N.Z. in lock down: DAY 49


Yesterday was DAY 49 of New Zealand in lock down as we fought the COVID19 pandemic. It was also the end of LEVEL 3 lock down. It ended at 2359 hours last night. The LEVEL 2 transition to the post COVID19 future began at 0000 hours 14 May 2020.

The last couple of days in Parliament have been a massive bun fight over the legality of the new COVID19 legislation ensuring that the Government management of it under LEVEL and LEVEL 1 is legal. Without this legislation it would be nearly impossible for the Government to successfully wind up the war on COVID19.

It is legislation with some critical flaws. Some have been repealed to avoid potential legal challenges or because public compliance was going to become an issue. Some are still there:

  1. Initially the Government wanted a 2 year sunset clause that would see the legislation expire at the end of a two year period – National succeeded in getting this amended to a Parliamentary vote every 90 days or so
  2. An enforcement officer may enter, without a warrant, any land, building, craft, vehicle, place, or thing if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a person is failing to comply with any aspect of a section 11 order (S. 20)
  3. The speed with which this has had to go through Parliament means there is no way it can possibly be solidly constructed legislation – in order for the legal basis of LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 1 to exist, the legislation had to pass by 2359 hours, which meant no public input and no select committee stage
  4. Section 11 orders appear to be a watered down version of the provisions of Section 70(1)(m) of the Health Act 1956
  5. Section 24(4) appears to void any legal appeal

The opposition has come from all parts of the spectrum N.G.O.’s such as Amnesty International talked about the concerns that they have for the . Human rights activists have registered their dismay as well, whilst people like Lizzie Marvelly expressed concern that it would unfairly target Maori.

The right have also expressed criticism. National, despite winning some concessions opposes the bill and will not be voting for it in Parliament. Nor will its traditional ally A.C.T. As I cannot recall any other time when legislation was crafted like this and with such haste – the passage of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Act was not attempted until late March, 2011, some several weeks after the Christchurch earthquake – I have noted the short time frames that have been provided in the advent of Section 11 orders. These can be made with 48 hours written notice; can if the Director General believes a COVID19 outbreak to be in progress be made in shorter time frames. Notably – and alarmingly – any appeal appears to be effectively void by Section 24(4).

As some kind of legal basis needs to exist to enable LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 1 to have any legal basis, this legislation will invariably pass since the Greens and New Zealand First are voting for it in addition to Labour. However that does not mean it is good legislation – it is crap and when you have both sides of the House attacking it and look at why this was not drafted earlier in the COVID19 emergency, it becomes clear that the Government did not do due diligence.

The only thing that we can hope for is that New Zealanders start to wake up to the fact that our constitutional framework is not adequate for keeping Government in check; that we need to strengthen the checks and balances. And soon. We also need to introduce civics in schools quickly because the longer we do not teach students about how the New Zealand legal system, Government and so forth work, the greater the number that do know understand their rights and responsibilities, will be when we need them the most.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 21


Yesterday was DAY 21 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

Prior to the COVID19 pandemic Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had come off a wave of support that formed out of public admiration for her leadership around the Christchurch mosques terrorist attack. And indeed a few weeks ago, just before lock down started, TIME featured her on their front page with an in depth look at where the Prime Minister would take New Zealand following the terrorist attack. It talked about her domestic challenges including the gun legislation, the decision to rid New Zealand of fossil fuels by 2050 and the frustrations around Kiwi Build.

As the glow from the 15 March attacks faded, National tried to get some traction with claims that the Government was going to irreversibly harm the economy by getting rid of fossil fuels. It tried to attack the weaker Ministers in the Cabinet and goad them into making mistakes that would diver Ms Ardern’s attention.

National tried unleashing the attack dog Judith “Crusher” Collins on the Government’s justice policy as small businesses continued to be pummelled by a wave of crime, committed by people on drugs or stealing to order so that they could fund their drug habit. But whereas National has had success in the past, people are starting to realize that “lock ’em up” is not working any more and that those prisoners who do get released have no support networks to fall back on, fall back in with the same crowd that got them into jail in the first place.

