Simon Bridges – from back seat to boot

Simon Bridges took a back seat to Jacinda Ardern and politics last month. He had no choice with the Christchurch shootings dominating the news.

Since then thinsghaven’t improved. If anything he has slipped back to the boot, which is what he may get from the National Party leadership if he doesn’t find another formula, fast.

Audrey Young: Another lopsided week for Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges

Comparing Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges this week has been even more asymmetrical than usual.

Bridges’ support within his own caucus seems to be shrinking at the same rate as Ardern’s reputation is growing internationally.

Ardern also took the highly unusual step of leading the third reading debate on the bill to rid New Zealand of the most dangerous of firearms. It was more material for her growing international audience.

And she made a big deal of the bipartisan support from National in her speech.

While National’s young Chris Bishop did a valiant job in being first up to respond on behalf of his party, as parliamentary symbolism went it was highly asymmetrical.

Bridges was missing in action. He was not prepared for the debate because he did not know about it enough in advance.

It certainly would have been a more sincere bipartisan exercise by the Government if it had given National notice of Ardern’s intention to lead the debate. It was petty not to do so.

Ardern’s growing stature would hardly be dimmed, nor Bridges’ inflated by giving him sufficient opportunity to prepare for it.

But the gun debate was the least of Bridges’ problems this week.

Bridges also found himself the subject to a fresh of attacks from ex-colleague Jami-lee Ross.

The internal employment dispute is more problematic than Jami-lee Ross. Ross has done his worst and his allegations about donations are now in the hands of the Serious Fraud Office.

This an ongoing rather than a new problem. Bridges’ management of the whole Ross debacle has not been flash, but Ross has made it very difficult for Bridges.

Not so the ’emotional junior staffer’ fiasco, which is a self inflicted disaster.

The employment dispute with press secretary Brian Anderton, however, is seen by many National MPs as having been mismanaged by Bridges and his closest advisers.

The changing answers from National about why its petition against the UN Migration Pact was taken down after the mosque attacks have been widely construed as lies rather than misunderstandings.

There has been little attempt by those in the thick of it to set the record straight. The vacuum has been replaced by accusation and speculation likely to be much worse than the reality.

Bridges’ description of Anderton as an emotional junior staffer has been seen as pejorative, even though it was strictly true that he did not have the seniority to take down the petition on the night of the killings – when the whole country was in a deeply emotional state.

Essentially, Bridges is getting a reputation as a leader who compounds problems when he steps in, rather than clearing them up, and of attracting people with similar traits.

The dispute with Anderton is similar to the Maureen Pugh issue. In the eyes of the caucus, the slagging off of a colleague (revealed in secretly recorded tapes by Jami-lee Ross) as useless was unforgivable disloyalty.

Many MPs believe Bridges has not shown Anderton the loyalty that should be accorded to long-serving staff members who make an error.

It is his dealing on smaller personal issues such as Pugh and Anderton that have given Bridges’ colleagues reason to question his judgment.

Loyalty is a two way thing in life and in politics. Bridges burning loyalty has become a recurring problem.

The so-called inquiry into National’s culture ordered in the aftermath of the Jami-lee Ross saga appears to lacked rigour. No one knows who did it, no one can find anyone who was spoken to for it, Bridges says it is a party matter, and the party says it will wait until the Debbie Francis review into bullying at Parliament before it issues any comment on its own review.

A number of female National MPs were asked about about this inquiry and remarkably said they had taken no part in it.

It’s difficult turning a perception of ineptness around.

Bridges has regressed from back seat to boot this month. Next may be the trailer, and not just in the polls.

 

Justice Committee undecided on End of Life Choice Bill – report

The Justice Committee report on the End of Life Choice Bill (the euthanasia bill) has been tabled in Parliament, with the committee undecided on whether the bill should be passed.

RNZ:  Euthanasia bill report tabled in Parliament

After 16 months’ worth of submissions, a report on euthanasia legislation has been tabled in the House and sponsor David Seymour says he’s quite confident he’ll have the numbers to pass it.

Parliament’s justice committee reported its findings this afternoon after nearly 39,000 submissions were heard by MPs on the bill that would allow assisted dying for those terminally ill, likely to die within six months and experiencing “unbearable suffering”.

The report said that 90 percent of the 36,700 written submissions opposed the bill.

