NZ Politics

NZ First gamed the system

NZ First has been getting large loans from the NZ First Foundation. Problem: it’s all anonymous.

If these were donations, then this wouldn’t be a problem. If you donate to an organization that would then use that donation to give money to a political party, then the law would require that you wear that donation. But not so with loans – those can remain anonymous.

NZ First does not seem to know or care about this. Their party secretary only admitted to being aware of the foundation’s existence until after documents proving that she had signed off on loans to the party from the foundation were provided to her.

In fact, everyone is super secretive about it. Only two trustees of the foundation are known, and both when questioned were defensive and refused to comment.

In my opinion, this shows some pretty blatant contempt for NZ’s democracy. The worst part? It’s legal. Loans don’t face the same level of scrutiny as donations. As a country, we’ve done so well to either remove or be transparent about corporate influence in politics, but here we have NZ First disregarding democracy and transparency.

This loophole where loans can remain anonymous while donations cannot must be fixed, ASAP. NZ First cannot be allowed to game the system.

Bernie Sanders shows why the Zero Carbon bill was so important

US presidential candidate and democratic nominee Bernie Sanders has praised New Zealand for our Zero Carbon bill, and has promised to do something similar if he wins the presidency.

This is the power of New Zealand’s action on climate change. This is why the Zero Carbon bill is so important.

Throughout the past few years, people have been questioning why NZ should take action on climate change when NZ produces so little emissions compared to the rest of the world.

While those that say that have a point, yes, NZ introducing measures alone won’t do anything, it’s the setting of an example that matters. New Zealand has just shown to the world that something like this is possible, and other countries can follow our lead.

To have the US, one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, even consider following our lead is a gigantic achievement. Hopefully more nations, and their actual governments will also follow our lead in the near future.

Sustainable NZ – here to sink the Greens

Former Green party male co-leadership candidate Vernon Tava has launched his new political party, Sustainable NZ.

Sustainable NZ claims to be neither left or right-wing, and is apparently here to provide a voice for the environment, and solely a voice for the environment. That’s in contrast to the Greens which is both an environmental and left-wing party.

Sustainable NZ has said that it is willing to work with either major party, which means that it will get an electorate deal from neither. So unless Sustainable pulls off something major, they aren’t getting into parliament.

What Sustainable will do is pull votes off of the Greens. Given that the Greens are hovering around 6-7% in the polls, it’s very easy (and very likely in my opinion) that Sustainable is a scheme set up by the Nats to get the Greens out of parliament.

After all, taking out the minor parties is National’s best path to government.

It’s a strategy that is good for getting National into government – if appalling for the health of our democracy.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about Sustainable is that they could very well result in there being no voice for the environment in parliament.

Please, no return to two-party politics

Bryce Edwards at The Guardian has pointed out the problem Jacinda and Labour have with minor parties:

Bridges knows that his best chance is not making new friends in parliament, but rather taking out Ardern’s current support parties. It’s a cunning, if very cynical plan.
A number of new “micro parties” will be attempting to make it into parliament in 2020. They have little chance of success, but they do have the potential to have a big impact. Two small environmentally-focused parties – Sustainable NZ and the Opportunities party – could end up acting as spoilers, stealing votes from the Greens and sinking them under the crucial 5% threshold.

No no no no no no no.

The change from FPP to MMP was the best and most important political change for recent political history. FPP is a terrible system, voters should not be forced into voting for the lesser of two evils. Yet, that’s what’s essentially that we could be staring at, despite being in MMP.

If we do lose the minor parties, barring changes to the electoral system (which isn’t hugely unrealistic, to be fair) it will be difficult to get any minor parties back in parliament.

Going to a two-party system is a bad idea, period. One party having absolute power in government is bad.

Come 2020, if we are in danger of losing the minor parties, NZ voters, please do the right thing. Vote for the minor parties if you have to.

Good ideas from Stock

After Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick used the meme phrase “OK Boomer” in parliament a few days ago, Rob Stock took the opportunity to write about parliamentary heckling.

She {Swarbrick} is right to be frustrated. Heckling is for pub comedy nights, not debates about things that matter among lawmakers.
Parliament should be a space for grown-ups to debate in a grown-up way, and make grown-up decisions, not a chamber of unpleasant anti-manners where heckling and shouting over other people is normal.

Parliament should be at least as polite as debates around my dinner table.
When one of my children interrupts the other at the table, I’ll ask them to be a bit more polite and let their sister finish.
Should one adopt the anti-manners many MPs use the debating chamber, they’d be at risk of missing pudding.
If MPs’ anti-manners were widely adopted in ordinary situations (pubs, workplaces, boardrooms, homes, schools, restaurants, etc), we’d all end up hating each other.

