Winston’s motives – short or long term?

Trying to work out what Winston Peters motives are can be a bit of a challenge, but some try to do it.

It may come down to whether he is more interested in the short term, baubles of power for him, or the longer term with a succession plan for NZ First.

At Whale Oil in one of the different styles common under the authorship of ‘Cameron Slater’: Winston on shared PM role

Winston Peters was burned in 1999. When Bolger was rolled, who he could work with, and replaced with Shipley, who he couldn’t work with.

Ever since then he has made it his mission in life to never say what he is going to do until he sees how the votes land on election night. The main reason being is that he wants the most stable possible government with a preference of just two partners. He knows some dead heads will come in with both parties and he wants enough numbers so if some go they can still govern.

An odd assertion.

The next is that he will NEVER work with the Greens. In his book they get nothing. No under-secretary jobs, no associate ministers…NOTHING.

It’s well known he outmanoeuvred the Greens and kept them out of government in 2005, but I don’t think it’s possible to be this certain about what he may or may not do this year given the opportunity.

National would shank Bill English in about as much time as it takes to close the door on a ministerial limousine. Many backbenchers and some ministers are experiencing buyer’s remorse…and the longer it goes the worse it will get. They were still happy little sycophants to John Key and tugged their forelocks and did his bidding. He’s gone, left them to it and memories in politics fade fast.

If Winston Peters gets enough to make the demand of National to shank Bill English then it will happen. Personally I’d like very much to see that happen.

This is more revealing of the motives of ‘Cameron Slater’ rather than of Winston. Whale Oil has long been bitter about Bill English, and English easily beating Judith Collins in the contest to take over from John Key.

The best (albeit slim) chance of Collins becoming Prime Minister now is for National to lose this year’s election (they are almost certain to get the highest party vote but may not be able or willing to form a coalition) and for English to be dumped as a result.

But the motives of ‘Cameron Slater’ are a lot more obvious than Winston’s.

Rob Hosking at NBR has an interesting take on it.

The choice for Peters is this: become the second or third wheel in a National or Labour-led government, or stay out and build up New Zealand First to replace Labour as the second party of 2020.

There’s some merit to that possibility. It’s bad news for Labour as it makes their path to government much harder. But if Peters is looking at a future for NZ First after he retires it makes a lot of sense.

If NZ First form a coalition with National or Labour with Winston still in charge it may damage NZ First’s chances of survival should Winston need to step down. His party has struggled after it’s past coalitions.

If Labour do poorly this election – and there’s a real possibility of this – then NZ First (and Greens) will see an opportunity to take over the lead Opposition role from them.

And if National get another term then they should find it very difficult to win again in 2020, if there is a credible alternative.

So Winston’s obvious choices are:

  • To get whatever baubles he can in what would likely be his last term in Parliament, and leave NZ First in a weakened position, or
  • Sit on the cross benches, get some policy wins to enable National to govern as a minority government but build NZ First credentials as the most prominent opposition party.

The latter is likely to be the better option for the future of NZ First without Winston.

It depends on his preference, to go out in some sort of blaze of personal glory versus setting his party up for a future without him.

‘Neoliberalism’ debate continues

The economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s in New Zealand rescued the country from the extreme interventions of Robert Muldoon, which were misguided attempts to re-invent New Zealand’s economy after Britain dumped us as one of it’s primary producers and to deal with the oil shocks of the late 80s.

I don’t recall those reforms ever being described as the introduction of a new ideology, nor them being called neoliberalism. (But I didn’t follow politics closely in those days).

I’ve followed politics a lot more over the last decade and even then it seems to be increasingly in more recent years that people from the left have lamented the advent of neoliberalism and expressed a yearning to how things once were (while never saying how that was supposed to have been).

Certainly how we manage our economy and social services and public services has changed markedly over the last half century. Margaret Thatcher changed things in Britain, and Ronald changed things in the USA. But it was hardly a massive shift from capitalism to neo-liberalism as if it was as drastic as a move in the other direct to communism would have been.

Then this week Jim Bolger, New Zealand Prime Minister in much of the 1990s, seemed to denounce neoliberalism in an interview for RNZ: The Negotiator – Jim Bolger: Prime Minister 1990-97

Bolger says neo-liberal economic policies have absolutely failed. It’s not uncommon to hear that now; even the IMF says so. But to hear it from a former National Prime Minister who pursued privatisation, labour market deregulation, welfare cuts and tax reductions – well, that’s pretty interesting.

