New deputy predicted for NZ First

There has never been any doubt who will lead NZ First while Winston Peters remains an MP, but the deputy spot is less secure. In 2015 Ron Mark got the numbers to oust Tracey Martin, but it looks like the knives are out for Mark, with the position up for a caucus vote next week.

Martin and Shane Jones appear to be too busy to consider going for it, so it looks like the way is open to Fletcher Tabuteau to take on some more responsibility.

Stuff: NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark looks set to be rolled at caucus on Tuesday

They say what goes around comes around and in Ron Mark’s case he’ll be hoping that’s not the case.

Mark rose to be NZ First’s deputy leader in 2015 after he challenged Tracey Martin and got enough support in the caucus to roll her.

But the party’s deputy leadership is up for grabs again on Tuesday and it’s understood the job is NZ First MP Fletcher Tabuteau’s – if he wants it.

Tabuteau was fourth on the NZ First list last election, behind Peters, Mark and Martin (Jones was 8th).

Mark need not worry about Martin, whose popularity amongst colleagues exceeds his, as it’s understood she’s not interested in the job due to her heavy ministerial workload.

NZ First new-comer but old-timer in terms of political experience, Shane Jones, has long been touted to take over the leadership from Winston Peters if he ever decided to throw it all in and head to Whananaki to retire.

But he’s not interested in the job either – he says he’s got one billion trees to plant and a $1 billion regional economic fund to spend, which would keep him far too busy for anything else.

So it looks like a contest between Mark and Tabuteau, if Mark doesn’t read the writing on the wall and say he’s too busy being a minister.

While he (Jones) says it’s not a “priority” for him to be deputy leader and in the short term he has a “hell of a role” he possibly also doesn’t see the deputy job as any sort of assumed stepping stone to the leadership.


Peters reconfirmed leader, NZ First deputy going to a vote

Winston Peters has been reconfirmed as NZ First leader – no one should be surprised by that – but the party’s MPs will vote for a deputy next week. Ron Mark is currently the deputy.

NZH:  NZ First leader Winston Peters re-elected, deputy vote next week

NZ First has joined the fray of leadership elections, although the only vote in its caucus will be for deputy leader.

In a statement, NZ First said leader Winston Peters had been confirmed as the party’s leader at caucus.

“His sole nomination was carried with acclaim.”

Shane Jones, often tipped as a successor to Peters, would not comment but is unlikely to contest it.

They don’t say why Jones is unlikely to contest.

None of the MPs would comment – but possible contenders include current deputy Ron Mark, Tracey Martin and Fletcher Tabuteau.

Martin was deputy from 2011 to 2015 when caucus elected Ron Mark instead.

With both Peters and Mark now ministers with jobs that involve overseas travel (Foreign Affairs and Defence) it would make sense to have a more New Zealand based deputy. I don’t think Mark is particularly popular either.

Why is Winston Peters Foreign Minister?

  asks: Why is Winston Peters Foreign Minister?

I’m wondering this today because one of the books I read over the break talks about proportional representation in Germany, and how the system gave disproportional power to the third party (the FDP).

And the FDP exercised this by making their leader the Foreign Minister when they went into governing coalitions. And when the FDP declined and the German Greens became the kingmakers, their leader Joschka Fischer became the foreign Minister.

And this is Peters’ second round in the same position and he’s chosen the same portfolio. So that seems to be a thing. But Foreign Minister seems like a bad portfolio to have when you’re leader of a minority party in government!

You’re out of the country almost all of the time. It’s hard to stay in the loop, either with your own party or broader political developments. It’s the job Prime Ministers traditionally give to valuable but ambitious rivals or caucus trouble-makers to keep them out of mischief.

And its hard to deliver on retail politics or distribute pork from that position. Peters, like McCully before him will doubtless find a way, but certainly nothing as lavish as Shane Jones will deliver with his infrastructure fund.

It is a VERY prestigious post, though. You get to meet kings and queens and drive through Beijing in a motorcade! Do (some) third parties favour the Foreign Ministry because it’s the most prestigious position in government that a major party will concede?