“We note that the majority of written submissions discussed only whether assisted dying should be allowed in principle.”

The vote is one of conscience, so individual MPs can cast their vote according to their personal views.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be voting in favour.

“I understand those deeply held convictions that means they’ll be opposed to it, my view is the best way that I can allow people to make their own decisions is actually giving them access to that choice,” she said.

Probably more important than Ardern’s influence will be which way NZ First MPs decided to go, and more so how national MPs will decided. Simon Bridges, and Maggie Barry and Nick Smith who were on the committee, are all strongly opposed to the bill, but as it’s a conscience vote all MPs are free to support or oppose as they choose.

It is still not clear whether the bill will have enough support once it returns to Parliament.

National MP Maggie Barry sat on the committee and said she thought political opposition to the bill may have hardened after the lengthy, and often harrowing, consultation period.

Mr Seymour will put amendments forward in the House – probably in June – which will include restricting the bill to those who have a terminal prognosis only and introducing a referendum.

“There’s some [MPs] still to work on to get it across the line,” he said.

The first reading passed with a 76-44 margin and Mr Seymour said that gave him confidence that MPs would line up with the majority of New Zealanders and support the bill.

Asked whether Ms Barry was the right person to deputy chair the select committee given her active campaign against euthanasia, Mr Seymour said: “I’m the tinder paper to Maggie Barry’s inner volcano so I’m probably not a natural observer on her.”

Full report on the End of Life Choice Bill

Recommendation

The Justice Committee has examined the End of Life Choice Bill and the Report of the Attorney-General under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 on the End of Life Choice Bill. We recommend that the amendments set out below be passed.

We were unable to agree that the bill be passed.

Conscience vote

This bill is expected to result in conscience votes by members in the House. In previous situations where a bill was expected to result in conscience votes, committees have recommended amendments that left the policy content of the bill largely intact, while trying to ensure that the bill was a coherent and workable piece of legislation— particularly regarding consequential amendments and amendments to related legislation.

The eight members of this committee hold diverse views. We decided to report the bill back with minor, technical, and consequential amendments only. We leave it to the full membership of the House to resolve the broader policy matters

The End of Life Choice Bill (as it currently stands)

Staffer claims Bridges lied to media about UN immigration petition

When a National party petition was taken down soon after the Christchurch mosque shootings the reasons given for the take down by Simon Bridges sounded suspect. First Bridges claimed the petition had been taken down weeks earlier as part of a ‘routine clean-up’. When it was shown that the petition was still in public view at the time of the shootings Bridges switched his claims to saying an ’emotional junior staffer’ had rushed to remove it.

The staffer claimed that Bridges lied to media, as his PR staff had been contacted before the petition was taken down.

It is now being reported that the staffer is expressing a different emotion after being accused of ‘serious misconduct’ by Bridges’ Chief of Staff.

Newsroom on March 19: Petition taken down by ‘emotional junior staffer’

After claiming a controversial petition against New Zealand signing the UN’s Global Migration Compact was taken down weeks ago, National now admits the petition page was deleted by a “junior staffer” who was “emotional” on Friday night, after the Christchurch mosque shootings.

The National Party had previously told media including Newsroom that the petition was deleted weeks before the attacks.

The party now claims that while it had asked for the page to be archived a number of weeks ago due to inactivity on the petition, it remained live without their knowledge until Friday night.

Google screenshot shows the page was still live at 1.39 pm on Friday, roughly the time the shooting took place.

National says they only discovered on Tuesday morning that the petition had not been taken down until Friday.

“The situation there is that I had understood the petition was deleted a matter of weeks ago as a matter of routine archiving,” Bridges said.

“What in fact happened, which I learnt this morning was that a junior staffer who was incredibly emotional on Friday night took it upon themselves to delete it, we didn’t know that until this morning”.

Bridges said he didn’t know whether the staffer had made decision to delete the petition.

“Honestly, I don’t know. We’re not going to be critical of it. As I say it’s a junior staff member — very emotional, I think New Zealand is emotional, given what we’ve seen,” he said.

Last night Stuff reported:  ‘Emotional junior staffer’ in dispute with National Party following UN petition deletion

The “emotional junior staffer” who deleted a petition from the National Party website is now in a dispute with the party after alleging media were lied to, two sources close to the situation say.

