Politics

National has reinforced its capacity to surprise, but also its capacity for making things up as it goes along. And to make ends meet, Key and English have done several u-turns

A closer look at Budget 2015 shows a government making it up as it goes along. While it's a clever political document, it shows National is trying to plug a lot of political holes with a diminishing amount of capital -- both fiscal and political.

We say that it should be the voters and the voters alone that determine who is and who is not a member of Parliament. At least, up until we say that pure chance should decide that matter.

The provincial election in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island finally came to an end a couple of days ago when its last MLA was declared elected following a judicial recount.

(What - you didn't know that Prince Edward Island has just had an election? What are you, prejudiced against Anne of Green Gables or something?)

Here's my take on the Budget... before it comes out.

With a few hours to go before the Budget, it already looks like it's Labour lite all over again; a political repeat of 2014 with National unashamedly doing exactly what opposition parties have been saying they should do and taking credit for it.

John Banks should have been declared innocent by the Court of Appeal in November last year. But that doesn't mean he should not have been before the courts at all.

Let me start out by saying that I'm not surprised that John Banks has (eventually) been declared innocent of knowingly filing a false return of election donations.

National has done something so that it looks like it's doing something about Auckland housing. But it reeks of third term-itis when you pretend you're fixing a problem when you're merely tinkering

"So where's the good bit?" Guyon Espiner asked a RNZ guest this morning in relation to National's not-new non-capital gains tax reforms announced over the weekend. The answer is hard to pin down, not because there isn't some value in the changes, but because National's wriggly, squirming messaging makes it so darned hard to understand.

Andrew Little recently suggested that ACC's current funding model is more suitable for private insurance, and suggested that a future Labour government might change it - but in doing so failed to get to the heart of the issue.

In a recent interview on Morning Report (reported

Us intolerant liberal types who favour using the power of law to put an end to the sort of intolerant words and deeds that we detest should look to Canada and ... ponder.

As I have said before, I have a somewhat conflicted attitude towards the Israel-Palestine situation:

At least that's how it should be. But the politics of Len Brown are undermining Auckland's growth as National plays politics with transport

The tensions between Auckland and Wellington cannot be fudged anymore; it's clear that disagreements between the two are now holding the city back, as they bicker over transport funding.

The saga of family carers for the severely disabled is still being written, despite Parliament's attempts to put a full stop on it. It makes for a really interesting constitutional tale.

The story of the struggle of family carers of severely disabled individuals to get paid for the work that they do and the various court decisions, governmental policies and legislative enactments that it has inspired makes for a truly fascinating case study in how New Zealand's constitutional processes work.

Why does the Minister of finance say this is is hardest budget ever? The economy may be doing moderately well, but it is by no means preforming outstandingly.

In 1993 the New Zealand economy began to show signs of an upswing after the seven years of Rogernomics Stagnation. In a public comment I remarked that it seemed to be in the ‘recovery’ phase, which is the economist’s technical term for the stage in the business cycle when the economy leaves the bottom of the business cycle and goes into upswing.

Do the sums and read between the lines, and it looks like something has to give in this year's budget. And I think I know what it may be...

So Bill English hasn't dropped enough pounds... or, at least, dollars. Weight loss is the metaphor Bill English has chosen to excuse his failure to meet the government oft-repeated and top priority of reaching surplus by 2015-16. That's right, it's sayonara surplus.

English's explanation run along these lines:

John Key's hair-pulling raises questions about just what kind of player he is, and his interview on The Nation reveals a worrying lack of judgement and understanding of power

John Key's pony-tail-gate controversy seems to have divided people into two camps. The vast bulk of New Zealanders (to purloin a Key-ism) can agree on the fact that it's weird... and out of order. But then there are those who shrug it off and say things like "no-one died, he was just being a dick" and "he didn't mean anything cruel by it".

Arthur Taylor's tilt at the windmills of Hellensville predictably has resulted in a shattered lance. Now we wait for the outcome of his really interesting court challenge.

As predicted here, Arthur Taylor's election petition challenge to John Key's victory in the Helensville electorate has failed. The court found that Arthur Taylor was:

Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. John Key spinning obfuscatory defence lines, Bridges warning.

Three fairly clear signs emerged today that the National Party knows Simon Bridges stuffed up in getting his officials to give him all the information needed for National to put together its ill-conceived "10 bridges for your vote!" bribe.

Repeat after me: the public service is not a political party's election policy research unit, the public service is not a political party's election policy research unit, the public service is not a political party's election policy research unit.

National's "ten bridges for your votes!" gambit at the Northland by-election is shaping up as one of the worst election policy offerings that a political party has made in recent times. I mean that in a couple of ways.

Most New Zealanders think they've seen the back of legal highs (outside the black market), but the fact is they will be back one day... but the politics is fascinating

Matt Bowden has a grand plan. The godfather of legal highs in New Zealand, he's been talking for a few years now about his determination to make this country famous for its safe, regulated and profitable recreational drugs culture.

The Planet Key song and video can be watched, played on the radio and shown on TV without any restrictions at all. It's great that a judge has been able to make the law say what it should do.

Turns out that, contrary to what you may have read in some dark corners of the interweb, you can slate Key on the radio.

We're finally going to find out if we need to change how our election laws limit satirical speech ... after the period for submitting to Parliament on our election laws has ended.

From Darren Watson's website:

News@ 30 March, 2015

What happens when (or if) Winston quits Parliament before he is declared the member for Northland? Nothing very much at all.

In typically-Winston Peters fashion, we've now been told that he will resign as a list MP and thus allow an additional NZ First MP to enter into Parliament.

Is the Northland by-election pothole just a flat tyre for National or is it a sign this political vehicle is running out of gas? Here are two things to keep an eye on once Winston's tempest has passed

So what does it all mean? Maybe something, maybe nothing. While we know the result in Northland and the unique weather patterns that merged to create Cyclone Winston, it's impossible to yet know whether National can blow those clouds away or whether more rain is on the horizon.

Goddam it - Winston Peters went and made a complete fool out of me. Did he have to do it so publicly?

OK - so three weeks or so ago I put up a post confidently saying:

Matthew Hooton’s jihad against Imam Steven Joyce and his pork-barrel Muldonism is legendary. 

But in his desperation to find National party flag-bearers to fight the pork-pushers, he’s picked the wrong martyr. 

Simon Bridges is a card carrying porker from way back.

Here’s what Matthew Hooton said this week in his NBR column:

National really is pulling out all the stops in Northland... they could hardly be doing more to help Winston Peters win

Try as they might, National seems to be turning every Northland fencepost into a losing one at the moment. For a party with such a strong campaigning record, it seems to be playing into Winston Peters' hands at every turn.

Even if National loses the Northland by-election (which I don't think it will), things won't change quite as much as voters are being told they will. So why all the forecasts of  pestilence, blasting, mildew and locusts if Winston Peters wins?

There is an old Chinese curse that goes something along the lines of "may you live in an electorate which becomes important to the Government's ease of legislating in the House".

David Seymour says he may take Winston Peters to court if he wins the Northland by-election. He doesn't really mean it.

From TVNZ:

Act leader David Seymour says he's looking at challenging the result [of the Northland by-election] in court if Mr Peters wins.

Why did Mark Osborne get to tell Northland it was going to get ten new bridges that it might want, but doesn't appear to need? And why am I paying for him getting to do so?

Let's begin with a degree of realism. Politics is, at its core, about the distribution of resources and deciding who gets what from whom. That's a given until the human race reaches a point of post-material scarcity and develops into The Culture

Labour is in a bit of a pickle, but by opening the door for Winston is making life harder for National and ensuring and a close race in the North

Why does Labour keep ending up in these sort of tangles? From Judith Tizard through to Northland at the moment, Labour often ends up with some tricky calls come by-election time.

Jami-Lee Ross appears to be a quite exceptional candidate for the National Party. He does things in relation to money given to him that none of his colleagues do - albeit only in relation to one particular donation.

Further to my previous post about Jami-Lee Ross' curious candidate return, I've been doing a little bit more digging through the Electoral Commission's files.

John Key has put a time limit on our stay in Iraq, but Australia isn't impressed with that kind of thinking, showing the Wellington-Canberra divide on Iraq

John Key and Tony Abbott were putting a brave face on it today, with talk of the countries' "long, strong and intimate partnership", but on Iraq the cracks are showing.

The National Party's treatment of Donghua Liu's donation is strikingly at odds with with how it treated all the other donations it received. That's not only wrong, but it may even be illegal.

The release of individual candidate donation returns following the 2014 election has revealed something interesting about the National Party's financial practices.

Auckland is again debating the future of its waterfront and port, but the truth is it doesn't all have to be decided now

The past few weeks have seen a renewed burst of angst about the Ports of Auckland's expansion plans. More wharf here, demolitions there; where to put the cruise ships, cars and people? All the arguments about Auckland's waterfront have been reignited.

Too much of our national media is located in Auckland and democracy suffers.

Probably most people who regularly read Pundit are in the cyberspace equivalent of the ‘beltway’ – the term for those who live in or work in inner Wellington and are intensely interested as to what is going on there, not just in parliament but in policy-making. (OK, OK, they are interested in the gossip too.) Much of what goes on there is not transparent.

Despite what the "three strikes" law seemed to say, another murderer has avoided a sentence of full-life-without-parole. And that's partly David Garrett's fault.

In a decision (available here) that got a little bit of media attention last week, the sentencing of one Justin Vance Turner tells us something about the way in which courts and Parliament d

Protest outside Nats' summer party a necessary act of defiance in face of welfare and housing reforms 

On Sunday afternoon I spent three hours on the picket line outside National’s ‘Summer Party’ at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club.

Queensland voters didn't go quite as far as this cartoon recommended. But they did create quite a thorny thicket for their politicians to play in.

While most of the New Zealand media's attention has been directed at the omnishambles that is Tony Abbott's (questioned) reign as Australian Prime Minister, there's been something quite interesting happening in Queensland.

If Parliament's rules say you aren't even allowed to refer to the existence of a particular court case, then how can the Speaker enforce those rules without letting everyone knows that the court case exists?

The following interchange with the Speaker took place today in the middle of Andrew Little's reply to the Prime Minister's statement to the House.

Andrew Little has wandered off message a bit recently, and as parliament starts needs to give himself a stern talking to if he's serious about earning the trust of middle New Zealand

Politicians are always walking on a cliff's edge. They are one misstep away from disaster. Or at least a twisted ankle or a bit of a fright. Andrew Little in his first few months as Labour leader has seemed as sure-footed as a mountain goat, but heads into the House today needing to remember where the path is.

Canada's Supreme Court just announced that Canadians do not have a duty to live. Why do New Zealanders?

Let's say you are living in Canada. You are suffering from some nasty incurable disease that may or may not kill you, but certainly will give you a future of pain, indignity and despair. What are your options?

John Key thinks our colonial flag is an outdated symbol that needs replacing. So why is our relationship with the Monarchy any different?

While John Key has obviously decided that a change to the New Zealand flag is worth burning political capital on, he's not interested in altering anything more fundamental. Here's what the Herald reports Key as saying:

Handing someone a "Vote United Future" pamphlet on election day is an offence that can get you fined $20,000. Why is that, and should it be so?

A couple of weeks ago I posted the first of my thoughts on what changes we (or, rather, Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee) might think about making to our electoral laws in the wake of the 2014 election campaign.

How do you think the kind of society that Eleanor Catton described in her (now infamous) interview would react to someone like Eleanor Catton saying such things in an interview?

I don't know if he ever got around to actually writing it, but somewhere there is a Borges story about a story that when read brings into being the very story that is the story that has just been read.

John Key took social housing head on in his first big speech of the year and in doing so raised the ideological politics of ownership, trying to cast it in a new light

The thing about being in government is that you get to actually do things. While Oppositions position, pose and chip away, as Andrew Little did this morning, John Key got to talk about, y'know, an extra $40 million in spending on social housing and plans to sell up to 8,000 state houses this term.

Andrew Little kicked off the political year proper with his state of the nation address this morning, and it emphasised that Labour is under new management

It couldn't have been much more different, really. Andrew Little's state of the nation speech was conspicuously different from David Cunliffe's effort one year and one day ago.

I know, I know, it was election year, time was short and there was more on the line last year. And in looking at the different approaches, you can put a lot down to timing. But certainly not everything.

Could John Key's place in Parliament be under threat from Arthur Taylor's electoral petition? No ... no it couldn't.

I see, via Stuff, that Arthur Taylor's electoral petition seeking to overturn John Key's return from the Helensville electorate has commenced in the High Court. Let me go on record as saying that it has zero chance of success. I say that for (at least) three reasons.

Rules that stop you using your property as you see fit are bad. Rules that stop other people using their property ... are less so.

There's no particular reason to assume that the Resource Management Act is perfect or cannot be improved upon. It's some twenty-five years old now. It's been tinkered around with quite a bit in the interim. That's a bit of a recipe for ending up with poor legislation.

The Justice and Electoral Committee will soon be reviewing the 2014 general election. Here's the first of my thoughts on what it might profitably look at.

After every general election, Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee holds an inquiry into how things went during it. This is A Good Thing, as it provides an opportunity for looking at (and sometimes even fixing) little anomalies in our electoral processes - a kind of continuous improvement exercise, if you will.

What are the words that captured the year in a few syllables and defined 2014? Read on...

Massey University today reported its 'quote of the year' for 2014 is an outburst from blogger Cameron Slater. Except it's a dumb choice.

A little pre-Christmas fun, looking at Treasury's prediction that National will fail to reach its much-promised surplus through some literary lenses

Scene I

Bill English bounces out of his Beehive bed with a surplus of energy, yet feeling rather lacklustre can only pour himself a glass of milk and drag himself to the balcony looking out over central Wellington. He glances over at the electric guitar in the corner of his room and shrugs; it's been months since he's played.

Until we know more about Man Haron Monis and his motivations, John Key should avoid leaping to assumptions and using the case to justify his own political goals

Clunk. That's the sound of John Key mishandling his comments over the Sydney seige.

The hostage drama in central Sydney ended early this morning with three dead, including the hostage-taker. It's a terrible event and it seems likely religious sentiment was part of gunman Man Haron Monis' motivation.

Apparently New Zealand didn't need a register of foreign land owners ... until it did. So is National preparing to change tack or is it just getting itself into even more of a tangle?

As Winston Peters might put it, it seems like an 'I told you so' moment. Having spent many months ridiculing the idea of a foreign buyers register, reports yesterday suggested government officials have been quietly working away at one after all.

Can legislation intended to stop people fighting for ISIL/ISIS/IS/Daesh instead stop people fighting against ISIL/ISIS/IS/Daesh?

The whole question of when the State should be able to step in to stop people going overseas to act on their moral principles - in particular, by fighting for them - is a quite fraught one. As I wrote here;

The last thing you might think Judith Collins would be is boring. But apparently that's just what the new, true version really is.

Who would ever have guessed that Judith Collins could make a pretty cut-and-dried workplace safety issue so controversial? As Danyl McLauchlan says; "It is possibly the most boring thing there has ever been a twitter debate about."

It is one thing being in Opposition complaining about what has happened in government; it is another thing to have a viable policy. 

It was unfortunate that the first public issue that Andrew Little had to deal with was the Roger Sutton affair. Here was the leader of the Labour Party grumbling yet again. We’ve had six years of such grumbling; an issue comes up, the spokesperson complains it is not going right, and they (it is often unspecified who ‘they’ is) should do something about it.

In which a little spy agency finds that sometimes you can always get what you want, even if its not what you need.

[A note to readers - the following account is a purely subjective reimagination of history.

Or, rather, he hasn't (yet) been found not-guilty of filing a false election return. That probably will happen later.

The news that the Court of Appeal has overturned the guilty verdict against John Banks' for knowingly filing a false election return in relation to his failed 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign is not surprising. To understand why, you need to remember the basis on which he was found guilty.

The Gwyn reports reveals much about the failings of the SIS, but it and the government's response to it also reveals much about the political machinations of this Prime Minister

President Harry Truman famously had a piece of walnut wood on his desk in the oval office that read, "The buck stops here", and when the president referred to it in speeches it was to say that he had to make the final decision and take responsibility for what happened on his watch.

A brief cut-and-paste revisit of what I said at the time about the Dirty Politics allegations about the SIS, OIA and certain bloggers whom we don't name.

I'm presently acting as a "parent helper" at school camp in the backblocks outside of Cromwell, so my capacity to comment on recent events is limited (to put it mildly). So I'll simply reproduce this part of this post from August and say ... nailed it!

... but there's a long way to go as Labour's new self-described 'coach' tries to mould a winning team from the Bad News Bears of previous years

After The Nation's Labour leadership debate in Hamilton a few weeks back, I said to some of my colleagues, 'if Little doesn't win this, he should be given the strategy job of making Labour relevant again, that's what he seems most passionate about'. Well, he did win the race and his early work as leader suggests he's given himself just that job.

Over the next year, John Key faces a choice between his – and New Zealand's – international reputation on one hand and National's support base on the other as he wrestles with reducing our carbon footprint

If you use the language of the Prime Minister's favourite past-time to describe his political style, you'd say he's got a great short game. Short-term, or at least term-to-term, he's proven himself a master reading the public's appetites and knowing his political limits.

The only thing worse than electing the wrong person as leader of Labour is electing him by the narrowest of margins, by virtue of the influence of a handful of individuals acting under instructions. 

Labour just made the wrong choice, in the worst possible way.

Little is the Labour leader despite weak support from his caucus. But they now have two choices: unify or die. And Little has the scope to rebuild from the ground up

So Andrew Little gets to lead the Labour Party, something that many wise heads only a year or two ago would never happen. The promise with which he'd entered parliament seemed to have withered on the New Plymouth vine.

Not any more. He's now Leader of the Opposition.

Why the Waitangi Tribunal's report on the status and effect of the Treaty changes nothing - and potentially everything.

The Waitangi Tribunal's just released report He Whakaputanga me te Tiriti: The Declaration and the Treaty, representing its findings

The new Labour leader will be announced on Tuesday. But before choosing Labour members need to decide if they see the rebuild as a three or six year project

The four candidates who hope to lead the Labour Party into the 2017 election have stumped all their stump speeches and debated all their debate points. Now comes the voting. And the party members must be wishing they could vote for one of John Key's four or five headed hydras.

The regions are being chipped away at... so here's an idea for a serious shot in the arm

It seems our state-owned enterprises are letting us down somewhat these days. Last week it was Solid Energy dashing the hopes of the Pike River families, today it's Air New Zealand cutting flights to more regions. If we want more zombie towns, this is a pretty good way of going about it. Just cut 'em off.

Air New Zealand is shutting down these routes:

A revolt is in the air in Auckland, as ratepayers ask whether councillors are looking hard enough at the city budget and whether Len Brown needs his wings clipped

Len Brown is now one year into his second term and will be leading Auckland through until September 2016. But it's a very different political environment to election night 2013, when Len was clearly the popular choice as cheerleader of the city.

National's decision to stand alongside our allies but not to 'go to war' strengthens our narrative as a small country with its own mind, but beware mission creep

It is any Prime Minister's toughest decision: whether or not to ask young men to fight and perhaps die in foreign fields. While no western country has sent combat troops into battle against Islamic State, military action is underway and the rhetoric from John Key in recent weeks suggested we might be going along for the ride.

I think we've found the way to make electoral law interesting to people. Get some sports stars to break it.

News that the Electoral Commission has reported some of NZ's sports royalty to the police for sending out election day tweets encouraging their followers to support John Key's reelection has gripped

National is trying to the 'nothing to see here' line when it comes to its social housing policy, but the truth is it's in a tangle and has no mandate for sale

When Genesis was sold earlier this year, John Key repeatedly said it would be the last asset his government would put on the block, be it in that term or the next. He said he wanted to be very clear about that, lest those tricky opposition parties try to say otherwise. So how come his ministers didn't get the memo?

The labour reforms this week reveal a government that has given up on any hope for a competitive economy and is willing to engage in class warfare on behalf of its 'Judith Collins wing'

Last week, evidence was again made plain of a shocking, unacceptable safety record in ports and forests. The Government responded by passing a new law to remove the right to a tea break.

I'm not saying that John Key is an incurable gossip ... but he sure seems to get told a lot of stuff by random people.

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

John Key has learned the identity of the entertainer guilty of an indecency charge through the grapevine of people circumventing the suppression order.

The Environmental Protection Agency hearing into seabed mining for phosphate on the Chatham Rise is exposing questions about uncertainty - many big unknowns, including whether the applicant has done its job. If environment groups win this battle, what does it mean for the wider war?

Out on the Chatham Rise, the ridge jutting into the waters off Christchurch and extending out beyond the Chathams, Chatham Rock Phosphate has a mining permit and is now seeking EPA approval for its project to mine phosphate for fertiliser, at depths untried anywhere else in the world.

The Fonterra boss backs continued dairy growth but can see a day when we might cap cow numbers... and could China steal the milk right from under our noses?

How much is enough? Or even too much? It's a fundamental question for any business or economy when you're dealing with supply and demand. And it's a crucial question when it comes to New Zealand's dependence on the dairy industry. So when do we reach 'peak cow'?

Greg O'Connor thinks the shootings in Ottawa, and the way this was ended, demonstrates the need to routinely arm New Zealand's Police. He's completely wrong about that.

What happened at Canada's war memorial and parliamentary buildings is a pretty Bad Thing. It should, however, be kept in some sort of perspective. 

In which I reply to Andrew's post in reply to Phil's post about Grant Robertson... I wrote this at the start of the week but have discovered a glitch that mean it never published!

I think I'll start at the end. Andrew ended his recent post like this:

Labour needs to work out whether they go for the "missing million" or the middle voters. And if they get it wrong they could be looking at another 6 years in opposition

When Labour decides who will be the next leader, it is of interest to all of us involved in politics. After all the person chosen could be New Zealand's next Prime Minister. So the debate on the nature of the choice is not one that is the sole preserve of those who actually get to vote in this contest.

Grant Robertson is gay. And he likes rugby. And he drinks beer. All of these things are true - so can we now get on with it?

Phil Quin put a post up yesterday chiding Grant Robertson for what he sees as an overly cautious approach to political messaging and urging him to be more warlike in his phraseology because New Zealanders clearly have a deep, deep aversion to politicians who present as pleasant

There's a lot of smart money going on Andrew Little's bid to lead the Labour Party, but the numbers in New Plymouth don't lie. So what are they saying?

There's a lot of talk about "listening" in Labour circles these days. Announcing his bid for the party leadership, list MP Andrew Little named as his top priority "getting the process underway to listen to the voters who have abandoned us". Grant Robertson agrees, telling reporters last week "as we emerge from our heavy election defeat, we must now take the opportunity to listen".

The election demonstrated deep divisions. Will the next three years make them worse or help heal the rift? And where will the pressure points be?

Will we see New Zealanders marching in the streets during the next three years? I don't mean protests in which the police, while behaving perfectly professionally, are smiling benignly in a sort of agreement. I'm wondering whether we'll see civil disturbances. And I'm not the only person pondering such things – probably even John Key is.

