Monthly Archive: December 2019

Simmons on MMP

Geoff Simmons writes at Stuff:

Both of our major parties refuse to work with each other, despite having basically the same ideas. They rely on tribal politics – red vs blue – to hold themselves together as they battle for the hearts of “middle New Zealand”.

Since we have had MMP, Kiwis have refused to give either large party an outright majority. We seem reluctant to hand them unbridled power as they had in the 1980s and 90s. We prefer coalitions as they keep the large parties in check. So Labour and National have had to rely on working with smaller parties to command the Treasury benches.

Some of those parties, like ACT and the Greens, refuse to work with the other side, which effectively makes them part of the two-party system. This hands enormous bargaining power to parties in the centre who are prepared to work with either side. This role is often known as the “king (or more appropriately these days, monarch) maker” as it decides who leads the government.

For a long time this group of monarch makers included UnitedFuture and the Māori Party. But the former is finished and it is unclear whether the latter will recover from the last election. In this term of government, the monarch maker has been Winston Peters. Can we put a price on his support? You betcha! It is $3b and is known as the Provincial Growth Fund.

United Future is dead and buried. And I have no idea what’s going on with the Māori party. Both Te Urora Flavell and Marama Fox resigned as co-leaders in August 2018, yet 16 months on the party is yet to elect new co-leaders.

It does seem like to me that there is a fair amount of discontent from within the Māori community about this government, but if the Māori party can’t even get new leaders in 16 months then I wouldn’t bet on them returning to parliament.

Sustainable NZ is one of the few other parties that could realistically be king maker – but they are just here to sink the Greens. And even if they aren’t, the environmentalist party has received zero press coverage since it’s inception so unless something radical happens, Sustainable has no chance of making it into parliament.

So NZ will be left at the whims of NZ First – if they make it back into parliament. If they don’t, things get worse as we end up with a one party government.

To avoid being held ransom to NZ First, New Zealand desperately needs sensible parties that are prepared to work with Labour or National. Sadly, the cost of setting up a new party that can get over the 5 per cent threshold is enormous, and the waka-jumping legislation killed off the possibility of new parties appearing from inside Parliament.

That’s the main reason why the 5% threshold should be lowered, and why the waka-jumping bill is terrible. No minor party has ever gotten into parliament without first having an MP already there. More political parties with a say in parliament is better for our democracy, yet their chances of actually getting there are slimmer then ever.

The short-term answer to this conundrum is strategic voting. The electorate battles that take place around the country make very little difference to the outcome of an election, which is ultimately decided by the party vote. However, if a minor party wins one electorate, it gets the electorate’s full party vote. It is a bizarre quirk in our current system, but that’s the way the game goes at present.

Strategic voting is Kiwis’ best hope of displacing NZ First from the monarch maker role. Instead of conservative populism holding the most powerful position in New Zealand politics, this spot could be held by a party that wants to take the country forward. A party with a vision to deliver a clean and clever economy rather than a dumb and dirty one. One that is focused on fixing our country’s biggest problems, such as the housing crisis.

There’s Simmon’s big pitch. He’s the leader of the TOP party, the only other party that could realistically be king maker. However, TOP no longer has access to Gareth Morgan’s pile of money so I don’t think they’ll have the resources to improve their share of the vote.

His dream of kiwis strategically using their electorate vote will probably never happen either. While I’d love nothing for more for that dream to become reality, tribalism runs deep when it comes to electorate votes. Even if it didn’t, TOP probably still wouldn’t have the resources required to pull it off.

Still, a great column from Simmons highlighting the flaws with the current system.

Pretending to care

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker was always going to be controversial. But now it’s controversial because of something that really shouldn’t be controversial – gay people’s existence.

Full disclosure – I have not yet been able to see The Rise Of Skywalker so please don’t spoil it in the comments for the two of you that might actually comment.

Anyway, The Rise Of Skywalker features a scene where two minor characters of the gender kiss. From what I can tell from twitter, it’s a moment that’s very easy to miss.

Which isn’t really good enough. However, regardless of being not enough, any LGBT representation is still a step in the right direction. So I would have been happy with Disney here had that scene not been removed for showings in Singapore and Dubai.

That tells you everything you need to know. Disney will act like they care about and support the LGBT community – unless it means they miss out homophobes’ money. This is a company that made 19 billion dollars in 2019’s fourth quarter. They can afford to have the smallest amount of a spine.

