Gower moving to new role

Patrick Gower seems to have been quite for the last month or so – it looks like he was considering his future as Newshub’s political editor. It was announced yesterday that he is moving on to a new job.

Newshub: Patrick Gower to take on new role in 2018

Newshub’s Patrick Gower is hanging up his boots as political editor and moving to the role of national correspondent in 2018.

Patrick has worked in the Parliamentary Press Gallery for 10 years, eight of those with 3 News and Newshub, the past five as political editor.

“The theme of politics this year has undoubtedly been ‘change’. It is time for a change for me,” said Patrick. “I’ve had a good run.”

Patrick described the role of political editor as “phenomenal and compelling”.

“I’m looking forward to getting out and about in New Zealand and breaking stories that are important to Kiwis.”

The national correspondent role will involve reporting on stories of national significance and will play a key part in the Newshub Live at 6pm bulletin.

Hal Crawford, Chief News Officer Newshub said: “Paddy is one of the best communicators I have ever worked with – his new role as national correspondent will see him unleashed on the whole of NZ, something I’m looking forward to immensely.”

I think it was time for a change for Paddy. He seemed to be getting too involved in being the story rather than investigating and reporting.

Newshub – Legendary and unique: Patrick Gower’s greatest hits

Unique – yes. But legendary? Media people and organisations tend to over blow their own trumpets, and that’s over the top.

Perhaps aptly at the top of the ‘greatest hits’:

Gower made a major call this election: that Peters wants utu from National.

Gower said Peters wants revenge for Steven Joyce orchestrating an attempted takedown in the campaign.

Peters denied that, Joyce denied that, and Gower provided no evidence. It looked like a hit of a different sort.

Gower wields the English language like a multi-tool Swiss army knife. No one couples adjectives like Gower.

Gower builds tension for an upcoming political poll using just two words. Incredibly explosive. Volatile and telling. Dramatic and devastating. Crucial and final.

Another two words may be more apt – crying wolf. Or over selling. Gower probably led the media pack at trying to make dramatic stories about a single mundane political poll. News is too often unhinged when media try to get too much bang for their bucks.

I think one of the best performances from Gower was a performance:

It was intended as a joke, but…

We wil see next year whether Gower can switch to reporting stories of interest without trying to be a self promoting celebrity.

Ardern interview on The Nation

Headlines from the Jacinda Ardern on The Nation this morning:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says discussions have already begun on how to bring climate change refugees into New Zealand under a Pacific seasonal employment plan.

Ardern says for now doubling the refugee quota is enough of an increase, as the country doesn’t have the resources to support more refugees than that.

Ardern has repeated that New Zealand would only get involved with military action against North Korea if it was supported by a United Nations resolution. And while she says there’s been no request so far for Winston Peters to help with the North Korea situation, she says he is available to play whatever role he can in reaching a peaceful resolution.

Ardern says New Zealand should have a conversation about using measures such as a Happiness Index, rather than just GDP, to measure the country’s well-being.

Interview: Jacinda Ardern


Patrick Gower: Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us. On this trip, refugees have been a very big issue for you, a very serious issue, personally. Is it a conviction issue for you?

Jacinda Ardern: Oh, yes, it is. But also, of course, my job is to advocate on behalf of New Zealanders. And I’ve certainly sensed a sentiment from New Zealanders that we should make sure that we do our bit. You know, we are in a position to be able to help – both our neighbour, in Australia, but also to lend assistance to those who are refugees who are currently being held and resident on Manus Island and on Nauru.

Yeah. And on that, there has been some pressure on Australia from you, from New Zealand, essentially. Is that fair, though, given that Australia takes five times more refugees per capita than New Zealand? Is it fair for us to sort of knock them around when we take five times less?

My expectation, or what I have undertaken to do here, is certainly not to knock around Australia. I accept that they play a huge role when it comes to their contribution to refugees and taking refugees. What I’m trying to do is make sure that New Zealand takes its share of refugees as well. We’re on the back doorstep. We’ve made an offer; we’re here to help. They’ve been seeking places to resettle those who are on Manus and Nauru, and I saw an opportunity for us to be a part of that solution. So, certainly, I’m not here to knock them around but to at least make the case, on New Zealand’s behalf.

Yeah, but is it that we need to be more ambitious with our target for refugees? I know that your government will double the quota. But do you now see, five times behind Australia, is there a need to be more aspirational than that? Than doubling the quota?

Yes. Look, the doubling of the quota was an important step to take – it was – and that was the right thing to do.

But do you want to go beyond that is the question.

