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

Can party donation scams be prevented?

I don’t think we will ever get a perfect way of dealing with political party donations, but there is scope to do much better. The Electoral Commission and SFO actually taking serious action over alleged breaches is a start.

NZ First donations are under increased scrutiny and are currently being investigated by the SFO. Jami-Lee Ross is being prosecuted, Lianne Dalziel, Phil Goff are under SFO investigation over donations.

National is linked to the Ross and three other prosecutions (the donations were made to the National Party).

Labour has been accused of questionable donation practices

Four out of every five dollars donated to big parties in secret, sparking new push for transparency

Smaller parties like the Greens publicly disclose who provided most of their funding, but the big parties are secretive. 83 per cent ($8.7m over six years) of the money donated to National is from anonymous donors, and 80 per cent ($2.8m) of that donated to Labour.

The worst offender is NZ First: Most years, it allows every single one of its donors to remain secret.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/95945991/new-push-for-transparency-with-four-out-of-every-five-dollars-donated-to-big-parties-given-secretly

Artworks used to funnel secret donors’ contributions to the Labour Party

The Labour Party is hiding tens of thousands of dollars in donations behind over-inflated art auctions – and naming the artists as donors instead of the secret individuals handing over the big bucks.

The artists had no idea the party was naming them as the donors – they never saw a cent of the money. They say their works are auctioned off at well above market value to wealthy benefactors who want to keep their support for the party secret.

Labour says the practice complies with electoral rules.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/95891686/artworks-used-to-funnel-secret-donors-contributions-to-the-labour-party

That was in 2017.

Andrea Vance suggests: Keep politicians in the dark over election donations

Politicians write the rules they so blatantly flout. The parties manage their own accounts and the cash that flows into them.

Now it’s pretty obvious they can’t be trusted, it’s time to take away that power and ban them from accepting donations directly.

The only way to transparency is for an independent body to handle and process the donations, which would not be disclosed publicly or to the party.

That way the donor maintains their anonymity and privacy – and the law-makers cannot be in anyone’s pocket.

The perception of influence and corruption would also be removed.

If donations remain allowed then this is one way of tidying things up a bit, but it wouldn’t prevent what NZ First appear to have done, having donations paid into a separate NZ First Foundation and paying party expenses directly from the Foundation.

Would channelling donations through an independent body (the Electoral Commission has been one suggestion) mean that limiting the size of donations wouldn’t be necessary?

An independent handler would impact on all parties (especially the Greens) using donations drives as a part of  member recruitment and communications.

It wouldn’t stop donors advising parties they had donated certain amounts to the party via the independent handler.

I don’t think there are any simple solutions to this.

The Electoral Commission and the SFO actually investigating and prosecuting will help, electoral rule had appeared to have been broken with impunity in the past.

We can’t trust parties to set their own rules on this, they have proven to be too self-interested.

But I think there should still be some sort of independent review of how donations are handled. Perhaps by an independent panel of experts, but this could be informed by some sort of ‘people’s panel’.

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.

Drip of revelations continue on NZ First Party/Foundation

Winston Peters and whoever run NZ First with him seem to have tried to benefit both ways with the NZ First Foundation – they sold it as part of the party, as the name implies, but are claiming it is separate from the party. But the drip feed of revelations continues to suggest what looks obvious, the Foundation is an attempt to avoid donation transparency law.’

There is no evidence that donors to the Foundation, and therefore to the Party, were rewarded with favourable policies, or grants from the Provincial Growth Fund. But the best way to avoid these types of impressions is transparency. The secrecy used – even NZ First MPs and ex-party officials claim to have not known about the Foundation – is always going to raise suspicions. Especially given Peters’ past shadiness and dishonesty regarding donations.

Matt Shand at Stuff today: Who are the donors behind the NZ First Foundation?

Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters claims to be the leader who stands up to corruption and fights for the little man, but donations to the foundation show he is backed by wealthy investors, horse racing figures, food magnates, and property juggernauts.

Quite aside from the legal question over the relationship between the foundation and the party is the question of how Peters presents himself: the honest broker between two old sides of politics.

One of the crucial questions swirling around the NZ First donations saga revolves around who exactly knew what, and the relationship between the party and the foundation. Peters says the foundation is totally separate from the party, and that all questions about it are a matter for the party.

That sounds contradictory and confusing – but Peters often sounds contradictory and confusing.

“I look after the political wing of the NZ First party, that’s an administrative matter,” Peters said in Parliament on Tuesday.

“I’m in charge of the political body of NZ First.

That’s well known.

As for the administrative body, for 27 years we’ve complied with the electoral law in this country”.

That also seems contradictory. “We” suggests he is also in charge of “the administrative body”, bujt it’s not clear what exctly that is. The Foundation?

But Stuff reveals that Tauranga-based list MP Clayton Mitchell acted as one of the bagmen for the foundation – which appears to have operated as a political slush fund – financing NZ First’s party operations.

Many sources, on and off the record have confirmed that Mitchell solicited donations for the party, but would often give out the NZ First Foundation’s bank account details.

So at least one MP was also involved.

