Jami-Lee Ross claims National received foreign donations

In Parliament yesterday Independent MPs Jami-Lee Ross claimed that he had information showing that up to $150,000 dollars in donations paid to the National party had come via conduits from China. He said that he wasn’t aware of this when he was a National MP (and senior whip), and the party probably wasn’t aware of the source of the donations either. He called on National to pay the donations back.

Ross appears to have got the information from the Serious Fraud Office, so it is probable he has his own legal defence in mind in how he has worded his claims.

Before making the claims in a speech in Parliament Ross appeared to collude with Winston Peters in Question Time, in questions directed at Peters as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Question No. 4—Foreign Affairs

4. JAMI-LEE ROSS (MP—Botany) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Has he received any reports of foreign interference activities in New Zealand from foreign State actors of the type described by Canterbury University Professor Anne-Marie Brady in her paper “Magic Weapons” as united front work carried out by the Chinese Communist Party; if so, what efforts is the Government making to protect New Zealand’s interests?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): Foreign interference is not a new threat and New Zealand isn’t immune to such attempts. Yes, I have seen reports to that effect, but I can’t discuss specific countries, operational details, targets or methods, or systems of surveillance. But I can assure the member that this Government takes the threat very seriously and has robust measures in place to protect our democratic values, institutions, and our economy.

Jami-Lee Ross: Does he share the concerns of Professor Brady that foreign State actors make efforts to “control diaspora communities, to utilise them as agents of foreign policy, suppress any hints of dissidents as well.”, and if so, what resilience strategy will New Zealand implement to protect against this foreign interference?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I tell that member we do share a series of concerns. If that member or, indeed, any member of the public has information that relates to foreign interference from any country, they should report it to the relevant authorities. This is a serious issue that this Government is dedicated to addressing, and appropriate processes should be followed. But let me say this: this is the first time in New Zealand’s history that a political party has announced its candidate list in China, and you have to ask yourself why.

Jami-Lee Ross: Does he share the view of SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge that one vector of foreign interference in elections is “Building covert influence and leverage, including through electoral financing;”, and if so, what advice does he have for New Zealanders concerned about this foreign interference?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The member will, I’m sure, appreciate the fact that we cannot single out any one specific country. The important thing is that we have flexible and adequate mechanisms, we believe, in place to protect our democratic values, institutions, and the economy. The witness and evidence that he has recited in his question is some testimony to that, but the reality is we have open channels to raise issues with countries if and when we ever need to do so. But it behoves political parties not to be undermining this Government’s serious purpose to protect our democratic institutions.

Both Ross and Peters have demonstrated having obvious grudges against National leader Simon Bridges and the National Party, so that context could be important.

Ross, Peters and NZ First have had links to and have been promoted by the Whale Oil and The BFD blogs and Cameron Slater et al.

From the Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement following Question Time:

JAMI-LEE ROSS (Botany):

…In the Prime Minister’s statement, that we are debating, the Prime Minister lists as one of her Government’s achievements the banning of foreign political donations. It’s true that the new $50 threshold for overseas donations is an improvement. But, as I’ve said previously in the House, I doubt it will do very little to deter those determined to find other ways around the ban, including—

SPEAKER: Order! Mr Jackson leave the House.

JAMI-LEE ROSS: —using the wide open gap we still have where foreign State actors can funnel funds through New Zealand registered companies.

The foreign donation ban is one of the few recommendations that has spun out of the Justice Committee’s inquiry into foreign interference activities in New Zealand elections. That has been picked up. Probably the most important submissions that we received through that inquiry were those from Professor Anne-Marie Brady of Canterbury University and what we heard from the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director, Rebecca Kitteridge. It was all eye-watering and eye-opening stuff and sobering for us to hear and read their evidence. We have not, and I think we still do not, take seriously enough the risk of foreign interference activities that we’ve been subjected to as a country. Ms Kitteridge rightly pointed out in her evidence that the challenge of foreign interference to our democracy is not just about what occurs around the election itself. Motivated State actors will work assiduously over many years, including in New Zealand, to covertly garner influence, access, and leverage.

She also specifically pointed out the risks we face from foreign State actors through the exertion of pressure or control of diaspora communities and the building of covert influence and leverage, including through electoral financing. After Pansy Wong resigned from Parliament, I was selected as the National Party candidate for the 5 March by-election nine years ago. It was made very clear to me at the time that I had to put a big emphasis on getting to know the Chinese community. It was also pointed out to me very early on that I must make good connections with the Chinese consul-general. Madam Liao at the time was very influential with Chinese New Zealanders, and important to my own success as well. In hindsight, it was naive of me to not think carefully about the pull that a foreign diplomat had on a large section of the population in my electorate.

The consul-general in Auckland is treated like a God, more so than any New Zealand politician, except probably the Prime Minister of the day. Each successive consul-general seemed to be better and more effective at holding New Zealand residents and citizens of Chinese descent in their grasp. Consul-generals Niu Qingbao and Xu Erwen were also treating us, as MPs—not just myself, others—as long-lost friends. All this effort, if you read Professor Brady’s paper called Magic Weapons, is a core plank of the Chinese Communist Party’s deliberate and targeted efforts to expand political influence activities worldwide. It’s also the very risk that Rebecca Kitteridge warned the Justice Committee about. Professor Brady’s paper is a 50-page academic work. I can’t do it justice here, but I recommend all MPs read it.