When we made that offer, we looked into what capacity we had – the ability to make sure that we resettle people properly. And this is a key point as well with Manus and Nauru. People will ask, “Well, why only 150?” I looked carefully at the capacity we had in our system to make sure that when we take on those refugees, we’re able to wrap support around them. We’ve got to keep in mind these are, in some cases, victims of torture who have gone through an extreme set of circumstances, who we need to make sure that when we take on that responsibility, we do it properly. And that’s what we need to do with our quota as well.

So do you see a time when you will go beyond doubling the quota? Do you want to do that?

For now I think the responsible thing to do is double the quota and see that we’re able to do that properly.

One other conviction issue for you is obviously climate change, and you’ve spoken a lot about that. But for the first time, I saw you talk about how you believe that New Zealand’s glaciers have been shrinking because of climate change. Is that right?

Certainly that’s the advice that I’ve had. And we have been advocates on this issue. I see in part, and I’ve spoken on this before, that we have two roles—

It’s costing New Zealanders glaciers – is that your personal view?

Yes. Yes. Well, yes – it is my personal view. But we have a role here. I use that to illustrate a point. We have a role here not only to lead from the front and to use our voice but to demonstrate we’re taking action ourselves. And one of the reasons that we need to do that is because we sit within the Pacific and we see and know that those around us are already feeling the effects of this global issue. In fact, Asia-Pacific, where these meetings are being held and where the attendees have been from, will be gravely affected by climate change.

Sure. And one thing – specific thing – you brought up is climate change refugees.


You want New Zealand to lead on that, do you?

Yeah, I absolutely see a role for us to play in acknowledging that all of us will face climate changes.

What are the practical steps to that?

One of the things we’ve already talked about is we of course already have a programme within the Pacific where we have seasonal workers coming into work directly with New Zealand from our Pacific neighbours. Whether or not we can build in, for instance, an element where we target those who might be affected by climate change and potentially be climate refugees as part of that programme. We’re in the early days, but we’re looking at some options.

So you’re actually working on that. And is this urgent, actually dealing with climate change refugees? Is this urgent for you or is this a sort of “off in the future” thing?

I think the most important thing is for us to try and slow the trend – of course do what we can to make sure that we’re not in a position where we see a large-scale refugee situation. But we also need to make sure that we’re resilient, that we’re also planning, that it’s about mitigation and adaptation. And part of that planning is looking around us and saying — what might be the needs in our regions as well and being prepared for that.

And specific action has started on that, Prime Minister?

Yes. It is very very early stages. Very early stages. Of course we’ve only been in for several weeks, but it’s a conversation that we’re having.

Actually bringing “climate refugees”, so to speak, to New Zealand.

But using some of our existing programmes to see how we can accommodate within that those who might be affected by climate change.

Okay, I want to move now to North Korea, which has obviously been a subject of lots of discussion with you and the other leaders. Now that you have spoken and interacted with these people, how real is the threat of North Korea?

Oh, look, absolutely it is taken as a genuine and real threat by those in the region. Absolutely.

And you, personally, what would you say to New Zealanders? How real is this threat?

Oh, you know, we’ve seen significant increases in testing and the capability of those tests. I think most people would see that and know that it’s a genuine threat and that every member of the international community needs to play a role in doing what we can to de-escalate the situation, put pressure on Pyongyang to make sure that they are responding to the sanctions and the message that’s coming from the international community.

And if they don’t, or if there is a need for military action, is your position – because your position on the record is that New Zealand will not join military action against North Korea unless it is backed by the United Nations. Is that still your position?

The statement I used today at the East Asia Summit was we should use every tool available to us, bar military action. And one of the reasons we’re so firm on that is that we are yet to exhaust all the channels that we have. In fact we’re deploying many of them now, and with some success. So our point is those are the channels and those are the avenues we need to keep pursuing.

And that position still stands?


It needs to have the United Nations Security Council resolution?


Even if Japan, the United States, Australia…?

Of course. You know, our view has always been multilateral approach is best. We maintain our independent foreign policy, of course, and we’ll continually assess every situation. But, as I said today, we need to pursue every available avenue, bar military action.

And is there an option – when you talk about dialogue with North Korea, which is an important way – is there, in your view, a role, potentially, for Winston Peters, the Foreign Affairs Minister, to play in terms of talking to North Korea? Do you think he is the kind of person that could interact with that regime?

Oh, that’s happened in the past. And I think it is a good reminder that actually, there was a direct request made a few years ago now by the United States administration for support from Mr Peters in navigating a situation with North Korea in the past. That speaks to the level of diplomacy and the level of relationship that I’ve seen Mr Peters has with members of the international community. And I’ve seen it in play during this trip. It is an asset.

And do you think it’s an asset that could be used with North Korea?

To date, we haven’t had that request, but we remain absolutely available as a government – that includes our Minister of Foreign Affairs – to play whatever role we can in reaching a peaceful resolution.

I mean should you put Winston Peters forward?