The trouble with not being troubled by the mood of New Zealand as a whole, is that the party hands Labour a political dog

Labour has done a fine job of selling the democratic virtues of their new way electing a leader; it rolls off the tongue to say that 40 percent of the outcome is determined by rank and file members. But whose democratic interests does it really serve?

We're already stopping people from using NZ passports to go and fight in the Middle East. So why do we now urgently need to change the law to do this?

Back in February, I wrote this about the legal basis for refusing to grant passports to/revoking passports from those individuals who felt the call to take up armed struggle in groups using terrorist tactics in places like Syria and now Iraq.

John Key has dug his toes in as he refuses to listen to some of the expert advice on poverty reduction, but more interesting is where he's indicating he will move

You'd hardly call it skin on the skeleton, but John Key's comments today about his plans to tackle child poverty and sell-off state housing at least put some sinew and muscle on the bare bone rhetoric he has been using since his win in last month's election.

Unusually for small, advanced countries New Zealand remains heavily reliant on agricultural for its living. So is it time to take a bigger punt on technology?

My last item sparked an email from Mike Smith to discuss economic resilience with Brian Easton at a Fabian Society meeting in Wellington on Monday November 10. I made the point to Mike that I don't see the topic as a left/right issue, but have agreed to the discussion.

Some muted thoughts on the legal issues involved in the search of Nicky Hager's house, with only limited added outrage. That may come later.

First of all, the Police are investigating a real crime here. Even certain bloggers whom we do not name have a right to keep others out of their computer systems, and this right is protected by criminal sanction.

Hone Harawira is seeking judicial recount of votes that he doesn't think will change the result in Te Tai Tokerau, and which won't be able to look at the problems he claims existed with voting in that seat. This seems ... misguided.

There's one thing that even Hone Harawira agrees will not change following his sought after judicial recount of the vote in Te Tai Tokerau - the outcome of the election in that seat.

If National can adapt to change, why can't Labour? 

Once upon a time National was a party dominated by farmers and their rural base. Its first townie leader, Sid Holland, had to have a farm bought for him in the 1940s, to maintain his status in the party. It was such a country party that there was a view in the 1960s that as New Zealand urbanised National would lose voter share because Labour was so much stronger in the cities.

The final count of the votes, including special votes, has saved us from having to revisit  our ideas about majority governments under MMP. Oh - and I (sort of) told you so.

As I said here on the eve of polling day (and intimated again here the day after), the 2014 election wasn't over until Saturday, October 4*:

A glimpse behind the door of supply and confidence negotiations reveals the dominant political fact this term - Key is King

What's clear from talking on The Nation this morning to the leaders of the minor parties supporting National, is quite how minor they now are.

Rather than trying to rein in dissent, the Labour Party should be encouraging a full and frank debate on not just its leadership, but its deep-seated structural problems. Attempts to chill open criticism are misguided

Morgan Godfrey, one of the New Zealand internet scene's most prolific opinion generators, derided my use of the term 'Orwellian' to describe Labour's new anti-sledging rules. He was right to do so.

I've made fun of people on exactly the same grounds, pointing out that, as Gordfrey did, that most people who invoke Orwell haven't read him.

Brian Easton's post this week raise questions about the serious and long-term issues facing not only this new government, but several to come. Can a consensus be achieved?

Brian Easton's post on a sustainable New Zealand should invite lots of thought and discussion, but it seems many of the political class are absorbed by the Labour Party's leadership battles. It does look awfully messy at the moment, but maybe all will be forgotten if the new leader can unify the party and get momentum against the government given the challenges it faces...

Who will determine Labour's future – the MPs, the members, the unions? The fact is that after a 24 percent election result they are the wrong people to listen to and the truth may be every hard to hear

As he pops back and forth between New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, Shane Jones must look on himself as the luckiest of the three men who took part in the Labour leadership race just a scant 12 months ago.

One of the biggest issues missed during the election campaign was the sustainability of National's economic, environmental and even social policies. So what do you do if the government's not thinking long-term?

Behavioural economics is not a complete theory but it demonstrates that we are not the economic rational being usually assumed in economics theory. One of the most troubling divergences is that we make time-inconsistent decisions so our short run choices do not cohere over the longer term.

Labour has to take the blame for creating a bizarre mystique around David Cunliffe's motivations, and his supposedly aloof nature. The problem is not really Cunliffe, it's PR

In Scarlett Johansson’s earlier career, she played characters that were praised for their transcendent beauty. In The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), she was the teen neighbor of Ed (Billy Bob Thornton), who made frequent visits to gaze at her playing the piano. Seduced by her siren-like mystique, Ed could not see that she had little talent, and instead tried to push her career.

Time to stop talking about the Opposition and focus on what will really effect us over the next three years: what will the National government do to protect Kiwis from another looming recession?

It is human nature to be more inter

Whether or not Labour changes its leader, the MPs gathered in Wellington today need to stop blaming everyone else and take a long, hard look at themselves

Labour MPs travelling to Wellington today for their first post-election caucus will have their heads crammed full of theories, accusations and advice from all and sundry. But here's the message for them to keep front and centre whichever direction they choose as a party: You've got to earn it.

If voters can see the commonality between Labour and the Greens, why can't political analysts?

Most political analysis in New Zealand seems trapped in the two-party winner-takes-all world, or perhaps they are numerically challenged by the number which comes after two. Whichever, to discuss the National-Labour divide without mentioning the Greens is almost pointless. (I’ll come to NZ First shortly.)

An emphatic win for National raises a whole series of questions, especially for a left-wing struggling to understand middle New Zealand... and then there's Dotcom

The coming days will see a welter of words on the reasons for the spectacular success of National and the failure of the broad left. As a 'pundit', I might as well add my views.

"At the end of the day", it's so close, this story won't be done until Saturday night

 

I think I'm going to skip the office sweepstake. I just don't know and I don't think anyone knows because undecideds, turnout and late movement could make a huge difference. This election campaign has simply been so volatile I think it's harder than ever to read the public mood; and hey, there are hours still to go.

And other assorted closing thoughts on this most unusual of election campaigns.

So, apparently there will be an election tomorrow. If you haven't yet voted, you should do so by 7pm tomorrow. Otherwise one of the Electoral Commission's kill squads will hunt you down and leave your body lying in the street for the vultures to feast on. This is an aspect of their role that does not get publicised nearly as much as it should.

New Zealand First is well placed to return to parliament next term and tomorrow night could end up holding the balance of power. So what might happen next?

What's going on in Winston Peters' head? That will be a question vexing several party leaders, thousands of voters and even some in his own party. Because whatever else the polls may or may not be telling us, the safest bet would be on New Zealand First making the five percent threshold and being needed to at least support the next government.

Rachel MacGregor's resignation will raise doubts in the swing voters giving the Conservatives a hard look, but what about its top policies? Do its numbers add up?

Colin Craig has stolen the headlines at the business end of the campaign for all the wrong reasons; the mystery of the disappearing press secretary adds to the stress he must be under when he looks at the polls. While he's had momentum, it is yet to get him over five percent in a single poll. And then there are his fiscals.

Should people with intellectual disabilities be allowed to vote? What about those with dementia?

The Waikato Times has carried a couple of interesting stories in recent days about the issue of people with intellectual disabilities being entitled to vote.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

#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.

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!).

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

John Roughan's column on why paying "voluntary" school fees is a good thing confuses me. I think that's because it is very confusing.

Tim already has posted his response to John Roughan's column on Labour's policy to allow schools to replace "voluntary" school fees with a $100-per-student payment.

Mallard's moas and David Cunliffe's mangled apology are signs that Labour's still slipping off-message too often... and sometimes not even accidentally

Damage from within. David Cunliffe so close to getting it right, but still so wrong. And potentially strong and popular policy undermined by off-message gaffes...

People are starting to demand someone's - anyone's! - head over the Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail diplomatic immunity escapade. What's the rush?, I say.

Everyone just needs to calm down a bit about the whole Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail saga. Because some people who ought to know better, as well as some people who never will, are starting to make some pretty silly statements about the matter.

As John Key re-writes the script for relations between New Zealand and the US, what are the implications for China and does this mean a return to automatic support for America?

There has been a fair bit of recent speculation about whether John Key's approach to foreign policy represents a departute from the consensus of the past two decades and if this, somewhat to everyone's surprise, will be a central part of his legacy. After all, Key is supposed to be all about the economy, in contrast to Helen Clark's focus on foreign relations.

My two cents on the sort of dramatic policy Labour will need to win over voters. Think interest-free student loans and go from there

Labour says tomorrow it'll be announcing a new education policy regarding schools. I have no idea what it is, but it's prompted me to quickly write this post that I've been meaning to write for months - what I'd announce if I was Labour looking for a circuit breaker.

The latest polls show that Colin Craig, Winston Peters and perhaps even the Maori Party have something in common... the need for Labour to do better

To rip off Jono and Ben, it sux to be David Cunliffe right now. He's got everything he fought so hard for in the leadership of the Labour Party, but has wasted the first phase of his time in charge. Still, he's not the only party leader on the 'sux to be' list right now. As we get closer to election day a whole lot of electoral ironies are appearing.

Where is the sense of urgency from a Labour party that doesn't seem terribly fussed about winning this election, or at least seems quite happy to leave it to potential coalition partners to get it over the line?

The biggest crime a Labour Party caucus, activist base and affiliated unions can commit is to not put their party in a position where it can realistically when an election. They can claim all they like to want to bring new talent into parliament through the list, but on current polling, it's rhetoric – no new faces will make it come September.

Sssh. Don't tell anyone, but Labour's actually building a coherent plan for running the country. Unfortunately for them, no-one can see past its repeated mis-steps

Pick your parable: from the Jews it's "Do not be wise in words — be wise in deeds". The Chinese say "talk doesn't cook rice".

Child poverty strikes a chord across the political spectrum, but the left will struggle to make inequality a major election issue because most New Zealanders are just getting on with it

What is the election going to be about? The froth and bubble of donations? Not very likely. The competence of the main players will undoubtedly feature. Or perhaps Bill Clinton's 1992 classic slogan "it's the economy stupid" will again prove true.

When it comes to signing trade deals there are two principles which should never be up for negotiation; the net benefit to your country has to outweigh any concessions, otherwise what’s the point? And you never trade away fundamentals, like the right to legislate to protect your environment, the health of your citizens, or your education system.


The National government hasn’t been able to reassure us that they really will protect these principles in their secret Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Donghua Liu's alleged donations to Labour need more scrutiny. But the Police won't be the ones to do it.

The Herald on Sunday's "big reveal" about Donghua Liu's claimed $100,000 purchase back in 2007 of a bottle of wine signed by Helen Clark is forcing me to interrupt a very pleasant stay in Newcastle to make some comments.

Over the weekend an 8-page taxpayer-funded advertisement for the National party arrived in our letterbox (I've tweeted a picture). Page after page laid out in National's party colours and font, bursting with photos of the PM, and of MPs Hekia Parata and Chris Finlayson. Also someone called 'Paul Foster-Bell' is prominently pictured in it, but goodness only knows who he is.

Headlines claim "We're on the right track", "Keeping Kiwis safer...", "Health targets are delivering better results", and other imaginary facts that don't pass scrutiny.

A visitor from the Hawkes Bay, our very own Children's Commissioner, has just thrown a bomb into the middle of our debate on child poverty this election year... will anyone notice?

In case you missed it, the Children's Commissioner just got a little bit radical. No, go on then, quite a lot radical. The kind of radical that would have Paula Bennett spluttering into her weekend coffee.

Colin Craig has given up. Kind of. But by conceeding he can only win a seat with a deal, he's put the onus firmly on National and made John Key an offer the PM can hardly afford to refuse

Remember in the 2009 Mt Albert by-election when Melissa Lee said she was hoping to come second? She was roundly mocked and, presumably put straight by an advisor or senior colleague.

Internet Mana gives National a cast of villians to parade before voters

The Internet Mana party does not, in any real sense, exist. Nor, while we're at it, does United Future; ACT once existed as a neo-liberal nostalgia project, but no more.

Yet whereas the latter pair are struggling to evade their past, it's possible that the Internet Mana party may still be willed into existence.

If a large majority of us are worried about inequality and National is making the problem worse, not better, why isn’t the Left doing better politically?


A recent UMR poll found 50% of us are 'very concerned' about growing inequality, 37% are 'somewhat concerned', and only 13% 'not concerned at all'. 

Seven out of ten of us believe the gap between rich and poor is widening.

Having slept on the Banks decision, here's some slightly more ordered thoughts on the matter.

Before I run to catch a plane, I thought I'd post a few more reactions to Banks' trial and the outcome. Boy, did I pick a bad time to decide to fly!

John Banks has been found guilty ... just as I confidently said would not happen.

I'm presently in Changi Airport, en route to Norway. But I'm taking the opportunity to make a very quick comment on the guilty verdict in John Banks' case.

This verdict proves I don't know much about much, and you should never believe what you read on the interweb. And that is all.

David Farrar thinks that Labour is bad for not doing what National has not done as a result of the Electoral Commission's report into MMP, and Labour should not do what David thinks National should have done as a result of their election victory in 2008.

Over on Kiwiblog, David Farrar is having conniptions about David Cunliffe's promise to repeal the "coat tails" rule in MMP that allows electorate MPs to bring party list members into Parliament, as well as to lower the party vote threshold to 4%.

If you'll excuse the paraphrasing of Billy Bragg, it seems appropriate as the left leave the moral high ground for a bit of electoral mud-wrestling and coat-tailing. But at what cost?

Call it genius or hypocrisy, but the Mana Internet alliance, Laila Harre's decision to lead the Internet Party into this year's election and Kim Dotcom's record $3 million donation creates all sort of problems on the left of New Zealand politics. It also, to me, feels like something worth grieving no matter how the cards fall on September 20.

No way should Labour do a 'Cup of Te' deal.

Labour should stand up for its own strong values.

 

Mana-Internet supporters have been vocal that Labour should accommodate a deal to sacrifice Kelvin Davis and make sure Hone Harawira wins Te Tai Tokerau. Labour MPs are dismissive, as Stuff has noted

There is a single biggest loser from Laila Harre's appointment to lead the Internet Party... and it's not the Greens

A quick post to say something that's been buzzing around my head since last night and which has been mentioned on the thread of my previous post -- with Laila Harre taking over the Internet Party the Maori seats have become more pivotal at this election.

John Banks' political epitaph lies in the hands of a High Court judge. Will it be "John Banks, retired as MP in September", or "John Banks, kicked out of Parliament in June"?

Now that the evidence has been given and the closing arguments made, John Banks' fate lies in the hand of a High Court judge.

I'm picking that Laila Harre's appointment as leader of the Internet Party will be good for Internet-Mana, but the impact on this year's election will be determined by the relationship with Labour. If Internet-Mana do well this year, though, there might be an important shake-up that will strengthen the broad left in the longer term.

Laila's selection is shrewd of the Internet Party and good for Mana. Few people to the left of Labour have as much credibility. She won't be dismissed as a puppet of Kim Dotcom. She has a deep understanding of the way party-alliances work, which will probably make her more patient with the complexities of a merger.

So Laila Harre is back in politics via the most unlikely of vehicles -- the Internet Party. The question is why, why, why has she done it

Laila Harre's decision to lead the Internet Party is the most curious part of a most curious affair, yet at very least shows a determination by the left to get the best bang for their buck at this election.

If Laila Harre is going to lead the Internet Party, what does that mean? Good? Bad? Happy? Sad?

The NBR's scoop (paywall) that Laila Harre will tomorrow be announced as leader of the Internet Party (and thus will be #2 on the Internet-MANA Party list) has been up for over an hour now, and

The MANA Movement and the Internet Party have discovered they both have a lot in common. Each very much wants to get as many of its MPs into Parliament as it can.

If at the end of last year you had gone around telling people that Hone Harawira's MANA Movement was going to join forces with a political party founded by Kim Dotcom and devoted to the cause of internet freedoms, you'd have been viewed with a certain degree of scepticism.

I guess if you want a man who'll resist temptation, a Catholic Southland farmer's as good a bet as any. And it's what Bill English hasn't done in the past five and a half years that has National in pole position for this year's election

If you're wondering, as so many are, how National has been able to maintain the stunning poll lead recorded in the two TV polls over the weekend, you only need to look around the world at the moment. Right-wing parties are looking to exploit short-term circumstances, while Key & English are playing the long game to great effect.

We are right not to get too bogged down in educational rankings, but we mustn't ignore their obvious warnings 

The flurry of interest in NCEA as a preparation for university last week was followed by the news from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that New Zealand’s global ranking in ‘Education and Cognitive Skil

The Taurima report paints a slear portrait of a fine journalist who lost his way, but then goes on to make a recommendation that is oppressive and should be resisted

At last it's out. After some delay the report into alleged misconduct by Shane Taurima in his roles as General Manager of Maori and Pacific Programmes and host of Q+A have revealed that clearly Taurima crossed a line in his work for the Labour Party.

NZ First wants to charge straying MPs $300,000. I say they can't do it. Winston says I'm wrong. Where does the truth lie?

There's a well known saying around Wellington that you haven't really made it until you've been rubbished by Winston Peters on the radio. What, you haven't heard this saying? Well, you have now ... so it's on its way to becoming well known.

The timelines are damning, the hits this week revealing. But in the end none of it matters, because it all comes back to that dinner and what we knew months ago

So Judith Collins survives her 48 hours on the cliff's edge and heads off on holidy with the title "honourable" still in front of her name. Which is hardly surprising really, because while all the MFAT documents clarify and compound, they don't convict.

New Zealanders who stay overseas for too long don't get a vote. Is that right?

When should a member of the New Zealand community lose the right to take part in deciding how that community will live together? Or, to put it more prosaically, at what point do we remove the vote from New Zealanders?

This weekend saw some rare political courage from an MP on the slide, but it can'tstop the questions

A wee reflection on Maurice Williamson... What we saw this weekend was a rare example of political courage from a man clearly determined to fight for his electorate. As clearly as he has "crossed the line" and for all the questions that remain around this case, the sheer bloody-mindedness on display is worthy of admiration.

On their own, the odd golf game, visa waiver or dinner doesn't shake public confidence in a government. Until something happens that pulls the threads together and puts them in a new light... Enter Maurice Williamson...

In his 2000 book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell made sense of the way social trends and ideas seem to suddenly take on a life of their own, by comparing them to viruses. The way Hush Puppies became popular again because a few New Yorkers took a fancy to them, for example.

Judith Collins wants to go to war with the media. That probably is ... not wise.

When Bill English warned National's northern region conference that the upcoming election would be "close", he meant it as a caution against complacency. Judith Collins, however, appears to have misinterpreted it as something of a personal dare.

It's too soon to say whether Labour's onto a fiscal winner, but politically its given the party a circuit-breaker it desperately needed

On Saturday I wrote that this was a crucial week for Labour, one in which its leadership desperately needed to change the conversation and gain some traction in the media that was about New Zealand rather than itself. On that front, Labour's had its best few days in a long time.

A look at how we got into this legal highs muddle and how the government's knee-jerk reaction is all about the drug of power rather than any evidence on legal highs themselves

We all know that drugs have mid-altering qualities and can do odd things to your brain, but who would have thought that legal highs were so powerful that they could alter the minds of nearly every MP in New Zealand so suddenly.

It's now or never for Labour, starting with monetary policy and legal highs

With two big announcements in the next few days, Labour has a chance to change the conversation away from its own self-destructive nature to its hopes for New Zealand. This is an essential pivot week for Labour, because with just 20 weeks until election day it's running out of last chances.

The ins and outs of possible coalitions on the left are far more absorbing, but Alex asked for it... so here's my humble take on some of the coalition issues facing the right (and a sneaky mention of Shane Jones)

Back on my previous post, Alex Coleman asked me to stop looking at potential government variants on the left and look at what a National-led government would look like, especially (at least this is what I took him to mean) if New Zealand First holds the "balance of responsibility".

A peripheral group of political zealots want to introduce the UK's approach to punishing burglary into NZ. Except they don't really want to do that at all.

It seems a bit odd to be devoting a post to a policy proposal coming from a party with just 0.5% support in the opinion polls - a bit like taking seriously United Future's crowing over the victory it has just won by way of the Game Sustainability Council. ("The what?"

As the polls stand, all roads to a change of government lead through New Zealand First. And that makes the Greens little more than by-standers

It's not bad strategy, it's not bad planning. It's not their fault at all. But unless the polls move dramatically in the next few months, the Greens are backed into an uncomfortable political corner. New Zealand First has them by the, er, brussel sprouts.

The transcript of Wednesday's question time in the House is not yet available via Hansard. Fortunately, I am able to roughly recreate it below (with some possible inaccuracies, although minor in nature).

Russel Norman: To the Minister of Energy and Resources. Is he any good at his job?

John Banks will have a full trial on the charge that he knowingly filed a false donation declaration after his 2010 Auckland mayoral election defeat. That's not that surprising.

So John Banks is going to have to face his day in court (actually, more likely his week or more in court, given the number of witnesses that will be heard).

His attempt to have the charge against him - that he knowingly filed a false return of donations following the 2010 Auckland mayoral election - thrown out by the judge has failed. In and of itself, that really isn't so surprising.

Over at Kiwiblog David Farrar has had a crack at TV3 for the work done by the team at The Nation on the supermarket story. I lead that team and on several points Farrar is plain wrong and on other points is misleading. So here's my reply

Hi David and Kiwiblog readers,

This was going to a comment, but I thought my telling off by Ian Mackay and Richard Aston on my previous post was worth a fuller reply

Two regular Pundit-visitors Ian and Richard have tsked tsked me on my previous post, warning me not to believe the "National spin" and "slogan" around National's large lead over Labour. Their argument is that under MMP a 15 percent gap between the major parties doesn't matter. Here's why they're wrong...

It's getting late in the day for Labour to get it together, because its problems aren't first impressions but rather go much deeper

It's still a bold political observer who would want to call the election at this stage. Two new TV polls last night painted a picture that's pretty consistent with our own Poll of Polls – a close election. But the most telling question remains: What is Labour going to do with David?

It's getting late in the day for Labour to get it together, because its problems aren't first impressions but rather go much deeper

It's still a bold political observer who would want to call the election at this stage. Two new TV polls last night painted a picture that's pretty consistent with our own Poll of Polls – a close election. But the most telling question remains: What is Labour going to do with David?

The Internet Party's candidate selection rules very well might breach the Electoral Act. This probably doesn't matter.

I had another post I wanted to write on Teina Pora's case and the gap I think it has revealed in our "Justice" system, but it'll have to wait for the moment.

Canada's Conservative Government is in the middle of trying to change its election rules to benefit itself - while its PM Stephen Harper has become the thing he once most hated.