Well said. This has always been one of my biggest frustrations with politics – it always feels like it’s more about getting one over the other guy rather than, ya know, fixing the damn country.

It’s just really disappointing to see the behaviours that were taught out of us at primary school re-surface in what is possibly the most important place in the nation.

Stock concludes with three ideas to stop heckling:

1. Dust off the idea of an MPs’ code of conduct. Most good employers have codes of conduct for employees. No decent company director would dream of shouting over another at a board meeting.
2. Put a “heckling jar” in Parliament, a bit like the apocryphal “swear jar”.

Any MP who heckles, or interrupts during a debate, has to stick in $100. They’re well enough paid to afford that…

3. Let’s have Hansard stick out a heckling/behaviour report every year so we can see who the most boorish MPs are, and have them explain their behaviour.

Personally, I’d go even further and have suspensions from the chamber for heckling. But I do like the approach Stock has taken here. Great to finally see someone comment on one of my biggest frustrations with politics.

The Cook Islands need our help

The Cook Islands have reversed their 2017 decision to decriminalize homosexuality. Given that they are a self-governing territory of NZ, LGBT+ advocates in the Cook Islands have turned to New Zealand for help.

The Cooks reinstated a clause into their crimes act, stating that “indecent acts between men” are now illegal, whilst also moving to gender-neutral language. So no gay sex regardless of gender in the Cooks, thank you very much.

Full disclosure here – I’m not a legal expert, and annoyingly, the article I linked above whilst saying that Cook Islanders were pleading for NZ help, made no mention of how NZ could actually help. So I’m not exactly sure what the Cooks’ LGBT+ activists want kiwis to do.

Regardless, the Cook Islands are clearly in the wrong, because ya know, LGBT+ people are – wait for it – people.

I think Stuff’s description of how (lesbian) Labour MP Louisa Wall felt about all of this sums my position up quite well:

Labour MP Louisa Wall, who was part of the party’s Rainbow caucus, said LGBTIQ+ people had a right to exist and should not be criminals.

So what can we do to stand up with our Cook Island whānau in protest of this atrocious law? Well, some have suggested that travelers boycott going to the Cook Islands. Not gonna lie, if enough people actually do boycott the Cook Islands to make a noticeable difference, I’ll be surprised.

Otherwise, you can sign this petition by Cook LGBT+ activist Sonya Temata to protest the law change.

Sadly, on the individual level, I don’t think there is a whole lot that we can do other than not going to the Cooks and signing the petition. But, they are asking NZ for help, so hopefully, the government or businesses can do something to pressure them into backing down on this law change.

I wouldn’t hold my breath, however.

EDIT: After reading No Right Turn’s post on the same matter, as it turns out, we provide 66 million to the Cooks per year, and it’s a full quarter of their government’s budget. So maybe NZ can use that as leverage. Again, I still wouldn’t hold my breath.

Should the public know if candiates are criminals?

National MP Matt King has proposed a bill that requires political candidates to disclose prior criminal offenses – if it warranted a prison sentence over two years.

I personally think that whenever this bill gets taken out of the ballot, it’s going to pass – but that doesn’t mean that I agree with it. I don’t know what to think of it, actually.

One of my longest-held and strongest political views is that businesses should not be able to deny employment based on past criminal offenses. This is essentially the same thing, but instead of an employer, whether these people get the job is entirely up to the NZ public – and I don’t have much faith in either the public or the media to focus on anything but past convictions.

On the other hand, you’ve gotta do something pretty serious for it to warrant a two year sentence.

I don’t know. This is a catch 22, I really don’t know what the correct choice is. I’m gonna say I agree with King here, but it’s not a strong held opinion and I’m very much open to being convinced otherwise.

And yeah, I’m back, trying my hand at this again. Hopefully, I’ll stay at this longer than I did last time I came “back.”

Contrasting starts

Both Labour and National need a good 2019. Both parties struggled during 2018, for different reasons. Labour, in government, suffered one too many scandals that they would have liked. Meanwhile, Simon Bridges’s National leadership was being questioned less than six months into his tenure, and that’s not even mentioning the Jami-Lee Ross saga.

And as the political year begins, both parties have had experienced contrasting starts.

Labour was forced to back down on its interim KiwiBuild targets today, as rather than building the targeted 1000 houses by July 1, the government is only expecting 300 to be completed by then.

Their target of 10 thousand houses over the next decade does remain rock solid, though.

