Suggestions Health Minister tried to gag hospital staff

A week that began with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she would be staying away from Parliament as the birth of her child nears has become very messy for the Government, with Winston Peters and Shane Jones throwing bombs into the political fray, Minister Eugenie Sage under fire from Green members for doing her job, and a run of bad looks from labour ministers.

And here’s another, from Newshub: David Clark accused of silencing DHB staff over Middlemore

Newshub has obtained a voicemail and emails which suggest the Health Minister tried to gag senior staff talking publicly about the state of embattled Middlemore Hospital.

In one case he even appeared to promise a board member, who he’d sacked, another job if they shut up.

“I notice more and more getting reported that is really not helping at all, and I’m hopeful that there won’t be much more commentary,” Health Minister David Clark said in a voicemail to District Health Board chair Rabin Rabindran.

“My fear is that if you and I keep commenting, the story keeps ticking along. I’d rather not have distraction about who said what when.”

However Mr Clark denies this, saying he was “absolutely not” trying to stop board members from speaking out.

“There were a lot of conversations happening through the media and that meant there wasn’t clear communication about what was going on, and that’s unhelpful,” he told Newshub.

The voicemail was left on April 18th, two weeks after he sacked Mr Rabindran. In the same voicemail, Mr Clark offered him a new job.

“I would consider you for further appointments because I think that sends a message.”

If Clark and other Ministers under fire survive the term voters may consider sending them a message.

There is a growing impression that the Government is either out of it’s depth, or over the top arrogant. Possible both.

34% staff turnover at White House

Working at the White House will always be high pressure and hard. This seems to be more so under Donald trump’s presidency, where there has been an unusually high staff turnover of 34%, and many positions remain vacant.

NY Times: A Whirlwind Envelops the White House, and the Revolving Door Spins

The doors at the White House have been swinging a lot lately. A deputy chief of staff moved on. A speechwriter resigned. The associate attorney general stepped down. The chief of staff offered to quit. And that was just Friday.

All of that came after the departure of Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary who cleared out his office last week amid accusations of spousal abuse. The White House had overlooked reported problems with his security clearance last year in part, officials said, because of a reluctance to lose yet another senior aide, particularly one seen as so professional and reliable.

An eventful week.

More than a year into his administration, President Trump is presiding over a staff in turmoil, one with a 34 percent turnover rate, higher than any White House in decades. He has struggled to fill openings, unwilling to hire Republicans he considers disloyal and unable to entice Republicans who consider him unstable. Those who do come to work for him often do not last long, burning out from a volatile, sometimes cutthroat environment exacerbated by tweets and subpoenas.

“We have vacancies on top of vacancies,” said Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied White House turnover over the last six administrations. “You have initial vacancies, you have people who left in the first year and now you have people who are leaving in the second year.”

According to a report by Ms. Tenpas, Mr. Trump’s 34 percent turnover rate in his first year is more than three times as high as President Barack Obama’s in the same period and twice as high as President Ronald Reagan’s, which until now was the modern record-holder. Of 12 positions deemed most central to the president, only five are still filled by the same person as when Mr. Trump took office.

Mr. Trump is on his second press secretary, his second national security adviser and his third deputy national security adviser. Five different people have been named communications director or served in the job in an acting capacity. The president has parted ways with his chief strategist, health secretary, several deputy chiefs of staff and his original private legal team. He is on his second chief of staff — and some wonder whether a third may be in the offing soon.

Some administration officials privately spend much of their time trying to figure out how to leave without looking disloyal or provoking an easily angered president. Others, like Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, stubbornly resist what seem like clear signals that they are no longer welcome.

It is a mixture of staff wanting to leave, and Trump wanting staff to leave.

Grueling in the best of times, an administration job now seems even less appealing to many potential recruits. Republican operatives said they worry not only about the pressure-cooker, soap-opera atmosphere and the danger of being drawn into the special counsel investigation of Russia’s election interference but also about hurting their careers after the White House.

“There isn’t a huge appetite from many Republicans on the outside to explore job opportunities in this administration,” said Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee. “While there are a lot of vacancies and usually a position in the White House is one of the most prestigious jobs in Washington, that’s just not the feeling with this administration, given the turmoil and the chaos.”

The ‘You’re Fired!” reputation of Trump probably doesn’t help.

The staff churn will make a difficult job harder, for the President, and for the staff that remain working for him.

What if the Auckland Council put this much effort into housing and transport?

The Auckland Council employs 234 communications staff at a cost of $45 million. They seem intent on talking about what they might do – perhaps a lot of these resources would be better targeted at actually doing, especially on challenging issues like housing and transport.

