Lusk and Slater further connected to NZ First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harman:

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

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

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

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

Waka jumping/oil and gas an MMP trade-off?

When the Greens supported the introduction of NZ First’s ‘waka jumping’ bill into parliament it raised eyebrows and angst. The Greens had until then always strongly opposed legislation like that.

When the Government announced they would not issue any new oil and gas exploration permits the body language of Shane Jones suggested a large degree of discomfort with having to support the decision.

The oil and gas decision turns out to have been made by Government party leaders only without going through Cabinet – see Party leaders made oil and gas decisions, not Cabinet.

Richard Harman at Politik that suggests the two dead rats may have been a tradeoff in Waka jumping and oil exploration

Did the Prime Minister get Winston Peters to support the petroleum exploration ban by locking in Greens support for the waka-jumping legislation?

That is a possible scenario suggested by the papers relating to the ban which were released under the Official Information Act on Tuesday.

The papers set out a timeline which eventually leads to both Peters and Shaw.

A detailed timeline covering March and April is shown, followed by some poindering, .

There is a chain of events here which strongly suggest that Ardern was having to play Peters and Shaw off against each other.

Peters clearly was not happy with the exploration ban.

So how was he persuaded to support it?

Did Ardern persuade Shaw to ignore the protestations of many in his party and support Peters’ waka jumping bill and was that enough to persuade Peters to forget his concerns about the exploration ban?

With a Government relying on two support parties with a sizeable number of MPs, and leverage, this may be a reality of MMP in action.

The oil and gas decision is a done deal – although the possible implications and negative effects of the decision are gradually emerging.

However the waka jumping bill is still going through the parliamentary process. A lot of pressure may go on the Green MPs to not support it through it’s final stages. However will Shaw insist on a dead rat deal being honoured despite party opposition?

 

Winston Muldoon

Richard Harman at Politik looks at the links between Robert Muldoon and Winston Peters in  What Winston really wants

And so over the past week Peters and his bus have been touring the South Island’s provincial towns.

In Invercargill; he promised to nationalise the aluminium smelter; in Gore to compel Government departments to purchase wool carpets and everywhere he promised to return GST to the region where it was gathered.

It was pure Muldoonism, and Sir Robert would have been proud of the man he once said would be New Zealand’s first Maori Prime Minister.

To get a picture of the relationship between the two you need only look again at National’s campaign ads from the 1978 campaign. They featured a young, devilishly good looking Winton Peters interviewing Sir Robert about great issues of the day like how to bring inflation down to around 10 per cent or how to stop unions going on strike all the time.

He still sees Muldoon as someone who had an economic plan that worked.

“There were a whole lot of things that were happening under Muldoon when the second oil shock happened in 1979,” he says.

“I can name you ten things from outdoor movie theatres to removing the restriction road transport competing with railways — a whole lot of policies were being changed when the second oil shock happened, and we then focussed on alternative energy development.”

And he still believes.

But what does he want now?

It’s hard to know what Peters really wants. Some of his closest friends believe he still wants to be Prime Minister. John Key recently told a Cabinet Minister that he doesn’t think so.

He thinks Peters would sooner sit on the cross benches and hold the balance of power and force the Prime Minister to come and bargain with him on every vote in the House.

Key says that way Peters would become the de facto Prime Minister.

One thing is probably certain and that is he will stretch any post election negotiaitons he is involved in as far as he can go.

There are stories about him continuously upping the ante with Jim Bolger during the 1996 coalition negotiations which saw Bolger trekking back and forth between the Naitonal Caucus room and Peters’ office.

But now Peters refuses to discuss his team for any negotiations.

“I’ve not thought one thing about after the election because unless we get the result that we want it is all immaterial,”

But he has apparently recruited his barrister, Brian Henry, to play a role.

Whether that imposes order remains to be seen.

But maybe we have all been getting Peters wrong for a long time now. Maybe the focus on what he might want — the “baubles of office”  or which party he might form a Government with ignores what he is really all about.

You have to go back to Dargaville to understand that then and then ask  yourself what would Holyoake, or  Muldoon have done.

Winston’s current slogan on Twitter: “it’s common sense”.

Perhaps it’s common sense for those who yearn for the good old days half a century ago.

A Clayton chief of staff?

@BillyRalston

Good heavens! @RMAHarman suggests in this morning’s Politik that Clayton Cosgrove is likely to become @philgoffmp’s Chief of Staff if Mayor

That’s a big Good Grief! if true. Not exactly a team of young guns.

But I can’t find it at Politik, nor anywhere else.

Twyford admits Chinese name mistake

Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford has conceded that Labour’s profiling and analysis of Chinese sounding names was “a less than masterful piece of political communication”.

It was highly embarrassing for Labour and they were strongly criticised, including from the left.