Look, I would certainly be open to a range of options that we can play our role. To date that hasn’t risen as a potential possibility, but I’d never be closed off to the option.

Now, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership – and without getting into the detail and the nuts and bolts of it – your overarching view on why that’s good for New Zealand. What is your overarching view on why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is good for New Zealand?

We had a set of five goals we wanted to reach. We wanted to make sure that, yes, we had some decent outcomes for our exporters. But we also wanted to protect Pharmac, protect the Treaty of Waitangi, protect our right to legislate, protect our right to maintain our housing market—

Sure. And you’ve done that. What’s the good bit? If someone’s saying to you, “What’s the good bit here”?

And the point we make is that we’ve done that. That therefore enables us to actually place a little more emphasis on the trade deal. Because before, the trade deal was somewhat masked by all of the bits that were much more negative. Now, we haven’t reached a perfect agreement. But there’s no denying this deal gives us access to Japan, in particular, for our beef, for our kiwifruit, for our wine, in a way that we just did not have before.

And what about locking us into the world? Is that important to you? Put the trade to one side; interacting with the world – is that an important part of the TPP for you?

Look, what we have to acknowledge is that we are a small nation, and negotiating free trade agreements, multilateral agreements, give you much greater access often in this environment. And so this has been a way that we’ve been able to access multiple markets.

And very quickly on Australia – I mean, we’ve got leaks in the Australian media; we’ve got your threat of retaliation; we’ve got the Julie Bishop issue; we could go on and on and on. What word would you use to characterise our relationship right now? Because it does not look great to the outside.

Oh, look, New Zealand and Australia’s relationship is much stronger than any political new story of the day – much, much stronger.

So what word would you use?

“Robust”. Robust.

Now, speaking of robustness – to look at a robust measure, to look at the way we measure economic growth – GDP – do you think there is time under your government for a different measure, for a different official government measure beyond GDP?

I see room for a range, and we’ve talked about this before. You know, I want to make sure that people have a set of markers that they can measure our success by.

Do we need to create a new one – a new official measure that looks at different elements of human happiness?

Yeah, we’re very open as a government to exploring markers that sit alongside some of those traditional economic measures. Now, some of them we’ve already talked about. Let’s look at what’s happening for kids.

Like a happiness index?

Well, there have been talks about how you measure well-being, and I think that that’s a conversation a lot of developed countries are starting to have, and we should too.

Okay, and just finally, how have you found the trip? You used the word ‘robust’ before; what word would you use to describe your first outing on the international stage?

Pretty successful.

The unsung staff of Parliament

Politicians get a lot of attention, especially party leaders and Ministers and the Prime Minister. Normally unsung are the staff of Parliament whose efforts make the jobs of politicians possible. And a change of government means a lot of work for them – for those who keep their jobs that is. An outgoing government means a number of jobs are no longer.

From Stuff Below the Beltway:

Spare a thought for Parliamentary staff this weekend as they get stuck into the mammoth task of shifting one Government out and moving another one in. There will be 50-plus people working through the weekend and the week ahead painstakingly clearing offices and moving everything to the basement, from where they will shift the contents across to MPs’ new offices. Something like 30,000 boxes will be moved during the process.

One of the top positions, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, was going to change anyway, but as signalled long time Beehive stalwart. Patrick Gower paid tribute to Wayne Eagleson:

Last day for Prime Minister’s Chief-of-Staff Wayne Eagleson.

Lieutenant to John Key and Bill English – a great political mind, and a Good Kiwi.

Cheers Wayne.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor


The responsibility of forming Government

Probably the biggest responsibility in a democracy such as ours is an election. That is one time every three years that voters, the people, have a say in who runs out country. Most people take that responsibility seriously.

Another of the biggest responsibilities follows every election – the formation of Government, especially so when a number of options are possible.

Due to the way all the other parties have stood aside waiting this responsibility falls in particular this year on NZ First and on it’s leader Winston Peters. They represent about 163 thousand voters (with specials to add), just 7.5% of eligible voters.

Peters and NZ First have a responsibility to represent the wishes of their party members and their supporters and voters first and foremost, but they also have a responsibility to everyone and to the whole country.

Peters has been criticised for ‘keeping the country waiting’, but he is correct to take his time. The process needs to be done right, and that can’t happen until the final results come in on 7 October.

The final results may substantially change the balance of power. Many expect them to give the NZ First-Labour-Green option a bit more weight by giving Greens and perhaps also Labour an extra seat, which would give this triumvirate a buffer in their majority of 63-57.

However this isn’t certain, and there is a chance that National could gain a seat giving them with ACT 60-60 parity. This would change things substantially.

So until we get the final results all the parties can do is prepare for coalition negotiations.

Labour and National are doing this carefully in order to win positive attention and respect from Peters in particular.

