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Posts Tagged ‘Penny Webster’

Crony Watch!

18 November 2012 22 comments

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Cronywatch*…

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…Keeping an eye on dodgy government appointees, crony-by-crony!

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In this on-going Thread, I will be reporting on blatant political cronyism from this current government. Considering that the NBR ceased their version of  “Cronywatch” in late 2008, I thought it would be helpful if folks knew what John Key and his government were up to.

Cronyism is when appointments to various quangos, Boards, organisations, departments, and even unofficial positions, are made for no other apparent reason than their membership, or close affialiation to, the National government. Governments do this for various reasons; to keep on eye on things; to try to influence decision-making; to ensure that their policies are carried out according to their agenda; and perhaps even a bit of  ‘pay back‘.

This sort of thing was/is verey commonplace under authoritarian regimes where democracy and an independent civil service are alien concepts. So it is more than a little disturbing when we find such occurrences here, in little old Godzone.

So every time I find a political appointee, I’ll report it here. With each up-date added to this Thread, I’ll ‘bump‘ it back up to the top of Recent Posts.

And now for some cronies…

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Catherine Isaac

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Catherine Isaac

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Catherine Isaac,

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

Despite having zero experience in the education sector, Ms Isaac was appointed by ACT MP, John “I-Don’t-Know-I-Can’t-Recall”  Banks to chair the Charter School Working Group. Ms Isaac’s only tenuous links to educatuion is that she has served on a School Board. (In which case, I look forward to serving on a DHB and thereafter beginning  a practice in brain surgery…)

As most folk know, Charter Schools is an ACT policy. Ms Isaac was appointed by ACT MP, John “What-helicopter-flights?” Banks.  And Ms Isaac is an ACT Party member, ex-candidate, and President.

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Belinda Milnes

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has appointed a former official from her own office to the board of the Families Commission.

Belinda Milnes, a former senior policy adviser for Mrs Bennett, has been appointed to the commission for three years.

The minister has been unavailable to discuss the appointment, but in a statement says Ms Milnes understands social policy and is the best person for the job.”

Source: Radio NZ – Bennett appoints former official to commission board

Interestingly, Paula Bennett made no mention of Ms Milnes’ connection with her office when she released this media statement,

” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett today announced two new appointments to the Families Commission.

Sir Peter Gluckman and Belinda Milnes have been appointed to the Board of the Families Commission for a period of three years.

The Families Commission is currently undergoing a restructure to assume its new role providing independent monitoring, evaluation and research.

“We’ve appointed the best people for the job to oversee a major change programme within the Families Commission,” says Mrs Bennett.

The Government is reprioritising a minimum of $14.2 million of the $32.48 million funding the Families Commission receives over four years to set up a new Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (SuPERU).

“This unit will provide research and best practise advice to government and non-government organisations,” says Mrs Bennett.

This unit will independently monitor and evaluate programmes and initiatives in the social sector, a job currently done largely by Government Departments.

“I believe giving this role to an independent body will see more community organisations entering into robust evaluation and monitoring”. “

Source: Appointments to Families Commission

I wonder how much ” independent monitoring, evaluation and research” will be produced by the new “Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit ” when it is staffed by National Party appointees who have been functionaries within a Minister’s office?

At least the Minister will hear only what she wants to hear, with no pesky dissenting opinions upsetting her day…

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Richard Long

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Former National Party chief of staff Richard Long has been appointed to the board of TVNZ.

[…] He spent two years as chief of staff for National leaders Bill English and Don Brash after leaving the Dominion in 2002.”

Source: Former National Party chief of staff appointed to TVNZ board

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Katherine Rich (#2)

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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Frank  Macskasy Blog  Frankly Speaking

(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

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The latest cronyist-appointment is (again)  former National MP and CEO  of the Food and Grocery Council,  Katherine Rich, to the newly formed  Health Promotion Agency.

The Council  represents a $15 billion food and beverage industry and exerts considerable influence on food legislation and trade practices.

The Council was a vocal opponant, and campaigned against,   mandatory inclusion of vitamin B9 (folic acid) in bread (to prevent crippling  birth defects such as spina bifida) and  anti-obesity proposals such as taxing  sugar. It supports liberal trading policies for alcohol.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

The Health Promotion Agency incorporates  the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC), the Health Sponsorship Council and other  promotion work by the Ministry of Health.

