Hooton leaves Leader of the Opposition office

Well known PR strategist/lobbyist and political commentator Matthew Hooton raised political eyebrows when he promoted Todd Muller’s bid for National leadership – he told RNZ “I gave him personal support as a friend” – and then took on a job in the office of the the Leader of the Opposition when Muller took over on 22 May.

He stayed on when Judith Collins took over from Muller on 14 July, but Hooton has now announced he is going “back to family and other interests in Auckland”

He made this statement on Facebook:

Well, I spent yesterday thinking about whether I could do another seven weeks commuting to Wellington, decided I didn’t want to, slept on it, and called Judith Collins this morning to say I wanted to finish in Wellington and get back to family and other interests in Auckland.

Judith was very gracious. (She’s as tough as I knew she was but I didn’t realise she is also kind and also very funny until she took over a couple of weeks ago.) I thanked her and Gerry Brownlee for the opportunity and support they had given me, especially after Todd Muller’s demise, and said I think they now have a terrific team who has a good chance of winning the election, or at least can ensure the National Party will remain a broad church after 19 September.

But I said it was time for me to move on now. I can’t justify the impact on my family and other personal and professional responsibilities for another seven weeks. Cathy Wood seems quite pleased!

I’m pleased to have contributed to getting some of National’s basic messaging done, including the standard stump speech, and also to have helped kickstart the A-to-Z policy process again. I still think the Te Puna speech I wrote for Todd was pretty good.

I will watch with great interest to see how it all unfolds over the next seven weeks. Ideally what would have been spent on my fees can now be redirected to the much more important cost centre of boosting Facebook posts!

So to all the team down in Wellington, all the very very best for the next seven weeks – and hopefully the next nine years.

And you may be hearing from me here and there sooner than you may think.It certainly has been another very interesting life experience, these last nine weeks.

And I will try to renew the resolution that I made when I got back from London last year never to visit Wellington again!

Response from Cathy Wood:

Thanks for listening to my pleas ❤️🙏🏼 Solo-mumming/full-time work was ok when you were doing philosophy in London but it’s not ok for Wellington politics!


 Probably should have listened nine weeks ago!

Judith Collins:

Matthew, Thank you very much for all your excellent work and sage advice. We are now in a great place. Judith


Thanks Judith. It has been a whole lot of fun in a very bizarre way!

Megan Campbell:

Enjoyed working with you, Matthew. Thanks for your advice, contribution and friendship.


Same Megan. But let’s not quite do this again! 😄

No doubt people of different political leanings will make of this whatever they like, but regardless, this moving on by Hooton is likely to make little difference to the election campaign.

Todd Muller resigns as National leader

Todd Muller has just announced he iis step;ping down as leader of the National party. He has been one of the shortest serving political party leaders.

He says this is for the good of the party and the good of his family and his health.

It looks like ongoing media pressure has got to him. He has not handled the leak scandal well, but he has been relentlessly hammered for the last week.

The National Party caucus is having an emergency meeting too work out how to replace Muller.

Walker stepping down, Muller steps up, but National down and out of contention

After admitting sending personal details of Covid cases to several media outlets National MP Hamish Walker took the only course open to him – yesterday he pre-empted a Party board meeting considering a request to dump him from the party by announcing he wouldn’t stand in the Clutha Southland (now Southland) electorate in September’s election.

Personal Statement From Hamish Walker

Today I am announcing that I will not be standing for re-election for the Southland electorate at the upcoming 2020 election.

I wish to thank the people of Clutha-Southland who I have loved meeting, assisting and representing over the past two and a half years.

I sincerely apologise for my actions.

I will be making no further comment.

Todd Muller Accepts Hamish Walker’s Decision Not To Stand In 2020

National Party Leader Todd Muller has today accepted Hamish Walker’s decision to withdraw his candidacy for the seat of Southland and not stand at the upcoming election.

“Rachel Bird, the National Party’s Southern Regional Chair, has received a letter from Hamish confirming he will withdraw as the National Party candidate for Southland.

“There was a clear breach of trust, which goes against the values National holds as a party.

“The National Party Board will still meet today to discuss the selection of a new candidate.”

Statement From Peter Goodfellow, National Party President

Yesterday evening I received a letter from Leader Todd Muller, asking the National Party Board of Directors to urgently meet and consider some very serious, publicly reported, issues concerning Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker.

The Board met at midday today (Wednesday 8 July) via videoconference and was advised that Mr Walker has now formally resigned his candidacy for the National Party in the Southland Electorate for the 2020 General Election.

A selection process will therefore begin almost immediately to find a new candidate for the Southland Electorate, and we look forward to a robust and democratic process.