“They have failed to produce economic growth and what growth there has been has gone to the few at the top,” Bolger says, not of his own policies specifically but of neo-liberalism the world over. He laments the levels of inequality and concludes “that model needs to change.”

That’s kind of remarkable. Certainly there has some problems that have emerged from how the country is managed over the last three decades.

A discussion was sparked on Twitter today.

Bryce Edwards:

Jim Bolger recants neoliberalism, & now on Michelle Boag graciously acknowledges Laila Harre’s good work in industrial relations!

Liam Hehir:

Can you point to an instance of him explicitly praising “neoliberalism” at any point?

Bryce Edwards:

He’s widely accepted to have overseen the implementation of a version of a neoliberal programme, no? He was fairly praiseworthy of that.

Liam Hehir:

Yeah – and he really expressed no regret for that in the podcast. He also didn’t suggest his reforms were neoliberal – that was Guyon’s word

Bryce Edwards:

All true. Yet David Farrar suggests that Bolger is now “to the left of Helen Clark”. I look forward to your column on this.

Rob Hosking:

There’s a huge amount of oversimplification & revisionism going on about this (and related matters) at the moment. It’s very misleading.

Phillip Matthews:

I’d be interested to know if the word “neoliberalism” was used much in NZ in the 1990s. People talked about market forces or Rogernomics.

I’ve only heard “neoliberalism” being used over the last few years. It’s a retrospective label that most people have no understanding or even knowledge of.

Greg Jackson:

I wrote about economics and politics in the 80’s and 90’s. Never heard “neoliberalism” bandied about in popular or private usage.

Liam Hehir:

Whatever you call it, it was never promoted as an ideological agenda. It was sold as a necessary, if bitter, medicine.

(By prime ministers, I should add).

In the interview, Espiner asks Bolger about neoliberalism. Bolger is non-committal about the term. He then goes on to express some dissatisfaction about current economic circumstances. So what happens, “OMG Jim Bolger has denounced neoliberalism you guys!!!!”

Ben Thomas:

Re revisionism: Guyon suggested Douglas’s economic plan happened under cover of “popular social reform” like homosexual law reform.

I mean, we all pretend on Twitter we’ve always been woke, but that’s a helluva way to misremember 1980s NZ (& the courage of the reformers)

Yeah, the BWB crowd’s window into the 1980s is via Kelsey’s books and Alistair Barry’s documentaries. It gives a skewed picture.

I was sorta relieved when Moore pointed out actually there weren’t thousands protesting in the streets each day, or complete social collapse.

I think generally people knew things had to change and quite drastically.

Matthew Hooton:

The craziest is the idea the “unpopular” economic reforms were possible because of the “popular” anti-nuke & homosexual law reform moves.

For many, anti-nukes was tolerated cos of economic reforms & the homosexual law reform bill was extremely controversial at the time.

How things were economically in the early to mid 80s was untenable, and we can’t undo what has happened.

 

 

  1. How the heck do you change the model from neo-liberalism?
  2. Why don’t we address the problems, deal with them and move forward?

From what I’ve seen most people who say “we must reverse neoliberalism” actually mean “we need to change to socialism”. We can’t go back.

Why don’t we just do what we can to fix the problems we have now and not worry about labels and revolutionary changes.

 

‘…a country of angry dullards’

From my final Order Paper column in NBR for 2016: On doing better in 2017. [paywalled]

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That’s harsh but doesn’t reflect how things are anyway – most of the New Zealand populace is far from obsessed with politics, they largely don’t know and/or don’t care most of the time.

But amongst the the small minority of people who do care about politics there are quite a few angry dullards, forever raging against what is and raging for the ideals that will never be and can never be.

Hosking is right that most of New Zealand may be barely aware of the changes to our Government and will have given little if any thought to how an English led government may change things.

Most governing goes on out of sight of most people – even those with an interest see little of what actually goes on. And that doesn’t really matter very much.

New Zealand isn’t a country of angry dullards. In the main, when it comes to politics, we are a country of ‘yeah, nah’.

Intergenerational bickering

There seems to be an increasing amount of bickering and bull about generational groupings.

Baby boomers in particular are getting attacked by millennials or whatever younger groups are called (there’s one or two more in between suposedly but I can’t remember what they are lebelled and don’t care).