I’ll leave you on this tweet that perfectly sums up the situation:

Tolley and Allan

National MP Anne Tolley is going list only, with her sight set on the speakers chair.

Tolley is already assistant speaker so this move isn’t a huge surprise in my opinion.

The fact that she’s going on just the list also means that should National not win the 2020 election, Tolley could resign quietly without a costly by-election following her failure to become speaker.

That’s a cynical way of looking at it, but there’s been a trend of high profile National list MPs doing just that this term. Bill English, Chris Finlayson, and Steven Joyce are the main examples.

Moving to pure speculation, the electorate that Tolley will leave is the East Coast electorate. That’s also the electorate where Labour list MP Kiri Allan is based.

Allan has the greatest asset an MP can have in bucket loads – charisma. I know, because she was the first MP that I interviewed in the podcast that kicked this whole blogging thing off.

While I don’t know how those in the East Coast electorate feel (if you live there, tell me) but I’m willing to bet that Allan can at the very least put a sizable dent in Tolley’s majority of 4800. In fact, going against someone that isn’t an incumbent, I think there’s a chance that Allan could pull of an upset and win the electorate.

Definitely one to keep an eye on in 2020.

More dodgy donations

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel is the latest NZ politician to run afoul of election donation laws.

When Dalziel was fundraising for her mayoral campaign this year, $40,100 came from a dinner and wine auction at the Southern Asia Restaurant in Colombo St organised by her husband, lawyer Rob Davidson.

Davidson had donated the wine, and Dalziel identified him alone as a donor at that event despite some bidders paying high prices for bottles.

{…}

The largest donor was Wei Min Lu, who paid $17,000 for wine – more than 11 times the $1500 limit that must be declared under the Act.

Dalziel said on Thursday she took Davidson’s advice on what she was required to declare. She then said she regretted not taking independent advice on her election return. 

So Davidson actually *donated* the wine, even though they were paid for by other people. Dodgy.

This could be acceptable if this was someone who had never been in politics before. But Dalziel has been Christchurch’s mayor since 2013. Before that she was an MP from 1990, which included time as a minister. She should know better than this.

This needs to be investigated by the Christchurch electoral officer.

But what’s really frustrating is that dodgy donations like these are a re-occurring theme in NZ politics.

The article I linked above lists a number of examples of dodgy practices like this at a local level, citing examples such as Auckland mayor Phil Goff, a pair of candidates in Marlborough, and the new Waimakiri mayor.

On a national level the NZ First Foundation scandal is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and National aren’t squeaky clean in this area either.

NZ is one of the least corrupt nations on earth. News like this shouldn’t be constant.

What scares me is that this is probably only a fraction of the real amount of politicians that run foul of donation laws. There are probably more that don’t get caught.

Only three days?

Ginny Andersen’s bill allowing for bereavement leave in the case of miscarriage will have it’s first reading on Wednesday.

Andersen’s bill will clear up confusion as to whether victims of miscarriages and still births are eligible for such bereavement leave – something which is not clear under current law.

Women in such positions will be eligible for up to three days leave.

I’m not sure what to be more shocked about – how this isn’t already covered by bereavement law, or how the bill only gives three days of leave.

I am a man, so take my opinion with a grain of salt but it seems to me that the trauma that would come with the loss of a baby would inhibit the woman in question for more then three days. It just seems like an awfully short time to me.

Regardless, this bill is a good start and fixes a wrong in the law, and that is always good to see.

Good on Ginny.

Give the police the benefit of the doubt

Yesterday saw the tragic eruption of Whakaari/White Island which claimed the lives of at least six people. However, the police have come under fire for not going to the island – which meant that independent operators did the rescuing.

It’s not a great look when independents are outdoing the police at police work.

But at this time I think it’s unfair to criticize the police. They have people that are paid a lot of money to make the decisions about dangerous situations like this.

For the moment, I’m willing to trust their decision making. After the crisis is resolved, then is the time to question their actions and find out what led into those choices.

Not before. For now we should stop the armchair criticism and let them do their joba.

Terrible bill, terrible delivery

Today, justice minister Andrew Little “banned” foreign political donations.

Everything about this is awful.

First, the “ban”. The bill is advertised as a blanket ban on all foreign donations when it literally isn’t. Rather, foreign donors have a cap of $50 dollars compared to the previous threshold of $1500. Last time I checked that isn’t a ban.