Richard Harman revealed Twyford’s admission at Politik: Phil Twyford – rebuilding after the Chinese names affair.

Mr Twyford, made a controversial entry into the debate on foreign buyers last July with his release of statistics based on Chinese sounding names of house buyers in Auckland.

Now, over six months later he is prepared to concede that it was “a less than masterful piece of political communication” and he is careful to emphasise that he is talking about non-resident foreigners.

And that was the point of it though he says that offshore money probably accounts for 5 – 10% of the housing market.

However even that amount, he argues, has an impact at the margins of what is a market facing very tight supply constraints.

So what will Labour do about housing?

In a way Labour has disarmed itself in this battle by deciding to put the capital gains tax it went into the last two elections with on the table.

Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson earlier this year told POLITIK that Labour could consider extending National’s “brightline” capital gains tax out to five years.

But that’s as far as they would go.

This leaves Twyford scrambling to find a way to deal with the pervasive idea in New Zealand that property is a preferred investment option.

“Cracking down on property speculation is one of the things we have to do if we are going to turn this around,” he says.

“There is no question in my mind that there are four or five things we have to do and cracking down on speculation is one of them.

“We have said we are going to ban non-resident foreigners from speculating in housing and what we will do in Government is explore all the other legislative and policy things that currently drive vast amounts of capital into basically unproductive speculative real estate market which is damaging for home ownership and also the wider economy.”

But that’s about as specific as it gets.

“We’ve said we’re not looking at wholesale reform going into the next election,” he says.

But they also have their house building policy.

Labour plans to address those supply constraints with its Kiwibuild policy which would see 10,000 modest, “entry level” homes built every year for 10 years by Housing New Zealand onsold to private buyers.

That too poses its own challenges and Twyford concedes that the Resource Management Act is going to have to change to make it easier to build homes both within and without Auckland.

So will Labour work with National to reform the RMA?

Collins/Slater power play or just a fundraiser?

It looks like Judith Collins and Cameron Slater are making a power play. Or two independent coincidental power plays.

Collins has been quietly trying to rebuild her political career after being demoted as a Minister leading into last year’s election, in no small part due to her friendly relationship with Slater.

In the meantime Slater has been increasingly critical of John Key’s leadership with what has seemed like daily attacks and sometimes multiple attacks a day in post at Whale Oil.

Collins has had a weekly column alongside Phil Goff. Until now she has written about general topics. But yesterday: Judith Collins: Centre voters just the core, the action is on the fringes:

Elections are never won or lost in the centre. Yes, the vast number of voters are in the centre but they won’t bother to change their vote (much less get out to vote) unless they actually have something to vote for. Mobilising the centre to move to the left or to the right, is what wins elections. If you want to stay in power, then the centre is what keeps you there.

Politicians of all stripes need to be fearless, creative, interested, questioning and most of all listening to the electorate. Polling goes to show the centre doesn’t really say much and therein lies the danger of the echo chamber. But the edges of the electorate are always talking.

Winning elections is about engaging people and actually presenting an alternative. Galvanising the centre to be interested enough to vote will not happen simply by prescribing more of the same, albeit with a different coloured tie.

Goff responded:

Judith’s column this week is the opening shot in her campaign to succeed John Key as National’s leader.

It’s a not-so-subtle attack on the well-known fact that John Key is not driven by strong values but rather the results of weekly polling and focus groups.

Judith is inviting you to contrast Key’s soft positions with her post-demotion outspokenness on issues.

You can’t blame her for that or for her antagonism towards Key. After all, he sacked her and is refusing to put her back into Cabinet.

Goff could be perceptive. Or he could be mischievous. Or both.

Matthew Hooton responded to a comment on this at The Standard:

“when it came to Phil Goff’s reply, Collins probably got a lot more than she expected”

I reckon she got exactly what she expected (and hoped for) from Goff.

Today at Politik it looks like Collins is busy getting her message out there in JUDITH COLLINS SAYS IT’S TIME FOR POLITICIANS TO STAND FOR SOMETHING.

She set out a summary of her views in the Sunday Star Times and one Labour politician did have something to say.

Phil Goff said the column sounded like the start of her campaign to become National leader.

But in a lengthy interview with POLITIK she chose her words carefully and avoided any head on challenge to the National Party leadership who have shunned her since she resigned from Cabinet over her connections with Whaleoil.

Nevertheless her message is clear.

“It’s better to make a difference than to sit in Parliament and occupy a seat,” she said.

“You are actually elected to do something.

“If you don’t do something then get out of the way and let someone else do it.”

She worries that the general public all round the world is sick and tired of politicians who say just what they think the electorate wants them to say.

“Actually ultimately you are never going to get anything done unless you change the status quo and you can’t do that from a position of fear or a position of let’s not rock the boat.”

She is suspicious of focus groups.