MPs who know him are upset with the way the staffer has been treated by leader Simon Bridges’ office.

The staffer, who has worked for National MPs in various roles for a number of years, has retained high-powered lawyer Linda Clark to represent his interests in the ongoing matter, the sources have told Stuff.

The staffer was upset that the National Party still had a petition online concerning the UN migration pact, which was mentioned by the alleged killer.

When the petition’s absence was noted, the party told both Newsroom and The Spinoff that the petition had been archived “weeks ago” as part of a routine clean-up. Newsroom had already reported the petition was deleted recently but following a conversation with a party spokesperson had corrected their story after being told the deletion pre-dated the attack.

This was proved false the following Tuesday when cached records made clear the petition was still live on the Friday afternoon.

Bridges explained this to media as a mistake, saying an “emotional junior staffer” took down the petition on Friday night, but his media team had believed it had been removed as part of a routine clear-up.

“I had understood that it was deleted some weeks ago as a matter of routine archiving. What in fact happened I’ve learnt this morning was that a junior staffer was incredibly emotional on Friday night and took it upon themselves to delete it,” Bridges said.

Both of the sources who talked to Stuff believed this was false, because a press secretary had been informed by the staffer that he wanted to delete the petition.

This sounds to me like the staffer did take it upon themselves to take down the petition, but after informing a press secretary.

If Bridges was informed of all this then it does look like he lied to media. If he inadvertently told a false story, then his press secretary at least has done a very poor job of communicating with Bridges.

But after the staffer took his concerns about the mismatch in facts to Bridges’ chief of staff Jamie Gray he found himself the subject of a dispute, with Parliamentary Service soon involved, the sources said.

One of the sources said Gray had accused the staffer of “serious misconduct” and began an investigation into the claims he made about lying to the media.

He is now out of the office on leave.

The staffer has been asked for comment.

Something that had looked concocted and messy at the time has blown up into a bigger mess for Bridges and National. This could easily have been avoided by being up front and honest.

A spokeswoman for Bridges said the issues surrounding the petition were “well traversed” already and directed all other queries to Parliamentary Service.

That sounds like Bridges is trying to traverse himself as far from the mess as possible. If the dispute is being dealt with he shouldn’t comment on any details, but he hasn’t helped his case by saying the issues were “well traversed”. The previous traversing did not go well for him, and this latest news makes it look less well.

Two meanings for traverse:

verb
1.  travel across or through.
2. move back and forth or sideways.

The way Bridges has dealt with this looks more like number 2. It doesn’t help that his recent manner of speech has seemed far from authoritative.

 

 

The surveillance debate will take time, fortunately

It’s common for things like policing, surveillance  and spying to be revisited after a major event like the Christchurch mosque attacks. It is impossible to prevent any possible attack, but it is certainly worth looking at what more could be done to minimise the risks bu maximising the chances of identifying potential attackers before they attack.

There are likely to be some changes, but we have to be careful to keep a reasonable balance between protection and persona freedoms.

More surveillance is already happening. RNZ: More NZers under surveillance: Andrew Little authorises spy agencies to do more ‘intrusive’ activities

The country remains on a high threat alert more than a week after the terror attacks in Christchurch.

The actions of the agencies who are meant to protect New Zealand from such atrocities have been under scrutiny since Friday 15 March.

The minister responsible for the two security agencies, Andrew Little told Morning Report he had given authority to spy agencies to do “intrusive” activities under warrant.

“I’ve signed warrants [since the attacks] … I’m not sure I’m at liberty to disclose the number. We typically have between 30 to 40 people under surveillance. That number will be bigger now.”

Referring to the possible ties between a far-right group in Austria and the accused gunman, Little said he suspected it was because “our intelligence agencies are working with intelligence agencies across the world”.

He said work on scanning and building up a profile of right-wing extremism commenced in the middle of last year and was “definitely continuing”.

He also said he didn’t think New Zealand was a soft target in terms of security, but had a “robust system” for assessing “violent extremist risks”.

Asked if the attack was an intelligence failure, he said it was ” too premature to draw that conclusion”.

“The purpose of the Royal Commission of Inquiry is to ascertain whether or not there were failures on the part of our security and intelligence agencies.”

I think that with the attacks fresh on everyone’s minds most people will accept some increases in surveillance – as long as it doesn’t affect them.