It can also be revealed that at least some donors spoken to by Stuff were not aware that donations were going to foundation and not the political party.

The revelation that Mitchell was one of the bagmen for the NZ First Foundation could derail Peters’ assertion that the party and foundation, which received more than $500,000 worth of donations, are not connected.

Donations to the foundation are under the $15,000 threshold required for the party to declare them, but several donors said they believed they understood were donating money to NZ First, and not the foundation.

It seems difficult to separate the two.

But there were other large donations, many of which are from companies and individuals who work in industries that have benefited from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund. Stuff is not suggesting any wrongdoing on the part of the donors, and it may be that those industries would have benefited regardless.

The largest series of donations occurs from Conrad Properties Ltd or companies and trusts connected to that company. The company donated $27,500 to the foundation in 2017 and 2018, as well as $15,000 in 2019 to date.

The largest of those is over the threshold requiring the donor to be identified.

The racing industry feature heavily within the donations, with at least $80,000 identified.

One investor, who Stuff has decided not to name, has connections with the mānuka honey industry, and has spoken out about the need to protect the brand’s copyright.

The Provincial Growth Fund, overseen by NZ First minister Shane Jones, has granted $5.7m granted to the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society to help protect its trademark. There is no information saying the two are linked.

Those sort of links emphasise the need for transparency. If there is no direct connection between donations and PGF grants then everything should be done openly to show it.

The volume of donations is at odds with what the party recorded in its 2017 and 2018 returns.

In 2017 NZ First secretary Anne Martin declared that the party received only 13 donations of $5001 to $15,001, totalling $135,994, for the 2017 calendar year.

In 2018 then secretary Elizabeth Witihera reported five donations totalling $65,000 in the same range, but foundation records show 10 donations totalling $135,000.

Up to April this year, the foundation had received $80,485 in donations.

That will no doubt be checked out by the inquiry started yesterday by the Electoral Commission after a complaint was made to them.

RNZ: NZ First’s political donations: A creeping feeling of deja vu

Swirling rumours of dodgy dealings over political donations, Winston Peters full of bluster and denial, and potentially a drawn-out series of combative but ultimately meaningless exchanges with the parliamentary press gallery.

There are perhaps lessons here too for Jacinda Ardern, as Prime Minister of the Cabinet, and who the opposition will ultimately hold responsible if these allegations gain momentum.

In 2008 it all went wrong for Mr Peters; the months of controversy around the Spencer Trust and attacks on his integrity resulted in a ballot box defeat, ejecting him and his party into the political wilderness.

The central allegation was around a $100,000 donation from businessman Owen Glenn – he insisted he made the donation to New Zealand First with the knowledge of Mr Peters – who said he knew nothing about it.

There were also theatrics – he summoned journalists to the party’s offices in Bowen House where he brandished the infamous “No” sign – the reply to every journalist’s question about receiving the Glenn donation.

Then there was the spectacle that was the Privileges Committee. A super-sized select committee room set up for the occasion with big screen TVs for prime viewing. Main antagonist and ACT leader Rodney Hide took up his position at the front of the public gallery each day as Mr Peters and loyal lawyer Brian Henry were put through their paces.

Mr Peters was censured by Parliament but in the end that was just a slap on the wrist.

More testing were his relationships with then-Prime Minister Helen Clark and Deputy Michael Cullen, who stood by Mr Peters until his resignation as Foreign Minister became inevitable.

National has described the latest claims, if true, as the most serious of their kind in New Zealand history.

But as with internal political scandals, National will have to step carefully as its nose is not completely clean.

For years it used blind trusts to transfer donations to the party itself, a practice that ceased with a law change. Even now there is still an active Serious Fraud Investigation into the National Party relating to the disclosure of donations.

But apart from NZ First the biggest political risks are for Jacinda Ardern and Labour, who chose to go into a coalition with Peters knowing his history.

Danyl Mclauchlan at The Spinoff: The NZ First donations scandal is very serious, and won’t let Jacinda Ardern hide

There are two separate issues here. The first is whether New Zealand First has broken the electoral law. That’s a matter for the Electoral Commission, and if they decide the law was been broken they can refer the matter on to the police or the Serious Fraud Office. Peters says he is looking forward to discussing the matter with the Commission, and is “confident that New Zealand First has operated within electoral laws, now and for the last 27 years”.

The second is whether senior ministers in the current government could get caught up in accusations of corrupt practices. When you have companies and individuals making secret donations to a party that holds the portfolios in those industries, there is every reason for the public to ask questions about whether their government is behaving defensibly.

New Zealand First’s coalition partners have dreaded this moment for two years. The prime minister’s instinct will be to distance herself from the scandal and hope that it goes away. “We assume that the law has been followed.” “It’s a matter for the Electoral Commission.” “I am not responsible for the New Zealand First Party.” And so on. But the matter of whether or not she presides over a government linked to allegations of “corrupt or illegal practices” is not a matter for another party or office. The integrity of the government is the prime minister’s responsibility.