Or is there some other political advantage to the position I don’t know about?

One possibility is that it is part of Winston’s succession plan.

He gets to hold the top position that NZ First has gets to hob nob with governments and royalty around the world, and gives the rest of the NZ First MPs some space to work out how to work together without him hovering over them all the time.

When he is out of the country media are forced to go to a different NZ First MP for comment on party related issues.

Shane Jones being given five ministerial positions including the regional pork distributor suggests he is Winston’s favoured successor. His portfolios:

  • Minister of Forestry
  • Minister for Infrastructure
  • Minister for Regional Economic Development
  • Associate Minister of Finance
  • Associate Minister of Transport

That covers key NZ First policies and gives him an influence in Finance. And is too much work for Peters, especially if he is considering retirement by the end of this term.

Deputy Ron Mark has been given relatively lightweight and inconsequential (for NZ First) portfolios:

  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister for Veterans

That doesn’t look like leader-in-waiting level responsibilities – but it gives Mark more opportunity to campaign and lobby to take over the party should Peters step down.

Another reason for Foreign Affairs for Peters could be Labour’s doing. He is (on paper at least) our #2 politician and deputy Prime Minister, so he will probably get to act as the big cheese occasionally and briefly, but most of the time he is out of the country and out of sight, so gives him little chance to grandstand over Jacinda Ardern.

Foreign Affairs is also a job Peters has done before so knows the ropes, so it will be easier for him than taking on a major domestic workload that he would first need to familiarise himself with.

And it could be that Peters just likes Foreign Affairs, and wanted a job he would enjoy.

Black mark for breaching medal protocols

New Minister of Defence Ron Mark is seeking advice after it has been claimed he is breaching military medal wearing protocols.

NZH:  Medals off Mark for new defence minister – says he will ‘seek advice’ after questions raised

New defence minister Ron Mark has been wearing military medals in a way which puts his foreign service above that which he performed for New Zealand.

The way Mark has his medals arrayed across his chest is in breach of NZ Defence Force protocols and not permitted for soldiers over whom he holds sway.

And it has led to questions about whether he is even entitled to wear the four medals awarded while in the service of the Sultan of Oman in the Middle East.

Mark would not answer those questions yesterday, but provided a statement in which he said: “I have the greatest respect for military service, and the way in which it is recognised. I am proud of the people I served alongside in both the New Zealand and Omani Defence Forces.

“I have sought advice from the Honours Unit on the wearing of the medals I was awarded, and will take that advice when it’s received.”

It is an embarrassment for Mark, having worn his medals in front of senior officers who knew he was breaching the standards expected of all New Zealand military personnel.

Mark wore his medals when being sworn in as defence minister, and again at the opening of Parliament – and also on Sunday at a service for Armistice Day in Wellington.

At that event, he was present with the Chief of the Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating and among troops at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

The wearing of medals from a foreign country are strictly governed, with sets of rules for NZDF personnel and all New Zealand citizens.

Anyone wanting to wear medals from a country which does not have the Queen as head of state needs the permission of the Governor-General.

If Mark did have permission – which medals’ experts believe is unlikely – he has been caught out by the way he wore them.

The rules around wearing medals dictate that those earned in the service of New Zealand must be worn first.

Mark wears his medals from service in Oman first, giving them a pre-eminent position over his New Zealand medals.

NZ Medals Ltd owner Aubrey Bairstow – an expert in constructing medal boards – said: “His Oman medals must be after his New Zealand medals.”

Bairstow constantly deals with military veterans and said many were upset by the way the medals had been displayed.

This seems to be something Mark should have known about, or should have properly clarified before or or as soon as becoming Minister of Defence. Actually he should have got it right before then.


Party leaders on poverty measures

In their opening speeches in Parliament yesterday both the Leader of the Opposition Bill English and the Prime minister Jacinda Ardern made commitments on reducing poverty.

First was English:

New Zealand under the last Government developed the best tool kit in the world for understanding the context and culture of poverty and disadvantage. It has the label “social investment”—that’s the label it has.