On behalf of the National Party Board of Directors, I would like to apologise for any distress caused to the individuals concerned as a result of the actions of one of our Members of Parliament.

RNZ: Hamish Walker’s exit from politics ‘was the only option’ – Todd Muller

In an announcement on transport this afternoon, Muller said the board will be looking at installing a new National Party candidate for Southland in the coming days.

“This was the only option because as we have well traversed the events of the last few days have not reflected from my perspective the appropriate National Party behaviour and values.

“He has worked very hard for his community over the last three years, and ultimately it was an error of judgement, a serious error of judgement that has cost him his career.

“It’s the right decision and I acknowledge that and now of course we seek to move on.”

He said he would not talk through the advice Walker had received, which was in a letter between himself and Walker.

Muller said Walker’s judgement was “fundamentally flawed”.

“And I’m on record a number of times now confirming that, and he’s paid the ultimate price of doing that.

“This is an isolated incident and we’ve got to see it through that lens, and I have acted very swiftly and we’ve got the right outcome.”

He said his MPs were clear around the expectations of them and they reflected a party with a “fine tradition of values, of achievement for this country and every one of us knows that we are there because at the last election well over a million people supported our cause and our view that the government is stronger when we’re in control”.

“Hamish Walker went behind my back and made his own judgement, and I’m sure that he is ruing it today.

“We have had one MP who made a serious error and has paid the ultimate price in terms of his political career. I think that talks to a party that does have high standards and when people breach them there is consequences.

“It was totally inappropriate for that personal information to be leaked to the media, because they are New Zealanders who are suffering because they have Covid and are in a constrained environment.”

But he said National would continue to critique the government’s “every day glitches” in the managed isolation programme.

“The government continues to demonstrate by the day actually that their border management is still not at the expectations that New Zealanders have of keeping us safe.”

What Michelle Boag and Hamish walker did reflects very poorly on the National Party. Walker is a first MP but especially after his Clutha Southland predecessor Todd Barclay crashed and burned his political career Walker should have been well aware of the dangers of stuffing up.

Walker should have also been well aware that personal information given to MPs has special privacy requirements.

Boag has shown that her long history of political involvement is a risk to any other work she does, as she has put political dirt first. She is likely to be shunned by National from now but she knows a lot of people in the party and it will be hard for her to be separated from it.

Leader Todd Muller has had a disaster to deal with, and I think he has dealt with it about as well as he could have. He made it clear he was totally opposed to what happened, and he made it clear that he had lost confidence in Walker and that Walker should resign, which he did.

In an adverse situation Muller looked reasonably principled and decisive, considering he had to allow Walker and the party to make decisions, and had to deal with legal issues.

But despite looking more sort of like leader material Muller has to now deal with his party in a dire situation. National’s chances of succeeding this election looked a long shot before this happened, but it now looks like they are virtually out of contention.

Unless Jacinda Ardern resigns or does something terrible, or someone in Labour does something as bad as Walker and it is handled poorly by Ardern and the party, or Covid turns to custard in New Zealand, then it looks likely now Ardern and Labour should cruise back into power.

Labour are sort of vulnerable on the economic risks, but that looks well covered with wage subsidies running through to September, and large amounts of money are being dished out around the country to try to keep the economy from crashing. It would take a major turn for the worse in the next two months for this to risk labour’s re-election.

So Muller and National are left to try to rescue as much support as possible to prevent their caucus from being decimated. It is too early to tell how bad the Boag/Walker effect will be, but National will struggle to get over 40% this election, and could easily crash to under 30%.

Muller asks National board to remove Walker from party

There has been widespread calls for Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker to be dumped. While the party leader doesn’t have the power to sack an electorate MP, Todd Muller says that the leaking of health information showed ‘serious lapses of judgment’, and ‘appalling lack of judgement’, and was ‘completely unacceptable’, and has written to the National Party board asking that Walker is removed from the party.

Muller says he us very angry about what happened.

RNZ:  Todd Muller on Hamish Walker – ‘There needs to be consequences’

The National Party leader says he has written to the party’s board asking them to remove MP Hamish Walker from the party after it was revealed he leaked private health information to media.

Prior to that revelation, National Party leader Todd Muller described the leak as “loose, shabby and a reminder these guys can’t manage important things well”.

“The problem is when you’ve allowed a culture of sloppiness and clumsiness to take over and become pervasive, you know, really history suggests you need a new broom to be able to sort and set the tone from the top,” he said on Monday.

Walker, who admitted the leak late yesterday afternoon, has already been stripped of his portfolios and is now subject to an independent State Services inquiry.

Muller told Morning Report there needed to be consequences and he has written to the party’s board asking it to remove Walker from the party.

