Electoral Commission investigating pro-NZ First advertising

The Electoral Commission is investigating pro-NZ First advertising during the election that was not declared by the party in their returns.

RNZ: Electoral Commission looking into ad in horse racing mag

The Electoral Commission is looking into an ad placed by the horse racing stalwart Sir Patrick Hogan during last year’s election campaign.

The ad, in the racing industry publication The Informant last Septemberurged people to party vote New Zealand First because of its leader Winston Peters’ support for the racing industry.

The Electoral Act requires people who take out ads promoting a political party during an election campaign to have the party’s permission.

New Zealand First said its party secretary did not authorise any third party advertisements.

And NZ First did not declare this advertising in their electoral return.

Otago University public law professor Andrew Geddis said if Sir Patrick did not have the necessary authorisation he may have committed an illegal practice and could be fined up to $10,000.

The Commission has not had a great record trying to enforce electoral law so I wouldn’t expect much from this.

But Hogan and the racing industry got what they may have expected from Peters – a special tax break for horse breeders. Last week’s budget allocate $5 million on tax deductions “for the costs of high quality horses acquired with the intention to breed” if it is a stand out yearling “that commands attention by virtue of its bloodlines, looks and racing potential”.

It wasn’t made clear whether the Minister for Racing would personally judge the quality and looks of yearlings.

See  Peters and a handsome horse called Neoliberalism.

Budget “a ringing endorsement of the Defence Force from the Coalition Government”

It is notable that this refers to ‘Coalition Government’ – Greens are not a part of the coalition. While NZ First and Grant Robertson have tried to talk up the Defence budget it has been described as “money for a frigate upgrade cost overrun, some joint training and another 800 LSV trainees”.

Minister of Defence Ron Mark talked up the budget allocation for the Defence Force.

Enhancing Defence Force capability

New Zealand’s Defence Force can continue making meaningful contributions to global security and peacekeeping efforts, and respond effectively to events like natural disasters, as a result of Budget 2018 funding, says Defence Minister Ron Mark.

Budget 2018 provides a $367.7 million operating funding boost to the Defence and Veterans portfolios over the next four years, underpinned by an extra $324.1 million for the New Zealand Defence Forces’ operating budget. In addition, Budget 2018 provides $42.3 million in new capital funding for modernisation.

“The extra funding is going to go a long way towards helping the Defence Force meet increasing demand across a range of tasks,” Ron Mark says.

“The funding announced today is also a huge win for conservation, the environment and fisheries protection.

Alongside the increase of $324.1 million in the Defence Force operating budget, Budget 2018 also sees:

  • $41.3 million additional capital investment for the first tranche of investment under the Defence Estate Regeneration Programme Plan
  • an additional $22.6 million operating funding over the next four years and $1.0 million capital funding for the Defence Force to deliver the enhanced Limited Service Volunteer programme (supported by a related investment of $4.2 million over the next four years for the Ministry of Social Development to administer the programme)
  • as announced earlier, $1.1 million in grants to the Royal New Zealand Returned & Services Association (RSA) and No Duff Charitable Trust over the next four years to support the services they provide to veterans – $250,000 for the RSA and $25,000 for No Duff Charitable Trust annually (This initiative was announced before Budget Day.)
  • $6.3 million in 2018/19 for the repatriation of the remains of service personnel and their dependents for those buried overseas since 1955
  • $13.6 million over the next four years set aside for new capabilities.

“This is a ringing endorsement of the Defence Force from the Coalition Government. It recognises the value it provides New Zealand and its meaningful contributions to peace and security around the world,” says Ron Mark.

Defence got a few mentions in the budget speeches in parliament on Thursday.

Grant Robertson:

New Zealand’s Defence Force will be able to make more meaningful contributions to global security and peacekeeping, and better respond to natural disasters, with a $345 million operating funding boost to the Defence and Veterans portfolios over the next four years, including, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development, funding to expand the Limited Service Volunteer programme for young people under 25.

It didn’t rate a mention from Simon Bridges

Winston Peters:

Can I just say it was clear as daylight that the National Party had been hiding the costing—$20 billion, for example, when it comes to the Defence Force, was a fiscal risk. It wasn’t even budgeted for. Then he had a frigate that was overrun by, and costing, $148 million, and they kept it quiet from the public from July last year all the way to election day.