Rob Hosking addresses this in Jonesing for solutions to the generation divide  – it is NBR paid content but he has tweeted a snippet:

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This isn’t much different to the bickering between left wingers and right wingers – and worse the slagging off by one self labelled group of others deemed to be enemy (which Andrew Little got involved in this week).

Hosking is correct, this sort of petty compartmenterlising is petty and unproductive, and one of the least useful ways of finding solutions.

 

Elites, Maori Party, Clark, UN

Rob Hosking writes in NBR On revolt against the elites, the Maori Party & Helen Clark’s UN bid (paywall), and posted an excerpt on Twitter:

 

 

Little Labour left?

Rob Hosking at NBR asks What’s Left for Little’s Labour?

LittlelabourLeft

The path of the most recent ten years in what is now a 100-year history of the party is less illustrious.

An increasingly narrow, inward-looking defensive and incoherent Labour party is struggling for relevance in the 21st century.

The question in this parliamentary term passing it’s halfway point is whether Labour under leader Andrew Little is even remotely looking like an alternative government.

Perhaps a harsh view from the right but not unlike what you might read on a labour left blog like The Standard or further left at The Daily Blog.

 

Budget lockup, grumpy journalists

I don’t think I’ve seen journalists in Twitter so grumpy for so long, especially at some of their own.

A number of them were very annoyed with the news that someone from Mediaworks who were in a Reserve Bank lock up leaked details of an OCR announcement an hour early, and someone else from MediaWorks passed on the information to a blogger.

There was also annoyance with the MediaWorks response, with a distinct lack of contrition and an absence of obvious repercussions.

In the weekend long time ourno Rob Hosking slams MediaWorks over leak.

The grumping was still going on today, with Hamish Rutherforsd writing at Stuff MediaWorks must explain RBNZ leak

According to those who visited, Mark Weldon virtually celebrated the fact that there was no television in the Wellington apartment he lived in while he headed the NZX.

But heading the NZX, at a very minimum, would leave him well qualified to understand one area of modern media better than most: the integrity of market sensitive information.

Yet the company he now heads, Newshub owners MediaWorks, has not only committed a serious breach of trust, it is still to give any real account of what went wrong. It owes a better explanation of what exactly it gets up to.

No sign of an adequate explanation or action yet,

The lock-ups are extremely useful for the media organisations, especially when the interest rate decisions are accompanied with the quarterly monetary policy statements. These are essentially a novella of the Reserve Bank’s outlook for the economy, which generally contain complex messages. The Reserve Bank has admitted that misinterpretation of its intended message will increase without the lock-ups.

As a result of the leak, the Reserve Bank called an immediate end to the lock ups, not just for MediaWorks, but for the dozen or so organisations which attended every six weeks

That in particular annoyed journalists who value the lock ups. And they feelings continued today when the Treasury Secretary said the budget lock up next would be allowed but couldn’t be guaranteed to continue, subject to journalist responsibilities being met.

Hamish Rutherford@oneforthedr
Treasury secretary Gabriel Makhlouf decides “on balance” to hold up embargoed lock-up for Budget

Fuuuuuuuu, problems with Reserve Bank embargo breaches has led to a “review” of the embargoed Budget briefing.

For now, Budget 2016 goes ahead. (THANK GOD.) But future Budgets, and which news orgs can attend, will “continue to be reviewed”.

Chris Bramwell@ChrisBramwell
@FrancesCook I had a minor panic when I saw the email arrive … PHEW
Frances Cook@FrancesCook

In other words, no more messing up. Hard stare at those involved in Reserve Bank mess.

So there is obviously still ill feeling in the ranks of journalists, left festering because MediaWorks failed to address the issue adequately.

They obviously value getting privileged information in advance.

Hosking slams MediaWorks over leak

NBR journalist Rob Hosking has been scathing of MediaWorks after it was revealed today that at least two of their employees had been responsible for a leak of a confidential OCR announcement from a lock-up.

“…frankly a contemptible lack of integrity all round”.

He is also scathing of modern shock-horror journalism.

Rob Hosking blasts Mediaworks’ OCR leak on

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NBR article (paywalled): The Reserve Bank leak – a matter of integrity

Hosking also made some comments in a thread on Twitter:

Well for a start people lied. Call me old fashioned.

Secondly, its a breach which could have led to a crime.

I didn’t see it as defending Mediaworks, only the value of lockups but lock ups are clearly of more value without Mediaworks in them. Can’t be trusted.