Muller has given a lengthy interview to RNZ, they say they will post more details. Walker and Boag would not do interviews. They will be subject to the inquiry set up to investigate the leak.

The board will meet to discuss the matter today.

Muller said he learn on Monday at lunchtime about who leaked the information when Walker contacted him to inform him. He is not aware of any other National MPs being aware of who was responsible for the leak.

Muller also said the consequences will be significant for Michelle Boag, who obtained the information in her role as Acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

Muller says that Boag did not assist him with his leadership takeover, and he’s not aware of her helping Walker on other matters.

I think that Walker should jump before he is pushed from the party, or al least announce he won’t stand for re-election in  September.

This is hugely damaging for National as it is, but if Walker doesn’t resign or withdraw the damage to the party will increase.

Muller is saying and doing about all he can in the circumstances. It must have removed any hope of success for him or national this election.


He had little choice but to do this, and jumping before being pushed reduces the substantial damage he has done to his party.

Todd Muller accepts Hamish Walker’s decision not to stand in 2020

National Party Leader Todd Muller has today accepted Hamish Walker’s decision to withdraw his candidacy for the seat of Southland and not stand at the upcoming election.

“Rachel Bird, the National Party’s Southern Regional Chair, has received a letter from Hamish confirming he will withdraw as the National Party candidate for Southland.

“There was a clear breach of trust, which goes against the values National holds as a party.

“The National Party Board will still meet today to discuss the selection of a new candidate.”

Hamish Walker – admission and apology over leak

National MP Hamish Walker:

A Personal Statement And An Apology

I have spoken to National Party Leader Todd Muller and informed him that I passed to members of the media, by email, information containing Covid-19 patient details that was given to me by a source.

I did this to expose the Government’s shortcomings so they would be rectified. It was never intended that the personal details would be made public, and they have not been, either by me or the persons I forwarded them to.

I have received legal advice that I have not committed any criminal offence.

The information that I received was not password protected by the Government. It was not stored on a secure system where authorised people needed to log on. There was no redaction to protect patient details, and no confidentiality statement on the document.

By exposing a significant privacy issue I hope the Government will improve its protocols and get its safeguards right.

I made serious allegations against the Government’s Covid-19 response and passed on this information to prove those allegations.

Private health information does not have basic safeguards in place and the Government needs to immediately change its protocols and store the information on a secure, safe network that at a minimum requires a password.

I sincerely apologise for how I have handled this information and to the individuals impacted by this. I will be fully cooperating with the Michael Heron QC inquiry.

National leader Todd Muller:

Statement On Hamish Walker

Hamish Walker has informed me that he received and then disclosed health information regarding active Covid-19 cases to members of the media.

I have asked Hamish to acknowledge this to Michael Heron QC and cooperate fully with his inquiry into how the information made it into the public domain.

I have expressed to Hamish my view that forwarding on this information was an error of judgement.

While I wait for the result of the inquiry I have transferred his Forestry, Land Information and Associate Tourism portfolio responsibilities to Ian McKelvie.

Given this matter is the subject of an inquiry I will not be making any further public comment.

UPDATE: Michelle Boag has admitted passing the information on to Walker.

From RNZ: National MP Hamish Walker admits leaking Covid-19 patient details

In a statement, Boag said that handing on the patient details to Walker was “a massive error of judgement on my part and I apologise to my colleagues at ARHT (Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust) whom I have let down badly”.

“I very much regret my actions and did not anticipate that Hamish would choose to send it on to some media outlets but I am grateful that the media involved have chosen not to publish the 18 names that were contained within it.

She said she had resigned from her role at the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and have resigned as acting CEO of ARHT.”

Boag was the National Party’s president in 2001 and 2002.

Boag was also linked to the leadership coup when Muller replaced Simon Bridges.

From  memory she was also involved in the management of Todd Barclay before he exited the same Clutha-Southland electorate taken over by Walker.

This is very damaging for National regardless of how it pans out from here.

Press Statement From Michelle Boag

Today I am announcing that I am the person who passed on details of current Covid19 cases to Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker, who then passed on that information to a number of media outlets.

The information was made available to me in my position as then Acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, although it was sent to my private email address.

This was a massive error of judgement on my part and I apologise to my colleagues at ARHT whom I have let down badly.

I very much regret my actions and did not anticipate that Hamish would choose to send it on to some media outlets  but I am grateful that the media involved have chosen not to publish the 18 names that were contained within it.

I take full responsibility for my actions and have resigned as Acting CEO of ARHT, which is in very good hands as the result of a recent restructure and the appointment of a new CEO for the Trust’s operations and the appointment of a General Manager to oversee the Trusts’s marketing and fundraising operations.