NZH: $45m bill for communications at Auckland Council

Auckland ratepayers are picking up a $45.6 million tab to run communication departments, employing 234 staff, at Auckland Council and five council-controlled organisations, according to a leaked review.

A “confidential draft” of the review, obtained by the Weekend Herald, has uncovered a huge blowout in communication salary costs at four council bodies.

Between 2013 and 2017, salary costs soared by 75 per cent at Auckland Council, 87 per cent at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) and 56 per cent at Auckland Transport.

Salary costs rose by 104.5 per cent at Panuku Development Auckland, which was formed in September 2015 from the merger of Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Property Ltd.

Just on ‘communications’?

The actual dollar figures of the communications salary totals, including the rises, at the council-controlled organisations are not included in the report, or available at this time.

The Communications & Engagement review includes media and communications, marketing, research and consultation staff.

Consultation with ratepayers is important, as is marketing, but 234 staff sounds a lot.

The review is one of four ‘value for money’ reviews commissioned by Auckland Council as Mayor Phil Goff strives to find savings and efficiencies in the council’s budget – one of his key election campaign pledges.

The findings of the review will confirm Goff’s concerns during last year’s mayoral campaign that there are too many communications staff at council and “way above what it could be”.

According to the communications review, a previous business case to improve communications at Auckland Council in 2014 largely failed. The 2014 goal was to reduce the number of communications staff to 92. Staff numbers have increased to 105.

The business case recommended council develop a strategy for communications and engagement. “No strategy has been developed,” the latest review said.

The review said there is no formal communications strategy across the council and CCOs. It calls for a strategy to achieve a co-ordinated, consistent and collaborative approach.

It also called for cost savings of 5 per cent a year for the next three years.

After a 2014 business case to reduce staff they instead increase staff and costs by 56% to 104.5%. Targeting a reduction of 5% seems lame and hard to have confidence in.

Labour staff appointments

Andrew Little has made two appointments to vacant positions in the Labour leader’s office.

Chief of Staff – Neale Jones


Jones has been upgraded from his current job of Political Director in Little’s office.

Te Reo Putake has some detail at The Standard:

Excellent appointment for Chief of Staff. I’ve known Neale for years and he is a top bloke and good value for the job. I know he also worked with Andrew Little at the EPMU, modernising that union’s comms, and, clearly, they both work together well. I predict good things for Labour.

TRP has been predicting good things for Labour for years. He might be right about it one day.

Modernising the Labour Party may be a lot bigger challenge than modernising union’s comms.

Labour stalwart Greg Presland:

Neale is really good. Safe pair of hands and dedicated to the cause.

So Jones strengthens the EPMU influence in Labour. Some, especially those with union connections, will like that. Others may be less enthusiastic.

Now shunned ex-Labour member Phil Quin tweeted:

The appointment of Neale Jones, a dyed-in-the-wool loyalist, is testament to Andrew Little’s utter impregnability as Labour leader.

Also from Twitter Stephanie Rodgers (who works in union comms):

Nice one, comrade

Little became Labour’s leader due to the crucial Union vote (affiliate unions have 20% of that vote).

Chief Press Secretary – Mike Jaspers


From NZH Labour confirms senior positions including chief press secretary

Mike Jaspers will be chief press secretary, filling a position that has been vacant since Sarah Stuart left in May after little more than a year in the role.

Jaspers works in communications for New Zealand Rugby including when New Zealand hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

He has experience in Parliament – previously working as a press secretary for Sir Michael Cullen in 2006/07, and before that in Parliament’s press gallery for TVNZ.

It’s understood Little previously tried to hire Jaspers after he became Labour leader.

From a different sort of union, the Rugby Union.

Jaspers has been given the most attention by journalists and media who seem to rate him highly. The Standard reaction was more wary. Bill:

Fair to say “Neale Jones good, Mike Jaspers…jury out”?

Jaspers was very effective with the Rugby Union. This may pose a bigger challenge. He has to fill a void and somehow transform how Little and  Labour are presented.

One thing both Jones and Jaspers will need to try and overcome is the negativity that has oozed from Labour from the top down. On his return from a visit to Canada Little indicated that he was keen to follow Justin Trudeau’s positive methods.

Party comms can’t control what is said in social media but they can try to influence it. It desperately needs a positive makeover.

A comment on The Standard’s New lineup for Labour Leader’s office thread is a symptom of an entrenched problem of Labour’s image of vicious intolerance.

