Show me the money: Parties await the opening of Treasury’s books


Today is the day of the big reveal for Treasury. Today is the day that it reveals the state of the New Zealand Government coffers. Today is also the day that the election campaign writ is issued, enabling the formal period of campaigning to begin.

But back to the Treasury’s books. If not today, tomorrow or in the next couple of days is when, based on what the individual political parties know, to expect substantial policy announcements. The major policies relating to tax, investment and spending priorities will be arriving shortly.

I expect that Labour will focus on health, education and investment in jobs creation. New leader Jacinda Ardern has promised that there will be significant moves made to address climate change and has also mentioned an emphasis on railways.

We have already seen a major signal from National that its priority is road transport in its $10.5 billion announcement on roading projects. The party will also be trying to woo voters by appearing serious about policing, health and education in an attempt to shore up its voters.

New Zealand First made a major announcement in 2016 at its convention that year about its Upfront Investment policy for tertiary education, which was costed at $4.6 billion. It has mentioned several times that its major transport plan will be to improve railways.

We can expect significant policy announcements to follow from the Greens, A.C.T. and Maori Party in the next few days as well. I expect that A.C.T. will focus on reducing taxes and red tape, as well as ways of implementing its promise to build 600,000 new homes. The Green Party will have social welfare, the environment and climate change at its core, and I expect some significant policy from them on mental health. And the Maori Party will be looking at ways to improve socio-economic indicators for Maori in education, health, social welfare and crime – none of which have done very well in the last nine years..

Once the books are open and we can see what shape they are in, I will make recommendations on what the spending priorities for New Zealand should be. Although I showed at the weekend my general drift on where I think New Zealand should be heading, I have not yet mentioned in depth policy. That will come when I have an idea of the state of the Treasury books.

The Class of 2014-2017


Parliament has dissolved. The class of 2014-2017 have dispersed to start their election campaigns or slip into their first days of post Parliamentary life. The debating chamber shall not see any activity over than public tours until sometime probably in late October. So here is the final report card for the individual parties (the report card for the key M.P.’s will follow in a couple of days):

NATIONAL: C+

National started the term with every reason to be confident. But within weeks Mike Sabin had resigned. Although the party continued to enjoy sky high polling, Ministers have shown signs of being worn out and disinterested in their portfolio’s. Former Prime Minister John Key’s resignation was a bolt from the blue, but National M.P.’s picked themselves, dusted themselves and kept going. Prime Minister Bill English has been solid but unspectacular in his management. Appearing bereft of ideas and controversies such as Todd Barclay rumbling in the background should concern the party.

National might still yet win this election and it would be a truly historic event if they do, but the rise of Jacinda Ardern in the Labour party has many reaching for the panic button. They will need to fight – as Ms Ardern said of Labour – the campaign of their lives.

LABOUR: C

Until a few weeks ago, the signs on the wall for Labour were looking deathly.

Jacinda Ardern is in her early days as leader, but there is no doubt she has shaken up the party – and the New Zealand political landscape – in these last three weeks. Andrew Little came across as a humble guy and liked by many, but he just could not make the necessary hits on National. Slumped in the polls and staring down the gun barrel of electoral oblivion, Labour would have got a D rating.

Labour would get a C+ or potentially a B- except that they have not yet announced any bold policies to get people talking and Ms Ardern was not joking when she said Labour will have to fight the campaign of its life.

A.C.T.: D

David Seymour is A.C.T. and A.C.T. is David Seymour. They rely on each other for survival. A.C.T. has given Mr Seymour a vehicle to get himself into Parliament. That vehicle cannot go anywhere without him.

In fairness to Mr Seymour though, his Bill of Parliament on Euthenasia has been well received in many quarters on both sides of the divide. His support for cannabis reform has also gone down well. That is where it ends though because A.C.T. and everything it stands for is not obviously any more popular than it was in 2014.

Mr Seymour will probably return as National is unlikely to action his demise in Epsom even though it is capable of doing so.

United Future: D

Peter Dunne, the other one man band in Parliament might be on life support in terms of his political career. Sagging in internal polling in Ohariu and faced with a formidable Labour challenge in his electorate one the Governments most stable supporters might not last the election. Mr Dunne started life in the Labour Party and left to start United Future. Over the last nine years he has infuriated people on the left and the right by voting for/against legislation simply because of the confidence and supply deal with National. The one time he probably infuriated the right was shooting down the Resource Management legislation in 2015.

Greens C+

Until Metiria Turei’s admission of deceiving Work and Income New Zealand, the Greens were nicely placed to get a B. They had unveiled a list of candidates that impressed many. Their steady popularity throughout the last three years and the growing environmental and socio-economic problems as well as the increasingly obvious unwillingness of the centre-right to attack the causes of poverty, have made them a constant in the polls. Mrs Turei’s acknowledgement of wrong doing was brave, but her failure to either immediately pay up or quit has caused potentially lasting damage.

