Or, rather, some speculative ruminations on what will happen if Winston Peters holds the balance of power and won't commit to supporting either bloc in the House. 

Imagine, if you will, a scenario on September 21 where the provisional election results deliver a Parliament where National cannot form a majority even with ACT/United Future/Maori Party support, Labour cannot form a majority with Green/Mana-Internet Party support and Colin Craig's Conservatives fall short of the threshold.

Obama to expand efforts on ebola; China finds natural gas in South China Sea; Philippines government orders evcuation of volcano region; US steps up Iraq airstrikes; new tax breaks for Brazil; and more

Top of the Agenda

Obama to Expand Ebola Efforts

Was The Moment of Truth an election advertisement?

I gave the ODT my thoughts on "The Moment of Truth" event last night - the tl;dr of which is that there are some important questions about the issue of data collection and surveillance to be addressed, but that the involvement of Dotcom (in particular) in it was regrettable.

All sides in the current spying debate are choosing their words very carefully as the search for lies intensifies. But what do those words mean?

Words matter, never so much in New Zealand politics as they do right now. Remember Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass?

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

It'll take two posts to get through my observations of tonight's big reveal at the Auckland Town Hall. This one's on the timing and strategy around the revelations

Sitting in the Auckland Town Hall tonight – both in the hall meeting and the press conference after – two old sayings kept passing through my mind: "it's all about the timing" and "the devil's in the details". Both truisms couldn't be more true when it came to the Internet Party's Moment of Truth.

Dealing to dirty dairying is an issue that the three major parties fundamentally agree on. Is a parliamentary accord on protecting our waterways next?

I have said in the past that for the Green Party to broaden their appeal, they would need to engage with the real economy, including a better appreciation of the importance dairy farming to the New Zealand economy. With their recent announcements about protecting rivers and streams, it is clear that the Greens have done just that. I imagine the Greens plan has been sometime in the making.

The biggest problem muddying New Zealand's waterways is not farming, it's  misinformation

Following the success of the Dirty Dairying campaign, and the electioneering around the Dirty Politics book, it could be time for a Murky Water investigation – to shed some light, achieve some clarity and generally uncover some facts.

A personal rememberance of Peter Gutteridge, with no connection to politics or law whatsoever. Some things matter more than those diversions.

I didn't ever "know" Peter Gutteridge. 

Glenn Greenwald's claims starting on The Nation this weekend have unleashed a flood of news. Can we process it in time? And what will it mean to a very pragmatic people?

It's going to be difficult for all the claims made by Glenn Greenwald to be properly reported, checked and debated in just the five days before the election, but New Zealand journalists are having a pretty good crack at it. In just two 24 hour cycles Greenwald's main claims have been laid out, rejected by the Prime Minister, and challenged again by Greenwald.

Justice Ellis recounts "the numerous and weighty constitutional criticisms" of taking the vote from prisoners. But because Parliament (or, rather, the National and Act Parties) didn't care about these sorts of thing, they still can't vote.

Justice Ellis has told Arthur Taylor and other prisoners in New Zealand the only thing she really could say: you don't get to vote this election.

Want to know all the bottom lines Winston Peters has laid down this year?

Reports today talk about Winston Peters laying down "the ground rules" for coalition negotiations and setting out "priority areas he wants addressed". And it's interesting that the indications he's making now aren't exactly in line with what he's said previously.

Tax has caused problems for both major parties at the sharp end of the election campaign, but the difference is that one party is using it to dominate the conversation with less than two weeks to go

Talking about tax has taken on a perculiarly risky air about it this past week or so. Tax is meant to be boring, the stuff of grey-suited accountants. But suddenly it's more like a political Red Arrow – something you only get into if you want to take your life in your own hands.

There's lots to celebrate in our schools, and even Maori achievement has more to say for it than often acknowledged, but questions remain

While there is much grumbling about New Zealand's education system, the evidence suggests it's doing very well. Every three years the OECD surveys a sample of 15 year-old students. The exercise, known as PISA: (Program for International Student Assessment) looks at three dimensions: reading, maths and science knowledge.