Simon Bridges wants more:  GCSB and SIS’s ‘hands tied behind their backs’ – Simon Bridges

New Zealand spy agencies’ balance between privacy and security has tipped too far towards privacy, and should be revisited, National Party leader Simon Bridges says.

Bridges said yesterday New Zealand’s security risk had “changed” and a review of security legislation was needed to make sure people were kept safe.

He said a decision made by the former National government in 2013 to abandon Project Speargun, a more intrusive regime which would have scanned internet traffic coming into New Zealand, should be reconsidered.

“I think we were overcautious in 2013/14,” he told Morning Report today.

“I think the case is what we have right now are security agencies with two hands tied behind their backs.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom) suggests caution – Why sweeping surveillance laws aren’t the answer

National leader Simon Bridges is calling for New Zealand’s intelligence agencies to be given greater powers, claiming our spies currently have their hands tied behind their backs. But it’s far from clear that greater surveillance would have stopped the Christchurch attack, and hasty changes could be disastrous.

Bridges has succeeded in distinguishing himself from Ardern, who said New Zealanders did not want the country to be a “surveillance state”.

But on the substance of whether law changes would do much to prevent a similar attack, Bridges’ argument seems decidedly shaky.

It’s far from unusual for countries to tighten their security laws after a terror attack, with France, Belgium and the United Kingdom among nations to have passed more stringent legislation following domestic incidents.

Perhaps most infamously, the United States pushed through the USA PATRIOT Act after the September 11 attacks, granting sweeping powers to a number of government agencies despite objections from civil liberties advocates.

But there’s little evidence to suggest that more sweeping surveillance powers play a significant role in stopping other attacks.

Reinhard Kreissl, the chief executive of the Vienna Centre for Societal Security Research, has argued that better training of, and organisational structures for, law enforcement experts deliver higher returns than expanding the amount of data they gather.

“More data and more surveillance will not help to find the proverbial needle or needles in the haystack,” Kreissl said, a view echoed in a thorough piece on the New Zealand situation by The NZ Herald’s David Fisher.

There have already been questions about whether the NZSIS and GCSB focused too closely on the threat of Muslim extremism, and not enough on the rise of white supremacy and far-right extremists in recent years.

NZSIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge has said the agency increased its efforts to understand the threat posed by the far-right in recent months, but representatives of New Zealand’s Muslim community have said concerns raised much earlier were not taken seriously.

New Zealand’s current target may be white supremacists and the far-right, but there are no guarantees that future administrations or officials will be judicious in how they use any new laws.

A Royal Commission will undoubtedly take some time, but a painstaking examination is more appropriate than a hasty rush to judgment.

Justice Minister Andrew Little has said of surveillance reforms – arguably a far more contested and complex space than the Government’s gun laws – that “the worst time to be considering law changes is in the immediate aftermath of a monstrous event like this”.

It’s a sentiment Bridges may want to think about before he again tries to leap ahead of the pack.

Bridges and National are not in power so there is no risk of them rushing into making draconian and relatively ineffective changes. The Royal Commission will help slow things down and ensure security issues are at least debated and carefully considered. As they should be.

 

Parliament – Ministerial Statements – Mosque Terror Attacks

Opening and Prayer:

SPEAKER: Salaam alaikum. As part of our expression of sorrow and of our hope following the terrorist attack in Christchurch, I have invited Imam Nizam ul haq Thanvi to say a prayer. He will do so in Arabic and then it will be repeated in English by Tahir Nawaz. Following this, my colleague Adrian Rurawhe will say the parliamentary prayer in Te Reo, and it will be repeated by Anne Tolley in English.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): I wish to make a ministerial statement relating to the Christchurch mosques terror attacks. Assalam alaikum, peace be upon you, and peace be upon all of us.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition): As New Zealand woke on 15 March 2019, none of us could have imagined the horror and terror about to be unleashed on our people.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First):

MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green):

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT):

 

Transcripts: Ministerial Statements — Mosque Terror Attacks—Christchurch

Simon Bridges and National on the Christchurch mosque massacres

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has been the primary political focus in response to the Christchurch mosque massacres. She has done a very good job in many respects. She has been very good at communicating with the public generally in her media conferences, and she shows obvious empathy and rapport when dealing with those affected by the killings.

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has been far less visible, understandably.