Peters has also taken care not to reveal what he might decide. He appears to have taken his responsibilities seriously, He has been through this process twice before, in 1996 and in 2005, so he knows as well as anyone how it should work.

On election night when it became clear that NZ First were in a pivotal position Peters acknowledged his responsibilities. From Newsroom Winston Peters plots a path as kingmaker:

Yet as he noted, NZ First still holds what he called “the balance of political responsibility”.

“We have been strong enough and honest enough with our supporters to make it home and to have not all the cards but we do have the main cards – we’re not going to squander that opportunity.”

He counselled patience during negotiations, aware of the flak he copped in 1996 after weeks of talks, and reaffirmed a pledge to make a decision public by the return of the writs on October 12.

I think serious negotiations should start as soon the final results are known on 7 October but will probably take at least as long as the return of the writs.

A smooth transition to a new Government and the stable running of Government are at stake.

So far Peters appears to be taking his responsibilities seriously.

Unfortunately someone or some people in NZ First have chosen to be irresponsible, as has Newshub sensationalist Patrick Gower. See Gower’s disgraceful power play, and more in the next post.

Dodgy ‘poll’ in Nelson

The Greens seem to be getting a bit dodgy in their attempt to get electorate votes in Nelson.

Patrick Gower: Desperate Greens drop fake news ‘poll’ in Nelson

The Greens have released the results of some phone canvassing which they’ve referred to as an “internal poll” that claims to show them ahead in Nelson.

But it is not a poll just like there wasn’t a fiscal hole.

It’s a set of numbers Green volunteers have gathered, with no way of checking them and media should be ashamed of reporting them as a “poll”.

It is not scientific, they have not released the raw data or methodology.

The first “question” is particularly dodgy: “Which candidate, between the Greens’ Matt Lawrey & Labour’s Rachel Boyack, do you think will beat Nick Smith?”

Now obviously this does not give voters the option of saying “Nick Smith will win” and is more of a push-poll.

It is actually “fake news” from the Greens.

It is a blatant bid to get publicity and get Labour voters to vote tactically and try and get Lawrey over the line to give them a lifeline in case they don’t make 5 per cent.

This certainly sounds dodgy, but there’s a certain amount of irony here.

Gower accusing someone of using a poll for “a blatant bid to get publicity” is a bit rich.

Leaders debate #2

Tonight Jacinda Ardern and Bill English have their second leaders debate of the campaign.

This one is being run by Patrick Gower and Newshub, and is being broadcast at 8:30 pm, and will also be live streamed:

Livestream: Newshub Leaders Debate

The first debate last Thursday seemed like a feeler for both of them. There could be more tactics used tonight.

First segment done – a lot feistier this time, more challenging of each other’s policies. Also too much rehearsed recital from both but it’s hard to limit that.

Most talked about line – when English was asked what his best attribute was for being Prime Minister, excluding experience, given he lost badly in 2002.  “I got back up again.”

The clapping and cheering interruptions are annoying, stopping the flow.

Certainly more combative this time.

The main difference overall is ploddy old actuals versus vague aspiration and vision.

‘Mother of all scandals’ a wind up?

The Winston Peters superannuation overpayment story has highlighted, amongst other things, the dangers of over-egging things on Twitter,

Tim Murphy kicked things off in a tweet on Saturday.

This initiated a lot of speculation and questions over the weekend. The Super story eventually broke on Sunday evening when Peters issued a press statement.

A day later:

A danger of social media and disproportionate interest media coverage.

Winding Patrick Gower up should be avoided, he seems highly enough strung as it is.

When winding people up on Twitter these days could potentially escalate into nuclear war journalists should perhaps tweet with more care.

In New Zealand politics Twitter has become a significant factor. It is a small niche in social media generally, much of the public is oblivious to it and it’s influence, but it is a major player in exchanges amongst journalists.

Competition for the next click bait headline, joking and winding each other up, could have major repercussions.

We are hardly at risk of a nuclear war here, but we are risk of serious fallout potentially from a single tweet starting a history making change.

Tax is likely to be a key election issue

There have been major distractions in politics over the last two weeks, with the fall of Andrew Little followed by the euphoric rise of Jacinda Ardern, plus the self destruction of the Greens which included the end of two MPs and the effective end of Metiria Turei’s political career.

Amongst that earlier this week there were two polls that showed a shrink in support for the greens and NZ First, and the likely return of a head to head battle between National and Labour.

And in a debate on The Nation yesterday between Steven Joyce and Grant Robertson the battle lines were drawn.

Robertson: So, under Labour’s package, every family earning $62,000 or less will be better off than under National’s package. What I don’t want is for Steven and me to get a $1000 tax cut when we’ve got families living in cars and garages, when we’ve got a health system that’s not coping. What we’re saying is we’ll get the money to the families in need, but we’ll get the money that Steven wants to give to us as tax cuts – to wealthy people like us – we’ll get that money, and we’ll make sure it’s invested in public services that have been run down.