New Zealand's political landscape has been pretty weird of late, what with Judith Collins up to her fiercesome (sic) eyebrows in milk, the Maori Nationalist/neo-Marxist Mana Party playing footsie with a recent immigrant millionaire who lives in one of New Zealand's biggest and most expensive houses, and Hekia Parata doing just whatever it is that she does on a regular basis.

When is a subsidiary not a subsidiary, but an independent and untouchable private fortress? When it's being investigated by the keystone cops at Parata & Sharples Detective Agency

Hekia Parata was triumphant this week that public money was safe on her watch; finally releasing the long-awaited and delayed Ernst Young report into allegations of misspending on the kohanga reo movement she happily declared that an organisation no-one had accused of misspending had not misspent a cent.

New Zealand First, we know, could go either way. And this weekend we learnt a little more about what Peters and his crew will be considering if they end up as the pivot party

Call it their Robert Frost moment: Winston Peters and his New Zealand First colleagues may well face a choice after this year's election, when they have to choose from two roads diverging in a yellow wood - one to the left and one to the right.

This year marks 25 years since the Reserve Bank Act 1989 was passed. While it has enjoyed a high degree of cross-party support over that period, the original settlement is unwinding and it is now time for a review. That need not involve throwing the anti-inflation baby out with the bathwater, nor the politicisation of a significant public institution.

Last week was a big week for the Reserve Bank. The Bank’s March Monetary Policy Statement, released on Thursday saw the expected announcement of the decision to move to tighten monetary policy – a 25 base-point increase in the Official Cash Rate. This marks the start of a tightening cycle – one that has been quite openly foreshadowed by the Bank for some time.

The doctrine of the pre-emptive strike against inflation is self-immolating.  Controlling (suppressing) demand growth invariably limits investment in new capacity and so the ability to improve productivity and/or maintain competitiveness.

The spectre of a return to the 1970s was (once again) raised when I dared to suggest recently that our interest rate policy was, to be blunt, self-defeating.  Unlike my accuser, I actually lived through the 70s - and I can remember the pain.  So, please don't accuse me of being soft on inflation.

While Judith Collins was in China, she perhaps should have read some Sun Tzu: “If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.”

It's a new week, and so the beginning of a new political era. Why, then, am I bothering going all the way back to the ancient past of the start of the month, in order to write about Judith Collins' by-now-infamous and well-raked-over troubled trip to China last year?

Perception matters immensely when it comes to politics, but reality matters even more. So let's talk about realities

Relationship management is a tough part of being a politician, but gee whizz everyone in parliament seems to be falling over themselves to stuff it up this week, from Judith Collins to Shane Jones and beyond.

David Cunliffe's Trust and the Dinner at Antoine's were not the same. I wish they were, but they just aren't.

There's been a bit of lefty gloating going on around the traps about Patrick Gower's interview with John Key on The Nation, in which he sought to draw an equivalence between David Cunliffe's use of a trust to receive donations for his Labour leader

Last year, John Key said New Zealand might send any refugee claimants who arrive by boat over to Australia's detention camps. That's not still a thing, is it?

Have a read of this NZ Herald article by Greg Ansley about the conditions in the off-shore asylum seeker camps that Australia has set up to "deal with" refugee claimants who try to get to Australia by boat.

Some fruit loop Liberal MP in Australia wants her party to lurch to the left by (gasp) doing something to get more women into Parliament. Doesn't she know that parties on the right don't do that sort of thing?

Remember back in July last year, when Labour proposed considering at its national conference adopting candidate selection rules aimed at ensuring equal gender representation?

Uncertainty makes for fascinating elections, and David Cunliffe has added to that by not even being willing to show solidarity with the Greens. But as fun as the tealeaves game is, voters are going to need better answers from the major party leaders

New Zealand First in 1996. The Maori Party in 2008. There are times when the minor parties have provided some major shocks and made a major difference as to who gets to govern New Zealand. But one thing you thought you could count on this year was the Labour-Greens bloc. Only it turns out it's not that simple.

David Cunliffe was dumb. The Taxpayers' Union have a challenge. You can say what you like about Colin Craig and gay people.

Just three quick comments on the political stories de jour (herehere and

Need to know if your MP is giving you value for money? Just ask Jordan.

A chill wind of fear will have blown through the corridors of power in Wellington with the publication of this Sunday Herald story about Green MP Mojo Mathers' decision to travel to take part in a radio show about people with disabilities.

National has put in another commanding poll performance, yet the short-term prospects and long-term ambitions of the Maori Party could yet have a signficant impact on this year's election race

Another poll, another list of government parties showing National and its coalition partners looking good for another term – ACT is there with Epsom; United Future has Ohariu; and with more than both of those put together is the under-appreciated Maori Party. Yet nothing it does this year should be taken for granted, least of all by National.

Colin Craig is on a one-man mission to rid politics of untruths and distortions. Good luck with that!

Here's an idea for a fun game. Try and write a blogpost that says what Russel Norman did about Colin Craig, but in a way that avoids getting a letter from Chapman Tripp threatening you with a defamation action.

Shane Jones is demanding an investigation into supermarket practices amidst claims of extortion. But the food business in New Zealand isn't a simply matter of good supplier vs evil supermarkets; what's more, the story begins and ends in your wallet.

Shane Jones' performance in parliament yesterday slamming Countdown supermarkets owner Progressive Enterprises for blackmailing New Zealand suppliers has certainly tipped the corn flakes all over the floor, so to speak. Progressive has rejected the claims, but former National MP turned suppliers rep Katherine Rich has backed the Labour man.

There's been a lot of nonsense around Russel Norman the past 24 hours, but one very serious question remains. And if the Prime Minister has reason to believe what he suggested, he should put up or shut up

Well, what a fuss. In the past 24 hours I've heard and seen reports of Greens' co-leader Russel Norman having "secret" meetings with Kim Dotcom, of him having a "brain fade" about said meetings and accusations – of a very serious nature – that he has been using parliamentary questions to favour a political ally. Surely, the man must step down.

The final say on whether Kim Dotcom will stand trial in the US may lie with a politician. Which is just the way the law says it should be.

Following some rather breathless speculation by Patrick Gower over at TV3, Kim Dotcom's fate under a future Labour/Gre

New Zealand is stopping people going to fight in the Syrian civil war. Can we do that?

I was going to post on the Japanese whaling ship Shonan Maru No 2 entering NZ's Exclusive Economic Zone while shadowing the Sea Shepherd boat, the Steve Irwin. The post was going to express my general lack of concern that it chose to do so, and point out that New Zealand's general angsting over the sustainable harvesting of Minke whales is somewhat at odds

DPF is very, very concerned about how Labour is selecting its Invercargill candidate. Where was that concern back in 2008?

I don't really know anything (and I guess I really should stop this post right there) ...

New leaders, new poll, and a new crusade for ACT. But will it end any differently? And what of the other small parties?

If I was a cartoonist today I'd be digging out the old Don Quixote images, like this one, and placing Jamie Whyte and David Seymour on their respective steeds.

So, the ol' flag debate, eh? But is now really the time? And is the process John Key suggested really the best way forward? And as for the silver fern...

 

Gee, exactly what did Winston Peters give John Key for Christmas? It must have been a doozy of a present, because election year's barely begun and Key looks to be handing Peters his second boost. Yep, there's nothing like a flag debate to motivate older voters.

Labour's opening ploy this election year combines heart and smarts, but the return of univeralism is fraught with political risk

If you go last, you'd better go biggest: That was the pressure Labour was under today with its state of the nation speech – the third of the main three parties to address voters at the start of this election year – and it didn't disappoint.

National and Labour made very big , but very different announcements this week. However the political thinking behind them both was almost identical and was all about eliminating the negative

For most people, the start of the year is about resolutions – all the good things they'll do this year and all the bad stuff they'll stop doing. What we've seen at the start of this politlcal year is half of that, as the major parties try to show the public that they can do better.

It was a day for two Comeback Kids, as John Key announced who he might dance with on election night and Winston Peters & Peter Dunne returned from the wings to take centre stage

This evening, as high winds continued to batter Auckland, I picked up branches in our front yard and thought about Winston Peters and Peter Dunne.

Would Dotcom's "Party Party" have breached electoral law? Maybe yes, maybe no ... which is (for me) a shame.

Although I think the whole Kim Dotcom "Internet Party" is destined for failure as a political force (which is a topic for a whole other post), it does concern me that simply by saying he plans to set it up, he forgoes his right to hold a large, hedonistic celebration of himself and his "music" (insofar as that EDM nonsense the kids seem to like so much can be given that term ...

Graeme McCready is trying to mount Len Brown's head alongside Trevor Mallard and John Banks' on his trophy wall. I think his shots might miss, this time.

Before anyone gets over-excited at the news that Graeme McCready is filing a private prosecution against Len Brown, let's just have a wee think about what is happening. 

Some households get so much back from the state that they're "effectively" not paying tax, says Bill English. Is that fair comment? And should we all be held to account for what we use in state services? Or just some of us?

At what point do the government-funded benefits and entitlements you gain as a citizien of this fine country amount to you getting off scot-free when it comes to paying your taxes? (And for those who are interested, it seems "scot-free" is the correct phrase as "scot" is an old word for tax). Are you one of Bill English's free-loaders "effectively" not paying any tax?

So what's 2013 been all about and where does it leave us? Here's my take... and Christmas wishes

Is that all there is, Peggy Lee once asked. Is that 2013 finally done and dusted? Phew. Although I'm not sure if anyone in the political world feels like dancing quite yet – the year has ended in a left-right stalemate that leaves everything to play for next year.

Once again, the Sisterhood has dragged down John Tamihere. Look upon his fate, ye men, and ponder.

According to the NZ Herald, which lifted its story from an interview he gave to Radio Waatea, John Tamihere plans to sue MediaWorks for

Len Brown has been censured for the texts, the hotel rooms, the inappropriate reference and all the "fallout" of his extra-marital affair with a young appointee. But what's the political fallout going to look like and can he stand again?

It's all just rather pathetic really, isn't it? Yes, I'm talking about Len Brown. From the affair itself to the Auckland mayor's response and on to the council's limited options for censure, pathetic seems to me the best word to sum up the whole shooting match.

You can all relax now - it looks like you'll still be able to wear your favoured political party lapel badge next election day. Because I know you were really worried about that.

Back in October, in response to a proposal in the Electoral Amendment Bill to extend the ban on election day advertising to encompass rosettes, ribbons and lapel badges worn by individuals, I issued a ringing

Some times in politics, although not often, things are just what they seem to be. Just ask that nice Colin Craig

It's one of the oldest cliches in politics - that perception is reality. In other words, if enough of us are convinced that what we think we see is real, then it may as well be real. Even if it's not. Voters will vote on that perception and so it's the only thing that really matters.

Parliament is planning to pass a law saying how much freedom its members (and others involved in its proceedings) have from legal liability. What's more, it's telling the courts that they've stuffed that issue up.

  

John Key can explain away his own history, but he needs to pay more respect to New Zealand's by expressing an opinion and backing down on his funeral invitations

I was 11 years old when the Springboks came to New Zealand in 1981; it is my first political memory and had a profound effect on me as it did so many. Just not on John Key. Remarkably, a man who has said he wanted to Prime Minister from age 10 was dislocated from one of the defining moments of modern times. 

If Andrew's constitutional blog leaves you wanting more, you won't be disappointed by this post and its attempt to spark some debate

While Andrew has written a post  superior to anything I can offer, I too am going to post on the report released yesterday by the Constitutional Advisory Panel... because it's my blog and I can. And anyway, it's the first government review I've ever submitted to, so I'm interested. And a little disappointed.

The Government's seemingly never-ending constitutional review has finally delivered its report. Which is a good excuse for me to go back and test how accurate my predictions about its content were.

The Government has just released the results of the "Constitutional Review" it agreed to hold as a part of the National-Maori Party governance agreement. I can't link you to it yet, because it's embargoed until 3pm today.

Tweeting who to vote for at a by-election on the day the poll is being held is silly, but it isn't exactly the worst thing that any politician has ever done. Hell, it may not even be illegal.

So the whole David Cunliffe storm-in-a-Twitter-cup thing needs settled. Here's how I see it.

First of all, he was dumb to send out the tweet. Especially if, as I understand it, the Electoral Commission specifically warned candidates and parties not to tweet on the polling day. Sometimes you just need to put the phone down and walk away.

Who knows whether John Banks will be found guilty next year, only the courts can decide. But in the court of public opinion, a trial is as bad as a conviction

It all comes back to two cheques and a mattress. And now John Banks is paying a high price for the donation he received from Kim Dotcom during the 2010 Auckland mayoral election, having announced that his political career will sputter out over the next year.

Three important public law developments fell on the one day. That makes posting a bit of a challenge!

Three pretty interesting public law developments took place today. (I fully recognise that attaching the descriptor "interesting" to the phrase "public law developments" is an open invitation to ridicule, but I stand by the claim!)

Is this government's commitment to oil a bit like investing big in New Zealand Post? And what will our children make of the choices we're making now?

As deepsea drilling started off the Raglan coast this week, it's a good moment (finally) to look at the other side of the debate, as promised in my previous post.

The drilling and the protesting has begun... But amongst all the rhetoric, scaremongering and promises of outrageous fortune, lies a prety simple question we should all be asking

The summer of protest has begun. This week the Greenpeace-led Oil Free Seas flotilla headed out to one of two deep-sea sites to be explored by Texan oil giant Anadarko, this one off Raglan, the other off Canterbury. The protest is ramping up because the industry is doing the same, with New Zealand now getting a proper once-over by the global oil and gas industry.

One new seat added in Auckland. But that single proposed seat has ramifications that will ripple across the city with some surprising winners and losers

The new draft electoral commission boundaries for Auckland would add just one new seat but magically create two, and in doing so clip suburbs from here and there for a rather different patchwork city.

The Representation Commission this morning announced:

Alan Titford's feet of clay have been shown to all the world. But could he have been Northland's mayor?

In an ideal world, the sentencing of Alan Titford to 24 years in jail for multiple charges including rape, violence and arson would cause a number of people some embarrassment.

When Russel Norman repeated in parliament the words of a Filipino climate negotiator there were howls of outrage, but we listen to the pleas to end the madness we will only see more devastation

Survivors in the worst affected areas of the Philippines, where the monster typhoon Haiyan struck, describe their experience with disbelief – winds of over 300kph and a storm surge five metres high that carried all before it. Haiyan was the most powerful, most horrific storm to make landfall since records began.

David Farrar is very angry that a political party is unilaterally trying to game electoral law for its own benefit. It's good to see him being so critical of National's behaviour with respect to the reform of MMP.

Labour's Ian Lees-Galloway has had his Electoral (Adjustment of Thresholds Amendment Bill) drawn from the ballot.

In which I respond to Andrew's post responding to Claire column and add my thoughts on how history repeats... or not

I love viewing elections through the lens of history; the Americans do it so well and thoroughly, I wish there was more of it here. On that basis I really like what Claire Robertson's done in her Herald column – looking for patterns in the past. There's much truth to be found there.

It would be a brave person to say that they think they know what the 2014 election will deliver. Apparently, Claire Robinson is very, very brave.

Claire Robinson has a piece in the NZ Herald about the 2014 election that I have some problems with.

A peek inside the TPP negotiations show that New Zealand is holding its line on some major issues, as you'd expect. But let's not pretend that these aren't incredibly complex negotiations in which something will have to give

Nicky Hager has a story in today's Herald revealing, thanks to Wikileaks, some of the divisions with the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

Why National could save itself by losing some support, how John Key is strategising for next year, where Colin Craig's Conservatives fit and what it means for the other minor parties...

On Firstline this morning John Key was talking up National's many coalition options at next year's election, as if he was a man who could walk into the election shop and help himself in the pick n' mix section. It's not going to be that easy, but it could be easier than some people think as the vote on the right fragments.

The Roastbusters club has again exposed police failings when it comes to sexual assaults. Sadly, that's hardly news and the police response to the revelations shows why

Power. And its misuse. It's what rape is all about and this week that's been apparent for all to see. Teenage boys in west Auckland have presented themselves online, in videos, and presumably around their neighbourhoods, as strutting powerbrokers on their patch by dint of their ability to bully young girls into sex.

What defines a man's life? Is it the titles he holds, the wealth he accumulates or some other symbol of status that his contemporaries hold in high esteem? And how do we decide if those symbols of status are still deserved?

John Key has announced that Sir Douglas Graham will retain his Knighthood, despite his conviction for making false statements in a company prospectus becoming final. This is, on balance and considering all aspects of the issue, a good thing.

It's a shame the "Tui Billboard" meme has well and truly jumped the shark (as, indeed, has that latter meme itself), because John Banks' "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" line is a prime contender.

John Banks has a message that he wants the New Zealand public to hear. It's a message he repeats every time a microphone enters his immediate vicinity. I suspect that if you were to sneak into his bedroom as he lay sleeping and dangle a dictaphone over his face, you'd hear him automatically muttering the words in a purely Pavlovian response.

A certain blogger whose name need not be mentioned in polite company may have wounded Auckland's mayor. But "retired accountant" (amongst other things) Graham McCready has sunk a pretty big harpoon into the side of John Banks. Now, can he wriggle off it?

So, John Banks is going to a full trial on a charge that he knowingly filed a false return of his donations for the 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign by claiming as "anonymous" donations he full well knew the source of.

Len Brown's mistake was in making it impossible for us not to know he made it. We need more from our politicians.

So there's been a (shock! horror!) revelation that a late-fifties man who fills an office of some power and public attention has had an affair with a (much) younger woman who felt a frisson of excitement at the relationship's illicit nature and was flattered by the attention that he lavished on her.

Has a line been crossed by the reporting of Len Brown's affair? Are the private lives of all politicians now fair game?

There's another word to be had about the Len Brown affair. And that's 'the unwritten rule' that has been discussed as existing between journalists and politicians in this country. The question is whether it is in the process of being re-written.

Len Brown is seriously damaged as Auckland mayor, but he's not the only one to have had his flaws laid out in public today. Problem is, his abuse of power puts his job at risk because of Bevan Chuang's council role

It was a woeful today for the two men to have most recently worn the title of Auckland Mayor.

Did you know MPs are considering making it an offence, punishable by a fine of up to $20,000, to wear a green ribbon in your hair on election day? If you think this is silly, you'd better tell them so ... soon.

I've posted on the issue of the Government's proposed further tightening of controls on election day campaigning a couple of times already. It's a slightly niche topic, so I promise this will be the last time I raise it.

Some nameless person at the New Zealand Herald thinks either Labour or the Greens may have to support National after the 2014 election. And that person gets a salary to write this sort of stuff!

I don't normally read anonymous postings on the internet, but yesterday's NZ Herald editorial about the prospect of a "coalition of the losers" government forming post 2014 has been brought to my attention.

David Cunliffe's shadow cabinet reshuffle has been seen as quite measured and Cunliffe himself says it puts Labour on a war footing. But perhaps the most telling appointment has gone largely unremarked

The rise of Sue Moroney and Louisa Wall, the predictable demotions of Clare Curran and Trevor Mallard, the left-right tension on Labour's "economic team", the redeployment of David Shearer and Jacinda Ardern, plus the wink to Phil Goff that 30 years is long enough alongside the nod to Annette King that there's still work for her to do after almost as long...

The incentives the Government is dangling before prospective investors in Meridian Energy show just how much pressure its "Mixed Ownership Model" policy is under.

Some things sell on their merits alone. Icebreaker. BMW. Wooing Tree Pinot Noir. Sure, they may throw in the occasional discount or sweetener to clear inventory or get over a flat patch, but on the whole the purchaser is prepared to shell out top dollar based on confidence that she or he is getting quality in return.

David Cunliffe has been given a shot – a better shot than he might have had – so which direction will he take and can he switch out of primary-mode quick enough?

When we heard yesterday that David Cunliffe had got the job he's so long coveted as Labour leader, my wife said to me "well now they can get on with it after wasting the past year on Shearer". As we enter the Cunliffe era, I'm not at all sure that time's been wasted, however. In fact, the latest David off the rank may well have good reason to be grateful to the ABCs [Anyone But Cunliffe].

On The Vote Metiria Turei of the Greens and National's Sam Lotu-Iiga both slipped up, and in doing so showed where their parties are potentially weak in Election 2014.

The Labour leadership contest has shown the important role narrative plays in politics - Shane Jones the roguish bloke who knows what it's like for real Kiwis... David Cunliffe the economic visionary and new-left champion of the worker who can still reassure the centre... Grant Roberton the uniter, the good bloke and the new generation of leader who will move us beyond the baby-boomers.

The three candidates for Labour Party leadership are all strong. A voter explains his choice

Agonising about how I’m going to vote is a novel experience for me.

I grew up a tribal Labour voter, “rusted-on” as they say, thanks to my mum, who suffered as the daughter of a deserted wife in the Great Depression and whose situation was vastly improved by the election of the Savage Labour Government in 1935.

No, this isn't a post on Labour's leadership election (zing!) But it is about elections - more specifically, who can't take part in them.

A couple of electoral-law-related issues poked their heads above the ground in the last few days - one slightly ridiculous, the other somewhat more important.

What an interesting online and social media fuss there's been about the 3rd Degree piece on Shane Jones this week. To me it just seems like a misguided argument based on the tired olf 'journalists are so awful' meme

Wednesday night's episode of 3rd Degree revealed a fascinating insight the Labour leadership contest, one which for me showed how the party risks not making the most of its primary season, but for others suggested intrusion and even talk of "endorsements".

I'm no great fan of referenda, but when phrases such as "elected dictatorship" start getting bandied around we all need to draw breath and remember how this 'running the country' thing really works

Well, it's been less than 24 hours since the Keep Our Assets groups nailed their petition, metaphorically, to the door of parliament, and there's already been a fair bit of tosh spoken about it. Some of the worst has come from Greens co-leader Russel Norman, but he's not alone.

Who should we really thank for the British House of Commons vote against attacking Syria?

Over at No Right Turn, I/S has a post up hailing the UK House of Commons vote against military action in Syria and giving Tony Blair the credit for it.

The way the police have approached the GCSB's covert recording of Kim Dotcom is markedly different to how they approached Bradley Ambrose's recording of John Key. Why is that?

The police have announced that, following an in-depth inquiry into Russel Norman's complaint that the GCSB acted in a criminal fashion by intercepting Kim Dotcom's private communications,

In which your esteemed author tells you who the Labour leader must be, explains why the Government had to appeal the "Quake Outcasts" case, warns you that your right to wear silly lapel pins on election day is under threat, and calls on David Farrar to save Great Britain.

Having been unusually silent for no better reason than I couldn't really be bothered writing anything, a few issues have emerged that invite (nay, require) my views. So here's an unreasonably long post to deal with them all.

What the start of the Labour leadership campaign tells us about the candidates...

Don't judge a book by its cover, they say. And it's good advice. When it comes to who might lead Labour into the 2014 election there's a lot more to come as the three aspirants campaign their way round the country. Nevertheless, the launches of Grant Robertson, Shane Jones and David Cunliffe told us a fair bit about who they are and what they bring.