One of the things that led to the end of the Clark government was the endless drip feed. The allegations of secrecy and deceit swirling around NZ First just kept coming. And now this government is trapped in the same political hostage situation, with the same politician, facing accusations of engaging in the exact same practices. An early election might be worth the risk if the alternative is a year of ongoing leaks and allegations

I don’t think an early election would help Labour much. Ardern yesterday effectively ruled it out “I’m not Muldoon” but the way information keeps dripping out political reality and necessity may change.

Mclauchlan has been involved in the Green Party in the past. He is now an astute political commentator.

Andrew Geddis: One possibility is NZ First has broken electoral law. The other possibility is worse

Let’s pause and look big picture. We have a political party that is a keystone of the current government. Its members are ministers, with responsibility for (among other things) distributing $3 billion in government largesse around the country’s provinces.

And now we are told that a legally-opaque foundation intimately connected to the party has raised hundreds-of-thousands of dollars from “primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires”. That foundation allegedly has used the money for the benefit of the party and its MPs. And no-one outside of the party and those that gave the money are made any the wiser.

If this is legal, then there’s no way that it should be. You can’t have a country’s political system run in this way and be considered the second least corrupt nation on the planet. Or, at least, you can’t do it for long.

Geddis is a law professor at Otago University.

This is an important democratic issue. There have been past concerns about donation skulduggery by both National and Labour, and there is an SFO inquiry into National after a complaint made by Jami-Lee Ross.

But the biggest issues here are what is being revealed about NZ First – the party and the foundation – and the implications of that for the current coalition government and next year’s election.

Some diverters have canvassed past party malpractices here over the last few days. Please don’t repeat diversion attempts. Either comment on this week’s revelations and their implications, or desist from dredging up squirrels.

And if you continue to grizzle about what I choose to post, it may encourage more rather than less posts on topics you may be trying to bury. A post on diversion and discrediting techniques by political activists is tempting.


More from Stuff today – QComms: the mysterious firm revving NZ First’s campaign engine

An obscure company directed by Winston Peters’ personal lawyer is at the heart of the NZ First campaign engine, documents from a Stuff investigation reveal.

Brian Henry is the sole director and shareholder of QComms. The company that has no online profile, phone number or any other listed information – but in 2018 charged the New Zealand First Foundation for at least $93,000 worth of work and reimbursements to contracted employees. One of these contractors is Henry’s daughter.

Henry is a trustee of the foundation, the director and shareholder of the company, and also the judicial officer of NZ First. This web of connections suggests he receives political donations in one hand and pays his own company with the other.

Invoice records for the NZ First Foundation reveal that two contractors for Thorn Services Limited drew wages from the Foundation account acting on behalf of QComms. One was former NZ First board member John Thorn. The other is Henry’s daughter, Jamie Henry.

Records show at least $93,000 was charged to the NZ First Foundation in contracted wages, reimbursements and other expenses for work done for QComms, a company which appears to have no income other than political donations given to the foundation.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/117570433/qcomms-the-mysterious-firm-revving-nz-firsts-campaign-engine

Sustainable NZ could help Labour, Greens as well as environment

The newly launched Sustainable NZ Party has been criticised a puppet party set up to either give National  coalition option they are currently lacking, or compete with Green votes to try to stop the Green Party making the 5% threshold,

But if SNZ makes it into Parliament (this is a long shot but possible) they could help Labour or the Greens (if the get back in) as much if not more than they could help National.

SNZ in Parliament could give Labour a choice between them and the Greens, giving them more coalition bargaining power.

SNZ could also give Labour or Labour+Greens an alternative to NZ First for a coalition.

A Labour+Greens+SNZ coalition should have a strong environmental mandate, far stronger than currently with NZ First in the mix.

The Greens have actually reacted with “it only strengthens democracy when we have a diversity of people running in general elections”.

And even if National and SNZ form a coalition, that must be better for environmental policy implementation than National on their own or with ACT.

The bleating from the left seems more old school politics where parties like Labour think they should be able to effectively rule on their own, or as far as the Greens are concerned worried about self preservation (the threshold), or seeing themselves as the exclusive champion of environmental policies.

Martyn Bradbury at The Daily Blog: The real purpose of National’s new ‘Sustainability NZ Party’

The point of Sustainability NZ for National is not to get over 5% and join them in Parliament, it’s to take just enough green voters away from the Greens so as to sink them under 5%.

That’s just one possibility. Voters may see differently – two environmental parties could be better than one.

If we had a Green movement that wasn’t more focused on meaningless consensus and middle class identity politics, they could see this challenge off from Sustainability NZ, but because of the shrill alienation the Greens  manage to create, this could be the plot to rob them of any representation post 2020.

He also takes a swipe at the Greens. The bitterness of someone with no party to support.

Voters could dump the Greens from Parliament regardless of SNZ. If that happens and SNZ manages to get in then we must be better off than being left with National versus Labour.

MickySavage at The Standard: Sustainable Party launches

The Sustainable Party, National’s sock puppet party designed to weaken the Greens has launched.

That’s a negative Labour reaction, without stopping to think through the possibilities.

At a time when the world is in a crisis caused by run away climate change there is only very oblique reference to this most pressing of problems.  It should be centre and front of any policy announcement by a so called environmentally focussed party.  That it is not speaks volumes.  And that the policy is being used to try and wedge the Greens on  Generic Engineering shows the real motivation behind the party.