ALAC was an organisation tasked with addressing the growing incidence of alcohol abuse in this country. This increasingly destructive social  problem  has been calculated to be a $4 billion-plus crisis in our society, wasting valuable health, police, judicial, and ACC  resources, and impacting on employment and family life.

It therefore seems somewhat incongruous to appoint a person who  in deeply involved in the alcohol industry in a government body that has a role in identifying and addressing alcohol problems in our society.

In fact, one could see this as a conflict of interest. John Key’s bland assurances therefore sound rather hollow,

I’m comfortable that she’ll be able to manage any conflict….It’s important that a board has a range of different views.” – Source

Key’s views on the Food and Grocery Council’s emotion-laden campaign against folic acid was no less derisable,

The debate wasn’t around whether folic acid might or might not work. It was about people’s rights to have that put in every piece of bread. There’s quite a difference there.”

Unfortunately,  Mr Key fails to realise that foetuses deprived of this critical vitamin B9; are born with spina bifida; and spend their entire (shortened) lives in a wheelchair, have no such “rights” to choose. Foetuses rely on adults to consume appropriate foods and beverages.

Way to go, Mr Key. The manipulation of public opinion on this issue  by the Food and Grocery Council was predicated on saving money for the food industry.

But it’s taxpayers who have to pick up the medical and welfare tab for people with neural tube defects (spina bifida).

That, plus the Food and Grocery Council’s staunch advocacy for the proliferation of alcohol retailing, makes Ms Rich wholly inappropriate for this new government body.

Ms Rich has neo-liberal views on the production and retailing of alcohol,

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

Final word to someone more concerned with social issues (rather than profits),

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.

He believes Ms Rich’s appointment is a major conflict of interest and indicates the Government wants to have the alcohol industry strongly represented in its preparations for the new agency.

“Seventy percent of the alcohol that’s sold in New Zealand comes through supermarkets and here we have a person in Katherine Rich who’s a staunch defender of the excessive commercialisation of alcohol, particularly though supermarkets, and she’s on a board that is presumably about decreasing the heavy drinking culture”. Source, Radio NZ

See:   Lobbyist appointment no conflict: Key

See:   BERL Report Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

See:   Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association: Folic acid and neural tube defects in New Zealand: a cautionary tale?

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Other blogs

The Standard: Katherine Rich on the Health Promotion Board: The next outrageous piece of Nat cronyism

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Roger Sowry

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Roger Sowry has been a National Party MP from 1990 to 2005 – five consecutive terms.  The first two terms were as MP for Kapiti, the latter three as a Party List MP.  He became Chief Executive of Arthritis New Zealand, and then worked at Saunders Unsworth,as a “consultant on Government matters” (ie; lobbyist).

Party positions held:

  • National MP 1990 – 2005
  • 1993, appointed Junior Party Whip
  • 1995, appointed Senior Party Whip
  • 1996, appointed Minister for Social Welfare
  • 1998, appointed Minister of Social Services, Work and Income; Minister in charge of War Pensions;  Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation; and Associate Minister of Health
  • Appointed Deputy Leader of  National Government from October 2001 to October 2003

Government appointments:

Prime Minister John Key said he would not describe Mr Sowry as a party hack and he was qualified for the job.   “We are not going to preclude people solely because they’ve been involved with the National Party. If we were to do that then the talent pool is going to be substantially reduced,” Mr Key said. – Source

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Wyatt Creech

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Judy Kirk

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Jim McLay

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Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Penny Webster

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

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Brian Neeson

Ravi Musuku

Ken Shirley

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(L-R) Brian Neeson – Ken Shirley – Ravi Musuku

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All three men were appointed to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.  All three have connectionas to National, or in Ken Shirley’s case, to ACT, one of National’s coalition partners.

Brian Neeson

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

The appoint was made by the Minister –  without being interviewed, as is the usual process,

“It is the chair’s view that without interviews by an appropriately selected interview panel, the process will not provide an opportunity to properly assess the candidates suitability,” advice to Power in July last year said.

