Contrasting views on Ardern

With Jacinda Ardern now elevated into the political limelight many contrasting opinions have been expressed on her strengths and weaknesses.

Rachel Smalley: Ardern’s test starts now

What I do think Ardern has that is rare in politics, is authenticity. What you see is what you get.

What I usually see is the pitter patter of political palaver.

David Shearer had it too when he came to the leadership, but he had some poor advice. He was told to roll out the party line at every media opportunity, and he lost his way. It wasn’t him. He lost his realness, if you like. And, well, the rest is history.

I had hopes that Shearer would rise to the position but he stumbled and fell when his minders tried to mould him into something he wasn’t.

Ardern, though, has it in spades. She just needs to hang on to it.

The difference for Ardern is she has already been moulded. Is that all we will get, or can she break the mould and make an impression?

And while I think she already has political credibility, she does need to develop that further. She comes across well in the media as a spokesperson for justice, and a spokesperson for children.

Really? When did Ardern make an impression on Justice or on Children?

Remember, for example, when she appeared on the cover of next magazine? She was described as the country’s prime minister in waiting. And in a tv panel, former rugby league coach Graham Lowe agreed saying she was – quote – “A pretty little thing”.

And columnists went on to analyse her. She was labelled ‘vapid’ by one. ‘Pretty vacant’ by another.

I think that Ardern is yet to prove there is substance behind her carefully crafted image.

Never mind the politics. Lets focus on the aesthetics.

Ardern can’t fight that. She can’t change old minds and an old way of thinking. She’s been in politics for some time now, and has worked as a senior policy adviser in London. She’s got the goods. She’s got the intelligence and the leadership potential. All she can do now is prove herself in the role. Prove to the country that she is a leader.

It’s true. She is untested. But that test starts now.

I don’t think it’s possible to say whether Ardern has “got the goods” or leadership potential, something that has been talked up with little to substantiate it.

Smalley is correct saying that Ardern is untested as a leader and as a party promotional figurehead.

That test starts now, and it won’t be easy for Ardern, especially if she doesn’t measure up to media expectations.

Ardern needs to shed her moulders and minders and sell herself, not her pitter patter package. That will be a major test of her abilities.

Nurse in ‘professional boundaries” disgrace

A male nurse has broken Nursing Council rules barring having sexual relations with mental health patients but the disciplinary system seems to be mainifestly inadequate.

Rachel Smalley comments on ” a story that is making my blood boil at the moment” in “Professional boundaries”.

She has a major depressive disorder. She has anxiety and panic attacks associated with that. She has a history of suicidal tendencies and that tendency increases when she’s under stress, and she also has some serious alcohol-related issues.

You name it; this woman is not in a good place.

So she’s being treated for her condition and one of the people helping with her care is a male nurse. He is directly involved in looking after her.

So this nurse – according to a report by the health and disability commissioner – he seduced his patient, and he seduced her with wine, the report says.

He turned up at her house – in his district health board car – and pulled out a bottle of wine. They drank that wine and then they had sex.

And then he left.

Then, he came back later in the day and they had sex again. He said he would come back again on another day and he would bring more wine. He said – and I quote – that he “fancied her”

This is disgraceful and unprofessional conduct.

The nurse admitted – once it all came to light – that he knew the woman was vulnerable, and had mental health issues and problems with alcohol. He knew all of that.

The health and disability commissioner, Anthony Hill, said in his report that the nurse had “sexually exploited” his patient. Sexual exploitation, he said.

And so what is the next step? Dismissal? No.

The recommendation is that the nurse undertakes further training on “professional boundaries”. The report also suggested the nursing council might want to consider a review of his competence.

It’s staggering, isn’t it?

This man has failed at the very first hurdle of nursing – his role is to care for someone who is in medical need, not exploit them for his own sexual gratification.

Surely that’s grounds for dismissal? Why would you allow this man to carry on treating, in particular, women with mental health issues?

The nurse, for his part, has apologised.

He said sorry, and there it rests.

This seems to be a very soft approach to serious misconduct. He couldn’t have behaved much worse.

But it may result in appropriate action, eventually. NZ Herald reports that Nurse may lose licence over sex with mentally ill woman.

A forensic mental health nurse who had sex with a recent patient after giving her wine quit his district health board job as soon as he was outed.

Within two months, during which he underwent professional counselling, he had resumed nursing and at present does casual work in aged and dementia care.

It’s staggering that he was given “professional counselling” and was allowed to continue working.

Now he is at risk of having his nursing licence cancelled, following a Health and Disability Commissioner investigation that found he sexually exploited the woman and breached the Code of Patients’ Rights.

