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Posts Tagged ‘Electoral Commission’

A possible solution to Party campaign funding rorts

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1. Party donations

As the law currently stands with regards to party donations, there are set limits to election spending. According to the Electoral Commission;

Expenditure limit

A registered party’s election expenses during the regulated period for the 2017 general election (23 June to 22 September) must not exceed $1,115,000 (including GST) plus $26,200 (including GST) per electorate contested by the party.

If a registered party does not contest the party vote, its total election expenses cannot exceed $26,200 (including GST) for each electorate candidate nominated by the party.

The candidate election expenses regime does not apply to people who are list candidates only. Any spending by those candidates promoting the party is an election expense of the party and must be authorised by the party secretary.

Party limits are separate from the expense limits applying to electorate candidates.

The issue of donations is more complicated;

Party donations and contributions to donations of more than $15,000 (including GST) are required to be declared in the party’s annual return of donations. A series of donations, or contributions of more than $1,500 to donations, made by one person that adds up to more than $15,000 must also be declared.

Fundraising activities are also covered;

Raffles, stalls and other fundraisers

A supporter providing a party with free cakes or other goods or services to use for fundraising is not making a donation for the purposes of the Electoral Act if the value of the items given is worth $1,500 or less. Purchasers of raffle tickets and cakes from a cake stall are not ‘donors’ as they are not making a donation to anyone. The total proceeds of a raffle or a cake stall for a party’s campaign are treated as a donation. The person who runs the raffle or cake stall will normally be the donor.

If the total funds from the raffle or cake stall are over $15,000, then the party’s donation return must include the name and address of the person who ran the fundraiser and subsequently donated the proceeds, along with the total amount given and the date that the donation was received by the party secretary.

It would be a fairly profitable “chook raffle” or “cake stall” to raise $15,000. That’s a very expensive chook. And a truck-load lot of cupcakes.

2. Dodgy dealings

Fundraisers such as National’s $5,000/plate dinner event at ‘Antoine’s’ restaurant in Parnell, Auckland in 2014 raised eyebrows, forcing then-PM John Key to defend  his Party’s activities;

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Fundraising events using fronts such as ‘Antoine’s‘ restaurant are nominally legitimate – if dubious – methods to avoid identifying donors to political parties. Donation returns for National in 2010 and 2011 showed tens of thousands of dollars being funnelled through the restaurant;

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There is currently little protection from circumventing disclosure requirements by using ‘fronts’ such as Trusts and private companies.

Only direct donations are monitored.

Only where non-disclosure or false information is provided is the law is unequivocal regarding a donation;

If the party secretary knows, or has reasonable grounds to believe, that the donor has failed to supply information about contributions, the whole donation must be returned to the donor.

And,

Parties are not allowed to retain anonymous donations exceeding $1,500. An anonymous donation is a donation made in such a way that the party secretary who receives the donation does not know the identity of the donor and could not, in the circumstances, reasonably be expected to know the identity of the donor. [See section 207 of the Electoral Act]

If you receive an anonymous donation greater than $1,500 you may retain $1,500 of that donation. The balance of the donation must, within 20 working days of receipt, be paid to the Electoral Commission for payment into a Crown bank account.

NZ First was forced to return a portion of one such donation in 2008 when it received a donation of $3,690.02 from an unknown donor who was obviously providing bogus details;

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The possibility of a deliberate set-up by a political opponent should make all Party Secretaries highly cautious when dealing with donations where the donor’s details are dubious. The Donghua Liu Affair showed vividly what can happen when a Party is accused (falsely in this case) of rorting the Electoral Act.

But where a donor providing larger donation is known to Party leaders it becomes easier to circumvent legal requirements for disclosure. Recent allegations from Jami Lee Ross that businessman Zhang Yikun donated $100,000 to National, via the Botany Electorate of that Party, and was broken up at some point into smaller portions below the $15,000 threshold for mandatory declaration, are being investigated by the Police.

The apparent ease by which the Electoral Act’s requirements for disclosure can be flouted is disturbing. It opens up dangerous vulnerabilities for corruption; undue influence by big business and the wealthy, and candidates-for-money.

The US shows us where Big Money buying influence leads us – and it is not a good place.

Problems surrounding rorting the party donation system need to be urgently addressed. It is harder to cut out rot once it has set in; corruption is hard to dislodge once it has taken hold.

3. Solutions

Suggestions for tightening up legislation has ranged from lowering the limit for mandatory disclosure to $1,000 to full public funding of political parties by taxpayers.

As Green Party co-leader, Marama Davidson warned;

“The fact of the matter is, as long as political parties are accepting donations from powerful vested interests, there is a constant risk of corruption.

It is clear that those vested interests have a tangible influence on the decision making of political parties. This is a threat to democracy and should change.

Political parties are an important component of our democracy and if increasing state money for electioneering removes the influence of powerful vested interests, then it should be considered.”

Writing for Interest.co.nz, David Hargreaves has gone further, calling for a total end of private donations to political parties;

But there’s no question also that these ‘donations’ can be used by those making the donation to seek influence. If a donation ‘buys’ the people giving the money access to the political party concerned (such as dinner at someone’s house) then the opportunity is there to carry influence.

So, you get the situation in which the person making the donation wants to be able to influence proceedings – without the public at large knowing that – while the party receiving the donations doesn’t want the public at large to know that they are getting money from places that might suggest they are being subjected to particular influence.

There has to be obvious concern if particular vested interests are pumping money into political parties in order to seek influence. Now that could be say religious groups. It could be people from other countries – and what if other countries are seeking to assert their so-called ‘soft power’?

This all has to be taken very seriously.

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It’s the lack of transparency about the current system that’s the real problem.

[…]

I increasingly think ‘donations’ should be banned. I think it should be illegal for anybody to contribute money to a political party.