The Government needs to understand that higher incomes are part of what you need to reduce poverty, but the other part of what you need is to create some stability and framework in a household, with a family working with someone they trust in order to have the behaviours that can sustain the benefits of better incomes or getting into a job.

The sad reality is that the work done by the previous Government shows a hard core of chaotic, very challenged households where they need individual attention. But you know what the Government’s doing already? It’s going to give away—it said so in the paper yesterday or today—the tool kit that enables you to know who those families are. So, oh yes, great intentions—”We’ve got great intentions. We want to help these people. We’re just going to make sure we don’t know who they are.”

The case in the New Zealand Herald today—Marie, is it?—the domestic violence death, Marie. It’s the same story—the one we tried so hard to fix, and this Government could fix, if it starts where we left off. It is a case where a terrible death occurred when lots of people knew a bit of the story, and if someone had known the story they would have stopped it.

That is what social investment delivers, and if the Government gives that away, they will cost children and families a start in life, and in fact, in some cases, their lives—in some cases, their lives.

So I just say to the Prime Minister: we will back her on child poverty, provided she gets over Labour’s problems with social investment and uses the toolkit with the intention for which it was meant, and that is to assist our most vulnerable.

Jacinda Ardern responded:

Finally, the Leader of the Opposition talked about his willingness to cooperate on child poverty if we continue to collect individual client’s data through our social agencies and our NGOs. It sounds like the trade-off that he gave to NGOs as well. The difference here, on this side of the House, is that we have listened to those concerns. Yes, we will be an evidence-based Government.

Yes, we will use data in the way we inform policy. But we will not do so in a way that jeopardises individual people’s privacy. When domestic violence groups tell you that what you intend to do puts a service at risk, this Government will listen. That is the difference in the way that we will govern.

I’ve often said I would like to do things differently. I’m going to start on a few issues dear to my heart. There should be no politics, for instance, in child poverty and child well-being. It should be a source of pride for all of us to strive to be known to be the best place in the world to be a child.

That does mean I will take up the Leader of the Opposition’s offer. I will extend to the National Party and to ACT the chance to work together on tackling those issues that matter most. What they do with those offers is, of course, each party’s call. But sometimes, in the people’s Parliament, Opposition is about more than being oppositional.

This is promising, with the leaders of the two largest parties saying they are prepared to work together to address poverty issues. They will have different approaches on some things, but debating those issues will be an important part of the process, as long as it is done with an aspiration to do what is best for children, especially children iin low income households.

Ardern has made this a major focus of her leadership.

Poverty is what a person is left with when all other options are extinguished. Now, I’ve often talked about it being a motivation for my entry here into Parliament and into politics, and it’s been what has kept me here too.

I am happy for this Government to be measured on what it does for children, which is why we will legislate not just the measures we will use for poverty but the targets to reduce it too. And we do that using a bill that I’ve had in the ballot for probably about six years now, to prove that we’ve long held the view that we need to measure and target child poverty.

I cannot fix the housing crisis alone, but we can together. I cannot end child poverty alone, but we can together. I cannot generate higher incomes alone, but we can together—together, alongside NGOs, businesses, council, iwi, and other community groups. Each and every one of us has a role to play in building a better New Zealand. I’ve always said that I believe what unites us is stronger than what divides us, and the campaign only confirmed that to me.

So here is my final promise to all New Zealanders. Whether you voted or not, and no matter who you voted for, I will be a Prime Minister for all, and this will be a Government for all. I hope we can focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us, because there is so much to do. We can be better, we will be better, and this is our chance to prove it.

Perhaps this will be a different type of Parliament that values cooperation and positive politics alongside robust debate and holding to account.

With Winston Peters out of the country Ron Mark spoke for NZ First using what looked like party prepared notes. There was only a brief mention of poverty:

The Hon Tracey Martin, in her role as Minister for Children, will work closely with the Prime Minister to help lift children out of poverty. As the Governor-General so eloquently said, if we put child well-being at the heart of we do, then the well-being of all New Zealanders will be lifted. We have to do better—it’s a moral imperative.

Martin has shown a willingness in the past to work with other parties on joint approaches to major issues – she led a cross-party group on climate change.