“The problem with focus groups is that you are asking them a question; you are defining what they can talk about and what they are interested in and sometimes I think you have just got to stand for something.”

She says she doesn’t use focus groups but relies on knocking on doors and what people tell her in her electorate office.

“In my electorate there are probably quite a lot of people who aren’t necessarily National voters but what they like is if you are straight up with them.”

It’s often claimed that John Key is guided by focus groups

Face to face contact is important but it can be self selecting – only people who want to talk will talk – and they can adjust what they say to suit their audience.

There will be many who will scrutinise the comments here and in the Sunday Star Times column for signs of dissidence, for some hint that as Mr Goff claimed, she has begun her campaign for the party leadership.

But what she is saying is more general than that.

It looks more like the beginning of what  may be a long debate defining what the post-Key National Party might look like.

Meanwhile, coincidence or not, Slater has been continuing his campaign. Yesterday his anti-Key posts continued: Losing our Religion – A letter from a reader…to John Key

The letter may or may not have been from ‘a reader’, it can be hard to tell on Whale Oil what’s genuine and what’s part of the campaigning and what’s paid for commentary. Slater added his own comments:

I’m not sure he is listening…but his minions are reading. Maybe the message will get through, either that or we will soon see a series of posts on cat fancier, arts, travel and lifestyle blogger, David Farrar’s blog about the stunning achievements of a John Key led government in a bid to counter “negative” posts here.

I am no sycophant and will tell things as I see them or as my readers emails.

Things aren’t right within National, they have allowed a cult of personality to develop and those never end well.

More posts generally criticise National.

He has followed that up today with specific references to the Collins publicity, first on her Stuff column in Judith Collins on Corbyn, and winning the centre.

This is the quiet changing of religion that I speak of…people turning off and not bothering because politics has become shades of brown and as appetising as cardboar

People get tired of the same old view of politicians and eventually they seek a change, any change, so long as it is not who we have now. They certainly don’t subscribe to TINA…that is the false hope of incumbents.

TINA is There is No Alternative, seen as one reason for Key’s sustained popularity, but Slater has been trying to establish a meme that there is an alternative – from within National. I wonder who he thinks that should be. Note that for some time he has strongly criticised Bill English,  Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett.

Then later today he posted on the Politik interview with Collins – Collins expands her discussion on the centre. In agreeing with Collins he said:

She’s dead right about that and MMP has created a situation where seat warmers are the politicians of the day. If you have a look at Helen Clark’s legacy it is nothing but banal social policy. John Key’s legacy is shaping up to be not much better, with the prospect of the flag being retained that particular dream is in tatters.

And:

Straight shooters have always done well in New Zealand politics, and it is a shame that John Key has changed from that perception of a straight shooter to a perception that is much less than that.

And:

What is funny though is the left wing getting all excited that Judith Collins will attempt to do what they have failed thus far to achieve…topple John Key. They should be careful what they wish for, because I doubt such an event would go well for them and their union pals.

So it is easy to see this as a two pronged attack on Key by Collins and Slater.

What sort of support would Collins have in the National Caucus? I don’t know.

But one this is for certain – she has a whale sized millstone hanging around her neck.

Eighteen months ago a campaign like this from Slater may have been seen as a serious threat. But his political credibility has plummeted.

I think a Slater orchestrated leadership bid is unlikely to cause anything but trouble for Collins. Sure it may damage National, and Slater has been trying to do that since he fell out of favour. But His alternative is unlikely to be looked on favourably.

Something not covered in Collins’ column yesterday nor in her Politik interview was whether she was being invoiced by Slater for his advice and his Whale Oil campaigning. This could be as more a fundraiser for him than a serious leadership bid.

Anyone as knowledgeable about politics as Slater claims to be (he was praising his predictive abilities last week, see the poor me/clever me post LOSING YOUR RELIGION) would know that  Slater+anything is currently seen as toxic.

And the Slater attacks on National don’t even seem overly popular at Whale Oil. From his Saturday diss Hooton: ‘Thanks John, time to move along now’ he explains his TINA theories:

John Key is still popular because people still believe in the false premise of TINA (There Is No Alternative).

Logic suggests that TINA is not valid. If John Key were to be mowed down by a bus driver on Lambton Quay on Monday morning it is certain that there would indeed be a replacement. When he does finally step down or is knifed, or gets voted out there will be an alternative. There is always an alternative…whether or not an alternative is apparent depends entirely on the vision of the person stating TINA.

The belief that TINA is real…suggests these people think John Key is immortal and can reign forever…neither are true…politically or in reality. There is always an alternative.

But if you have a look at the upticks on the comments in LOSING YOUR RELIGION it seems clear his audience isn’t captivated or convinced by Slater’s campaign.

Note: I’ve done a few edits and additions to this in the half hour after posting.