Because anonymous donations up to $1500 are allowed, the onus is on party secretaries to make sure that a donation over 50 dollars is not from any one foreign. As such, someone foreign could anonymously give $1499 dollars to a party. As long as the secretary has no reason to suspect that the donation comes from anyone foreign, it’s fine.

There’s also nothing to stop foreigners from donating to organizations such as the NZ First Foundation, which can then promptly loan the party that money without the scrutiny of donations.

If that isn’t enough, companies that are NZ registered but foreign-owned will still be allowed to donate to political parties. So this bill does nothing to stop foreign money from getting into NZ Politics.

All of that’s without mentioning the true problem with political donations – big companies practically buying parties. But the bill does not address that.

That’s four (maybe five) paragraphs briefly detailing the flaws with this law. All of these could be fixed had the bill gone through proper process – being edited first by a select committee, and then by a committee of the whole house.

But Little and Labour decided to pass this law under urgency, meaning that it has to be passed, consulted and edited in a singular day.

This is unacceptable. Laws should only be passed under urgency during, ya know, urgencies.

But for something as important as electoral law there needs to be a lot of review. This is something that has to be gotten right regardless of the amount of time it takes.

But no. Little and Labour went for the flashy headline that solves nothing, whilst abusing democratic process to try and hide the lack of fixes.

Repugnant.

Only minsters may be held accountable

On Friday night, National list MP Jo Hayes sent a verbally abusive tweet to ex-Labour candidate Jeremy Greenbrook-Held. Despite this, National leader Simon Bridges has stated that Hayes will not be punished.

Hayes’ tweet was in response to Greenbrook-Held’s five-month-old photo celebrating his graduation. Her tweet said the following:

OMG Youre such a nasty person and I hope that people checking you out for future work will visit your twitter page and see how ugly you really are [sic],” the tweet said. 

Note the amazing grammar there. Also, can I emphasise the part where Greenbrook-Held’s original tweet was a) five months old, and b) about his graduation?!?!?

Anyway, when questioned about it, Bridges said the following:

The thing I would say is there is a world of difference… between a Member of Parliament and a minister,” Bridges, National Party leader, told Magic Talk’s Peter Williams.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some things that are clearly beyond the pale for MPs and require significant disciplinary reaction… Ministers though, it seems to me, are held to a much higher standard.

Bridges’ argument is that because Hayes isn’t a minister, it’s not a big deal that she verbally abused someone.

What. The. Hell.

Give the Greens a deal

The Herald has a very interesting read on the race for Auckland Central, with the two major players being National’s Nikki Kaye and the Green’s Chlöe Swarbrick.

The article opens the (small) possibility of Swarbrick beating Kaye, and it got me thinking – Labour giving the Greens an electorate deal in Auckland Central makes sense.

Swarbrick is, after all, the second most popular politician in NZ (first would have to be Jacinda). For Auckland Central, the Greens + Labour combined also beat National for both party and electorate vote in 2017.

With an electorate seat, the Greens would be safe – something they are far from at the moment. They’re hovering at around 6-8% in the polls, but National’s objective is to destroy the minor parties.

Making sure that the Greens survive is in Labour’s interests – a teal deal will never happen.

I also imagine that because the Greens are hovering so close to that 5% line, there are Labour supporters who will strategically vote for the Greens come election time. With the Greens at least having a decent chance in an electorate, those voters may return to Labour.

The above paragraph is, however, only an educated guess, so take it as that.

Of course, winning Auckland Central is far certain – Kaye defeated Ardern herself in 2011 and 2014, but in both elections Labour + the Greens combined would have beaten Kaye and National. So I’m willing to say that Swarbrick with Labour’s endorsement would oust Kaye.

Do it Labour. It’s a sound strategy.

How to lose the public

The Extinction Rebellion has vandalized (in a way) Simon Bridges’ electorate office in Tauranga.

For the record – that isn’t oil, it’s molasses. A pain to clean up, but it could be worse.

However, it is still technically vandalism. Which is a crime.

I think that shows the problem with the Extinction Rebellion – this is vandalism. Earlier in the year, the group temporarily halted public transport in Wellington.

Stuff like this is counterproductive to their cause. I can see why they do it – what they do is nothing compared to how oil companies affect the environment. Yet at the same time, this interferes and hampers daily life.

I see why they do it. But the Extinction Rebellion must understand how this does not help them.

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