Jami-Lee Ross continues attacks with another recording reported on

I thought hard about posting in this – another secretly recorded conversation between Jami-lee Ross and Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett. It appears to be released as another attack on Bridges and National, being headlined as ‘a cover-up’, but it looks to me like fairly normal political management, plus an attempt to go relatively easy on Ross.

Previous claims by Ross and released recordings have been more damaging for Ross’ credibility and more supporting of Bridges’ handling of an alleged miscreant MP.

Bridges promised to keep problems quiet, but Ross seems intent on broadcasting his own failings, and reinforcing again his serious breach of trust in making the recordings in the first place, and then giving them to media (I presume he has at least approved of the release of the recordings).

Newshub are the means of distribution again: New leaked recording suggests Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett planned Jami-Lee Ross cover-up

“You haven’t even told me what I’ve supposedly done,” Mr Ross says.

“Simon told you all about the disloyalty stuff Jami-Lee, and quite frankly if that was put to caucus, that would be enough,” replies Ms Bennett.

“The stuff around harassing staff which I reject, that is the worst. I don’t even know what that is,” says Mr Ross.

“Well you do know what the disloyalty stuff is, and that’s been put to you really clearly. If that was put to caucus, that would be enough,” says Ms Bennett. “We are trying to give you the lightest possible way out of this.”

Mr Bridges and Ms Bennett also take Jami-Lee Ross through a plan to minimise media coverage and the fallout for Mr Ross.

“I give you my 100 percent assurance that if you go with the statement along the lines we’ve talked about, I will never badmouth you in relation to this – privately, publicly, in background, off the record in any way,” Mr Bridges can be heard saying.

“I will do everything within my power to keep the things we talked about last week out of the public [inaudible]. I will do everything.”

And Ross seems to be doing everything he can to make it public. It’s hard to fathom what he hopes to achieve. Maybe he has trashed his own reputation so much he can’t damage it any more, so this is an attempt at dragging Bridges and National down.

Ms Bennett and Mr Bridges repeatedly say they care about Mr Ross and his mental health, adding that if he follows their instructions he could be back in Parliament next year – and could even be promoted.

No chance of promotion now, and I think also no chance of a return to any role in the National Party.

It may be that Ross thinks that he has done nothing wrong – whether that was the case before this blew up or not, he has done just about everything wrong possible in how he has dealt with this.

If Ross succeeds in doing what he appears to be trying to do, trashing Bridges and trashing National, he is substantially improving the chances o Labour having a long stint back in Government.

This looks like more self-destruction of Ross plus an ongoing attempt at destroying the prospects of the political right.

If it were possible this will make a return to Parliament even more difficult for Ross, and it may increase the prospects of a waka jumping bumping.

What has come out so far from secretly recorded conversations is in the main unremarkable private party conversations that highlight how untrustworthy Ross is. I wonder how he has lasted in national this long – has he made threats to try to thwart action against him? And is he now delivering? He seems to be digging his own political hole even deeper.

UPDATE – More from Newshub:

“So it would be for medical reasons?” asks Mr Ross.

“Is that what you want?” asks Ms Bennett. “I think either medical or family.”

“Medical is true,” says Mr Ross.

“That’s right,” says Mr Bridges. “There’s no shame in that.”

“And it means everyone will back off you too – the media and all that sort of stuff,” says Ms Bennett.

The media are doing the opposite of backing off, again now.

It seems to be trying to claim that Ross is an innocent victim, but it makes him look more of a political cretin than ever.

Trump’s secret deals (or no deals)

No one seems to know what sort of deals Donald trump may have made with North Korea or Russia.

Fox News: Lawmakers struggle to decode Trump’s ‘secret’ to deal with Russia, North Korea

It’s unclear if the Trump Administration has a “secret plan” to deal with Russia or North Korea. But whatever the circumstances, it’s still secret after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about President Trump’s meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and the status of North Korean denuclearization. Try as they may, senators weren’t able to exhume much information from Pompeo about what went down in Helsinki or the state of play with Pyongyang.