The activities of the Chinese Communist Party here domestically, where Chinese New Zealanders have been targeted, should be concerning enough for all of us. But the efforts that Chinese Communist Party – connected individuals have been making over the years to target us as politicians, and New Zealand political parties, also needs to be taken seriously. Every time we as MPs are showered with praise or dinners or hospitality by Chinese diplomats, we’re being subjected to what Professor Brady calls “united front work”. Every time we see our constituents bow and scrape to foreign diplomats, it’s a result of their long-running efforts to exert influence and control over our fellow Kiwis.

Both Professor Brady and director Kitteridge have warned about the risk of foreign interference activity where funding of political parties is used as a tool. This isn’t necessarily unlawful provided the donations meet the requirements of the Electoral Act. In 2018, I very publicly made some allegations relating to donations. I have said publicly already that the donations I called out were offered directly to the leader of the National Party at an event I was not in attendance at. I did not know at the time that those donations were made that they were in any way unlawful. I never had any control over those donations and I have never been a signatory of any National Party bank account in the time that I’ve been an MP. I never benefited personally from those donations. I was never a part of any conspiracy to defeat the Electoral Act. And the point at which I blew the whistle on these donations—first internally, then very publicly—that point came after I learned new information that led me to question the legality of the donations.

While making the accusations Ross has been careful to try to distance himself from what he claims has happened.

After raising these issues publicly, they were duly investigated first by the police and then the Serious Fraud Office. The result of those allegations is already public and I can’t traverse much detail here, but I will say that I refuse to be silenced and I will keep speaking out about what I know, and have seen, goes on inside political parties. I refuse to be quiet about the corroding influence of money in New Zealand politics.

Last year, I learnt, off the back of concerns I myself took to the proper authorities, that the National Party had been the beneficiary of large amounts of foreign donations. These donations are linked back to China and linked to the Chinese Communist Party, and with ease entered New Zealand. I didn’t go searching for this information. I was asked if I knew anything of the origins of the donations. I didn’t know. It was all new information to me, and I was surprised by what I learnt.

What I learnt was that large sums of money adding up to around $150,000 coming directly out of China in Chinese yuan over successive years ended up as political party donations. Two individuals, _________, were used as conduits for the donations.

These funds eventually made their way to the New Zealand National Party. The New Zealand National Party still holds those funds. The National Party is still holding at least $150,000 of foreign donations received in two successive years. I call on the National Party to return those foreign donations that it holds or transfer the money to the Electoral Commission. I doubt the National Party knew at the time that the money was foreign—I certainly didn’t either—but now that they will have that information to hand, they need to show leadership and do the right thing.

How does Ross know that the national party still holds the donations?

To avoid doubt, this $150,000 dollars’ worth of foreign donations is not the same as the $150,000 from the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry company that they raised last year.

The warnings sounded from academics and spy agencies are not without reason. These two examples I give are very real examples of foreign money that has entered New Zealand politics. Professor Brady, with reference to the list of overseas members of the overseas Chinese federation, which is part of the Communist Party’s infrastructure, listed three top united front representatives in New Zealand:

_____, _____, and Zhang Yikun. All three are well known to political parties.

In a recent press statement from a PR agency, representatives of Zhang Yikun highlighted the philanthropic approach that he takes in New Zealand. The press statement on 19 February specifically said that he has been “donating to many political parties and campaigns.”, except his name has never appeared in any political party return. When asked by the media if political parties had any record of donations from this individual, all said no. But a quick search online will find dozens and dozens of photos of Zhang Yikun dining with mayors and MPs over the time, inviting them to his home, and his recent 20th convention of Teochew International Federation had a who’s who list of politicians turning up, including a former Prime Minister.

The foreign donations I mentioned earlier all have connections to the Chao Shan General Association. The founder and chairman of Chao Shan General Association is Zhang Yikun. To summarise these two bits of information, the largest party in this Parliament has been the beneficiary of large sums of foreign money. That money is linked to an individual who was listed as one of the top three Chinese Communist Party united front representatives in New Zealand. That individual’s PR agents say he has donated to many political parties and campaigns, yet he’s never showing up in any donation returns in the past.

One of Professor Brady’s concluding remarks in her submission to the Justice Committee was that foreign interference activities can only thrive if public opinion in the affected nation tolerates or condones it. We must not tolerate or condone any foreign interference activities. We must also not stay silent when we see problems right under our nose. It’s time for the political parties in this Parliament to address seriously the political party donation regime that we have.

I realise that both the two main parties in this Parliament often have to agree, but perhaps it’s time to put that out to an independent body. It’s too important for us to ignore, and it’s not right that we should allow these things to go on under our nose.

I seek leave to table two charts that show a flow of money from China into New Zealand and to the New Zealand National Party.

SPEAKER: I seek an assurance from the member that these charts are not integral to any matter currently before the courts.

JAMI-LEE ROSS: These charts have been prepared by the Serious Fraud Office and I cannot give you that assurance.

SPEAKER: You cannot give me that assurance. Well, I’m not going to put the question.

MPs involved in court processes usually refuse to discuss or answer questions about the case, claiming the sub judice rule requires this, so Ross using information he has obtained as a part of being prosecuted may raise some legal eyebrows. Also political eyebrows.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The sub judice rule is not as to the fact; it’s as to the argument of the merit of the case, and I think a far too rigid rule is being applied here. If a flow chart, without any other comment, is to be ruled out from being tabled because you say it is sub judice; it is not arguing anything but the fact. It is not arguing for the merits, it’s not taking sides, it’s not trying to be persuasive, and I think it should be allowed in.

It seems quite ironic that Peters is arguing against the sub judice rule. He has claimed his right to silence on an issue because of the rule multiple times in the past.