Activist group, Action Stations has called for three significant reforms for Party donations:

  • All donations over $1500 should be declared and the donors named.
  • Loopholes that allow fundraising through trusts, dinners, and charity auctions to remain anonymous should be closed.
  • Donations should be publicly disclosed in real time, to allow greater and immediate scrutiny.

4. There is a further option to tighten up controls on donation.

This blogger proposes that all donations above a certain amount (whether $1,000 or $1,500) be made directly to the Electoral Commission, using internet banking. For those not au fait with internet banking, donations could be available by other means – NZPost, etc – but still made directly to the Electoral Commission.

Each donation would be made to a  nominated Party or Electorate Candidate using drop-down menus on the Commission’s website.

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Donor’s details can be matched with their bank account details. Once verified, the donated amount is lodged in a holding-account and the donor’s name  made public in real-time.

Donations through dinners, auctions, etc, can be lodged directly during the event, into the Commission’s account, disclosing the details of the donor at the dinner or auction. (Again, if the donor’s details do not match their bank account details, the donation is automatically rejected.)

As per Action Station’s demand, donations through Trusts would be banned. Any method that does not provide transparency would not be permitted through the Commission.

Parties would be banned from handling funds greater than $1,000 or $1,500.

This still allows for low-level fund-raising such as sausage sizzles, cake stalls, and chook raffles. (Cake stalls raising $15,000 would be scrutinised to see what the hell those ‘cakes’ were made from.)

Once verified, funds would be disbursed to relevent Parties to meet campaign expenses.

Any funds over the Party and Electorate cap (see above) would be held in escrow for the following election.

Interest gained from holding these funds in the Electoral Commission’s account would self-fund the system.

The obvious primary benefit would be that it makes it harder – though not impossible* – for political Parties to rort the system.

(* A wealthy donor could still, theoretically give smaller amounts to friends and family, who then make said donations to a Party or Electorate Candidate via the Commission’s account. A bank would have to implement protocols to detect suspicious payments. Any police investigation; subsequent prosecution and conviction, would have to have financial penalties so severe that anyone contemplating such a scheme would think very carefully before proceeding.)

The above proposal does not cover every aspect of donations (such as goods and services) to political parties – but it’s a start.

If Jami Lee Ross has achieved anything, it is casting the full glare of public scrutiny over Party donations. His methods may have been unorthodox – but he’s got our attention. We can no longer feign lack of awareness of this dark shadow over our democracy.

The rest is up to us, as a nation, what we do now.

Otherwise, we end up with more-of-the-same;

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For sale: one parliament.

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References

Electoral Commission: Part 3 – Election expenses, donations and loans

Mediaworks: Key not talking about fundraising dinner

Electoral Commission: National_Party_donations_2010.pdf

Electoral Commission:  New Zealand National Party donations 2011.pdf

Electoral Commission: NZ First Party Donations Returns 2008

Fairfax media: Show us the money: Donors bankrolling Greens lead way in fronting up to public

Interest.co.nz: We should urgently consider changes to the way our political parties are funded

Action Stations: Fix Political Donations

Scoop media: Stop powerful vested interests and preserve democracy

NZ Herald: Bryce Edwards – Should taxpayers fund political parties?

Fairfax media: Secret donors – Buck stops here

Additional

The Good Society: Max Rashbrooke – Donations to political parties 2011-16

Electoral Commission: Party Donations by Year

Fairfax media: Over half of major political cash comes from donations of over $15,000

NBR:  Key under fire for Antoine’s donations

Other blogs

The Standard: Ross saga quiescent, but donations scandal needs addressing

Previous related blogposts

National’s fund-raising at Antoine’s – was GST paid?

Some troubling questions about the Ross Affair

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With acknowledgement to Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 October 2018.

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Third party propaganda attacks incoming Labour-led government

5 September 2014 2 comments

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20-september

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Further to a report by Daily Blogger, Chris Trotter, on receiving information regarding planned attack-billboards, the following billboard is highly visible to traffic on the southbound lane of the Wellington motorway, just prior to the Murphy St turn-off.

I had noticed the billboard mid-last-week, and today had an opportunity to take the following images;

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election billboards - hoardings - Greens - Labour - dirty politics

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The authorisation statement does exist – but is barely legible on the bottom left of the massive billboard.

Combining the distance from the motorway and an obstructing motorway barrier, the authorisation statement is not visible from the road. The large green and red lettering, though, stands out clearly to all passing traffic.

Even by zooming in, the authorisation statement is barely legible;

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election billboards - hoardings - Greens - Labour - dirty politics

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The authorisation statement, with maximum zoom;

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election billboards - hoardings - Greens - Labour - dirty politics

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Someone has a lot of money to spend, to frighten voters away from a Labour-led government.

Is this what John Key meant when he opined that we were focusing too much on Dirty Politics and not on policies and issues?! And if not, will he condemn these billboard(s) with the same intensity he slammed Nicky Hager’s book?

I doubt it.

Final question: is an authorisation statement that is barely legible to drivers, as well as obstructed by the motorway side-barrier, actually legal?

I will seek an answer from the

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20-september

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Further to a report by Daily Blogger, Chris Trotter, on receiving information regarding planned attack-billboards, the following billboard is highly visible by traffic on the southbound lane of the Wellington motorway, just prior to the Murphy St turn-off.

I had noticed the billboard mid-last-week, and today had an opportunity to take the following images;

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election billboards - hoardings - Greens - Labour - dirty politics

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The authorisation statement does exist – but is barely legible on the bottom left of the massive billboard.

Combining the distance from the motorway and the motorway barrier itself, the authorisation statement is not visible from the road. The large green and red lettering, though, stands out clearly to all passing traffic.

Even by zooming in, the authorisation statement is barely legible;

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election billboards - hoardings - Greens - Labour - dirty politics

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The authorisation statement, with maximum zoom;

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election billboards - hoardings - Greens - Labour - dirty politics

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Someone has a lot of money to spend, to frighten voters away from a Labour-led government.