“I’m afraid that at this point, the United States, the Trump Administration is being taken for a ride,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

“Fear not, senator. Fear not,” advised Pompeo.

But there was “fear.” Senators wondered if the President agreed to something in secret with foreign leaders and if even Pompeo was cut out of the loop.

“It’s not for me to disclose the contents of those conversations,” said Pompeo when asked by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., about what was said in Finland regarding Russia’s role in Syria.

“I’d prefer not to answer questions about the nature of our negotiations,” said Pompeo when Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., asked about North Korea.

Lawmakers of both parties struggle to make sense of what policies the Trump administration holds by the hour.

Trump created more confusion than normal after his meeting with Putin in Helsinki, changing a ‘would’ to ‘wouldn’t’ after widespread concern was expressed.

Pompeo create his own confusion:

“We focus on words from the President because our allies and our adversaries listen to those words and they calibrate their actions based upon those words,” observed Murphy.

Murphy asked whether the President’s statements constituted U.S. policy, specifically when Mr. Trump suggested the U.S. might not assist Montenegro, despite a NATO treaty which states otherwise.

“I think the President’s been unambiguously clear,” said Pompeo.

Yeah, all the time. He makes a thing of being clearly unclear. Or is that unclearly clear?

A moment later, Murphy suggested that “policies are statements and statements are policies.”

“No, that’s not true,” responded Pompeo. “I make lots of statements. They’re not U.S. policy. The President says things.”

“How do I know the difference between a presidential statement that is not a policy and statement that is?” asked Murphy.

But later in the hearing, Pompeo asked if he could “clean that up.”

“I misspoke there,” said Pompeo. “The President runs this government. His statements are in fact U.S. policy.”

It is becoming a secretive, misspoken presidency.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., waited until midway through the hearing to press Pompeo on this point. Corker told the Secretary that “much of what you are hearing today has nothing whatsoever to do with you.”

“It’s the President that causes people to have concerns,” said Corker.

“Why does he do those things? I mean, is there some strategy behind creating doubt in U.S. senator’s minds on both sides of the aisle? Doubt in the American people as to what his motivations are?” asked Corker.

That’s from a senior Republican politician.

Senators of both parties failed to pierce Pompeo’s armor and learn anything at all about Singapore or Helsinki.

That could be because Trump also keeps his deals secret from his Secretary of State. I hope he knows what his deals are.

US poll: 74% believe in ‘deep state’

What is ‘deep state’? In the US, according to Wikipedia:

In the United States, the term “deep state“, describes a form of cabal that coordinates efforts by government employees to influence state policy without regard for democratically elected leadership.

Deep state was defined in 2014 by Mike Lofgren, a former Republican U.S. congressional aide, as “a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.”

In The Concealment of the State, professor Jason Royce Lindsey argues that even without a conspiratorial agenda, the term deep state is useful for understanding aspects of the national security establishment in developed countries, with emphasis on the United States. Lindsey writes that the deep state draws power from the national security and intelligence communities, a realm where secrecy is a source of power.

Alfred W. McCoy states that the increase in the power of the U.S. intelligence community since the September 11 attacks “has built a fourth branch of the U.S. government” that is “in many ways autonomous from the executive, and increasingly so.”

Probably a better question would be what degree of ‘deep state’ exists in the US (and in New Zealand).

Monmouth University Polling Institute: Public Troubled by ‘Deep State’

A majority of the American public believe that the U.S. government engages in widespread monitoring of its own citizens and worry that the U.S. government could be invading their own privacy. The Monmouth University Poll also finds a large bipartisan majority who feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a “Deep State” of unelected government officials. Americans of color on the center and left and NRA members on the right are among those most worried about the reach of government prying into average citizens’ lives.