He is at risk? What about the patient being at risk? And other patients?

Mr Hill has asked the Director of Proceedings to consider the case. The independent prosecutor has not yet decided whether to take any action, which could include laying charges at the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

Mr Hill has also asked the Nursing Council to review the nurse’s competence and recommended that he write an apology to the patient and do some training on professional boundaries.

That sounds like a totally inadequare response.

The Herald lists Nursing Council rules

  • Nurses are banned from sexual or intimate behaviour or relationships with patients and those close to them.
  • Sexual relationships with former patients may be inappropriate regardless of when the nursing care ceased.
  • Sexual or intimate relationships might never be appropriate if the former patient had been mentally unwell.

“An apology to the patient and do some training on professional boundaries” seems manifestly inadequate.

David Cunliffe with Rachel Smalley

Rachael Smalley interviewed David Cunliffe on Newstalk ZB this morning – audio here.


Smalley: Labour leader David Cunliffe is under the gun at the moment for his use of so-called secret trusts. First, were the revelations about a trust set up to receive anonymous political donations when he contested Labour’s leadership last year.

And then overnight the party moved to clarify a report about a second secret trust. It turns out it was a personal savings trust which was declared five months after it should have been when Mr Cunliffe received new advice.

So, it’s in no way connected to the election trust issue but commentators are now asking whether David Cunliffe is right to maintain that he stands for transparency, for fairness, and for openness.

The Labour leader is with me now, good morning Mr Cunliffe. What do you stand for?

Cunliffe: Yes, I stand for all of those things, which is why I have asked donors to my campaign to waive their right to confidentiality and be as open as possible. And I have gone as far as I can legally do to provide as much information to the public as I can about those who contributed in the primary campaign.

Smalley: Why the need for secrecy? Why the need for secret trusts?

Cunliffe: Oh look there’s been, during my primary campaign, a number of individuals who made donations higher than five hundred, not a large number, just a handful. Those donations were made on the basis that they remained confidential in compliance with the law and to put appropriate distance between me and donors.

Smalley: You’ve named three of them though, two remain a secret, that’s my understanding. Why is that?

Cunliffe: Firstly because I don’t know who they are. Secondly because I cannot compel disclosure. The trustee has asked them to disclose, two of them have declined and for that reason we have rescinded their donations.

Smalley: Do you accept though that it looks shonkey.

Cunliffe: I accept that there is a full scale assault against me and the Labour Party, and I would respectfully suggest that has something to do with what we stand for, which is a program of change that will bring a fairer better New Zealand.

Smalley: Where’s that assault coming from?

Cunliffe: I think that assault is coming from obviously from the National Party and no doubt from some people that support the National Party.

Smalley: But there are, you know, by all accounts Mr Cunliffe, you’re a politically smart man. How did you permit a mistake like this to be made?

Cunliffe: Well I have said that, um, ah this is the first time that a primary campaign has been run. It has been clear all the way through that my campaign was fully compliant the rules both of the Labour Party, and with Parliament’s pecuniary interests register. Um I have said that in hindsight, weighing up the public’s ah desire for information I do consider it was a lapse of judgement on my part to have allowed the trust to be set up in the first place. But I have done whatever I can now to ensure as full a disclosure as possible.

Smalley: Is one of the donors Kim Dotcom?

Cunliffe: Ah look I don’t know, but I’d be extremely surprised.

Smalley: You can’t confirm either way?

Cunliffe: No, I mean I think anyone who wants to ask that question should ask it of Mr Dotcom because I do not know the answer to that question.

Today Dotcom tweeted:”I have never donated to the leadership race of @DavidCunliffeMP or to Labor, or the Greens, or NZ First. I support the #InternetParty!”

Smalley: How can you win the trust of the country because, and there was another allegation that’s been made as well of another trust that wasn’t declared. How can you win the trust of the country and therefore the election?

Cunliffe: I get up every morning Rachel to try to make this country better, I get up to work as hard as I can for my party and the country and for all of our kids, not just my own kids. And like all politicians of all parties, I put myself in harms way to try to make our country better.

Smalley: But there’s no doubt Mr Cunliffe, trust and honesty, so, so important.

Cunliffe: And I would challenge anybody to name any way in which I have been dishonest, I would refute that allegation…

Smalley: Do you have the full support of your party do you think? And I’m talking about Phil Goff, Annette King, Trevor Mallard, all of them?

Cunliffe: Absolutely, absolutely, each and every one of them,

Smalley: There are stronger calls…there are strong calls now for you from some quarters to resign. Under what circumstances would you relinquish the leadership?

