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Archive for the ‘National’ Category

Electoral Finance Act Mk2

Well, I didn’t march down Queen St for this.

Three years after the outcry at financial restrictions on independent electoral advertising, the Labour Party has got its way. National has folded on an issue it fought from Opposition, agreeing to restrictions that differ only by degree with the spending limits legislated by the Labour Government.

National’s amendment to the Electoral Finance Act has emerged from a select committee of Parliament with a $300,000 limit on the amount “third party” participants can spend to promote an issue to voters. “Third party” is the politicians’ term for people or groups of no affiliation who are not standing for election but are moved to spend their own money on a cause close to their heart.

Throughout this long debate over their rights, most people who practise politics or study it avidly have missed the central point. It is this: people who are not avid followers of politics and public issues have their voice effectively muzzled by law that is mined with arcane, pernickity requirements.

I certainly will not be voting for National at the next election. First they refused point blank to listen to the vast majority of New Zealanders who were concerned about reasonable parental rights, now they feel free to reinstate the law that was specifically written to keep Labour in power.

Time to find another party. Frankly I’d rather vote for Labour – as utterly disgusting as that party is, we know what they stand for.

Key in the clear?

DPF points to the legal advice from Key’s lawyers here.

The key paragraph appears to be no. 9.

Mr Hodgson’s conclusion is that you still have an interest in the shares he refers to in his letter as long as Whitechapel Limited remains the owner. However, the fact that a Companies’ Office search shows that Whitechapel Limited is registered as the owner of shares in other companies cannot of itself establish that they are shares in which you have an interest. The above analysis shows that you have no interest and have no influence or control over the shares.

Overall I think the letter misses the point (the one Hodgson has been making in public at least) – that the company holding the assets is visible to public searches thus because Key (supposedly) knew the company name he could know what he owned.

To me, the above strongly suggests that Whitechapel owns shares on behalf of other trusts, which would render such an accusation moot. But on second reading, I wonder why that’s not explicitly stated.

DPF calls this H-Fee MkII. I’m not convinced it’s completely without merit (As the H-Fee smears were) but it certainly shares the “long hours of research in order to produce a dubious character smear who’s biggest effect will be a backfire” characteristic of the previous attempt.

But the funniest thing is putting Hodgson at the front of a campaign about character…

Has Key been caught or not?

I have to say, Key has been a very smooth operator generally. So much so that what’s-his-name has even complemented him recently.

But Key seems to have one weakness – managing his own money. There was a story some time ago where Key had failed to put his assets into a blind trust. Now, it seems that blind trust might have been setup to be not-so-blind by including a company in the mix.

Even if true, Key’s still not got any control of what’s going on. The Labour argument was that it was blind to all but Key. But Key’s denied he knew the existence of the company. Were that true, then Labour’s claim is false.

The other thing that bothers me about Labour’s claim is the “why”. Why, when John has so much money, would he need to use his position as PM to advantage himself? To use an overblown analogy, it’s like a farmer with 1,000 acres killing his neighbor in order to purchase his quarter acre section from the estate. Too much risk for very little reward.

Yet Labour’s story does seem to have some legs. There are just too many coincidences, similar names, common trustees and dates.

Yes, it’s a relatively minor point. But it seriously undermines the idea that he’s an above-the-board straight shooter.

Which of course is the whole point. But we’ll ignore the irony of Labour being the one making it.

P.S. Ok, now I remember – Phil Goff is the Labour leader. Funny how you forget these things.

Spite.

No Right Turn makes a fair point.

The government has released some of the background geologists reports on areas it wants to remove from the protection of schedule 4 and mine. The one on the Parakawai Ecological Area [PDF] makes interesting reading. It identifies the primary resource in the area as “aggregate”. Yes, that’s right – the government wants to dig up an ecological reserve for a shingle pit.

Aggregate is not exactly rare. Statistics New Zealand puts the total resource as “undefined, but large” – meaning we have enough to last us forever. So why would we want to dig up a protected area for it? There’s plenty is[sic] less valuable parts of the country. It seems like pure ecological vandalism, driven by anti-environmentalist spite.

Yep, mining would destroy this area forever. It’s a valuable ecological area that is completely untouched by man.

Except for two quarries. And an access road.

Reality is that there is potential for gold under the surface. This report isn’t about where to put mines, it’s about where to look. I suspect that the aggregate potential means that the rock removed to get to the gold (if it’s found to be there) can be removed and used usefully, rather than being spoil that has to be dumped somewhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see a big fat gravel pit opened in an ecological area, and he’s largely right – the potential here is mainly gravel according to the report. I’d go further and say that I doubt you’d find even a single member of cabinet who’d want to dig up a valuable ecological area simply for gravel. But that’s idiot – he’s be prepared to believe anything bad about the National party, if he can find a way of reading it into an obscure report.

But this report does show us something. It shows us that, given the existing quarries, this area is a valuable illustration of how mining isn’t necessarily “ecological vandalism” at all, and thus ironically puts a dampener on the hysteria generated by NRT’s own post(s) on the subject.