“The required skills cannot be evaluated without interview. He [Mr Hindle] has also expressed concern that the suggested appointment of member without interview would be at odds with the practice of past years“.” – Source

Which was unfortunate, as Neeson has a shocking record for anti-gay/lesbian beliefs that can only be described as homophobic.  He consistently voted against including gays/lesbians in protective Human Rights legislation and voted against legislation to outlaw employment discrimination based on gender. (See ” National’s version of ‘human rights’ ” at Tumeke, for full details.)

It is difficult to understand how someone of Mr Neeson’s beliefs can contribute to human rights issues in NZ, unless his appointment is specifically designed to curtail human rights for women and minority groups?

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Ravi Musuku

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Ken Shirley

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

Statement on Maori:

Graduation day at Te Wananga. Soon after the Labour Government came to office it started showering money on all things Maori. ” – NZ Herald

Soon after the Labour Government came to office, ushering in its flagship ‘Closing the Gaps’ programmes. It started showering money on all things Maori. ” – Ibid

Out of this Te Wananga o Aotearoa pocketed $5.8 million and said that would go a long way towards providing for its growth. ” – Ibid

But the Government went further. Closing the Gaps demanded even more taxpayer money be thrown at Maori. ” – Ibid

Despite its apparent concern, it has continued to shovel huge sums of taxpayer money to this institution – all in the name of the treaty. ” – Ibid

The Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commissioners have foreshadowed that the decision to allow the Maori Land Court to hear iwi claims to the foreshore and seabed of the Marlborough Sounds opens the way for similar claims around the country” ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader Ken Shirley said today.

I now call upon Prime Minister Helen Clark to act consistently, and to declare such claims off limits -as she recently did in the case of the claim for oil and gas reserves. In this instance, it was made quite clear that oil, gas and mineral reserves were vested in the Crown by legislation in 1937.”Press releases on Court of Appeal decision on foreshores and seabed, Recreation Access

I am again calling on the Labour Government to act decisively. It must spell out the bounds to claims – in order to prevent undue anxiety for tens of thousands of New Zealanders, and to ensure that iwi don’t waste any more time and money pursuing claims that should be off limits.” – Ibid

Hopefully Mr Shirley’s anti-Treaty and knee-jerk anti-Maori  beliefs will not be carried over to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

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.(Acknowledgement: David M. and Tumeke)

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Wayne Mapp

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Wayne Mapp (L) and John Key (R)

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Announced on 28 February 2012 by Judith Collins, the Minister Responsible for the Law Commission;  the appointment of  National’s  former Defence Minister, Wayne Mapp to the Commission.

Party positions held:

  • National MP from 1996 to 2011
  • Appointed as “Political Correctness Eradicator” in October 2005, by former National Party leader, Don Brash
  • Chair of National Caucus Policy Committee
  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister of Science and Innovation

Government appointments:

  • New Zealand  Law Commission

The Law Commission is an independent Crown entity under the Crown Entities Act 2004. It is funded by government and reviews areas of the law that need updating, reforming or developing. It makes recommendations to Parliament, and these recommendations are published in our report series.  The Law Commission helps to maintain the quality of New Zealand law to meet the current and future needs of our rapidly changing society. The Commission’s objective is to improve the quality, relevance and effectiveness of New Zealand law, by informing and supporting discussion on and making recommendations to Parliament for law reform.” – Source

I suspect that the Law Commission may have just become a somewhat less “independent Crown entity “.

(Acknowledgement: David M.)

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Kerry Prendergast

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L-R: John Banks (obscured), John Key, Maurice Williamson, Kerry Prendergast

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Best known as Wellington’s mayor from 2001 – 2010, Prendergast is also a member of the National Party.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Sir Wira Gardiner

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Full Story

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Party Positions held:

Government appointments:

1. Background

2. Background

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Stephen McElrea

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Party Positions held:

Government Appointments:

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Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

Some weeks ago, a furore erupted when NZ on Air boardmember, Stephen McElrea, complained about the broadscasting of a document on TV3, just four days before the Elections last year.

The documentary was a highly critical look at growing child poverty in this country.

The timing of the documentary’s broadcasting  was criticised by Stephen McElrea, who complained that it was highly politicised and could impact of NZ on Air’s “impartiality”. There were suggestion made that NZ on Air should have authority over when programme  should be broadcast.

***Update***

It appears that Stephen McElrea was part of a working group that has committed NZ on Air funding to a “documentary” on Whanau Ora.