This wasn’t just stupidity. This was an absence of integrity.

If you’re cool with insider trading – whether or not it’s a crime – this is no big deal I spose

First, a disclosure. I’ve been covering Reserve Bank monetary policy statements for 19 years. I was in the lock up last month when a journalist from Mediaworks’ radio outlet, Radio Live, sneaked the decision out an hour before the embargo was lifted.

The intro calls the Reserve Bank OCR as one of the country’s most sacrosanct embargoes.

Andrew Paterson: Well the decision by the Reserve Bank to discontinue it’s six weekly OCR media and analyst lock-ups in the wake of an embargo  breach by a junior  MediaWorks reporter has raised the ire of seasoned business journalists who have condemned the actions of the reporter in question for breaching what had been one of the country’s most sacrosanct embargoes.

The Reserve Bank took the action after preparing a detailed report into the breach.

Joining me to discuss this is NBR’s political and economic correspondent Rob Hosking.

Rob you’ve obviously been a veteran of these lock-ups, you must be disappointed in this action by the Reserve Bank.

Rob Hosking: Disappointed puts it mildly. I’m more disappointed in the actions of MediaWorks, because look, it was their actions that triggered this, right. They had the choice.

I don’t think the Reserve Bank had any choice but to take some drastic action, I think they’ve gone too far and we’ll come back to that a little bit later, but the point about these lock-ups is they’re a contract, which each journalist, and the organisation they represent, enters into when they go into that lock-up.

And that basically is you do not communicate with the outside until the embargo is lifted.

And the reason for that contract is not some cosy little stitch-up or anything, the reason is you have two hours, absorb in the case of the monetary policy statement, what is often a quite complex document, it often contains significant changes in the outlook for the economy, and it certainly often contains changes in the Reserve Bank’s thinking on the economy and where it’s next move might go.

And it’s the opportunity to quiz a couple of Reserve Bank economists on just sort of what they mean by some of the material that’s in documents, and it means you can report on it fully and accurately and you can actually not only just report on what’s in there but you can give some analysis of it.

And that is very very important the conduct of the economic debate in this country, which for a long time when i was growing up was very very poor.

And i think those lock-ups have helped contribute quite significantly to the quality of economic debate in this country.

And don’t forget one of the things the Reserve Bank acts as is as a sort of referee on the Government policies of the day no matter who that Government is, and that role which is not actually written into the Reserve Bank Act.

But it is effectively because of what the Reserve Bank does it often has to respond to bad Government economic policy, and it will say it is doing that, not in quite as blunt terms as that, but if you know, you understand monetary policy and you understand why the economic and fiscal policy, you will be able to report on that.

So it’s all a part of the accountability process in New Zealand. So that’s very very important.

But what has happened in the past few years is more and more coming into that lock-up being journalists from organisations who are interested in a quick shocking grab, they’re not there to do the analysis, they’re not there to absorb the contents of that document.

They want a shock horror, and they want to beat each other by nanoseconds.

And that’s what’s driven this action  here.

This was from an organisation that in no way provides in depth analysis of anything apart from maybe Kim Kardashian’s backside.

It’s completely, and what the Reserve Bank should have done, is first say ok MediaWorks, I mean this is obviously an organisational and cultural problem within MediaWorks, right, because this wasn’t, nobody at the news desk when this reporter contacted them said ‘whoa, what’s going on here’.

They simply said ‘ok, let’s start lining people up.

So this is not one reporter, right. And so MediaWorks would say ‘look, ban him for a couple of years’. No question about that.

But secondly they should have said, look ok, the risk is in these organisations that do not report the full flipping statement anyway, so keep them out until the press conference, which happens about five minutes after the embargo, and still have you know the analysts and the journalists in there who do do that analysis to do their job.

Andrew Paterson: So the question is should a relatively junior reporter with no background in business or economics, should have been in that situation in the first place.

Rob Hosking: Yeah exactly. And even if look you know sometimes people do go in there young, and look there have been very smart young reporters I might say, we’ve got one or two on NBR staff, but you know there are some wiser heads sitting on the news desk where if something like this does happen they firstly make sure it doesn’t cause any damage, and secondly they kick the young reporter’s backside.

Ah and none of this seems to have happened in this case. It just seems to have been you a, look frankly a contemptible lack of integrity all round.

“Do you think this also reflects in the case of MediaWorks, the fact that when you don’t train journalists appropriately, these accidents, these sorts of mistakes will happen?