He and other politicians travelled with Ardern on a visit to Christchurch on Saturday, in a show of political solidarity.

There have been two official National party statements.

Friday:  Opposition Leader condemns Christchurch attack

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has condemned the Christchurch attacks and expresses condolences to the people of Canterbury.

“Details are still emerging but the attacks are shocking.

“We stand with and support the New Zealand Islamic community.  No one in this country should live in fear, no matter their race or religion, their politics or their beliefs.

“My thoughts, and the thoughts of the National Party are with the victims of today’s attacks, along with their families and friends. My heart goes out to all of you.”

Saturday:  Opposition Leader visits Christchurch

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today visited Christchurch alongside the Prime Minister and other Party Leaders and met with the Islamic community, some of the affected families and emergency responders.

“Now is not a time for politics. The National Party stands in solidarity with the Prime Minister and the Government in condemning the horrific and violent terrorist attack in Christchurch yesterday.

“My deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers go to all those directly affected by yesterday’s events, but also to the wider Canterbury community.

“This is not something that has happened to just the Islamic community, or just to Christchurch. It has happened to all New Zealanders.

“It is foreign to everything that makes us Kiwis, our beliefs, our values, our tolerance, how we live and get along with one another.

“We offer our support in any way we can. We are with you today and tomorrow.”

Monday: Simon Bridges on RNZ on firearm laws

Change is needed, I understand that.

I am open to any and all changes.

Be very clear, I am up for change.

The National Party will be constructive.

Do you want military style semi-automatic weapons available?

He kept responding in general terms, that he is up for any and all change.

There is a Prime Minister and a Government we are supporting on this.

He says he is now waiting until the Prime Minister comes back with proposals on law changes. It sounds like bridges may have some sort of understanding with Ardern about how to proceed on this.

He could be more definitive, but in general I think it’s fair enough to see what the Government proposes. Once that is announced, Bridges will need to be more clear.

 

 

SFO investigating National Party donation

More problems for the National Party and Simon Bridges after a complaint made by ex-National MP Jami-lee Ross to the police has been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.

This is an investigation, not a finding, but it doesn’t look flash for Bridges or National.

Newsroom: SFO to investigate National donation allegations

The Serious Fraud Office will investigate allegations of electoral donation fraud levelled against the National Party and its leader Simon Bridges by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross.

Ross has claimed vindication over the news, but Bridges has expressed confidence his own hands are clean and called on party officials to fully cooperate with the SFO inquiry.

Police started looking into the allegations after Ross spoke to them last year, but now appear to have elevated the issue into specialist hands.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, police said they had referred a complaint they received last October to the SFO, “in relation to the disclosure of political donations under the Electoral Act”.

“The complaint has been referred to the SFO as they hold the appropriate mandate to look further into matters raised by the investigation to date.”

Police said they could not comment on their own investigation while the SFO was looking into the allegations.

Also from Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross rides again

The former National MP accused of bullying and cheating during his time in Parliament has written to all his Botany constituents asking not to be judged “on a month where personal and health-related matters became a distraction”.

The Serious Fraud investigation was made public yesterday in a two sentence statement from police:

Ross held a press conference claiming he had been doubted repeatedly but each time in this controversy had proven his critics wrong.

He’s a bit premature there, nothing has been proven about the donation yet.

Whose cracks are more problematic – Simon Bridges’ or Tova O’Brien’s?

Newshub journalist Tova O’Brien has written some scathing reports and opinions about Simon Bridges and his leadership. They have just exchanged jabs on Newshub Nation.

Bridges: “And I know that will disappoint your commentators today such as David Slack and Tova O’Brien, but I’m here to stay.”

O’Brien responded “I think it’s problematic that Simon Bridges keeps having these cracks at press gallery journalists…”

Bridges certainly has problems and challenges as National leader.

But I think it is more problematic that journalists like O’Brien use leaks to make stories out of molehills, and use polls to make baseless predictions based on nothing but a need or desire to make a dramatic story out of something relatively mundane, like a single poll taken at a fairly irrelevant time of the political year.

O’Brien broke the expenses leak story last August:  Simon Bridges’ roadshow cash splash: $113k in taxpayer money on limos and hotels

Simon Bridges is spending up large – using taxpayer funding to pay for his limousine.