Whanau Ora is a government department created under the National-Maori Party Coalition arrangement after the 2008 General Election.

NZ On Air states that the “documentary” will  look  at “how successful this new initiative will be in assisting NZ’s most deprived families” and that it would be  “a behind the scenes look at the roll out of this new initiative that seeks to deliver positive social outcomes for Maori“.

It is somewhat difficult to see how a documentary could determine that Whanau Ora  can be a “successful… new initiative … in assisting NZ’s most deprived families” when it is still barely operating. There have been no assessments or measured outcomes yet (to my knowledge) that would merit a “documentary” on Whanau Ora’s “success” or otherwise.

The fact that Stephen McElrea was a participant in the decision-making process to fund this “documentary/propaganda” is clear evidence that NZ On Airs  independence has been compromised.

This is the result of  government cronyism.

Source:  Call for McElrea to resign from NZ On Air

Additional

Scoop.co.nz:  PM has questions to answer over NZ on Air link

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Catherine Isaac

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An announcement was made on 1 February that ACT  member;  former ACT Party List candidate, and former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac,  had been appointed to oversee the introduction of the government’s Charter  Schools programme in South Auckland and Christchurch. Ms Isaacs has no formal experience in the education field.

John Banks defended Isaac’s appointment was stating that she has sat of a School Board of Trustees for six years.

In which case, if I sat on a District Health board for a similar period of  time, would that qualify me to carry out  thoracic open-heart surgery? Well, I guess that would be one way to “train” our doctors on the cheap and get rid of that pesky, expensive Med School in Dunedin.

Party Positions held:

Government Appointments:

It seems abundantly obvious that Isaac’s appointment is to ensure that ACT’s Charter School policy is implemented without usual critical oversight, and to further ensure that results are presented in a “positive light” to the public.

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Katherine Rich (#1)

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(L-R) National MPs Simon Powell, Katherine Rich, former National leader Don Brash, National MPs Nathan Guy and Gerry Brownlee applaud John Key as he delivers his speech as the New Zealand National Party launch their election campaign at Sky City on October 12, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand.

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The National-led Government is defending its appointment of the Food and Grocery Council chief executive to a board which will set up a new health promotion agency.

Katherine Rich has been appointed to the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

The move has outraged advocacy group Alcohol Action. Spokesperson Doug Sellman says Ms Rich has been one of the most vociferous defenders of the alcohol industry.

Professor Sellman says supermarkets normalise alcohol as an ordinary commodity and sell it by the tonne at ultra-cheap prices up to 24 hours a day.

He believes Ms Rich’s appointment is a major conflict of interest and indicates the Government wants to have the alcohol industry strongly represented in its preparations for the new agency.

“Seventy percent of the alcohol that’s sold in New Zealand comes through supermarkets and here we have a person in Katherine Rich who’s a staunch defender of the excessive commercialisation of alcohol, particularly though supermarkets, and she’s on a board that is presumably about decreasing the heavy drinking culture.”

The Labour Party agrees the appointment of Katherine Rich is too much a conflict of interest.” – Source, Radio NZ

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The Radio NZ report does raise an important question regarding her appointment to  the Health Promotion Agency Establishment Board, which replaces the Alcohol Advisory Council.

ALAC was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of New Zealand’s considerable alcohol related (some say fueled) problems.

2009 BERL report estimated that “$4.437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare” could be directly attributed to alcohol abuse. That $4.4 billion  is reflected in  ACC, hospital admissions, crime, family violence, lost productivity, etc, and places a firm dollar cost on the harm that alcohol abuse is causing NZ society. These are costs we all pay for through ACC levies and taxes spent on medical intervention; policing; and the justice system.

Whilst working for the Food and Grocery Council, Ms Rich was a firm advocate of liberal laws surrounding marketting and retailing of alcohol,

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The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) strongly backed the recommendations.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said it set out a clear objective of reducing alcohol-related harm which stretched to structure and role changes for the district licensing agencies responsible for managing liquor licensing in their own communities.

Communities up and down the country were sick of the violence and vandalism that came with drinking and that proposed changes to licencing regimes would help address the problem, Mr Vaughan said.

Nearly 3000 submissions were received by the commission, many of which supported the tightening of laws around alcohol sales, purchasing and consumption.

But NZ Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said the report reflected “classic nanny state thinking.”