Joyce: Well, it’s not actually about me – or about Grant, actually. It’s about those people who are on the median wage who are currently facing a 30-cent-in-the-dollar tax rate, and we have to change that. And the only way we change that is shifting the thresholds. Now, Grant’s allergic to actually reducing taxes and allergic to adjusting thresholds. He’s about increasing taxes.

Labour have pushed the anti-tax cut for rich people since National’s tax cut package was announced in the budget in May.

But it doesn’t just reduce tax or ‘rich people’, it reduces tax for all workers who pay PAYE:

Increases the $14,000 income tax threshold to $22,000, and the $48,000 threshold to $52,000. This provides a tax reduction of $11 a week to people earning $22,000 or more rising to $20 per week for anyone earning $52,000 or more.


That’s $1,000 less tax per year for everyone earning over $52,000 (affecting ‘rich people’ of course but also the majority in wage earners).

Of all the polices announced this one directly affects me the most. Labour would scrap it, and that has to be a significant factor in deciding who to vote for.

More on possible tax changes;

Lisa Owen: Capital gains tax — are you ruling it out in the first term absolutely, if you’re in in the first term?

Robertson: We’ve got a tax working group. I can’t pre-empt what they’re going to come back and decide.

Lisa Owen: So you can’t rule it out? Could come in the first term?

Robertson: I can’t pre-empt what that group says, but here’s the important point — right now today we have something called the bright-line test that the National Party brought in. It says that if you sell a house that’s not your family home within two years, you’ll pay tax on it. Steven has a form of capital gains tax.

Lisa Owen: I’ll give you the chance to talk about your policy, Mr Robertson. So a capital gains tax is still on the table? You’re not taking it off?

Robertson: What we’re going to the election with is a commitment that if you sell a property that is not your family home within five years, you’ll be taxed for that.

Robertson clearly avoiding stating a position on a Capital Gains tax, something he has favoured in the past but Little took off the table. It appears to be under consideration again.

Joyce: I think there’s a problem there for the Labour Party, because they’re dodgy on tax. They’re refusing to say about the capital gains, they’ve mentioned a water tax last week, but they won’t tell us how much it is, and then, of course, they’ve got a regional fuel tax they won’t talk about where it goes beyond Auckland.

Expect National to hammer the uncertainty over what additional taxes a Labour government could implement.

Labour are trying to avoid details by deferring to a future tax working group (on CGT) and an ‘expert panel’ (on water taxes).

Lisa Owen: So top tax rate — can you rule out lining yourselves up with the Greens and having 40 cents over 150 grand? Are you going to go for that?

Robertson: No, I don’t think we will be going for that, but what we will do…

Lisa Owen: …but you are not ruling out raising that tax rate.

Robertson: I’m not ruling it in; I’m not ruling it out.

On a water tax:

Lisa Owen: What about your water levy? What’s that going to be?

Robertson: The water levy? Look, what we’ve said there is for every thousand litres of water that’s used in irrigation, perhaps one or two cents.

Lisa Owen: One or two cents. There you go, Mr Joyce. That’s not going to make a huge difference, is it?

Joyce: This is the problem is that he’s not telling.

Robertson: One or two cents, Steven. How big a difference?

Joyce: Well, hang on. Don’t ask me; ask the farmers, because I’ve seen some figures that even at those levels, you’re talking about 50,000 a year per farm. So I think it’s beholden on the Labour Party to actually come a bit more clean on their tax stuff, because they’re being very dodgy.

Robertson: We’ve been completely upfront.

Joyce: You haven’t, actually. So you’ve got a water tax that you won’t tell anybody—

On the Panel discussion on The Nation:

Patrick Gower: I actually think that Grant Robertson probably got in a few more jabs in…however in terms of actual overall damage I think some of the talk about tax there that Steven Joyce, in terms of long term damage beyond the debate, in terms of that capital gains tax is back on the table.

The capital games tax is back baby. Labour were going to go to the next election with that, but that could come in next term.

Lisa Owen: Jane, are they doing themselves a disservice by not putting numbers on stuff now.

Jane Clifton: Absolutely. They’re their own worst enemy. This week alone with the water tax issue, because finally we’ve got a figure for irrigators and wineries and so on of one to two cents, although David Parker said three.

…but yeah, just get your ducks in a row, announce them all, don’t leave room for speculation about $18 cabbages and $70 on a bottle of wine…

The Newshub video cut Gower off at the end, but he pointed out a significant power shift in Labour. When Andrew little took over the leadership in 2014 he put a number of Labour policies on ice, including the CGT.

