Labour, Green MPs block holding Curran to account

The Government that promised more openness and transparency has taken another step backwards, with Labour and Green MPs on the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee voting against asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear before it to clarify unanswered questions about her meeting with ex-RNZ employee Carol Hirschfeld and her communications with RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

NZH: National members blocked from getting Clare Curran to appear before committee over meeting with RNZ Carol Hirschfeld

National was blocked from asking Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran to appear at a select committee to clear up unanswered questions around her communications with former RNZ executive Carol Hirschfeld, a report says.

The Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee released its report
today on a briefing in which the committee was inadvertently misled by RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and chief executive Paul Thompson about a meeting between Curran and Hirschfeld last December.

A minority report by the five National Party members of the select committee said questions remained unanswered regarding the appropriateness of communications initiated by Curran, with Hirschfeld and Griffin.

Curran’s behaviour was potentially in breach of parliamentary standing orders covering “intimidating, preventing, or hindering a witness from giving evidence, or giving evidence in full, to the House or a committee”, the National members said.

The National members also sought to invite Curran to the committee to give her the opportunity to clear up the unanswered questions.

“Regretfully, this resolution was not supported by other members of the committee, once again leaving the matter unresolved.”

The National members of the committee – chairman Jonathan Young, Andrew Falloon, Paul Goldsmith, Melissa Lee and Parmjeet Parmar – said they felt Parliament itself had been impugned by the inadvertent misleading of the committee by RNZ and actions of the minister.

The MPs who blocked holding Curran to account:

  • Paul Eagle (Labour, Rongotai)
  • Tamati Coffey (Labour, Waiariki)
  • Michael Wood (Labour, Mt Roskill)
  • Deborah Russell (Labour, New Lynn)
  • Gareth Hughes (Greens, list)

Coffey had a surprise win against Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell in last year’s election.

Eagle, Wood and Russell scored fairly safe Labour electorates – Wood got into Parliament in a by-election in 2016 after Phil Goff resigned, while Eagle and Russell are first term MPs. Russell was rated as a good prospect as an MP, but she is putting party before principles here.

Hughes keeps a low profile in Parliament these days – Greens are also supposed to be strong supporters of open and transparent government and of holding the government to account (going by James Shaw’s comments in handing Parliamentary questions over to National) but joining the blocking of holding Curran to account suggests big talk, walk away from responsibilities.

Tn the whole scheme of things this isn’t a big deal, but it leaves a cloud over Curran’s ambitions to significantly boost RNZ, and she is likely to be reminded of this embarrassment whenever she tries to do anything on open government.

The final commitment in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information.

Labour and Greens have weakened democracy through their weasel blocking in the committee.

Newsroom: When ‘open government’ becomes a joke

Curran isn’t just the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media but the Minster of Government Digital Services and Associate Minister for ACC and Open Government (via a State Services portfolio).

Open Government now becomes something of a joke under Curran at a time when we need it to be the very opposite.

What’s important now is RNZ and the many other initiatives Curran is involved with don’t keep on paying the price for her mistake. Curran’s copybook may well be blotted but she presides over portfolios that are far too important for us to allow that stain to spread.

That was on 2 April. Labour and Green MPs on the committee have spread the stain further.

Most of the public won’t know or care about this festering, but it remains hovering over Curran, and it is a confirmation that Labour and the Greens are in Government more for themselves than for integrity.

MP for Rongotai in odd incidents

Paul Eagle ditched his role as Wellington’s deputy mayor to take on the safe seat of Rongotai after Annette King decided to retire from Parliament.

He popped up in the political news yesterday when he questioned RNZ boss Richard Griffin in a selection committee meeting yesterday.

Labour members of the committee got in on the action too. Paul Eagle questioned Griffin as to why he had informed Lee of Hirschfeld’s resignation before a press release was circulated around RNZ staff and the public.

Eagle asked when Griffin first contacted Lee. Seeing Eagle’s questions were going to lead to a suggestion of impropriety, Griffin’s response was terse.

He said that he first contacted Lee “three minutes prior to the time we put out a press release, as a matter of courtesy, which may be foreign to some of those in politics”.

He then checked himself.