Some people are saying Labour has won the election without it even being fought. Yes, Labour has certainly improved its chances of forming the next Government, but to say that the election campaign is already over before it has officially started is excessively optimistic. And although Ms Ardern is the clear driving force behind the high support for the Government at the moment, there are several liabilities in her Cabinet who need to be dealt with.

Phil Twyford is most probably a nice person, but he is completely out of his depth with the portfolios that he is Minister of the Crown for. His handling of Kiwi Build has shown that he has little idea of what is going on in his ministry and the numbers that he puts up are not matching the reality on the ground. Shane Jones is a divisive, combative and – some might say – a bit dirty in the mouth Minister who seems to believe that he knows better than the Prime Minister. Whilst Mr Jones has announced significant aid for regions all around New Zealand, he has sought to undermine the Government when it comes to fisheries compliance by speaking against cameras on board fishing trawlers. And finally there is David Clark. Mr Clark’s doom as a Minister of the Crown is already pretty much sealed, but if he is seen doing something that violates the lock down laws again, he should be dismissed from office forthwith. His tenure as Minister of Health only continues because Ms Ardern needs a stable crew on board right now.

In saying this, I think National would be very nervous about any polls that come out about now. My picks for percentage of party votes right now look like this:

  • NATIONAL – 38 (46 seats)
  • LABOUR – 47 (56 seats)
  • NZ FIRST – 5 (6 seats)
  • GREENS – 8 (10 seats)
  • A.C.T. – 1 (2 seats)

National are a well funded, well resourced party. But the extent to which the world has changed in the last six weeks and the likely desire by New Zealanders to make sure that some lasting good comes of the lock down, might be sharply at odds with Simon Bridges very unoriginal view of how National would govern should it win. Disaster socialism won Labour the 1935 election because it put people back into work when the economy was copping a thrashing from the Great Depression. Disaster socialism might well be Labour’s saviour in 2020 as the economy cops a thrashing from COVID19.

It is too early to be absolutely sure of this, but unless National come up with an absolute blinder that balances the desires of New Zealanders with a conservative agenda AND gets people back into work, I don’t fancy Mr Bridges chances come election day.

Dear Labour Party: 2020 Election


I understand you are coming to the end of three fairly turbulent years in office. A lot of things have happened in New Zealand and abroad, that have kept you and the other coalition parties on their toes. I see that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continues to enjoy high popularity in the preferred Prime Minister polls and is well ahead of the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges.

A brief review of October 2017 to the present day shows that you have had to:

  • Lead the country in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks, setting an example for how to show leadership and compassion, whilst at the same time making sure people are going to be okay
  • Deal with the Whakaari eruption – one of those rare, but ultimately inevitable moments when a New Zealand volcano puts on a lethal eruption
  • Do damage control as Phil Twyford stumbles from one botch up to the next; Stuart Nash struggles with the fact that many New Zealanders are more conservative on crime than we want to admit; acknowledge that there will be push back on the decision to phase out oil and gas
  • Balance the Green fringe and the conservative parts of New Zealand First without causing the Government to collapse

Across the chamber you have an angry National Party, still smarting over the fact that Winston Peters and his New Zealand First party went with Labour instead of choosing the largest party in Parliament. National are ready to fight. They are absolutely certain, despite Mr Bridges misreading of the voting public on housing, crime and a host of other issues, that this Sixth Labour Government is going to be a one term wonder ending on 19 September 2020. With 56 Members of Parliament and a formidable campaign machine that even its most ardent critics have to admire – however grudgingly – you have an opponent that will make you work for your portion of the House of Representatives.

