Archive for November, 2011

Post mortem #4: Maori Party, National, and the Treaty

30 November 2011 2 comments


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Current National and Maori Party coalition negotiations raise two interesting issues. One is fairly self-evident. The other is something I’ve just noticed in the above image of Pita Sharples anf John Key…

Issue one


Mr Key said there was no reason why partial asset sales would need to be treated as a matter of confidence and supply.” Source

The sale of state assets is usually a budgetary matter. As I’ve written previously, past asset sales were generally included as part of bugetary legislation and passed by the government-of-the-day using it’s majority in the House.

The Opposition – whether one party as under FPP, or several parties under MMP – would automatically vote against the government’s budget. If the budget passed, the government had Supply (money to pay for ongoing state activities, such as paying salaries; building infra-structure; making purchases; paying for borrowings; etc).

If the budget was voted down – the government fell.

At present, John Key’s coalition-government consists of 62 seats out of 121 (there is an “over-hang of one seat),



Those 62 seats comprise,

National: 60

John Banks/ACT: 1

Peter Dunne/United Future: 1

Total: 62

62 out of 121 is a majority – just barely. Lose one seat – in a by-election or a defection – and the majority is cut down to one. Lose two seats, and Key’s majority is lost, and becomes a minority government.

No wonder John Key spat the dummy a couple of days ago and called MMP a “weird system”.

Which is why the Maori Party’s the seats becomes vital to the longer-term survival of this new, National-led coalition government. Last term there were four by-elections. There is no guarantee that there won’t be one or two or more this time around.

Key needs the Maori Party as political “insurance”.

The only way that the Maori Party can be placated regarding asset sales is that the issue is removed from the main body of the upcoming Budget, and presented to the House as separate legislation. The Maori Party may then vote with the National-led coalition to ensure Supply, and the business of government carries on.

When the issue of asset sales is presented to the House as separate legislation, the Maori Party will no doubt vote with the Opposition, as Sharples and Turia promised their constituents during the election campaign, and try to vote down the Bill.

No doubt the Bill will proceed through the House, as John Key utilises his two seat majority early on, to guarantee it’s passage.

Once the Bill is enacted and becomes law, the asset sale can proceed unhindered.

At the same time, the National-ACT-Dunne-Maori Party coalition is embedded. There is face-saving all around.

Issue two


When I looked at the image above, of John Key and Pita Sharples meeting and greeting each other as equals, the scene reminded me of a photo taken in the early 1970s, of then-Prime Minister, Norman Kirk. I found the image using trusty Google.

Let’s compare the two,


Norman Kirk Moana Priest John Key Pita Sharples


My, how we’ve matured as a society since the early 1970s.

The symbolism of those two images shows – to me – how the New Zealand social and political meme has been re-defined  in only 40 years.

When Norman Kirk led the young Maori boy across the grounds of Waitangi, the image was one of the Pakeha culture as the dominanant patron of this country, leading the “maori child” walking together, hand in hand. It was the archetypal British Colonial “father-figure”, taking in-hand the “childlike” indigenous people.

In the right hand image, the Maori male is an adult Pita Sharples, meeting John Key on a level playing-field. They are meeting as true Treaty partners.

Despite what one may think of National; their policies; and the Maori Party supporting this government – I find something positive in the right-hand image. I think it bodes well for our future and demonstrates that pakeha fears over the Treaty is without foundation.

We’ve come a long way. The journey is yet to end, if ever.



Chris Ford: Has the Maori Party finally cooked its goose?



Learn to count, Mr Prime Minister.

30 November 2011 5 comments


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John Key bemoans the fact that, in winning 47.99% of the Party Vote, that his government will have “only”  60 seats in Parliament. This, despite the fact, that 60 seats is approximately 48% of the total seats in Parliament (plus over-hangs).

In fact, Key makes this bizarre statement,

But it’s a funny system when you can poll this massive number and still theoretically be wondering whether you’ve got a government.

”If this was First Past the Post and there were 100 MPs, there would be roughly 65 National seats and 35 Labour, so it would be this massive majority.

”Yet under MMP you sit there and go, ‘you’ve got this hugh result and yet it still feels tight’.”  Source

Mr Key needs to understand that  proportional representation gives a Party the number of seats that they are entitled to – no more, no less, generally speaking.