If National maintain current polling and both the Conservatives and New Zealand First get to five percent, Key will be in the catbird seat. But which might he choose and why?

With two weeks to go until election day, it looks highly likely that John Key will be Prime Minister until 2017. The idea that Labour on around 25% could lead a government is improbable. And it's now hard to imagine anything that Kim Dotcom could disclose that will change the voters' minds.

Ask and you will receive... Maybe. Eventually. In an election campaign getting a straight answer can be like pulling teeth

It's seldom the first time you ask the question that's telling. Sometimes it takes until the 4th or 5th ask before you see the truth peep its head out from behind the spin. There were three good examples of that on The Nation this morning.

Both National's and Labour's housing policies can begin to look like a house of cards when you get into the detail. But one seems more likely to give us more houses

Crisis, what crisis? That's been National's call when it comes to the rapidly rising price of houses in our main centres. The debate over what to do to address our runaway housing market, especially in Auckland, is one of the defining differences between the two parties, but both have problems with their policies.

The Conservatives have now found their turangawaewae - they're offering the same but different whereas Peters has to figure out how to sell his 'wait and see' approach to coalition

The shadow boxing between Winston Peters and Colin Craig is will be one of the most interesting bouts on display in the final weeks of the campaign. Just how these two spar - and triangulate with John Key - could be crucial to the shape of the next government.

Claims the Prime Minister must have known about dirty politics around him ignore the reality of his CEO style and the Law Commission has more work to do on new media

 

Two weeks ago I suggested this could turn into New Zealand's first policy-free election; my instinct seems to have been proven correct. While policy debates are still occuring around the fringes, there is no way now that with just two weeks to go that the Opposition parties are going to let the fallout from Dirty Politics go. And there is still the Dotcom revelation to come.

The Left views Third Way politics as a sell-out these days and Josie Pagani is damned as an adherent – but what's wrong with compromise and wanting to win elections?

During a visit he made to Melbourne in 2000, I joined some colleagues to sit down for a chat with Dick Morris, the self-proclaimed strategic mastermind who claimed to have single-handedly rescued Bill Clinton's flailing presidency and coined the term "triangulation" along the way.

With two Dirty Politics inspired inquiries on the go, where are they taking us? And will they make everything better?

So far, the Dirty Politics book has generated two inquiries. The first is into the release  of information from the SIS to a certain blogger whom we don't name. The second is into Judith Collins' alleged involvement with an alleged plot to allegedly have the head of the Serious Fraud Office allegedly removed from his office. Allegedly.

Some thoughts on both of these.

The University of Otago is going to debate Dirty Politics. We'd love for you to join in it.

Love it or loathe it, Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics and its aftermath has lit a fire under our perception of "politics as usual" in New Zealand. Exactly how all that plays out come September 20th is an as yet unknown cipher.

Beyond its effect on the upcoming election, however, the book raises a number of important questions across a range of different areas.

The pressure of good journalism by many over a period of weeks was at the heart of the weekend's major developments, and it means the next 20 days will be unlike any we've seen

Isn't it curious how often major scandals end in farce and how often it really is cock-up rather than conspiracy? Judith Collins' fate was decided in the end by friendly fire, an accident of one of her own. And it just goes to show that you really are defined by the people you surround yourself with. And that pressure and persistence counts.

Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics has provided the disinfectant of sunlight but the kinds of behaviours are long-standing. Take this example from 2005. Does it look familiar?

It dates back to 2005, another election year. And as one of those responsible for seminars for the School of Government and the Institute of Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington I assisted with the organisation of two pre-election forums focusing on substantive policy issues of interest at the time.

An incidence of friendly fire, an inadvertent firing toward one's own or otherwise friendly forces. Also, this song.

From today's Sunday Star-Times story on the events that precipitated Judith Collins' resignation:

Judith Collins says she has stepped down because of an email that says she did something that she never did. Should we believe her?

It's a pretty safe bet that when a certain blogger whom we don't name came up with his "trophy wall" of individuals that he had "harpooned" through his work, he didn't ever think that the biggest head mounted on it would be that of the National Party's Minister of Justice, his close friend Judith Collins.