I sincerely hope that the communities of the Auckland region will continue to support the Rescue Helicopter at this time of very important need.  My actions were mine alone and should not reflect at all on the professionalism, integrity and outstanding reputation of the Rescue Helicopter staff.    They are an amazing bunch of dedicated community servants and I know they will be very disappointed in me.

Any requests for comment should be directed to me personally as ARHT bears no responsibility at all for my misjudgement.

National promote ‘Strong Team’ over limp leadership

Last week the National Party launched their campaign approach, promoting team instead of leadership. They have to do that to try combat Labour’s focus on the very popular Jacinda Ardern, but it will be an uphill struggle.

Leader Todd Muller and National’s campaign are a bit like the far side of the moon, you know they’re there but you don’t see them, you just see the glowing other side.

A while ago Muller gave a speech that outlined their campaign focus but it was hardly noticed.

Leader of the Opposition’s Te Puna speech

I will speak at some length today, and I have chosen my words carefully, because I want to outline clearly, to you and the wider New Zealand audience:

  • Who I am, and where I have come from;
  • How my values have developed as a result, and my core political beliefs;
  • What sort of Prime Minister I plan to be; and
  • My broad aspirations for New Zealand.

That was a week ago, but who noticed?

We are going to need to confront, honestly, the challenge ahead.

That means the election will be about:

  • Which of us – the Prime Minister or me – has the team and background to get you, your families and your communities through the economic and unemployment crisis ahead;
  • Which party has the best track record in creating more jobs; and
  • Which party has the record in building a better economy, while caring for the welfare of every New Zealander.

New Zealanders trust National Governments to come to power at times of economic crisis, and to steer New Zealand safely through them.

That’s what the John Key led National government did fairly successfully (dealing with the New Zealand recession and the Global Financial Crisis), but Key was a widely popular leader.

I will build on the fundamental economic, financial and commercial strengths of the last National Government as we face an even more terrible crisis, later in the year and beyond.

My job, over the next three months, is to earn the trust of New Zealanders:

  • For my commercial experience at the most senior levels of Zespri, Fonterra and Apata; and
  • For my background and values on which I will draw, when making judgment calls as Prime Minister, as we work together, to build a better economy out of the crisis.

This may have been aimed more at trying to convince political journalists that Muller was a serious challenger.

The economy I see is the economy you live in – the economy in your community:

  • Your job,
  • Your high street,
  • Your marae,
  • Your local sports club,
  • Your school or kura,
  • Your business,
  • Your home, and
  • Your families.

It’s going to take a lot to get this across to the wider public.

One thing that will never change is that, for me, what makes a family is love.

You can have the most traditional family structure, as we did, yet if you do not have love, you are not a family at all.

But a family with love:

  • A traditional mum-dad-and-kids family;
  • A wider whanau of grandparents, grandkids, aunties, uncles and cousins;
  • A family where the two parents no longer live together but share the parenting in different homes;
  • A family with one parent;
  • A blended family;
  • A family where it’s mum-and-mum or dad-and-dad;
  • Two people who love one another, and
  • Single people whose families might be dispersed around the world …

If these have love, then each is a family like any other.

Muller is trying to appeal to everyone here, but no one really listened.

I support New Zealand’s basic macroeconomic framework that was put in place from the mid-1980s, and which remains broadly supported across parties.

That is, I believe in:

  • An open and competitive economy;
  • A broad-based, low-rate tax system;
  • An independent central bank with the primary goal of price stability;
  • The book-keeping rules of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, now part of the Public Finance Act; and
  • Voluntary unionism and a flexible labour market, underpinned since 2000 by good faith.

Maintaining a firm and disciplined commitment to this basic macroeconomic framework is absolutely fundamental to our recovery from Covid-19.

By this stage of his speech (in printed form) there had been 43 bullet points. This looks like a scatter gun approach hoping something will be highlighted out of this, but it shows a lack of focus.

After several other lists I glazed over, Muller seems to get to the business end of his very long message:

My job, in the 2020s, is to make sure that, at the end of this crisis, your family is not just left with the $140 billion loan Labour is taking out against your future earnings, but that we have:

  • Protected you through the economic and unemployment crisis, and immediately created the conditions for tens of thousands of real, permanent full-time jobs;
  • Finally addressed long-term social deprivation, with the urgency applied to the economic crises a generation ago;
  • Finally built the first-world road and public transport infrastructure New Zealand needs;
  • Backed our families, and rebuilt the fabric of our communities;
  • Restored our Government’s books so there’s more money for schools, hospitals, housing, mental health, addiction services, cancer screening programmes and treatments;
  • A stronger social safety net;
  • And, built a better economy for all of us.

These things are urgent.

By now zzzzzz.