How it all came to pass

Once upon a time in a country not far away at all, an obese German multi-millionaire, together with his very attractive wife and their children, a household of manservants, maidservants and security guards, 18 Mercedes Benzes, Cadillacs, Rolls Royces and other fancy carriages, and lots of computers, wide screen TVs and pretty pictures, moved into a palace in the Prime Minister’s electorate.

A steady erosion of human rights in New Zealand through legislation is being accompanied by Ministerial attempts to avoid searching scrutiny of these measures, and to silence dissenting voices.

In June 2013 the Law Society reported to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council that in New Zealand, “a number of recent legislative measures are fundamentally in conflict with the rule of law” and in breach of human rights. 

The five key points to consider when choosing the next Labour leader

So, David Shearer has pulled the pin on his leadership of the Labour party and killed off his own ambition because, he says, the party's ambition is more important. A decent sentiment from a decent man; it's cliche to say he's a good and likeable man, but he is. However he lacked what New Zealand is looking for here and now.

With a few exceptions, much of the GCSB media coverage has been superficial, and complicit in personal attacks and dismissive denials. Media had a vital role to play in answering the many questions around this Bill, and failed.

By and large, the New Zealand media have done a terrible job of reporting on the GCSB bill, despite its fundamental implications for democratic rights and freedoms in New Zealand – including, ironically, the freedom of the press.

I confess: The GCSB bill has me going back and forth. So after considering the politics played by the PM this week I lay out my main qualms about the bill and seek your advice...

We've seen the best and worst of John Key this past week, all muddled up together, as he has tried to work his way through public debate on the GCSB reform bill. The Prime Minister has been patronising and politically astute, a classy communicator and a below-the-belt jiber.

We're going to need just about every one of the housing policies being thrown around at the moment because any big fix is going to be down to lots of small change... and it's going nuts out there

Forget love, real estate is the new battlefield. And now just between the main political parties. The stories from the Auckland warzone are enough to leave you shell-shocked, and I've got two stories from this weekend as evidence.

I tried showing a little sympathy for Bill English last week. That'll teach me. The Tiwai Pt deal has fewer reedeming features that I dared hope and may make little difference to the Meridian float

I had a couple of interesting conversations over the weekend – and have done a little quick background reading – which have together been enough to think I was too kind to Bill English and National in my Friday post about the Tiwai Point subsidy.

The Tiwai Point subsidy buys time, but ultimately is just the latest in a series of deals by governments of different strips that sees the taxpayers stumping up for political reasons. Will it ever end?

Damned if they did, damned if they didn't. That was the political reaction National faced whatever they chose to do about Tiwai Point. But I'm not sure if that made the final decision harder – or let them off the hook.

We've got the latest polls all mixed up together and come up with some thoughts on Winston Peters and a bunch of questions for you to discuss. So off you go...

You'll notice on the left hand side of the homepage that, after the latest round of polls, we've updated Pundit's own poll of polls, which track the country's five biggest surveys. And it's noteworthy to see the trend lines have turned a smidgen.

This is the third infant formula crisis that Fonterra has been involved with. Time to go.

Fonterra was given privileged status because it was supposed to benefit the entire economy. Instead it's putting NZ inc at billion dollar risk. 

First it was plastic. Then it was fertilizers. Now it’s botulism. What next in baby’s milk – the Ebola virus?

We're not at the bottom of this story yet, but I can't help but wonder if those of us in the media need to have a good hard look at ourselves

The blur of revelations around Andrea Vance, the Henry inquiry's investigations into her movements and the government's whole attitude to information, privacy and spying can make it hard to know which are the most telling points in this saga and exactly when we should be surprised and appalled.

Presented for your consideration, and without any further comment, I give you John Key's oddly divergent views of the media.

Key said he had "enormous respect" for the media and believed in the freedom of information.

stuff.co.nz, 30 July, 2013

The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.

A message for those who serve on the front lines in our defence forces.

I thought I'd written the last word on New Zealand electoral law. Then bloody Judith Collins tells the world she's going to make a whole lot more.

So yesterday was a good day. My daughter turned five, thus celebrated her last day at her (exceptionally good and highly recommended) preschool, Koputai Childcare Center with cupcakes and a gym-themed day of events.

Should the new prince born today be long to reign over us? Or should he never inherit the throne? I confess the question's thornier than I thought

The front pages have been fun: The Sun retitled itself The Son. The Daily Mirror went with the cutesy 'Our Little Prince'. The Daily Mail has fun with Prince Charles saying 'Oh Boy! One's a Grandpa'. (They're all here).

With three pretenders to see off and an active destabilisation campaign underway, Shearer's hold on the leadership looks precarious. Does he have one big push left in him? And if not, what happens next?

Labour has long defined itself as the party of change and opportunity, and those concepts will be front of mind for many of the party's MPs while on recess.

Who'da thunk proposing that women should get representation equal to their share of the population would be such a controversial notion?

OK - I've got myself all het up about this issue of Labour (maybe, possibly) changing its selection rules to require that 50% of its MPs be female (by 2017) and also to allow individual electorates to request permission from the party to have "all-women short lists" for constituency candidates.

What sort of crazy, ideologically blinkered party would require that a set proportion of its candidates be women? The UK Conservative Party, that's who.

According to the NZ Herald, which has sourced its story from goodness knows where, the Labour Party is to consider at its annual conference a rule change that will mandate an element of gender equality in its candidate selection processes.

Inspired by the rash of speculation this week, I figured it's time I gave people a chance to make fun of me a year or two from now by giving my take on where we stand ahead of next year's election

It seems that 'The Game of Thrones: 2014 New Zealand Edition' is the game of the week. Everyone in my line of business seems to have a view on who will be forging alliances with whom and who will be chopped down to size over the next 15 months. And far be it from me not to join in.

John Key is claiming that the party with the most seats after the next election has a "moral mandate" to govern. Well, you would expect him to think that, wouldn't you?

It seems like I haven't been the only one to take the by-election result in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti as an open invite to speculate wildly on the possible outcome of a general election to be held in some 18 months.

We're learning this week just how common it is for countries to be spying on each other. Sir Geoffrey Palmer hinted last year that those in high power are quite aware of this

Spies. The characters of action films are becoming all too real these days. We are learning about metadata and secret surveillance from a whistle blowing/treasonous (pick your side) former NSA contractor and even Peter Dunne. And now the Guardian keeps reporting how the US has been spying on its allies, as well as the "evil-doers".

The Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election result is bad news for the Maori Party. That's good news for Winston Peters and New Zealand First.

Hot off the press, here's my take on the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election result - with a stronger than usual warning that I don't necessarily know what I am talking about.

No points if you guess the answer - it's pretty obvious. The real question is if and when the electoral maths could compell New Zealand Labour to follow the same path

The Australian Labour party leadership change this week is an interesting prism through which to view the New Zealand Labour Party and its travails.

Labour MPs have voted in a leader they despised, a leader they once confidently predicted the public would come to hate as much as they did. Except the public didn't. Or at least, hasn't yet.

Sue Kedgley worries that there is nothing to stop our MPs selling themselves to the highest bidder. There is - so they'll have to do it quietly.

Sue Kedgley has an opinion piece in the Herald today asking whether the various "cash-for-services" scandals roiling the UK Parliament could happen in New Zealand, and suggesting that a lack of regulation of MPs behaviour here means the answer is "maybe".

The buzz is that National is about to back Auckland's CBD rail loop. And before you think the government's changed its roading stripes, let's consider the politics behind this

National parties and rail have long been, well, running on different tracks. But the buzz in Auckland this week has been that John Key may be about to jump the tracks (yes, I'm going to keep on with these puns) and come in behind the Auckland CBD rail loop.

Apparently UnitedFuture is no longer a party recognised for parliamentary purposes because doing so would cause too much trouble.

Let's begin with a confession. Last week I wrote a post in which I confidently stated:

The NZRFU's code of conduct requires that players "never argue with the referee.  Control your temper at all times." Peter Dunne could learn from it.

The saga of UnitedFuture's status as a party rolls on, with the most recent development being that the Electoral Commission has rejected its application to register.

The court with “the potential to affect New Zealanders’ day-to-day quality of life more than any other court in the judicial system” is on the ropes. The RMLA speaks out

Yesterday, thanks to footwork from the Resource Management Law Association, the rumour of recent weeks was confirmed.

Cabinet papers did exist, it appeared, confirming that Ministerial consideration was being given to doing away with the Environment Court.

Steven Joyce’s Budget 2013 announcement says that his ‘New Zealand Story’ project will be all about innovation and resourcefulness, our Maori heritage, and a ‘welcoming, friendly’ approach. I think the Emperor has no clothes, and it's about time somebody said so

100% pure New Zealand claims now lie exposed, as an embarrassment and a risk to our Government.

Finance minister Bill English is arguing that we shouldn't second guess business decisions made by Solid Energy. His argument happens to be a convenient way to get him off the hook for government failings

We need to understand what happened and learn from it so that it doesn't happen again. Bill English is implying that in the same circumstances he would do the same thing again. 

The business failed because it forecast record high coal prices would continue indefinitely and made business decisions on that basis. 

Act One of Peter Dunne's departure has come to an end. What does Act Two hold in store?

Now that Peter Dunne has turned into the political equivalent of a bleeding seal swimming amidst a feeding frenzy of hungry sharks, what happens next?

Well, there's three ways that his involvement in any past leaks will get scrutinised in the next little while. 

Hamilton councillors are just the latest folk to fall prey to fear-raising arguments against 'mass medication' and in favour of individual choice, while ignoring science. What's going on? 

Judith Collins once introduced me to one of her staff members saying, "Tim writes mean things about me on his blog". It was a jokey dig done with a wonderfully straight face and it charmed me. So I'm going to take this chance to applaud her no-nonsense response to Hamilton City Council's daft decision on fluoride this week.

David Carter's decision on Peter Dunne's status was just as wrong (and as right) as Jonathan Hunt's decision on Harry Duynhoven's.

What is all this fuss about Peter Dunne, Trevor Mallard, Winston Peters and David Carter, I hear you asking?

Oh, you weren't? Well, tough. I'm telling you anyway.

Russel Norman dared to (gasp!) compare John Key's approach to politics with that of Robert Muldoon! Have you ever heard anything so outrageous (since the exact same comparison was made in relation to Helen Clark)? 

Russel Norman's speech to the Green Party's AGM in the weekend caused a bit of a splash - not so much for what he said, but how he said it.

Al Nisbet and his editors have every right to argue 'freedom of the press', but that doesn't make them good cartoons... And the politics behind 'food in schools'

A picture is worth a thousands words, they say. Why? Because an image can convey truth in an instant. But a picture can also distort, like those fairground mirrors, and we've seen more of the latter in the Al Nisbet cartoons about the government's 'food in schools' programme.

I think the National Government broke the Constitution. John Key thinks it didn't. We both may be right.

My last post on the Public Health and Disability Amendment Act 2013 appeared to strike something of a chord. Certainly, it's been the most viewed piece that I've written here. 

The 2007 law change prohibiting parents from hitting their children is being quoted as an example of frustration of the popular will by Parliament. But was it?

I see it said quite often nowadays that the law forbidding parents from hitting their children was passed against the popular will. The latest  is from a commenter on Monday’s post on Pundit from Dame Anne Salmond. I don’t see it that way.

Research by the Greens into just who bought the Mighty River Power shares show that those Mum and Dad investors were more like 'Mummy and Daddy dahling' investors

It's no secret that I'm no fan of National's partial asset-sales programme. To me it's always seemed like selling the rental property to pay to renovate the spare room. Why would you give away the long-term returns for the sake of a quick buck to spruce up a few schools, hospital and roads? Having said that, it's not the nuttiest of ideas, either.

A week of poor process continues for the government as it side-steps consultation with its decision to approve mining on the Denniston Plateau

Sorry about the absence, but I've been making television and trying to absorb the pros and cons of drug decriminalisation (and I might blog on that soon). But in the meantime Andrew, Claire and our very special guest Anne Salmond (New Zealander of the Year, no less) have been doing some impressive heavy lifting.

Increasingly, our Government is behaving like a playground bully. If Ministers will not restrain themselves from abuses of power, others need to stand up and speak out

In its editorial today, the New Zealand Herald joins Andrew Geddis in castigating the Government for a constitutional outrage – denying the family carers of people with disabilities the right to appeal against unlawful discrimination to the Human Rights Commission or the courts.

Government's gathering pace, in a way that ought to give us all serious pause - because it rips apart more than our constitutional fabric.

“New Zealand is a remorselessly democratic country.” -- Geoffrey Palmer

In 1977, 341,159 New Zealanders joined the petition of Gwenny Davis to Parliament.

Our constitutional arrangements work on an implicit bargain - the principle of comity - that the Courts and Parliament don't mess with each other's turf. I think that bargain just got broken.

I really don't want to be "that guy" who leaps up at monotonously regular intervals to proclaim that a latest constitutional outrage marks some sort of nadir in governmental practice.

One take out from today’s budget says it all.

The government thinks that the net fiscal impact on the economy will be contractionary.

Here’s what Bill English says in his Fiscal Strategy Report for the budget:

“Having been stimulatory during the recession, fiscal policy is expected to exert a mildly contractionary effect on the economy throughout the forecast period.”

The National Government isn't going to bother even thinking about the Electoral Commission's recommendations to reform MMP. I wish that they'd told us this was the plan before we spent our time and effort engaging with the issue.

So it looks like the Electoral Commission's review of MMP, complete with recommended changes to fix those parts that haven't been working that well,

Now that we're in the business of guaranteeing winners by making public policy in their favour, the sky is the limit.

The Labour-Green Government today announced it had reached agreement with five "green-tech" start-up companies to create a "New Futures" industrial hub in Wellington. Under the terms of this agreement, the companies have committed to build plant, conduct R&D activities and produce goods for the next 35 years.

The Crown won't be able to change Sky City's gambling concessions without paying for it. But it isn't the Crown that would do so.

I have but three words to say to those who think that the announced agreement between Sky City Casino and the National Government, complete with regulatory concessions that will permit the casino to make a lot more money from punters over the next 35 years, really is "legally binding" on the Crown.

John Key now has no choice but to act on Aaron Gilmore, but at the same time has to protect is narrow majority in parliament. Someone has to hatch a deal

I haven't bothered to write about the Aaron Gilmore scandal because, well, it didn't seem like much of a scandal and this week I didn't feel much like kicking a man while he was down. But now it's interesting to consider what the National Party and its leaders may do, because their options have diminished dramatically.

All the parties have reasons to feel satisifed with the first state asset float. But why is it OK to intervene to boost the markets, but not to boost families?

It hasn't been a great week for political parties and their predictive powers.

In the different stories being told about the sell-off of Mighty River Power, not even numerals mean the same thing to everyone.

If you were to go searching for a place where absolute, unarguable truth could be found, you might think you would find it in the realm of mathematical certainty. After all, we like to say that numbers - unlike certain lowly ranked National Party MPs - never lie.

Food in schools – Russell Wills now Key’s puppet – targeting, corporatisation and the charity model rule

Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills  gave a grand demonstration on RNZ yesterday of how even a well meaning and highly respected professional can become a right wing Government’s puppet in the blink of an eye.

Just because Aaron Gilmore said things happened in a particular way doesn't mean we shouldn't believe him when he now says those things happened in a different way. Right?

While Aaron Gilmore's actions at a Hanmer Springs hotel and the resultant fallout are, at best, mildly diverting, it is worth noting for posterity that he appears to have a somewhat shifting recollection of the events in question.

This is what he is quoted by the NZ Herald as saying about the relevant evening at his "tearful" apology press conference this morning:

Is Aaron Gilmore the Reese Witherspoon of New Zealand's Parliament?

Let's get the obvious out of the way. Alcohol makes people do dumb things. Even the most sane and sensible of us have been known to, under its influence, don a parrot puppet and flail around the dance floor at the front of an Abel [embarrassed edit: Able] Tasman's gig.

Beyond the cries of 'Muldoonism' and 'North Korean', the Labour-Greens power announcement is an important landmark on the road to the 2014 election – a challenge to orthodoxy and the rise of an alternative

There is a scene in Bladerunner’ where the beautiful android Pris, played by Daryl Hannah, is shot and goes into a furious and wild death thrash, with her limbs flaying all over the show as her short shelf life disappears before her maddening eyes.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

The Dalai Lama is coming to Dunedin. In an ideal world, I'd be happy to spend a couple of hours going to hear what he has to say ... although I'm not (or, rather, no longer) religiously inclined, I think he's a guy who has "walked his talk" for long enough to deserve that. Plus by all accounts he's a pretty good and engaging speaker, so I don't think it'd be a total waste of time.

Why the constitutional review panel is a bit like getting a few mates round at the weekend for some DIY

On Saturday night emergency services were called to Glen Eden, Auckland where a deck had collapsed dropping 30 people and a hot barbecue about a storey to the ground.

They that live by the law, die by the internet

Just a quick note, because it's late and I've just written an 1100 words post on electoral reform.

Last year, over 6000 of us took the time and effort to engage in debating the future of our MMP system. Would it be too much trouble for the Government to let us know whether there was any point to us doing so?

Following the majority decision to keep MMP at the 2011 referendum, the Electoral Commission last year reviewed the MMP voting system in a process that involved a couple of rounds of public consultation.

The marriage equality win has made New Zealand a better place, but here's hoping it's been done right

In my pleasure at the passing of the Marriage Amendment Act I was reminded of an email my Mum sent me a couple of months ago, containing an old black and white photo of eight women and two children. They're seated in a garden. A sun spot blurs the right-hand corner, possibly obscuring another child.

Involvement in the cannabis trade probably isn't the ideal way to learn how to grow things and sell them to other people. But there's a reason why those who do so need to master some important skills really, really well.

Over on Kiwiblog, DPF has a post decrying Meteria Turei's "claim that Maori growing marijuana are developing entrepreneurial and horticultural skills" and arguing that "the last thing you want is MPs praising drug dealers as entrepreneurs".

Army to gain new powers over protesters; GCSB spies on New Zealanders; new single government data hub planned... Is Aotearoa en route to Orwell's 1984?

I’ve made a lifelong habit of trying to stay out of the discourse on spying and security issues.

Since my earliest involvement in radical left activity in the late 1960s, I’ve been put off by those amongst us who seem to spend more energy on police and security issues than focusing on our collective kaupapa and actions.

John Key began to fight back against the damage being done by the GCSB scandal urging reform for the bureau. But has he jumped the gun before doing the numbers? Let's see what ACT and United Future have said...

The GCSB spying controversy this week keeps giving new angles, each one more likely to have New Zealand voters changing the channel or turning the page.

Kitteridge Report suggests "unclear legislation" allowed for GCSB to illegally spy on New Zealanders. But the real responsibility lies elsewhere

The Kitteridge Report on New Zealand's intelligence agency, the GCSB, is written in polite bureaucratic language but the activities it documents amount to a gross breach of the GCSB’s responsibility to the New Zealand public.

New Zealanders instinctively trust John Key as a straight-shooter. But at what point do voters start to see the Prime Minister as tarnished by the Dotcom spying affair?

Trust is one of the most valuable political currencies; if the public puts their confidence in you, politicians can achieve so much more, feel much safer in their jobs and demand more loyalty from your colleagues. John Key, such a successful trader of actual currency, has also proven to be astute at accumulating its political equivalent.

The government is in an ideological tangle over the Tiwai Point smelter negotiations, but could there be a local saviour willing to buy the plant?

Smelting is the process of melting or fusing something to extract a desired end product – at Tiwai Point that's turning bauxite into aluminium. In the Beehive, National is smelting principles and political strategies in an attempt to keep its partial asset sales programme and target of a 2014/15 surplus on track.

Why is it much, much worse for protesters to interfere with oil exploration at sea than on the land?

A couple of years ago I wrote this post about the attempts to stop Petrobras surveying for oil in the seas off East Cape.

Labour wants to be fiscally responsible and seems arctic cool on Phil Goff's GST-off fruit and vege policy. But they may be about to switch horses at just the wrong time

Back in 2011, then-Labour leader Phil Goff went to Mana to announce a new policy - taking the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables. He described it as a "game-changer". Problem was, however it may have changed people's eating habits, it was no political game-changer and as we know Goff slid to defeat in that year's election.

Thirty years after the Falklands War, the dispute over who controls the British outpost simmers on

Now for something completely different – a blog about the Falkland Islands.

Following the legalisation of same sex marriage, same sex couples will be able to jointly adopt their children. But which same sex couples?

One of the flow-on consequences of the same sex marriage bill shortly to become our law is that it will permit same sex couples to jointly adopt children. Some people think this is a bad thing. I strongly disagree. 

Rather than treating councils as a Beehive branch office, the government should pick up the phone and learn from council's local knowledge

The increasingly heated debate over the future direction of local government over the past 18 months has hardly been matched by rising level of interest from the public, whose eyes tend to glaze over at the very mention of those two words.

As a complete rip-off of a recent Andrew Geddis post (respect!), here's another attempt by Pundit to reveal the ridiculous

State Owned Enterprises Minister, Tony Ryall, today accepted partial responsibility for Solid Energy's failings and said that the failings of his govenment are the strongest argument yet for the government's mixed ownership plan.

Last month government owned Solid Energy revealed it was talking to its banks and Treasury as it struggled to handle debt that had reached $389 million.

There's a lot of upside down politics in the Solid Energy saga, but at the end of the tunnel it's all about the next election

"Show me the money", John Key hooted at Phil Goff in the 2011 election campaign, painting Labour as a party of loose financial discipline. Can you trust a party that doesn't know how to get out of deficit, wants to tinker with vege taxes and create tax-free zones, he asked voters. And they said no.

If you try to say something offensive to Parliament, it doesn't have to listen to you. But why not?

We're now unstoppably on the road to same sex marriage (and, through related amendments to other bits of legislation, same sex joint adoption). This is a good thing. I am very happy.

Punitive bank fees prevent many people from using banks – and protecting themselves from loan sharks and other dodgy financial services

There’s one thing worse than the banks fleecing you on fees, and that's not providing you with banking services at all. Over half the working age population of the world is ‘unbanked’.

With gay marriage back in the headlines, it's telling to look at the numbers and take stock of the campaign to stop marriage equality

Tomorrow MPs will vote on the second reading of Louisa Wall's marriage amendment bill. On its first reading the bill passed comfortably, 80-40. So seeing just how many MPs change their vote will be an interesting measure of how effective socially conservative groups are these days.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority appears to confuse its role in overseeing the rebuild of central Christchurch with owning it entirely. Here's a reminder - it doesn't.

By the way of the ever-vigilant No Right Turn comes a quite outrageous Radio NZ report on the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) pulling the plug

Government gets bolder. Meanwhile, Forest & Bird Ambassador Sir Alan Mark launches a public appeal for a Wise Government Response to five crises confronting New Zealand

Styled by participant Gareth Renowden as 'a loose affiliation of New Zealand’s great and good', really, it’s 'people like us'.