Another (fake) conflict of interest?

Gosh, they do try don’t they?

The Standard has a major scoop this morning, revealing Foreign minister Murray McCully’s conflict of interest over mining. McCully sits around the Cabinet table deciding on issues such as whether to mine on conservation land, and whether to boost subsidies for oil exploration. But according to the MPs’ Register of Pecuniary Interests [PDF] he owns shares in Widespread Portfolios, a self-described “mining sector venture capital investor” which funds mining companies such as Widespread Energy and Glass Earth. Both those companies – and therefore McCully – stand to profit handsomely from the government’s rape and pillage policy.

Um, no they don’t. At least, Glass Earth doesn’t.

1. Glass Earth is a gold exploration company. Most of the ho0-ha has been about coal.

2. Glass earth operates in these areas…

…and our National Parks are in these areas.

Glass earth has massive areas under exploration. They’ve had licenses to do so for at least 4 years (they listed on the NZX in 2006 if memory serves). Right now, they’re almost out of money for that, so are trying to develop paying mines within their existing licences.

But I guess if they…

  1. Make a massive gold strike and start mining it in record time
  2. Decide there are no other possible mines in any of the massive areas they have licences for
  3. And decide they are prepared to undergo a massive change in direction as a company

… they just might,

in many years time,

make a small hole,

in one of our National Parks. But somehow I doubt they’d want the bad publicity.

In reality, Widespread is just that – widespread. The vast majority of their portfolio (77%) appears to be in Vietnam and Inner Mongolia. Hardly an investment spread that’s going to return a massive profit from mining in New Zealand National Parks.

“MMP Killed My Imaginary Friend”

Dimpost sort of likes the National Government

1. We didn’t get ’shock doctrined’. Our last two right-wing governments (National in ‘91, Labour in ‘84) used economic crisis as pretexts to introduce radical reforms that they didn’t campaign on and had no mandate for. It wouldn’t have been that difficult for Key and his party to repeat history  and restart the revolution, given the apprehension over the global financial crisis and the general mood of the nation this time last year – but they didn’t. Obviously I don’t agree with everything the Nats have done but they have shown a degree of prudence and responsibility that we haven’t seen from previous right-wing governments.

Actually, some people would say that the cuts National implemented in 1991 were a very prudent and responsible reaction to the massive budget crisis we had back then. This is especially so given Labour’s refusal to reverse the cuts that were made at that time, though they did eventually reverse things via back doors once the economy really started to hum.

Even then, pissing off large chunks of the electorate like National did back then is hardly a strategy any government wants to repeat – it was an act of sheer necessity.

Idiot/Savant thinks that National showed restraint this time too, and that this is due to MMP.

MMP stops the Revolution

We have MMP to thank for this. Under a fair electoral system, any repeat of the strategy of deceit seen in 1984 and 1991 would result in a one-term government, and a lengthy spell in opposition. They’d be out on their arses quicker than you could say “unmodified Sainte-Laguë formula”. Which is perhaps one of the reasons why National’s right are so keen to ditch it…

I doubt it. I think it has a lot more to do with the underlying strength of the economy, the fact that Labour was actually quite fiscally responsible up to Cullen’s last “I’ve strangled their fox” budget, and the fact that Labour managed to slip in snark about the 1990s into pretty much every comment for over 7 years.

Then there’s the fact that the 1993 election came within a whisker of being a Labour victory. Oh, and wasn’t the 1999 election a MMP election anyway? The one that bought Winston into power for the first time?

So MMP would get rid of governments – except it didn’t, while FPP wouldn’t – except it almost did.

And we got Winston.

MMP didn’t stop the Revolution, because the Revolution was always and only in the collective imaginations of the left.

Bill English and Ethics

NRT has a bash at Bill, saying he’s unethical.

Bill should not have changed his affairs to claim rental allowances for a house he owned. However, he was in good company in the house, not to mention the thousands of New Zealanders who’ve arranged their affairs to maximise their various government payments. The Auditors report also details that Ministerial Services accepted legal advice that they should not have, which puts the fault somewhat in the court of Ministerial Services.

The idea that Bill shouldn’t get any money (which he now doesn’t) is just insulting. His situation – moving to Wellington to take up an MPs job – is the very reason why these allowances exist. He maintains a home in Dipton (where his family have been for generations, the street is even named after him!) and one in Wellington. As DPF said a few months back:

Of course there is a wider perception issue that goes beyond the rules. But I’m wary of the precedent that gets set if you punish MPs for having a family, and even worse punish them because they chose *at their own expense* to have some of their family live in Wellington with them while they are an MP.

One thing that’s been glossed over in all this is that Bill stopped all his allowances back when the story broke. He didn’t tell anyone. That, to me shows integrity – he took a lot of stick for “still” getting other allowances even though he wasn’t.