For him to say that  ”if this was First Past the Post and there were 100 MPs, there would be roughly 65 National seats and 35 Labour” is nonsensical. If the Tooth Fairy existed, I’d have fifty cents for a tooth I lost some years ago.

For one thing, under First Past the Post, there is no guarantee that a Party will recieve seats in Parliament according to how the punters vote. Two (in)famous examples are the general elections of 1978 and 1981, where Labour won more votes than National (under FPP) – and yet National gained the majority of seats. Muldoon’s government was elected with a minority of votes.

There is no internal logic to FPP. It is a purely random system that does not deliver rational results, set on any sound principle.

There is no sound reason why Key’s belief that –  ”if this was First Past the Post and there were 100 MPs, there would be roughly 65 National seats and 35 Labour” – would come true. It could equally be true that under FPP, Labour would have won more seats.

Let me explain it to Mr Key in terms that he should be able to comprehend;

Mr Key is selling shares in Company X. Each share is $1. If I am buying $400 worth of shares,  and another guy is buying $600 worth of shares, how many shares do we each get?

Test on Monday.

If John Key thinks he should get 65 seats out of 100 (65%), then let him campaign for that result.

Otherwise, as the immortal Bard put it, “Suck it up, dude, and deal with it!”






Categories: The Body Politic Tags: , ,

Now that the election is over…

29 November 2011 2 comments

… what is the bet that the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) is about to make public their decision on the Chinese offer to buy the Crafar farms?

The cynic in me wonders if the Minister responsible for the OIO had a quiet chat with  Chief Executive, Colin MacDonald, on this issue?

More here,

The second colonisation of New Zealand

The Crafar Farms – Why the delay from the OIO?



How can this possibly be?

29 November 2011 2 comments

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More jobs lost?

How can this be?

At a time when an entire city (Christchhurch) needs to be rebuilt, how can we be laying off sawmill workers? How can there possibly  be a downturn in construction???

This is simply too bizarre to comprehend and one wonders what the heck our government is doing??? Are they so pre-occupied with RWC photo ops that they have no clue what is happwening in their own back yard?

Eurocell sawmill site manager Todd McIlvride has stated,

It was hoped the Christchurch rebuild would help boost the timber industry.

However it was not known when that would start in earnest.

“They have got their insurance issues to get through, and the ground there needs to stop shaking before they will give insurance to new houses. That’s obviously the hold-up down there.

“Certainly there will be a lot of wood needed down there, but how far away is that is the million dollar question.

It seems remarkably short sighted that Gerry Brownlee, the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, has not implemented plans to stock-pile building materials. Waiting for reconstruction to eventually kick-off (whenever that might be) to then place orders for sawn timber will simply create a bottle-neck and shortages.

It is mind-boggling that – at a time when we will be needing skilled operators and sawmills to be operating at full capacity – that we are actually down-sizing our timber-processing capabilities? Is there no one with an ounce of common sense in the Beehive who can foresee the inevitable result?!

No, I suspect there is not.

They seem to be too busy, watching rugby. Or in John Key’s case, brandishing unsigned emails sent by unknown persons, making unsubstantiated allegations.

If anyone wonders what a hands-off government is like, where the “free market” is left to address critical problems: we are looking at one now. If National was any more “hands off”, it would be hovering in mid-air.


+++ Updates +++

And it seems I am not alone in my opinions on this matter,


Full Story


Full Story


Full Story


Full Story


There is a proactive role to be played here by government. A “hands-off”, “minimalist government” approach simply will not do.  Rebuildimng a shattered city demands the full resources and powers of the State – not the fragmented, ad hoc “invisible hand” of the free market.

If the National-led government does not comprehend this simple truism, then they need to stand aside. This demands more than a “smile and wave” Prime Minister.


Further Updates


Full Story



Listen to more on Radio NZ’s  Checkpoint


More than ever, this is another instance of the “free market” destroying people’s lives; damaging the fabric of our social cohesion; and impacting on our economy.

Unfortunately, New Zealanders have either not voted for any meaningful change – or have voted for more-of-the-same in the National Party.

Unless National adopts a more hands-on management of the economy, we are headed for a 1991-style major recession. Unemployment at that time rose to over 10%.

Can we do it?  Bloody oath we can! And here’s how.