The Jacinda explosion has not helped them either, robbing the party of support just when it needed it most.

Maori Party: C

The Maori Party continues to be a source of mystery and frustration to me. For all their talk about helping Maori I am yet to see any progress on any of the rather distressing array of problems confronting Maori in society – whether it is truancy or youth crime, health statistics, educational performance or employment, the preoccupation with Treaty issues has become an issue itself. They will probably pick up another Member of Parliament at the election, but what they are able to do post-election might very well depend on none other than Winston Peters.

New Zealand First: B

I left New Zealand First earlier this year. Disgruntled with the archaic, non communicative ways of the party board, I was one of a number who have either quit the party but will still vote for them, or quit elected positions as electorate committee members.

But despite the internal problems, the party performs well in Parliament and has been a constant source of trouble for National. The fact that the National Party have largely just laughed off or tried to sweep what the New Zealand First caucus have raised in Parliament under the carpet is not so much a reflection on 12 M.P.’s trying their best, as a reflection of the lack of support they got from Labour and the Greens.

Winston Peters, like the Greens has taken a hit in the polls from the rise of Jacinda Ardern. But better than anyone in Parliament he knows there is only one poll that actually counts and that is on 23 September 2017.

T.P.P.A.???? No way!!! T.P.P.A.???? No way!!!


Today, scrolling through my Facebook feed I stumbled on something disturbing, but not terribly surprising: National are still trying to get the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement through in some form.

One should not be surprised. To many this is like the crown jewel in National’s economic and trade policies. It is something that they have spent huge diplomatic effort trying to shore up overseas – Prime Minister John Key, former Minister of Trade Tim Groser, current Minister of Trade Todd McClay in particular have gone to huge lengths in the course of their time in their respective roles talking to diplomats, trying to reassure the public in those few instances where the media has been brave enough to investigate.

I first became aware of the T.P.P.A. in about 2011. Someone in the course of a conversation over human rights told me about it and mentioned that human rights would be affected. I initially did not think too much about it, until when assisting New Zealand First in the 2011 election campaign it became a topic of debate. Still the media were not – and are still not really all that interested to this day – in why it is such a controversial subject.

It wasn’t until 2012 that I realized what a danger this was, when listening to members of the New Zealand First caucus talk about it at the party convention in Palmerston North. At that point I started investigating. What I could deduce was nothing more than what was already known – that 12 nations including New Zealand wanted to conclude an all Pacific Rim trade agreement. The problem was that the negotiations were being conducted behind closed doors, were not being scrutinized by the media and most New Zealanders were indifferent to it. I began to be involved in the protests that were organized by Its Our Future and prior to that Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa.

But it is the same T.P.P.A. that rallied the left wing spectrum all those years ago. It is the T.P.P.A. that I am hearing is turning some National Party supporters away from their party. It is the same T.P.P.A. that New Zealand First and the Green Party have consistently opposed from day one and refuse to have a bar of now or in the future. It is the same T.P.P.A. that prompted New Zealand First list M.P. Fletcher Tabuteau to draft his Fighting Foreign Corporate Control Bill, which was sadly shot down by National, A.C.T. and United Future in March 2017.

Basically it is the same ugly old trojan horse dressed as something New Zealand and New Zealanders should accept. It still has the hugely dangerous Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses that would take the T.P.P.A. beyond New Zealand’s court system and into the hands of a secret kangaroo court controlled by corporate interests.

I have said much that is harsh about United States President Donald Trump and have plenty more still to be said, but one thing I cannot be at all harsh on him about is the T.P.P.A. His point blank refusal to accept the agreement is something New Zealand should have done. It is the one action of his that I totally and unapologetically identify with. It is something that for New Zealand to do likewise, will require a change of Government to one that involves New Zealand First and preferably Labour.

So, if we cut a long story short, the rallying cry of the left in Parliament on this should still be: T.P.P.A.???? No way!!! T.P.P.A.???? No way!!!

The disgraceful conduct of Julie Bishop


A big nation or person should pick on someone their own size. Or so I was told at home and at school, but also that one should do unto others as they would have done by them.

Australia is much bigger than New Zealand in every respect, and for over 100 years the relationship New Zealand and Australia have had could almost be described as beautiful. Few other pairs of countries from their inception can claim to have had had such a close relationship as these two. We fought alongside each other in two World Wars, and A.N.Z.A.C. Day is the most solemn of all times on the New Zealand and Australian calendar.

