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Posts tagged ‘National’

New Zealand’s Watergate

In 1972, the Deomcratic party’s HQ was the subject of a bungled attempt at a break in.

This lead to a scandal that is so well known, that it became known as “Watergate” after the hotel, and almost every scandal in the English speaking world having the “-gate” suffix attached.

Why would you break into a competing party’s headquarters? Well, you’d find information, strategies, and other things that the opposing party is using legitimately. But you’d also find material that would be embarrassing – possibly even criminal if released to the general public.

What’ we’ve seen this week has been much the same.

Imagine the Republican party operatives who broke into Watergate succeeded.

Imagine they leaked the documents to a known, friendly journalist who wrote a book without checking with any other sources, compromising principles that journalist previously claimed to hold proudly. Imagine that those affected were able to claim with credibility that not just one break-in had occurred.

What we have here is a lot like Watergate. Only, where that break-in failed and backfired, this one succeeded. Only, it didn’t really find anything much, in 8gb worth of stolen material. So little new material in fact, that the media are really struggling to find anything. So little, that an entire chapter is about a man who’s email wasn’t even hacked, and thus, relies entirely on banal, already-public information.

And, just in case you thought this book was somehow principled, it ignores long-standing allegations of worse behaviour from the other side of the isle. (For all Slater’s faults, he has always blogged under his own name, and has never made the slightest secret of his connections to that party.)

Yet, what we have are opposition leaders praising those who engaged in the dirty trick, claiming that the stolen documents show serious flaws in our democracy. There are even journalists condemning the condemnation of the guilty party.

Here’s what the politicians said about it:

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe says allegations made in Nicky Hager’s new book ‘Dirty Politics’ are “the closest New Zealand’s got to its own kind of Watergate”.

How about The Greens?

The Green Party is to lodge a series of official complaints over allegations contained in Dirty Politics.

The party was also promising to hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry if elected “to get to the bottom of what has gone on and to seek recommendations on how to rebuild a clean and fair political system in New Zealand”.

[I would note that I have previously called for a Royal Inquiry into the 2005 election, and the attempts by the Labour party to intimidate public servants regarding their theft of $800,000 of public money and their breaking of electoral law and the subsequent attempt to change said law to their own advantage.

To the very best of my knowledge, the Green Party never came close to making such a demand, and still defends and supports the law changes to this day.]

“The New Zealand public cannot have any confidence in our democracy until these claims are investigated and [alleged] offenders held to account.”

The party revealed this morning complaints would be lodged with the police, Parliamentary Service, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Privacy Commissioner relating to the allegations of “corruption and abuse of power”.

John Key has degraded our democracy,” Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

What about Winston Peters?

Winston Peters is comparing the revelations in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics to the Watergate scandal that brought down US president Richard Nixon.

Note the language used. People are comparing the allegations spun from material from a successful break in, with a failed attempt at a break in to extract similar material.

Ladies and gentlemen, a more cynical bit of politics you will not find.

Update: Try this: There was a break in, the material gathered is being compared to water-gate.

Cunliffe’s backhanded admission of National’s extraordinary economic success

It’s well recorded history that Michael Cullen, back in 1999, declared that anyone on $60,000 or more per year was a “rich prick”.

Later, he changed his mind, and changed the Working for Families policy to cover families earning up to $70,000 and in some instances $80,000. 

Therefore, that under Labour what was considered Wealthy rose by about $10-20k per year.

Today, Cunliffe declared that everyone up to $150,000 needed welfare. That’s a massive leap $70,000 leap.

Given that success, it would be highly irresponsible to vote in another Labour government. Why, at that success rate, another two terms of National would put everyone under $300,000 on welfare!

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.


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.


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.

English and Dipton

I spent several hours thinking about Bill English’s situation the other day.

Clearly, his family is in Wellington. So what is the difference between her situation and Phillida Bunkle?

Then, watching a report that night it was mentioned that Phillida Bunkle was caught claiming allowances she was not entitled to (though it seems reading around that she was later cleared).

That’s the difference. Bunkle owned houses in Wellington, and lived within a reasonable drive. Bill only has a house in Wellington because he works there. When  he finishes, he will move back to his farm.

Now, Bill should not have set up his affairs so he was renting his own house. That was wrong. We expect better from our National MPs. They should hold themselves to a higher standard than the left – especially as No. 2 in the cacus.

But it appears he is entitled as Clutha/Southland MP to an allowance for owning his own home in Wellington, and I am glad to see he has repaid the difference. I do wonder whether this action is really enough however to restore confidence in the integrity of this government.

This morning, the fuss is over whether he is actually a Wellington MP, which is nonsense. Not just for the reasons above, but because everyone knows his circumstances, where his wife works etc – it’s not been hidden at any stage.

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