You can almost see the advertisements, can’t you? New Zealand First – you can stop progress,” Shaw joked in his adjournment speech last month.

But ironically Shaw has now been caught out holding his ministerial colleagues to political ransom, stalling progress to get his own way.

Newshub revealed on Tuesday Shaw’s office emailed his ministerial colleagues strong-arming them with an ultimatum, refusing to sign off on projects in a $3 billion infrastructure fund unless he got dosh for the controversial Green School.

Shaw told Newshub on Wednesday he “didn’t hold anybody to ransom”, but Peters sees it differently.

“If you can’t win by logic and by reason and by the soundness of your proposal then that’s no way to behave,” the NZ First leader told Newshub.

“It’s pretty bad. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Maybe it has happened but not in that naked, inexperienced way.”

It’s funny to see Peters attack someone else over naked political ransom, but there is a difference with how he does it, he’s very experienced at it.

The Prime Minister said there will be different views in a Government of three political parties.

That’s the line that’s been spun throughout the term when there’s been differences, and it is accurate enough, there should be differences between three parties. But how those differences are being expressed has changed markedly.

“Obviously as a coalition Government working with three different parties, there will often be different perspectives,” she said on Wednesday.

You can say that again – Shaw has made it clear he thinks Peters is a handbrake on progress.

Peters responded, “Well, a handbrake on stupid ideas is not a handbrake on progress.”

Stupid to Peters. The difference between NZ First and the Greens is that the Greens didn’t do much handbraking on NZ First’s stupid ideas.

Shaw said Peters will say anything to get re-elected.

“Winston Peters is fighting for his political survival and so he will say what he says in order to try and ensure he’s back in Parliament after the election,” he told Newshub.

Thanks to Shaw, the Greens are now fighting for their political survival too.

Last campaign Labour and the Greens, and to an extent NZ First, promoted their intent and ability to be able to work together.

This campaign looks like being a lot more combative.

Greens have been polling close to the 5% threshold (except for Roy Morgan polls) but have tended to get less in elections than in polls so will be worried, especially with the popularity of Ardern competing more for votes.

Both Shaw and Marama Davidson have admitted that the current Green School mess will make things even harder for them to survive.

NZ First have been polling at under half the threshold. Peters has pulled rabbits out of campaign hats in the past and will be looking for the same sort of opportunity this time.

But NZ First and Greens going hammer and tongs against each other is a questionable strategy, as they hardly compete for their own votes. These spats are more likely to just reduce votes for both, it’s unlikely to attract support.

What both parties will be hoping for is that they survive and are in a position to form a coalition with Labour without a third party competing for baubles and slush funds.

Winston Peters versus genomic tracing

From last night Winston Peters announced on Australia’s ABC that he had been informed by a “usually very reliable” journalist that the Auckland Covid outbreak was linked to a Covid quarantine facility – see Winston grandstanding, election campaign – but dumping on Government Covid quarantine.

Quarantine and isolation facilities are obvious potential sources of the spreading virus as they have been the only known locations of Covid cases for weeks if not months, so the claim could easily be correct and unsurprising.

What is remarkable is that a journalist would pass this story on to a politician who desperate for attention to try to save his political career and his party.

Usually stories are passed from politicians to journalists. This being reversed suggests the possibility a journalist is trying to help Peters and the NZ First election campaign.

Also of major interest is why the Deputy Prime Minister is grandstanding via Australian media and not working with the Government he is supposed to still be a significant part of. Presumably Peters and other NZ First ministers will be involved in the Cabinet meeting today that will make a decision of Covid lockdown levels.

And there is a scientific query over the claim.

NZ Herald – Genomic tracing used to find source of latest outbreak

Dunedin scientist Jemma Geoghegan says four Covid-19 cases at the centre of the latest outbreak in NZ – at this stage at least – do not seem to be linked to earlier cases in managed isolation or quarantine facilities.

That appears to contradict Peters’ claim.

Dr Geoghegan is using genomic tracing technology to try to solve the riddle of how the four Auckland family members became infected with Covid-19.

It was hard to be definitive, but the viral genomes seemed to be linked with genomes from English data bases on the Sars-cov-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, and checks were continuing with Australian viral genomes.

“By comparing the virus genomes from these cases to those from both the quarantine facilities and the global population, we can determine their likely origin and how long they have been circulating in the community.”

Peters’ source may turn out to be correct, either through being well informed or guessing the most likely source of the outbreak, but he seems to be working against the Government and contrary to current science.

At least Winston’s grandstanding may force the Government or Ministry of Health to address his claims and give us a bit more information.

UMR poll August 2020

The UMR polls seem to be getting published now with a reasonable amount of detail and history. The latest poll results done from July 29 – August 3) (with comparison from their 26 May – 1 June poll):

  • Labour 52% (down from 54)
  • National 28% (down from 30)
  • ACT 5.9% (no result to compare to)
  • Greens 5.4% (was 4)
  • NZ First 5.1% (was 5)

That’s fairly consistent with other polls, which means great for Labour and ACT, awful for National, marginal for Greens and better than other recent polls for NZ First, this must be the poll that Winston likes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern 61%
  • Judith Collins 20%

Source: https://thestandard.org.nz/umr-poll-august-2020/

Collins is rating much better than Simon bridges and Todd Muller but is a long way behind Ardern, and i think will struggle to get much closer going by her recent performance.