SPEAKER: Well, I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his comments. This is clearly a matter on which I’ve thought long and hard. I think in the last Standing Orders review or possibly the one before that, the sub judice rules were significantly tightened. I think it’s fair to say that those changes were not unanimous. There was one member who stood out against the tightening of those rules, and it was me. But having said that, as Speaker, I am obliged to apply the rules as they exist, and the member has not been able to give me an assurance that the information contained in the chart is not central to a case currently before the court.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The problem with that is you’ve got a serious legal concept that’s been handed down through the decades, indeed the centuries, now being interpreted by parliamentarians as though they are a court of law in this context. The sub judice rule applies to any court of law—any document associated with a court of law—across our legal jurisdiction. But no parliamentarian should be given—sorry, I’m not making an attack on the parliamentarians, but I think it’s improper for parliamentarians to say, “Well, we’ve got a better interpretation of that, and this is what it is.”

Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think, for me, the question is how Mr Ross came to hold the documents: whether in fact he is holding the documents because of his involvement in a case that may be before a judicial body, or whether he came to hold them through some other means.

SPEAKER: Well, I think I’m able to deal with that question on the matter of the briefings that I have received. Jami-Lee Ross has made it clear to me that the chart to which he refers or the information to which he refers is something which has come into his possession as a matter leading up to this and containing information relevant to this case.

Hon Aupito William Sio: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Noting the seriousness and the magnitude of the issues that have been raised with Mr Jami-Lee Ross, and noting also that his time is up, is it appropriate for me to seek leave that he be given extended time to complete his statements?

SPEAKER: The answer to that is that it’s not appropriate for that member to seek leave for another member in that way.

This could add to National’s embarrassment over donations.

But it also shows that Ross seems to be working with Peters in trying to damage National, and Ross will have his defence (of the SFO prosecution) in mind with what he says here – but using court information to do this may cause him some problems.

It will be interesting to see what The BFD runs on this today.


Sources:

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/HansS_20200305_051450000/4-question-no-4-foreign-affairs

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/HansS_20200305_054225000/ross-jami-lee

Ardern says Jones was loose and wrong, but Jones unrepentant

Shane Jones made controversial comments on Newshub in the weekend that have been labeled racist – see Shane Jones accused of stoking racism and embarrassing Peters.

Both his leader Winston Peters and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were out of the country then. Yesterday back in New Zealand Ardern said that Jones was loose with his words and wrong.

RNZ: PM Jacinda Ardern publicly reprimands Shane Jones over Indian immigrant remarks:

Over the weekend, Jones told the Newshub Nation he wanted a “maximum population”, and New Zealand needed to think about the kind of country we wanted.

“If you want another million, two million, three million people, we should debate it and there should be a mandate, rather than opening up the options, unfettered, and everyone comes here from New Delhi.

“I don’t like that idea at all. I think the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those institutions,” he told Newshub Nation.

Ardern said…

…Jones was not in the Cabinet meeting today, but she planned to have a strong word with him.

“On many occasions I’ve witnessed Minister Jones be both loose with his language and also be wrong, and on this occasion he was both”.

“I take that very seriously, which is why I’m very, very clear I totally disagree with Shane Jones, I will be telling him that, and I will also be asking him to reconsider the way he talks about these issues in the future because I do not believe it is good for New Zealand”.

Ardern said while she had been advised the comments did not have any impact on the trip or New Zealand’s relationship with India, it went beyond that, because it affected our local community.

Advised by Peters? Or by David Parker, who really fudged around questioning on RNZ.

Jones’ outburst came as Trade Minister David Parker and Foreign Minister Winston Peters – Jones’ boss – were in India discussing ways to strengthen ties.

This morning Parker dodged questions from Morning Report’s Susie Fergusson about whether Jones’ comments were unhelpful.

“I’d make the point that when you’re having a debate about population you’ve got to be careful about language,” he said.

Parker refused to say whether the comments were racist or dog-whistle politics.

“I actually get on with Shane Jones well and when I think he’s gone too far I tell him privately,” he said.

However, he would not say if this was such an occasion.

Simon Bridges criticisms are likely to be largely lost in a long list of whinges.

Waitakere Indian Association President Sunil Kaushal said Jones’ comments were racist and Ardern needed to ensure this sentiment didn’t keep being repeated.

“This is a three-strikes-out kind of a thing, you know, she needs to really have a chat with her Cabinet and the leader of Shane Jones’ party that his behaviour is unacceptable in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, diversity inclusive New Zealand. This is not who we are,” he said.

Jones acts like an unrestrained loose cannon. In January: Demands Shane Jones apologise over ‘sexist’ Pania Newton comments. I don’t remember seeing any retraction or apology after that.

Stuff reports that Jones is unrepentant, suggesting that he was mandated by NZ First to “continually” speak about a “maximum population policy” the party intends to bring to the public in the election year – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Shane Jones was ‘loose’ and ‘wrong’.

But Jones… quickly turned the reprimand into an opportunity to electioneer.

When the Prime Minister speaks, on behalf of the Government, she is never wrong. But my remarks need to be seen through the prism of an MP on an election year,” he told Stuff.

“I’ll take it on the chin.”

Jones said the NZ First caucus had mandated him to “continually” speak about a “maximum population policy” the party intends to bring to the public in the election year.

The details of such any such policy were left vague. Jones said the public needed to discuss what the right mix of character, skills or talent migrants should bring to New Zealand, and how many should come.

He said claims his stance on immigration was racist, or that he was inelegantly discussing the matter was “a perception that I now have to manage”.

It seems to be a perception he has deliberately put out in the public.

And it appears that once again Jones couldn’t give a stuff about ‘stern’ reprimands from the Prime Minister. Being a responsible minister this term seems less important to him than trying to return to Parliament next term.