As it stands right now, do you think that unelected or appointed officials in the federal government have too much influence in determining federal policy or is there the right balance of influence between elected and unelected officials?

  • Unelected or appointed officials have too much influence 60%
  • Right balance of influence between elected and unelected officials 26%
  • Don’t know 14%

Are you very familiar, somewhat familiar, or not familiar with the term Deep State as it applies to the federal government?

  • Very familiar 13%
  • Somewhat familiar 24%
  • Not familiar 63%

The term Deep State refers to the possible existence of a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy. Do you think this type of Deep State in the federal government definitely exists, probably exists, probably does not exist, or definitely does not exist?

  • Definitely exists 27%
  • Probably exists 47%
  • Total definitely/probably exists 74%
  • Probably does not exist 16%
  • Definitely does not exist 5%
  • Don’t know 5%

I would question whether there is ‘a cabal’ rather than different groups of people within government or the military who try to influence policy.

There are also many groups outside of US government trying to influence policy (like lobbying groups and companies), as well as all the politicians of course. So it’s a complex of competing interests.


I very much doubt that any group within the New Zealand military has any influence or attempt at influence beyond promoting their own military interests (which is what they should do).

I also doubt that there is a cabal inside our public service.

Definitions of cabal:

  • a secret political clique or faction
  • a small group of people who plan secretly to take action, especially political action
  • the contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government); also : a group engaged in such schemes

I’m sure there are some public servants, and possibly groups of public servants, who try to influence policies, effectively in secret. But I doubt there is a secret group plotting to overturn the government.

To an extent it is the job of government advisers to advise the Government what to do, that is, influence policies.

The biggest problem here is secrecy – that withholding of information provided to our elected representatives from the public. This is more a problem with government MPs trying to keep advice to them secret, but they may be advised to do that by unelected officials.

Here in New Zealand the obvious antidote to secret manipulation or advice is transparency. So making the Official Information Act work as intended is important.

And this is a topical problem here, and not just with national government. From RNZ yesterday: Questions over tardy release of Auckland Council report:

Auckland Council senior executives stalled the release of a major report, for political convenience in a possible breach of official information law.

The study on the impact of moving the imported car trade away from Auckland was withheld from RNZ by the council for five months, and released only after intervention by the Ombudsman’s office.

The problem here isn’t a cabal trying to secretly run or take over the Government, but we do have problems with public servants generally in collusion with elected representatives try to manipulate public opinion and hide information from the public.

This isn’t ‘deep state’, but it is a significant concern.

 

English versus Ardern on the coalition document

Opposition leader Bill English questioned Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the so-called secret coalition document in Parliament today.

Ardern:

I have never denied the existence of these documents. The question is whether or not everything that was enclosed in them were agenda items that we will pursue, and some of them we will not. That does speak to the heart of whether it is an official document. As I say, I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him giving his consideration to the question.

 

Draft transcript:


Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her Government’s policy that they will “strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes. In fact, later today the Government will be releasing the Cabinet paper on the change-negotiating mandate for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to ensure greater transparency for New Zealanders around that deal—transparency that, I have to say, they didn’t have under the last Government.

Rt Hon Bill English: Has she seen references by the Deputy Prime Minister to a 38- or 33-page document as containing “[directions] to ministers with accountability and media strategies to ensure … the coalition works.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. The coalition document has been released and is publicly available, but, as the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday, when it comes to other ideas that were discussed, if they are found to be workable and are likely to be progressed, then details will of course be released and made public.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is there a document including content she described yesterday in answer to a question about the previously mentioned document: “Every government has a work programme—things … they look in to. [At] The moment … we see some benefit and that it’s something that will progress, that’s the point at which it will be made public.”, and does that mean there is such a document with policies in it that have not yet been made public?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We’ve always been very clear that in the course of a negotiation, a range of documents are exchanged. The question is whether or not all of them will be progressed and whether or not they are official. Nothing has been given to Ministers; nothing has been given to Government departments or officials. Those issues that are progressed and become Government policy will be made public.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is there a 33-page documented draft arrangement between Labour and New Zealand First that you are working from when determining—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m not working from any such document. The Leader of the Opposition will try again.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is there a 33-page documented draft arrangement between Labour and New Zealand First that the Government is working from when determining the Government programme?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The coalition agreement that we are working to has been released and is publicly available. Those are the policy and programme items that we are committed to. As for any other documentation through the course of negotiation, we’ve been open that they have existed. That does not mean that those are the firm commitments that we have signed up to, nor that they will ever be progressed. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I just want to ask Dr Smith to, if he is going to interject, interject using the proper form of a member’s name.