Some other recent job losses

English positive despite job losses

Key fails to quell Lower Hutt job losses

Christchurch earthquake job losses dole ‘disaster’

$15m cuts may mean NZ jobs go

School support staff face job losses in Christchurch

Job losses at The Warehouse

Thirty KiwiRail jobs on the line in capital

Jobs cut at Cavalier

Jobs threatened by Alliance meatworks shut down



Post mortem #3: The Maori Party

28 November 2011 26 comments


This is when politicians really break out in sweat,


“The Maori Party leadership has met in Auckland today but is yet to decide on a future relationship with National.

Co-leader Tariana Turia said the party would discuss the issue with supporters after meeting with Prime Minister John Key tomorrow.

A reduced Maori Party caucus gathered in Auckland this morning to discuss possible coalition deals.

The party suffered a serious dent in its support last night. It lost Rahui Katene’s Te Tai Tonga seat and saw reduced margins in its remaining three electorates.

Co-leader Pita Sharples was visibly deflated last night and admitted to being disappointed with his own result and that of the whole party.

He said the party’s poor performance showed supporters did not like the party siding with National over the past three years.”

Full Story


Co-leader Pita Sharples  said “the party’s poor performance showed supporters did not like the party siding with National over the past three years“.

Well now, that’s an understatement if I ever heard one.

It may seem like a Big Ask, but maori appear to want contradictory things for the Maori Party; independent representation with their own  political movement – and a voice in government. But not in coalition  – Maori Party voters seem overtly hostile to coalescing with National.

Anything else? Would you like fries with that?!

I don’t envy Pita Sharples or Tariana Turia one jot. They have conflicting messages from their constituents, and have already been punished with the loss of one of their number, and reduced votes. This is critical support that no small Party can afford. The next step would be a one-man band Party (a-la Peter Dunne, John Banks, and Jim Anderton) followed by political extinction.

On top of expectations from their constituents is a new thorn in their sides; state asset sales. The proposed sales are deeply unpopular with the majority of  the public (or so they tell the pollsters) and no less so with maori.

Sharples has consistently stated that the Maori Party are opposed to asset sales – though with the caveat that if the sales do proceed, they want Iwi Inc. to have first options to buy.

National, of course, would never have a bar of such a proposal.

On top of all this is the  convention of providing Confidence and Supply to the government.

Budgets are presented to the House for voting by all MPs. If the Budget passes, then government is assured of Supply – at least until the next Budget.  In all likelihood, National will make asset sales a central pillar  of their first Budget.

If the Budget is voted down – the government falls. If the Opposition cannot form a new government, then a snap  election is called.

Is essence, if Sharples goes ahead with his promise to oppose asset sales, he is effectively voting down the government’s Budget.

With National’s majority only a slim margin, the Maori Party would be playing a risky game of high-stakes, political poker. Excluding Maori Party support, National will have only a one seat majority in the House once the Speaker’s role is taken into account,



With Labour a couple of seats short of being able to form a Labour-Greens-NZF-Mana-Maori Party Coalition – a fresh election is inevitable.

At best, the Maori Party could only abstain from voting for Supply for the government. That would mean National relying on Peter Dunne and John Banks to make up the numbers. Just barely.

Not exactly voting for asset sales – and not exactly opposing it, either. And all the while having to satisfy their constituents – or face an even greater voter back-lash in 2014.

At this stage, joining Winston Peters on the cross-benches; voting on legislation issue-by-issue; and hoping that Tariana Turia’s “pet-project” Whanau Ora is not canned – seems their likely option.

This may work. Until the first by-election happens – and last year there were four such by-elections.

To coalesce or not to coalesce – that is the question. Classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t, for a small party in Parliament.



The loneliness of Phil Goff



As a Labour party member, the sadness I feel today is tinged with a sense of resignation. John Key is the coolest, untouchable kid in the unforgiving social strata of high school. Anyone who remembers such cliques will understand feeling hopeless and powerless to change playground politics, let alone our country’s politics at a time when brand Key is pervasively popular. In the interest of gracious defeat, let me congratulate Key and National on their conquest.

Last night wasn’t entirely gloomy. New Zealand First’s gallop to 6.8% was like the class nerd scoring with the hottest girl in school.  That Winston Peters and his crew triumphed in spite of concerted media efforts by Duncan Garner, Guyon Espiner, John Campbell, Paul Holmes et al to sideline them makes the victory stunning and sweet.