My passion in politics is that all of us can choose our own paths and stand tall as New Zealanders in whatever we seek to do, fulfilling our own dreams and our own potentials.

My passion is that we all feel confident in our nation and its place in the world.

We should all feel grounded in a nation of remarkable natural beauty that we all take care of.

We should be grounded in a history to which we are all reconciled, and in our families and communities in all their different forms.

We should live our lives with genuine love for our country and neighbours, so that we help pick one another up at those times that we all have, when we need help.

This is my vision. That is what I believe in. That is what will guide me as Prime Minister.

Most voters just want to know what’s in it for them.

Someone else once said: “Let’s do this”.

I say: “Sure. But you need a National Government to get it done”.

Sure. or something.

Muller is going to have to say a lot more than this in far fewer words if he is going to get across to voters.

Clearly at this stage the election is Labour’s to win or lose. Only if they or the economy stuffs up badly are voters likely to vote more for whoever leads the other party.

Opening borders arguments

It’s probably almost universally accepted that New Zealand had to close our borders to non-citizens and residents to protect the population from the spread of Covid-19. Despite some mistakes and problems and with some luck that has been very successful, with Covid cases reduced to zero before returning New Zealanders started a dribble of cases – but these have been contained by isolation, quarantine and testing,

There is no doubt that keeping our borders closed is bad for business – especially tourism and international education, but it also affects many others trying to revive  or keep alive their business.

So when we open our borders again, how quickly and to whom is one of the biggest decisions to be made.

Yesterday National leader Todd Muller stirred things up – Todd Muller says keeping border shut ‘untenable’, but PM says opening up soon is ‘dangerous’

Muller was criticised but also what he said was misrepresented.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the idea of opening New Zealand up to countries where Covid-19 is “dangerous”.

Ardern was responding to comments from National leader Todd Muller, who said on Monday that keeping the borders shut until other countries are as free of Covid-19 as New Zealand was “untenable” in the long term.

Speaking to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Muller said New Zealand would be “on its knees” if it waited for a vaccine to be developed or for other countries to completely kill community transmission.

“A strategy that says we stay completely closed to everybody for the next 12 to 18 months is simply untenable. We won’t recognise this country in terms of economic impact,” Muller said.

Ardern said the idea of opening New Zealand up to Covid-19 any time soon was untenable and dangerous.

Ardern and Muller are talking past each other. Muller said “untenable” in the long term and “closed to everybody for the next 12 to 18 months is simply untenable”, but Ardern said “any time soon was untenable and dangerous”.

Unless Ardern sees 12 to 18 months as soon then they are talking about different timeframes.

And if the Government thinks it is untenable to open our borders in 12-18 months, then economically we are likely to have a big problem on top of the major problems we already have.

Some had hoped that a Tasman bubble may be possible in the short term but that has been put on hold after a surge of cases in Victoria – Virus resurgence in Victoria with another 75 cases

The Australian state of Victoria is experiencing a “concerning” upward trend in coronavirus infections, with 75 new cases identified overnight.

The latest cases were “overwhelmingly concentrated” in 10 Melbourne suburbs identified as community transmission hotspots, the state’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

Mikakos said the 75 new cases could be broken down into the following categories:

  • 14 cases linked to outbreaks (positive results in those tested as close contacts of existing cases)
  • 37 cases found by routine testing (general testing sites set up by health authorities)
  • 23 cases still under investigation (some were found late in the reporting day)c
  • One case is a returned traveller in hotel quarantine

So even inter-state travel in Australia is still restricted:

So even though Covid is under far better control in Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory any open travel across the Tasman looks unlikely at this stage.

But Europe has just opened their borders to a number of countries including New Zealand for economic/tourism reasons: EU to allow in visitors from 14 ‘safe’ countries

The EU has named 14 countries whose citizens are deemed “safe” to be let in from 1 July, despite the pandemic – but the US, Brazil and China are excluded.

UK nationals are still to be treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December. Therefore, during that time UK nationals and their family members are exempt from the temporary travel restriction.

On the current “safe” list, still likely to be amended, are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The UK is currently negotiating “air bridges” with several EU member states, so that coronavirus does not totally block summer holidays – the busiest season in Europe for tourism, which employs millions of people.

So Australians and New Zealanders will be able to travel to Europe but we can’t travel to Australia.

And Ardern has said that New Zealanders going to Europe for a holiday will still have to do 14 days isolation. and may not get that provided for free – Kiwis choosing to go overseas could get Covid-19 isolation bill

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern floated the idea at Monday’s post-Cabinet press conference. She has previously been asked about whether all arrivals could have to pay a share of the bill for isolation.

“One message I’m sending clearly to New Zealanders … for anyone who may be considering a non-essential trip, we will be looking at whether or not you end up being charged on your return, because you have choices.