Rob Hosking: That’s partly it. But again I come back to that contract, and a basic matter of integrity. You should not need any training as a journalist to know that when you agree to something you stick to that agreement.

That’s got nothing, I mean that’s not about being trained as a journalist, that is basic integrity.

Andrew Paterson: Now you’ve written to the Reserve Bank yourself?

Rob Hosking:Yeah I’ve suggested that they do something along the lines of what I’ve suggested and that they reconsider the decision. I’m not hopeful.

But I think that you know there needs to be some, if you want to see the quality of economic debate improve effectively,and you know there is a level of knowledgeable economic debate in the country that just wasn’t there  when I was growing up in the seventies when we desperately needed some I might add, then it should be reconsidered.

As I say I’m not hopeful, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Parties embracing

Rob Hosking at NBR has a non-pay-walled review of the week – Political & Economic week that was: Is Auckland finally getting its act together?

What a week.

The Greens embraced the Treasury.

National embraced public transport in Auckland.

And Labour embraced Jane Kelsey.

It is probably not too difficult to see who the winners and who the runners-up are here.

The week’s not over for Labour with Little’s big speech today but yeah.

…it has to be said that this week the Green party looked like the senior, rather than the junior party of New Zealand’s political left wing.

That’s a worry, and not just for Labour.

Otherwise it’s interesting commentary from Hosking.

Summary of “Dirty Politics” and dirty politics

A detailed summary by Bryce Edwards: A year of (neverending) Dirty Politics.

This gives an extensive overview of the “Dirty Politics” campaign that tried to swing an election and failed, and dirty politics surrounding it and dominating the political year.

Edwards quotesd a wide range of bloggers but some of the best commentary comes from seasoned journalists like Rob Hosking at NBR.

In fact, wasn’t the problem with the delivery of Dirty Politics that it became too enmeshed in partisan politics? This is the argument put forward by Rob Hosking:

‘The country’s opposition partisans – and I include Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager himself in that group – have screwed this up royally. A mix of arrogance, self righteousness and incompetence have allowed important questions to go largely unanswered.

So convinced of their own righteousness and so convinced of the self-evident evil of Prime Minister John Key, they have, throughout this entire saga, opted to shout and sneer rather than seek to convince’ – see: Dirty Politics: the aftermath (paywalled).

That sums it up well. “Dirty Politics was a partisan campaign plonked into an election. This approached detracted from the much wider and very important issue of dirty politics in general.

Some in politics thinks that dirtiness is just the way things sometimes work. I don’t think we should accept this in a modern democracy. We should demand better of all parties and politicians.

Hosking says that the revelations in Dirty Politics were too important to become partisan fodder: ‘You will never get any point of principle across if you drench your point in partisan bile and personal attacks. All you will do is make it look like politics – dirty politics – as usual’.

He calls for a more principled approach on the issues: ‘It is time they were treated as matters of principle, and not just ways of achieving partisan advantage’.

There is no sign of a more principled approach in the wake of the election – and for those still campaigning with “Dirty Politics” post-election was a virtual wake, the death of their hopes of a change of government.

And Simon Wilson in Metro:

But one of the best accounts of the impact – or lack of impact – of Dirty Politics comes in the latest Metro magazine out today. Simon Wilson has a feature on John Key, which argues that the PM ‘rode the wave of discontent brilliantly. His consistent message was that New Zealanders would far rather discuss “the issues that really matter”: jobs, growth, economic and social wellbeing’. 

What’s more, according to Wilson, ‘when the book came out, National quickly refocused on Hager. Their claim that he’s a conspiracy theorist not only belittled him and distracted attention from the accusations in the book, it served to smear anyone else who asked about dirty politics: were they part of the conspiracy too? By the time the last week arrived, even Hager had been sidelined’.

Wilson shows how after the election, National has actually managed to turn the tables, and ‘invoke the “dirty politics” smear’. And in contrast, a strong line is being pushed about Key being the most honest and transparent politician around.

I don’t think Key is “the most honest and transparent politician around” by a long shot, but he is far from alone in being involved in doing dirty politics.

Because “Dirty Politics” was used as a partisan election campaign it has been easy to turn it back on it’s promoters, especially as they’re playing dirty against critics or criticism of their one sided approach.

Unfortunately this all leaves the issue of confronting crap and improving political behaviour still inadequately addressed.