Even more bizarre is the fact that Bill should be getting his accommodation absolutely free in Vogel House but for the fact that it’s being used by the GG while his official residence is being renovated. Complaining about someone claiming costs for living away from home is bizarre when they’re normally entitled to live free in a 4.7m mansion.

But how about his accusers?

Well, I’ve previously noted the ethics of Idiot/Savant, who seems to think it fine a duty of government to remove children from parents based on their political campaigning. He’s also told many outright lies about the effects of the old Section 59. I don’t recall Bill doing anything that scurrilous.

Then there’s Pete Hodgson. The man who assaulted a protester who was holding up a sign – because it might have embarrassed Helen. Pete’s the only southern MP with any experience after David Benson-Pope was finally forced out – but not before the PM ignored him lying to parliament and reports that indicated the associate education minister was a sexual deviant who like tying up children in the classroom.

What was that again?

The Cabinet Manual requires Ministers not just to act lawfully, but also “to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards.

Hm. Seems like the pot is calling the kettle black on this one.

Urgency

DPF has a post on urgency, which balances some of the more hysterical comments from certain left wing blogs.

The problem of lack of time to pass Bills is not one that has just affected this government. That is why Labour is being totally hypocritical over the use of urgency. Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins in particular know better given they were advisors to the last government. Dr Cullen regularly put the House into urgency between 1999 and 2008 and a helpful reader has done the numbers for me.

In the 1999-2002 Parliament, Labour took urgency 22 times and extraordinary urgency twice. 23 bills passed their 3rd reading under urgency. Indeed in Labour’s first year in office, they took urgency ten times.

In the 2002-2005 Parliament, Labour took urgency nineteen times and a massive 78 Bills passed their 3rd reading under urgency!

In the 2005-2008 Parliament, Labour took urgency ten times and 48 bills passed their 3rd reading under urgency.

Urgency was often moved in October, November, and December of each year under Labour, as the end of the year approached. That’s what this government appears to be doing as well. It’s nothing to do with poor House management – it’s simply extending sitting hours in the traditional pre-Xmas period.

The main problem appears to be that member’s day is being lost. But as I’ve said before, any member’s bills that don’t have the support of either National or every party other than National is a waste of time.

Given the few matters on which the Maori party, Act, The Greens, and Labour agree on, I think it’s pretty safe to say that there’s not so much of a loss there as might first appear. As they say in the USA, elections have consequences.

But still, it would be nice if National did give the other lot a chance to have their bills rejected more often.

Plain English Advertising

Dim Post:

Also during Q & A, there was a strange TVNZ 7 ad featuring Bill English assuring us that the recession is over. The ad was ostensibly aimed at promoting a TVNZ 7 series on the economy, of course it’s really about rebuilding the Finance Minister’s image after his home accommodation scandal. Labour did this sort of thing all the time – Clark’s tourism documentary and the Working for Families promotion spring to mind – although they were never this clumsy and blatant as the English promo. (This is also one of those funny little issues that had right-wing bloggers and commentators screaming themselves mute with outrage – ‘this is JUST like life in North Korea!’ – when it happened under Labour). Once again it makes we wonder why the taxpayer needs to own TVNZ? Why can’t National leave ACC alone and drum up some cash selling off the TV stations?

Actually, the ad also played on TV One the other day. I was quite taken aback myself, because the same thought occurred to me that occurred to Daryl -the state broadcaster should not be seen to be promoting the government. I doubt that is what’s actually happening – broadcasters tend towards the left – but the perception is there.

But it seems that many undesirable things that started under Labour have been continued by National. The other day, I was watching question time and Pansy Wong was being asked questions on something or other. The response to every one was a variation on “if Labour cared they’d have fixed during the 9 years they were in power”.

For 7 years Labour managed to mention “the disastrous policies of the 1990′s” in answer to every question. They only stopped when people started pointing out that they’d had more than enough time to make changes themselves.

Like with many things, I had hoped for better from the National party.

Key on Letterman

Well, for once I agree with The Standard.

The more I think about it, the more Key’s Letterman approach is demeaning both to his office and New Zealand. Sure he did the stand up comedy competently but is that what we want our PM reduced to? A gag to be treated at best as a cute nobody, at worst dismissively, by some variety host?

I mean, sure have a laugh, but there shoudl[sic] have been be an interview as well. On the same show, there were interviews with the guy from The Mentalist and same guy playing Mick Jagger in a movie, FFS. Didn’t Key or Letterman think he had anything worthwhile to say? It’s disappointing that Key let himself as our PM be reduced like that.

I assume that the episode was the one Prime played last night while the news was on the other channels. I didn’t see Key’s performance there (saw it on youtube earlier), but it struck me that our PM was relegated to a pretty silly (though often funny) 4 min section while some random, uninteresting people who I’d never heard of were interviewed. I had thought they would have sat him down and got a bit more out of him – he is a head of state after all.

I guess though that the US viewers would have a different perspective.

I feel faint now, going to lie down.

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