Another headline this morning to the same article on Jones attack on Indians: ‘This is not who we are’ – PM repudiates Jones’ remarks – but blatantly sexist and racist seems very much who Jones is.

It looks like he, and presumably Peters, are hoping there are enough racists and sexists who don’t feel betrayed by NZ First support of a Labour-led government will vote for NZ First to rescue them from political oblivion.

The problem with alienating various groups is it reduces the pool of voters who may vote for you.

Shane Jones accused of stoking racism and embarrassing Peters

Foreign students have been a significant part of tertiary education in New Zealand for some time, educationally and economically.

The Spinoff:  The vicious hidden message in Shane Jones’ blast at students from New Delhi

On the face of it that might seem like just the usual blast on the xenophobic dog whistle, a sequel to his recent attack on Indian arranged marriages. But Shane Jones is a Harvard graduate, a political whiz, a brainiac. He operates on intellectual plains imperceptible to mere mortals. What if there is something else going on, someone else in his sights?

What if there is someone who is currently on their way to New Zealand after being in New Delhi? Someone who had been there to big up the place of Indian students in New Zealand, no less?

There is such a person.

Before departing for the world’s biggest democracy, this man said he was “seriously committed to strengthening New Zealand’s relationship with India”.

He arrived in New Delhi clutching a glossy brochure called India-New Zealand 2025: Investing in the Relationship.

The document lists among New Zealand’s ambitions: “Support strong growth in services trade by attracting more high value visitors from India, and enhance education opportunities and experiences for Indian and New Zealand students.”

In the document the man in question writes: “India matters globally, regionally and nationally. New Zealand recognises this and is committing to greater investment in the relationship … The Indian diaspora already makes up 5% of New Zealand’s population and is growing. Indian immigrants and students contribute skills and diversity to New Zealand’s economy and our communities.”

He adds: “New Zealand has benefited from skilled migrants, student exchanges, and rapid increases in tourist numbers from India.”

In the light of all this – which Jones, as a voracious reader would have known – is this man the target for this morning’s broadside at, you know, students from India?

It’s not haard to work out who ‘this man’ is.

Northeast Today – New Zealand recognizes India as one of the fastest growing economies: Deputy PM Winston Peters

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand Winston Peters said that his country recognizes India as one of the fastest growing economies with second largest population.

Peters and New Zealand Minister of Trade and Export Growth David Parker chaired the New Zealand-India Trade for All session at Bombay Stock Exchange in Mumbai on Friday.

Peters added that India plays an important role on world stage. He also said that New Zealand is committed to invest more in its relationship with India.

So while Jones is obviously playing to an audience in New Zealand, like…

…it also seems ill-time at best, and has been called out as undermining Winston Peters.

On Thursday, the man paid a special visit to the New Zealand Centre at the India Institute of Technology. According to a local report, he said: “Education is one of the key pillars bilateral relationship between New Zealand and India.”

So who is he? Who is this man who has had a continent of shade cast upon him by Mr Shane Jones?

It is, of course, the deputy prime minister, foreign minister, and leader of the New Zealand First Party, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.

It is also another embarrassment for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has seemed unable to assert any authority over Jones.

Drip feed continues on NZ First Foundation donations

The media drip feed continues as more details have been published about donations to the NZ First Foundation.

Yesterday RNZ: Concerns over secret fisheries donations to NZ First Foundation

One of the country’s biggest fishing companies, Talley’s, and its managing director donated nearly $27,000 to the New Zealand First Foundation, which has been bankrolling the New Zealand First Party.

The foundation received $26,950 from seafood giant Talley’s and from managing director Sir Peter Talley between 2017 and 2019, according to records viewed by RNZ.

It received the money from Talley’s in four amounts – all of which were below the threshold for public disclosure and so have not been publicly revealed until now.

Greenpeace was concerned by the donations and believed the New Zealand First Party had too much sway over fishing policy and the party was too close to the industry.

These don’t seem big amounts or a big deal, nor a surprise. I think Talleys and the fishing industry have are well known to have supported NZ First. The difference here is that donations are allegedly being hidden by channelling them via the Foundation rather than to the party where public declarations are required.

Today at Stuff:  Billionaires among the full list of donors supporting NZ First

A raft of multimillionaire rich-listers are among the funders of Winston Peters’ NZ First party, donating large and undisclosed sums to a slush fund now being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

Stuff can reveal a longer list of donors to the NZ First Foundation up to April 2019 – which appears to operate as a political slush fund – based on Foundation documents seen by Stuff. It includes New Zealand’s richest man, Graeme Hart, and the billion-dollar Spencer family.

Business magnates, property developers, a chicken farmer, and thoroughbred horse breeders are among the wealthy known to have contributed heavily to the foundation, which tallied more than $500,000 in donations.

There is no suggestion the donors have done anything wrong or acted illegally.

Former NZ First MP Doug Woolerton, a trustee of the NZ First Foundation and a government lobbyist, told the Politik website last year that the party has “always thought [its] constituency was the guy who owns the shop, the guy who fixes the tractors”.

“It’s not the farmers. It’s the people who service the farmers who do the grunt work day to day,” he said.

But the donations show NZ First retains the support of some of New Zealand’s business elite and wealthiest individuals.

A WORKING-CLASS PARTY

Despite gathering financial support from New Zealand’s lofty elite, NZ First maintains it is the party dedicated to meeting the needs of working-class Kiwis.

Newshub yesterday: Shane Jones concerned New Zealand First donors will be put-off in election year

Shane Jones is concerned about donors to New Zealand First being “depicted as some type of leper” as new revelations emerge about donations to the New Zealand First Foundation.