“It’s just not fair to expect New Zealanders to pick up the tab on that.”

It’s not just the opposition calling for re-opening: Border reopening must be priority – Business NZ

The business community pinned its hopes on the border reopening as soon as possible and says the government’s failed to hold up its end of the deal.

Business leaders say billions of dollars of opportunities are on hold while the government and the army fix up mistakes most New Zealanders thought were being managed.

The government is frantically trying to plug those gaps, while at the same time the Opposition ramps up pressure for the border to open.

Almost four million international tourists typically cross New Zealand shores each year and BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said livelihoods depend on that window opening again.

But for now, the government isn’t even resuming compassionate exemptions let alone allowing international visitors in, because there isn’t enough confidence in quarantine and managed isolation facilities.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has thrown the Opposition leader’s own words back at him.

“It is untenable to consider the idea of opening up New Zealand’s borders to Covid-19 and in some parts of the world where we have had frequent movement of people they’re not estimating that they will reach a peak for at least a month or sometimes several months”.

Ardern said even considering opening the border right now was reckless.

“Any suggestion of borders opening at this point frankly is dangerous and I don’t think we should put New Zealand in that position”.

Apart from people whose businesses and jobs are at risk there is still probably widespread support for playing safe here.

It seems a risky political play for Muller to talk this side of the election about reopening the borders.

But the public mood can change quickly – going into lockdown was widely accepted, but once the case numbers dropped many people acted ahead of Government relaxations.

There are big and difficult decisions for the Government to make over border restrictions, but it’s something that should be openly discussed. There is a lot at stake, both in health and with the economy – and there will be many more people losing their jobs than their are getting sick from Covid.

I think it is too soon to reopen our borders now, as that risks losing a lot of what we have succeeded with over the last few months.  But we also have to look ahead at options and possible timings.

Just being told we can’t travel indefinitely is not a tenable option.

I certainly don’t want to catch Covid and risk dying from it, or risk the other health effects. But if our borders remain closed for a year or two my job will be at risk (it has been impacted already). Difficult times, difficult decisions.

Muller’s move centre may divide National

Todd Muller gave a speech yesterday in an attempt to position his leadership of National – “kind, competent and bold” – in the political centre, but he is struggling to be seen as competent or bold, and he will have problems competing with Jacinda Ardern on kindness.

National’s official promo of his speech: Todd Muller outlines National’s first term priorities

Creating tens of thousands of new full-time jobs and building a better economy than before the Covid-19 crisis will be National’s top priorities in its first term, Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller told his home community of Te Puna today.

In a wide-ranging speech at the Te Puna Rugby Club, referencing everything from his high-level foreign policy priorities to water management policy, Mr Muller said his Government’s approach to day-to-day economic management would be based on that of his friends, colleagues and mentors, the Rt Hon. Sir John Key, the Rt Hon. Sir Bill English and the Hon. Steven Joyce.

“The story of the next three years will initially be about a desperate attempt to protect all our families from the worst effects of the worst economic downturn any of us has ever known – and then it will be about building a better economy than we had before.

“New Zealanders trust National Governments to come to power at times of economic crisis and to steer New Zealand safely through them.

“However proud we are of how our Team of Five Million addressed the health crisis, we cannot risk a Labour Government being in charge of the economic and unemployment crisis ahead.”

Mr Muller said he backed his strong National Party team over the Prime Minister’s clumsy and incompetent ministers to get New Zealand through the crisis.

According to Infometrics, 40,000 jobs were destroyed in the first wave of the economic and unemployment crisis in April, to be followed by another 80,000 in the second wave before the election. A third wave is also expected before Christmas, which Mr Muller fears will be the worst of all.

“Around 120,000 families will have lost their income by the election and it will be worse by Christmas,” he said.

“National’s prudent economic management, plus our new initiatives like JobStart, will immediately create the conditions for tens of thousands of new real, permanent full-time jobs.

“The practice of the last 20 years of working groups flying around before governments get on with helping New Zealanders is over. The game’s up, because Covid-19 has shown us that the Wellington bureaucracy can in fact move much faster when it needs to.”

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The Spinoff Bulletin: Muller makes his pitch for the middle

The pitch was very much one aimed at the middle of the electorate. Among the commitments, the NZ Herald reports he promised to never either raise taxes or cut benefits if elected, and signalled continued investment in social services and the welfare safety net. It’s not exactly stuff that will set the world on fire, and is arguably pretty indistinguishable from the sitting government, but it’s good to have on the record all the same.

After the setup, Muller got to his main point – he argued that National will be much better at managing the recovery than the incumbent government. In the pitch, the reason for that was not so much ideological and being based on competency – Muller said that the government had a poor record of delivering on big projects.