Is this what John Key meant when he opined that we were focusing too much on Dirty Politics and not enough on policies and issues?! And if so, will he condemn these billboard(s) with the same gusto he slammed Nicky Hager’s book?

I doubt it.

Final question: is an authorisation statement that is barely legible to drivers, as well as obstructed by the motorway side-barrier, actually legal?

I will seek an answer from the Electoral Commission.

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References

The Daily Blog: Dirt Alert! Are the Greens and Labour about to become the targets of a major negative advertising campaign?

Copyright (c) Notice

All images stamped ‘fmacskasy.wordpress.com’ are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

» Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
» Where purpose of use is commercial, a donation to Child Poverty Action Group is requested.
» At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals or groups.
» Acknowledgement of source is requested.

 

 


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 August 2014

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Letter to the Editor: Mana, Internet Party, Judith Collins, and “coat-tailing”

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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Oh, the height of irony as various National MPs bleat on about Mana-Internet Party “coat-tailing” on Hone Harawira’s electorate…

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FROM: "f.macskasy" 
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE: Thu, 29 May 2014 12:51:49 +1200
TO: "NZ Herald" <letters@herald.co.nz> 

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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Gerry Brownlee, other National MPs, supporters, and assorted
hangers-on have accused the Mana and Internet Party Alliance
of "stitching" up a deal and "coat-tailing" on Hone
Harawira's electorate of Te Tai Tokerau.

I might remind Mr Brownlee and National's fellow-travellers
that, after taking hundreds of public submissions, the
Electoral Commission recommended in May last year to do away
with the "coat tailing" provision in MMP, as well as
reducing the Party threshold from 5% to 4%.

Justice Minister, Judith Collins - perhaps too busy with
trips to China and milk issues - refused to implement the
Electoral Commission's recommendations. She cited "lack of
consensus" from MPs.

Translated into plain english, Collins' reference to a "lack
of consensus" meant ACT and Peter Dunne opposed removing the
"coat tailing" provision because it would impact on a slim 
chance to bring additional MPs into Parliament on their
"coat tails".

John Key had the chance to remove this unpopular provision
from MMP and failed to do so for their own self interest.
Now the chooks have come home to roost for National.

-Frank Macskasy
[address and phone number supplied]

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References

NZ Herald: Govt rejects recommendations to change MMP system

 


 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

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John “I can’t recall” Banks, on MMP…

5 November 2012 10 comments

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The Electoral Commission’s final report on reviewing the MMP electoral system was tabled today in Parliament.

The four main changes to the system are,

  • Lowering the party threshold from 5% to 4%
  • Abolishing the one electorate seat threshold, which allows other MPs to enter Parliament on the “coat-tails” of a candidate who have won an Electorate Seat
  • Abolishing the provision for overhang seats
  • That Parliament consider fixing the percentage ratio of electorate to seats at 60:40

This blogger supported the first two options (neutral on the last two). Not because ACT could have gained extra MPs if Banks had won just a few thousand more Party List votes – but because the electorate seat threshold was being openly rorted by John Key and John Banks.

It is that rule which benefits small Parties – which while not crossing  the 5% (or 4%) threshold – can still gain extra MPs in Parliament. Because  an Electorate win gives that Party a “dispensation” from the 5%/4% Threshold.

The entire country witnessed the farce of the infamous  “cuppa tea” meeting, last year,  between Banks and Key at the Urban Cafe, in Epsom,

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It was an unedifying spectacle and public disquiet over the workings of MMP  threatened the very existence of proportional representation in New Zealand.

However, National-cum-ACT MP, John Banks, appears to have taken exception to the Electoral Commission’s  second option;  abolishing the one electorate seat threshold. Indeed, he was a very, very unhappy chappy.

Banks was reported today saying,

Voting systems benefit from infrequent change. Voters will not have any confidence in the electoral system if it can be continually tinkered with.”

See: MMP review recommends lower party threshold

That’s interesting.

Banks is worried that making changes to an electoral system, despite over-whelming support through public submissions, somehow threatens public  “confidence in the electoral system “?!

That is a very noble sentiment.

In which case, one wonders how ACT could support the repeal of  “31 redundant acts of parliament and 206 unnecessary regulations“?!

See: ACT Policies – Economy

One would think that changing the law 31 times and removing 206 pieces of regulation might threaten public  “confidence in the Parliamentary law-making system “?!

Or, implement the following radical policies, from ACT’s on-line manifesto,

• Push the next government to reduce wasteful spending.  In 2005, Labour was spending 29 per cent of the national income.  Today, the same figure is 35 per cent.  ACT would push the next government to return spending to the level it was at in 2005 by repealing the “election bribe” spending of the past two elections with a view toward getting the top personal tax rate down to 25% and the company tax rate to 12.5%;

• Push the next government to lock in lower taxes by passing ACT’s Spending Cap Bill into law.  The Bill would require government spending to increase only by the level of inflation and population growth.  By reducing government spending and taxes, it would increase the rewards for wealth creation;
• Push the next government to pass ACT’s Regulatory Standards Bill.  The Bill would test all new regulations for unnecessary red tape, making it easier to do business;
• Sell state assets such as power generation companies; the overwhelming evidence is that such valuable assets produce more wealth when managed privately;
• Allow more mining when the economic benefits outweigh the environmental costs.

See: Ibid

It’s paradoxical that ACT supports a complete radical make-over of our social, legal, and economic systems – and thinks nothing of it.

But when the  Electoral Commission wants to implement a few changes to MMP,  old Banksie is suddenly worried that “voters will not have any confidence in the electoral system if it can be continually tinkered with“??’

But even stranger is this report, from AUT University’s publication, “Te Waha Nui”, last year,

But Banks himself would rather the MMP meal ticket be scrapped completely.

I favour the STV system (Single Transferable Vote),” Banks says.

He declined to explain what elements of the MMP system he disliked, or why he felt STV was a more attractive option. “

See: John Banks backs STV over MMP

So John Banks thinks making four amendments to MMP will damage voter “confidence in the electoral system” . But changing from MMP to STV – two radically different electoral systems – is perfectly ok?