We’ve got, for example, the things that also matter in defence. That’s a substantial boost in a critical area, which means that our defence capacity in the Pacific—so desperately needed by so many Pacific Islands and by the Pacific itself—can now show up responsibly.

That’s it.

However on his ‘National Security’ blog Simon Ewing Jarvie is quite scathing.

Politics, Defence & Budget 2018

The political fate of New Zealand’s Defence rests in two simple questions. The first is how important defence is in the scheme of the current government’s political priorities and the second is how much influence the current Defence Minister has.

Take a look at past behaviour of Government parties as an indicator of the future. Labour’s choices have often seen a reduction in combat capability – think air combat force for example. NZ First talks tough but, when in coalition with National, vetoed the acquisition of the second two ANZAC frigates. At least the Greens are up front in their disarmament desires.

It is clear that Defence is not a high priority for this Government. That’s concerning because there are some important decisions to be made about platform replacement. Good ministers can get money for their portfolios. Putting aside this year’s abysmal budget result, how is Ron Mark placed in the machinery of Government?

First, the general view is that Ron, Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson aren’t exactly drinking buddies so there’s not likely to be any favours done for Defence in that department. The relationship between NZ First and Greens is toxic at the best of times and Defence is right in the middle of that.

I can’t see Ron Mark and Golriz Ghahraman (Green’s Defence Spokesperson) nutting out an accord over a herbal tea anytime soon.

So that brings it back to how Ron is able to leverage NZ First’s support for the Government. Unfortunately, Ron Mark’s star, within his own party, appears to be waning. Were it not, Peters wouldn’t have stood back and let Fletcher Tabuteau roll Mark as Deputy Leader. NZ First got heaps of concessions out of Labour in Budget 2018 but they weren’t going to die in a ditch for Ron Mark or Defence. It’s unlikely that anything is going to change there.

For all the bold election campaign statements by NZ First, Ron Mark got money for a frigate upgrade cost overrun, some joint training and another 800 LSV trainees.

He highlights a lowlight:

$148 million over four years is listed as a new initiative. It is actually the value of the cost overrun for the ANZAC frigate upgrade so it’s not generating any capability that wasn’t already signed up to.

Not only is this not new spending, it’s actually caused a degradation in other Defence capability development. That’s because as part of their ‘kiss and make up’ exercise, the MOD agreed to reduce the specs on the new littoral operations vessel from a purpose-built military specification to a commercially available hydrographic and dive support vessel to ‘save’ a similar amount of money. In December, Mark attacked the previous Government over the frigates saying “it means the lives of men and women were now being compromised”. How can he possibly reconcile that with sending sailors into threat zones in a vessel not designed for self-defence and survivability? You can’t paint it grey and call it a warship.

Grey lipstick on a war pig.

The bulk of the money allocated for acquisition to MOD is for the construction of the new maritime sustainment vessel, HMNZS Aotearoa. Apart from a few legacy projects, there is nothing for the big ticket items listed in the 2016 Defence White Paper.

Finally, but very important, is personnel costs. These are currently about $1b of the cost of running defence. Is there, in effect, a pay freeze? Or, will the operating funds have to be used to retain ‘he tangata’. NZ First campaigned on this and has delivered nothing.

Don’t forget, also, about the ‘drag’ that capital charge and depreciation is having on NZDF’s funds.

 

 

 

 

 

Peters and a handsome horse called Neoliberalism

This week’s budget highlights a big contrast between what Winston Peters has said and what he does. Talking the bucking the system bronco talk in opposition, but trotting along with the establishment for a dividend of baubles.

In past years Peters speeches has condemned National, capitalism and ‘neoliberalism’, but this week’s budget has been described as business as usual, National-lite and a continuation of neo-liberalism.

Not that this sort of duplicity will bother Peters – he has a history of talking a big change talk, but is walking a same old walk.

Winston promised radical change but is helping to deliver more of the same old. He campaigns as an anti-establishment politician, but props up the establishment given half a chance.

Peters has a history of cosying up to whoever will give him a share of power. He worked a coalition with National from 1996-1999, and did it again with Labour in 2005-2008. Neither of those Governments wavered from the same old capitalist approach alongside some state assistance. All Governments since the 1980s have been bitterly described as ‘neo-liberal’ by some on the left.

Peters in a speech in 2010:

New Zealand First was born from those who rejected the radical reforms of National and Labour and who wanted a party that represented ordinary New Zealanders – not overseas interests or those of a few ever mighty subjects.