If a political party doesn't want you, can you get a court to tell it that it has to have you?

So Andrew Williams has decided to do a Winston Peters and go off to Court to try and stop "his" party from excluding him as a candidate.

Could this party herald a radical realignment on the left of New Zealand politics? And are we seeing echoes of the 2002 election?

Last week I asked, somewhat facetiously, whether this would be New Zealand's first policy-free election. Now obviously parties will release policies and they will provoke some debate, but it does seem that the personalities and the general perception of each party is going to matter more in this election than is traditionally so.

I’m not sure attempts to spin expectations around tonight’s leaders’ debate are credible.

Take the people saying  ‘all David Cunliffe has to do is draw’. Unfortunately, last year David Cunliffe’s supporters in the leadership contest argued he should lead the  party because of his superior debating skills.

The latest poll suggests trust issues are moving some voters, the risk of giving Peters what he wants and debate expectations...

If the 3News-Reid Research poll has captured a snap shot of the voters' mood, then it shows that the campaign at the moment is all about trust. It is of course only one poll, but it shows a flight from the major parties that must worry John Key and David Cunliffe as they head into tonight's first TV debate.

The Dirty Politics brushfire is starting to dampen down. Time to rake over the ashes and see what got left behind.

As I stated in my post on Dirty Politics, the most important question that it raises for me is what sort of politics and political behaviour are we prepared to accept in our country? That's a big issue.

National's campaign strategy is starting to look shakey, and it's as much to do with the economy and discipline as Dirty Politics

John Key has been relying more than usual on the scripted spin when it comes to defending his administration after the revelations in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics, one of his most popular being that Hager's claims were "dissolving before his eyes". But instead, the claims have stacked up and it's National's famed discipline that's fading.

The Conservative Party CEO and candidate says she'd want to get it in writing before trusting National

So I hosted an Epsom candidates' debate Thursday night; great turn out and lots of good questions from people in the audience of over 160. But there was a fascinating statement by Christine Rankin there that deserves a bit of news treatment.

New PM for Thailand; Indonesian court to rule on presidency; senior Hamas leaders killed in Israeli airstrike; Brazil's Socialist Party chooses new candidate; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Thai Junta Leader Appointed PM

#Team Key is channeling #Team New Zealand in their TV ads.  Space age boats, elite performers surging out ahead in an 8-1 lead - what could possibly go wrong?

The government is campaigning on the economy because surveys show people think the economy is going OK, even if they haven’t felt the benefits yet.

The so-called Islamic State is playing us with a sophisticated propaganda machine designed to terrify the West and recruit young Muslims from all around the globe. We don't need to see James Foley's actual execution to believe IS means business...so what next?  

The horrific beheading of American journalist James Foley, at the hands of a so-called Islamic State (IS) militant with a British accent, has caused an earthquake on the mainstream and social media platforms.

It was at once a video of a barbaric cold blooded murder, and also a masterful challenge to the United States’ bombing of IS forces in Iraq.

Is the Dirty Politics debate making a mockery of the manifestos? And should authors have the right to right to use material that's obtained by criminal means?

A couple of weeks ago I said that every election has its surprises. But I certainly didn't see Nicky Hager coming down the track, book in hand. Perhaps I should have, since both my 2002 and 2005 examples involved him.

Not all blogs are the same. Not all bloggers are bad. David Farrar hasn't done anything wrong.

My last post was a bit of a heartfelt reaction to what I saw in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics book. In it, I gave examples of what I regarded to be quite reprehensible statements by a number of the individuals discussed in the text. One individual notable by his absence was David Farrar.

For me, it comes down to the downloading and whether a refusal to even ask the question is good enough for someone sworn to protect and serve the public good

At last, this morning, Prime Minister John Key had to face a focused, serious one-on-one interview – on Morning Report with Guyon Espiner. And beyond the spin and counter-arguments this far, we got a look at how National will respond to the susbstantive issues raised.

It's the kind of poll that says what they want it to say. But it's only one poll.

Today's 3News-Reid Research poll is one that will put a smile on the face of all the bigger party leaders, or at least is has a silver lining for them all.