Cutting to the chase.

This has nothing to do with damaging voter “confidence in the electoral system“.

We all know this.

John Banks’ only concerns in this matter is John Banks. Or more to the point, getting John Banks back into Parliament in 2012, preferably with a couple of extra ACT cronies.

Banks knows that the “coat tailing” effect of the Electoral Threshold  is the reason for Epsom voters to support him. Vote for Banks and as long as ACT’s Party Vote is over 1.2%, you get two ACT MPs for the price of one.

But take away the Electorate threshold and the “coat tail” effect, and voting for Banks gets you – one ACT MP; John Banks. Unless ACT reaches the new 4% Party threashold (about as likely as me spontaneously combusting), ACT get’s no extra MPs.

In which case there is no point in any more cosy “arrangements”  between ACT and National, and Epsom voters will simply drop back to their default-setting to voting for their own National Party candidate.

Banks would have to win Epsom on his own ‘merits’. *cough, cough*

Fat chance.

Epsomites have had a gutsful of this mendacious, memory-challenged, clown, and want to see the back of him as much as the rest of the country.

We all know that Banks is utterly self-serving when it comes to politics.

Does he have to keep proving it to us with bare-faced lies about “voters will not have any confidence in the electoral system if it can be continually tinkered with “?”

We know he’s lying.

Stop reminding us.

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Previous related blogposts

Some thoughts on MMP (13 December 2011)

John Banks: condition deteriorating (14 August 2012)

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John Banks: condition deteriorating

14 August 2012 12 comments

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com

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1. Electoral Commission review completed

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Checklist for the week…

  • Electoral Commission recommendation: Reducing the Party threshold from  5% to 4%   
  • Electoral Commission recommendation: Eliminating the one electorate seat party threshold 
  • Consequence of Electoral Commission recommendations: Annoying the hell out of  John Banks 

Yes, it’s been a good week.

In short, the Electoral Commission has recommended the following

  • The one-electorate-seat threshold for allocating list seats should be abolished.
  • The party vote threshold for allocating list seats should be lowered from 5% to 4%
  • The provision for overhang seats should be abolished for parties that do not cross the party vote threshold.
  • Candidates should continue to be able to stand both in an electorate and on a party list at general elections.
  • List MPs should continue to be able to contest by-elections.
  • Political parties should continue to have responsibility for the composition and ranking of candidates on their party lists.
  • Parliament should review the gradual erosion of list seats relative to electorate seats as it risks undermining the diversity and proportionality of Parliament.

This blogger endorses  every recommendation made by the Electoral Commission.

The recommendations eliminate contradictions; remove areas vulnerable to rorting by politicians; and increase the democratic nature of MMP.

The only comment I would make is that the law should be tightened in the area of political Parties ranking their Party Lists. At present, the law states only that such Lists should be democratically ranked – but gives no formal expectations of how the process of ranking is carried out.

In fact, I would endorse Electoral Commission over-sight of all Party List rankings to ensure that there is no ‘giggery-pokery’ by Party apparatchiks. As they say, justice must not only be done – it must be seen to be done.

The same could be said of the political process. And after all, as politicians are fond of telling us when they increase police surveillance powers; if  Parties are honest in their list-ranking process – they have nothing to be afraid off. Right?

However, all up, I believe the Electoral Commission has done an outstanding job on the review.

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2. Party Responses

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ACT

ACT supported retaining both the 5% Party and one electorate seat party threshold.

The Electoral Commission rejected both propositions.

ACT’s sole MP, John Banks, called the review recommendations “woeful”, and then went on to state,

Those who want to gerrymander with the electoral system do so because they lost the last election.”

See: Pressure’s on to tweak MMP

Really, Mr Banks?

When it comes to “gerrymandering”, none is guiltier  than ACT and John Key, and their now infamous “cup of tea” incident during last year’s general election campaign. That event was an outrageous attempt to throw the  election by suggesting to Epsom voters that they should cast their electorate votes for John Banks.

For Banks to now try to climb the moral highground, and accuse those who want to reform MMP as “gerrymandering”, is breath-taking and nauseating hypocrisy on a grand scale.

Banks also issued this statement on the ACT website,

ACT will not support any changes to the MMP voting system. No electoral system is perfect, and the proposed changes do not offer any additional benefits to New Zealand. We do not support the abolishment of the one seat threshold.”

See: No Change Necessary to MMP

Aside from the inference that ACT is fast becoming a quasi-fascist party by ignoring the mass of public submissions that support reforms to MMP,  it is clear that John Banks’ Number One Priority is – John Banks. Ie;  getting himself re-elected to Parliament.

This man’s lack of personal insights into his behaviour, and how the public  view his self-serving and clownish actions,  is deeply troubling.

Greens

Of all the major Parties, only the Greens seem to have acted on principle on this issue.

As Green MP, Holly Walker said,

Abolishing the one electorate seat threshold and lowering the party vote threshold will help to reduce the number of ‘wasted’ votes, and ensure that everyone’s votes count.

Removing the one electorate seat threshold will make a big difference for fairness by making sure that the votes of people in some electorates are not given more weight than others.”

See: Electoral Commission recommendations strengthen MMP

It should be pointed out that whether the Party threshold is kept at 5% or 4%, or whether or not the one electorate seat party thresholdis retained or not, makes no difference to the Green Party.

With their electoral support now consistently over 10% (11.06% last year), and not being reliant on winning an electorate seat to gain Parliamentary representation, their submission to the Electoral Commission gives better representation to supporters of other small Parties, such as the Conservative Party.

Now that’s principled.

Labour

Labour’s submission to the Electoral Commission supported reducing the 5% threshold to 4% and doing away with the one electorate seat party threshold.

It’s fairly obvious why; National has been able to rort the one seat electorate seat threshold to allow potential coalition partners to win seats in Parliament.