James Shaw also made brief mentions, well into his speech.

We are here to support families and to lift children out of poverty. We are here to save our rivers and our endangered species. We are here to solve problems that the market cannot, and the first and greatest of those is climate change.

The previous Government also knew that measurement is important. That is why they fought so hard against measuring child poverty in New Zealand. They didn’t measure it so they couldn’t, therefore, be held accountable for it. This Government will make the measure and will take the measure of child poverty. This Government will take responsibility for child poverty and this Government will reduce child poverty.

…to me it also sums up the Green Party’s way of doing politics when we are at our best: seeking to solve the great challenges of our time, putting solutions above partisanship, and focusing on the long term.

Perhaps Greens will put that approach into practice along with Labour and National.

Being in Opposition or on the cross benches for the entire 18 years of our Parliamentary history gave us a lot of time to get good at that. It is my hope that the new Opposition takes a similar approach—and a similar time scale.

If we, as a nation, are to restore and replenish our forests and our rivers and our birds, if we are to end child poverty, and if we are to lead the global fight against climate change, it will take longer than three years. It will.

Interesting that English spoke more strongly and specifically about poverty than Shaw.

Now Metiria Turei is out of the Green picture poverty seems to have slipped down their priorities somewhat. Greens did not negotiate any ministerial responsibilities directly related to children or poverty.

‘End child poverty’ is fairly meaningless idealism. Whether poverty in New Zealand can be ended will depend much on how they decide to define and measure it.

There will always be families that struggle, there will always be poor households, and their will always be children who have harder starts to their lives than others.

But if the parties in Parliament are genuine in their expressed willingness to reduce poverty and raise employment and incomes then New Zealand may make real progress in improving the standard of living for lower income families and improving the outcomes for children who have missed out  in the past.

Source: Hansard Address in Reply

Big wins, big ambitions, big challenges

NZ First have had some big wins in their negotiations with Labour, winning support for major policies and winning some big portfolios. With a lot to do for a small party they will have big challenges living up to their ambitions.

Ministerial responsibilities for the NZ First MPs:

Winston Peters

  • Deputy Prime Minister
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Minister for State Owned Enterprises
  • Minister for Racing

Foreign Affairs usually involves a lot of international travel and long absences from the country, which will have to somehow be managed alongside Deputy responsibilities, which include stepping in for the PM when she is unavailable (out of the country).

State Owned Enterprises could be interesting, given NZ First aims to but back partially sold assets.

Racing is a bauble.

Ron Mark

  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister for Veterans

Defence could be a challenge, given Green opposition to military spending and engagement. National may need to back up NZ First and Labour on Defence.

Tracey Martin

  • Minister for Children
  • Minister of Internal Affairs
  • Minister for Seniors
  • Associate Minister of Education

With Jacinda Ardern’s stated interest in children issues (she is Minister for Child Poverty Reduction) she will need to work with Martin.

Martin will also have to work closely with incoming Minister of Education Chris Hipkins.

Shane Jones

  • Minister of Forestry
  • Minister for Infrastructure
  • Minister for Regional Economic Development
  • Associate Minister of Finance
  • Associate Minister of Transport

This is a huge workload for someone regarded as not being particularly industrious. He will need a lot of help.

Fletcher Tabuteau

Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the
– Minister of Foreign Affairs
– Minister for Regional Economic Development

It looks like he will either be an apprentice to Peters on Foreign Affairs, or he may have to cover for a heavy workload if Peters wants to share the load. There could also be a big workload assisting Jones in Regional Economic Development.

Five of the nine NZ First MPs have jobs in Government, so they don’t have a big back-up crew, just four other MPs, two of them new to Parliament.

Big jobs, big challenges.

Congratulations to the incoming government

I had ambivalent feelings about who would get to form a government, it didn’t concern me one way or the other. There were reasonable arguments for both a Labour led and a National led government.

There is no doubt that it was a rapid rise and major success for the incoming Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. She successfully turned around what looked like a looming unprecedented disaster in July to a creditable election result in September and to forming the new Government now.