Cunliffe: Um I think that is a very very silly suggestion and I have had absolutely no conversations to that effect within the caucus I can assure you. This is a sustained assault on a political party by their political opponents, and I’m sure people can see it for what it is.

Smalley: Do you accept though that people will think that you are protecting someone, that you’re keeping this secret?

Cunliffe: No I doubt that, I think people will see that I have done more than I was legally required to do to be as transparent as possible.

Transparency most not be a priority if there seems to be more interest in complying with the letter of the law.

Confronting online abuse

I think many people were quite shocked by what they heard.

Much of the contact is anonymous. People use fake names and hide behind their keyboards. A friend of mine calls them ‘keyboard cowards’ and I think that’s quite an apt term.

I’ve had my fair share of abuse as well.

The attacks via twitter that followed were awful. One that sticks in my mind is the woman who tweeted me and said I deserved to die.

I’ve received messages that are too vile to write about here, but most are triggered by those who feel strongly about one political party or the other. I can’t post the most abusive feedback.

For others, it can wear you down, it can make you think about what you do and why you do it, and it can make you worry about who’s living in our communities – so much anger, so much hatred.

The sad reality is that there’s no way to stop it. Not at the moment.

But at the moment, technology is developing at a far greater pace than the checks and balances that should be in place to protect people. Maybe in the future that might change. But I don’t think we should hold our breath.

Those comments could apply to many situations (read this link for specifics).

We shouldn’t hold our breath. Those who care should do something about it, confront bullying and abusive behaviour, and take the fight to the online thugs.

Most people are decent people. If enough of them speak up they will show that the abusers are a small (albeit loud) minority that can be overcome.

There’s no way to stop it but here are ways to reduce it – like more people confronting the abuse and the abusers and not letting them get way with shouting down decent discussion and debate.

There are risks, the bullies often turn and attack when confronted, but if you stay dignified and strong they usually end up backing off. Like any part of society it’s up to good people to stand up and not allow an abusive few ruin our forums.

Good coverage, good vibes at Waitangi

If you watch and read and listen to news about Waitangi it’s easy to get the impression the celebrations are riven by protest and confrontation. The rest of New Zealand collectively rolls it’s eyes when “thrown”, “jostled” and “Harawira” are mentioned.

Rachel Smalley describes this in More balance needed in Waitangi Day reporting?

No surprise. Waitangi celebrations have begun and the key headline is that there was a scuffle, some jostling apparently, an altercation. It’s tense, we’re told. It’s tense on the marae.

I hear this and I think ‘here we go again, another year at Waitangi, another year of sloppy reporting’.

You see, the media needs a headline. It needs to entice, it needs to suggest there is conflict. Why? Well the media is ruled by listener or viewership numbers, and the reality is that Maori politics and Maori issues don’t snare a big audience in this country. So there’s an unspoken need, if you like, to ‘ham it up’.

So that’s one of the reasons we see a distorted view of Waitangi celebrations. Yes, at times Waitangi has been confrontational. There have been protests and flag burnings. But when the conflict isn’t there, the media invents it.

Smalley reported from Waitangi last year and saw a major difference between media focus and what happened overall.

I reported from Waitangi last year and the focus then was on the power struggle between kuia Titewhai Harawira and Ani Taurua. Both women wanted to lead the Prime Minister on to the marae. Anyway, the media made a meal of it, and then it was all over.


I had a great day at Waitangi last year. It was like a carnival. I was welcomed wherever I went. Maori were cooking and selling food, culture and craft was on display, and it’s set in a truly beautiful part of the world. It is emotive and yet there is a lightness to it too. I loved it. 

So as I watch the way Waitangi is reported in the mainstream media this year, I am again frustrated. The media is selling the public short and it should be mindful of the role it plays in race relations in this country.

One journalist may have read Smalley’s column. Katie Bradford (TVNZ, @katiebradford) provide a tweet account of the day:

Good morning Waitangi. Beautiful still morning for a run.

Kaine Thompson @pointoforder: today, you have the best job ever.

This week, I have the best job!

My interview with the @GovGeneralNZ about yesterday’s events & how he views the importance of Waitangi … via @ONENewsNZ

Annette Sykes address the hikoi outside Te Tii marae

Protestors waiting to be welcomed on to Te Tii Marae.

Duncan Garner @garnerlive: That’s your Mum’s party!!

It’s a whole mixed bag…
including a number of ministers!

@liamkernaghan: Potential conflict of interest there Katie?