It failed to target those causing the problems and punished everyone, she said. The industry was already one of the most regulated, and more sensible ways to approach existing problems included better enforcement of current rules and better use of legal powers, along with industry-led initiatives.”   Source

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New Zealand has a $4 billion-plus problem with alcohol abuse (BERL report) and Katherine Rich dismissed attempts to address this crisis as “classic nanny state thinking“?

It is worthwhile reflecting that since liquor laws were de-regulated in the mid 1980s (as part of the wave of Rogernomics “reforms”), that 25 years later things have gotten steadily worse.

Party positions held:

Government appointments:

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Mervyn English

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Full Story

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Though the State Services Commissioner  did find that they were satisfied with English’s appointment, one has to question why  the position was not publicly advertised, as is common practice?

Even if the SSC is satisfied of no inappropriateness, this brings up a valid point; how can we differentiate between blatant political appointees and those made on merit, if the entire system is brought into disrepute? Public perception is growing that this government is stacking various organisation Boards with party apparatchiks – and judging by recent events, that perception is not misplaced.

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Jenny Shipley

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Party Positions held:

  • National Party MP 1987 – 2002
  • Various ministerial portfolios
  • Prime Minister 1997 – 1999

Government appointments:

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Carried on at Frankly Speaking: Crony Watch

* Carrying on, where the National Business Review left of, in November 2008. (Which, by sheer coincidence, is when National took power.)

 

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Right Way the Wrong Way

31 March 2012 1 comment

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There is a war for the soul of Auckland.

The declaration for that war may have been made  in October 2010, when Len Brown was elected the first mayor of the new amalgamated supercity. Or in September 2009 when legislation forming the super-city was enacted. Or in November 2008, when ACT MP Rodney Hide – the author of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act – was elected to Parliament.

I call the date today; 30 March 2012, with a media statement released by Christine Fletcher of the so-called “Citizens & Ratepayer (C&R) group,

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Auckland To Become Unaffordable, Not More Liveable

Thursday, 29 March 2012, 2:18 pm
Press Release: Christine Fletcher

Auckland To Become Unaffordable, Not More Liveable

News that a majority of councillors voted not to include affordability in the context of costs imposed by council for the Auckland Plan will make Auckland unaffordable, said C&R Leader Christine Fletcher, and Cr Cameron Brewer, representing key independent councillors.

“The Mayor has set out a vision for Auckland as most liveable city – but his vision will actually hurt the ability of people, especially those on fixed incomes like the retired to stay in their homes. Already massive rates rises are coming, and future generations of Aucklanders will suffer too. When you add the prospect of higher regulatory fees, toll roads to pay for the Mayor’s rail plans, and user-pays rubbish, it’s going to get very expensive to live in Auckland,” said Cr Brewer.

“We all agree that the Auckland Plan is a far-reaching, profound document for our city. But without the principle of affordability to help guide it, it sends a message that rates and fees will be massively hiked to pay for all the big ideas within. That’s wrong – there are many people who simply can’t afford big rises in rates and fees,” said Cr Fletcher.

“C&R along with key independents proposed an amendment by way of addition that the Auckland Plan does have regard to affordability as a principle. It was defeated 12-9. City Vision, Labour and the left have embarked on a 30 year program of spending, but only providing a 10 year long term plan for budgeting”, said Cr Fletcher.

“It is especially disappointing that Cr Penny Webster, the Chairman of Finance from Rodney District, has abandoned her duties to be fiscally responsible, and voted for this big spending plan without appropriate fiscal prudence. I guess it’s easy for Len Brown to spend billions of dollars when he’s got a Penny in his pocket”, said Cr Fletcher.

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Councillors who voted to support an affordability principle in the Auckland Plan include:

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Chris Fletcher (Leader C&R)

George wood (Deputy leader C&R)

Des Morrison (C&R)

Dick Quax (C&R)

Noelene Raffills (C&R)

plus the following independent councillors:

 Cameron Brewer

Calum Penrose

Sharon Stewart

Sir John Walker

ENDS

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Firstly, a bit about the C&R group.

C&R states on it’s website that they “are not affiliated with any central government political party“.  However a cursory examination of that claim yields some interesting revelations.