So, after the blitzkrieg neo-liberal policy destruction of Labour between 1984 and 1990 – and National until 1996, New Zealanders decided they wanted change.

In less than two years Jim Bolger was rolled by Jenny Shipley whose mission was to smash the centre-right coalition and to continue the neo-liberal experiment supported by the Business Round Table and any other stragglers they could cobble together.

We saw some of this recently in the economic prescription of a failed politician who simply could not see that pure neo-liberal economics is a pathway to economic servitude for all but a small privileged elite.

Or maybe he does know this – which makes he, and his ilk, even more dangerous.

Dripping with irony. Peters enabled both the Bolger government and the Clark government prior to making that speech.

In 2016 Government a ‘bum with five cheeks’ – Peters

“Unless we get a dramatic economic and social change as a result of our efforts at the next election, we would have failed. That’s our objective. We know that unless we’ve got a dramatic change from this neoliberal failure that every other country seems to understand now but us, then we as a party would have failed.”

There is scant sign of anything like a dramatic economic and social change in the current Government or in the budget, apart from vague assurances it will be ‘transformational’ at some time in the future.

Also from 2016 – Winston Peters: ‘Most Kiwis are struggling’

“Everyone in New Zealand First knows that our duty, our responsibility and our mission statement is to get an economic and social change at the next election. Otherwise we will have all failed. It was a challenge to my caucus members, my party delegates and everybody else.”

He said there was no use in pursuing the major parties’ neo-liberal economic policies, which he described as being like “Pepsi and Coca-Cola”.

Peters provided the froth for both, and continues to do so.

Leading in to the 2017 election campaign: Winston Peters dismisses ‘irresponsible capitalism’ of other parties with new economic policy

Winston Peters is positioning NZ First as the party of difference and says his policy announcements today will steer away from the “irresponsible capitalism” that every other political party is selling.

The neo-liberal policy adopted by New Zealand politicians in the 1980s is a “failed economic experiment”.

“We want to confront what’s going on and set it right,” Peters said.

“I look at Parliament today and the National party, the Labour party and now the Greens are all accepting of that with a little bit of tweaking. That is astonishing, particularly in the case of the Greens – they’ve done it to try and look respectable – it’s totally disrespectable economic policy.”

Peters has enabled a Labour led Government whose first budget is little more than a bit of tweaking, with the Greens getting a  modest modest bit money for tweaking environmental policies.

Once negotiating power with Labour and the Greens Peters was already talking less radically.

October 2017: Winston Peters wants ‘today’s capitalism’ to regain its ‘human face’

“Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism, not as their friend, but as their foe. And they are not all wrong.

“That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible – its human face. That perception has influenced our negotiations.”

So he moved from radical change to supporting a tweak to capitalism.

And this weeks budget has been barely a tweak. Guyon Espiner calls it a A ‘triumph of neoliberalism’

It turns out you can’t judge a book by its colour either. Labour’s first Budget in nearly a decade came with a bold red trim, rather than the royal blue Treasury uses to present the documents when National is in power.

But inside this was a blue budget not a red one. It’s a description neither Labour nor National would like bestowed on Budget 2018 but this was a triumph of neoliberalism or at least a continuation of it.

A continuation of neoliberalism enabled by and supported by Peters, with a bit of crony capitalism for him and NZ First.

This looked like National’s tenth Budget rather than Labour’s first.

It is the seventh National/Labour budget that NZ First has played a hand in.

Much more largesse has been lavished on the New Zealand First relationship with $1 billion for foreign aid and diplomats and another $1 billion for the Shane Jones provincial growth fund.

Even Winston Peters’ racing portfolio gets a giddy up. The government will spend nearly $5 million on tax deductions “for the costs of high quality horses acquired with the intention to breed”.

It has to be a handsome horse though. The rules say it will be tax deductible if it is a standout yearling “that commands attention by virtue of its bloodlines, looks and racing potential”.

What next? A handsome horse called Neoliberalism? Peters is probably a bit old to ride it, but he is providing the hay.

NZ First’s colours are black and white, and Peters campaigns with black and white rhetoric, but when he gets the chance to get some power he is a kaleidoscope of collusion, whether it be with National, Labour, capitalists or neoliberalists.

Perhaps like Grant Robertson he has a few transformational tricks up his sleeve, holding them back for next year, or next term.

Or maybe his the same old political charlatan, talking a maverick talk in opposition but given half a chance walking the same old establishment walk.