The NZ First MP said he is “genuinely not aware” of the functioning of the NZ First Foundation, which is currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over allegations it’s been hiding donations for the party.

Jones said he’s worried about a “clear agenda” designed to “spook and quite frankly stigmatise industries” that New Zealand First relies on for support as a political party.

There may be a bit of that, but politicians under scrutiny often claim to be the victims of agendas. Winston Peters has often claimed to be a victim of the media and other things.

But none of this would have happened if NZ First hadn’t use a Foundation to, apparently, hide donations.

The Electoral Commission announced earlier this month that following an investigation it found the NZ First Foundation had “received donations which should have been treated as party donations for the New Zealand First Party”.

The Electoral Commission referred the matter to police who then referred it to the SFO which confirmed this month that an investigation had been launched.

Jones, a Cabinet minister, said he “accepts that there is a statutory process in place”.

He told Newshub: “I genuinely feel as an MP that people who think that I represent a force for good in New Zealand politics and the economy… I’m very concerned that they may be depicted as some type of leper.”

Jones does have a history of involvement in the fisheries sector, having chaired Te Ohu Kaimoana – the Māori Fisheries Commission – and seafood company Sealord.

The Minister for Regional Economic Development said he has nothing to hide, pointing to a donation he received from Talley’s in 2017 for $10,000 which was declared in his electorate candidate donation expenses form.

“It’s a matter of public record that over the course of various elections I have received donations from the fishing industry,” Jones told Newshub.

“My role of advocacy for fishing, the red meat industry, for the mining industry – it’s an open book… I will never shirk or shy away from standing up for industry.”

It is unclear how much NZ First MPs knew about the Foundation.  Even Peters claimed to know nothing about it, but his story keeps changing, he also claims to know everything the Foundation didn’t do.

There have been suggestions that the Foundation effectively managed party finances and donations without the party officials being involved at all. Some officials have resigned over it, and may be the source of the information being revealed.

It seems unlikely the SFO case will get to court before the election. There’s even doubt whether they will announce whether they will prosecute, they are currently just investigating.

It has been claimed that the Foundation paid expenses on behalf of the Party. Somme of those details could be interesting.

Racing clubs not happy with Racing Bill seizure of assets provisions

Tim Antonio, the Chairman of the Dargaville Racing Club, has written an open letter to Winston Peters expressing concerns over the Racing Bill currently at committee stage in Parliament (it passed it’s first reading in December).

Included in it’s provisions is the power to stop a racing club from racing and to dissolve the racing club, and remarkably to transfer any assets to ‘the racing code’.

Many small racing clubs have been established and maintained by local communities. It has been proposed that twenty racing clubs be dissolved, and appear at risk of having all assets taken from them.

Image

here is the proposed Bill (PDF):

Click to access 362429780labourandnewzealandfirstcoalitionagreement.pdf

It is known that people with ‘racing interests’ have donated to the New Zealand First Foundation, which is now under investigation by the serious Fraud Office after the Electoral Commission found that donations weren’t passed on to the NZ First Party.

See RNZ: NZ First Foundation received tens of thousands of dollars from donors in horse racing industry

The New Zealand First Foundation has been receiving tens of thousands of dollars from donors in the horse racing industry in payments which fall just below the $15,000.01 at which party donations are usually made public.

As racing minister, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has delivered significant benefits to the industry, including millions of dollars of government money spent on tax breaks and scrapping betting levies.

It has long been known that Peters has promoted some racing interests, and that some racing interests have already received tax breaks from Peters (the current Government). The Spinoff:  Winston Peters stages his own Moment of Truth, live on Facebook

“How do you respond to the horse racing industry donations to your party as the horse racing minister?”

“For 30 years,” Peters said, “I’ve been talking about the need to save this industry.” Why would there be any surprise that he was supported by individuals interested in the industry, and related companies, to the tune of $80,000 in 2017, according to RNZ?

Besides, Peters observed, the current racing policy is the result of an independent report by Australian racing expert John Messara. He omitted to mention that Messara’s report was submitted in July 2018, and two months earlier in May Peters had announced a $4.8 million in tax breaks for “high quality” horse breeders, which officials estimated may blow out to $40 million and which was the only tax cut in the coalition’s first budget.

The 2017 New Zealand Labour Party & New Zealand First Coalition Agreement gave Peters the position of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Racing, and commits Labour to…

  • Support New Zealand First’s Racing policy

That’s a remarkably open or blanket commitment.

Maybe Mr Antonio and others concerned about the Bill would be better targeting the Green MPs who also voted for the First Reading. But are they committed to supporting the Bill? Maybe. From 2017 New Zealand Labour Party & Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Confidence & Supply Agreement:

Relationship to other agreements

Both parties to this agreement recognise that Labour will be working with other parties both in terms of
coalitions and confidence and supply arrangements.

Labour agrees that it will not enter into any other relationship agreement which is inconsistent with this
agreement and the Green Party and Labour agree that they will each act in good faith to allow all such
agreements to be complied with.

It appears that the Greens are committed to allowing the Labour-NZ First agreement “to be complied with”.

But Mr Antonio would also need to appeal to National who also supported the Bill at its first reading. But National MPs have expressed concerns about the power of the Racing Minister and the ability to seize racing club assets.

Hon DAVID BENNETT:

Now, in the bill the Minister has made it very clear that he has the ultimate discretion over who will run the racing industry, going forward. That is a lack of accountability, a lack of ownership, and a lack of respect for those people that are in the industry. For example, the Minister can appoint the board to replace codes if he needs to do so. So the codes that may be out there, the racing codes of thoroughbred, standard bred, and dogs, can be replaced. Their boards can be replaced by the Minister at his whim under this legislation. The Minister can also appoint a commissioner for any disputes between the three codes, giving him ultimate discretion, again, to dictate what may be done.