Rt Hon Bill English: What, then, does she believe the Deputy Prime Minister was referring to in his description of a 38-page document as “a document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said, there were other documents exchanged during the course of the negotiation, but the one that we are committed to and working to is in the public domain. As the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday, if any of those other policies or ideas that we discussed are pursued, they will be publicly released and they will be made available.

Rt Hon Bill English: Has she seen the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister that the document includes policy issues such as the measurement of unemployment—”[We’re actually] agreed to work on”—and that that might mean policy commitments have been made, similar to those in the public coalition document?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I was actually standing next to him as he said it.

Rt Hon Bill English: So what is the difference between policies agreed on in the already published coalition document and policies referred to by the Deputy Prime Minister that are agreed in this 33-page document?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: You can hardly argue that that particular item was secret given that the Deputy Prime Minister said it out loud yesterday while I was standing next to him. The point is that, as we’ve said, if there are policy items or agenda items that we choose to pursue, we will make them public at that time. The only items that we have officially committed to have become part of our coalition agreement and are made publicly available already.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is it the case that the document that has been referred doesn’t exist or is it the case that it exists but she is withholding it under the Official Information Act because she believes it not to be official information?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve acknowledged that there are documents that were exchanged during the negotiations, as there will have been by the Opposition. I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him making a decision on whether or not we’ve made the right classification of this documentation. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr Brownlee, very close.

Rt Hon Bill English: Given her description that documents were exchanged, is it the case that one of those documents was a 33- or 38-page document including directives to Ministers, policy items that were agreed, policy item that would be worked on, but she is withholding it because she does not regard it as official information?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have never denied the existence of these documents. The question is whether or not everything that was enclosed in them were agenda items that we will pursue, and some of them we will not. That does speak to the heart of whether it is an official document. As I say, I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him giving his consideration to the question.

[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr Brownlee, very close.

Rt Hon Bill English: Given her description that documents were exchanged, is it the case that one of those documents was a 33- or 38-page document including directives to Ministers, policy items that were agreed, policy items that would be worked on, but she is withholding it because she does not regard it as official information?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have never denied the existence of these documents. The question is whether or not everything that was enclosed in them were agenda items that we will pursue, and some of them we will not. That does speak to the heart of whether it is an official document. As I say, I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him giving his consideration to the question.

Turei’s ‘secret from WINZ’

Metiria Turei announced Green social policy that includes large increases to benefits, plus what looks like a ‘no questions asked’ no investigation approach.

She has also tweeted something that has attracted interest:

I was a single mum, raising my beautiful girl Piupiu while doing my law degree & I was on the benefit. I still didn’t have enough to get by.

I was one of those women who you hear people complain about on talkback radio.

Because despite all the help I was getting, I could not afford to live, study and keep my baby well without keeping a secret from WINZ.

It was a stressful, terrifying experience.

There is something deeply, deeply wrong with our welfare system and how we treat the families who depend on it.

I know that if I don’t talk about what life is really like for beneficiaries, if the Green Party doesn’t, then who will?

From her speech today:

I was one of those women, who you hear people complain about on talkback radio.

Because despite all the help I was getting, I could not afford to live, study and keep my baby well without keeping a secret from WINZ.