But with Little dropping to the ranks and Ardern taking over the leadership Gower said that this meant also a significant rise in influence of Robertson – he and Ardern have been close allies for a long time. We are already seeing glimpses of what that may change in Labours tax policies.

Gower followed up on Twitter:

So expect tax to be a prominent issue in the election.

It may have a significant effect on the outcome of the election. Labour will need to be much better prepared for the inevitable attacks from National.

Ardern will need to be well prepared for the leaders’ debates with Bill English. She will likely have a ready response to a ‘show me the money’ type line (Key used that to devastating effect against Phil Goff in 2011), but she is likely to get challenged over and over if she remains vague of what taxes a Labour government may impose or increase.

And tax could also have a significant impact on the outcome of coalition negotiations. Both Labour and National will have to try and find enough partners to support their tax (and spending) plans.

Personally a water tax or a CGT or a fuel tax in Auckland won’t affect me.

But I will be seriously taking into account whether National’s income tax cuts might be reversed or not when I decide who I will vote for.

The Nation: James Shaw and the Greens


James Shaw will be interviewed by Patrick Gower on The Nation this morning about ‘what’s next for the Green Party’.

Shaw has had a torrid week trying to support Metiria Turei, and then when she stood down trying to tidy up the mess. This will be a very interesting interview.

Pre-interview update – the Green Party Executive has declined Kennedy Graham’s request to be reinstated on the party list –  Greens won’t let Graham back on list

That won’t help heal divisions.

The first part of the interview was a waste of time. Shaw wouldn’t say what the Greens plan to change in their campaign until it is announced later this weekend.

Also a wast of time were questions about Kennedy Graham, the interview was recorded yesterday and we now know Graham won’t be allowed back in.

Shaw stood his ground on a couple of things but generally this was a week interview, he looks a bit like Bill Rowling, who Muldoon called a mouse.

Shaw wouldn’t say whether Greens would sit on the sidelines if it meant a Labour+NZ First change of government.

A lot of work for Shaw and the Greens to repair and rebuild.

Shaw mentioned ‘conversation’ a few times – this interview was more like a gentle conversation than a strong indication of a new start for the Greens under a sole leader.

Quite notable – the panel discussion was solely about the Joyce-Robertson debate and about National and Labour policies.

No mention of Shaw or the Greens.

The Nation interview with Bill English

Patrick Gower interviewed Bill English on The Nation this morning. He spent the whole time questioning English about the Todd Barclay saga, what he knew, when he knew it and why he didn’t do more about it sooner.

Generally English handled it fairly well, and despite The Nation’s excitement when they thought they had scored a headline there wasn’t anything new revealed. That was pointed out to them on Twitter and that line seems to have been dropped.

This was their eventual story:

It ended up being a bit of a wasted interview.

Video: Interview: Bill English

Full interview transcript:

The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews Bill English


Prime Minister Bill English now says there’s no evidence that his MP Todd Barclay actually did make recordings of his colleague, Glenys Dickson.

English says he’s satisfied that the issue has been handled as well as it could. He says no one comes out of it looking good, but he hasn’t let voters down.

Patrick Gower: Prime Minister, thank you for joining us. Now, this interview is all about trust – whether you can be trusted. It’s about your integrity and your standards. I want to start by asking you to be clear. When did Todd Barclay tell you that he made these recordings? When exactly did he tell you?

Bill English: In a conversation which was related to the police when I was asked about it.

Do you remember when it was? Like how long ago?

It was after the events that occurred, I think, in early 2016. The police inquiry began in March or April I think.

Yeah, but we know from that that you called Glenys Dickson on 6th of February, on Waitangi Day, in 2016 and told her Todd Barclay had a recording of her. That’s correct, isn’t it?

I can’t comment on that in detail.

Sure. But we do know that you did send that text to Stuart Davie on February the 21st where you said in it, you knew there’d been a recording and that you knew there’d been a privacy breach and a pay up. That was on February the 21st 2016. That’s correct, isn’t it?

I told him what had been told to me, letting the electorate chairman, who’s in charge of the local National Party, know what I knew.

So at that point, which is 16 months ago, you knew what had gone on. There’d been a recording, a privacy breach, you’d spoken directly to both sides. Let’s look at some of your public statements that you made after that, because less than a month later, on the 1st of March, asked by media if you’d talked to any of the parties involved, and I’m going to quote you here, you said, ‘No. Not directly.’ Was that a lie? Because you’d spoken directly to both sides.

Look, no. In the first place—

Was it a lie or not?

In the first place, the fact of a recording has never actually been established. The police investigated, came to no conclusion, no court decision.

This is about your question where you’re asked, ‘Had you talked to any of the parties involved?’ And you said, ‘No. Not directly.’ But we know from your own statement that you’d spoken to both parties directly. Did you lie?