@MeganCampbellNZ: ultimately Katie is a professional and a bloody good one

Duncan Garner @garnerlive: agree

It’s not often you see government ministers mixed in with activists. All quite peaceful.

Titewhai Harawira leading anti oil and gas exploration protestors on to Te Tii marae.

Winston Peters to protestors “don’t come here and crap on the traditions and protocols of this part of the world”. It’s “bad behaviour”.

John Key expected to arrive at Te Tii any minute. Procreedings 90 minutes late.

John Key being welcomed on to Te Tii marae. Protestors on one side of the marae but largely peaceful.

Events largely peaceful in Waitangi. Hone Harawira and Metiria Turei agree that it’s one of the most peaceful in years.

(Hone Harawira was asked about this on Breakfast: “I find most years are calm apart from two or three minutes.”)

John Key speaking on Te Tii, says he’s here to “straighten the waka” & National have done, and do plenty for Maori. Thanks the Maori Party.

On the marae, Key tells anti oil and gas exploration protestors they are “wrong” & challenges them to come to Wellington & face facts

John Key is being screamed at on the marae. Performers outside start singing to drown it out. Applause from Key at end of speech.

A bag of fish got thrown at Key as he was leaving. Didn’t hit him and the guy who did it is refusing to comment on why he did it.

Festive feeling at Waitangi. Bands playing, performers practicing.This is why everyone should visit Waitangi.

Dave @caffeineaddict: seen this?
(refers to Smalley’s column)

Did you see my last tweet? Exactly what I’m saying.

Dave @caffeineaddict: yeah, thats why I linked it to you. To back up your last tweet.

What are Waitangi protesters fighting for? (Video 1:57)

“Banners and rowdy behaviour makes Waitangi protesters highly visible.”
(TV News headline proving Smalley made a valid point).

@JodiIhaka hello from Waitangi!

@JodieIhaka: OMG. Thank you – that’s made our morning.. ask my brother to show you some Ihaka hospitality – kai or tequila. love London x

Good! That was the plan. We just talked about Northland as fellow Northlanders. Nothing makes me happier than being up here!

@JodieIhaka: Absolutely agree.

Sounds like it was a good day at Waitangi. Some of the news reports…

NZ Herald: Marae hums as overseas visitors, locals and helpers enjoy day

There was calm at Waitangi’s Te Tii Marae yesterday with some locals going as far to say that things were “pretty tame and chilled”.

Stuff: Woman speaks at marae

Metiria Turei becomes the first female politician to speak on Te Tii Marae, 16 years after Helen Clark drama.

3 News:Historic day as women speak on Waitangi marae

Despite the odd tussle and some political mud slinging, it was a largely peaceful Waitangi Day eve.

3 News: Waitangi ‘one of the quietest’ ever – Key

John Key says this year’s reception at Waitangi was “very calm” compared to others when he had been belted or shouted down while speaking.

Radio New Zealand: Parties vie for Maori vote at Waitangi

Political parties have made their bid for the Maori vote in Northland during a largely peaceful day ahead of the commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Radio New Zealand: Flag change support at Waitangi

There was strong support for a change to the New Zealand flag among people gathered at Waitangi for the Waitangi Day celebrations.

It took some look to find coverage of yesterday at Waitangi. A day without antagonism and grandstanding struggles to make the headlines.

Why was yesterday uncontroversial? There will be a number of reasons, especially that no one made a spectacle of themselves. Even the fish throwing protest was low key. It is possible that media heeded Smalley’s comments enough to not stir things up and create news headlines. What she said was at least noted by some.

Most New Zealanders will have a public holiday today remote from the activities at Waitangi, and without the media giving them much to roll their eyes at. But a big bunch of people seem to be having a good time at Waitangi. That’s very good to see.

Thanks for speaking up for better journalism Rachel, and influencing better media coverage at Waitangi.

And thanks for some balanced coverage Katie and a good insight into what really happens at Waitangi.

Update: One News report this morning – Waitangi protests not the true picture, PM says

The PM says protests at Waitangi give the wrong impression and it is usually a very happy family day.

Dunne transcript from The Nation

On the future of United Future, the Electoral Commission, Dunne’s recent headaches, and the GCSB Amendment legislation.


Interviewed by RACHEL SMALLEY
Rachel Peter Dunne returned to parliament this week after taking some time off, following his resignation as a Minister. He quit two weeks ago after the release of a report into the leaking of a GCSB report. The news only got worse this week when the Electoral Commission refused to reregister the United Future Party because it couldn’t produce signed membership forms. So what is the future for his party? The MP for Ohariu joins me now. Good morning Mr Dunne, thank you for joining me this morning. So is that what you are now essentially, an independent MP in your electorate?