By doing away with the one electorate seat party threshold, the demise of ACT is all but assured, and Peter Dunne’s party, United Future, becomes irrelevant.

Interestingly, Labour’s support for reducing the Party List threshold to 4%, gives the Conservative Party a greater chance to win seats in Parliament.

It also allows NZ First a better chance to win seats. (In 2008, NZ First missed out on seats by only .93 percentage-points of reaching the magic 5%.)

This blogger suspects that Labour strategists are thinking long-term on this issue. The Conservative Party may well win seats if the threshold is reduced to 4% – but this may be only a short-term victory for Colin Craig. One term in Parliament may alienate further electoral support, as happened to Peter Dunne’s United Future Party from 2002 to 2005 to 2008.)

See: Labour Welcomes MMP Proposals

Mana Party

Predictably,  the Mana Party is the Party that most loses out if the Electoral Commission’s recommendations are adopted.

Mana’s leader, Hone Harawira, won the Maori seat of  Te Tai Tokerau comfortably and also gained 1.08% of the Party Vote. Had Mana received an additional .12% votes, his Party would have gained an extra MP (the “coat tail” effect).

There is a good chance that if the one electorate seat threshold is retained that Mana could reasonably count on an extra one or two MPs. This is especially likely as the Maori Party bleeds electoral support because of it’s close association with the National Party, and increasingly divisive feelings over the sale of SOEs and water rights.

So it is little surprise that the Mana Party stated it’s opposition to abolition of the one electorate seat threshold.

It appears to be silent on the Party vote threshold.

See: Electoral Commission Report on MMP

This blogger believes that removing the one electorate seat threshold should only be a minor nuisance to the Mana Party. As the Maori Party disintergrates, Mana has a decent chance to pick up many of the Maori seats.

National

Like ACT, National supported retaining both the 5% Party andone electorate seat party threshold.

Deputy PM, Bill English has stated that National would consider the recommendations of the Electoral Commission.

Interestingly, right wing commentator and National Party cadre, Matthew Hooton, stated on Radio New Zealand on 13 August,

The other good thing for National in this report is by getting rid of the tomfoolery around the one seat rule, National won’t be tempted to have cups of tea with the likes of John Banks and Peter Dunne and they will become less relevant to the political system…

…So now National, assuming it will accept these recommendations, even though they are against what National itself recommended to the review, but if the government does accept these, then National now knows very clearly it’s path to it’s third term is through that Winston Peters/Colin Craig deal.

… Well strangely enough National recommended that 5% threshold remain and Labour recommended to the review that a 4% threshold be introduced and the review team has gone with what is the Labour party and the public’s preference. And the irony there is I think is that the 5% threshold, maintaining it , would have served the Labour Party’s interest and the 4% threshhold favours National. So the two Parties both, two main parties both, made recommendations that were against their own interests.”

See: Radio NZ, Nine to Noon Show: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Josie Pagani

In this matter, I concur fully with Hooton. Whilst reducing the 5% threshold to 4% may  disadvantage the Left in the short-term – in the long-term it will remove anomalies in the electoral system that  provides fertile ground for  a  pervading  sense of political cynicism, thereby alienating people from  voting.

The worst thing to put people off voting is a perception that the system is “rigged” to produce pre-determined results.

That’s why we got rid of First Past the Post.

New Zealand First

Winston Peters has curiously split his Party’s response to the Electoral Commission’s recommendations;

  •  5% vs 4% Threshold

Peters states that NZ First wants the 5% threshold retained, even though it might disadvantage his Party.

Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, stated on Radio NZ’s 4pm Panel on 14 August, that he considered Peters’ preference for 5% as “principled”.

Nonsense.

Peters wants the 5% threshold retained because it suits his strategy. NZ First has a better than 50/50 chance of crossing the 5% threshold in upcoming elections – especially now that his Party has access to millions of dollars in Parliamentary funding and free TV advertising.

Conversely, by insisting that  the 5% threshold be retained denies the Conservative Party the chance to win seats in Parliament, as reaching 5% is considerably harder than 4%. The Christian Coalition  Party achieved 4.33% in the first MMP election in 1996.

See: New Zealand general election, 1996

This assessment of Peters’ rationale is confirmed when, in the next breath, he supports abandoning the one electorate seat party threshold,

  • One electorate seat party threshold

There have been numerous attempts to corrupt the integrity of MMP by the National, ACT and United Future parties by misusing the intent of the one electorate seat threshold for the allocation of list seats.”

It’s interesting that Peters wants the 5% threshold retained, and insists,

Rt Hon Winston Peters says the 1993 referendum confirmed that the public wanted the threshold for a party to win list seats in a general election to be five per cent.

“It shouldn’t be tampered with now by Parliament”.”

See: MMP Recommendations Are Anti-Democratic – Peters

– but at the same time is comfortable with removing the one electorate seat party threshold despite it also being part and parcel of the 1993 Referendum?!

Contradictory, much?

The reason Peters wants the one electorate seat party threshold removed is that it prevents the Consertive Party from doing an Epsom or Ohariu-type deal with National, and thereby gaining Parliamentary seats by winning an electorate.

This is precisely how ACT gained five seats in the 2008 electorate;

  1. ACT failed to reach 5%, and gained only 3.65% of the Party Vote
  2. National did a deal with ACT, letting Rodney Hide win the Epsom electorate
  3. The one electorate seat threshold allowed four other MPs enter Parliament on Hide’s “coat tails”.

In simple words, Peters wants the Conservative Party from winning seats in Parliament in a similar manner.

In doing so, he retains his role as sole “king maker” between National and Labour/Greens.

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3. The Thresholds – Why Change was necessary

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5% Party Threshold

The Party vote threshold was probably originally set at 5% to allay fears that Parliament would be over-run by a plethora of small parties, as has happened in Israel.  The resulting instability would have destroyed MMPs reputation within a few years, and would not have survived the subsequent referendum.