The Greens should be challenged on their ridiculous entrenched anti-GE position,

Of course the reality is that this party is a puppet party, designed to cause as much grief as possible to the Greens.

And he refuses to accept that late stage capitalism and unfettered greed and growth are the cause of our problems.  That economic disparity and ecological decline are happening hand in hand because they are symptoms of the same problem.  Instead he claims that his party is  “pro-progress, pro-technology and pro-science” and seems to think that eternal economic growth is possible.

This sounds like knee jerk anti-new party syndrome – established parties seem to hate newbies with new approaches. They seem to feel threatened.

Beyond the overreaction of political bloggers, RNZ – Sustainable New Zealand political party: Other parties unruffled

The Greens said they were “not too fussed” about a potential rival, saying in a statement the ‘teal’ vote was miniscule.

“We think National are the only ones likely to lose support,” it said.

“However Mr Tava is welcome to give it a go – he has every right to and in fact it only strengthens democracy when we have a diversity of people running in general elections.”

Yes, under MMP more parties in Parliament strengthens democracy, giving major parties more options to get genuine majorities to progress policies.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford did not think Sustainable NZ would take many votes from the Greens.

“While Mr Tava talks about being willing to go with National or Labour or anyone else I think it’s pretty clear that they are positioning themselves very much on the right side of the political spectrum with all their talk of working with business…

Funny, Bradford equates “talk of working with business with “very much on the right side of the political spectrum”. Even Russel Norman appeared willing to talking with businesses, and James Shaw certainly is willing.

Apart from the fringe far left healthy business is seen as an integral part of the way we live.

Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said more voices for protecting the environment was a good thing, but he thought the party might struggle to get a coherent message through.

“Much of the destruction of the environment has been the result of commercial exploitation and it seems like their economic policies may not be ones that would actually change that, so we look forward with interest to see what the full suite of their policies might be,” he said.

Mr Hague said focusing the majority of their policies on the environment, could place them at a disadvantage too.

“If they say they’re just going to have environmental policies that is going to make them pretty much a lame duck within Parliament on most issues.

Not necessarily. All parties in Parliament have to make decisions on issues they don’t have policies on.  That doesn’t make them lame ducks on those issues.  And where parties have policies on issues the reality is that most parties have to compromise on their own policies most of the time.

Labour’s 2020 campaign chair Megan Woods said they had not yet discussed the prospect of working with the party.

Ms Woods said however it would not change anything about their campaign and Labour would just be focused on telling its own story.

“[The] launch comes as no surprise, this has been well signalled, but what it does show yet again is that National still has a big strategic dilemma around a lack of coalition partners,” she said.

If she or Labour thought things through it could be a positive change for them – providing they can win more votes than National next election.

Newshub: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern throws doubt on Vernon Tava’s Sustainable NZ

Jacinda Ardern has hit out at the newest political party Sustainable New Zealand, saying the Government is already catering to the environmental needs it’s offering.

“I do believe that environmental matters are a huge focus for this Government and I don’t see that there’s necessarily a space that [Sustainable NZ] need to fill,” the Prime Minister said Monday.

But Labour leader Ardern questioned the need for Tava’s party in the current political space, asking reporters at her post-Cabinet press conference: “What is the political issue that they are trying to solve?”

Ardern said the current Labour-Green-New Zealand First Government is already doing plenty for the environment, pointing to the Zero Carbon Bill that passed its final reading last week.

She also reflected on the $181.6 million funding boost over four years given to the Department of Conservation in Budget 2018 – the largest bump in conservation funding since 2002.

“If they claim that they are operating in an environmental space… I’d say that it’s being very well catered for by this Government,” Ardern said.

How well the environment is being catered for is debatable, and could be better catered for if SNZ replaced NZ First as a coalition partner for Labour+Greens.

SNZ could compete with votes that could otherwise go to Labour, and that’s not what a party leader wants.

But for non-aligned people like me another party option to vote for is a good thing. I don’t think there are any current parties in Parliament that deserve my vote. I’d like more options, and SNZ looks to be potentially a good one.

Ngaro continues as National list MP while ‘talking’ about new party – farcical

It is really an extraordinary situation  now where Alfred Ngaro is still working as a National list MP, while talking to people about whether to set up a new party.  It’s surprising that Simon Bridges tolerates the situation.

Ngaro was interviewed on Newshub Nation, where he suggested that if he starts a party he would consider a coalition with the Tamaki/destiny party.

It is remarkable that he agreed to be interviewed when he would have known a possible party would be a major topic he would be questioned about (why else would Newshub invite him?)

So has Coalition New Zealand jumped in ahead of you? Have they stolen your limelight?

Look, I’m not about race. This is not a race, and I think people will know that any form of politics — it’s a long game not a short game.

An odd comment.

Although yesterday Hannah Tamaki said, ‘Alfred Ngaro, come and join us.’ They extended an olive branch. Do you want to join them??

Okay, well, will you rule that out then?