“I’m sorry that’s unnecessary,” he said.

Eagle then asked if the phone call to Lee was courtesy or “collusion”.

“That’s a ridiculous question with due respect,” said Griffin. “It’s a matter of obvious courtesy, the suggestion that it is somehow…” Griffin paused, apparently frustrated, “let’s not go any further, it gets out of control”.

– from Newsroom Fiery hearing fails to put RNZ bungle to bed

Then today he featured in an exchange on Reddit – Paul Eagle MP is a peice of shit.

He is the most entitled, rude and disrespectful man I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with. It says a lot about a person’s character how they treat those with less power than them and Mr Eagle thinks it’s acceptable to swear at and berate those he does not deem to be of his level. I am shocked someone in the public eye would treat someone as abhorrently as he treats someone who’s just trying to help him. I hope those in electorate meet him and get the opportunity to see what kind of man he is. TL;DR if you work in the service industry watch out for Paul Eagle.

Rant concluded.

Another:

Before he was an MP my old boss, an Island Bay resident, made a submission in some Island Bay cycleway project that was negative about the council’s handling of it. Eagle personally rang him up one evening to have a big angry rant at him about it. Classy dude.

And another:

I’ve witnessed him tearing into an elderly lady at a housing meeting, after she’d asked a very reasonable question. He was incredibly rude and patronising to her.

This was picked by Henry Cooke at Stuff and Labour MP Paul Eagle apologises for profane ‘misunderstanding’

Labour MP Paul Eagle has apologised for an incident that saw a Wellingtonian call him an “entitled douchebag.”

Eagle says the whole thing was a misunderstanding, and that he was swearing at people blocking his way into his office – not someone on the phone.

When reached by Stuff, Eagle said the event was a misunderstanding, but offered his apologies.

Eagle said he was talking to a panel-beater on Friday afternoon about getting his car fixed and having a polite but robust discussion about whether or not a separate piece of damage could be fixed at the same time.

Whilst on the phone he was trying to get into his electorate office in Newtown, Wellington, and found his way blocked by some “guys give me lip outside.”

“We’ve got a diverse community in Newtown and sometimes this happens. People are not shy to give you their honest feedback about things,” Eagle said.

“I was swearing at them, they were swearing at me.”

Once Eagle was in the office he said he realised he had been hung up on and was confused. Later his insurance company rung to suggest he try a different panel beater.

“It makes total sense, because now I understand why when I went back to the call it was dead. Within minutes the insurance company rang me,” Eagle said.

“I’d like to formally apologise for any misunderstanding. And I certainly don’t want her feeling any ill will.”

Eagle said he was keen to go back to the panel beater and apologise in person.

A weird explanation – surely that’s too weird to have been made up.

 

Eagle wants rewrite of adoption law

Ex Wellington councillor has been elected to take over Annette King’s Rongotai electorate. He wants a rewrite of adoption laws to make it easier for adoptees to find their birth parents.

He talked about this in his maiden speech in Parliament.

In 1973, the late Norman Kirk and the then Labour Government introduced the domestic purposes benefit. But your dad was born in 1972—a year earlier—which meant that when my birth mother found out she was pregnant with a child she could not afford to care for, to a man who couldn’t care for her, she had to let me go.

And, sadly, there was no State support or sympathy for solo parents back then. My birth mother had already been judged for her actions, but she wanted more for me than she could give: a safe home, a warm bed, good clothes, and a full tummy—I think I got that last one.

But it wasn’t possible at the time, so the difficult decision was made to give me up for adoption—a decision that changed our lives forever. It would be more than 20 years before I’d see my birth parents again. My birth mother told me of her sadness and how she missed me and worried about how I was doing. At shopping malls, she would look at each little Māori boy and wonder if it were me.

But over 45 years later, it’s still nice to know that she wanted me and would have kept me if she could. But it’s even more rewarding to know that because of Kirk and a Labour Government thousands of mums and their babies got the support they needed to stay together. And that’s even if your dad wasn’t one of them.

I don’t like to think that my birth mother gave me up. It sounds as if she gave up on me; when what she did was give me a loving family, a happy childhood, the best shot at life a boy could ask for, and a place where your dad truly belonged.