Three recent stories serve as reminders that we have every right to expect much from those given power over us

Yesterday I had a little dig at Peter Dunne about being accountable for his vote on the SkyCity convention centre deal, the negotiation of which he has described as "very fast and loose at times". It's a theme worth exploring a little more, as I fear we may be getting lax in what we expect from public figures.

Peter Dunne has written a blog post offering commentary on the SkyCity and Hobbit deals. Thing is, surely he needs to answer the very questions he poses to the Prime Minister

Good old Peter Dunne, eh? Always easy to underestimate, he often is much sharper and, from a media perspective, a better performer than he's given credit for. And now it seems he's reading Pundit and absorbing our (ahem) wise words. Or perhaps he and I are just thinking alike... should I be worried?

Selling state-owned assets isn't a growth plan, in fact it makes debt worse

Whatever side of the politics you sit on asset sales, no-one except the government thinks this is a good time to sell. 

But they’ve already banked the $7 billion they expect from the sale. They need it to look real before the May budget, and be over by the next election. Timelines are being set by politics - not by the best interest of the country. 

The first Hobbit movie has been made and released. And now so have some critical emails. Isn't it time for some full and frank answers from the players in the dispute?

And now we get to the nub of the matter. Timing, as it is said, is everything. So it is with the debate over The Hobbit, the indignation expressed by Sir Peter Jackson and the law change made by National.

An ode inspired by National's mixed ownership programme, to the tune of 'Five Little Monkeys"... And a few thoughts about the sales and the Supreme Court

Five state assets going on the block

Airline prices fell and so did one's stock

Don't sell Air New Zealand, the people said

Bill replied "Hmph, I'll sell the other four instead"

 

Four state assets going on the block

One went for lignite and only hit rock (bottom, that is)

"Now we can't sell that one," Bill and John said

Two big legal issues in the one day! Lucky I'm on top of my game ...

It seems Pundit topics are a bit like buses.

Jury trials are slow, expensive and don't necessarily produce the 'right' verdict -- so why do we still use them?

Our legal system – note I do not call it our justice system – deserves to come in for criticism. Not everything is bad, but there are elements that need to be reformed.

Basic things don’t look right to me – for starters, it costs way too much and is way too slow. But there is more.

John Key loves closing a deal. But when it comes to SkyCity and plain packaging he seems to have lost sight of the fact that how you do things is the mark of a man... and a government

We seem to live in a world these days where the means don't matter so much if you can justify the end - we're driven by outcomes; the result is all that matters. Yet just how much the means means to a person, or a government, can be telling and two big stories this week have been revealing when it comes to making sense of John Key and his second term government.

First they came for the partners of beneficiary fraudsters, and I was silent. Then they came for the professional advisors of corporate entities, and I thought "hang on - this is completely ridiculous!"

Minister of Revenue, Peter Dunne, has today announced new measures to prevent, detect and catch corporate tax evasion.

Admit it -- you'd never heard of NZ First MP Richard Prosser till the Wogistan debacle. Now he is a household name. Plus Ralph Stewart's payout and Novopay.

A week ago I wrote a blog about Parliament, noting that what went on there was mostly theatre – a “game” – and the content of what was said there was not to be taken too seriously. In one sense what Richard Prosser MP said last week confirmed this; the content of his statement about young Muslim males and “Wogistan” was such nonsense that only a fool could take this guy seriously.

Look deeper into RMA reforms and you might find it's more exciting than you think: an Environment Minister taking her axe to urban trees, and the latest in a series of “democracy deficits” - this time affecting Auckland

Wake up, New Zealand. Yo, Auckland!

I want you - the 87 percent of you who live in a city or town in New Zealand - to have a think about trees. What do trees mean to you?

The initial response to a call for councils and other big employers to commit to a living wage of at least $18.40 an hour has been dominated by excuses. But what could be more important?

President Barack Obama did the living wage campaign in New Zealand a favour in his State of the Union address yesterday by making a simple declaration. It was wrapped up in his promise to raise the federal minimum wage – something he campaigned on in 2008 but has failed to act upon thus far. But it's something that needs to be put to Prime Minister John Key, amongst others.

Is it OK to threaten to do a really bad thing if it means that you don't actually have to do it, even if you have to really be prepared to do it so as to make the threat work?

So John and Julia had themselves quite a nice time in Queenstown - and why wouldn't they, it being a beautiful place - chatting about this, that and the problem of refugees.

Robust free speech must be strenuously protected, but a written rant by a New Zealand First MP goes beyond defensible lazy thinking to racist insult, and must be condemned

There's nothing quite like a political foot-in-mouth story; indeed, journalists go out of their way to provoke those in power to mis-speak as a way of testing their suitability for high office. So it's quite an achievement when a politician, writing in the calm of his own home or office, inserts his foot so firmly and offensively into his own trap. Take a bow, Richard Prosser.

The launch tonight aboard the Rainbow Warrior of Greenpeace NZ’s clean economy report recalls the time New Zealand turned away from nuclear energy. Now, as then, we’re at an historical crossroads. But where is the Economic Development Minister?

Forty years ago, New Zealand had to decide whether we’d plan for a nuclear power supply. In the end, we made some other choices: a lot of hydro, some gas, some coal.

Renewable energy options have come a long way since then; so has nuclear of course, but then so has our stance on nuclear-free.

Waitangi Day events played out more peacefully than expected, but the risk of division remains if we don't pay attention to public opinion

Another Waitangi Day has come and gone. While there were still a few protesters they were pretty nominal. There has been the usual dialogue around the event as the country struggles to settle just what to do with the day.

Revisiting a discussion about the length of parliamentary terms

So political consensus was in the air at Waitangi this year... at least around a four year parliamentary term.

John Key's Waitangi Day speech defended February 6 as our national day, acknowledged our willingness to look back and pointed out that we're not a nation of flag wavers. But why not and why shouldn't we be?

There is something about a beginning; about the hope it represents and the faith that it will lead somewhere, the fact that it is always the hardest part and often the truest. Our beginning is Waitangi Day, our national day, and John Key has again demonstrated his gut appreciation of what it means to us as a nation.

While school children come to watch MPs goofing around in parliament, the real business of governing takes place outside the debating chamber

"New Zealanders don't want stand-up comedy – they want someone to stand up for them". David Shearer rhetorically let forth with those words in his recent speech to the opening of this year's parliament, and I suppose anyone thinking about it would immediately see that to be true.

Here's a radical idea for politicians hoping to make an impact: tell the truth instead of offering false hope, like France's Manuel Valls.

The most popular politician in France is Manuel Valls, the interior minister in Francois Hollande’s Socialist government. 

Auckland's sky-rocketing house prices could do the country a service -- as long as they are not artificially lowered

There have not been a lot of real issues about so far this year. We have had the usual silly season diet of non-consequential stories, interspersed with stories on the weather, accidents, crimes and so on.

It was a killer line about karma from Hekia Parata. Not only did it reveal her true feelings, it encapsulated what the government can expect in 2013 as it heads into its fifth year

Isn't it funny how a single word, a moment of levity, can be so revealing? When Hekia Parata joked that a technical hitch which saw Education Ministry staff missing out on their pay was "karma", it was a simple reference to the Novopay mess and the missed pay so many teachers have suffered in recent months. But it's a pretty good word to set the scene for the government's prospects in 2013.

This is not a post about David Bain. It just looks that way.

So late last year I posted an inexcusably long, meandering (and, let's be brutally honest, criminally self-indulgent) meditation on Ian Binnie's report on David Bain's "innocence" and Robert Fisher's criticisms of that report.

The symbolism of the Rainbow Warrior's return to her spiritual home.

As the sun rose on 2013, the new Rainbow Warrior sailed for New Zealand: first stop a tribute to her sister ship, sunk in Matauri Bay.

It’s time for the Rainbow’s return, because 2013 marks another time of defiance, a fight for our country’s soul.

A quick glance of John Key's state of the nation speech reveals a government tipping its hat to next year's election, but with little new to sell

In the early years of John Key's leadership of the National Party, and then the country, many of his critics were keen to say, 'just wait 'til he pulls the mask off'. There was always the worry his affable, centre-right smile hid neo-liberal teeth. Yet his State of the Nation speech today is further evidence that Key is no Brash-in-sheep's-clothing.

Can Pita Sharples afford not to be the co-leader of the Maori Party?

In light of Pita Sharples' reluctance to step aside as leader of the Maori Party and stated desire to retain his Ministerial position even if replaced in that role, I draw the reader's attention to this gem from an

A new Oxfam report released in time for the World Economic Forum spells out just how vast the inequality divide has become and the urgent need to act. It's just not good for anyone

The annual meeting of the ultimate insider's club has begun in Davos, Switzerland today. The World Economic Forum attracts the rich, powerful and seriously cool from all over – the opening day has seen speeches from Mario Monti, David Cameron and Larry Summers, an award for Charlize Theron and reports of Prince Andrew drifting around for some reason.

Garth McVicar thinks that same sex marriage is just another part of a breakdown in moral values that causes crime. Silly Garth - everyone knows it's not wearing hats that causes crime.

So by now everyone who is anyone has taken their potshot at Garth McVicar and his "gay marriage causes crime" submission to the select committee considering Louisa Wall's same sex marriage bill.

Two leading politicians are staying put. Risky stuff. And what I'm doing next...

Look at the time, is it 2013 already? I've hardly given thought to anything since Christmas except what needs to be done to keep the kids happy and what jobs need to be done around the house (when we weren't in Onemana or Gisborne). But here are two brief thingamies to kick off the year...

My last post of 2012 said some mean things about Judith Collins. Let me make amends by starting 2013 with some nice words.

A couple of years ago, I had a grumpy prod at Simon Power for introducing a revamped Prisoners and Victims Claims regime into Parliament before he took off to enjoy a real life working for Westpac.

This is the last word on the David Bain case. There will never be, nor need to be, another thing written about it ever again. Do you believe me much?

In my first ever Pundit post on the David Bain saga, I expressed a fear that touching it might lead me to suffer the same fate as Br’er Rabbit when he foolishly chose to engage with Br’er Fox’s Tar Baby.

Auckland's first-ever beneficiary 'impact' demonstrates poverty of policies as well as of people 

Almost unnoticed in the rush to Christmas, the first ever beneficiary ‘impact’ to be held in Auckland has been taking place this week at Onehunga’s Work & Income office.

Want to say something about the Binnie Report on David Bain's innocence? Or Robert Fisher's review of that report? Or Judith Collins' handling of the whole matter? Here's your chance.

So, at 3 o'clock Judith Collins will release Ian Binnie's report on David Bain's innocence (because we all know now that this is what it says) along with Robert Fisher's "peer review" of that report.

I have no idea how the David Bain compensation bid is now going to turn out. But I don't see why that should stop me telling you about it

So, it appears my preparedness to reverse my earlier doubts about David Bai

Justice Minister Judith Collins' silence on why she had sought a second opinion on the Bain compensation was prompting speculation she was shopping for a verdict. But who knew she's respond like this?

Judith 'Crusher' Collins is back at it. Having had little luck actually crushing cars, today she's using her vice to scrunch the reputations of Justice Ian Binnie from Canada, and her own predecessor as Justice Minister, Simon Power. You have to love that you won't die wondering with Collins!

Matthew Hooton has done a 180 degree turn on his prediction for the 2014 election. Yet the new prediction seems as risky as the last one

Playing the 'what if' game and picking the results of future elections is part of the fun of political punditry. And few enjoy the fun of political punditry as much as Matthew Hooton. For much of this year he's been telling anyone who'll listen how the Conservatives and Winston will get National a third term. So what a surprise his latest NBR column is.

 Political Notes from 2012: o'seas & domestic political rants of a purely existential nature - no strings attached version

The dragon is a sign of power, virility, of the yang. I suppose the signs of it have been everywhere but it’s taken me all year to catch up to their rhythm.

Politicians seem to agree that three years is too short... but will anything be done about it now we've got MMP?

For the final Q+A of the year, we turned our format on its head. Instead of politicians talking and experts analysing, we did it the other way round. Sort of. We got eight big thinkers from around the country and gave them 90 seconds to pitch their idea. What was the one thing they’d like to see happen to improve New Zealand and help the country grow.

In which I get things some off my chest about relations between bloggers and journalists and the coverage of the Labour Party conference

There's a hokey old show tune from Oklahoma called The Farmer and the Cowman. It makes fun of the warring between the different groups settling the new territory and it came to mind when I was reading and thinking about the recent sniping between journalists and bloggers.

We shouldn't use Brendan Horan's political execution as a reason to reintroduce bad law.

Following Brendan Horan's rather summary casting out from the New Zealand First caucus - or, at least, so Winston Peters has told the House ... and the assumption is that if Peters says something will happen within New Zealand First, then it will happen - there's been some mutterings about the need to revisit the now lapsed party/waka-hopping law.

Latest incident of young girl left kneeling in corner during Bible class reinforces need for urgent law change

This morning’s Herald photo of a young girl kneeling by a rubbish bin during a ‘Christian’ class at Red Beach School has shocked me to the core.

David Bain's claim for compensation is starting to look more and more like Charlie Brown's attempt to kick the football.

According to the stuff.co.nz website, John Key said the following about Judith Collin's decision to seek further legal advice (actually, a review of the review) on David Bain's claim for compensation:

The House of Representatives' Privileges Committee is considering whether or not public servants should be given free reign to defame completely innocent individuals to their Ministers. Well, that's an exaggeration ... but read on anyway.

Upon my return to New Zealand (did I tell you I've been away? To America!?), I found a very nice letter waiting for me from the Hon Chris Finlayson.

In 2012, National Ministers’ environment choices left us 100% poorer - or pooer, in the case of our impure, faecally-contaminated rivers

Three years ago, new to the job, Trade (and former Conservation) Minister Tim Groser said our brand would be built on “world class environmental standards”:

Why almost losing the Labour leadership may have been a gift to David Shearer and the tasks he must confront in the next three months if he's to be more than a lame duck

So David Shearer has bought himself three months to establish his credentials as a leader who can, if not win, at least help ensure that National loses the 2014 election. Three months to put some runs on the board and impress his party by impressing the wider public. Three months to perform significantly better than he has for the past 12.

It was the speech to save his leadership. Or condemn it. David Shearer stood before the party faithful and got a rousing reception on Sunday. But was a new vision unveiled?

David Shearer can start these crucial weeks in his leadership knowing that he did enough in his speech to Labour's annual conference. Enough to give himself a fighting chance. He had enough convincing moments to give the TV networks the grabs they need and enough zip to energise a hall of the faithful.

Indie rock songs contain trite and obvious messages for angst ridden adolescents. Perfect, then, for capturing the feelings of political party activists searching for a saviour.

I haven't really got an opinion on the question of who ought to be leader of the Labour Party. Actually, that's not really true. I think it should be Grant Robertson, but that's purely because he's my friend and we always want our friends to be successful. Only, I note, because we can then hate them for it.

What is investigative journalism, really, and why is it important? Nicky Hager shares his Bruce Jesson Lecture, presented at Auckland's Maidment Theatre on October 31

 

 

Each time I go walking near my home I pass an old war memorial inscribed with the words "magna est veritas, et praevalebit": Truth is great, and will prevail. The words date from 1917, in the middle of the First World War, and were obviously attempting to reassure the locals that their sons and brothers were dying in a noble cause.

Bill English has stepped outside his comfort zone in announcing that he intends to fix our broken property market. Can he get builders to build more 'Toyota Corolla' homes? Or will he end up looking like King Canute before the rising tide of house prices?

Having just re-read the transcript of Bill English's interview on housing affordability this morning, I think it's hard to understate the size of the problem National is biting into.

Is it the job of iwi to solve Maori problems, or do we all have a stake and a responsibility? And what's the end goal of treaty settlements?

It's one of those perennial talkback-style questions that comes up towards the end of any debate on race relations. Someone often says, "... and anyway, now that iwi have all that settlement money, why aren't they fixing Maori poverty/getting Maori off welfare/stopping all these Maori problems".

Alfred Nobel intended his peace prize to go to those most responsible for creating "fraternity between nations," and the "reduction of standing armies." Yet a brief look at Obama's accomplishments since shows that the further we move from 2009, the further he turns from this legacy

Three years ago this month, the Nobel committee awarded its vaunted Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama. While many dubious names appear on the prize’s long list of winners, this decision was met with near-universal approval at the time.

... was so far from pleasing Tigranes that he had his head cut off for his pains. History tells us that his name was Ira Bailey

By now Pundit readers, being such well informed individuals who are uniformly of above average intelligence, will be familiar with the massive information security breach at WINZ.

Did the person who told Labour that John Key (allegedly) mentioned Kim Dotcom's name at the GCSB really break the law?

Barry Soper at Newstalk ZB has broken a story about the source of Labour's information that John Key (allegedly) talked about Kim Dotcom to staff at the Government Communication Security Bureau back in February of this year - well before he claims to have first become aware

Has the Attorney General (gasp!) made up his own mind about what the NZBORA means?

In a recent post on National's Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill (aka, the "we know you are going to do bad things" law), I noted that:

John Key says nobody owns the water. One hundred and sixteen years ago Richard Seddon told Ngati Kahungungu despite gifting Wairarapa lakes to the Crown, they still owned the water and the fish. Two prime ministers, which one is right?

Do property rights fade like fabric in the sun?

Or do they remain as strong as a man's word?

National announces cuts to minimum youth wage levels - a disastrous policy that will destroy jobs, not create them

National’s announcement today of cuts to the minimum wage for many young workers is yet another example of this Government’s determination to destroy jobs rather than create them.

The quantitative easing policies suggested by the Green Party may or may not be a good idea. But the arguments being put up against it don't carry much weight.

First of all, an up front disclaimer. I have no formal training in economic theory (albeit that I dabble on occasion in some Law and Economics theory in the course of my day job).

David Shearer is set to shuffle Labour's pack. The beltway crew seem to think it's overdue, but they're missing the deeper problem

So, David Shearer's planning a reshuffle of his front bench and folk such as John Tamihere and, well, just about everyone, reckons it's about time. The carping has started, so the Labour leader had better get on with it. But what he needs to realise is a reshuffle is only the beginning. In many ways it's the smallest part of the job.

Fran O'Sullivan doesn't like it when commentators present their readers with "very thin analysis". Perhaps she ought to stop doing so, then.

A wee while ago a bit of a spat took place between my (disclosure) Otago colleague, (full disclosure) friend and (way too much information) Guy-I'd-Turn-Gay-For, Bryce Edwards, and a couple of columnists at the New Zealand Herald.

We already know there are 100,000 New Zealand voters willing to put a party into Parliament which upholds the principles of small government, choice, individual freedom and responsibility. Now that 'Brand Act' is well and truly stuffed, there's talk the Libertarianz Party might fill the vacuum.

Last week a journalist phoned and told me the Libertarianz Party conference this coming weekend is called Towards a True Liberal Bloc in Government and I collapsed with mirth. Then made a cryptic remark about their being lucky to find a cupboard in which to hold their conference.

In which I work my way through the minister's explanations of national standards and award myself a gold star for effort

I'm not sure I'd pass any national standards, because I'm still confused. Education Minister Hekia Parata has finally released the comprehensive, yet unmoderated, national standards data, but I'm not any clearer what she wants us all to do with it.

People won't change how they vote because some spies over-stepped the mark. But the Dotcom-GCSB saga still poses a threat to the government, one it can't afford to ignore

As I've been watching politics over the years I've started building up a few rules that seem to apply regardless of party or circumstance – and with just enough exceptions to prove them. I must start writing them down! But there's one that I've been banging on about for years to anyone who will listen. And if John Key isn't careful it could start coming into play for him.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta's visit marks a turn in New Zealand-United States relations. We have won the cake and are getting to eat it too, but that doesn't mean there aren't still risks

I can almost hear David Lange chuckling from the grave and making some quip about vindication. From all we know about the fourth Labour government's handling of our push to be nuclear-free it was defined by chaos, cock-ups and misunderstandings. But this weekend the US threw in the towel in what you might call our 'cold spat'. We won. Kind of.

Arrested for the first time in over a decade in protest against welfare reforms - a response to the critics - and I also stage a return to Pundit

Yesterday I was arrested on a protest action for the first time since before I was elected to Parliament in 1999. It’s been a while.

National's "we know you are going to do bad things" law is now before the House. Can the people of Whanganui now sleep safe in their beds?

So the Government's proposed "Public Protection Orders" legislation has finally been rolled out. In a nutshell, it will permit prison authorities to go to the High Court and seek an order that because "there is a very high risk of imminent serious sexual or violent offending by the respondent", an individual should be detained indefinately in accommodation on prison grounds.

In which John Key plays the part of the scarecrow and David Shearer the cowardly lion

If New Zealand was Oz, I'd be sending our two political leaders off along the yellow brick road to see the Wizard. Having watched twice both John Key and David Shearer on Q+A this morning and read the transcripts, I'm struck by what they're lacking. (Hey, I critique, it's what I do).

John Banks knows who gave money to his mayoral campaign. We know John Banks knows who gave money to his mayoral campaign. So why don't we know who gave money to John Banks' mayoral campaign?

It's good to see that the Herald [Update: and stuff.co.nz, too] has decided not to consign the issue of John Banks' fundraising practices for his failed Auckland mayoral campaign to the memory hole.

Who says sport, politics and literature can't mix?

Back in my undergraduate days at Otago, I took a political studies degree. One of my lecturers then was Anthony (Tony) Wood; a true legend of the field.

National says it's time to get tough with asylum seekers, to keep the boats at bay... Even though no boat has reached New Zealand. Ever

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy says a mass arrival of asylum seekers is "a real risk", while earlier this year John Key used the word "floodgate" when talking about boat people reaching our shores. In a matter of weeks the government will act on this concern, introducing a tough new law to deter asylum seekers from heading our way; to stop us looking like "a soft touch".

Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic convention never once mentioned her husband's opponents. Yet that's what it was all about. Bill Clinton's focused heavily on the Republicans, but was all about Obama

Michelle Obama's speech may have been a little too pitch perfect, with even the stutters well timed and the smiles employed like walk-on actors in a play. Bill Clinton may have dragged on a little long and delved into a little too much detail. But what we've seen the past two days in Charlotte were master classes in public speaking.

Parliament is supposed to be just that, the House of Representatives, its members a proxy for each and every one of us, warts and all. So sometimes we have to tolerate debates about subjects we might think are frivolous

The late Sir Robert Muldoon, I'm told, never forgot this. When he was often criticised about the calibre, or lack of it, of some of his caucus, he explained that he didn't wish to fill his benches with cabinet minister material. "Some members are content to be just that, and so they should be," he explained. "It doesn't pay to have all your MPs ambitious to take on portfolios.

If a majority of submissions said dragons were the biggest risk to our nation's defence, would National change its foreign policy? Such are the questions that arise when a minister shrugs off science in favour of "listening"

When it comes to making it mandatory to put folic acid in our bread, I've kept an open mind these past three years. Mandatory is a pretty big step, one that you should only take if you're utterly convinced of the science urging you in that direction.