A relatively ‘median’ 5% threshold could allow a measure of proportionality, whilst at the same time not resulting in the “Israeli Disease”. (Israeli politics has been dominated by numerous small, extremist, political parties, elected under proportional representation  with almost no Party threshold. In 2009 this resulted in a dozen parties being represented in The Knesset. See: Politics of Israel)

With MMP firmly bedded-in after 15 years, and the public comfortable with Parliamentary  proportional representation, it seems appropriate to reduce the Party threshold to 4%. This provides space and opportunity for a new political party to form; win representation in Parliament; and provide fresh ideas to be debated.

One electorate seat threshold

The one electorate seat threshold has always been an anomaly – but with justification. It was assumed that despite  MMP being favourable to small political Parties, it might still be difficult to win representation in Parliament. It was considered that if a small Party had the electoral support of voters to win one electorate (which was still fought under First Past the Post), then they deserved their full compliment of MPs, according to their Party vote, regardless of whether or not they reached 5%.

The one electorate seat threshold was a kind of “dispensation” from the 5% threshold, to ensure that a small Party could have an effective voice in Parliament.

Not only is it no longer needed – but the one electorate seat threshold dispensation has lately been exploited by larger parties such as National,  gerrymandering the system to gain  potential coalition partners  in Parliament.

It has also been demonstrated to be highly unfair.

In the 2008 General Election neither ACT nor NZ First reached the 5% Party threshold.  But because National assisted Rodney Hide to win the electorate seat of Epsom, ACT was given the  one electorate seat threshold dispensation, and won five seats in Parliament.

The irony was that ACT won fewer Party Votes (85,496 or, 3.65%) than NZ First (95,356 or, 4.07%) – but ACT still got into Parliament.

That result was not the fair system of proportional representation that was ‘sold’ to the public in 1993.

That situation was untenable, and the public stated as such in their submissions to the Electoral Commission. It was an affront to the Kiwi sense of fairness.

Accordingly, the public demand an end to it.

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4. National’s dilemma

 

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National now has a clear choice – and it is in a bind.

If it decides to accept the recommendations of the Electoral Commission to lower the Party threshold to 4% and abandon the one electorate seat threshold – then it risks alienating support from it’s two, one-man band, coalition partners, Peter Dunne and John “I-can’t-remember” Banks.

Dunne and Banks may push their coalition deal with National to the brink – and over the edge – if National accepts the Commission’s reforms.

If the reforms are implemented, it will make Dunne irrelevant, and John Banks and his Party, dog-tucker.

Dunne may win Ohariu – but he would never again have the chance to bring one or two extra MPs into Parliament on his “coat tails”.

And Epsom voters would dump Banks in favour of their own true-blue National candidate.

This would make life unpleasant for both Dunne and Banks. They might decide to issue an ultimatum (see below, “John Banks – mental confusion worsening?”) to abandon the reforms – or else they would walk from the Coalition. What would they have to lose?

But if National decides not to enact the Commission’s reforms, it risks losing a potential  coalition partner – the Conservative Party – in 2014. A Party threshold of 4% would mean 5 Conservative Party MPs.

That is simply too good an offer to pass up. Especially if National drops to 43% or 45% in the polls, as this blogger predicts will happen in the next twelve to 18  months.

Tough times ahead for the Nats…

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5. John Banks – mental confusion worsening?

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John Banks’ mental condition is deteriorating.

Today, the Member for Epsom forgot which political Party he is a member of, when he said on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“,

The National Party are not going to support this proposal.”

Hear: Listen to John Banks on Morning Report

And again, on MSN News, Banks made it clear that he believed himself to be a National Party spokesperson when he said,

This is not going to happen.  The National Party is not going to support this proposal.”

John Banks is an ACT member of parliament – not National. He can no more speak for National than Hone Harawira  could speak on behalf of Labour.

It is becoming more apparent each day that the fellow is losing his tenuous grip on reality. This blogger hopes that he will receive the treatment he requires and makes a speedy recovery from his delusions and shocking memory loss.

Tomorrow, Banks may attempt to walk on water. Or invade Poland.

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Previous blogposts

Supplementary Member system – it’s a bloody rort!

Some thoughts on MMP

John Banks – escaping justice

Additional

Radio NZ: Drop threshold from 5% to 4% – MMP review

Radio NZ: National won’t back MMP change, says Banks

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= fs =

Ministers, Mad Moralists, and Minor Parties

29 July 2012 4 comments

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A previous moral hysteria surrounding welfare beneficiaries and especially solo mums (but never solo dads) took place back in August 2009, when Paula Bennett released the files of two solo-mothers who had dared to criticise the Minister for closing down the Training Incentive Allowance.

Despite having no  authorisation or right to do so, Bennett  released details of the  women’s  WINZ files to the media and three years later there is still an outstanding complaint against her. It was a nasty, vindictive abuse of Ministerial power not seen since the autocratic rule of  Robert Muldoon.

Attacks on solo mums reached a hysterical crescendo that could only be described as naked misogyny – especially from a sector of the male population that has never had much success in relating to women. There were vile comments on many internet fora that cannot be repeated in polite company.

Fast forward to April 2012, and National is facing so much bad news that the media and bloggers are finding it difficult to choose what to hone in on.  Just to remind us about some of the problems confronting National,

  • Youth unemployment up from 58,000 last year  to 87,000 this year
  • Total unemployment up to 160,000 – 6.7% of the workforce
  • The government tax-take is down by $1.57 billion  in the first nine months of the fiscal year
  • Government deficit increases to $6.13 billion, or $800 million more than forecast
  • Migration to Australia is increasing, with a net loss of 39,100 to the year ending February 2012
  • Wages continue to lag behind Australia
  • New Zealand’s sovereign debt is at a massive  $13.5 billion dollars
  • Student debt is at a record $13 billion – and rising
  • Widening wealth/income gap
  • Increasing child poverty and poverty-related disease on a massive scale
  • Increased repayments demanded from tertiary students – effectively a tax increase
  • Ongoing public resistance to state asset sales
  • Ongoing public resistance to selling productive farmland to overseas investors
  • Ongoing public resistance to mining in conservation lands
  • A growing public disquiet over a hydrocarbon-extraction process known as “fracking”
  • Selling legislation for a convention centre and 500 extra pokies
  • Ministers involved in scandal after scandal
  • Key’s ‘teflon coating’ now practically non-existent, and developing a reputation for not being upfront with the public
  • A coalition partner whose brand is now so toxic  that even right wingers are singing it’s funeral dirges
  • and numerous other negative indicators

Time for the government  Spin Doctors to swing into action, and deflect attention from National’s apalling track record thus far.