But the greatest discretion this Minister has is in regard to the assets of clubs and the relationship they have with codes. Racing clubs, under this bill, will have to abide by the rules of their relevant code.

The National Party does not accept that lack of independence and clarity as worded in this bill. It is very difficult to see how clubs can have any autonomy under this legislation. They are, essentially, at the whim of the code, and if the code is not effective in putting pressure on, they can then be at the whim of the Minister. This bill gives the Minister the ability to override the club’s decision and to vest their assets and their landownership in the code. It is, effectively, a mechanism where the Minister can nationalise racing portfolios and racing clubs, and can take away their ability to have independent racing operations.

On behalf of Labour: Hon KRIS FAAFOI

In terms of property, it is worth emphasising here that the preferred approach for property decisions is negotiation and for the community interests to be recognised. The bill introduces a suite of changes to resolve historical property issues that have contributed to the decline of the industry. Two property objectives are introduced to guide decision making by the industry: first, the value of racing property should be retained in the industry and used for maximum industry benefit, and, two, statutory provisions are introduced to support negotiations between clubs and codes on using surplus venues. The bill also introduces as a backstop a statutory decision-making process for the Minister for Racing to recommend an Order in Council to allocate property to the code. Provision is also made for payments to the club and community where it is warranted.

So the assets of clubs can be decided on by the Minister for Racing.

Also from Labour: KIERAN McANULTY

The Labour Party’s proud to support this bill. It is a bill that is needed, and it is a bill that will support an industry that many of us love.

It is a fantastic industry that supports many regions and provinces where many of us here in this House live, and I think that this bill, under the leadership of the Minister for Racing, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, will be seen and looked back on in history as the thing that rejuvenated this industry. I commend it to the House.

The Bill appears to do the opposite of supporting the regions, especially the South Island.  NZ First mustn’t get many votes of donations from the South Island.

BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki – King Country)

We recognise the need for change in the industry. We are supporting the intent of this bill, and we are supporting it to first reading, as we look to help the racing industry transform into the competitive market that it does have the potential to be. But where we disagree, and where we want to have a good discussion at select committee, is that this bill gives too much power to the Minister when it comes to decisions around these racing venues and racing tracks around the country. In particular, we can’t support Subpart 2 of Part 1 in its current form, because this Subpart 2 refers to the transfer of assets and surplus venues. Really, this will be like a red rag to a bull to many in rural provincial New Zealand.

So, clause 25, that allows the Order in Council recommended by the Minister to grab these properties if an agreement can’t be reached by local clubs, is a step too far for the National caucus, because we believe in private property rights and we know that these people have put a lot of effort into this over a period of time.

No Green MPs spoke on the Bill.

It’s not just the potential seizure of assets, the forced closure of courses is a big deal for regions.

Look at the clubs that could be closed in the South Island: Reefton, Greymouth, Hokitika, Motukarara, Timaru, Kurow, Oamaru, Waimate, Oamaku, Winton and Gore.

That guts racing from West Coast and the bottom half of the South Island, and not just country clubs. Places like Timaru and Gore have been significant in racing for a long time.

 

Winston Peters, WO/BFD and the Media Party meme

Winston Peters referred to “Media Party” in a tweet on 13 February:

This is more Wellington bulldust. The ‘Media Party’ are outraged because someone, not us, did to them what they do to others all the time. Corporal Jones was right, they dont like it up ’em.

That prompted suggestions on Kiwiblog that it sounded like CameronSlater/Whale Oil/The BFD language, for good reason. The post that started the furore that Peters was referring to closed with:

Corporal Jones was dead right when he said they don’t like it up ’em.

The BFD posted a transcript of Winston Peters’ Message to NZ First Supporters as a part of their ongoing support of Peters. It included:

That this is a political campaign by the ‘Media Party’ is clear.

The BFD keeps pushing the Media Party meme. One of their content contributors Chris Trotter has joined in with it in RNZ Must Have No Dogs In The September Fight.

Winston Peters is encouraging voters to think of RNZ as belonging to “The Media Party”. He wants them to see it as a politically partisan institution with its own, vicious attack-dogs in the electoral fight. If he succeeds, it will be, and probably should be, the end of public radio in New Zealand.

Trotter has defended contributing to The BFD:

I happily accepted Rupert’s cheques (even if they did bear the logo of INL!) Likewise, I’m happy to bank those from both “The BFD” and “The Daily Blog”. It’s called freelancing, mate.

It’s his choice of course, but he is looking a bit like he’s a member of the Winston/BFD party.

The BFD even include the term in their ‘dictionary’:

The Media party A Whaleoil blog meme to describe how the media act like a political party in opposition to the National government due to the woefully poor performance of the Labour party. It is a way of saying that, essentially, due to the gap left by an underperforming opposition, the MSM have stepped in to counter and criticise the government. They have made it their job so they have become a political party.

That’s ridiculous. A primary job of media in a democracy is to hold the Government to account, which includes criticism. NZ First is a part of the current Government, but are whining because the media are criticising them.

The media certainly deserve criticism at times, but in politics they get far more than they deserve when politicians


The “Media Party” meme seems to have been started by Slater in the first newsletter of the subscription INCITE in December 2015:

The Advent of the Media Party – Cam Slater writes about why the media have moved from neutral, dispassionate observers to players in the political game, and why the public no longer trusts them.

And Slater/WO/BFD and now Peters have been banging the media bias drum ever since.