He is a semi-literate, trolling muppet, like Pockish Rogue and Maninamuddle. Their new tactic is to derail by being friendly and matey. Why else are they constantly cackling away on nearly every thread on this site?

A new form of Peter George.

Don’t respond to their apparent friendliness. Study the ways of One Anonymous Bloke. He identifies these sleazebags early in the piece and gives them hell. We all need to. Tell them to fuck off.

Friendly bad, fuck off good, so ‘In Vino’ and others seem to think.

Little recently very publicly branded ex-Labour members Quin and Wellington mayoral candidate as right wing traiters and and effectively told them to “fuck off”.

Enticing people like them, like me, and like thousands of other ex-Labour voters, to consider ticking Labour again will be a big challenge for Jones and Jaspers.

While some at the Standard are enthusiastic about these new appointments, hoping they finally have a ‘game changer’, shit continues to be thrown around their nest and elsewhere in social media.

Jones needs to reform the attitude of the party from within and from the top down.

Jaspers needs to present to the public a far more positive Labour, and to somehow paper over the crackpots.

UN Staff pick Clark

A poll of UN staff named Helen Clark as their top pick for the role of Secretary general.

Stuff reports Helen Clark preferred by United Nations staff to take over as Secretary General

The Huffington Post has said that when UN staff were asked to name their top three candidates for the job, Clark received 439 mentions. 

Her rivals, former Portuguese prime minister António Guterres, got 381. Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica got 340.

But that means nothing as far as the selection goes. The fourteen member Security Council effectively chooses the new Secretary General, and the five permanent members have veto power so have a disproportionate say.

After the last ‘secret’ straw poll Huffington Post asked Will Portugal’s Guterres Be The New UN Secretary-General?

To state the obvious, it appears former Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres will be the next UN secretary-general to succeed Ban Ki-moon. But this is not a sure bet.

Guterres, the former spirited head of the UN refugee agency, has been in first place in three informal straw polls among the 15 members of the UN Security Council. But the voting has not yet distinguished between the five council members with veto power (United States, Russia, China, Britain, France) and the other 10 nations.

Guterres received 11 votes in favor, three against and one “no opinion”. In the first round last month, he had no negative votes. Diplomats believe Russia may have cast the negative vote. If so, this would throw the procedure into chaos and possibly a deadlock.

Surprisingly, Slovakia’s foreign minister, Miroslav Lajčák was in second place after finishing second to last in the previous straw poll, according to the supposedly secret results leaked to journalists within minutes.

And the women?

Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon who is in office until the end of 2016, said it was “high time” for a woman to hold his job after eight men in the post.

And Susana Malcorra told the Argentine newspaper Clarin there was still “a biased vote against women” at the United Nations. She noted that U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power was the only woman on the Security Council.

Led by Colombia’s Ambassador María Emma Mejía Vélez, about 56 nations have campaigned for a woman. And among those from Eastern Europe, only Irina Bokova of Bulgaria has a chance.

In sixth place was former Macedonian foreign minister Srgjan Kerim followed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who heads the U.N. Development Program. Both Malcorra and Clark had shown themselves extremely knowledgeable about UN affairs.

Results of Third Straw Poll
Candidate (Encourage-Discourage-No Opinion Expressed)
António Guterres 11-3-1
Miroslav Lajčák 9-5-1
Irina Bokova 7-5-3
Vuk Jeremić; 7-5-3
Susana Malcorra 7-7-1
Srgjan Kerim 6-7-2
Helen Clark 6-8-1
Danilo Turk 5-6-4
Natalia Gherman 2-12-1
Christina Figueres 2-12-1
Igor Lukšić Withdrew
Vesna Pusić Withdrew

Eight is a lot of ‘discourage’ votes for Clark to overcome. At this stage it looks like she will stay in the race.

After the staff poll (from Stuff):

Clark said on LinkedIn that she was pleased with this result but that there’s still a long way to go. 

“I said at the outset that this campaign would be a marathon, not a sprint, and so it has proved to be.”


Supermarket conditions – parking on streets ban

Countdown has been battling business limiting Dunedin City for some time, but were yesterday consent to build a new supermarket in Mosgiel – with a number of restrictive conditions attached.

Otago Daily Times reports Mosgiel supermarket approved.

  • The new store, which will be more than 50% larger than the present Mosgiel Countdown
  • Two protected yew trees on the site will be retained
  • No retail tenancies, other than a ”coffee dispensary”, will be permitted on the site
  • The customer car park will be locked during non-trading hours
  • Pylon signage is no larger than 6m high and 2.2m wide
  • Heavy vehicle usage limited to Gordon Rd
  • Low-tone beeping technology will be fitted to forklifts, all of which will be electric-powered quieter models.
  • Install noise-reducing glazing to nearby residential properties

Despite the noise reduction measures neighbouring houses have to be double glazed.