Ardern was a big contrast to the string of unsuccessful Labour leaders, and she quickly demonstrated impressive capabilities that have turned out to be good enough to now lead the country.

It is a huge challenge for Ardern, as it is for every new Prime Minister. Time will tell how well she manages her own party as well as working with two other parties, but she deserves a fair go from Parliament and from the media and the public.

This is also a success for Winston Peters and for NZ First, albeit with a significantly smaller mandate they were hoping for a few months ago.

No one in Parliament is more experienced than Peters, and his deputy Ron Mark and new recruit Shane Jones also have significant parliamentary experience, Jones in Cabinet in the Clark government.  Another likely minister, Tracey martin, has been in the NZ First party since it was formed in 1993 and has been an MP for 6 years.

So NZ First should be capable of doing the business in Government.

The Greens are much less experienced. James Shaw has been an MP just three years and co-leader for two. Losing Metiria Turei was a major blow, as well as losing two experienced MPs in the fallout in August. This possibly cut their support in half or worse, but regardless they are now in government.

Shaw looks capable of being a competent minister. So does party #3 Julie Anne Genter.

However their #2, Marama Davidson, is a relative rookie, having entered Parliament less than two years ago. She may find it challenging switching from her social activist role to being part of the political establishment with the responsibilities that go with that.

Any new Government, especially one that has been out of power for nine years (or never been in power as per the Greens), will have challenges adjusting to their new roles and significantly increased workloads.

It’s a completely different ball game than being in opposition. As all those before them they are untested at this level, but in the main at least are likely to step up and do at least a reasonable job.

Some of them have high ambitions, to transform the country, especially to deal with inequality. That won’t be easy in practice.

They start with an open slate. As with any government I will give them a fair go. There will no doubt be criticisms, but they deserve the country’s support.

I wish the incoming government well, and I hope they succeed in making New Zealand a better and more successful country for all of us.


Who are the unelected people making a decision on the future of New Zealand?

Winston Peters insists that he won’t be making a decision on what form the incoming government will take, and what policy priorities will have.

Last night he said that the NZ First party and board will be making the decision:

“Winston Peters is not going to make a decision. A party called NZ First, 24 years around the block, is going to make a decision, and its board. Not Winston Peters. I can’t speak for the party because I haven’t had a chance to talk to them all.”

Who is on the NZ First board?


Two of those are easily known:

  • The Leader: Winston Peters
  • The Deputy Leader: Ron Mark

Like Espiner I can’t find anything on who the others are, apart from in general terms.

National Officers (5):


Director General (1):


So the Director-General is appointed by the Board, and is on the Board.

Directors (6):


So there are 14 people on the NZ First board, and 12 of them are not MPs so aren’t elected by the public.

Espiner is trying to find out who these people are.

How relevant is this? It depends a bit on how much say the board have in what is being negotiated and what is decided. Peters claims he doesn’t make the decisions, but it would be surprising if he doesn’t have a large amount of influence in anything that happens.

‘This country needs new leadership and a vision’

Winston Peters, Shane Jones or Ron Mark?

It was Winston Peters that said it…

This country needs new leadership and a vision. New Zealand First has it. Working together we can make New Zealand the country it could be – the country it should be.

… but who is new leadership and what vision apart from rear vision looking into the past.

Actually 33 years. Peters was first ‘elected’ in 1978 – he actually went to court to get a legal win in Hunua. He lost in 1981 and won again in 1984 in Tauranga. He lost Tauranga in 2005 but got in on the list. He had another 3 years out of Parliament when NZ First failed in 2008, but has been back since 2011.

He has been NZ First leader since he formed the party in 1993, so he has been at the helm for 24 years unchallenged.

He was deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer from 1996-1999.

Shane Jones has been an MP for 9 years from 2005-2014, and was a Minister in Helen Clark’s last term.

Ron Mark was a NZ First MP for 15 years, from 1996 to 2008, and back in in 2014.

What is their vision?

NZ First succession plan

There has been a lot of speculation about what Winston Peters’ political plans are, which is all that can be done because he never says.

Included increasingly in the speculation is what might happen to NZ First after Peters retires, and whether there is a succession plan.