Ah yes, science.

Yes ... Stewart Murray Wilson is a "Beast". But that doesn't mean you can treat him howsoever you want.

So Stewart Murray Wilson is "free", and the representatives of the people of Whanganui appear none to happy about that. According to the Herald:

Last night, the [Wanganui District] councillors approved five action points:

Child poverty will be back on the radar this week, but will anything actually be done? If National's so determined to help the 1 in 6 in the education tail, what about the 1 in 5 without enough to make ends meet?

Poverty in New Zealand is getting worse. So the Ministry for Social Development found this past week.

Is National's plan to part-sell assets dead in the water? Or will is push ahead regardless of the Waitangi Tribunal's qualms and the risk of losing a coalition partner? As the Maori Party stakes out its ground, what happens next?

It's cleft stick territory now for National and the Maori Party when it comes to the Maori water rights debate.

The Electoral Commission is in the midst of its second round of consultation on how to reform MMP. In recent days, it seems to be getting an oddly uniform message.

As you all should know, the Electoral Commission has put out its preliminary proposals for reform following on from its review of MMP.

Male politicians, whether of the left or the right, should stop trying to tell women what rape really is. 

So it appears that the story of the Republican's senatorial candidate in Missouri, Todd Akin, and his somewhat interesting views on rape and pregnancy have made it into the NZ

If you can't stand in the same river twice, does that mean you can't own it? Might Maori have a special right to water? And could Maori law trump common law? As the Waitangi Tribunal prepares to report back this week, the water rights debate is set to gush again

Hold onto your hats... and your water... this is going to get bumpy. When the Waitangi Tribunal rules at the end of this week on Maori water rights, it'll be the beginning of the real debate over water, not the end.

It's the day after the Electoral Commission's preliminary report on reforming MMP. Let's see what the nation's true power brokers and political junkies think of it.

Now that the Electoral Commission's proposed recommendations on MMP are on the table, the political jockeying over them can begin.

The Electoral Commission's proposed changes to MMP are on the table. Whether or not you like them, you still should tell the Commission what you think.

Given that the Electoral Commission's preliminary report on its review of MMP pretty much says what I thought it should, it shouldn't be much surprise that I agree with

What oh what will the Electoral Commission recommend in its review of MMP? And will MPs be willing to play ball?

Remember how we voted to keep MMP last November? The off-shoot of that was the Electoral Commission having a look at how the system could be tweaked. That review's out tomorrow and many are expecting some positive changes.

Let's see if we can debate the place of marriage in our society without divorcing ourselves from reality and the importance of preserving age-old customs

I've just got back from a trip to London to celebrate a friend's wedding. It was fantastic. I love weddings. I think marriage is a wonderful thing and believe that such a commitment before friends and family (and God, if you so believe) can create a bond beyond a de facto promise. It's sacred and worth preserving.

Which is why I support Louisa Wall's gay marriage bill.

A trip to the US has given me five reasons to pick who will win the US presidential election in November

Just back from the US and my political gut is ready to make a prediction for this year's presidential election. That may be foolish, as there will be plenty of opportunities for the candidates to flail and fail, what with the conventions in the next few weeks and the TV debates to follow.

Once again the signs are that it will be a tight race; but one candidate has the edge.

More innovation or wacky ideas? And how does the government square a commitment to quality teaching with its decision to let anyone's Uncle Jim teach struggling kids? Just a couple of the questions posed by charter schools. But wait, there's more...

Charter schools. Sigh. You get the feeling that everyone -- except Catherine Isaac and the teacher unions -- is going through the motions on these, mouthing the right words but without genuine passion. It's a promised honoured, but that's about it.

There's no reason why a candidate wanting to represent Auckland voters in Parliament should have to follow different rules to a candidate wanting to represent Auckland voters as mayor.

In the wake of John Banks escaping legal liability for his mayoral campaign fundraising lapses due to a technicality in the legislation - incidentally, where was the outraged press release from the Sensible Sentencing Trust about how our liberal justice system has once again failed to hold a criminal to account? - there seems to be an emerging consensus that

The questions Energy Minister Phil Heatley should have been asked on The Nation; and why former Minister David Parker, bless him, still doesn’t get it

Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley ‘met the press’ on The Nation on Saturday, the day after former Energy Minister and opposition spokesperson David Parker had offered some comments in the New Zealand Herald.

John Banks didn't breach the Local Electoral Act, because he doesn't bother reading the legal declarations that get put in front of him. It's lucky he doesn't have an important job or anything ... .

I'm not all that surprised at the Police's decision not to prosecute John Banks over his blatantly false donation report following the 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign.

Turns out King Gerry is not an absolute monarch. This is a good thing.

When Parliament passed emergency legislation that gave Ministers broad lawmaking powers in the wake of the first Canterbury earthquake back in September 2010, I said this

Look at that, Peter Dunne is interesting again. The man from Ohariu could have a fair bit of sway in the next couple of years

Almost 30 years into his parliamentary career, you could argue Peter Dunne has never been more relevant. Although this is a terrible over-simplification, he's effectively the man with the man with the casting vote. Not just this term, but possibly come 2014.

Having stalled for three years and tried to minimise public debate, National is facing a tough decision on whether or not to compel bakers to put folic acid in all our bread. Either way, there's a price to pay

So, the thing about making it mandatory to put folic acid in bread is that it's a choice about choice - you can either have "free choice" or you can save up to 24 kids a year from spina bifida. You can't have both. So which do you choose?

Clayton Cosgrove is in trouble for this. What do you think - should he be?

The nineteenth century US Senator and Republican Party manager, Mark Hanna, purportedly once claimed "There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can't remember the second."

Understanding how National got into such a mess over class sizes after Budget 2012  - trade-offs, downsides and backdowns.

John Hattie's book Visible Learnings brings together over 800 meta-analyses to rank 138 influences on educational achievement. Five make the students worse off. Some have very little effect.

The government's laid the table for a growth party, but business is failing to RSVP. So why is National acting as if everything's going to plan? Where's Plan B?

Just like Margaret Thatcher, Bill English isn't for turning. He seems determined to stick to his conservative orthodoxy, even in what he admits are extraordinary times.

Some have always reckoned National's target of surplus by 2014-15 was "fairyland", but oh no said John Key and Bill English, don't you worry. Now Alan Bollard has joined the naysayers, National has to realise just what's at stake

John Key seemed to shrug it off as if he'd promised New Zealand pudding, but now wasn't sure whether or not he'd have time to whip something up.

Winston Peters got a weekend of great publicity out of a "bottom line" that is ultimately meaningless. But in the midst another bottom line emerged that may be harder to wriggle out of

After Winston Peters' elephantine stomping through the superannuation minefield over the past few days setting off explosions left, right and centre, we can rule out one thing and guarantee another, at least.

The partial asset sales are a compromise, according to the SOE minister. But why are taxpayers the ones left with the beads and blankets while the other bloke laughs all the way to the bank?

Another week, another "trade-off" for National to sell. This time it's state assets. While Tony Ryall's a much more adept and experienced salesperson than Hekia Parata, he's still got a heck of a battle to square the circle on this one.

Our poll of polls confirms National’s poor showing over the Budget period. Looking ahead, the advantage probably lies with Labour and the Greens

The first full round of opinion polls since the Budget is out, and the trend in our poll of polls is clear: gains for the left and losses for National. National is down almost two points since we last reported the poll of polls on April 30, while Labour is up over two points and the Greens up a touch as well.

A lack of political memory and of old-fashioned electorate experience are at the heart of National's F-grade performance on education and class sizes. If MPs did their homework they'd start looking, well, closer to home

Perhaps the oddest thing about National's woeful handling of its attempt to increase school class sizes in the Budget was its collective forgetfulness; it's as if the entire cabinet all suffered a bout of amnesia as to just what a hot button issue this is.

Good on the government for its determination to keep having the "uncomfortable conversation" about child abuse. Sad it's not talking much sense

Discretion. Professional judgment. Tough decisions made from years of experience. These are some of the most important tools available to Child, Youth and Family staff when it comes to deciding how best to protect vulnerable children, so why would the government want to take that away?

What does a government do when people are talking about things that don't suit it? It gives people something else to talk about instead.

You may have heard how the National Government generally, and Hekia Parata in particular, managed to turn what was meant to be a fairly bland and boring budget into a potential full-on revolt by the school sector backed by hoardes of upset parents. 

I don't know if the New Zealand Herald editor exercises any oversight over the columns his "opinionators" send to him each week. But I thought I'd do an after-the-fact job on John Roughan's effort on gay adoption that appeared in last Saturday's paper.

Dear John - thanks for this submission for the opinion pages. I've penciled in a few comments on it for you to think about and make the necessary amendments before we could even consider publishing it.

Gay adoption has always seemed to me to be a step too far.

I spoke last night to the Values - Green Party party, and book launch. This is, more or less, what I said.

In February 2010, as she was leaving Parliament, Jeanette Fitzsimons lent me Values’ first manifestos from 1972 and 1975. They were still alive, and speaking - in some ways speaking even more loudly today, than 40 years ago - and I wanted more than anything to see something like it from the Greens. I wanted to give these books a voice again, in 2012.

Robert Frost once said that "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." I guess that makes me a liberal.

The National-led Government has a policy on selling minority shares in some state assets - a policy it currently is putting into practice by way of the Mixed Ownership Model Bill wending its way through Parliament. You may have heard of it ...

Budget 2012 lays the ground for the battle of the narratives that will decide Election 2014. Yes siree, the campaign begins now, with the blame game

No-one will argue this week that Thursday's zero Budget is a good thing – not out loud, anyway. A necessary thing, a sensible thing, even a wise thing, but not something you'd take home to show your mum. Some will, however, argue that this budget amounts to a failure, and this battle over the narrative behind the numbers is the first big battle of the 2014 election campaign.

Of all the organisations that might have become champions of the welfare state, it's Treasury that has shown why we need it -- and why it is at risk

Last week Treasury released work on income and poverty that it commissioned from the University of Otago.

Colin Craig has been hogging headlines this past week. Many have laughed him off - most notably the PM literally rolled his eyes - but that would be perilous in the extreme. Here's why

Colin Craig is a bundle of contradictions and surprises, but if you don't get that he's now a voice in New Zealand politics, you're not paying attention. And he will keep surprising us for a while yet, I think, as he kicks against the right-wing 'moral majority' box in which he's so quickly been placed.

So there are all these teen mum banging out babies, right? And it's costing all us taxpayers heaps. It's a modern scandal Something must be done. Now! Well, maybe not...

As unreliable as self-selecting TV and website polls are, it's fair to assume that most voters are applauding National's decision to offer free contraception to women on the benefit and their teenage daughters. The strong puritanical streak in our national psyche takes a firm line with people who have children when they can't afford to provide for them.

Beyond Today: a values story is the Green party’s story. On the Greens’ fortieth birthday, it says Values is a history of which the party should be very proud, and values are the new politics

We need the quants, and the poets, both. We need the activists and the Members of Parliament, the individuals, and the collectivists.

We need Green values. We need us all.

Let us begin.

So ends Beyond Today: a values story, to be launched at the Greens’ AGM on June 1, 2012.

As they say, a week is a long time in politics

Last week was a strange one and may just have been one of those tipping points for the Key Government. For me it began with a political corpse and ended with a real one.

Debt's bad, right? So why is National asking our best and brightest to take on more if they want to get smarter?

Steven Joyce is one of the smoothest operators in politics - whether you agree with him or not, he's gets is evidential ducks in a row and you can only guess at the number of spreadsheets he's crafted to back his decisions. Which is why the twisted nature of his student allowance reforms is kind of surprising.

How twisted, you ask?

Rodney Hide wisely has left Parliament behind him. But that doesn't mean he gets to pretend that he never was in Parliament.

According to the NZ Herald (which in turn cites TV3's The Nation ... sorry, Tim!), Rodney Hide has done with politics, is busy renovating his house and moving on with his post-Parliamentary life. Good for him.

Now we know why John Banks won't tell us about Kim Dotcom's donation. Blame the bloody lawyers ... again.

After two days of appearing on TV doing a very good impression of a befuddled senior citizen in the latter stages of senile dementia (as well as engaging in what is probably the most bizarre phone inte

John Banks' answers to the Dotcom donations have been incredible, but have left the Prime Minister with no choice but to back him. But the differing versions of events are so stark, let's not pretend that everyone can be telling the truth

It's all about standards -- that crucial question in politics of where you draw the line of acceptable behaviour. When it comes to Kim Dotcom's donation to John Banks' mayoral campaign, Prime Minister John Key can sit uncomfortably but safely on the legal side of the line. For now. But the thing about politics is that lines have a habit of changing.

Kim Dotcom and John Banks have quite different stories about their relationship. It might matter an awful lot who is telling the truth.

Politics costs money. Anyone who has had anything to do with any sort of campaign - be it to pressure the Council to fix the potholes in your street, or to get the leader of a political party elected as Prime Minister of New Zealand - knows this. 

Five reasons why talk of turning ANZAC Day into our national day is not smart

I took my son to an ANZAC Day service today. He's three and it was his first attendance. We talked about soldiers, not wanting to fight, sometimes needing to fight mean people, and bravery. The sun shone like no other ANZAC Day I can remember, and with my grandad's World War I medals in my pocket I thought, this isn't my national day.

That SkyCity deal is sweet as. The law hasn't been traded, more pokies won't do any harm and now that the government's saying it might walk away from the deal, well, that doesn't amount to a backdown. Yeah right.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce did his own unique version of the 'Dead Parrot' sketch on Q+A this morning. Just as Michael Palin once memorably stood at a shop counter insisting that a dead bird was alive, Joyce argued that white was black when it came to the Sky City conventional centre deal.

With houses prices hitting new highs in our main cities, is the sense of economic gloom finally lifting from New Zealand? And what implications might that have for MPs?

It's been coming for a while, but QV has now confirmed that our love affair with bricks and mortar is back at record levels.

When National revealed its "law and order" policy before the last election, I wrote this post on it. Now that Judith Collins reportedly is preparing to introduce legislation to deliver that policy, here are some more thoughts. 

Prior to the 2011 election, Judith Collins announced that National planned to legislate to permit the ongoing "civil detention" of offenders deemed at high risk of future sexual or violent offending even after their jail sentences were complete.

The Crafar Farms sale has become a flashpoint for public concern over foreign ownership. As politicians figure out how to repsond, how can we keep the land without closing the door to business and trade?

The Overseas Investment Office's recommendation on the Crafar Farms sale is sitting on the desks of Maurice Williamson and Jonathan Coleman, ticking away like that cliched old time bomb.

I've made my submission to the Electoral Commission's MMP Review. Can you say the same?

National's ministers are looking shakey amidst allegations of cronyism and defamation. So who's benefitting in the polls? Um, National. So what's going on?

The latest One News-Colmar Brunton poll is a kick in the pants for Labour. After a ministerial resignation and a fortnight where the whiff of cronyism was never far from National, the governing party can still command more than 50 percent in the polls. That's astounding.

Where's the line between error and crime? If you want to be lenient towards the Lombard Four because they made a simple mistake, then hardly anyone deserves to be locked up

Just a mistake. A misjudgment. Surely not criminal. So says Stephen Franks, and I'm sure others, in response to the sentencing of the four Lombard directors this past week. The line goes that the shame, and perhaps civil damages, are as far as society should go in punishing these otherwise decent men. I'm not buying.

One of these cases is not like the other, one of these cases is not quite the same. Can you tell why?

So the police investigate a complaint by the Prime Minister against a member of the media, where it is alleged that a "private communication" was intentionally intercepted using a covert recording device.

Judith Collins is threatening defamation action against those who accuse her of leaking. But I thought you could say anything you wanted about MPs?

Just a very quick note on the announcement by Judith Collins that she will sue Trevor Mallard, Andrew Little and Radio NZ for defamation ... mainly because I've yet to see any commentary by those who ought to be talking about it ... and yes, Steven Price and Graeme Edgeler, I am looking at you.

Our tax system asks too much of those with little, and too little of those with much.

You may recall that our tax system got a major overhaul in the 2010 Budget, with income tax rates going down while GST went up. This changed substantially the shares of tax revenue being paid by poor people and by rich people. Poor people pay for more of the government than they used to, while rich people pay for less.

The police decision not to prosecute Bradley Ambrose means we'll never really know what happened at Newmarket's Urban Cafe. And that suits everyone just fine.

The term "a Solomonic judgment" is often misused. The point of King Solomon's "they-get-half-a-baby-each" decision, after all, was not actually that cleaving the infant in twain would best serve the needs of justice, but rather that proposing this outcome enabled him to see who was the child's real mother.

Nick Smith got it right, then wrong, then right again. But Is this the second or third act in the Greek tragedy that is his political career?

The loss of Nick Smith from National's top ranks has the whiff of Greek tragedy. Or perhaps a Disney cartoon. You can almost see the little angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Several times Smith does the right thing and refuses to get involved in a friend's ACC case. But then he relents – the devil gets in his ear – and it's all over.

Just because you and I need to save more, who says the government needs to do the same? With cheap money around, how about we turn this whole austerity kick on its head and start talking about growth?

It's a lock. Ten out of ten. No room for doubt. Bill English is going to deliver a surplus a surplus in 2014/15 come hell or low tax take. That was the message from the Finance Minister on Q+A.

The way to get the Ports of Auckland back on track is for the Auckland City Council to step back, change its expectations and take the long view. As it stands, two key assumptions about the port are dragging it down

All the detail and distraction in the Ports of Auckland dispute make it look like a complicated industrial mess. And on one level, it is. Depending on your point of view, it's all about who controls the port, or work-life balance or bad faith bargaining. But the two central points for me come back to the Auckland Council's ownership of the port.

The new Labour boss has read the public mood well by putting his name to limits on foreign ownership, but is playing his cards close to his chest on the policies that will define the first chapter of his leadership. So what policies are for the chop?

Labour MPs will feel happier than they have for some time after David Shearer's performance on Q+A this Sunday.

The government says it wants to balance green growth with digging holes, but can we do both? Perhaps we should slow down, rather than end up somewhere we don't want to be

Let's call a spade a spade. Or, at least, be frank about what the government hopes to do with its spade: It wants more mining and drilling in this country – more than most New Zealanders are comfortable with. And it wants to convince you and me that's a great idea. All this talk of "discourse" and "conversation" is all strategy.

The Electoral Commission has to review six aspects of MMP (plus whatever else the public puts before it). Here's my thoughts on the first issue: the thresholds for representation in Parliament.

Of the issues that the Electoral Commission has to look at in its review of MMP, I predict the question of what threshold a party should have to attain before getting proportional representation in Parliament will be the most fraught.

With most of the difficult policy changes made, it seems Australian PM Julia Gillard is now tidying house. Opponent Kevin Rudd is being swept to the backbenches to clear the path to the 2013 elections

I worked as a National Organiser for the Australia Labor Party during the Hawke years, when Kevin Rudd was a functionary in the office of the leader of the ALP in Queensland and Julia Gillard was the current or just departed president of the Australian Union of Students and active in the majority socialist left faction of the ALP in Victoria.

The latest opinion polls raise the prospect of a scenario that's new to modern New Zealand politics – the party that comes second leading the government. And it's something we need to front early

Two polls this week show support for National slipping, reinforcing my belief that not only has National missed out on any sort of honeymoon after November's election, but its popularity has likely peaked under John Key, never again to reach those heady days of 2009, or even late last year.

If the Greens thought the past three years were challenging, just wait for the next three. They – and Labour – need to figure out a new way of growing the centre-left bloc without tearing each other to pieces

If her speech is anything to go by, it was a confident and combative Metiria Turei who took to the stage at the Greens' policy conference in Palmerston North yesterday, looking over what the new Greens had created and declaring "it was very good". And why not?

Was “The Prime Minister’s Hour” on Radio Live a prohibited election programme? The Electoral Commission says “yes” – the Broadcasting Standards Authority says “no”. And the row needs to be resolved.

Broadcasting Standards Authority chair Peter Radich blames the Broadcasting Act. He says it is “old and open to interpretation” He is right on both counts – but wrong on the central issue raised in the row over Prime Minister John Key’s hour-long stint as a show host on Radio Live in the run-up to the last election.

Politicians have been arguing that black is white this week, showing that they're about as connected to reality as a two year-old chasing dragons

I've spent a lot of time with my two year-old son this summer, often in a rich, if exhausting, world of imagination. There are dragons, animal rescues, and more, but sometimes he worries that I'm not quite getting the game and he reassures me that "it's just 'tending Daddy".

National is caught on the wrong side of an argument it doesn't want to be having, because it's already busy losing another argument it doesn't want to be having. Know what I mean?

As I've just written in part one of this post, Justice Miller's decision on the Crafar Farms keeps the debate on overseas ownership alive a little longer and over-turns the prevailing wisdom in Wellington. But where does it leave the government?

Justice Miller put on his radical robes yesterday and turned the prevailing view of foreign investment on its head. So what does it mean for the overseas ownership debate and the Crafar Farms deal?

Privilege – that's what it's all about. You've got to earn it. The ruling by Justice Forrie Miller to set aside the government's decision to allow the sale of the Crafar Farms to Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin has turned on its head the political – and, it seems, legal – assumptions about foreign ownership of our most sensitive assets.

Now that the rather pointless referendum on keeping MMP is over and done with, the real work starts. You have to play your part, too.

We all know that Pundit readers are the best, most informed, wisest and subscribe to the highest possible standards of personal hygiene in the entire blogosphere.

(Yeah, Kiwipolitico ... I'm looking at you and asking when you last cleaned under your fingernails?)

Putting the Prime Minister on the radio for an hour to show listeners what a nice guy he is "appears to encourage or persuade voters to vote for a political party or the election of any person at an election". Who'd a thunk it?

Just a very quick note on the Electoral Commission's decision to refer the "Prime Minister's Hour" on Radio Live to the Police as a potential breach of the Broadcasting Act.

Seeing as no-one really seems to know what is happening in the US Republican nomination race, I thought I'd chip in my $5 million Super PAC worth of thoughts.

So a couple of weeks ago I was pontificating away on National Radio's "On the Radar" slot about this, that and the other thing.

Another national day, another chance for us to feel out who we are as New Zealanders. And another day of protest. But those who condemn the protests should stop whining and stop to think what really matters to us as a nation

As the sun sets on another Waitangi Day, I want to offers three cheers – one for Prime Minister John Key, one for the Waitangi protesters and one for all New Zealanders who got out and enjoyed themselves.

Treasury's advice to Bill English is nothing if not clear – it's time to cut. So does its briefing to the incoming minister make its case? Or rather miss the point entirely? What do you think...

Reading a Treasury briefing can be a morbid experience; they are the bureaucratic embodiment of cynicism, seeing the price of everything and the value of nothing. The latest offering to the incoming minister makes you wonder whether the word "invest" is simply too long for the Treasury analysts, so they fall back on a nice short one – "cut".