Newshub has been leaked MPs’ expenses, which show the National Party leader has spent far more money on travel and accommodation than MPs usually manage to chew through.

This turned out to be a bit of a beat up. The expenses were due to be released through normal procedures a few days later anyway.

But that doesn’t come cheap.

Not due for public release until later this week, the leaked figures show Mr Bridges has been splashing cash.

Travel and accommodation topped $113,973, and most of that – $83,693 – was spent on travelling the country by road and in style.

And it was revealed recently that the leader of the Opposition is ‘charged’ far more than Ministers:

It was National leader Simon Bridges’ $83,693 in VIP transport costs in the June quarter last year were the catalyst for the breakdown between the party and MP Jami-Lee Ross after they were leaked to the media early.

Bridges’ VIP transport would have been $33,281 if he had been charged at the same rate as ministers.

As stated there the leak through O’Brien led to the Jami-Lee Ross debacle, which Newshub was very involved in (various journalists, not just O’Brien), with headlines like:

In one particularly odd report O’Brien discussed various possibilities about the leak – Tova O’Brien says ‘anyone’ could have leaked Simon Bridges’ expenses – but presumably she knows how it happened and who the leaker was, as they leaked to her.

Last month O’Brien fronted a series of stories on a Newshub/Reid Research poll, which was scathing of Bridges, and also grossly overstated to importance of a single poll.

The poll result is newsworthy. Dramatic claims about what might happen as a result of the poll is very poor journalism – it is trying to make a huge story out of just one poll. O’Brien followed up with: Tova O’Brien: Simon Bridges’ trifecta from hell

This is a trifecta from hell for Simon Bridges:

  1. National has plunged under his leadership;
  2. Voters don’t want him as Prime Minister, and;
  3. Judith Collins has overtaken him in the preferred Prime Minister stakes.

And it just gets worse…

Four weeks later, nothing much has changed. In fact, Bridges’ performance as leader has improved a bit, he has effectively applied pressure to the Government over their botched handling of the Tax Working Group report, particularly the possibilities of a Capital Gains Tax.

More recent polls suggest that the Newshub poll may have been more of a temporary drop than a sign of a trend – see UMR and other polls – Labour and National even – which highlights the overblowing of O’Brien’s and Newshub’s coverage of their poll (they also, unusually, held back the results for a week).

On Newshub Nation yesterday questions were asked about polling:

What are you going to do to turn around your poor personal polling, Simon?

I think actually, just what I’ve said to you. It’s two things. Firstly, elections are a referendum on the government. It’s governments that lose elections. At the moment, I think they’re going about that pretty well, from my perspective, with some of the things that they are doing and not doing. What I need to make sure National is doing…

People do say that Jacinda actually won the last election, though.

Well, I think Winston Peters won the last election. I think there’s quite a few that say that as well. He won it for her, and now Michael Cullen’s doing a good job to try and win it for her again – or lose it for her, perhaps. But I’ll hold the government to account. I’ll make sure that National is developing plans so people have got a real choice at the election, and they’ll make up their minds when that election comes.

At what point do you decide you need to step down for the good of the party?

I won’t be. And I know that will disappoint your commentators today such as David Slack and Tova O’Brien, but I’m here to stay. I believe in what I’m doing, I think I’m the best person for the job, and I lead a terrific team that is putting out policy, that is leading the debates. We’re going to continue doing that.

So we’ll definitely see you as leader at the next election?

You sure will.

So Bridges made a direct reference to O’Brien, who was on the panel. She responded directly:

Perhaps if he keeps talking rubbish like, um but actually there’s there’s…who’s the leader of the National Party has absolutely no bearing on me or any other journalist.

I think it’s problematic that Simon Bridges keeps having these cracks at press gallery journalists, um, for reporting the facts, for reporting on his leadership. It’s not our fault that he has abysmal poll numbers, it’s not our fault that he’s failing to resonate with voters, it’s not our fault that people in his caucus are murmuring to us on the sidelines and talking about his leadership.

I think there’s no doubt that Bridges has problems as leader of the National Party. One of these problems has been a person or people leaking information to O’Brien with an obvious intention of establishing Bridges’ leadership.

But I think more problematic are the actions of journalists like O’Brien who seem to be deliberately fomenting dysfunction and disunity to create stories and to create headlines.