For you to win the 2020 election campaign – which you can, and possibly quite convincingly – Phil Twyford needs to go. I am sure he is a nice guy and a good local Member of Parliament, but as a Minister of the Crown, he simply is not up to the job. I have also lost confidence in Minister for Conservation Eugenie Sage, who seems determined to end any prospect of a Waste to Energy plant on the West Coast. Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni needs to either get on with reforming the M.S.D. or resign. Your Ministers of Corrections, Health, Economic Development also need a rev up. None of them have been very visible in the last 2 1/3 years and the public would be right to wonder where they are, and what they are doing.

But it is not all bad Labour. You have a bunch of competent Ministers, who include Kris Faafoi, Megan Woods, Ron Mark, Winston Peters, Chris Hipkins and Tracey Martin who I believe are making an honest go of their portfolio’s and have delivered some solid outcomes. All are still works in progress in terms of getting their agenda’s delivered, but they are there and they are trying.

Mr Hipkins has bitten off a huge chunk of work, which might go into a third term, and therefore he needs to be realistic about what he can deliver. Ms Martin is trying to make the best of Oranga Tamariki, and is doing work with children that has cross party potential. I hope to see Dr Woods announce some sort of investment in hydrogen fuel cells as an energy source, which would help secure the economic future of Southland. Mr Faafoi’s stumble might be overshadowed by the fight over Concert F.M., whose well being is essential to how Radio New Zealand deliver concert material as many of the sound engineers are involved with the recording and delivery of concerts. But if he and his colleagues are careful, they can deliver the goods Ms Ardern will need to deliver to the electorate before the 52nd Parliament of New Zealand is dissolved.

Because once it is dissolved, the scrap that by then would have been rumbling for weeks will be all on.

The racers are marshalling: New Zealand readies for Election 2020


2020 is not event two weeks old, and our Parliamentary representatives are either still on holiday or in the office planning the year ahead, but already some political certainties are playing out across the country. The most notable and most obvious one plays out every three years and is commonly known as the General Election.

The date has not been set yet, but possibly the first election debate this year will be over whether Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will set a date early in the proceedings as her predecessors former Prime Ministers John Key and Bill English did. Both set dates fairly early in the third year of the terms they were Prime Minister in.

The smaller parties are not waiting for a date to be set. In the last year a bracket of new parties have sprung up around former candidates, such as the Sustainable Party, which is led by Vernon Tava. In the case of the Prosperity Party obscure individuals who might have what it takes to be a genuine candidate. They have released policy platforms that are surprisingly in depth, almost like they expect to sail straight into government.

In the last few election cycles I would have been able to tell you months in advance who I would be voting for. But in 2020 I am now coming into my second year of not having a clue who I support any more. Whilst the minor parties look interesting, a number of questions arise including, but not limited to:

  1. How realistic are they about their election prospects
  2. What work have they done on establishing their own functions, party constitution and compliance with the Electoral Finance Act and other relevant legislation
  3. Can they identify their values

I also have questions of the parties in Parliament, which I will mention briefly shortly. Before that I want to run a quick ruler over the five Parliament parties, in terms of challenges facing them:

National: The largest party in Parliament has been doing better in the polls of late. However its leader Simon Bridges has been very quiet on the subject of the bush fires, and it is well known that National wants to amend the zero carbon legislation. National are also not saying much about the change in public mood over harsher criminal sentencing. It has a potentially damaging liability in failing to ascertain the truthfulness of M.P. Jian Yang about his links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Labour: Has done well off Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s image as warm and compassionate. It has not done so well off the delivery of policy, particularly in housing, social welfare and justice. Certain Ministers have become a liability and several others are at risk of joining them. It has the potential to pick up more seats, particularly if National do not lift their game on climate change and the environment.

Greens: After almost single handedly blowing themselves to bits in 2017 with Metiria Turei’s admission of misusing benefits, the Greens have rebuilt themselves remarkably well. The elevation of Marama Davidson to the co-leadership does not seem to have harmed them as much as I thought it would. Their primary challenges will be accepting that climate change is going to have to be balanced with the economy; accepting that a whole new infrastructure genre in terms of public works is going to be necessary and understanding that there will always be a place for a Defence Force in New Zealand.