This sounds like same old from National.

There was also something of an olive branch to Māori. Muller was clear that he saw the Treaty of Waitangi as the nation’s founding document, discussed the connections between tino rangatiratanga and his party’s view of the world, and talked up the work of Whānau Ora by the last government. In this area, the speech was in sharp contrast to previous efforts by National leaders to define themselves, such as Don Brash’s infamous Orewa speech in 2004. It may not necessarily matter though, as many of Muller’s early controversies have been pretty tone-deaf in this area, most notably the selection of an all-Pākehā caucus top-10.

And this won’t help:

So Muller is going one way politically, but much of his party may be heading in a different direction. 

Politiik: Muller goes one way; his party another

National’s new leader Todd Muller set out yesterday to answer critics who had charged that his “Make America Great Again” cap and the absence of any Maori on his new front bench pointed to him being tone-deaf on racial matters. But within hours of him making a speech in his home town of Te Puna  in front of a Tina Rangatiratanga flag, his party was once again rejecting one of its ethnic MPs for an electorate nomination.

The party’s candidate for the heavily Polynesian South Auckland new electorate of Takanini is a Sydney-born Lebanese who migrated to New Zealand eight years ago, Rima Nakhle. Ms Nakhle beat Samoan sitting list MP, Agnes Loheni for the selection.

This is the second time this election cycle that National has passed over a sitting list MP of colour for selection.

Newman is a controversial figure within the National Party and was rejected at the pre-selection stage for his own bid to get the Hunua nomination in 2014. (The National Party conducts  pre-selection interviews  with candidates and checks their backgrounds before they send a shortlist of candidates to a selection meeting.) Newman enjoys the support of right-wing blogger Cameron (“Whaleoil”) Slater and since his own defeat in 2014 has become known within the party as an effective organiser capable of marshalling the number of delegates needed to gain a nomination.

Predictable Slater continues his anti-National campaign today: No Point in Voting National, They’re Just like Labour. He has an obvious agenda and a lot of spite.


What makes the events at Takinino potentially worrying for the party is that they would seem to fly in the face of the image of National that Muller presented at Te Puna.

Helensville MP, Chris Penk, who is a social-conservative and Bridges supporter, has just published a 130-page book which is predominantly an attack on the way the Government managed the Covid-19 lockdown. But Penk also defends Bridges and the confrontational approach he adopted during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Muller’s decision to move the party to the left, closer to the centre, makes perfect strategic sense. It means he can now contest Labour from the centrist vote knowing that ACT can absorb some of the right-wing votes that might previously have gone to National.

But whether the party members at large or even some of the caucus understand this yet, is another matter.

Muller seems to have a long way to go to win over his own party let alone the political centre.

Those who are listening to him (or at least commenting on him) seem to be disgruntled people who will never be happy with National or any party that isn’t hard right, while big centre vote is unlikely to be very interested in what Muller says. It could be a tough campaign for him.

Promising speech from National leader Muller

National leader Todd Muller has made a number of promises in a speech today. As we know, ‘promises’ made during an election campaign are:

  • Subject to getting into power
  • Subject to support parties allowing them to happen
  • Subject to major things happening like pandemics or financial crises or earthquakes
  • Subject to politicians not changing their minds or priorities once elected.

Muller made the commitments in a wide-ranging speech in his home town of Te Puna this afternoon.

The National leader touched on many topics, including his family, his early life and his private-sector experience.

But a major element of his speech was setting out the priorities of a National-led Government.

Chief among those was “the welfare of every New Zealander” and rebuilding the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 recession.

“National will not increase the taxes New Zealanders pay. Nor will we ever cut benefits, and we will continue to increase New Zealand’s investment in hospitals, schools and the welfare safety net,” he said.

He said successive governments should have acted “faster and more boldly” on issues such as water management and climate change.

On the latter, Muller said he was proud of the work he had done on getting National to support the first reading of the Zero Carbon bill.

Muller also said the previous government had not moved fast enough, or boldly enough, to address New Zealand’s social deficit, help the underclass, or “however you describe the deep-seated social problems we continue to see all around us”.

A clear push to the centre, where they reckon that in the main elections are won and lost,.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says ""Someone else once said 'Let's do this' say, sure. But you need need a National Government to get it done. Todd Muller National Party Leader National"

I think that sounds quite lame and just a repackaged variations on past claims from National.



Chris Penk book on how to undermine a leader and an election campaign

Chris Penk, first term National MP for Helensville, has self published a sort of a book called Flattening the Country: the real story behind Labour’s lockdown – but it is more like “How to undermine a new leader and an election campaign”.