I understand this more than ever, son, because when we adopted you, your dad realised how hard the decision for our birth mothers must have been, because to decide to let go of a child is the most selfless act any person can do.

Eagle also discussed his aims on The Hui (video): From adoption to MP: How Paul Eagle plans to rewrite the law

Eagle’s Labour website profile:

The son of a Methodist Minister and hospital worker, Paul is committed to serving others, particularly the people of Wellington’s eastern and southern suburbs, where he grew up in the 1980s.

From his parents’ involvement in the Labour Party, Paul learned the importance of helping others and getting involved in political action.

In his previous role as Deputy Mayor of Wellington, Paul led the Council’s Housing portfolio – the single biggest issue for Wellingtonians.

An Island Bay resident, Paul was educated at Evans Bay Intermediate School, St. Patrick’s College Wellington and has postgraduate qualifications from the Elam School of Fine Arts. He is married to Miriam and has one child, Tama.

You’ll also see Paul proudly out supporting the Hurricanes, Phoenix and Pulse during his spare time.

 

Eagle in Rongotai

Paul Eagle, currently deputy mayor of Wellington, is on track to get the Labour nomination to stand in the Rongotai electorate which virtually assures him of a safe seat.

Eagle may well be a good candidate for Labour but if he replaces Annette King that increases the difficulty Labour may have with it’s list if the party continues it’s efforts to achieve a gender balance in Parliament.

With Andrew Little, other prominent Labour MPs like David Parker and Trevor Mallard, plus apparent promises of a high placing for Willie Jackson, unless Labour increases it’s party vote significantly the rest of the top of this may need to be stacked with female candidates.

If Jacinda Ardern wins the Mt Albert by-election as expected that will even the balance a bit, she would replace David Shearer, but her list replacement will be another incumbent MP who would hope to be given a chance of returning after September’s election.

Local Body deserters

There’s been a number of people who have only recently been elected to local body councils talking about putting themselves forward to stand in the general election.

Apart from the cost any by-elections will impose on the councils, this shows either a shoddy lack of commitment to a three year term they sought from voters less than half a year ago, or a cynical using of their positions as a stepping stone to national politics.

here are some I have heard of just over the last couple of weeks.

Auckland: Denise Lee seeking Maungakiekie MP nomination

Maungakiekie-Tamaki Councillor Denise Lee hopes to bag a National Party nomination and replace outgoing Maungakiekie MP Peseta Sam Lotu-liga when he retires later this year.

Lotu-liga announced in December he would not be seeking re-election of the Auckland seat prompting Lee to jump at the opportunity.

She was re-elected as Maungakiekie-Tamaki Councillor last year after securing the majority of votes.

“When you get selected twice as councillor, and the last time with the majority of votes, it is a good sign that you’re a good representative to serve the people well,” Lee said.

A good representative doesn’t jump off their three year council gig after a few months just because of political opportunism.

Hastings’ mayor Lawrence Yule to seek Tukituki nomination

On Friday he announced he was planning to seek the National Party’s nomination for the Tukituki electorate, after 15 years as mayor or Hastings.

A large number of locals, along with members of the National Party had encouraged him to run, he said.

“I did not expect Craig Foss to resign, now I have to deal with that opportunity. I have been pretty humbled by the number of people who have approached me to stand.  I think I can make a difference in Wellington, for the people of Tukituki, and for the National Party,” he said.

Deal with an opportunity for himself and stuff the people who voted him as mayor, and will have to fund his ship jumping if he succeeds.

Wellington:  Paul Eagle looks at running in Rongotai as Annette King heads for list

Less than three months after becoming Wellington’s deputy mayor, Paul Eagle is eyeing up a seat in Parliament.

Eagle said he was considering calls from Labour Party members to contest Rongotai, the Wellington electorate seat long held by the party’s deputy leader, Annette King.

If he did contest Rongotai, he would stay on as deputy mayor  – though he may drop some portfolios – but said there would be “a resignation immediately” if he won the seat.

So he would ditch some of his council responsibilities to suit his own ambitions, essentially using his deputy mayor salary to tide himself through a national election campaign and only resign if how won the seat.