Is John Key being advised by Auckland law graduates?

I suspect the sudden threat by the Maori Party to "reconsider its relationship with National" if partialy-privatised (sorry ...

The Crafar farms sale is a canny deal with undoubted benefits for New Zealand. So why the fuss? Because each sale of productive land offshore raises questions about our future economically and as Kiwis

Anyone at all surprised by the sale of the 16 Crafar Farms to Shanghai Pengxin? Thought not. It was utterly predictable for two reasons – 1) that company offered far and away the most money and 2) the company offers export opportunities into China at a juncture in history New Zealand when we stand or fall on our ability to sell protein to that country.

Chrischurch City Council CEO Tony Maryatt gets a 14% pay rise to $540,000 when people are still using toilets in the street? Where's the spirit of the blitz? Because true leadership speaks of sacrifice

From a distance, Canterbury politics look as swampy as the land the city is built on. Environment Canterbury argued for so many years about a plan for its own water supply that it was taken over by government. Now, Christchurch City Council's incredibly clumsy support for a pay rise for its CEO is prompting complaints about dysfunction and disunity.

NZ on Air wants to stop people thinking they are biased in a partisan way. So why are they being accused of acting in a way that shows partisan bias?

Over on Scoop, Tom Frewen has done a commendable bit of digging into NZ on Air's response to TV3's decision to screen the documentary "Inside Child Poverty" – a NZ on Air funded documentary highly critical of successive governments' policy on the issue – 4 d

The debate over TV3's scheduling of Inside Child Poverty should prompt us to get back to some pretty basic core principles surrounding independence

Scoop yesterday lived up to its name and revealed New Zealand on Air minutes showing that the government's broadcasting funding agency is, in journalist Tom Frewen's words, considering "a move to censor television programmes likely to embarrass the government dur

So Destiny Church has finally found a new home. But is that any reason we should help fund it? On the other hand, if other faiths get a go, why not them?

The Destiny Church's plan to build a new "city" in Wiri, South Auckland is following what's become a tried and true path for any stories involving Brian Tamaki's controversial movement – Tamaki utters hyperbole aimed at believers, media report said hyperbole to wider audience, a

Amongst the news of crashes and weather, one story of immense significance to New Zealand has been widely ignored... The US has reviewed its defence priorities and is moving back into our neighbourhood big-time. This offers huge risks and opportunities

At the start of President Obama's first term there was talk of him being the first "Pacific President" – being born in Hawaii and schooled in Indonesia gave him a rare westward view of the world, a perspective that's different from the focus on Europe and the Middle-East, which dominates on America's east coast.

The election may be ancient history by now, but the controversy over the recorded conversation between John Key and John Banks is still brewing away. See what I did there?

Given that the misnamed "tea tapes" (I guess "tea digitally recorded conversation" is a bit much of a mouthful) was one of the two most important things to ha

Labour failed to learn National's lesson from 2002 and paid the price, so it's now time for the party to get start selling Brand Shearer

A wise old mate once told me that if you want to understand any industry, enterprise or activity, just do the worst job it has to offer. There can't be any worse job in politics than being a scrutineer at a recount where your candidate slowly, vote by miscounted vote, loses a tenuous hold on an electorate.

Lookee here, Santa has come early for all those boys and girls in parliament. So what did he bring the politicians? Did they get what they wanted – and what they deserved? Let's sneak a cheeky peak

Just two sleeps until Christmas. Can you hear the sleigh bells? So what's underneath the political Christmas tree this year? I know, they haven't all been good boy and girls, but let's just assume they all deserve something for their dedicated public service.

The Occupy Dunedin camp has folded. Now a judge has told Auckland's version to do the same. So it goes.

The "Occupy Aotearoa" movement (if it ever really deserved such a grand title) looks to be dwindling away to nothing. Yesterday, the last few tents were taken down in Dunedin's Octagon, as the protest members decided to vacate the area to allow for unimpeded Christmas and New Years celebrations.

The election is over, so the work begins. Labour has its new face in David Shearer, but now has a mountain to climb to win 5-10% of National's voters over to its side (and a few back from the Greens). So how does it do that?

Labour's choice of David Shearer as the party's new leader represents a fair bit of gauntlet and a hell of a gamble. The gamble is obvious – you have to go back to founder Harry Holland in 1919 to find Labour choosing a leader with less parliamentary experience.

In preference to weeping, I try to count conservation blessings, and plan my new career as a lobbyist

Although a National government has been returned, in a way Kiwis did “vote for Nature” as Forest & Bird's election campaign asked. The prospects for Nature in the next three years are bleak, but all is not lost. A battle or two might be won by lobbying.

With the specials about to be announced, what are the ramifications for the new government? And what's likely to happen next?

Won't tomorrow be fun? It's like election day all over again. Except National may not enjoy this one as much as two weeks ago.

Yes, the specials are confirmed tomorrow and the final shape of parliament will be known. Plus, the small matter of our electoral system will be decided.

The global green change needed is desperately urgent. Paradoxically, the fastest and best way to achieve it locally might be more tortoise than hare

The Greens have made a feature out of slow, but steady, organic growth.

Having entered Parliament in the Alliance, gained independence in 1999 with an electorate win in Coromandel, maintained (sometimes precariously) a core vote above the 5 percent threshold, the party has now elected two new co-leaders and sworn in a whole second generation of MPs.

This year's National-ACT supply and confidence deal goes futher than the previous one, prompting a lot of indignant questions about ideology, economic management and choice... and a few examples of hypocrisy

Is that the whiff of ideology in the wind? The National-ACT supply and confidence deal will lead John Key's second term government off the first term's more pragmatic road and down some very rocky by-ways indeed.

The battle for the Labour leadership was first waged in caucus (Shearer), then on TV (Cunliffe). This week it moves to the regions as remains tight. So who does John Key fear most? And why do I keep thinking of Obama & Clinton?

The Labour leadership race is closer than is being spun, in part because Phil Goff's people still have their hands on the spin levers and Goff is backing David Shearer. As in any election, this race will come down to the undecideds.

In which I try explaining why the Greens are neither left nor right, why they never have been, and why that is important to their future and ours

The Greens will never be an environment party, and have never been a left-wing party. The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand is neither left nor right because that is what their charter says, what their policy shows, and what the existential global challenge, that is their raison d’etre, requires.

The news declared that the National Party had had a 'historic' election victory on Saturday but, if that was true, National Party people would be looking happier. The reality is much more complicated

Here's the bullet-point version, to begin:

So the names for the Labour leadership are now in the hat. The caucus has a decent buffet to choose from, but need to remember it's not all about them

It's hard to know what to say about Labour's leadership tussle. There's a logic inside the beltway and even inside the caucus room that doesn't always translate to the rest of the country. But it's the rest of the country the caucus needs to keep front of mind.

The Greens’ vibe has changed, but have they lost grip on values with a small and large V? For all the strengths and wins of the 2011 election campaign, it also failed

My new theory of the Greens is recycled. The new thing is the old thing, really.

In 2011 we changed some things, and won some votes: not a world-changing number of votes, but a historic number, enough for some more Green growth.

Get the latest election information as it becomes available, without having to watch the box

Tonight Scoop allows you to track each electorate as the votes roll in, with their Election Map designed by Keith Ng. Cleverly, you can also compare tonight's results to 2008. Hours of fun to be had.

Happy election night!

 

Let's take a look at the seats you might want to take a look at tomorrow night

It's MMP and it's all about the party vote, of course. But this election a bunch of electorate seats actually look really interesting. And it's not just the obvious ones.

The stand-out two are Epsom and Ohariu because entire parties - and coalition partners for National - depend on them. Can ACT and United Future, respectively, stay alive?

Only hours to go, so let's take a run through all the parties and see where we stand. You've got to say, there are a lot of known unknowns

Well, it's nearly here. A short and sharp campaign that, regardless of the result, has changed the policy landscape for the next election or three and intensified the 2014 race. Let's run through what we've learnt since the All Blacks won the World Cup.

Well ... by "revolution", I mean the election results. And by "televised", I mean livestreamed on the internet. But ... exciting!

Bryce Edwards teaches over at the Politics Department here at Otago. It would be fair to say that he's been somewhat active in commentating on this election campaign.

Picking winners in the Maori electorates isn't an easy game. The Pundits are sometimes guilty of picking the losing horse and the polls tend to do no better. Today guest Pundit Morgan Godfery offers his picks in the Maori seats

With only a few days left until polling day I thought I’d give you a run down on my picks for the Maori seats. Some of the most interesting battles are happening in the Maori seats, or so I think anyway, and the ramifications of a Maori Party win or a Mana Movement win are significant.

The Conservatives a laid a platform for 2014 this campaign, coming from nowhere to be a polling party. It won't be an easy road ahead for them - or National, as its potential partner

It's been tough being Conservative this campaign. With a capital C that is. Being conservative is de rigueur this election. But the nascent party being built with Colin Craig's millions has had a tough time getting attention.

Phil Goff took over as interviewer at times and generated the news headlines in tonight's final TV debate. But a measured John Key stood firm and calm as he rammed home his anti-debt message

Phil Goff had the details and the studio craft, but after a nervous start John Key had the authority. It's one of the things that a Prime Minister gains simply by going into work every day - and Key got the tone right to edge Goff in tonight's debate. Not that the legacy of his night's work won't have ramifications.

The court has decided not to decide whether Bradley Ambrose's taping was legal - and that's all it has done.

So Bradley Ambrose has failed to get his declaration in the High Court that the "cup of tea" conversation between John Key and John Banks was not a "private communication".

Goff got a Labour-friendly debate and Key a National-friendly panel on tonight's TV3 leaders' debate. Given voters' low expectations of the Labour leader, it was his night as the worm ate him up with a spoon

For me, Goff won three of the four segments, but Key finished strongest; Goff won on policy, Key won on coalitions.That's my call on the TV3 debate this evening.

National is going after Winston Peters with all guns blazing. This must mean that they really are scared of him ... right?

The start of the last week of the campaign seems to have moved on from Teapot-not-quite-gate to "what about Winston?" ... and more particularly, "what happens if he is back in Parliament?" ... and even more particularly, "what happens if he is back in Parliament and holds the balance of power?"

In the final week of the election campaign, it's all about set-pieces, especially on television. Can the main leaders keep their heads and hit their marks as the pressure hits fever pitch?

Five days to go and the stages have been set; the only question left is how the leaders will handle their lines.

What do we know about how the campaign will evolve over the next few days? Quite a lot already, as it happens.

The tea tape is making even sensible people like David Farrar say some pretty silly things. Lucky I'm here to put him back on course.

Despite the various calls to "move on" from Teapot-not-quite-gate, it's still bubbling away (see what I did there?) And it's producing some strange reactions in people who normally you can rely on to be sane and sensible in a crisis.

Little more than a week out, National is still holding a majority in the polls. It's time to talk about what it means if that's how it winds up on election night

So, let's just say it out loud, shall we? What do you think about National governing alone? Well, not precisely alone because they will wear a fig leaf of coalition deals with United Future, the Maori Party and perhaps ACT, if voters permit. But what do New Zealanders think about the prospect of having a single party having a majority of votes in the House?

It took the Labour Party an age to release its Maori policy statement, but the wait may have been worth it. Guest Pundit Morgan Godfery discusses Labour's risky move

With the tea tapes dominating political discussion at the moment, you’re forgiven if you find this post a little bland. I’m going to deal with a dry topic – Maori policy.

The police "seizing" material from the news media isn't that big a deal. [Update: except for the bit that is ...]

Just a very quick post on what I think the Police are up to in serving search warrants on news organisations for material relating to "Teapotgate" (there you go, Steven Price).

John Key's famous cup of tea is at risk of leaving a sour taste as the story drags on and public opinion turns. But what does it mean for the election?

The teapot tape fuss seems to have turned in the past 24 hours; not in John Key's favour and not entirely due to anything he's done wrong.

John Key's decision to speak out against MMP smells of partisan greed and hubris. It also raises questions for women, Asian and Pasifika voters and about what his tactics have been all along

I was staggered to hear on television Prime Minister John Key say that although he was "not entirely unhappy" with MMP, he intended to vote for change. The PM said while he likes proportionality, he "slightly prefers the characteristics of Supplementary Member (SM)".

You can kiss an issues-based election campaign goodbye.

Excellent.

Natural and international disasters have absolved National of the usual competency tests, but do New Zealanders really want a single party majority government?

As polls continue to show National postioned to govern alone just two weeks out from the election, voters are going to have to confront a stark choice. Do they want any government, let alone this one, to govern on its own.

Here's my suggestion to politicians. If you want to plot the takeover of the world without people finding out about it, don't do it in a Newmarket Cafe.

For what was meant to be a short photo-op designed to remind the good folk of Epsom of their duty to Party and Nation, the cup of tea between John Key and John Banks has all turned a bit Alice in Wonderland.

Winston Peters wins the oxygen of media attention and gets back in the game. But do we really want him back? Or has his time passed?

Is Winston Peters the luckiest main in New Zealand right now?

He should make sure he buys a lotto ticket this weekend, because lady luck has settled on his shoulder.

The Epsom candidates' debate last night drew out the bizarreness of a race where the frontrunner would rather lose and the ACT candidate is rallying behind the leader of another party. At least the unacknowledged presence in this race was finally discussed by name

It had all the fun a candidates debate should: ACT's John Banks said Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia - enemies on most policies - were high quality MPs and a great ad for MMP; Davia Parker said Labour should have introduced a capital gains tax when last in power, but was not brave enough; Paul Goldsmith said it was tough to be a man and wanted to be a man's MP; Green David Hay sang a Dear John

It hasn't been the most scintillating of election campaigns, but is it really necessary to rate the sex appeal of our politicians in an effort to enliven proceedings?

When David Farrar asked the question on Facebook, "Should a journalism school be asking the question of its students, 'what politician would they most like to fuck'," I thought he was kidding. But the link he provided backed up the poser.

The Greens' success could be down to Labour's struggles or a sign of the times. But it could also be down to a carefully crafted game plan that seems to be pushing all the right buttons

As the days roll by and the Greens retain their giddy, double-digit heights in the polls, it's time to wonder whether the perennial underperformers have finally cracked it and convinced a new cohort of voters that the party can be trusted with their vote.

Organisation will be key to winning the Maori seat on the Auckland isthmus. But guest Pundit Morgan Godfery says even Labour's well-oiled turn-out machine will find Pita Sharples tough to topple

Shane Jones knows it's do or die in Tamaki Makaurau. A win equals redemption; a loss spells the end of his career.

If you know someone very well might do a bad thing in the future, then why wait until they do it before punishing them?

Here's one of those moral-dilemma situations that get put to philosophy 101 students to illustrate the variety of forms of moral reasoning. You've got a group of (say) five people who have almost served their jail sentences for a crime.

Even if you think it's smart to stimulate the sharemarket and create some capital, is it the right time to sell portions of our state assets? It's a telling question and you'll be surprised who asked it

Voters don't like it, don't want it, but the polls say they'll most likely go along with it – National's plan to sell off chunks of five state assets.

It's his way or the highway for Winston Peters, after a speech today ruling New Zealand First out of government. Either the disgruntled rally to his flag or he's history

That may be the sound of the door slamming on Labour's vain election hopes. Winston Peters has just announced that he won't enter a government with anyone after this election. Not National or Labour. Or the cat's mother, for that matter. To quote his speech:

The “show me the money” costings war is a credibility test for both John Key and Phil Goff

Phil Goff says he will “show John the money” today, providing Labour’s costings for its various policies. He says he will borrow about $2.6b more than National over the first three years.

National is still defying gravity in the first polls of the campaign proper. But there are  talking points emerging on the right and potential decisions looming for John Key

Ok, two polls late today, but one clear message. While the green shoots of spring are popping up around the country, it's still winter in Labour-land. While the party can't have expected a serious swing so soon, it must feel as if someone has just burst its balloon. It would have hoped for some sign of change.

TVNZ 7 will end in June 2012 when its funding runs out. This will make NZ the only developed country without a Public Service Broadcaster, but it doesn't have to be this way

New Zealand’s only dedicated public service television channel, TVNZ 7, will cease in 2012. The government has chosen to discontinue it’s funding.

Is National really what it seems on welfare reform? I don't know about you, but I'm getting really mixed messages. I'm also not sure the second child/one year policy will survive the election

So National's welfare policy is out. I'm not in a position to piece together much analysis, but here are some pointed thoughts:

Remember the Bush-Gore debates in 2000? We may see the same thing in NZ with the 2011 Election debates. Goff would have surpassed the expectations of many, but that doesn't necessarily win elections

I'm suprised by the commentators who have talked about John Key winning last nights One News Election debate. It's true that there were no killing blows and on points of substance the Prime Minister often seemed more authoritative. Thing is, that's not what people takeaway from a debate such as this.

A question to Q+A about those welfare bludgers emphasises why the conversation about superannuation reform is so vital... but also comes with risk

I wrote this post for TVNZ yesterday, but wanted to share all of it with Pundit readers, because it's something we've discussed more than once and several of you have really helped me get my head around this... It's why superannuation matters, how it's perceived as the "good welfare" and how the real problem we face is from the "bad welfare". Anyway, here 'tis:

The opening addresses for three of the political parties were on TV tonight. So how did they sound on the radio?

For the past few months I've been living without TV. Actually, there is a TV upstairs, attached to a DVD player that plays box-sets of shows like Treme and Luther. And teh interwebz brings me all sorts of contemporary programmes direct to my computer screen (all sourced, I hasten to note, from legitimate websites that in no way involve any form of copyright infringement).

Contributions to the Super Fund have been suspended since 2009, until the country is back in the black. But does the logic behind that decision make any sense at all?

Amongst Labour's ground-breaking announcement that it will campaign on raising the retirement age and introducing compulsory Super, another major decision got little attention.

The Opposition says it will also kick-start government contributions to the New Zealand Super Fund, which were suspended by National in 2009.

Labour's big bang campaign strategy is high risk... But is there a bigger plan at play here?

Timing is everything. Whether it comes down to the woman of your dreams, the perfect job or when you get into the All Blacks, timing is of the essence. It's the same in politics.

And Labour is rolling the dice when it comes to the timing of its policy announcements and campaign strategy.

National wants to deny prisoners the right to any compensation whilst behind bars, but a shameful attack in 1993 raises questions about the messages such a law sends

When Simon Power tabled his Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Amendment Bill on October 13, it brought to mind one of the most shameful incidents of the New Zealand prison system.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp flunked his final Afghan Torture Test last Friday when he slid the long awaited New Zealand Defence Force Report on detainee treatment into the public domain under the cover of the Grand Final of the Rugby World Cup.

If you want to try and bury bad news around Parliament, release it on the Friday before a holiday weekend.

What educationalists in New Zealand can learn from newspapers in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times has produced a detailed set of estimates about how much value each teacher in Los Angeles adds to their classroom. That is hugely valuable information. New Zealand’s education establishment should be doing something similar.

National, Labour, the Greens and ACT have all set out on different routes to victory in the country's toriest seat. The billboards dotted around the electorate lay the strategies bare

A drive around the Epsom electorate is a study in campaign strategy. Here, the machinations of the country's best political minds are painted in vivid colour.

At last, some major policy announcements. And not just any old BPAs, but arguably the biggest ones of all -- savings and wages. Two sides of the same indebted coin and at the heart of building a prosperous New Zealand

It's the day of the 'big policy announcements' (BPAs). The major parties at least must be confident of an All Blacks victory, as they both seem to have decided that we're capable of ignoring the rugby for a few minutes at least.

Is the government responsible for the Rena disaster? Is it to blame? Does it matter?

Since the Rena ran aground and began spilling oil and other nastiness into the Bay of Plenty, there has been a lot of finger pointing at the government. Was it prepared? Was the response too slow to get going? Was the response good enough?

If torturing a prisoner will lead to more money for victims of crime, then isn't that a good thing to have happen?

The other week, Justice Minister Simon Power gave a fantastic valedictory speech to the House. It capped off a lot of good things that he has done - in particular, I admire how he has handled the issue of changes to electoral finance rules and setting up the referendum on MMP.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form." Discuss.

A couple of "free speech" issues have arisen in the last week - one a bit ho-hum, the other somewhat more serious.

It's been a bad week for the government and good for the Greens. Is the luck of the parties turning?

But is it enough to change the campaign trajectory? That's the question around what's turned into a dire week for the National Party.

Labour, you've got to say, has had terrible luck this term. Every time there seemed to be some poll movement or National wobbled (BMWs, for example), a natural disaster, mine explosion or own-goal by one of its own MPs came to the government's rescue.

As black waves wash in to the Mount today from Rena, and political gods laugh in the face of adversity, has the tide turned for our PM and risen for the Greens?

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer man at a better time.

Is this, finally, the hairline crack in the impregnable hull? - will the Rena oil spill be the thing that exposes what lies beneath Mr Key, and swamps whatever public appetite there was for his government's offshore oil policy, little enough at the best of times?

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp faces his final torture test this week, when UNAMA releases a critical report on mistreatment of prisoners in Afghan detention centres.

Top of Wayne Mapp’s things-to-do list before he turns in his Ministerial ticket and leaves Parliament should be the release of the findings of inquiries he instigated in August last year into the possibility that prisoners arreste

Hone Harawira hung onto Te Tai Tokerau in the June by-election after he left the Maori Party. But things have changed since then, which means Mana can take nothing for granted

The minor parties are going to provide much of the best action in this election, and none more so than the Mana Party as Hone Harawira fights to hold Te Tai Tokerau. And while he's starting in pole position, I suspect he's got a struggle on his hands.

The Justice and Electoral Committee has done a good job on the issue of covert video surveillance. Mostly.

So the Justice and Electoral Committee has reported back on the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill.

Three new polls reinforce an unchanging overall political landscape and underscore a recent trend that is bad for Labour, good for the Greens, and bad for the left generally

Three new polls came out over the weekend. Collectively, they show National gaining further ground, increasing its support to level last seen in late 2009. All the smaller parties are slowly losing ground.

The double downgrade is exactly what the government didn't want eight weeks out from an election. But is it really so bad? Or does it speak to a larger narrative?

While today the men of New Zealand have joined the women in their fascination with Daniel Carter's groin, the New Zealand economy is looking like it's pulled a muscle as well, after the double downgrades on Friday. Neither are good news for a government hopeful of an easy run-in to November's election.

But neither are as bad as you may think.

What if Don Brash had an alternative motive for his tactics since his takeover of ACT? Is it all a cunning plan?

I've met Don Brash twice.

The first time was during the 2005 election campaign when I was in a shopping mall in Henderson. I don't think he recognised me because he thrust some sort of electronic device under my nose and invited me to calculate my tax cut.

The race to become the next government is effectively over, but there is intrigue in some of the secondary numbers

National retains a very large lead in our latest Poll of Polls, and that lead is growing wider still as we move closer to the election.

I realise repeated posts on the issue of hidden video cameras is not a sure-fire way to increase traffic to this blog, but here we go again ...