Media have been players in politics pretty much as long as there has been media, and accusations that they aren’t neutral have been around for as long, so this isn’t a big revelation.

Which is quite ironic really. Much of Winston’s past successes in politics is because he was accomplished at using playing the media and coaxing them into giving him free publicity.

And the success of Whale Oil was largely due to them feeding stories to the media, who then amplified them. Without the help of the media WO would never have succeeded like they did.

And now both Peters and The BFD grizzle when the media coverage isn’t favourable for them. They want media promotion, but get all cry baby when the media exposes their crap.

The media are far from perfect. In politics they can make or break candidates, and they can turn support for or against parties. They carry a huge democratic responsibility, and they don’t always do a good job.

But they are far better than the alternative, no media.

And they are far better than The BFD, who claim to be media:

The BFD is the fastest-growing media organisation in New Zealand. Its brand of news, opinion, analysis and entertainment is finding fertile ground with an audience that is feeling abandoned by traditional news media.

Whale Oil grew quickly, until Dirty Politics exposed them and the use of them by the National Party in 2014. John Key and National quickly distanced themselves, as did the media.

They were taken down due to financial and legal problems, but reappeared as The BFD. While they have some neutral content, one of their primary agendas is promoting NZ First and attacking National, National’s leaders, as well as Labour and the Greens.

In a post yesterday Why The BFD?

But if the media won’t do it The BFD is only too happy to oblige. If it weren’t for the majority of MSM sucking up to Ardern there would be no place for us here at The BFD at all. We only exist to fill the gap in the public’s demand for more factual, balanced reporting and a platform for honest, open discussion.

Do they really believe that?

Here at The BFD, unlike the MSM,we are free to declare our political allegiance if we choose to.

Funny. It’s obvious they are working for NZ First, but they choose to not declare what that relationship actually is.

The must be Big Dummies if they think they are fooling anyone.

The rest of the media are obviously not one ‘party’. They hold to account all parties to varying degrees, depending on what is newsworthy.

At The Standard they frequently claim that the media (companies and state run) are hopelessly biased towards National and the right, or worse.

At Kiwiblog they frequently assert that the media (journalists) are hopelessly biased towards Ardern, Labour and the left.

At The BFD they seem to think everyone is against them and NZ First. In other words everyone who calls bullshit on their agenda.

The “Media Party” is simply a figment of their perceived or claimed victimhood when their bias and agenda are exposed. s a meme it’s ridiculous.

The Winston Blog is closer to the mark.

 

 

Winston Peters has more explanations than photos

Explanations from Winston Peters over who took photos and video of journalists and gave them to The BFD attack blog continue to change.

He originally said on Magic Talk Radio “we took the photographs”…”to prove that was the sort of behaviour going on”.

He later tweeted a different variation:

“NZF has no interest in following Mr Espiner or any other journalists. The very reverse applies. No private investigators have been engaged to follow Mr Espiner or anyone else. A supporter thought it odd seeing ex-president Lester Grey with Mr Espiner so took a photo. Simple.”

Yesterday he tweeted what appeared to be emphatic, but it didn’t actually refute the “we” and “a supporter” claims.

Let there be no doubt that after caucus today I can confirm no NZ First Minister or MP sent any photos to any website.

I think that no one thought that a Minister or MP was directly involved in taking the photos or giving them to The BFD, so this is nothing but (typical) bluster from Peters.

From NZ First Leader Winston Peters denies his MPs sent covert photos to far-right blog (NZH):

This morning, Peters would not answer media questions about the photos.

Instead, he directed reporters to an interview he did with Magic Talk earlier that day.

“I don’t know anything about it, and I’m not responsible for it,” he said of the photos.

This sounds similar to his claims he knew nothing about the NZ First Foundation but also claimed to know exactly how they had handled donations.

Speaking to Magic Talk again today, Peters said he had “no idea” how the photos and the videos ended up on the blog.

“I’m a busy man, I’m flat out – I’m not wasting my time with this. I have no idea who did what or when.”

So another variation. Of course he doesn’t want to answer questions about this. But fudging and playing music clips and trying to make a joke of it doesn’t reduce the seriousness of NZ First connections to The BFD.

It’s been obvious that Whale Oil and it’s replacement The BFD have been shilling for Peters and NZ First for three years, since before the last election.

Prior to being a Peters promoter Cameron Slater had been a dirty critic of Peters and NZ First. The sudden switch to doing dirty work for NZ First of course raises suspicions of why.

It’s also well known that Winston’s friend, NZ First Party lawyer and NZ First Foundation trustee Brian Henry represented Slater in defamation proceedings and will have clocked up big legal bills of some sort. That raises some obvious (unanswered) questions.

The “dirty Politics’ book provided evidence that Whale Oil was paid to attack a variety of people in the past, and that Simon Lusk was involved both in making payments to Whale Oil, and ghost writing attack posts that appeared under Slater’s name.

Since the journalist photos were used in an attack post both Slater and Lusk have suddenly been named several times at The BFD, they seem to be bragging about finally getting some media attention for one of their hit jobs.

But their ongoing attacks just draw attention to how the core Dirty Politics crew are back in action, how compromised Peters and NZ First are over this connection. No amount of shifting stories and shifty non-explanations will reduce the dirty stench.

The ongoing antics at The BFD, apart from keeping the ‘look at how dirty we are’ in the spotlight’, keeps emphasising their complicity with NZ First, which keeps Peters squirming and ducking.


And on cue Xavier Theodore Reginald Ordinary has just posted again, revisiting Hager and Dirty Politics and attacking media yet again. He mentions ‘Media Party’ more often than Peters did recently.