Peter Dunne – United Future Leader
No, I’m still the United Future MP for Ohariu, I’m the Leader of the United Future Party and in fact the ironic consequence of recent events has been that our membership has rocketed. We now have, and the Electoral Commission funnily enough acknowledges this, a very substantial membership. The sticking point that we have with them is simply the form of verification of that membership.

Rachel Okay, so what is the future then as we see it today for your party?

Peter I think the future’s a very positive one. What’s come through loud and clear to me over the last couple of weeks is that the moderate liberal democratic role that we play in New Zealand politics is one that a lot of New Zealanders appreciate and want to see retained. So I’ve had huge encouragement from people from right around the country to carry on. We’ve had as I say a huge surge in our membership, and I think once we can settle all of this down and move forward, our future is a very positive one, and the contribution we can make to government in New Zealand in the future is also a positive one.

Rachel Okay so what do you need to do to settle it down, what does the Commission want you to do?

Peter Well this is a very pedantic point. We have provided the Commission with electronic verification for a substantial number of members, well over a thousand. The Commission is insisting on seeing signed documents in respect of each of those people, in other words a signed membership application form. That is time consuming, we are currently, although I think it’s a really sill process to be going through, currently collecting all of that data. I’m hopeful that within the next week we should be able to front up with their pedantic requirement being met.

Rachel You say it’s pedantic, but it’s also, it’s necessary isn’t it to see those signed membership forms, spreadsheets for example are too open to manipulation.

Peter What we have produced for the Commission, and the Commission acknowledges funnily enough as accurate and correct, is a form in respect of each individual member that shows name address, electorate, contact points etc, when they paid, how they paid and the receipting process for that payment, and the Electoral Commission says, yes but we still want a signature. We accept that this is accurate and verifiable, but we still need a signature. And I say come on this is the 21st century, most people are used to doing online transactions, that’s all we’ve simply done, and they are the ones sticking in the mud.

Rachel You didn’t say that though when you were the Minister of Revenue. I mean what the Electoral Commission requires is exactly what’s required by your former ministry, they need to see signatures. Though you can file electronically but you still must follow it up with a signed form.

Peter And in fact the tax legislation that I put through in the last year or so changed that to make it much easier for people to do their tax business online, just as it is for your banking and everything else.

Rachel You still have to sign, Inland Revenue still has to see that signature though, just like the Electoral Commission is requesting from you now.

Peter The point is though, let’s go back one. The Electoral Commission has made two decisions which are completely at odds with each other. On the one hand it says, and they said to us very clearly when we met them last week, we accept that United Future is not a new political party, you’ve been around since 1995, we accept that, you are clearly an established political party, but because your registration was cancelled at our request, not theirs, at our request – because your registration was cancelled we have to treat you as a new party for re-registration purposes. Those two positions are absurd, Had they said because you’re an existing party we will treat you as such for re-registration, all we would have been required to do is file a statutory declaration saying we have more than 500 members, and they refused to accept that.

Rachel And you didn’t meet that party membership. That’s why this needs to be policed surely.

Peter Well here’s the irony. When the position emerged late April and it became clear that we weren’t going to be able to verify that we had more than 500 financial members, even though we had more than that number on our database, we approached the Commission, not them approaching us. Had we signed the declaration falsely to say we had the number of members, the Commission never actually checks, and none of this situation would have arisen. So ironically again we’re being punished for our honesty.

Rachel Do you think there are other parties who don’t make that 500 membership?

Peter Oh I’m sure there are.

Rachel Mana? ACT?

Peter I’m not gonna name them, but I’m sure a number of parties would struggle, particularly in non-election years, to meet that deadline. And the Electoral Commission simply requires a statutory declaration to that effect, and it acknowledges it does not have the resources to actually check whether those declarations are correct. So we’re in the unusual position, in fact the unique position of saying we can’t file a declaration at this time, because we want some more time to verify. When we now come back with a verified membership they say sorry the process starts from scratch from you as though you were a new party straight off the street.

Rachel And that’s how it is, that is the law isn’t it?

Peter Well it’s not the law actually, the Electoral Commission has the power to make its own rules. The Electoral Commission also has the power to vary its rules. It has chosen not to do so.

Rachel Okay, fair point. Have you considered joining the National Party at any stage Mr Dunne?

Peter Never. Never.

Rachel You would consider it now?