Peters has been undisputed leader of NZ First since the beginning, way back in the last century.

Ron Mark took over the deputy leadership from Tracey Martin in 2015.

So what are the leadership options for NZ First? Peters is 72, his health has long been questioned (but never confirmed), and he seems to have lost his edge and enthusiasm in Parliament.

Duncan Garner: There’s an election looming and Winston Peters has got a succession problem to sort

… at 72 it’s no secret Peters will be thinking about what’s next for the party and with the momentum he has in the polls currently, this is the year to bring in the succession plan.

Take a look around the caucus and the options are a bit lacking – not because there aren’t any MPs successful in their own right. There’s business brains, legal brains and hard workers, but there’s no real X factor.

Mark seems to have ambitions but unlike Peters the media doesn’t give him self promotion opportunities.

In his sixties Mark is not a spring chicken himself, he’s more of an autumn rooster with more crow than peck.

The reality is nobody in the NZ First caucus wants to talk about the worst-kept secret in town – Shane Jones joining the party – because he’s the answer to the party’s prayers, but not necessarily their own.

Jones has spark, he’s clued-up, he knows how to work a crowd and people can’t help but like him.

The media seem to be doing their best to play the game for Jones but it’s yet to be seen whether headlines translate into votes. Peters has his wine box to show for his efforts, Jones is best remembered for his porn tab.

Only problem is – and it’s one Peters is well aware of – is his deputy Ron Mark’s place in the bromance.

Mark has been loyal to Peters and they’re mates – even if Peters knows his second-in-command still has a thing or two to learn about how to talk to voters without rubbing them up the wrong way.

The way the Jones game is being played suggests that Peters sees him as the captain to succeed him.

When Jones likely announces his candidacy in the next couple of weeks Peters is going to need one hell of a team-building day for his caucus before heading out on the campaign trail.

While Mark might say he “likes” Jones and plays rugby with him – you don’t have to look too far to find the opportunities he’s taken to have a dig.

Last year he complimented Jones on doing a “very good job” in his role as Ambassador for Pacific Economic Development – but in the same breath threw in the fact it was a job set up for him by then-Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.

It does Mark well to point out that Jones, a former Labour MP, then moved on to take a cushy job with National and is now looking for a foot in the door with his old pal, Winston.

Just this week Mark was asked whether he thought he and his deputy leadership was under threat from Jones.

“To perceive there’s a threat to yourself you have to have some sort of insecurity about yourself and I am comfortable with the job I have and what I do for the party,” he shot back at reporters.

Mark may not roll over easily.

One thing in Peters’ favour is he has a disciplined caucus – although much of that is probably to do with the fact there’s a lot they simply don’t get told.

If Peters stands down so does that long standing discipline.

Internal polling isn’t shared with the caucus because it’s a distraction and Peters doesn’t want his MPs losing sight of the prize.

a) NZ First does internal polling despite the disdain for polls often expressed by Peters?

b) Peters doesn’t share polling with the NZ First caucus? If so, remarkable.

And if a NZ First MP gets heard or quoted talking about what they might get in any coalition government after the election they can be assured they’ll find themselves sliding down the party list, which is set to be announced in early August.

NZ First MPs have slid out of contention before, with an apparent helping boot up the bum from Peters.

Peters is adamant he’s got some big players joining the party list – names he says anyone in politics will recognise.

But if Peters wants to have more time at sea fishing then based on the current list, he needs Jones.

Given the blue movie controversy and dodgy citizenship deal jibes Jones is going to have to endure you have to wonder, what exactly has he been offered to seriously consider a return to Parliament?

If Peters wants NZ First to survive after he retires he has to help it with a succession plan.

Part of that plan may well be to get Jones on board, position NZ First on the cross benches after the election and both enable and prove a pain in the arse to whoever runs the Government, while giving Jones a chance to get set as leader in waiting. Peters may well retire during the next term.

But no matter how he plans things, and no matter how smoothly any leadership transition is, NZ First without Winston will find the going very tough – especially if  two cocks like Mark and Jones compete to rule the hen pecked house.