At least the National party has finally found a willing coalition partner, the Media Party, led by Guyon Espiner with Sean Plunket as the communications director.

All they need now is some candidates and a logo.

That’s very funny from someone who, sort of anonymously, is openly now doing the dirty work for a party that already has a logo and candidates.

Is he out of control? Or is this all with the approval of Peters? Either way it’s a political cluster fuck.

Links between NZ First and The BFD journalist threat agenda

David Garrett at Kiwiblog suggested I also post this here. Thanks for your advice David. Funny to see you playing interference for NZ First and The BFD.


In response to a post at Kiwiblog on The mute PM

Ardern and Shaw silent on Peters and NZ First concerns

Also: Jacinda Ardern’s silence on Winston Peters is deafening

Jacinda Ardern is yet to say anything at all about the fact the Electoral Commission made absolutely clear on Monday that the way NZ First was treating donations to its foundations was wrong.

Instead of properly taking this on, Ardern has hidden, as politicians often do, behind the perceived inappropriateness of commenting while some process is still active.

Following the Electoral Commission’s finding, Ardern would have been totally within her rights to say, at the very least, that she thought these donations should have been declared to the commission. She could have said she was disappointed that a coalition partner appeared not to have been as fulsome as it could have been with informing the authorities – all without alleging any kind of crime. Trying to hide your donations, even legally, is a political act that politicians should be happy to talk about.

This silence got even louder on Thursday when it became clear that NZ First had some kind of involvement in two covertly taken photographs of journalists reporting on the Foundation story, which found their way onto a right-wing blog. Peters told Magic Talk on Tuesday that “we took the photographs just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”, but later backtracked to say a supporter just happened to see the journalists and thought he or she should snap a photo.

When a politician’s story keeps changing it warrants more suspicion that something deserves exposure.

The thing is, the Cabinet Manual does have a section about ministers upholding and being seen to uphold “the highest ethical standards” at all times, not just when doing ministerial business. Ardern has all the ammo she needs to give Peters a dressing-down over this, but instead she defers. Things don’t have to be illegal to be wrong.

Worse, this rot of silence has also infected the Green Party, which, as a confidence and supply partner, has plenty of legitimate room to criticise such tactics. You don’t need to tear the Government up or demand that Peters is fired – you can just say what the journalists’ union said on Friday, that Peters needs to explain himself and apologise.

Instead the Greens just talk about how the law needs to be changed – which most people agree with, but isn’t the point. The topic at hand isn’t underhanded but lawful behaviour, it’s stuff that is potentially illegal – hence the police referral. The party should grow back its spine.

There is quite a lot of pressure on the Greens online to speak up.

It is blindingly obvious why Ardern is so blind to Peters’ actions. He is not the kind of man to take a telling-off sitting down, and it would probably all get messier as Peters extracted some kind of utu for her daring to criticise him.

But she is the leader of this Government, and of a party that is vastly larger in both power and popularity. Her words set the standard of behaviour for ministers – she is in this sense the most powerful political pundit we have. It’s well past time she found that voice.

But that doesn’t look likely unless someone like Helen Clark starts tweeting about it.

Winston Peters “we took the photos” used in ‘dirty politics’ post at The BFD

It’s seemed obvious since before the last election that there were some sort of arrangements between NZ First and Whale Oil.  The replacement The BFD has been increasingly being used as a shill and dirty politics attack medium for Peters and NZ First.

Winston Peters now seems to have admitted “we took the photos” used in a recent post at The BFD that tried to discredit RNZ after the revealed details of NZ First Foundation donations.

RNZ – Winston Peters on photos of reporters: ‘We took the photographs’

NZ First Leader Winston Peters says he was involved in having photographs taken of RNZ journalist Guyon Espiner, Stuff reporter Matt Shand and former NZ First president Lester Gray.

The photographs, and a video, were posted on The BFD, a Whale Oil-linked website which has been running stories defending New Zealand First and trying to belittle reporting about the NZ First Foundation donations.

The photos ran with an article criticising the reporting, which Espiner and Shand have both been involved in.

The deputy prime minister has said two reporters were photographed going to a meeting with Gray “to prove that was the sort of behaviour going on”.

When the photographs were raised with him by Magic Talk Radio, Peters said “we took the photographs”.

The photographs were shown on this post – REVEALED: Source Behind RNZ Hit Job by Guyon Espiner

Which states:

The BFD. Lester Gray and Guyon Espiner. Photo supplied.

We have even obtained video of it: Lester Gray and Guyon Espiner from The BFD on Vimeo.

It would be good if the media now investigate who is operating as Xavier Theodore Reginald Ordinary at The BFD, and whether any business or financial arrangements are involved. And whether there is any association with the NZ First Foundation.


UPDATE

One News:  ‘No interest’ – Winston Peters backtracks on photos taken of journalists investigating NZ First Foundation

During an interview with Magic Talk Radio this week, Mr Peters discussed the photographs.

When it was raised to him, he responded: “We took the photograph just to prove that that’s the kind of behaviour going on.”

But tonight, after the RNZ story was published online, Mr Peters distanced the party from the photographs.

“In response to media inquiries, I can confirm that NZF has no interest in following Guyon Espiner or any other journalists. In fact, the very reverse applies,” he told 1 NEWS.

“No private investigators have been engaged to follow Mr Espiner or anyone else.

“A supporter did think it odd when they saw ex-president Lester Grey with Mr Espiner so took a photo. Simple as that.”

But it isn’t that simple. There was also a video taken.

And then the “supporter” seems to have passed the photos and video on – to the party ending up at The BFD in a dirty politics style post.