Peter No, and the reason is because I have considerable philosophical and other differences with the National Party on a range of issues, and just as I left the Labour Party. When I left the Labour Party in 1994 someone said to me why don’t you join the National Party and I said well I’m not jumping out of one frying pan into another fire.

Rachel Okay, will you stand in your electorate in the next election then?

Peter Oh I’ve made no decision either way on that at the moment Rachel.

Rachel Why not? It pretty much around the corner.

Peter No, it’s 18 months away. I normally decide my future position around about the end of this year, beginning of early next year in an election year process. Nothing unusual in that. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Rachel What factors will influence that decision Mr Dunne? What will you consider?

Peter Oh, I want to see what the political landscape looks like. I want to see what the messages of support or otherwise from my electorate look like. I also want to see what the state of the party looks like. I’ve got a lot of work to do in the next six months to get to that point, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding United Future and actually seeing us play a competent role in government again.

Rachel How do you think John Key handled the situation that you’ve been through?

Peter Oh I’ve got no criticism of the Prime Minister, in fact I think he’s been very supportive and I made it clear to him, and I made it clear publically at the time that I made my resignation, that I had no wish to embarrass the Prime Minister in any way, I think he’s done a good job for New Zealand, and I expect to see him continue.

Rachel Do you believe you could have carried on as a Minister?

Peter Oh look it’s possible, but I made the call in the end, that the range of circumstances where I felt that I had let myself down, didn’t justify that happening.

Rachel So should you have carried on or not? You don’t think you should have?

Peter Well it was my decision in the end, it wasn’t the Prime Minister’s. I offered him my resignation saying I don’t think my position is tenable in these circumstances, and he reluctantly accepted it. Could I have toughed it out? I don’t know, I didn’t really think that was appropriate.

Rachel How much has some of the you know fairly extreme commentary around your circumstances affected you?

Peter Look the last – I don’t want to go into the details, but obviously the last two weeks have been pretty tough on me, very tough on my wife, very tough on my family, and also my wider circle of friends and associates. I think that this has been a most extreme form of muck raking, and I think it’s been hard on all concerned, and I just hope we can move forward from here, and put those things behind us.

Rachel Are you regretful of your situation, or do you feel something of a victim in this?

Peter Oh in terms of the particular situation I’m a bit of a victim, I’m a bit also a victim of my activities and actions, and do I feel regretful – in some senses yes. But look I’ve fronted up, I took the call that it was not appropriate for me to carry on, and I’m now looking forward to the new horizons that lie ahead.

Rachel Who’s been the most supportive to you throughout this?

Peter Oh my wife. Jennifer has been superbly supportive. I mean she’s had a very difficult time, and I’ve just really appreciated her support, her encouragement, and just her loyalty over this period of time, and if anything it’s brought us much closer together, and I really value that.

Rachel So how do you see the next months or so panning out for you Mr Dunne?

Peter Well, immediate job tomorrow is to go and hang some pictures in my new office, and then get back to work. I’ve got a big adjustment to make from not being a Minister. I’ve been in that role now for a long period of time, and this will be a real opportunity for me to focus on some things that are important. Important policy issues for United Future in terms of protecting the freedoms and rights and access for New Zealanders to opportunity and to enjoy all their country has to offer, working in my electorate, and just recapturing a bit of my own life too.

Rachel Do you have unfinished business do you think? For example as Revenue Minister?

Peter Oh there were things that I wanted to see through, and I’m confident that the new Minister will see them through. The major re-organisation of the department’s technology. I think there’s an ongoing case for progressive tax reform in New Zealand, but I made it very clear to him if he wants my advice he’s welcome to ask for it, but I’m not going to be sitting on his shoulder telling him here’s what I’d do if I were you. It’s his show now, not mine, I’ve moved on.

Rachel Do you have any indication or have you had any indication that you could return to a Minister’s position in time?

Peter Oh that issues hasn’t arisen, and frankly it’s not something that’s on my radar screen at the moment. As I say I’ve got a full set of priorities ahead of me. I’m looking forward to a different pace of life also, but also just getting on with things that I can focus on, that are important to me, to my party and to my electorate.

Rachel We’ll shortly be talking about Jamie Lee Ross’s Employment Amendment Bill, that’s something that you have suggested you won’t support. Are there other bills from the right that you would perhaps not look to support as well?