Well, the thing is that I’m focusing on those, and there will be opportunities where lots of people are coming to talk to me, and, like I said, people— I’ve got invitations now to talk. I’ve had no phone calls and that. That just happened yesterday, so for my mind, stick to the task. I’m performing my role as a National list MP and at the same time having lots of conversations.

They want you to come along and say that you’re looking for a home, but do you think there’s enough space for two faith-based parties in parliament — or even to run at the election?

Yeah, well, if you think about the history of New Zealand, as far as faith-based or values-based organisations or parties that have been there, they’ve often formed coalitions if they’re to make it there. You can think about in 1996 — you’ve got the Christian Democrats with Graeme Lee and then you also have Christian Heritage,—

But they’ve been—

…so the way forward is to— actually, you would have to form a form of a coalition collectively together.

Right, so that’s a possibility, say with the Coalition New Zealand, then? You’re not ruling that off the table?

Well, the only two parties that are here on the table that we know of is the New Conservatives and this now Coalition Party. I don’t have a party, as I said. Last Friday there were conversations, so hand on heart, I don’t have a constitution. I haven’t been planning a party. What I’ve been having is people coming to me, and I’ve been humbled, Simon, by the conversations that people have said. That actually this is something that maybe we should consider.

Yes. Well, obviously you have to be considering it, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me. You must be quite serious about this.

I’ve gone on the record, and I’ve said that I am considering it.

Yeah, so what’s the time frame?

Well, I think it’s something— I want to be really clear and careful that I don’t— I’m loyal to the party, and I think that’s really important. I don’t disrupt the direction of what they’re doing as well. So that time frame’s going to have to be fairly soon.

I think he has to decide very quickly. He can’t be talking with people about forming another party and remain loyal to National.

Unless National are supporting what he is doing – which would be another remarkable situation.

What makes you think that there’s a place for a faith-based party in government — where everything seems to be based on evidence, in terms of decision-making?

Well, faith is evidence as well. It’s the value system that people have, and so when people act out of it, you can’t say their faith doesn’t have evidence. It’s actually the evidence of the values that people have in the way they exercise them.

Faith is not evidence based.

But faith is belief. It’s not a scientific evidence.

That’s right. That’s right, and so you and I would say that, for instance, when we say that we show love, care and compassion — well, that’s faith that you and I have, right? We believe in each other. We believe in the people around us that they would act justly, kindly and caringly. Those things are really important.

So he has now contradicted himself on faith being evidence.

Well, that’s values-based decision-making, isn’t it?

But here’s the evidence, right? If you don’t have a principle to act on, then the actions that you take is the evidence of those beliefs. You and I know that when we see people who don’t act with kindness, who don’t act justly, then that’s the evidence that there’s a lack of principles. So you can’t divorce them. You can’t just say that, ‘Well, here’s evidence, and here’s faith or here’s some values.’ You and I act every day, in this nation, around this country, everybody acts with a set of principles. That’s what drives us.

Good grief. he doesn’t seem to have anything of substance to say.

So you believe out there on issues like end of life, abortion law reform, maybe even cannabis, there is a wave to ride into power?

Well, Simon, I don’t need to believe that’s out there; it is out there.

There’s certainly opposition to those issues being reformed, but but it would take more than Ngaro’s vagueness to ride a wave to power. It will be difficult enough for Ngaro to win an electorate leading a new party, and very difficult to make the 5% threshold.

You say that you’ve got people approaching you, there’s all these issues that this is riding on, but is it more a political thing where Simon Bridges says he’s giving you space to consider your options — National didn’t have a coalition partner to get into power last time. Has that party, has National, asked you openly or quietly, to do this?

So the long answer is no.

That’s the short answer.

Well, the thing is that it is no. This has not come out of the National Party. There is no one in the leadership that’s turned around and said, ‘Hey, we should consider this.’

So they’re happy for you to do this though?

Well, put it this way — they’ve asked me, and— Look, I’m really thankful. I’m grateful for the fact that they’ve given me space, and I’ve been to Simon, and Simon — as he declared — that I went to see him. In fact, I went to go and see him two months ago, just to say to him, ‘Look, people are coming to see me and talk.’ I want to be respectful to his role of leadership—

Ngaro has been talking about the new party idea for two months, including talking with Bridges about it. And he is still being ‘given space’ to continue while still supposedly working as a National list MP.

If you do this, are you going to take other National MPs with you?

No.

Just going to be you?

Well, put it this way — I’m not going to go and actually take people away from what their roles are. People are free to choose, to make their choices. I’m not seeking to divide the party. I’m not seeking to distract from the party, and if it means that, for instance, even when I was speaking down at the LNI Conference last Sunday, I withdrew myself. Why? Because no one person is bigger than the party.

So it is affecting his job as a National list MP.

And while he says he is not going to poach other MPs from National he sees it as up to them to choose if they want to split with him.

Okay, well, let’s see if you own this. Will you confirm right now that at the next election you’re going to be leading a faith-based party?

I can’t confirm that.

Why can’t you do that? Now is the time to do that.

Well, Simon, when you say you’re considering, that’s what consideration means. If you say you’re planning, then that’s different.