How convenient for him – and inconvenient and expensive for his council.

And there’s two Green councillors here: Nelson byelection could be parting gift from councillors bound for Beehive

An $80,000 byelection could be on the cards for Nelson if two city councillors buzz off to the Beehive.

Second-term councillor Matt Lawrey is the Green Party candidate for Nelson in this year’s general election, while third-term councillor Kate Fulton is still waiting to hear if she’ll win her bid for the West Coast-Tasman candidacy.

If either win the electoral seats, or are placed in Parliament as Green Party List MPs, Nelson City Council will foot the bill for an $80,000 by-election.

So Lawrey is already committed to being a part time councillor, part time general election campaigner.

Councillor Matt Lawrey said it might be time to revisit the legislation that governs how city councillors are replaced.

“[It] does raise questions, and maybe it’s time we looked at changing the system so in the event of a councillor dying or having to leave the role, the next highest polling candidate gets a seat at the table,” Lawrey said.

“That would certainly be a cheaper and more efficient way of doing things.”

But Lawrey is not “having to leave the role”, he is trying to switch jobs mid term because it suits him. A cheaper way of replacing councillors might help him justify his lack of commitment, but it’s not good practice.

But Chief Electoral Officer at electionz.com Warwick Lampp said the legislation ensured fair process in cases where the next highest polling candidate received significantly fewer votes than the winning candidate.

“I think you could legitimately argue that the community didn’t want that person and then they’ve [been given] them… It has to go back to the democratic function with a completely new election, where anyone can stand,” Lampp said.

The highest polling failed candidate could have got hardly any votes.

And it’s not very fair on candidates who put time and money into standing in the local body elections and just miss out for successful candidates to desert at their convenience.

Are there any others who have announced their wish to desert their elected position just  a few months in to a three year term?

Andrew Little won’t contest any electorate

Labour leader Andrew Little has announced a decision not to stand in any electorates this election. He will stand on the list only. If he remains as leader he should be number 1 on the list so barring a Labour electoral catastrophe he should make it back into Parliament.

Stuff: Little flags away Rongotai, New Plymouth to go list-only for 2017 election

Labour leader Andrew Little is to run as a list-only candidate in this year’s election, opening the way for councillor Paul Eagle to win the party’s nomination for the Rongotai seat.

Little has previously been defeated in the New Plymouth seat twice by National backbencher Jonathan Young but it was long rumoured he may seek to stand in Deputy Leader Annette King’s Rongotai seat, where he lives, if she stood down.

King has decided not to stand in Rongotai this year and is also going list only (unless she retires altogether).

He formally told his fellow MPs of his decision on Monday at a caucus retreat in the Wairarapa.

“I’ve told them I will be a list-only candidate. I’m not seeking nomination or selection for any seat,” Little said.

“Leading a general election campaign I need the flexibility I have had for the last two years of being able to be, in effect, anywhere anytime.”

At the leadership level you were “MP for the whole of New Zealand” and that was the way he saw the job.

In general I agree that a major party leader – and especially the prime Minister – are better suited to be list only and not committed to a single electorate.

However Little has a credibility problem, having never been successfully elected by voters.

Little said Eagle, who has confirmed he is considering contesting Rongotai, was the leading contender, though Little said he did not know who else might be interested. .

He had won council elections, organised well, and was a very strong identity with good connections in the area.

“He has got everything you would need for a good, effective MP,” Little said.

Ironic comments given their contrast with Little’s lack of electoral success.

Little said he had been waiting for King’s announcement to be tied down before making his call.

Rongotai members had asked him to consider standing, but after giving it a couple of days’ thought he decided to stay with his view he should remain a list MP.

That was last year. It seems off he has waited until now to announce it, especially given that Eagle announced his interest in standing in Rongotai the day after King announced she was stepping down.

Competition for Rongotai

On Saturday Annette King announced that she wouldn’t stand again in the Rongotai electorate but would go list only. This opens up what should be a safe Labour seat for someone.

Andrew Little has been talked of as a contender for quite a while. He has lost in New Plymouth in the last two elections and now lives in Rongotai.