Time to dust of the Manual for Deflection, and flick through to the chapter on blaming solo mums (but never solo dads) for the ills of the country; the Black Plague in the Middle Ages; both World Wars; and most likely the sinking of the Titanic.

Time for John Key to point at some young woman pushing a pram,  and shout – “Hey! Look over there!”

It worked in 2009.

See: Benefits of 50 to be scrutinised

Why not try it again, wonder National’s faceless, taxpayer-funded spin-doctors and strategists,  to deflect  public attention from  scandals and poor management of the economy?

See: Bennett increases pursuit of welfare ‘rorts’

See: Drug tests for more beneficiaries mooted

See: New welfare law a ‘war on poor’

See: Big families mean big welfare dollars

New Zealanders (in general) are suckers for this kind of Deflect & Demonise Strategy.

It’s what National  does, when their economic policies fail; they blame it on the poor; the unemployed; widows; solo-mums (but never solo-dads), etc. It’s what the right wing do, blaming their failed policies on others. Because as we all know, right wingers are Big on Personal Responsibility… (Except for themselves.)

It happened in the 1990s. It’s repeating again.

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It’s pretty much a given that the ACT is now living on borrowed time, and will end up in the political  rubbish bin of history. It was never popular with mainstream New Zealand in the first place – New Zealanders having had a bitter  taste of it’s ideology in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.

Events over the last couple of years; last twelve months; and last few weeks, a cascade of scandals and dirty dealings have left the public wondering if lunatics had, indeed, taken over the asylum called ACT. For a Party that advocated the purity of market-driven efficiency, it was prone to one bizarre gaffe after another. They couldn’t even update their own website several months after last year’s elections.

So ACT will be gone after the next election.

The result has been media, pundit, and public  speculation of  a new potential Coalition partner for National. There has been recent speculation in the last week or so that Colin Craig’s Conservative Party might make a suitable candidate to shore up National’s numbers in the House.

I doubt that.

For one thing, does National really want a new coalition partner that appears to be every bit as flaky as ACT?

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Full Story

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We are the country with the most promiscuous young women in the world. This does nothing to help us at all.”

Riiiiight.

Obviously Mr Craig has, um, “researched” this issue in some depth?! Did he go “undercover“, I wonder? And did he go “one-on-one”  with his “subjects“?

On this rare occassion, I find myself in sympathy with the Smiling One,

“… Colin Craig, had suggested New Zealand women were the most promiscuous in the world and therefore should not get taxpayer funded contraception.

Key resisted taking the Lord’s name in van and rolling his eyes.

But he did say “it’s going to be a long two and a half years.”

See:  John Key’s problem with partners

Indeed.  If   the government lasts full term. Which I doubt.

National has a problem in this area. It has no viable coalition partner, and is unlikely to find one in the foreseeable future.

Part of that reality is based on MMP and how it has affected Labour and National.

After MMP was introduced in 1996, Labour splintered into it’s constituent factions; the centrist ‘rump’ Labour Party; the environmentalist/social justice Green Party;  the overtly left-wing, worker’s,  Newlabour Party ; and the nationalist Maori party, Mana Motuhake. (The Greens, Mana Motuhake,  and NLP briefly coalesced into the Alliance Party, along with the Social Credit/Democrat Party and short-lived Liberal Party.)

The Greens, Mana Motuhake,  and NLP, had been part of the factional make-up of Labour. MMP simply separated out  it’s componants like a laboratory centrifuge. So when coalition talks took place, to form a Labour-led  Coalition Government, those same factions simply re-morphed.

Before anyone complains that MMP has created a “mess” – not true. These factions had always existed in Labour, and had constantly ‘jockeyed’ for influence within the greater ‘umbrella’ Labour banner.

Under MMP, these factions and negotiations were simply forced out into the open, for everyone to see. The same had been   happening under First Past the Post, but behind closed doors. This was internal party politics exposed to the glare of sunlight and public scrutiny.

National, on the other hand, did not fractionate  in such a similar, dramatic, manner. It lost two MPs to the New Zealand Liberal Party (in 1992), Conservative Party (formerly Right-Of-Centre Party), and one to the Christian Democrats. None of those fledgling parties  survived the grueling electoral process and quickly vanished into political history.

A third party, New Zealand First, had splintered from National earlier, and like Mana Motuhake became a nationalist party, but mainly from a pakeha perspective.

ACT was another party on the right, and appeared to draw support from both National and, to a lesser degree, Labour. It remained a small grouping, peaking in 1999 with nine MPs – largely at the expense of it’s larger right wing cousin, National.

It’s not that National doesn’t have potential coalition partners.  On the whole, National remains intact; a solid bloc of the centre-right. It’s potential coalition partners are already a part of National.

National’s only hope of picking up an extra seat or two is to rort the MMP one-seat threshold system, as it did by supporting John Banks in Epsom (with  success now mixed with regret, no doubt).  It could give a ‘nod and wink‘ to Colin Craig in the Rodney seat, and if he won that electorate, and if Craig’s Conservative Party polled the same as it did last year (2.65%), then it would gain four seats in total.

That might give National a chance at winning the next election.

But at what cost?