Except that yesterday, the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop attacked the New Zealand Labour Party in the most disgusting way over two questions asked by Chris Hipkins in Parliament. The two questions related whether or not Australian Deputy Prime Minister had New Zealand dual citizenship – turns out he did. The questions themselves landed Mr Hipkins in hot water with his boss, Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern who fronted the media yesterday and told journalists what had happened, that she expects better from her caucus and not to ask such questions in future.

What made Ms Bishop’s comments so disgusting was that they were:

  • Considerably excessive given the nature of what caused them and the fact that New Zealand Labour Party made contact to say sorry, reiterate how much it values the Goverment of Australia
  • So inflammatory – Australia’s problem with migrants might be real and it is, but attacking a nation that has been Australia’s nearest and dearest since Gallipoli
  • Ignoring the fact that it was not of New Zealand Labour’s making – sure Mr Hipkins should not have asked those questions, but having assured Ms Ardern of the circumstances he was not demoted

I want to maintain as best as possible a relationship with Australia. New Zealand needs Australia for many obvious reasons, but also some not so obvious ones such as only it and New Zealand have the influence and resources to deal with a South Pacific emergency without calling on international help. New Zealand and Australia have a common interest in each others well being.

I do not want to see New Zealand having to take measures that would affect ordinary Australians living and working in New Zealand as Australia could hit back many times harder. That said, if Australia is going to continue making policy announcements that further erode the viability of New Zealanders living in Australia then perhaps it is time review the visa rules for Australians coming to New Zealand.

Something Julie Bishop and her boss Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would do really well to note.

How an Australian politicians dual citizenship nearly crashed the Australian Government


This is the story of how an Australian Deputy Prime Minister nearly lost his job (and the Australian Government)because he held dual citizenship by virtue of also being a New Zealand citizen. It is also the story of how those findings caused the worst diplomatic storm between N.Z and Australia in decades.

On Monday 14 August 2017, the New Zealand Minister of Internal Affairs, Peter Dunne received advice that Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is a New Zealand citizen. Mr Joyce’s father appears to have been or became a New Zealand citizen and got his then young son citizenship at the same time.

Mr Joyce is just the latest in a series of Australian politicians to have been found to hold dual citizenship. Two others have also been forced to quit, after finding out that they hold dual citizenship with another country, thereby rendering them ineligible to be an elected representative in Australia. Mr Joyce has refused to stand down after renouncing his citizenship of New Zealand yesterday, but not before being subject to a barrage of questions from the Australian opposition parties that gave his Government an appearance of being desperate.

And it was. If Mr Joyce had been made to resign, the entire Australian Government would have been in immediate danger of collapsing. As it is, one of its key allies Bob Katter has withdrawn from his Confidence and Supply agreement with the Australian Government, thereby meaning all Liberal representatives would have to be present to pass legislation or carry out any other Government business requiring a vote.

Mr Joyce and his Government colleagues were not the only ones in the gun. On this side of the Tasman Sea, it emerged that a New Zealand Labour M.P. had been contacted by Australian Labor Leader Bill Shorten. Mr Shorten asked New Zealand Labour Member of Parliament Chris Hipkins if he would ask two question in the New Zealand House of Representatives. The purpose of this was to determine one way of the other whether Mr Joyce is actually holding dual citizenship in both New Zealand and Australia.

The response was one of fury from Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop. Ms Bishop accused New Zealand Labour and Australian Labor of conspiring to topple the Liberal Government of Malcolm Turnbull. But Ms Bishop went one step further and effectively suggested how New Zealand and Australia work in the future could depend on who is elected on 23 September 2017.

To be honest, I have never heard an Australian Government Minister, let alone of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s seniority lay into New Zealand so overtly. It is one thing for the Australian Government to call out New Zealand politicians, but to go so far as to say that her Government would find it very difficult to work with a New Zealand Labour-led Government is unprecedented.

New Zealand Labour leader Jacinda Ardern addressed New Zealand media shortly before 1800 hours N.Z. time yesteday regarding Labours involvement. Some of them gave the appearance of being keen for blood to spill or for Ms Ardern to say something silly. Every question following her press briefing seemed to get asked in about four different ways and each time the answer was the same. Ms Ardern made it clear that she only found out Mr Joyce’s citizenship issue when it appeared in the media; that Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs is most welcome to have a talk to her with regards to what was said about finding it hard to work with Labour should it be elected.

Mr Joyce might no longer be a New Zealand citizen, but this is has caused further possibly irreparable damage to the Australian Government of Malcolm Turnbull. It does not yet seem to have dented either the Australian Labor Party, which consistently polls better than the incumbent Government. And although it has tested Ms Ardern, she seems to have gotten away as well – much to Ms Bishop’s probable chagrin.