Another highlight of last night was seeing the New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreter working at the Green party’s celebration. It is progressive and heartening to see a political party actively promoting the validity and importance of NZSL, an official language of this country.

Phil Goff – I implore you not to resign, yet I sense the inevitability of you doing so.

In a hostile, biased media environment, populated by media personnel who are reduced to slobbering stupidity in Key’s presence, you never stood a chance. You knew this, so you presumably thought, “What the hell” and you campaigned hard. You’re not a firebrand. What you are is steady, methodical and quietly determined. You have integrity.

Even while your treacherous colleagues sharpened their knives, you persisted.

While the media fawned over Key’s confident, solo fronting of National’s campaign, yet double standardly cast you in the desolate role of man alone, you trundled along.

Last night, your concession speech was gracious and moving. The journalists who lambasted you with cruel, needling questions as soon as you were off the stage should be ashamed. They wouldn’t let you have even a few minutes of dignity. Someone’s concession speech, like yours this time, Helen Clark’s in 2008, or Bill English’s back in 2002, is not a moment for gloating. It is a time to put political allegiances aside and to respect a fellow human’s intrinsic humanity and dignity, to recognise how hard it is to admit that efforts, based on someone’s strongest convictions, have simply not been enough.

Shame on our hectoring, salivating, unseemly media. Shame on your grasping, backstabbing colleagues.

If you resign, I fear that the Labour will scrabble around for another three years with a new leader who the media will maltreat in the same way that they have abused you, out of dribbling sycophancy to Key. No one else could withstand this abuse. That you have come this far speaks volumes about your durability and tenacity. If you leave, Labour will try to reconfigure but will end up in a confused, unpopular scramble of egos and treachery.

Please stay. You did experience a victory of sorts last night, despite being defeated – you came into your own and shook off the ghosts of the past.

If you resign, I will resign my membership of Labour. Suddenly, New Zealand First is looking good.





Post mortem #2: Phil Goff

27 November 2011 78 comments


Phil Goff – Man of The Hour



I must admit… When Phil Goff took Labour into the 2011 General Election, I didn’t really give him much credence as a credible alternative to John Key. Due perhaps in part to Key’s popularity with the Masses, and the Key/Media love affair, Phil Goff was simply left in the background, kicking at the sand, waiting for attention.

He seemed… ok. Nothing special in terms of political leadership. Average.

What can I say? I was totally wrong.

Phil Goff led Labour into a battle-royale against one of the most popular governments since David Lange’s administration in the mid/late 1980s. He scored significant debating points against John Key in two out of three Leadership Debates, and toward the end he trounched the National Party leader in the final debate.

John Key wanted to get away from the “Teapot Tapes” saga and focus on issues? Goff agreed, and threw issue after issue at Key.  With the odd exception, Key was left smiling vacantly; looking bored;  or unable to  even make eye-contact with  Goff as the Labour leader fired  issues at the Smile & Wave Kid.

Goff had risen to the challenge, and in my view he did bloody well.

And at his greatest moment; when he made an almost Kennedy-like speech; Goff gave a concession-announcement that I thought was passionate; stirring; and came straight from the man’s soul. Phil Goff loved New Zealand and you could tell from the raw, naked emotion he revealed. He held nothing back.

This man, I thought,  had become a worthy challenger to a National Party Prime Minister who is more about photo-ops than addressing issues; bending the truth when it suits him (or when he’s caught out); and is a fine illustration of how our society values form over substance. Oh yes, we deserve John Key 100%.

In time, we will get over Key’s “smile and wave” persona. Like the children that we are, we will get bored with his vacant optimism and endless promises for a brighter future that is always just around the corner. And we will yearn for something more mature and more meaningful.

I hope Phil Goff is around when that moment comes, because by the gods, we don’t deserve him. Not when Goff gave us a viable alternative to National’s much-disliked policies – and we failed to grasp what was offered.

I hope Phil Goff stays on as Leader of the Labour Party. He shouldn’t have to resign simply because, collectively, we were too thick to connect the populist leader with unpopular policies.

I, for one, will join the Labour Party as a card-carrying member, and will work my butt off to secure a centre-left victory in 2014 – if Phil Goff stays as Leader.

C’mon, Phil. Wadaya say, boss?