  • It would be seen to be once again manipulating the electoral system. The Epsom deal did not end well for National – do they really want to go down that road again?
  • The Conservatives are opposed to asset sales – so that policy would be off the agenda.
  • How would urban liberal voters view a coalition with a party such as the Conservatives? New Zealanders have always been averse to electing  overtly religious parties to Parliament (eg; Christian Heritage, Christian Coalition, Destiny New Zealand) and when some of United Future’s MPs were revealed as having a strong religious bent, they were pretty smartly voted out.
  • And would National want a flaky coalition partner with quasi-‘Christian’ overtones, and who seemed to view New Zealand women  in a casual Talibanesque-sort of way? How would National’s women MPs feel sitting alongside Colin Craig, knowing that he viewed them as the ” most promiscuous…  women in the world  “?

Craig’s Conservative Party may have a better chance to win seats in Parliament if the Electoral Commission’s review on MMP decides to recommend to Parliament that the Party Vote threshold be reduced from %5 to 4%.  Of course, the Commission can only recommend to Parliament, and any decision to reduce the Party Vote threshold will ultimately be up to the National-ACT-Dunne Coalition.

I suspect the Nats will adopt the 4% recommendation. Not because it’s fair (get a grip!), but because anything that assists ACT or the Conservative Party gain seats in Parliament will be welcomed with open arms by the Nats. Self interest rules.

The Greens’ submission to the Electoral Commission supported abolishing the Electoral Seat threshold as inherently unfair, and promote  reducing the Party Vote threshold from 5% to 4% to compensate for smaller Parties  such as NZ First, ACT, etc.

See: Green Party submission on the MMP Review

Likewise, this blogger suspects that National will probably reject any recommendation to abandon the Electoral-Seat threshold.  (The Electoral Seat threshold is where Party X does not cross the current 5% Party Vote threshold, but if one of their candidates wins an electoral seat, they get an exemption from the 5% threshold, and gain as many MPs as their Party Vote allows.)

This may be National’s one and only  “electoral lifeline”, as ACT heads for the political guillotine – especially after John Banks’ incredible performance over his fraudulent 2010 Electoral Donations fiasco.

See: John Banks – escaping justice

However, since Craig’s comment nearly three months ago, he has moved on from denigrating women, to gays and lesbians. His latest comment is indicative of a man who has little tolerance for matters outside his narrow worldview, when on 27 July he ‘tweeted’,

It’s just not intelligent to pretend that homosexual relationships are normal.”

See: Conservative leader says gay marriage ‘not right’

It take a spectacular degree of arrogance to decide that another consenting adult’s relationship is “not normal”.

This blogger feels it only appropriate that Mr Craig’s marriage to his wife should be put under the microscope.

It has been said often enough that those who vociferously oppose homosexuality (especially in males) often have a measure of sexual insecurity themselves. For many men, condemning and reviling  homosexuality has been an attempt to reaffirm their own heterosexuality by “proving their straightness” to themselves.

Perhaps, in this instance, Mr Craig may have something he wishes to get of his manly chest,

He was so sure that homosexuality was a choice, he bet his own sexuality on it.

“Do you think you could choose to be gay if that is the case?,” he was asked.

“Sure. Sure I could,” he responded.

“You could choose to be gay?,” he was asked again.

“Yea, if I wanted to,’ he replied.

See:  Colin Craig: ‘Gay parents not good role models’

Anything you want to share with us, Mr Craig? Don’t worry, we’re all consenting adults here…

Why are all small right wing parties loony-tunes?

Is this the sort of political party that National wants to cosy up to?

And more important – would a possible coalition with a bunch of religious homophobes and misogynists really endear  National’s voting-base to keep supporting the Nats?

Happy times for Dear Leader, John Key.

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National does have another potential coalition partner – the New Zealand First Party. Though their first attempt at coalition (in 1996) ended very badly for Winston Peters, that could be explained as “growing pains” after our very first MMP election. I doubt if any small Party would ever repeat such horrendous mistakes again.

But in coalescing with NZ First, National would have to abandon much of it’s right wing, neo-liberal agenda.  State asset sales would be gone by lunchtime. The sale of farmland to overseas investors would be restricted (if Peters is to be taken at his word). And the edge might be taken of other policies favoured by National.

On the other hand, NZ First had been punished previously for coalescing with National. As well, NZ First  has an active youth-wing that might not appreciate ‘sleeping with the enemy’.

Working with Winston Peters would be one very big rat for John Key to swallow. Considering how adamant he was back in 2008,

Mr Peters will be unacceptable as a Minister in a government led by me unless he can provide a credible explanation.

See: Peters unacceptable in a National-led Government

And just last year,

I don’t see a place for a Winston Peters-led New Zealand First in a government that I lead.”

See:  PM rules out any NZ First deal

If Winston Peters holds the balance of power, it will be a Phil Goff-led government.”

See:  Key names election date, rules out Winston Peters

Sealing a coalition deal with someone he has categorically ruled out in the past would damage Key’s credibility even further. Our Dear Leader is already developing something of a reputation for being “untrustworthy, dishonest, arrogant, smarmy and out of touch”.

See: ‘Polarising’ PM losing gloss

Does he want to compound that perception by backtracking on his declaration that he cannot/will not work with the NZ First leader?

So Colin Craig it is.

And yes,

“It’s going to be a long two and a half years.”

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= fs =

“I dunno. I wasn’t told. I wasn’t there.”

15 February 2012 2 comments

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Last October, Dear Leader got in serious hot water over a supposed “email” he had received from “a friend”, claiming that Standard & Poors would have down-graded New Zealand’s credit-rating had Labour been in office.

This is the supposed  email,

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Key referred to the email in the Debating Chamber – and Labour called him on it.

To make matters worse (for Dear Leader), Standard & Poors called him on it.

The matter came to a head with this extraordinary, incredibly embarressing media conference,

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Now we have another email which Key has “no knowledge of”,

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Little wonder that the public do not trust Key, and that his popularity has taken a dive.

There is an old saying,

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me!”

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