The point of Dirty Politics isn't (just) about what happens in September. Or, what Danyl Mclauchlan said, with more quotes.

I've made my way through Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics over the weekend. Danyl Mclauchlan's already pretty much expressed what it made me feel:

There's lots of stuff we know and lots we don't know following the latest round of Dirty Politics interviews... Here's my take on what we know so far and what it means

It's a matter, ultimately, for the courts. And voters. But the debate over Cameron Slater's accessing of the Labour Party website in 2011 has become a war of metaphors.

The specifics in the Hagar book are devastating. To focus on them, the left should take Nicky Hager’s advice and avoid the politics of vilification.

Over the summer holidays I wrote a post calling on the left to repudiate the politics of vilification.

Dirty Politics could have the unintended consequence of harming all New Zealand politicians... and the Prime Minister's terrible stand-up

It's been a high stakes day in New Zealand politics. Nicky Hager, an occassional contributor to this site, has put his reputation on the line by choosing to use hacked emails to write Dirty Politics and John Key has matched him as he stood by his controversial staffer and denied some of the seemingly well-made claims in the book.

If the NZ Herald wants its editorials to be taken seriously, it should stop using them to mislead its readers.

While I'm waiting on my copy of Nicky Hager's Dirty Tricks to arrive so that I can join the interweb's great topic de jour, a quick cut-and-paste response to today's NZ Herald's editorial.

The Electoral Commission is right to say the Planet Key song can't be played on the radio. That's because we have a stupid and outdated law in place.

By now I'm sure you've all been online and had a look at the very well put together song and accompanying video, "Planet Key". If you haven't, you really should ... it's quite clever (even David Farrar says so!).

Changing your business name and branding is a risky proposition. Has Telecom, now known as Spark, made the right choice?

Alas, poor Telecom… it is no more.
The new Spark has risen from the ashes and time will tell whether the branding revamp has had a phoenix effect.

Labour’s campaign launch was a hit yesterday for one reason; Labour does best when it talks about making ordinary people better off.

Appealing to people who visit Mitre 10 at the weekend and want to earn enough to own their own home, do it up and get ahead in life is exactly what the Labour party should be doing. Free GP visits for 1.7 million New Zealanders does just that.

Can TV3 keep Colin Craig out of its debates? Maybe, or maybe not.

From TV3's website:

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is threatening legal action against TV3 after he was left out of a minor party leaders debate on the channel’s public affairs programme The Nation.

Jamie Whyte thinks Sweden's example of how to approach indigenous peoples is a good one to follow here. That means he supports a separate Maori Parliament for New Zealand.

Jamie Whyte obviously has decided to double-down on his whole "Maori are the noblesse de race of New Zealand" schtick, because if nothing else it's gotten people to pay him some attention. And he's also obviously decided that (as many a blogger also has realised) there's a lot more traction to be gained from generating a feud with someone else (damn you Scott Yorke!

Reports of Labour's Kelvin Davis 'going rogue' have been exaggerated

Leaked revelations of a dispute between Labour’s Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis and the party’s Head Office over a proposed negative campaign against Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom have been used as evidence of Davis going rogue.  In truth, the documents show a candidate engaged in nothing more sinister than garden variety electioneering; of trying to win a tough political fight.

If the Taxpayers' Union really want to be taken seriously, they really shouldn't put out press releases that lie to the media. 

I haven't had the chance to have a good grump at anyone for a week or so (and, again, sorry to my Public Law students for the last one!), so it was with the greatest of pleasure that I came across this press release from everyone's favourite astroturfing right-wing pressure "group", the

Is the Lochinver Station sale John Key's 'Corngate'? Voters may surprise us.

Elections always produce their surprises. Many of them have no impact on voters' intentions. But some do, since they either go to the credibility of political parties, or they relate to a policy issue that actually matters to voters. So, for instance, the GE 'Corngate' issue hurt Helen Clark in 2002, and the Exclusive Brethren fiasco hurt National in 2005.

As of writing the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas holds. It is now up to the negotiations in Cairo to produce something that allows both sides to save face by going home with 'Wins'. Possible? Sure. Likely? Worth holding your breath for. 