On top of all of that is one of the silliest conditions I’ve seen.

  • Supermarket staff will not be allowed to park their cars on surrounding streets.

How can they police that? More importantly, how can they prohibit private citizens from parking on public streets? Are they only banned from parking on streets during their shift hours or at any time?

The Mosgiel Countdown has had a major battle – they won some, as the DCC had recommended limiting opening hours to 9 am – 6 pm, which would have been an anti-competitive limitation as the New World open s 8 am – 9 pm.

Some of the conditions are still quite restrictive. Will heavy vehicles be banned entirely from other adjoining streets or just while delivering to Countdown?

But the ban on staff parking on streets is surely contrary to basic citizens’ rights.

Cough cough, two answers for Bradbury

Martin Bradbury asks two questions of Peter Dunne at The Daily Blog in Cough-Cough – about that whole ‘willing buyer/willing seller’ thing (Two questions)

Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm

Tipline throwing up some interesting questions.

Two questions:

When Peter Dunne declared that there was a willing buyer and a willing seller to describe how he gave Key his one vote to pass the mass surveillance State legislation, what exactly did he mean?

An unfortunate term used for a simple explanation – effective politics involves negotiations between two parties who are willing to reach a satisfactory conclusion. This often involves compromise.

It turned out to be win-win-win:

  • Dunne contributed significantly to improving the GCSB Amendment Bill
  • Key got a much improved bill in his name
  • The people of New Zealand will get a much improved bill.

That’s how politics works, for parties willing to contribute directly and positively to the process.

Who is currently paying all of Peter Dunne’s staff salaries?

I believe he currently has the normal quota of staff for an independent MP – something like 1-2 in Parliament and some electorate office reception I guess.

Paid for by whoever in Parliament pays all MP’s their allocated staff.

Someone paid by the Mana Party should know things like this better than me – look at you payslip and you will see who pays MP party staff.

Who had copies of the Kitteridge report?

Much has been said about Peter Dunne being the only minister to have been interviewed during David Henry’s inquiry into the leaking of the Kitteridge report – except by Peter Dunne, who is not commenting on it. Discussing an ongoing inquiry you were involved in would be imprudent to say the least.

The impression has been given that only ministers received the report, but that’s not the case. Copies also went to the directors, secretaries, or chief executives of seven agencies or organisations and also to another eleven other senior officials.

This was stated in question time on 10 April when Russel Norman asked Bill English who had received a copy.

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Who in his Government had access to the Rebecca Kitteridge report into the Government Communications Security Bureau before it was publicly released; and did the Prime Minister, or any of his Ministers, or their offices, leak the report?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister) : The report by Rebecca Kitteridge was initially provided to the Prime Minister and his office on 22 March.

The paper was circulated under strict Cabinet security procedures to members of the Cabinet committee on domestic and external security—and the membership of that is available on the Cabinet Office website—of senior Ministers.

Copies of the report were received by the directors, secretaries, or chief executives of the following agencies or organisations:

  • the Government Communications Security Bureau,
  • the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet,
  • the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
  • Crown Law,
  • the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service,
  • the intelligence coordination group within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and
  • the State Services Commission.

In addition, 11 other senior officials within these agencies were given the report.

Two other Ministers received it: the Hon Peter Dunne, consistent with his membership of the coalition, and the Hon Maurice Williamson, in his capacity as Minister of Customs.

The Prime Minister can give a categorical assurance that neither he nor his office leaked the report. He does not believe for a moment that his Ministers or their offices leaked the report either.

Earlier today in China the Prime Minister informed the media that he had asked his chief executive at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to speak with the State Services Commissioner to provide some advice about a potential inquiry into the leak. That advice is likely to be received upon the Prime Minister’s return to New Zealand.

John Key has also stated he has full trust in Peter Dunne and is confident he wasn’t responsible for the leak.

I haven’t seen any reporting of any of the non-ministers being interviewed, and Winston Peters has made no accusations against anyone other than Peter Dunne.

There is no obvious motive for anyone associated with the Government to have leaked the report – especially ministers, including Dunne.

And Peters’ accusations have no factual basis, he says phone records would show Dunne talked to a Fairfax journalist prior to the leak of the report (Fairfax say they viewed a copy) – “the pure connection by dates of exclusive leaks shortly after those phone calls“. That’s a very flimsy connection, and it is highly questionable that Peters would have access to Dunne’s phone records.