Dear Winston – acting Prime Minister arrangements

Jacinda Ardern announced today:  Working arrangements with Acting PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has today released a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters regarding working arrangements while she is on maternity leave.

“Mr Peters will act as Prime Minister while I am on maternity leave from later next month and will work with my office while staying in touch with me, as he does on other occasions when I’m away,” said Jacinda Ardern.

“While it’s no different than other times that he is Acting Prime Minister, because of the public interest in these particular arrangements, I have set them out in a letter to Mr Peters.”

The letter:

Will Greens compromise for a Kermadec sanctuary solution?

The Kermadec sanctuary isn’t dead in the Government water, perhaps. Labour and NZ First are working on a way to make it happen, but it will require agreement with the Greens, which will require compromise.

Stuff:  Winston Peters says the Greens can have a Kermadec Sanctuary – with a catch

Hope for a Kermadec Sanctuary is back on the table and NZ First leader Winston Peters is confident he can do a deal with the Green Party by the end of the year.

The deal would involve a compromise from the Greens though – accepting that the sanctuary won’t be a 100 per cent no-fishing zone.

While the previous government’s bill to establish it passed its first reading unopposed in 2016, iwi bodies and fishing companies subsequently filed legal action against it. NZ First, which has close ties to the fishing industry, raised serious concerns about the legislation.

But there’s renewed hope that the Green Party, a supply and confidence partner for the coalition Government, might get its wish after Peters and Environment Minister David Parker decided to work together to try to find a compromise.

o keep the fishing industry happy and to ensure iwi with fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi are on board, Peters is proposing a mixed model that allows for roughly 95 per cent marine reserve and 5 per cent fishing.

Peters says it’s entirely possible to preserve species while allowing a small percentage of fishing to keep interested parties on side.

He said the Greens would need to decide whether it was more important to have the best part of a sanctuary, or no sanctuary at all.

Asked how quickly Peters thought he and Parker could convince the Greens to get on board with a mixed model, he said he was optimistic a deal could be reached by the end of the year.

This will pose a challenge for the Green Party, although they have committed to trying to make it happen via their confidence and supply agreement with Labour, which includes:

Use best endeavours and work alongside Māori to establish the Kermadec/ Rangitāhua
Ocean Sanctuary.

Best endeavours should include being prepared to work alongside NZ First and Labour to find a way of making the Kermadec sanctuary happen.

This is a commitment by the whole of the Green Party, as they ratified the confidence and supply agreement.

If they’re not prepared to revive it, National may be prepared to talk to Labour and/or NZ First. Nick Smith has a members’ bill in the ballot aimed at progressing the sanctuary.

Pressure on budget spending, except for NZ First policies

Bad Labour, good cop NZ First? Or perhaps that should be tough accountant Labour, generous giver NZ First.

Labour has been highlighting unforeseen shocks putting pressure on budget spending in health and education, but NZ First seems to have no problems getting money to burn for it’s policies.

They had already scored $1 billion a year to hand out to regions, where many NZ First votes come from.

The Government has now announced a $1 billion increase (over four years) in foreign affairs funding, which feeds policies championed by Winston Peters.

Stuff – Budget 2018: ‘Pacific reset’ will increase foreign affairs funding to $1b over four years

New Zealand’s foreign service has been given a massive boost in funding – taking its total four-year vote to near $1 billion – to cater for the Government’s “Pacific reset” and the reopening of an embassy in Sweden.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has unveiled his department’s Budget allocation, at a special announcement ahead of next week’s Government Budget reveal.

The funding boost for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) will also see New Zealand’s diplomatic corps increased by another 50 positions.

Peters said the announcement reflected the “critical role” MFAT played in keeping New Zealand safe and prosperous.

MFAT would receive an operational expenditure increase of $150.4m across four years, and an additional $40.3 in capital expenditure, which would allow for the new embassy that was closed by former National Minister Murray McCully in 2012.

The Government would also be bracing for some big investment in the Dubai World Expo in 2020, and New Zealand’s hosting of the Apec forum in 2021.

Peters also announced a whopping $714.2m allocation to the Official Development Assistance fund – or foreign aid – that will be heavily prioritised towards the Pacific.

He said the funding was a “clear demonstration” to the international community that New Zealand was serious in addressing global and regional challenges and helping people in need”.

