National u-turns

National seem to working through a few u-turns as election year progresses.

Bringing soldiers’ remains back to New Zealand was announced on Monday:  Military personnel remains to be brought home

The families of New Zealand military personnel, and their dependants, buried overseas between 1955 and 1971 in Singapore and Malaysia will be offered the opportunity to repatriate their loved ones.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister David Bennett says this decision comes as a result of recommendations by the Veterans’ Advisory Board and the advocacy of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association and families affected, and has thanked them for their important contributions.

“Following the efforts by families to have their loved ones brought home, the Government last year asked the Veterans’ Advisory Board to look into New Zealand’s repatriation policy. The Board identified a number of inconsistencies, and the Government has listened.

“New Zealand had an inconsistent policy of repatriation between 1955 and 1971. Families could opt to meet repatriation costs themselves, but not all could afford to do so. Other civil servants were also repatriated. We want to restore fairness for those families affected.”

Mr Bennett says the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will also look at extending the offer to the families of New Zealanders interred as a result of a military burial between 1955 and 1971 in American Samoa, Australia, Fiji, Korea, and the United Kingdom, and all countries involved have been contacted.

The NZDF will oversee the repatriation process, including consultation with the families, and the planning and subsequent return of any bodies.

“The decision on whether or not to bring the bodies home will be the families’ to make,” Mr Bennett says.

“If they choose not to repatriate, the graves will continue to be cared for under current agreements. We will support the families through this process.”

And today Government u-turn on country of origin labelling

The National Party will support a Green MPs bill requiring country of origin labelling on single ingredient food such as fruit and meat in a u-turn Prime Minister Bill English said was due to consumer preferences.

Steffan Browning’s Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill will have its first reading in Parliament soon and is set to go to select committee after National agreed to support it.

It will require mandatory country of origin labelling for fresh single ingredient foods such as meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts as well as oils and flour.

That was a shift from National’s original decision to oppose it. English said there had been “quite a bit of discussion” in National’s caucus about it.

“It’s just reflecting pretty strong consumer preferences.”

And it probably reflects the desire of national to get back into Government.

English said National would decide after the select committee process whether to continue to support it into law. About 80 per cent of single ingredient foods were already labelled with the country of origin. “It is about whether it is feasible or desirable to require the rest of them to label.”

He said the initial decision to oppose it was because National was always sceptical about new regulation, especially if it felt most people’s needs were being met by the current regulation. There was also some concern about whether it would impact on trade agreements.

Browning said it was “fantastic news” for consumers if it went ahead and could help boost sales of New Zealand produce and meat.

I think that we should be accurately informed about country of origin of foods available for purchase.

Poll driven flip flop

It was classic John Key – last week he batted off and played down criticisms of New Zealand tax and trust legislation, but he arrived into this week suggesting and then announcing a review of those laws by an ‘international tax expert’, John Shewan.

Media and political opponents predictably called this a flip flop and a u-turn. And it didn’t take long before there were accusations of being internal poll-driven.

Danyl at Dim-Post in Panama Papers thoughts:

In terms of Key’s reversal from last week on whether our trusts need investigation, I wonder if National now have a formal process in which they respond to breaking stories like this.

Phase one. Deny everything while blaming Labour.

Stage two. Poll.

Stage three. If the polling hits some pre-arranged benchmark then reverse your position and/or announce an inquiry.

Nick R responded to that:

I reckon that’s probably how it works. And it works very well, because the polling seems to be very accurate and the occasional abrupt U-turn in policy position never seem to hurt the PM at all. When he does this, it is so fast that it barely seems to attract any comment at all, and certainly not negative comment.

It often does attract comment.Like amirite at The Standard:

How’s the Dearest Leader polling? Fantastic, only he had to flip flop 360 degrees on his ‘NZs foreign trusts practices are legit-stance, move on, nothing to see here’ to saying he’ll appoint an independent expert to review the policies.

I thought a flip flop would have been more like 180 degrees but the intent of this comment is clear enough.

And like the Greens in Inquiry into foreign trusts must restore NZ’s reputation:

The Green Party is welcoming John Key’s U-turn on foreign trusts…

Danyl happens to be on the Green campaign committee but this could be a coincidence.

Back at Dim-Post Tinakori posted:

My god, a government that often listens to public opinion and/or waits to see if there is substance in an issue. Is that weird or what?

Surely you don’t expect a government to announce an inquiry into a subject the moment it becomes a news story or an issue in Parliament.

Winston Peters and the Greens seem to be quick to call for inquiries, despite a lack of evidence being available. Peters in particular is keen on promoting fishing expeditions based on little more than his innuendo.

The public sector would be engaged in nothing but inquiries if that were the case.

Some issues resonate and some don’t. Some issues have substance and some don’t. Some issues have legs and others don’t…….

Once again, the test is what would you be saying if the incumbent government was one you favoured. I can see the blog post now demanding a measured response to the issue du jour.

That’s politics.

John Key has mastered the art of dampening down or fobbing off issues, and then after a while reacting contrary to his initial indications.

Even if this is in response to polls gauging what the public think and want is not a bad thing at all in a democracy.

And I’m sure David Farrar isn’t the only expert Key goes to for advice.

I’m sure Key gets some advice from the advisers that work in his office, from Government departments and from people around the country and around the world.

While he is open to criticism with the way he manages issues and manages the media, being prepared to react in line with public opinion should be seen as a positive.

And Key’s opponents seem to flip flop between accusing him of being poll and public opinion driven, and being an elite rich person who is out of touch with ordinary New Zealanders.

That’s more like flip flops in futile frustration.

The media just seem to love exaggerating things, sometimes to extremes, to create headlines and drive clicks.