Penk praised his ex-leader Simon Bridges, and says that he had discussed his book with ‘the party’s leadership when Bridges was in charge, implying he had approval, but he has made no mention of discussing his book with new leader Todd Muller or getting approval from National’s election campaign team.

Penk also said he was not worried about any potential backlash from the public. Is he naive, stupid, or deliberately dumping on Muller and National’s campaign? Possibly a bit of all of those.

I think that back bench MPs shouldn’t be gagged, and they should put their views out in public so that voters can see what they are like and what they think and believe in. But they also should have the sense to put the good of their party and the good of the country ahead of their own agenda, especially heading in to an election.

RNZ: National MP Chris Penk’s book derides government’s Covid-19 response

National backbench MP Chris Penk has released a 30,000 word missive criticising the government’s “lockdown lunacy” and calling its initial response to Covid-19 “shockingly slack” and “incompetent”.

Penk unveiled his self-published book – “Flattening the Country: the real story behind Labour’s lockdown” – on his National website on Thursday evening, alongside an offer to send out signed copies for $20 a pop.

The book is heavily critical of the Covid-19 response, arguing that a poorly prepared and panicked government “set about destroying the village that is New Zealand in order to save it”.

“It was only supposed to be the curve that got flattened, not the whole country,” the book begins.

The whole country is nothing like flattened. We have come through the pandemic remarkably unscathed, albeit with some substantial economic, business and employment difficulties. But compared to many other countries New Zealand looks to be very well off.

Speaking to RNZ, Penk said he had discussed his plans for the book with the party’s leadership going back to when Bridges was still in charge.

“The positions that I have stated in the book are consistent with the messages that National has been putting out from the start.”

Messages that National had been putting out perhaps. But the leadership change also changed the leadership messaging quite a lot. Did Penk not think to check out his messaging with Muller and the new campaign team?

He said he was not worried about any potential backlash from the public.

“A large number of people are fearful about expressing a view that is anything other than the received wisdom, the single source of truth, and they don’t want to be ostrasised as not being part of the team of five million.

“Frankly, the bullying tactics that have been applied to others don’t hold any weight with me.”

Is that a swipe at Muller and the new National leadership? Even if not intended as such it effectively looks like it.

Penk’s book is closer in tone to that of former Opposition leader Simon Bridges than that of the new leadership team, and it is complimentary of Bridges’ performance.

Indeed, Penk noted that Bridges would be remembered in time “for performing his constitutional role with commitment and courage”.

Is it a sort of a ‘Bring back Bridges’ campaign?

Early on in the book, Penk acknowledged the lockdown was “necessary” and its timing “roughly right”, but he went on to critique “Labour’s particular form of lockdown lunacy”, arguing it was too harsh and was unnecessarily extended.

Level 3 would have been a more appropriate starting point, Penk said.

“Whole industries have been led like so many lambs to a no-longer-non-essential slaughterhouse.”

Penk also reserved some harsh words for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, describing her as a “cheerleader-in-chief” and “one trick pony” for repeatedly imploring the public to “be kind”.

“Compulsory kindness is oxymoronic. And moronic. And insulting,” he wrote.

He includes quotes from social media including Kiwiblog in his book. It sounds like it.

and he may have put himself (and National) in an awkward position regarding donations. Stuff: National MP Chris Penk’s lockdown book raises political donation questions

He’s now published it on the National party website, where people have the choice of reading the book for free or ordering a signed copy for $20 after depositing money in Penk’s bank account, which is listed.

Penk also asks people who read the book for free to “consider making a small contribution to fund the printing and distribution of more copies”.

Otago law professor Andrew Geddis said the donations may have to be declared as donations to Penk as a candidate, although not if the donation was a “like-for-like” fee covering the cost of printing the book.

Penk may not have thought things through.

Penk said all laws relating to the donations would be complied with.

They will have to be complied with, he hasn’t got any choice. He can’t claim ignorance, now at least.

The book has confounded critics. It is critical of the way the lockdown destroyed “the village that is New Zealand in order to save it”.

Yet, in its opening pages, the book also acknowledges the lockdown was “necessary” and the timing was “roughly right”.

It also acknowledges tourism would have been destroyed anyway, and there would always be “considerable” economic disruption.

Not very consistent.

This book may have seemed like a good idea to Penk and perhaps a small faction of National MPs, but it is likely to have a negative impact on his party’s election chances.

I can’t see any reference to the book on the main National Party website, but it is prominently promoted on Penk’s National Party site where you can read the book: FLATTENING THE COUNTRY

Maybe Muller doesn’t feel flattened by Penk’s attack, but it doesn’t look good for the new National leader. the book doesn’t mention him at all, but has 14 mentions of Bridges.