Journalists should not be immune from criticism by politicians. I think that Bridges is justified in having a mild crack at O’Brien given the nature of some of her coverage, her leaker enabling, and some of her unjournalistic dramatics in some of her stories. Bridges hasn’t been her only target, but she seems to see him as fodder for fame as maker rather than a breaker of stories.

Newshub Nation – Simon Bridges on CGT and other tax questions

Will Michael Cullen front up on Nation next? (for $1k a day).

Is our tax system fair as it stands? Fair to whom? It’s a bit of an impossible question.

Paternalistic Speaker protecting Ardern in Parliament

There have been claims already that Speaker Trevor Mallard has protected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament when under attack by the Opposition.

This came up again after an exchange in Question Time yesterday, where Simon Bridges moved from questions about CGT effects on KiwiSaver to Ardern’s business experience:

Hon Simon Bridges: In light of her comments on fairness, is it fair that under the proposed capital gains tax, the small-business owner will have to pay tax on a third of their business when they sell up for retirement?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, alongside the recommendations around a comprehensive capital gains tax, we’ve acknowledged that, for simplicity, that was what the Tax Working Group suggested. They also put alongside that, increasing the threshold for provisional tax from $1,500 to $5,000, increasing the closing stock adjustment, an increase in the automatic deduction for legal fees, a reduction in the number of depreciation rates.

So there was a suite of options in there, and, again, Mr Speaker, as I know you know, but as I wish the Leader of the Opposition would hear: we have not settled on any of the final recommendations of the report. We are still considering them as a Government.

Ardern brought the Speaker into the discussion.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the problem with answering my questions that she doesn’t understand small business very well?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she told Mike Hosking last week and this morning that she’d run a small NGO that helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I did not tell him that this morning.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she said last week on Mike Hosking that her running a small NGO had helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, I spent more time talking about the fact that my first jobs were all in small businesses. The point that I was making at that time—and actually, I continue to make—is that, as a Government, we are considering all of the issues that have been raised. That includes whether it be residential rentals, whether it be small business, whether it be KiwiSaver.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the NGO she spoke of the International Union of Socialist Youth?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member knows how to use Wikipedia—well done.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has talking to international comrades helped her with her small-business policy development in New Zealand?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the Prime Minister will sit down. We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House. It’s a final warning, and I think Mr McClay will be the first out.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I stand by the fact that I have worked in small businesses, that I have been in charge of hiring and firing, and I’d be interested in how many times he’s had to do that as a Crown prosecutor.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given all the—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Ah, the businessman!

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Mr Brownlee will now stand, withdraw and apologise.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. What was the problem there? I called him a businessman; I apologise for that.

SPEAKER: The member knows well that he interjected while a member was asking a question. He will now leave the Chamber.

Hon Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.

Ex MP Tau Henare:

Ardern was noticeably irritated from early in this exchange.

Richard Harman at Politik: Temper flash from the PM

What appeared to be a flash of temper from the Prime Minister in Parliament yesterday is an indication of how much the capital gains tax debate seems to be getting to her. She and Ministers are getting bogged down in detail as they answer endless questions about how the tax might work…

Audrey Young: Simon Bridges gets the better of Jacinda Ardern over small business experience

Ardern’s loss of form was Bridges’ capital gain as the National leader and the Prime Minister went head to head over a comprehensive capital gains tax (CGT) proposal.

It was a variation on fish and chip shop theme, from the previous day in which slaving over a fat vat in an after- school job gave her insights into how small business owners would be feeling about having to pay 33 per cent tax when they sold up their business for retirement.

Ardern had disputed the NewstalkZB host’s claim that none of the cabinet had experience running a small business.

It was Bridges’ moment but Mallard was having none of it. There are no rules for when applause is tolerated and when it is not. That is decided by the mood of the Speaker who clearly did not like National ganging up on her.

Mallard: “We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House.”

Ardern looks under pressure over the Capital Gains Tax. She and her Government seemed badly prepared for dealing the widely expected recommendations of the Tax Working Group. With a decision still a month or two away, expect National to keep hammering Ardern on this.

Both Mallard and Winston Peters appear to be trying to protect Ardern in Parliament. Grant Robertson also stepped in to help. This looks paternalistic, and doesn’t help Ardern’s case.

Ardern won’t be able to come up with answers on CGT for a while yet, but she at least needs to find a way of handling the questions better – on her own.