At the time there was a confidentiality agreement around the settlement of an employment dispute and a police investigation. I didn’t know what I could and couldn’t say. I did not want to compromise either of those pretty serious processes.

But you could have said that instead of saying what you said, which was potentially a lie, wasn’t it?

I could have explained it better, but that’s 20/20 hindsight. At the time, information that I had I’d passed to the electorate chair and subsequently to the police when they were asking questions.

Okay. So from that day that you knew about the recordings until this week, which is actually 16 months or more—

Well, again, the fact of the recordings has never actually been established. The police investigated it over 10-12 months.

So from the time that you told of the recordings by Todd Barclay and by the person who believed she was being recorded, 16 months or more have gone by. Now, this week, you said that that behaviour was unacceptable. Do you remember saying that? That that behaviour was unacceptable?

Well, it’s referring to what was a whole lot of behaviour going back to early 2015, so over a couple of years.

Yeah, but you said that the recording was unacceptable this way.

The fact of the recording has never been established. But the behaviour I was referring to was over a whole period of time. This is a sad situation — the breakdown of the relationship—

You said the behaviour was unacceptable in reference to the recording.

I said it was unacceptable. The behaviour—

The question here is anyway, there’s unacceptable behaviour and for 16 months you sit by and do nothing. Was that the right and honourable thing to do, Prime Minister?

I think you need to understand here that we had two people that I both knew. Good people who fell out very badly. A difficult employment dispute grows out of that. I was not a part of that dispute at all. That had to be resolved between the employer and employee who both had obligations. Then there was a police investigation. So the matters involved in this would be dealt with appropriately by the people who needed to — the employers. And when the police complaint was made, the police were dealing with it.

But when it happened and you found out about it, you obviously knew then – you surely knew then — that Todd Barclay had potentially done something illegal when he told you about that recording that he’d done.

I wasn’t aware that the activity, whether it was legal or not. I’m not a lawyer. I was concerned about the broader picture of an employment relationship that had gone in a bad way.

Yeah. But when he said, ‘I’ve recorded her,’ you must have known that was potentially illegal. Everybody in New Zealand politics remembers the Teapot Tapes and what happened there. Everyone knows the ramifications of secret recording. And, in fact, you yourself have been recorded secretly before in a National Party conference. You must have known when he said to you, that he’d potentially done something illegal there. You must have known.

When I was recorded there was no legal or criminal action arose.

When the Teapot Tapes happened, Police raided media, you know that. So you must have known there were some potential ramifications.

I’m not a lawyer, and when the matter did arise, it was fairly quickly in the hands of the police. In New Zealand, the way our system works, the police investigate, they then lay charges, then it’s up to a court to actually decide whether the act was actually criminal. That process has not occurred. In New Zealand people are presumed to be innocent till proven guilty. I’m not a lawyer. All that process, the opportunity for that did unfold. It didn’t come to a conclusion.

Sure. So let’s look at the police investigation part of this. On the 27th of April 2016, that was when you gave your police statement, wasn’t it? So, if we look at your public statements about that, on the 21st of March this year, you were asked to clarify your involvement in the police investigation. You replied that you knew the people and did not want to comment further. ‘All I know is that the matter has been resolved.’ Why didn’t you say then that you’d been interviewed by police? Were you trying to hide something? Were you effectively there lying by omission?

This was a police investigation that had gone on for many months through 2016. It came to a conclusion that they weren’t going to lay charges, and in that sense, the issues had been resolved.

Yeah, but you were asked to clarify your involvement. You had been spoken to and interviewed, and you chose not to say that? Were you trying to hide it?

No, I wasn’t trying to hide anything. I was trying to ensure that the processes that all these events had been through, a significant employment dispute, then a eight or nine-month police investigation were respected. Because until these people have charges laid against them and it’s a public matter, or a court decides it’s a criminal matter, they’re innocent of the allegations.

Sure. Let’s look at another statement that you’ve made as well. Because when you were asked, in March again, if Barclay had acted inappropriately you said, ‘All I know is the police investigation is come to an end, so the matter is closed.’ But you knew that he’d told that he’d made the secret recordings, so you much more than the fact that the investigation had been closed.

What I knew is that I had, in response to questions from the police, given them that information. This idea that somehow giving information to the police is a cover-up is ridiculous. The police investigated the whole matter. I don’t know what actions they took. I don’t know what evidence they saw. I don’t know who they spoke to. What I do know is there is no more thorough way for the allegations to be investigated than—

Than with the New Zealand police.

…than to have the New Zealand police.

But what we’re looking at here are your public statements when you’re asked about your involvement, and here’s another from this week. You said you couldn’t remember who told you about the taping when it was later revealed, as you know, that your police statement clearly said it was Todd Barclay. Is that really credible to say that you forgot who told you? Can you understand how people just don’t believe you?