New Zealand First: Not having been a party member for the last 2 1/2 years, I cannot so easily comment on internal happenings any more. I will just say that if they are the same as they were when I left, then the party still has an existential crisis that is still excessively reliant on leader Winston Peters pulling another trick out of the bag. It’s policy platform is still the best in Parliament by some distance, but its betrayal over the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is a huge stinking dead rat.

A.C.T.: By far and away my least favourite party in Parliament, but also the one that proportionate to its size has probably had the biggest impact this year. David Seymour – love him or hate him – has had a big year. His insistence on freedom of speech when criticizing Green M.P. Golriz Ghahraman following the terrorist attacks deservedly drew a lot of criticism from people. That said, it may have done a back handed favour to everyone by shining a light into a not well understood area regarding when free speech becomes hate speech. Substantially more to his credit, he also successfully got through Parliament the controversial End of Life Choices Bill regarding euthanasia.

So, the questions I have for the big parties as you take your places along side the smaller parties in the election race of 2020 are:

  1. Would you be willing to recognize market economics are not working in New Zealand? If not why not?
  2. The constitutional framework of New Zealand has been more overtly challenged in the last few years. What are your thoughts on possibly having to adopt a formal constitution?
  3. What steps are you taking to ensure all donations are properly accounted for under the Electoral Finance Act?

Labour and coalition partners climb in poll; National drops


A YouGov poll just out shows a gain in the number of seats every party in Parliament except for National, were an election held today.

After a slump over the last few months following the outpouring of respect for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership in dealing with the Christchurch Mosque attacks, Labour can afford to smile again. Its 41% support in the YouGov poll would leave it with 51 seats in Parliament, five more than its current 46.

National Party leader Simon Bridges would be disappointed with the results, but a determination to rehash old ideas is not helping the centre-right party. Thanks to Mr Bridges outdated views on justice and his sudden insistence on the importance of being tough on crime when National failed to make any substantive changes in sentencing, it has slumped to 40 percent. That would see it surrender 9 seats to the other parties to leave it on 47.

New Zealand First and the Greens both do alright in the poll, and would have 10 seats a piece. That would give New Zealand First another M.P. and the Greens two more M.P.’s. Notably though, this was taken before the donations saga became known to the media – I do not imagine the public would have been so kind if they had known this beforehand.

Even A.C.T. for the first time since 2011 would have more M.P.’s, as its 2% plus assuming leader David Seymour is returned in Epsom would bring in an extra M.P. That would be the only bright spot for A.C.T. though as with National on 40% in this scenario, the right wing of New Zealand politics would be comfortably stuck on the Opposition benches.

However if the New Zealand public had known about the allegations embroiling New Zealand First before the YouGov poll was conducted, it is unlikely they would have been so kind to New Zealand First. The allegations, which point to serious fiscal mismanagement inside the party stem from disgust over years of opaque governance by the New Zealand First board of directors with regards to the party’s financial position.

If we held the YouGov poll today, with the fallout from the New Zealand First donations problem accounted for, this is how I expect the results would look (% / # of Seats):

  • LABOUR 42 / 54
  • NATIONAL 40 / 47
  • GREENS 9 / 11
  • N.Z. FIRST 5 / 6
  • A.C.T. 1 / 2

This would be devastating for New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters. It would leave his South Island membership with no representation in the House of Representatives as Mark Patterson, a list M.P. in Clutha-Southland would be forced to leave Parliament. Labour, A.C.T. and the Greens have all had legislative victories of late orĀ  – in the case of the Greens – M.P.’s comments going viral and starting a discussion. These would have raised their profiles somewhat and proven that they were keeping their promises, and combined with National’s surprisingly poor performance, would help to prop them up.

With the 2019 Parliament year soon to end and the 2020 campaign year just over 5 weeks away from starting, Ms Ardern might be cautiously smiling at the moment. But if the donation saga drags on and causes the conservative N.Z. First voters to leave it might be Mr Bridges with the biggest grin this time next year.