Citizens and Ratepayers leadership consists of the following individuals;

Councillor Chris Fletcher, Caucus Leader

Ms Fletcher was an ex-National Party MP, serving three consecutive terms in Parliament, from 1990 to 1999. Ms Fletcher held  Ministerial roles of Local Government, Women’s, Cultural and Youth Affairs

Mark Brickell, President

Mr Brickell served as electorate campaign manager for National MP and Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, in last year’s general election.

Alastair Bell, Vice President

Mr Bell has been a Board Member of the National Party since 2009, to present. He was a senior advisor to Prime Minister  Jenny Shipley, from  1999 to 2000.

Edgar Henson, Vice President

Mr Henson managed ACT’s election campaign in 2008. He will be attending ACT’s Annual Conference & AGM on 21 April.

Leigh Morrow, Treasurer / Secretary

National Party supporter in last year’s general election, according to this entry on Ms Morrow’s Facebook page,

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Jim Stevens, Corporate Services / Administrator

(No party affiliation found.)

As the above information  shows, C&R is anything but a neutral entity. It is an unofficial arm – a political ‘creature’ – of the National Party. The NZ Herald article, “Ex-National MPs deluging Citizens & Ratepayers card “, also recognised C&R as such.

As for the so-called “independent” Councillors who also appended their name to the 29 March Media Release, above,

Cameron Brewer

Mr Brewer was a one-time National Party candidate for the Tamaki Electorate.

Calum Penrose

Mr Penrose is a centre-right Councillor who endorsed National MP Judith Collins in last year’s election campaign.

Sir John Walker

Sir John Walker is a centre-right Councillor who also endorsed National MP Judith Collins in last year’s election campaign.

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Why does all this matter?

Because the Media Release issued by C&R on 29 March is the first shot fired in a campaign by right wing city Councillors – many with Party affiliations to National or ACT –  to unseat Len Brown at the next local body elections.

For C&R and their fellow-travellers, the election campaign has begun in earnest, and expect either Christine Fletcher or Cameron Brewer to be nominated as the Right’s mayoral candidate. Expect the coming campaign to be nasty, as Cr Fletcher’s comments indicated,

It is especially disappointing that Cr Penny Webster, the Chairman of Finance from Rodney District, has abandoned her duties to be fiscally responsible, and voted for this big spending plan without appropriate fiscal prudence. I guess it’s easy for Len Brown to spend billions of dollars when he’s got a Penny in his pocket.”

Cr Webster was not impressed, as she made her feelings known in a Radio NZ/Morning Report  interview on 30 March,

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http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/remote-player?id=2514238

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Cr Cathy Casey – not one to suffer fools or right wingers who bend the truth to suit their hidden agendas, replied on her Facebook page,

This C&R media release yesterday was online yesterday by 2pm while the Governing Body was still in session. It caused mayhem when it was discovered! It must have been written ahead of time therefore the amendment and speeches by Councillor Fletcher and Councillor Cameron Brewer were clear political posturing. Radio NZ has just said it will be reporting on it on Morning Report after 8am this morning.

It was pointed out yesterday to Councillors Fletcher and Brewer that there is already an affordability principle in the Auckland Plan (p.19) “Make the best use of every dollar spent.” It states that we will “act prudently and commit to projects and initiatives that achieve the best value result without compromising quality, affordability, or stifling creativity and innovation. Focus on achieving long-term benefits and intergenerational equity.”

This is party politics of the worst kind! ” – 30 March

It appears that right wingers in Auckland Council are getting up to mischief?

An interesting exchange then took place on Facebook between Cr Casey and at least two C&R members

Cr Cathey Casey:  “ Hi George Wood, You are a member C&R so I presume you signed off this media release?

George Wood:  ” No Cathy, the role of making media releases is delegated to the leader of C&R, Cr Fletcher, and in this case the leader of the independent councillors that work with C&R, Cr Cameron Brewer has also had input to this document. “

Interesting that a nominally “independent” councillor and a de facto National Party councillor are working together on what appears to be very clear stategy.

The FB conversation continued,

Cr Cathy Casey:  ” Hi George, So now that you’ve read it what do you think of the content and the fact that it was sent out of the meeting at 2pm, two hours before we had even completed our deliberations on the Auckland Plan?

At which point another C&R member jumped in, with a rather weak attempt at derision and deflection,

Michael Williams: ” Big deal. Affordability is a huge issue. That’s the point here. Why protest against someone saying that?