The Obama Administration is reportedly seething at the snook Israel is currently cocking its way.

Already Secretary of State John Kerry has been openly ridiculed by senior members of Benjamin Netanyahu's right wing coalition cabinet.

How far may the Police go in tricking someone to "confess" to murder? Well, I can talk about what happens in Canada ... .

 In the early 1990s, Police in British Columbia came up with a pretty novel way of trying to get information out of suspects who had refused to tell them the "truth" in formal interviews. It's since become known over there as the "Mr Big" technique. The CBC's website describes it as follows:

Here's how Mr Big works:

It is now incumbent on the world outside the horror of Gaza to prevent the status quo ante from being reinstated once Israel determines that it has bombed enough tunnels....let alone actual people who have nothing to do with its military ambitions.

When Palestinina parents ask of their flayed, dismembered, burned, shrapnel riddled babies, toddlers or adolescents "are these the children of the resistance?"...and plead for "peace or you will make terrorists of all our children", you would have to be extremely callous or an idiot to dismiss them.

We all know New Zealand First takes a hard line on foreign ownership. But with the Lochinver sale that line just got a little bit harder

This is why John Key has been saying to anyone who'll listen that you can take nothing for granted when it comes to this year's election. Out of left field... or at least a field near Taupo... can some an issue that blindsides you. This weekend it's Shanghai Pengxin's purchase of Lochniver Station and foreign ownership in general.

John Banks is now a convicted criminal. Which is a good thing, but maybe not for the reason you think.

So the first line of John Banks' future obituary has now been written: "John Banks, former mayor of Auckland and a long serving MP and Minister for the National and Act Parties who was convicted of falsely reporting contributions to one of his campaigns, has died."

Chris Trotter has missed my point. It's not a factional coup d'etat Labour needs but a coup d'élan to jolt the party onto success

A recent column I wrote in the NZ Herald earned a

The Gaza conflict requires a more creative solution than is on offer 

The world witnesses yet another tragic spectacle of the perennial Israel /Palestine war over Gaza. There are the appalling pictures of dead and injured children in schools and hospitals. Enormous explosions are seen on our screens where multi-story buildings are reduced to rubble in an instant. What happens to their inhabitants?

Colin Craig is making up the law. And Jamie Whyte doesn't think rural people should have access to doctors. Or something like that.

A quick couple of points about some typically nutty stories provided by everyone's favourite comic puchlines - the Conservative and Act Parties.

Jamie Whyte's speech insisting "race has no place in the law" ignores the fact that the law has never been blind to race, let alone wealth, history and any number of other things

US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts likes to say that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race", a sentiment ACT leader Jamie Whyte would applaud going by his Waikato conference speech this past weekend.

Deals on the left... Candidates dipping into their own pockets... culture versus class... there are high stakes at play in the Maori electorates this year 

We all know it could be a fight to the death in the Maori seats this election, but it's startling to think that some candidates are borrowing money off their mortgages just to be able to stand at this election.

It seems the appeal of public service may not be dead after all.

Labour's public upset over the TVNZ debate moderator is a sign of more ill-discipline and prompts the question if it's time for a rejig in David Cunliffe's office

Labour has been bleating about Mike Hosking being used as moderator in a TVNZ election debate. There is even the unconvincing talk that Labour may boycott the debate if Hosking takes that role.

Sanctions are an easy option when it comes to the West's anger against Russia's actions in Ukraine, but the lessons of our past suggest another course

For the past year I have been on the World War I Commemoration Panel. The members include people as diverse as Sir Peter Jackson, Dame Anne Salmond, and Sir Bob Harvey. One of the most interesting things I have done as a member of the panel is read up on the politics and intrigue that precipitated the war.

New Zealand makes no economic sense in a global market place. 


If you follow the logic of some economists this week who tell us to ‘red-zone’ small towns in New Zealand, then presumably the same logic should apply globally. New Zealand is too small, too far away, with too many old people.

At last some high level acknowledgement that a ceasfire between Israel and Hamas has to be more than a return to the status quo...but don't hold your breath. 