So what are you doing here right now? If it wasn’t serious, you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me.

I tell you what I’m serious about. I want to clarify things. Okay, that’s really important. I want to clarify the fact is that where my position is. Okay? People have been coming in, and I chose to come here, as opposed to some of the other programmes by the way, because I wanted to have a conversation like this, so we could actually talk through what those issues are. They’re coming to me and saying, ‘Where are we going to have a voice for our values in the House of Representatives?’

And when are you going to answer them?

Well, Simon, here’s the thing — I’ve got a political career that I’ve been a part of for eight years, I’ve got a family, also I’ve got a party that I’ve been hugely grateful and thankful for. That’s not something that you make lightly. I did not make that announcement last Friday, by the way. These were just conversations that people were having—

So the ball’s in your court now, and you’re not giving us an answer—

The ball is in my court. No, what I’m telling you is, ‘Watch this space.’ Rest assured, I’m not going to leave people hanging. I think that’s really important.

This is looking more and more like a farce. Ngaro looks to be way out of his depth. And this looks increasingly like it could be quite damaging for National.

I don’t see any chance that this Ngaro party will fly. It is barely flapping on the ground.

New Conservative Party launched

The Conservative Party was Colin Craig’s party. It was seriously damaged when Craig hit problems with ex-staff and multiple defamation actions, and Craig dropped his political ambitions.

The party has been repackaged and relaunched:


NEW CONSERVATIVE – BUILDING THE RIGHT BRIDGES

“New Zealand needs a viable coalition option before the 2020 election,” says Leader Leighton Baker at the launch of New Conservative.

Immediately following the 2017 election result, the impact of MMP politics and coalition governments highlighted the vulnerability for the major parties. The 1 News Colmar Brunton poll of 28 May 2018 again raised this question for the National Party.

“We recognise the importance to New Zealand of presenting real options for voters,” observes Baker.

“With several months to evaluate the political landscape, we appreciated how important the Conservative Party was for New Zealand, but we owed it to our members to build on our foundation with new energy and so New Conservative was born,” says Baker.

Established only six weeks before the 2011 election, the Conservative Party achieved over 2% and was well on track for the 5% threshold for the 2014 election before the well reported public fall out for the then party leader Colin Craig, who resigned from the party in 2016, and a rebuilding process began.

“Time worked against us for the 2017 election,” recalls Baker, “but we could not ignore the members who remain committed to the core values of the party.”

With sound policy, and a leadership with extensive experience in the areas that present most challenge for New Zealand, there is fertile ground for New Conservative.

“Our re-launch as New Conservative retains our connection to the solid foundation of our party values while allowing us to disconnect from a history that has nothing to do with who we are,” concludes Baker.


From their website:

WE STAND FOR

A belief in loyalty to a sovereign and united New Zealand, the supremacy of democratic parliamentary institutions and the rule of law.

A belief in the institutions of Parliament and the right of citizens to direct government by the democratic process including binding citizens initiated referenda.

A belief in the equality of all New Zealanders and that all citizens, regardless of race, gender or religion, have equal rights and privileges.

A belief in a decent society that values life, individual privacy, the freedom of the individual (including freedom of speech, conscience, faith and assembly), the right to defend one’s self and property and the importance of family.

A belief that it is the responsibility of individuals to provide for themselves, their families and their dependents, while recognizing that government must respond to those who require assistance and compassion.

It will be difficult for the New Conservatives to get media attention let alone anywhere near sufficient support to look like a viable option.

Via email:

On a wild and rainy Monday we managed to gather around 50 members and supporters for the launch of our new name, New Conservative.

It was an excellent time enjoyed by all and we left inspired that hope remains and that we are the Party that focuses on fixing the causes of the challenges we face as a nation, rather than throwing money or legislation at the problems.

The whole meeting was shown on Facebook Live and you can view the just over one hour long session here. After welcome and introductions, Elliot Ikilei spoke, followed by Leighton Baker.

The 5% threshold hasn’t been beaten by any new party yet under MMP. Craig’s millions and his quirkiness that attracted media coverage was not enough.

However there could be an opportunity in a changing party environment – voters may react against the move towards a virtual two party contest.

Mugabe sacked as party leader

The ousting of long time leader Robert Mugabe progressed in the weekend with Zimbabwe’s governing party voting to expel him and his wife. His resignation as President has also been demanded, or he will be impeached.

Mugabe is scheduled to address the country shortly and is expected to resign.

Guardian: Zimbabwe’s ruling party fires Robert Mugabe as leader

Zanu PF has sacked the president and replaced him with Emmerson Mnangagwa, the deputy he dismissed two weeks ago

The ruling party in Zimbabwe has given Robert Mugabe until noon on Monday to resign as president or face impeachment by parliament.

In an extraordinary meeting in Harare, the capital, on Sunday morning more than 200 Zanu-PF leaders voted to sack Mugabe as the party’s leader and demanded that the 93 year old “resign forthwith from his position as head of state”.

The move by his own party significantly weakens the position of Mugabe, who has refused to step down following a military takeover last week, despite huge demonstrations in cities across the country on Saturday demanding that he leaves power.