Well, I said what I thought. I went and checked the police statement.

No, but you forgot. Do you think people believe that you forgot?

Paddy, did you want to hear what I had to say? I said what I thought. I went and looked at the police statement, and I clarified the matter as soon as I could.

Here’s another one, then. On your way to Parliament this week in the press conference, you said that you reported this to police. You didn’t. They came to you. Why did you say that?

Well, that was a generalised use of the word, but, again, I’m quite happy with the view. I answered questions from the police and in the course of that I confirm—

But you didn’t report it to police. They came to you.

And I didn’t mean to give the impression that I had initiated it, but the police did already have the texts that I sent, quite appropriately, to the election chairman, letting him know what I knew. Then the police came and asked me, and, really, the interview simply confirmed the content of the texts.

The point that I’m getting at here is these all these public statements that kind of don’t match up. It’s like you’re dodging things. It’s like you’re being shifty, Prime Minister. Were you being shifty all this time?

No, I wasn’t. As someone who wasn’t party to this dispute right from the start, but you all knew the people involved, trying to ensure that the confidentiality of the agreement was respected and that the police investigation was accepted and the result of that was accepted as a thorough investigation of the circumstances, after which no charges were laid. And that sense, there wasn’t an issue. If the police investigate it and no charges are laid, then the assertion that criminal activity occurred appears to be wrong, because there was no criminal process that came to any conclusion.

But with all due respect to all of that, and, actually, I agree to some of that, this is about your answers to these questions. And the thing is some of your answers have just been plain wrong. How can anybody trust anything you say on this?

Look, my role in this is clear. It’s on the record. The material I’ve supplied has been investigated by the police. The issue has now been resolved at a political level. Todd Barclay, as a young guy, has made a brave decision to leave politics because of the situation as it’s unfolded. Our job is to resolve what is actually messy personnel issues within our party, do that effectively so we can get on with governing. I’m not a lawyer.

But aside from your own failures here, basically, to own up to your own role, you also sat by and watched Todd Barclay lie publicly; he lied to senior National Party figures, he lied at his reselection. Is that ok with you that you just stand by?

You’re making that assertion. It’s never been established that the alleged incident around the recording actually occurred. In any case, the discussion around—

He told you it happened.

His selection was carried out because of these events, and all the facts were known to his local electorate. In our system there was no charges laid. There was a confidential settlement of the employment dispute in our system. And local electorate is responsible for the selection of the candidate. They were aware of the background and went ahead and selected him.

Do you not feel that you’ve owed voters more on this now that you look back and we look at all these statements? Do you not feel that, ‘I let the voters down here’?

No, I don’t feel that. I feel that these issues have now been resolved. The original dispute is just between two good people who fell out very badly, and it’s actually been an internal personnel matter. It’s been thoroughly investigated.

Why did he have to leave Parliament, then? Why did Todd Barclay have to leave Parliament? Because nothing had changed in all of this that whole time, except you got caught out. That’s all that’s changed.

No, I don’t agree with that. Todd made his own decision about retiring at the election. I think he came to the view it would be difficult to represent his constituents against the background of all the publicity around this and the different interpretations of the facts of the matter. That was his decision.

Do you feel that you’ve let down your own standards — your own standards of credibility, your own integrity — through this?

Well, look, other people will make a decision about that. I’m satisfied—

No, but what do you feel? Do you feel like you’ve let yourself down?

I’m satisfied that in a difficult situation, knowing the personalities better than a lot of people, that this has been handled about as well as it could. It’s sad. No one comes out of this better than before the events occurred. It’s a shame, a real shame. And I feel that more than most people because I know them, because it was my electorate. The matters have now come through to this point where Todd Barclay’s leaving Parliament. My job as the prime minister is to deal with these issues effectively — everyone knows that employment disputes are messy — and get on with governing in the interests of New Zealand. That’s what we’re doing. That’s why we’ve got a National Party conference this week about an election in three months.

You said then no one’s come out of this, sort of, well, have they?

No, and that’s just because of the basic depth and bitterness of the dispute and the consequences that have flowed from that.

And do you include yourself in that, Prime Minister?

Well, look, it’s much better not to have to deal with these issues. I don’t see any benefit in it at all. But my responsibility as a leader is to make sure they are dealt with, whatever the imperfections of everyone involved, and get on with the job that the public have for us. Because, actually, the public aren’t that interested in our internal employment disputes; what they’re interested in is good government that provides good jobs, incomes and opportunities.

But they’re interested in your integrity, aren’t they?

Well, yes ,they are.

All right, that’s a good place to leave it. Thank you very much, Prime Minister.

Thank you.