“Increased investment will enable New Zealand to deliver on our Pacific Reset. It will bolster our efforts to tackle priority issues like climate change in the region,” said Peters.

This is thought in part aimed at competing with China’s influence in the Pacific.

Peters on The AM Show:

“We don’t have an option, either we step up or someone else will”

“There are countries that have shown interest in the Pacific”

“We cannot just as some people advocate, walk away… that is a futile action to take”

“We’ve got things we’re standing up for and we’re doing it”

Barry Soper: Foreign Minister Winston Peters has the power and he’s using it

Peters has the power and he’s using it and if you agree with the idiom that you’ve got to spend money to make money, then he’s on the mark.

He impressed his audience of diplomats and NGOs last night, underscoring this country’s place in the world. Peters said on the world stage that people look over your shoulder looking at what you’ve spent and said to have to cope with a budget where this country was heading he’d rather give the job to somebody else, it was so embarrassing.

It’s true McCully significantly cut the foreign affairs spend, shaving a hundred diplomats by Peters’ count, and acting like deserters in our Pacific neighbourhood.

The new minister’s going on a diplomat recruitment drive, reopening our embassy in Sweden where he reckons we can do business in that region, and pouring the lion’s share of his new money, more than $700 million, into Pacific aid.

This re-energised Foreign Minister’s adamant the Pacific must remain peaceful, free from the shafts of strife and war that affect many other parts of the world and he reasons if we’re not there some other influence will be. Given the growing influence of China, maybe he’s too late.

He didn’t mention China, he didn’t need to. But this man, who in his last Foreign Affairs incarnation opposed the lucrative free trade agreement with the People’s Republic, has been converted on the road back to the Beehive, declaring “we are a country that trades or dies”.

Except he strongly opposed the TPPA, until he got into Government.

Peters only has the power because Ardern and Labour are allowing it. He doesn’t have many numbers in Caucus and Parliament, but he is being allowed to use them to his advantage.

Peters pulls rank and blows off two Labour Māori MP initiatives

Winston Peters sounds like he is acting Prime Minister already, throwing cold water on two initiatives being promoted by Labour MPs, a bill to protect Māori seats, and aims to make Te Reo compulsory in schools.

Predictably, Rino Tirikatene’s Māori seats entrenchment bill drawn from the members’ ballot has a promise of failure with both National and NZ First indicating they won’t support it.

Stuff: A bill to entrench the Māori seats won’t get NZ First or National support

A Labour MP’s bill to entrench the seven Māori seats will not have the numbers to pass due to opposition from both NZ First and National.

Rino Tirikatene, who holds the Te Tai Tonga seat for Labour, had his member’s bill drawn out of the ballot last week.

His bill would give the seven Māori seats the same protection as the general seats, meaning a 75 per cent majority is needed to overturn them – currently Māori seats can be abolished with a majority of just 51 per cent.

But NZ First leader Winston Peters who campaigned on a referendum to abolish the Māori seats at last year’s election said his colleague Shane Jones’ position that neither he or any of the party’s MPs would vote in favour of it was a “fair summation”.

It’s understood the National Party also plans to oppose the bill – the Opposition’s position on the Māori seats is that they’ll stay as long as Māori want them but they don’t stand candidates in the seats.

The NZ First caucus will officially decide which way its voting when it meets next week but Peters said entrenching the Māori seats was “not part and parcel of any coalition agreement and we’re here to promote the coalition agreement we’ve got”.

“Views like (Tirikatene’s) can nevertheless be promoted by backbenchers but they cannot command the coalition agreement as a consequence,” Peters said.

Peters is deputy PM at the moment, but it sounds like he is practicing for when he takes over as acting PM next month.

And Labour MPs trying to talk up Te Reo in schools have been been told to ‘watch their words’ by Peters.

Stuff: Winston Peters on compulsory te reo talk: ‘If they want to be in this Government they’ll be on the same page’

NZ First leader Winston Peters says if Nanaia Mahuta and Willie Jackson want to be in the Government they will need to watch their words.

Māori Development Minister Mahuta said compulsory te reo in schools was a matter of “not if but going to be when” on Tuesday morning.

This was a slight shift from the Government’s current policy, which only calls for “universal availability” and integration of Te Reo into the primary school curriculum by 2025. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has specifically avoided the word “compulsory.”

Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson made a similar slip up in December.

Peters, the deputy prime minister and leader of NZ First – who oppose compulsory te reo – issued a sharp rebuke towards Mahuta and Jackson on Tuesday afternoon.