Like many families who rely on a benefit, Piu and I moved around a lot when she was little.

We lived in five different flats with various people.

In three of those flats, I had extra flatmates, who paid rent, but I didn’t tell WINZ. I didn’t dare.

I knew that if I told the truth about how many people were living in the house my benefit would be cut.

And I knew that my baby and I could not get by on what was left.

This is what being on the benefit did to me – it made me poor and it made me lie.

It was a stressful, terrifying experience.

At any moment, WINZ could have caught me and cut off my benefit.

They could have charged me with fraud and made me a criminal as well.

I got through it, of course, as you can see.

Not everyone does.

More details:  Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei admits she lied to WINZ, as party announces radical welfare reforms

In her biggest speech of the year, Turei made the extraordinary confession while announcing her party’s plans to dramatically reform New Zealand’s welfare system.

Speaking at the Green Party AGM in Auckland, she said that as a solo mother on a benefit she did not tell Work and Income NZ that she had extra flatmates who were paying rent.

At a press conference afterwards, Turei said she could still face consequences for her illegal behaviour 24 years ago.

“It is possible that WINZ could do an investigation into my case and I could be charged.

“I personally feel I have a responsibility to tell it how it is, because other people don’t have the privileged position that I do.”

Asked whether beneficiaries in a similar position should lie to authorities, she neither encouraged nor dissuaded them, saying that it was up to them.

And if Green policy gets accepted not up to WINZ to investigate. Wow.

The policy: “Green Party will lift families out of poverty”

Government tried to hide housing report

The Government tried to prevent a critical housing report from being revealed but they were overruled by the Ombudsman under the Official Information Act.

The Government has faced a lot of criticism over it’s abuse of disclosure under the OIA. This is just one more example.

RNZ: Govt tried to keep critical housing report secret

A report the government tried to keep secret says its approach to social and affordable housing is fragmented and lacks a robust plan.

The external review of the Social Housing Reform Programme noted that, in Auckland, three ministers and four government agencies lacked an overall plan to boost housing supply.

This isn’t a surprise, the Government has looked disorganised and slow to react to growing housing issues.

The 135-page review, done for Treasury, was finished in December 2015.

Last September, then-Minister of Social Housing Paula Bennett refused to release the report to RNZ.

She said to do so would “prejudice the quality of information received” and “the wider public interest of effective government would not be served”.

RNZ obtained the report only after an appeal to the Ombudsman under the Official Information Act.

It shouldn’t be this difficult to get official information.

The review recommended a Social Housing Programme office, which would answer to key ministers and establish a single agency to manage property sales and the redevelopment of Crown land.

Withholding the report for six months allowed it to be released with a letter from the Ministry of Social Development’s deputy chief executive for social housing Scott Gallacher, which outlined subsequent progress.

The delay ensured more attention would be drawn to the report, and puts it into the public arena in election year. Things like this can nibble away at Government credibility, and could reach a tipping point.

National are looking increasingly vulnerable over housing and trying to keep reports secret and continuing to abuse the OIA won’t help their case.

Key’s secret

Key successfully kept his plans to resign secret,  by telling very few people.

According to reports:

  • Key had discussed the possibility of retiring with his wife Bronagh since last Christmas.
  • He told Bronagh about his decision in September.
  • He told Bill English just after that.
  • He told his children two weeks ago.
  • Close staff were told on Sunday.
  • Ministers were called individually, presumably on Monday morning.
  • National backbenchers were told by conference call 30 minutes before Key went public.

Limiting his secret like this enabled him to spring a surprise on the nation.

Inevitable leaks did occur, but just prior to Key’s announcement. Some people in politics can’t be trusted to keep their traps shut, and can’t be trusted to do the decent thing and let Key make his own announcement.