On the other side of the political spectrum, National leader Simon Bridges has promised “rolling tax relief”, and intends to link tax brackets to inflation. This would stop “bracket creep” where you get pushed up a tax bracket thanks to inflation even if you aren’t necessarily earning more.

Finance minister Grant Robertson and most of the left have questioned how National could afford it alongside their other ambitious policy goals such as their debt plans, paying teachers more, and making new roads.

But, to the average voter, Labour has started off the year by admitting they can’t build 1000 houses this year, meaning more housing crisis, while National has started off the year by promising less and fairer tax.

National has started off 2019 right. Labour hasn’t.

Who could go to cabinet?

As the political year kicks off, Jacinda Ardern has delayed an anticipated cabinet reshuffle, which now looks to have been postponed to after May.

One of the biggest problems for Ardern is the lack of gender diversity in her cabinet. In a cabinet of 20, just six are women, and that goes against Labour’s line that cabinets should generally have an equal amount of men and women.

Well, there used to be seven women in the cabinet. But Clare Curran was embroiled in scandal after scandal and add to that her failings in open government, she was never really cut out for the job and was given the axe.

Meka Whariti, another women minister outside of cabinet was forced to stand aside after allegations arose that she assaulted a staff member.

Another minister who’s had problems is Iain Lees-Galloway, who late last year was constantly under fire due to his handling of the Karel Sroubek deportation case.

Personally, I don’t think Lees-Galloway will be thrown under the bus, though I do think that he will shift portfolios.

And while there (should be) just one cabinet place up for grabs, there are always opportunities for MPs to be ministers outside of cabinet.

So, who could make the step up?

Kris Faafoi

Probably the MP deserves a call up to cabinet most. Currently a minister outside of cabinet, he has proven himself again and again as a safe pair of hands. When Curran lost Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media portfolio, it was Faafoi who took it, and the same for Customs when Whariti had to stand down. Unfortunately, due to Ardern and Labour’s wish for more women in cabinet, Faafoi may be forced to wait.

Ruth Dyson

Ruth Dyson has now been in parliament for 25 years, or since 1993. As a minster under Helen Clarke during the Fifth Labour Government, she’s one of the few in Labour who have had previous ministerial experience. She should be able to get her head down and get on with the job without attracting too much attention, which is what Labour needs right now. My pick for who will go to cabinet.

Louisa Wall

As an MP since 2008, and with big name recognition as it was her bill that led to the legalization of same sex marriage, I was somewhat surprised to see Wall get nothing when cabinet was formed. With name recognition and a massive achievement under her belt, Wall would generate some excitement. However, her list ranking of 26 last election, 14 places lower than what it was at 2014 implies that she may have trouble with the Labour higher ups, so I see Wall going into cabinet as unlikely.

Kiri Allan

If Labour really want to spring a surprise, Kiri Allan would be the way to go. Allan only arrived in parliament at last election, yet is highly regarded, and when I interviewed her after the last election, she was really impressive. Out of the MPs I interviewed, I would say that she’s the most likely to be a future PM. Should she be moved to cabinet, I can see her doing a very impressive job, but she is still the riskiest move for Labour at the moment, and risky isn’t what the party needs.

Still, it is important to recognize that as Ardern has said, any cabinet reshuffle is a long way away, and it also important to note that this is just my speculation.

Oh, and, yeah. I’m back writing at this blog after a long hiatus. Good to be back!

National should go for the Auckland mayoralty

National has split down the middle over whether to stand a candidate against  Auckland mayor Phil Goff during next years mayoral elections.

Grassroots, everyday members seem to be mostly for it but the higher-ups aren’t so keen.

The grassroots members, of course, want a National mayor in the hot seat, but the higher-ups worry about the risk involved, lack of an obvious candidate, and the chance of infighting and the damaging of National’s brand that might come with a National mayor for Auckland, who could potentially disagree with the party leadership, causing serious problems.

Personally, I think National should challenge Labour and Phil Goff for the mayoralty.

Labour and Goff are in a weak spot at the moment. Goff has been no stranger to controversy during his time in the hot seat due to the amount of secrecy that Auckland council has seen, and was nearly turfed out by a motion of no confidence a few months back which saw nine out of the twenty councilors vote against him.

And a National mayor for Auckland would be detrimental to the Labour government, given that so much of their plans revolve around Auckland.

The fuel tax, light rail plan, and kwibuild are all plans that are centered upon Auckland, and that are only really feasible with a co-operative mayor.

So, all in all, I think National have nothing to lose and everything to gain by going for the Auckland mayoralty