Cr Cathy Casey:  ” Hi Michael, You are a member of C&R, are you are saying the process engaged in by Councillors Fletcher and Brewer on your behalf yesterday is kosher? And that it is okay for C&R to publicly malign Councillor Penny Webster?

Williams then responded with the usual “no biggie” approach,

Michael Williams:  ” There’s always a bit of rough and tumble in politics. If we all checked each others press releases nothing would get anything published.   Individual members have to take personal responsibility for what they say in public and how they say it.  As for C&R, we all agree that Affordability is a key issue.

Cr Casey persevered,

Cathy Casey: ” Hi Michael, Maybe I wasn’t clear. Let me try again. As a member of C&R, are you are saying the process engaged in by Councillors Fletcher and Brewer on your behalf yesterday is kosher? YES or NO And that it is okay for C&R to publicly malign Councillor Penny Webster? YES or NO. ”

Michael Williams: ”  I see your angle, you are inviting me to take sides against a member of my own team.”

Well, actually, no – I thought Cr Casey was asking a perfectly responsible, straight-forward question. At this point it should be made clear that Michael Williams is a C&R member as well as the Chairperson of the Auckland Council’s  Howick Local Board. In which case, Cr Casey had just cause to be asking Williams these questions – especially considering he had voluntarily joined the conversation on Cr Casey’s FB page.

Cr Casey continued,

Cr Cathy Casey: ” Hi Michael, Depends on whether it is a YES or a NO. I am inviting you to bring some integrity into the way your own team does its political busness. I note in the release Councillor George Wood is listed as “Deputy Leader, C&R” but he says he had no input. ”

Michael Williams:  ” Life is not Black and White Cathy. “

?!?! And the point of that statement was —?

Obviously by now, Williams is having difficulty answering a straight question with a commensurately straight answer.

By this time others have entered the conversation, and they are not happy with C&R’s obfuscation.

Cr Casey continues to push her line of questioning,

Cr Cathey Casey: ” Still waiting for an answer from George Wood too. Dick Quax is also a member of C&R. Dick do you support the process of sending out a media release during the council meeting yesterday? Do you support the content of the media release especially in relation to remarks about Penny Webster?

Williams then responded with a deflection-non-sequitur combo,

Michael Williams: ”  You people should read your own posts, they are every bit as offensive as the throw away comment you are referring to. “

Which is laughable, as Williams earlier had stated, ” There’s always a bit of rough and tumble in politics.”  Evidently “rough and tumble” is ok if it’s from the Right – but a naughty no-no if it comes from anyone else. Damn, I keep forgetting their funny rules and ways…

Williams did not respond, but C&R Deputy Leader George Wood did,

George Wood:  ” ‎… the situation really is that C&R and other like minded councillors are spending hours of time working through the myriad of issues around affordability and the make up of the 10 year budgets. It is no easy task but we are getting explanations to specific questions. We also went out to the community through radio adverts and have been getting good feedback. We are running things along the lines of how we did things when I was mayor of North Shore City although I’m more in an opposition role. Things seem to be progressing well. “

That statement is interesting in it’s own right, and raises several more questions,

  1. If ” C&R and other like minded councillors are spending hours of time working through the myriad of issues around affordability and the make up of the 10 year budgets  ”  – then why are they issuing vitriolic Media Releases – and abusing other councillors in the process? What is the gain in such actions?
  2. It is no easy task but we are getting explanations to specific questions. ” – What questions?  The ones asked above seemed fairly straight forward. Does it require a collective mind-set from the entire C&R Team to respond to simple questions on a social media?!
  3. We also went out to the community through radio adverts and have been getting good feedback. ” – ??? Is that normal Council procedure, for factions in the Council to pursue ad hoc means to seek public feedback on issues? Surely there are more professional, traditional means of seeking responses from the public. In fact, I’m certain of it – they are usually called “Making a Submission to the Draft Annual Plan”!
  4. I was mayor of North Shore City although I’m more in an opposition role. ” Why are you in an “opposition” role, Mr Wood? Do you consider the Auckland Council to be Parliament?  And just what are you ‘opposing’?

The FB conversation ended with Mr Wood’s posted statement.

But it does in no way end the matter of C&R’s unprovoked, ad hominem slur against Cr Penny Webster, suggesting that she is “in the pocket of the mayor”.