Peter Well it depends what’s coming forward, I don’t know the full agenda. This is a private member’s bill, he did discuss it with me several weeks ago, long before the current controversy blew up, and I indicated to him then that I thought it was a step too far, and I indicated also to the Prime Minister at that time that I wouldn’t be supporting it should it proceed. There will be others that will come along, but we’ll take each one on a case by case basis. I will be looking closely given recent circumstances at the GCSB legislation for instance, in terms of whether it actually achieves what it sets out to do, or whether it goes too far. And there’ll be other measures that will come up that I’ll apply the same rule to. But it will be business as usual, that’ll be done on a no surprises basis, and we’ll be honouring our confidence and supply agreement.

Rachel Is it your gut feeling that the GCSB has too much power Mr Dunne?

Peter I think there’s a conflict that needs to be resolved between the role of our domestic surveillance agency, the SIS, and our external agency the GCSB, and where they coincide. And I must say I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the notion that because the GCSB might have better technology for example it can do work on behalf of the domestic agency. I accept there are cases where that may be appropriate, but I think there needs to be a much clearer delineation and a much clearer statement about where one’s role ends and the other begins. Otherwise I think the situation could remain as blurred as it was in the case.

Rachel Do you think it spied on you?

Peter I don’t know. I don’t know, and I suspect for a lot of New Zealanders the question that they will ask themselves in this whole debate is just how certain they can be of their freedom, how certain they can be that they aren’t inadvertently caught up in something much wider. And I think that while these things always operate in the shadows to some extent, the challenge is to give the greatest level of confidence you can to people that their circumstances are being protected and their rights and freedoms are not being abused.

Rachel So essentially what you’re saying is that the government can’t rely 100% on your support with this legislation.

Peter Well the bill is about to go to the Intelligence and Security Committee for the hearing of public submissions. I imagine it will be amended by the committee once that process is completed. I will then have a look at the bill in that form to determine whether it’s something I can support.

Rachel Alright, Peter Dunne, Leader for United Future. Thank you for your time this morning.

Grant Robertson and easy rides

In advance of yesterday’s interview on The Nation I posted Grant Robertson – pre-interview praise by The Nation producer, where Robertson had been praised by Richard Harman, producer of The Nation.

This morning Robertson tweeted a comment about Q + A:

Grant Robertson@grantrobertson1 

Raymond Millar and Susan Wood really have not been following how John Key changed his story over last week. Why the easy ride on PM?

Perhaps they see things differently to a party intent on discrediting their main opponent.

And it’s particularly ironic considering the easy ride Robertson had in his The National interview. Rachel Smalley virtually have him a free ride, he was able to make questionable claims and paint perceptions unchallenged.

The subsequent coverage was

Labour won’t commit to GCSB Review

Deputy Opposition leader Grant Robertson says Labour wants an inquiry into the appointment of GCSB Director, Ian Fletcher, but wouldn’t commit the party to review the security service should they win Government.

He says that Prime Minister’s taping on the shoulder of Mr Fletcher for the position is an issue concerning fair and transparent process, rather than a criticism of the security service itself.

“Oh look I think we’ve got to look at the wider picture and how intelligence services are working, and I’m sure that’s something we’ll address.  But right now what we’ve got in front of us is a case where we have an appointment process that seems to have gone away from what was originally proposed, and the moment that that particularly occurred was when the Prime Minister intervened.  That’s why we’re asking for an inquiry into this particular appointment process,” Mr Robertson says.

Mr Robertson says the relationship between GCSB Director and Prime Minister is a powerful one, and it concerns Labour that due process in the appointment of Mr Fletcher may not have been followed.

“Well when you look at the GCSB Act, it says that the Prime Minister is control of the functions of the GCSB.  That’s actually a different phrasing than almost any other ministerial role in an act of parliament, so they have a very key role.  They work very closely with the Director of the GCSB, and that close relationship is what’s now being raised here, because we now know that the Prime Minister shoulder tapped somebody that he’d known from childhood into that role.”

That’s a fairly mild excerpt when taking the whole interview into account. There’s a video of it all at the above link.

Robertson has been carrying out what appears to be a concerted campaign attacking Key, and some of the media has been taken for the ride. They have been right to hold Key to account, but have failed to provide balance by examining Robertson’s motives and mode of operation.

Grant Robertson – pre-interview praise by The Nation producer

Grant Robertson will be interviewd on The Nation this morning.

@grantrobertson1 on why he wants an inquiry to the #GCSB affair

And he’s looking forward to it…

@TheNationTV3 see you there, bright and early.

…and he seems to think he is getting good coverage on his GCSB recruitment campaign. he will have been encouraged by an interview on Firstline yesterday with Richard Harman, “political commentator and producer of TV3 current affairs show The Nation”.

“It’s turning into a pure political management issue, and this morning’s [New Zealand] Herald’s got this picture of John Key’s class at school, there’s Ian Fletcher’s brother standing just behind John Key, the two of them were in the debating team together. The Prime Minister is going to have to come clean.”