I’ve seen a couple of journalists say they were tipped off a few minutes before Key’s media meeting at 12:45 yesterday. But in general Key’s announcement caught media completely by surprise – they had no idea what the special press conference was about in advance.

Two people who I won’t name but who were closely associated with ‘Dirty Politics’ tried to grandstand, one via Twitter just before Key’s announcement – this was quickly removed – and one in a blog post. Their own egos are more important to them than  doing the decent thing and allowing Key to make his own announcement.

Until yesterday Key and those he trusted did very well to keep his secret.

Helen Clark fails another UN ballot

Helen Clark has again failed to feature in the top five in the latest ‘secret ballot’ (that’s farcical) for the next United Nations Secretary General.

In the first ballot Clark was ranked sixth. Since then one candidate has dropped out, leaving eleven for now.

RNZ: Clark not in top five after UN secret ballot

Helen Clark has failed to rank among the top five candidates for the next United Nations Secretary General in the latest secret ballot, diplomats say.

Just how Helen Clark fared is not yet known.

Going into the first straw poll last month, the former prime minister was considered one of the favourites, but she came a disappointing sixth.

Several other straw polls will be held before the council’s choice is put before the General Assembly for a final vote, which is expected in October.

The top five:

  1. Antonio Guterres (former Portuguese Prime Minister)
  2. Vuk Jeremic (former Serbian Foreign Minister)  up to second
  3. Susana Malcorra (Argentinian Foreign Minister)
  4. Danilo Turk (former Slovenian President)
  5. Irina Bokova (from Bulgaria, the director-general of UNESCO)

This is a secret so please don’t tell anyone.

Stuff: Clark’s big UN blow

David Farrar at Kiwiblog: – the results are:

  1. Guterres 11-2-2 (encourage, neutral, discourage)
  2. Jeremic 8-3-4
  3. Malcoora 8-1-6
  4. Turk 7-3-5
  5. Bokova 7-1-7
  6. Kerim 6-2-7
  7. Clark 6-1-8
  8. Figueres 5-2-8
  9. Gherman 3-2-10
  10. Luksic 2-4-9
  11. Lajcak 2-7-6

Dropping from 6 to 7 doesn’t look great for Clark.

Prince Charles Britain’s “best informed lobbyist”

The Herald reports on details revealed by the UK Guardian that Prince Charles receives top secret cabinet papers, and he lobbies Ministers.

Revealed: Prince Charles’ access to top secret Government files

The Guardian has revealed that Prince Charles has received confidential Cabinet papers for decades, making him Britain’s “best informed lobbyist”.

Confirmation came from the Cabinet’s “precedent book”, which was locked away “cupboard within a locked office in a secured corridor inside the Cabinet Office”.

The Cabinet Office fought for three years against the release of the documents, which came after a request from Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state.

The document reads: “The standard circulation for Cabinet memoranda includes the Queen, the Prince of Wales, all members of the Cabinet, any other Ministers in charge of departments (or to be treated as in charge of departments)”.

It’s now revealed that Prince Charles lobbied with full knowledge of Cabinet agendas and policy.

“The disclosure of Cabinet papers to Prince Charles is quite extraordinary,” said Graham Smith, Republic’s chief executive. “Not only because they would contain highly classified information, but because it gives him considerable advantage in pressing his own agenda when lobbying ministers. He is essentially a minister not attending Cabinet. He gets the paperwork and has private meetings with ministers about policy.”

Member of Commons, Paul Flynn, said: “This means that he is not only the most influential lobbyist, but the best informed and he is lobbying for his own interests, which are not always benign or sensible.”

Not good for someone who could become New Zealand’s next head of state?

About the NZSIS – how secret?

I did a search on Google and this was the first hit:

NZSIS - About

And when I clicked on the link:

NZSIS - About link

Very funny.

However they aren’t as secret as that might suggest because this link works : http://nzsis.govt.nz/about-us/oversight/

(I went to the home page of their website, clicked in About and clicked on Oversight).