One can only assume that the Right Wing in Auckland are starting to panic. They have lost another ‘battle’ in the ports industrial dispute, and the National Government is under siege from multiple directions from scandals, cronyism, and unpopular ideologically-based  policies.

It is not a happy time to be a right winger.

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As I started this piece with; there is a war for the soul of Auckland.

For the Right Wing, there is unfinished business to settle; Rodney Hide’s Master Plan to privatise Auckland Council’s assets, and to strip away any services that the Right consider “non essential” or “non-core business”.

All this was supposed to have been taken care of soon after the founding of the supercity, Auckland Council. John Banks was to have been elected mayor; along with a bevy of barely-restrained free-marketeers; and with Central Government’s nodding agreement, the Firesale of the Century would have ensued. Anything not nailed down would have been flogged off to “mum and dad” investors (ie; corporate interests).

Except, it didn’t quite go the way things were planned.

Aucklanders elected a centre-left mayor, and C&R and their fellow travellers were a neutered minority.

Default to Plan B.

(There is always a Plan B.)

Port workers were due for a renegotiation of their Collective Employment Agreement (CEA). The Agreement had expired on 30 September 2011, and formal negotiations had been ongoing since 5 August 2011.

However, POAL Board and management were in no mood to settle, and plans were afoot to casualise the workforce. A secret POAL memo leaked to the Maritime Union confirmed suspicions that POAL management were up to no good.

The Port dispute worsened as management became more and more intransigent.  As the industrial dispute became a crisis, and workers were locked out, public pressure was brought to bear on Mayor Len Brown.

As the mayor elected on a centre-left platform, port workers; centre-left councillors; and many other Aucklanders looked to him to intervene and bring the crisis to a head. It was only after the 5,000+ strong street march on 10 March that Brown offered to mediate.

By then, the damage was done – Brown’s reputation and credibility with the Left had been shredded. He was seen as ineffectual at best – and kowtowing to the Right at worst.

The Left began openly discussing an alternative mayoral candidate to Brown for the next upcoming local body elections. Every left-wing blogger (including this blogger) expressed frustration at Brown’s inaction and wanted change. If Brown couldn’t stand up to the New Right – then by golly, we’ll find some who could!!

On 30 March, on his TV blog-show, “Citizen A”, Bomber Bradbury asked his panellists,

Will the Left stand a different candidate against Brown for the mayorlty, and if they would, who would it be?

Unfortunately for us, the Right were paying attention – very close attention – to what the left were openly debating on various blogs. To paraphrase H.G. Wells,

“And yet, across the gulf of the political divide, minds immeasurably greedier to ours regarded these assets  with envious eyes; and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us.”

You bet they did.

The Right are counting on the Left putting up an alternative candidate to Len Brown. And if Brown stands again – we end up splitting the centre-left vote.

End game result:  a C&R mayor sneaks through.

Or, if the Left does not engage an alternative candidate and simply turns our collective back on Brown – his vote will collapse (as it did for Labour generally, last year).

End game result: the C&R mayor’s support stays firm, and beats Brown at the ballot box.

The Left needs to be more clever abour this.

Instead of showing Len Brown the door, and all but guaranteeing a C&R victory for the mayorlty, we  may have no choice but to hang on to him. All passions aside – do we really want to see Cameron Brewer as mayor?!?!

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Holy Crap! Sweet mother of god - not BREWER!!!

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The best way to deal with this situation? We need to re-think our strategy.

Instead of dumping Brown – the Left must work damn hard to build on our electoral support in the community, and get more centre-left candidates elected! With more centre-left councillors, the Left will be in a stronger position to “support” and “encourage” Len Brown when it comes to those awkward “minty moments”.

‘Cos sure to goodness, getting rid of Brown and inadvertantly letting a centre-right mayor win office would be an own-goal of incredibly dumb proportions.

So, fellow Aucklanders. Take note of Cr Fletcher’s Media Release. Class war is upon us. Our mission – should we choose to accept it – is to be more cleverer than them.

Game on.

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Related Blogpost

Unfortunate Outrage?

Additional

Scoop.co.nz:  Auckland To Become Unaffordable, Not More Liveable

NZ Herald: C&R leader offers to quit after debate turns heated

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