A year ago (November 2015) from Stuff: Andrew Little keeping tabs on Annette King’s Rongotai seat:

Labour leader Andrew Little won’t run in Mt Roskill if MP Phil Goff is successful in his bid for Auckland Mayor, but Rongotai is in his sights.

Leading the Labour Party and not being “tied to a seat” is a good position to be in, and Little said he would only stand in a seat in 2017 if a “suitable” one came up.

“We could be in a position where Rongotai becomes available so I can’t rule out not standing in a seat,” he said.

Labour deputy leader Annette King holds the Rongotai seat but Little said “depending on what she decided to do” would determine whether he stood there.

“I haven’t ruled out New Plymouth and I’ve got an office up there and have a presence up there but I’ve run their twice and missed out twice so there are other options I need to consider.”

So now, as per Saturday’s Herald headline, Annette King stands aside for the younger generation in electorate:

Longstanding Labour MP Annette King will stand as a list-only candidate in 2017 – a step that opens up her Rongotai seat for Labour leader Andrew Little should he decide to stand there.

Little, a list MP, has lived in the Rongotai electorate for years and said he would consider standing in the seat.

“Up until now it was an attractive option as leader of the party to remain list because you get drawn all over the country. Being tied to an electorate, particularly if I’m campaigning to win it for the first time, creates an extra workload.”

I think there’s a good case to make for a major party leader to be list only, as their focus must be on national issues and all electorates, and they shouldn’t have time to lead a party, do what they need to in parliament as well as taking care of an electorate.

“But given I live in the electorate, I know many of the people, it is at least something I should give consideration to.”

King, 69, denied her decision was part of any arrangement with Little, saying she simply believed it was time for another generation to take on the electorate.

She did not know if Little wanted to stand there and had made her own decision to step aside.

I think it would be extraordinary if King and Little haven’t at least discussed the possibility of a Rongotai succession plan.

But it’s getting quite late in the term for Little to turn his attention to an electorate contest as he prepares for next year’s election (of course he could have been preparing for this for some time quietly).

And now someone else has expressed an interest in standing in Rongotai, claiming encouragement from some within the Labour Party.

Stuff: Paul Eagle looks at running in Rongotai as Annette King heads for list

Less than three months after becoming Wellington’s deputy mayor, Paul Eagle is eyeing up a seat in Parliament.

This would suggest it may be an unplanned opportunity for Eagle.

Eagle said he was considering calls from Labour Party members to contest Rongotai, the Wellington electorate seat long held by the party’s deputy leader, Annette King.

Party members and Eagle will know that Little has expressed an interest in Rongotai. Either they know Little isn’t going to contest the electorate, or they are challenging their party leader.

“I’m honoured to be asked whether I will put my name forward and I’m talking about it further with my family, the party leadership and members,” Eagle said on Sunday.

What is going on here?

He’s unlikely to be discussing it much with Little who is currently in the middle of doing the Central Otago Rail Trail.

Is this a local electorate versus party head office conflict? Or is it part of a plan to give Little a credible reason not to stand in Rongotai?

Eagle said he had not decided whether he would contest the seat if Little also  put his name forward. “I’m sure we would have a conversation about it,” he said.

So he is discussing things with party leadership, but not with Little? It sounds muddly,stuff, or we are not being told the full story.

A source within Labour  said that the replacement of John Key, the MP for Helensville, with list MP Bill English as prime minister was a game-changer for Labour.

Why is it a game changer for Labour? Do they now think they can compete with National? That would suggest they hadn’t rated their chances in the next election while Key was Prime Minister.

It may also be underestimating Bill English as Prime Minister.

There was now less pressure on Little to contest an electorate as National’s leader was also without one, the source said.

I don’t know why that would make any difference, unless they thought Little would be attacked for being a list only leader. He’s at least as likely to be attacked for never having successfully contested electorate, in contrast to English who won and held a safe seat for eight elections.

We may not find out who is going to stand in Rongotai until next year. Labour nominations close in early February, so their candidate won’t be known for some time, and election year will already be starting to crank up then.

What seems odd about this is why Little and Eagle are pondering the possibilities publicly, unless it was a deliberate switch of attention from Little to Eagle over the weekend.