“Neither of them are speaking for the Government policy full stop. If they want to be in this Government they’ll be on the same page.”

If he pushes his deputy weight around like this what will he be like as acting PM?

With Peters at apparent liberty to pick and choose what he won’t support this will make the Greens look like wimps if they roll over for NZ First and Labour and support the flawed and widely opposed waka jumping bill.

 

The Peters Super leak, and how to get away with it

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act don’t reveal who leaked the information about Winston Peters’ Super overpayment (and neither has Peters despite claiming to know who did it albeit with changing targets).

But Sam Sachdeva uses the papers to show how to leak and get away with it, perhaps.

Newsroom – Inside the Peters leak: how to escape the net

During last year’s election campaign, the New Zealand First leader confirmed he had received higher superannuation payments than he was entitled to for seven years, after a number of media outlets including Newsroom received anonymous tips about the overpayment.

MSD, the Department of Internal Affairs (which has responsibility for ministerial staff) and Inland Revenue all launched investigations to determine whether their staff had been the source of the leak (all ultimately failed to find any leaker).

Copies of the final MSD and DIA reports outlining investigators’ work, released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act after months of delays, offer nothing in the way of a smoking gun but show the lengths they went to and the difficulties they encountered along the way.

Journalists love Government leakers as they can provide juicy and often exclusive stories. Sachdeva helpfully provides some helpful hints.

How to leak (and get away with it)

Handily, the documents also offer some hints on how a budding Deep Throat in waiting could share an issue of concern with their friendly neighbourhood media outlet.

Both departments relied in large part on digital records, turning to sweeps of email accounts, cellphone records and landline logs of staffers who had accessed or knew of Peters’ superannuation details.

MSD used “footprinting” of its IT systems to determine who had accessed Peters’ files and whether they had a valid business reason for doing so; that would appear difficult to circumvent, meaning a public servant wishing to share details with the media had better have a legitimate reason for knowing about it in the first place.

MSD and DIA also searched for any emails or phone calls between their staff and Newshub (which broke the story) or Newsroom (identified by MSD as an “early chaser”).

MSD’s email searches were initially based on “headline information” such as the sender, recipient and subject headline (so leakers might want to avoid putting anything too incriminating in there).

That turned up little of any value, in part due to a shortcoming identified by Jong: as searches were conducted only on records, networks and devices managed by Ministerial Services or the Parliamentary Service, he had to rely on “signed attestations” that information was not shared through other means, such as social interactions or a private device.

While Newsroom would of course advise against false declarations, that shows using a personal phone or computer – or better yet, a face-to-face encounter – may be the best way to share information while avoiding detection.

MSD also acknowledged “significant limitations” in its use of document-tracking in ministry systems to determine whether any reports had been shared with outside parties.

“A person with intent to use these documents (or remove them from the ministry) could use any number of options to remove these documents without leaving any footprint e.g. they could simply print it and walk out with it.”

We may live in a digital age, but it appears analogue methods can be best when it comes to staying off the radar.

Of course there’s a much higher risk of leaving digital footprints if using photocopiers or printers that are logged, or emails or other means of electronic communication.

Taking photos using personal devices and not sending them while at work have obvious advantages if trying to avoid detection.

Fitzsimons ‘deeply distressed’ by Green support of waka jumping bill

Ex-leader of the Green party Jeanette Fitzsimons has joined the criticism of the Green Party support of Winston peters’ ‘waka jumping’ bill in an appearance before the select committee hearing public submissions on the bill.

NZH: Former Greens co-leader ‘deeply distressed’ by party’s support for waka jumping ban

A former leader of the Green Party, Jeanette Fitzsimons, says she was “deeply distressed ” her party supported the so-called waka jumping bill to its first reading and she hopes wisdom will prevail.

She spoke about the internal dissent and crisis within the Green Party before the last election over the admission by co-leader Metiria Turei of historic benefit fraud.

She appeared before the justice select committee to speak against the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill, which allows a party leader to oust an MP from Parliament with the support of two thirds of the caucus.

If the bill becomes law, the Greens co-leaders with the support of two thirds of the caucus, could have had them booted out of Parliament.

“Integrity cannot be legislated for,” Fitzsimons said. “It is a matter of conscience and judgment.

“In some cases, leaving one’s party is an act of integrity – as when the party has departed from the policies it took to the election or has abused proper process.