Mugabe has argued that the military takeover is an illegal coup and appears to be hoping that this will trigger regional intervention, sources familiar with his negotiations with the military said.

Zimbabwe’s parliament will reconvene on Tuesday after a week-long suspension and will launch impeachment proceedings immediately if the president has not resigned, MPs said.

The procedure is unprecedented, and it is unclear how long it might take.

Zanu-PF also expelled Grace Mugabe, the divisive first lady, and twenty of her closest associates.

When the motion was passed, removing Mugabe from the head of the party and appointing Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace him, the hall of Zanu-PF delegates broke into cheers, song and dance.

The 200 or so members of the central committee leapt to their feet, many singing Mnangagwa’s name.

“This is the day that is defining the new birth and development of our country,” said Mike Madiro, chairman of one of the provincial party branches that had formally set Mugabe’s dethroning in motion.

This may be the end of the Mugabe era – he has served as president since 1987 – but this is not necessarily the end of dire political and economic situations in Zimbabe – This is redistribution for Zimbabwe’s elite, not revolution in a ruined nation:

In the capital, the roads are potholed, outside they are cracked and crumbling. Banks are so short of cash that people wait hours to withdraw even tiny sums. The only jobs are in government service, yet salaries are rarely paid. The best and the brightest have long fled abroad. Warehouses are empty, fields lie fallow. The busiest store in rural villages is the “bottle shop”, selling dirt-cheap spirits.

Zimbabwe has famously abundant natural resources but resuscitating the economy after 20 years of disastrous mismanagement and wholesale looting by corrupt officials is a major undertaking. The banking system needs to be rebooted, faith restored in the national currency and government finances somehow replenished. The vast debts incurred by Mugabe’s regime need to be rescheduled or waived and new funding arranged to rebuild the country’s shattered infrastructure.

The ruling Zanu-PF party and allies in the military launched their takeover to purge an ambitious faction that threatened their position, not because they wanted to see structural reform that would shut down their own lucrative rackets and rent-seeking.

The people of Zimbabwe have high hopes of a new democratic era. But the ousting of Mugabe was a redistribution of power within the ruling elite of Zimbabwe, not a people’s revolution.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the ousted vice-president, who is most likely to succeed Mugabe when he finally leaves power, is no committed democrat. He was Mugabe’s chief enforcer, with a long history of human rights abuse. Mnangagwa, 75, will need to make some concessions to public opinion within Zimbabwe and the hopes of the international community, not least to get the donor and diaspora money the country so desperately needs. However, he will seek to do this while reinforcing, not weakening, the grip of the party.

So Zimbabwe’s problems will just have a different figurehead.

 

How to Start a New Political Party

I looked seriously at how to start a political party. Seriously enough to have a go in 2011, suggesting a party based on more inclusive democracy. That’s actually where the name of this site came from – Your NZ.

It soon became apparent that it was a daunting task, especially with few resources (in other words, I’m not a multi-millionaire with money to burn).

Getting the 500 party members necessary to register as a party is challenging.

Most people who are interested in political involvement are already involved with existing parties. And by far the majority of people are not interested in getting involved in political parties.

Even if you can manage to sign up 500 party members there is then the reality that no new party has managed to beat the 5% threshold. Most get nowhere near it, and with no apparent chance of making the threshold voters aren’t interested.

There were sixteen registered parties this election so they must have all signed up 500 members, but the Internet party only got 464 votes so far – perhaps the rest of their members will be counted in specials.

Anyway, I’ve been sidetracked from the reason for this post – a post by Alex Eastwood-Williams at Right Minds NZ on How to Start a New Political Party

This includes an interesting graph of the historical links between different New Zealand political parties, plus discussion on party formation.

My point was to demonstrate that founding a new political party simply to cater to a more pure strain of a particular ideology is almost always a waste of time and effort (I’m looking at you, MNZGA). To be successful, political parties have to be able to form coalitions, and I don’t mean coalitions with other parties, I mean form coalitions of voters.

Last week I used the example of New Zealand First, currently the third oldest party in New Zealand, and argued that its political survival hinges on its ability to form an internal coalition of working class Maori, upper class elderly white people and disillusioned voters from other parties such as Labour or the Conservatives.

A big talking point as we await the outcome of the election is the Green Party determination to not consider a governing with National, and their exclusion so far from discussions with NZ First in particular and also their supposed ally, Labour.

Greens have successfully managed internal coalitions but have been largely unsuccessfully over 7 elections at forming meaningful coalitions with other parties.

How to form a new party:

So maybe you’ve read all this, but you’re still hell-bent on starting a new political party. What can you do?

You have only two options: You can either attempt to find people on the extreme wings of the left and the right and hope that enough people are annoyed with Labour or National being “too centrist” that they’ll vote for your new party instead – but be aware that as soon as you end up in power, you’ll be absorbed by the bigger, older party.

The alternative is to build a coalition that is neither left nor right and be non-aligned: Either you could be a liberal right-wing party like Bob Jones’ New Zealand Party in 1984, or a conservative left-wing party like Social Credit. You could try and be “centrist” but appeal to urban liberal voters like United Future or the British Liberal Democrats, or you could try to be “centrist” but appeal to rural conservative voters like NZ First (and, again, Social Credit).