Mr Harman praised Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson’s handling of the scandal, saying it made sense for Mr Robertson to take on the attack dog role, rather than leader David Shearer.

“I think they’ve been very effective, and I think Grant Robertson has taken this issue very effectively. There’s two interesting things about Grant Robertson on this one – he’s a former diplomat, so he knows a little bit about the murky, secret world; two, he’s worked in the Prime Minister’s office, so he knows how these things pan out.

“Grant Robertson is a creature of Wellington. He knows how these things work, and that may be why they’ve given it to him.”

So will Rachel Smalley be praising Robertson as much as her producer on The Nation? Robertson will get in some self praise, but if Smalley is true to form she will gently ask some searching questions. Like…

Robertson needs to be clear if he has confidence in public service heads Iain Rennie and and Ian Fletcher. They are implicated in his accusations of cronyism – see Grant Robertson, cronyism, and Iain Rennie and Attacking Public Servants.

And if Robertson “knows how these things pan out” he should know that attacking public servants could have serious implications should he become deputy Prime Minister – and possibly Prime Minister, or at least acting Prime Minister. He will have to have a working relationship with people like Rennie and Fletcher.

A comment by ‘niggly’ at Kiwiblog:

Fascinating to hear Grant Robertson dancing on the head of a pin this morning on Morning Report.

In essence he is implying the PM dismissed the 4 other applicants to ensure his “mate’ Fletcher got the job.

When actually it has been in the public domain that the other 4 candidates were rejected (presumably due to lack of change management experience etc) and afterwards in some discussion with Rennie and Key Fletcher’s name was mooted.

So factual history shows up that it is Robertson who is lying.

At the end of the I/V when asked by the show’s host whether Robertson is actually attacking Fletcher, Robertson stated no it is actually about attacking John Key.

So here we have it, Robertson admits what we here know already, that this is nothing more than more unstanciated Labour personal attacks on the PM. What a jolly nice guy Grant Robertson is, a Bully!


The part I omitted above about Grant Robertson/Labour is that again, they are using public servants (Fletcher, Rennie) to attack the PM.

Stephen Franks asks in More on Fletcher GCSB appointment:

The media lapping up the opposition line should think to ask Mr Robertson “what would stop a future government ensuring that a third party does the shoulder tapping of favoured candidates, if it was true that a Minister should not do it directly?”.

And as as Robertson has “worked in the Prime Minister’s office” he will have already seen how appointments have worked in the past. ‘Niggly’ again:

…let’s not forget it was Helen Clark who made the changes to allow the politicians to appoint the heads of Defence, SIS, GCSB etc.

And of course Labour and Grant Robertson are self-projecting when they talk about subjects such as “cronyism”. It was one of Labour’s “strength’s”…

Robertson’s knowledge of and possible involvement in appointments made while he worked for Helen Clark would be interesting to explore.

Robertson returned to New Zealand during the first term of the Fifth Labour Government to work as a Ministerial advisor to Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs and later Prime Minister Helen Clark.

During his time in Clark’s office, Robertson was rumoured to have the nickname “H3” during the 2005 General Election (H1 being Clark, and H2 being Chief of Staff, Heather Simpson).


As Harman said, “Grant Robertson is a creature of Wellington. He knows how these things work…”

I hope Rachel Smalley knows how some of these things work. And asks some pertinent questions.

There are hints that Robertson may be being disingenuous making attacks on John Key while trying to weasel out of responsibility for collateral damage on public servants and the public service – which he has been a part of.

Remarkable change in asset (MOM) bill coverage

After months of strident opposition to ‘asset sales” and the Mixed Ownership Model bill, and complaints that National haven’t presented their side of ther argument well, this weekend saw a significant change in media coverage.

The MOM bill completed it’s passage through parliament this week.

Today TV1’s Q+A had an interview with Bill English that covered MOM issues, and there was a separate interview:

With Mighty River Power about to go on the block we talk to Mark Lister, Head of Private Wealth Research at Craigs Investment Partners.

This looked quite favourably at the propsoects of investing in Mighty River Power, and the potential advantages for New Zealand’s capital markets.

And yesterday (and repeated this morning) on The Nation Rachel Smalley had a realistic and informative discussion on the proposed share floats, especially of Mighty River Power – but curiously this doesn’t feature on The Nation website.

(As at 11.00am Sunday 1 July)

Is the Dotcom item really the lead item from The Nation? Have asset part sales faded from publicn interest this quickly?