“In other cases it may be just self-serving political expediency.”

Greens have always strongly opposed measures like those proposed in the bill, until they supported the bill at it’s first reading. Some Green MPs have also expressed concern about Green support of the bill.

Fitzsimons also referred to the upheaval in the Green Party before last year’s election.

“Dissent is a valuable part of the political process, ” she said. “Without it, MPs are just clones of their leader.”

Referring to the Greens’ internal strife before the last election when MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon withdrew from the party list because they could not persuade Turei to resign, she said she supported their right to dissent.

“I strongly disagreed with the stance of my former colleagues Kennedy Graham and David Clendon took on the actions of co-leader Metiria Turei, and I was highly critical of the way they went about it which was unnecessary and damaging.

“But I would defend to the end their right to freedom of conscience and to express their views in opposition to the rest of the caucus, without being thrown out of Parliament.”

I hope Green staffer and list candidate Jack McDonald hears that. He recently slammed and excommunicated Graham:

“In the context of Kennedy still apparently having many supporters in the Party who were upset he wasn’t allowed back on the list, we need to make sure there isn’t the ability for this to happen in the future and prevent the election of Green MPs whose politics are incompatible with fundamental Green kaupapa.”

See A culture of Green zealotry and intolerance

He could learn a lot from older wiser Green Party stalwarts. Fitzsimons:

“Dissent is a valuable part of the political process. Without it, MPs are just clones of their leader.”

But a seemingly growing number of Greens view dissent, and disagreement with and questioning of their ideals, as blasphemy that should not be tolerated.

It will be interesting to see whether the leader McDonald worships and clones, Marama Davidson, stands by fundamental Green kaupapa and votes against the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill.

If anyone is respected for their integrity in the history of the Green Party it is Jeanette Fitzsimons.

Peters: Commonwealth leaders excited about trade agreement

Winston Peters has said that Commonwealth leaders are excited about a putting a 53 trade agreement together, and want to start before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union next year – but I don’t think the UK can start trade deals until they are out of the EU.

RNZ: Excitement over Commonwealth-wide free trade agreement

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters is talking up the prospect of a free trade agreement between all 53 commonwealth nations after discussions in London over the weekend.

New Zealand is already working on trade agreements with Britain and the European Union as Brexit looms, but Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said there was a lot of excitement at CHOGM about a possible free trade agreement between all the commonwealth nations.

He said leaders want to get started on the deal before the UK leaves the EU next March.

“There’s a whole lot of excitement about that and how we might begin to put some flesh to an idea, which was levelled two years ago, but since 23 June 2016 it’s become real and so that was very exciting.

“A whole lot of countries – without saying too much about it – realise there’s something very exciting and new about this,” he said.

That’s an odd statement – he thinks they are all excited without saying much?

It would be a big task putting a deal together with so many countries. It would need to be quite general and could be relatively limited. Otherwise there could be a lot of inter-country details to work out.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was potential in the deal, but New Zealand’s main focus was on the EU and UK Free Trade Agreements – which represent $15 billion and $5bn in trade.

“That’s where we’re focused, but at the same time we do see there being benefit to us continuing to nudge along the fact that where we have these platforms – as we have with the East Asia summit and the Pacific Alliance – that actually the platforms provide a good starting point for a discussion around trade.”

Ardern is one leader who doesn’t seem as excited as Peters suggests, but maybe she could get absolutely excited at nudging it along.

The UK and EU agreements are expected to take years to work out, and if the main focus is on them then a Commonwealth wide agreement could take a long time – quite possibly longer than Peters is a Minister.

National Party trade spokesperson Todd McClay said he was hopeful of Commonwealth discussions, but was wary of so many players being involved.

“India hasn’t done a high-quality free trade deal with any country of the world yet, it would be really good if they would do one with New Zealand.

“I’m just a bit cautious around how much progress could be made Commonwealth-wide, because the more parties you put around a table the greater the challenges. We saw that with TPP,” he said.

Mr McClay also said any notion that a Commonwealth deal could be struck before Brexit took place was impossible.

“That’s just not going to happen – TPP with just 12 countries took nine years to negotiate, the countries were similar, the Commonwealth are very different types of economies and very different parts of the world.

“It is worth us being part of that conversation and helping to move it forward, but it can’t go before our desire for a free trade agreement with the UK and with the European Union,” he said.

It may be difficult for Peters to sustain his excitement.