As long as you’re consistently attacking both the left and the right in equal measure, and you don’t get into power, your movement will survive. And it helps to go in the opposite direction to the other parties, too.

But too much negative politics can turn potential supporters off. Winston Peters tends to dominate the “consistently attacking both the left and the right”, leaving little room for anyone else in this space.

For example, if Labour are trying to be socially conservative to win National voters, and National are trying to be left-wing to win over Labour voters, then your best bet is to form a right-wing socially liberal party: It worked for Bob Jones in 1984, it works for the Libertarians in the US (where the Democrats and Republicans both try to out-conservative or out-big government each other) and it worked well for the Liberal Democrats in the UK when you had a socially authoritarian New Labour competing with David Cameron’s “Compassionate” Conservatives.

However if things are trending the opposite direction: National are trying to be socially liberal (e.g. John Key) and Labour are trying to be economically right-wing, then you should be trying to win over the conservatives and economic left-wingers.

Basically, if you’re a non-aligned party, you should do the opposite of what the left and right parties do: If they agree on something, it’s your job to disagree.

But if you’re planning to start a new party, and if you’re planning to be successful, be prepared to eschew ideological purity: There are a diminishing number of each type of voter, and you will need to be able to form a coalition that can appeal to as many as possible.

I really don’t think there is much hope for any new party with the current barrier of our 5% threshold. National and Labour have been happy to keep that in place to protect their patches. Even the Greens have been happy with a high threshold, despite their claims to being principled on democracy.

Going by our 21 year history of MMP the only practical way of starting a new party requires a long term and high risk strategy:

– join an existing party
– grease your way up the ranks
– either score a winnable electorate (if in National or Labour), or
– get enough party support to get a winnable place on the party list
– establish yourself in Parliament for a term or two
– get enough other MPs to split off into a sizeable new party
– win an electorate or beat the 5% threshold in an election

If you manage to make it that far your next task is to play a meaningful part in a government. That could take another term or two, or if you’re the Greens, seven terms and still trying.

As well as this expect to get a lot of media disinterest because you are not deemed important enough for them to promote, unless you create some controversy and get hammered by them.

If you look like achieving some success also expect attacks, undermining and dirty politics from opponents in parties and in social media.

Why don’t we get more good quality candidates and politicians?

There is the odd exception.

Shane Jones seems to have been given an easy ride into parliament by Labour, and again by NZ First. But he is part of the club.

A media bored by the Auckland mayoral election last year amused themselves by picking up and promoting Chloe Swarbrick, and she picked up a few more consolation votes than others.

And the media kept giving her exposure, leading to her taking her chances with the Greens. It turned out she was the right age and sex for the Greens to promote her up the ranks, ahead of candidates who had been greasing their way up the party for many years. And she’s now in Parliament. But for every Nek Minit success there are thousands who get nowhere near achieving their political ambitions.

Colin Craig, Kim Dotcom and now Gareth Morgan couldn’t buy their way into Parliament with huge resources.

The most common pathway into Parliament these days is to become a party staffer either as a political graduate or a journalist, and grease your way up the party from there. Many years involved before even getting a shot at the big time.

Trying to start a party and trying to find a way into Parliament can be interesting and fun, but for most it is futile hobby.

If you want to be an MP your best chance is making it a career and wheedling your way into and up the political class.

If you want to fast track pick a smaller party with possible future prospects. Unless you can convincingly join the Green congregation they only option is NZ First, but that means having to approve of Winston and be approved by him. And remaining subordinate.

Someone may come up with a successful way of starting a political party, but the formula hasn’t been found yet. It will take a lot of ability, a lot of nous, and a lot of luck. Even the most successful politicians happen to be in the right position of the right party at the right time.

Party ‘pulse’ and activity on social media

An early peek at Zavy, a new website that scores the positive and negative ‘pulse’ and activity of parties on social media by measuring the sentiment of of comments and public activity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

A current snapshot of the Facebook channel:

ZavyFacebook20170821

The Zavy Pulse maps the change in sentiment of each political party’s activity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Text analytics define whether the comments made are positive, neutral or negative.

This illustrates Labour’s rise and sustained activity when Jacinda Ardern first took over, then the spike over the weekend with Labour’s campaign launch.

It also shows a dip and then a dramatic dive for the greens coinciding with their convulsions last week, and also a negative reaction to National’s boot camp policy.

The wideness of the lines show ‘volume of conversation’. You can scroll and click to see online articles and posts relevant to the measure.

You can point to any part of the lines to click up relevant news, like this from yesterday:

ZavyPulseLabourExample

You can also compare public activity on different platforms.

Labour and TOP are doing the best on Facebook:

ZavyScoreboardFacebook

The Zavy Scoreboard presents each political party’s share of social media conversation: their total number of interactions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Greens and NZ First do better on Twitter:

ZavyTwitter

The Greens dominate on Instagram.

It’s well worth having a play with: Zavy – New Zealand Election 2017