The mounting death toll in Gaza has spurred an intensified flurry of diplomacy (again), and finally a stated acknowledgement that this time the terms of any ceasefire (which will eventually come) need to differ from those of the past three Israeli-Hamas wars.

First, stop blaming the media. 

The problem isn't 'right wing framing'. There isn’t a media conspiracy to get a third term National government. When you fall behind everyone airs their favourite explanation and negatives get repeated and amplified. It's the job of politicians, not media, to inspire a change in the story. 

It seems the latest trend in minor party politics is political nudity, draped in just the merest hint of government

When MMP was young and new, coalition governments were the bright new thing that everyone wanted. Famously the 1996 agreement between National and New Zealand First was long and detailed.

Winston Peters has just moved his King to East Coast Bays and put Labour and the Greens' capital gains tax pawns under threat...proof that New Zealand First is still a player

With holidays over, party conferences held, and the final two weeks of this term's parliament commencing, the parties have just about all laid out their pieces for the campaign chess game ahead.

More than 400 lives for 14 tunnels. It is not worth it. As the world watches in horror at the slaughter of Palestinians trapped in Gaza, it becomes even more evident that lopsided as they are, military assaults from Hamas or Israeli will never bring peace to either the occupied or the occupier.   

Yet another bloody day in Gaza.

Yet another day of occupation.

Yet another scripted justification from Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu...although perhaps a slight shift ...”as I said when this action began there is no guarantee of success, but results have so far exceeded expectation”.

Rodney Hide thinks some MP should bravely do a pointless thing that he himself is not quite courageous enough to try.

In today's Herald on Sunday, Rodney Hide repeats his call for some MP to use parliamentary privilege to reveal the identity of a "prominent" New Zealander granted name sup

Colin Craig has just one thing he wants from National in any post-election deal. Unfortunately, it's something that National isn't able to give him.

A while back, I confidently predicted the following in the wake of the announcement that Laila Harre would lead the Internet Party:

Did you know that if you don't know you are breaking a law, this means that you're allowed to break it without criminal consequences following? At least, you can if you're a New Zealand spy agency.

Completely unsurprisingly, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has rejected Russel Norman's complaint about the way the Police investigated the GCSB's involvement in spying on Kim Dotcom (and other matters). Norman had complained about three aspects of the Police's investigation:

Is spending money on trying to affect how people vote a bad thing ... unless it's you who is doing the spending?

On my sabbatical year in Canada in 2006, I was introduced to a couple of truly great new (to me) things. One was chocolate porter as the ideal mid-winter tipple in a land of ice and snow. The second was Arrested Development, watched as a DVD box set in evening-long binge sessions. For those who've done likewise, you'll understand the reference made in this post's title.

The inequality debate reaches beyond individuals to towns and regions, so what can we do when an entire town is in the doldrums?

One of the main topics on The Nation this past weekend was inequality, with Paula Bennett being the main guest, supplemented by a very interesting interview with Shamubeel Eaqub, NZEIR's principal econ

There is a lot of lip service paid to employees being an organisation's greatest asset, but the reality is rather different

'People are our greatest asset'.

Put it in to Google, with New Zealand as the specific country, and the range of companies that appear with the strap line is remarkable. From accounting firms through science to media and volunteer organisations. The employees of some of the companies might, however, give the Tui billboard response… Yeah, right.

The High Court just cracked open the door to expressly telling Parliament that it has made laws that unacceptably breach human rights. But it also said that it really, really, really doesn't want to walk into that strange room.

Regular readers will know that the issue of prisoner voting - or, more accurately, the decision of the National and Act Parties to take away the right of prisoners to vote - is something that I've had cause to post on in the past.

Labour’s new election slogan is a challenge for the party to focus exclusively ‘on the positive things that matter to Kiwi families’, as the PR promises. 

That means rejecting the rhetoric that has New Zealand going to hell in a hand basket, and avoiding negative distractions that make Labour look like the party of dead trees, slow trucks and extinct birds.


I like Labour’s ‘Vote Positive’ more than I like National’s ‘Working for New Zealand’ (which begs the question, ‘who have you been working for until now?’)

Whether it will change anyones’ vote remains to be seen.