Please forgive yet another post on the topic of the Government's "fix" for the problem of hidden video camera surveillance, but I have been invited to give evidence t

Why does our political landscape so often resemble open mic night at the local comedy club?

Politicians, regardless of where they come from, are supposed to be professional. We pay them heaps of money to think carefully about the problems facing their country, to propose workable solutions, to debate the merits of various proposals, and to implement their ideas if we let them.

My prospects as a freelance fixer of public policy problems look distinctly unpromising .

I got a letter emailed to me today from Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.

With the Rugby World Cup brouhaha you'd be forgiven for forgetting there is an election soon. Mike Williams compares the performance of campaign managers Trevor Mallard and Steven Joyce

With all the attention on this rugby tournament, it's easy to forget that the 2011 general election is just around the corner. The countdown's begun, with the first hoardings going up in Auckland over the weekend.

ACT's John Boscawen reads the writing on the wall as the party tries to win over the lock 'em up crowd and the decriminalise drugs crowd at the same time

Rodney Hide must be laughing in his grave, to use one of the great old gags. ACT's political fortunes have gone from bad to worse with the announcement that No. 2 John Boscawen is stepping down from parliament to spend more time with his family.

My name is being dropped as the author of a potential way to fix the "problem" of covert video surveillance following the Supreme Court's intervention in the Urewera trials. What are the issues at stake?

Given that there's now real debate about the best way to deal with the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision in Hamed v R - the case that calls into question the Police's power to use covert video surveillance to gather evidence - here's some more thoughts on that issue.

In which our hero riffs about Air New Zealand, Singaporeans, frozen corn, foodieism, and the Burger King barbeque bacon burger, all in one masterful jam session. Inspired by, well, this

A little something
I never go hungry
But I'm not wildly enthusiastic about cooking
I tend to eat very, very simple food
I cook myself steak
Plus either potato
Or frozen peas
Or frozen corn
Or tomato
Or something

My Catholicism
If I'm in a hurry, it's Burger King
Or McDonald's
Occasionally KFC

We are told the Supreme Court's ruling on the use of covert video surveillance has caused a major headache for the Police. Let me fix that for you.

My last post set out the Supreme Court's decision on the use of secretly filmed evidence against those accused of participating in the Urewera "training camps"/"terror group"/"consciousness raising sessions" (or whatever you wish to term them).

Looking at the meltdown on the Auckland waterfront on RWC opening night, why didn't National MP's push the alarm button? And why did McCully's own committee predict no more than 50,000 people?

I'm one of the council appointed directors of Auckland Transport and so out of solidarity with its beleaguered officials I attended the Auckland Council Committee meeting which reviewed the disorder surrounding the opening Rugby World Cup game the preceding Friday.

Smile! You may be on Police camera ... and may be again.

Back in 2006, some information found its way to the ears of the NZ Police. Apparently a bunch of Maori activists, environmentalists, social justice campaigners and the like were gathering in the Urewera back-blocks and talking revolution. What is more, they were doing so while playing with guns and other nasty stuff.

MPs who say things in Parliament are absolutely protected from any legal consequences. The officials who tell them what to say aren't. Who'd be a public servant?

Erin Leigh's ongoing journey through the New Zealand legal process has taken another step towards some sort of resolution.

Erin who? Her what? My my, how soon our memories fade!

The government has been as twinkle-toed as a winger five metres from the try-line in its handling of the opening night chaos down on the Auckland waterfront. Here's the government's playbook laid bare...

If only the government's event management was as good as its political management. Its performance in the days following the weekend's crowd chaos on the Auckland waterfront has been deft, comfortably outmanoeuvring the Auckland Council.

Margaret Mutu has stirred the pot with comments about restricting white immigration. But the true bite comes in her claim that she can't be racist, a claim that no longer holds water

Immigration has long been dry tinder throughout the western world, easily ignited by fiery words. We've seen it in New Zealand, from the poll tax and Chinese:cargo ratio imposed by government in 1881, through the dawn raids of the 1970s, to Winston Peter's anti-Asian rhetoric of the 1990s. Enter, Professor Margaret Mutu.

Governments are bad negotiators, because democracy demands they tip their hand before going to the bargaining table. That means governments get the short end of asset sale deals

A common claim in favour of asset sales is that the sale price is usually the “net present value of future profits”, which means that the sale price plus the interest you save on your lower debt is about the same, over the long term, as the dividends you would have made from keeping the asset. Where does this claim come from?

The misuse of Don McKinnon, the road rage of Tau Henare and how the Rugby World Cup train debacle is just a foretaste of things to come for Auckland

The launch of Paul Holmes' book Daughters of Erebus in Parnell last Monday night was, like all of Paul's social events, a great night. I don't know about the wisdom of opening old wounds, but it was a rare opportunity to mix with the maestro's wide and eclectic circle of friends.

Does the change of political leadership at Federated Farmers amount to a quiet, green revolution? Are farmers realising just how much they've lost touch with urban New Zealand and doing something about it?

Federated Farmers is one of the most powerful lobbying organisations in New Zealand; certainly the dominant voice amongst the many farming and rural groups.

For all the volatility in the latest round of polls, not much has changed. Indeed, change seems to be the last thing voters want right now

Just a note about the Poll of Polls, which Rob has kindly updated. It includes the two television polls from the weekend, but not yet the newspaper efforts from the past two days.

Some imaginary reasons, some ideological reasons, and some surprising ones: why we don’t follow rich Switzerland’s lead by investing in public transport

The Swiss are rich, and yet, they like to ride on buses. They need not be rich to fund the buses; they spend less than New Zealand on transport.

Looking back over New Zealand elections past, 1963 is another with a familiar look about it

Past elections, with their moods, trends, characters and issues can offer a window on what's happening now. A oft-repeated line at the moment is that this election is looking an awful lot like 2002.

But what about further back?

If we want to gain insight into this election by looking at elections past, we have to look way back – to the last time National was as dominant in the polls, to a time with some uncanny similarities

Labour's descent to barely 30 percent in recent polls has prompted repeated comparisons to National's steep slide in 2002, when Bill English led National to its worst ever defeat. In this scenario, Phil Goff is this year's English and Labour is set for further pain as its support evaporates to 21 percent.

It's looking increasingly as if 2014 will be a false deadline in Afghanistan, with more SAS hand-holding needed for years to come. With the government expected to come under renewed pressure to make a greater commitment, what choice is the PM likely to make? 

As the war in Afghanistan closes in on its 10th anniversary, the questions it provokes aren't getting any easier, and as we've felt this weekend with the loss of another New Zealand solider, the cost isn't getting any less, either.

The question bubbling to the surface now is that of withdrawal and how much more will be asked of New Zealand troops.

For the Police to act inconsistently with their own governing legislation once is bad. For them to do it twice is even badder

So, that's one of life's little mysteries solved, then.

National are starting to act like they've got the election in the bag - and if they weren't confident enough already, the Rugby World Cup is just another thing in their favour

It's less than a month until the greatest political distraction the country's seen since, well, who knows when.

That's right, the Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 9 and it's going to suck huge amounts of oxygen out of the political debate in the three months prior to polling day.

If John Key wants to talk about obligations and responsibilities, he should listen more to Warren Buffett and less to David Cameron. Building community is about everyone sharing those old rights and responsibilities

Sometimes fragments of news from all round the world fit together into a single story.

Simon Power needs Act's support to pass the Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill. Will he tell Act to stuff Heather Roy's Voluntary Student Union Bill where the sun doesn't shine, unless they hold their noses, and support grossly illiberal legislation which does away with the right to silence?

When Chris Kahui was acquitted of murdering his twin sons in 2008, law commissioner Sir Geoffrey Palmer mused that perhaps it was about time we did away with the right to silence for those accused of criminal offences.

He was quoted in the New Zealand Herald: "It is not a change that would happen quickly, but talking about it is not [typo edited] wrong."

The latest move to breathe new life into public broadcasting services is a proposal to turn Radio New Zealand into a multi-media operation. Here’s why it’s worth a crack.

Radio New Zealand does what it does do well. National Radio sets the standard in radio news, current affairs and talk.

David Parker has been touted as a future Labour leader, so what does his decision to stand in Epsom tell us about his ambitions?

Is David Parker's confirmation that he will stand in Epsom a sign of ambition or humility?

Oscar Wilde warned against knowing the price of everything, but the value of nothing. This week we've seen the government realise the value of milk and opt to find out the price, while adidas know the price of a rugby jersey, but not the value...

And so the government has come around, and announced a select committee inquiry into the price of milk. It's a U-turn (or should that be moo-turn?) for National given its confidence at the start of the year that no such inquiry was needed.

And when poodles armed with noodles in a fiscal muddle scuffle, they call this a fiscal-feudal muddled poodle Laffer laughter ever after addled prattle battle

This morning David Farrar tries to resurrect an old chestnut: “If you want the rich to pay more tax, you should tax them less.” Apparently, not content with bringing New Zealand the lowest overall top tax rate in the high income OECD, now some in National intend to complain that it is still too high.

Kronic must go because it might hurt some people who think taking it is fun. A good start, but how about we deal with the real problem our nation faces?

Legislation will be brought before the House next week to prohibit all snow-related sports, Minister for Acceptable Fun Peter Dunne announced today.

Sacrifice isn't a popular word, but the government green paper on vulnerable children poses some tough questions for all of us. For one, if we're to really help the worst off, are we prepared to stop judging them?

What price are we willing to pay to make children safer in this country? For all that the timing of the government's green paper conveniently saves National from having to come up with any hard policy until after the election, it does raise the unpopular question of sacrifice and asks what you - and me - are prepared to give up for the sake of tackling our hideous statistics.

The NBR's Rich List today begs us to celebrate the richest of the rich for, well, being rich. Me, I'd like a broader definition of success if it's all the same

Good on 'em, eh. Yeah, those Rich Listers who again are being draped before the nation like so much fine ermine deserve a pat on the back, if for nothing else than the fact that, in most cases, they've shown how to stay in this country and succeed financially.

Paula Bennett releases Green Paper for Vulnerable Children – a great campaign photo op – but how about some real commitment to help the most vulnerable children right now – those growing up in deepening poverty?

Paula Bennett held a party in Aotea Square today.With bright balloons and live music from Mike Chunn she launched her Green Paper for Vulnerable Children to the admiring crowd.

In which Chris Trotter tries to make sense out of a poll he does not like, and a bunch of people get confused about online polls

On Friday, Chris Trotter opined in the Dominion Post about recent poll results. He was not happy about the estimate in the latest Colmar Brunton poll of 27% support for Labour, and asked this question:

President Obama says the NZ-US relationship is growing stronger by the day. Why? What's in it for both countries? And do we have to be careful about not getting too carried away?

It was an impressive meeting list that Prime Minister John Key took to Washington DC... Panetta, Kerry, Geithner, Bernanke, McConnell, Reid, Kirk, Napolitano, and of course, Obama. Absolutely top drawer, even if a few fell over because of the debt ceiling debate. If last year's Wellington Declaration was the wedding, this trip was the consummation.

Official papers show Television New Zealand won $79 million in government funding for its advertising-free channels TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7, by claiming they would be self-funding by 2012. Now they are closing the new channels down to enhance profits.

Television New Zealand told the last Labour government that two advertising-free channels it was launching to lure viewers onto the Freeview digital transmission platforms would be self-funding by 2012.

Bill English and David Farrar spent last week telling fibs about the tax burden high-income families assume. I want to set the record straight with some details about how much the top 10% really pay

In recent days, Bill English and David Farrar have been making a lot of inflammatory statements about how much tax is paid by high-income New Zealanders. For example:

The Speaker says Hone Harawira has to say the magic words that make you an MP in the right way, and he only gets one chance to do it each time. Is this taking legal formalism just a bit too seriously?

Since being dragged to the Speaker's chair after the 2008 election - a quaint tradition going back to the days in which Speakers of the UK House of Commons legitimately had reason to fear the Sovereign's wrath, so MPs genuinely didn't want the job - Lockwood Smith has done some good things to the House.

Labour was meant to have been caught in a fiscal trap, but with its capital gains tax it has wriggled free and got back on track

It was my intention this week to scribble about the voluntary side of political parties, but that can wait while we look at what might well have been a week when political fortunes turned.

Green capitalism on a roll - Pure Advantage campaign and Green Growth paper launched last week - Green Party right in on the action, and making hay while the sun shines

Green capitalism is on a roll at the moment.

John key says Labour's tax package will make high-income earners "not welcome in New Zealand". Where might they be more welcome than here?

In this morning’s news, the Prime Minister is quoted talking about Labour’s tax package, to be formally released on Thursday. He said:

It's been ten years since the Knowledge Wave conference. So has the world changed for you? Has technology and innovation swept you away? Or are we expecting too much, too soon?

The 21st century has whacked me round the face a couple of times in the past week. First, I was asked to give a job reference for someone I'd never met. A woman I've only ever known and worked with online asked if I would talk about her to a potential new employer, and to my surprise I found that I could.

Adieu Alasdair Thompson. But is one man's fall from grace a sign of a larger shift in the business world?

On one level Alasdair Thompson's dismissal is just a story of a guy who has paid the ultimate professional price for a slip of the tongue, revealing an outdated worldview. But on another it's a sign of inter-generational change in New Zealand.

Emperor Penguin and Rugby World Cup provide convenient political distractions -- but 30th anniversary of 1981 Springbok Tour a timely reminder of the potential of people power

 

There’s a classic headline in this morning’s Dominion Post ‘Happy Feet now dining royally on king salmon’.

To me this says it all about current priorities in New Zealand.

Is the election race closer than assumed wisdom suggest? Those who say nothing's changed in the past few months are missing the political pachyderm staring them in the face

Last week I began the argument that the November election will be closer than most seem to assume, and that Phil Goff’s Labour Party just might lead the next government.

As if by magic, the Herald published its irregular “Digipoll” which showed a significant narrowing of the gap between the two big parties.

The debate between supporters and opponents of MMP just ended.

Last week I posted on the on the emergence of the "Dump MMP" side of the upcoming referendum on our electoral system, in the shape of "Vote for Change". That post was a typically long-winded attempt at rebutting the arguments advanced by Vote for Change as to why MMP is a "bad thing" for New Zealand.

Extracting information on military operations in Afghanistan from the New Zealand Defence Force is difficult at the best of times. The Christmas Eve NZSAS raid on the business premises of the Afghan Tiger Group in Kabul last year was not one of NZDF’s best times...

The so-called “combined forces” Christmas raid on the head quarters of the Kabul company that supplies vehicles to the U.S. military seems to have been a messy operation from start to finish. It went something like this.

By all means let's debate the pros and cons of MMP. But it ain't going anywhere in November.

Those wanting to keep MMP in place at the upcoming referendum have been active for a while now - I've had a few leaflets thrust into my hand at the Saturday farmer's market (where Dunedin's elite meet to greet, eat and buy organic meat!) and appear under my door at work.

A day out campaigning suggests two factors Labour has in its favour as we approach the serious end of the electoral cycle. And no, they're not what you expect

Arriving at the Lions Hall in Te Atatu South for some Te Tai Tokerau door knocking last Saturday, I had a pleasant surprise.

As a recent president of the Labour Party, and a long-time denizen of West Auckland, I expected to recognise nearly everyone in the room.

Guess who is sitting centre stage of the new campaign to defeat proportional representation?

Vote for Change is the new "grassroots campaign" “for fairness” and “against MMP.” It wants New Zealanders to join their society and help decide what electoral system would be best for New Zealand.

National is quietly dripfeeding dangerous new housing policies to an unsuspecting public and hopes no-one will notice

Over the past couple of weeks, major announcements on housing policy have trickled out in a way perhaps deliberately calculated to minimise challenge and debate.

A short summary of what’s been happening in the state housing area since the Budget includes:

Hone Harawira is back in parliament, but his rebirth looks to spell the end for the Maori Party's dream of a united Maori voice. For all the talk of conciliation, the more likely outcome is a battle to the death

So, Hone Harawira is back in parliament and John Key says it was all a waste of serious money because we're merely back where we started. Well, it was an unnecessary waste of money so close to an election, but we're certainly not back where we started.

Residents of Christchurch's Red Zone now have two offers they can choose from. But they really do have to choose one or the other.

The Government's response to the Christchurch Earthquake is out, introducing Christchurch to the new reality of Red/Orange/Green/White Zones.

It only took a moment, an instinct to get the last word. But Winston Peter's closing remarks on Q+A raise questions about his conviction and comebackability

Television has its strengths and of course its limitations. One of its greatest assets is that it gives you 'moments'; a sudden revelation, a slip of the tongue, a facial expression or an impetuous outburst that remains in your mind long after the grist has been forgotten.

John Key's brought some messy baggage back from Australia, and finds himself in a hole of his own making at a very sensitive time politically. Yet every new word just seems to make it worse

When it comes to talking about mining, the Prime Minister should realise he's in a hole and stop digging. But from his interview with The Australian to his unconvincing performance during today's Question Time, he just can't seem to step away from the pit opening in front of him.

Philip Field is trying to clear his name by arguing that while he acted corruptly, being a corrupt MP isn't against the law.

Phillip Field has had his day before the Supreme Court, arguing that his 11 convictions for "Corruption and bribery of member of Parliament" were wrongly entered.

Whatever Darren Hughes did or didn't do, it more probably than not wasn't criminal. Can we all move on now? ... thought not.

So the police have concluded that there is insufficient evidence regarding the allegations of sexual offending against Darren Hughes to warrant his prosecution.

How many beneficiaries does it take to make a crisis? And what does history tell us? When were benefit numbers at their worst? For all this and more, read on...

The Welfare working Group (WWG) is convinced. There are "major deficiencies" in New Zealand's welfare system. "Fundamental change" is required. The costs are too high and they are ringing the alarm bells.

Following Sue Bradford's latest post, which indicates the Green's latest decision clearly signals they will align themselves with the right, it's difficult to restrain myself from saying 'I told you so'. But that there be dragons

I'm trying to catch a stoat. So far it's taken Bill, my bantam rooster; Mikki, one of his daughters; and Duck-duck, one of his foster daughters whom he frequently shagged. His wife, Pip, hatched the duck egg I put under her, so Duck-duck was one of the family. Incest is unknown in the farmyard, because animals don't possess the power of reason.

The Green Party political positioning statement this weekend is a significant move to the right despite attempts to paint it otherwise, and a culmination of long internal party debate. The risk is that they may just be outwitting themselves

The Green Party’s political positioning statement this weekend is significant to any of us who follow left and green politics in this country.

Labour has happened across a pretty nifty little parliamentary trick. But it's time to put it away, I think.

Over at Kiwiblog, David Farrar has hit high dudgeon mode over Labour's ongoing filibuster of Heather Roy's Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill (or, "the VSM Bill", as it is better known).

After the 'battle of the business cases' this week over plans for an inner city rail loop in Auckland, the words of Sam Morgan offer some wisdom to luddite politicians

It seems Steven Joyce is determined to go down in history, joining the list of government politicians that have denied Auckland a fully functioning rail network.

He's hardly the first. Wellington politicians have picked holes in Auckland's desire to have a transport platform other than roads for most of the 20th century, denying funding and insisting the sums don't add up.

Is it time to bid a fond farewell to Sarah Palin? We wish it wasn't so, but it seems there is a new wackadoo political force about to take centre stage in the US--Michele Bachmann.

Drat. Just when I was starting to get excited at the prospect of a Sarah Palin candidacy for US President, it seems her near-run may be nearly over.

Key announces ministerial group to advance welfare reform – welfare to form key part of National's 2011 election campaign – beneficiary bashing to the fore, again

John Key's announcement that a high powered Ministerial group is to be formed to advance the Rebstock welfare reforms confirms that beneficiary

Ideas on how to restructure an ‘economy’ that means what it says: an economical, ecological economy that manages resources sustainably, and allocates them fairly

When David Lange said, let’s stop for a cup of tea, we all agreed; we’d had enough neo-liberalism.

Bill English's third Budget has laid foundations. For a couple of short-term goals, in particular. But what's the point if those foundations are being undermined even as they are laid?

In his barn-storming, even cocky, address to the House yesterday, John Key let slip what this budget was really all about - twice. Was it growing the economy? No, that's not the work of conservative governments. Was it saving jobs? Nope, that was last year's message. Was it savings, as he had promised it would be in his address to parliament in February?

So, a record deficit huh? The scene is being painted for a chop-chop Budget, but is our public debt really that bad? Let's take a look at our history...

So, in two days time Bill English will announce that we have the largest deficit EVER by a New Zealand government. All round the world folk have seen stories of how our deficit will be $15-17 billion. Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth.

What if those in politics could get past what's right and what's left to what's right and what's wrong? That's naive, of course, but it doesn't mean that science couldn't improve the way we decide those big policy questions

Politics is often described as a contest of ideas, and so it is. But because politicians only get to implement their ideas if they can win the support of the majority, simple and populist ideas often float to the top of any policy debate.

It's that time again, when Peter Dunne goes prowling for enough votes to survive another term. Except this time he's thinking bigger. Could it be 2002 all over again for the Centrist Saviour?

Peter Dunne is having flashbacks. Yes, Peter Dunne. None of us pay him much mind, but with the Budget just days away, this is a big moment for him. And he seized the bull this week with a remarkably frank assessment of the political landscape.

With apologies and props to Danyl

Some folk within Labour wonder why they are getting no traction with the public at the moment. The graphs below tell a big part of the story.

If I were a politician, I’d campaign on four social, economic, and environmental issues — not necessarily in that order

Were I a politician, I’d campaign on the cost of living: a social issue.

Hone Harawira's comments on Bin Laden's death were dumb. But they could have been smart.

On the scale of dumb things to say if you want to be taken seriously as a politician, praising Osama Bin Laden as "a man who fought for the rights, the land and the freedom of his people" ranks slightly above "I don't think it is necessary for private individuals to own automobiles" and

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp and his Chief of Defence Force Rhys Jones stepped up their efforts this week to keep the gloss on New Zealand’s military involvement in Afghanistan. So far, they have succeeded in raising more questions than they have answered.

Lieutnant General Jones opened the campaign with a broadside aimed at Jon Stephenson, author of the Metro magazine article “Eyes Wide Shut”. Jones denied that NZ SAS troops

The true price of milk is its cost, in distracting us from the bigger issue: what policy and regulation is needed, to secure quality food for ordinary — all — New Zealanders

Why assume milk guzzling is such a good thing? Why should it not cost, since it does?

Is Hone Harawira's decision to force a by election a cynical abuse of public money or a noble commitment to accountability? Yes.

There appear to be two lines of thought on Hone Harawira's decision to resign as an MP and thus force a by-election in his Te Tai Tokerau electorate.

The seismic shifts round Parliament this week present both risks and an opportunity for the Greens

The Greens face political risks, and opportunity, in about equal measure. What will they make of these, between now and November?

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp’s categoric denial that there were civilian casualties when New Zealand SAS troops took part in a night raid in Baghlan province is wearing thin as more evidence comes to hand from Afghanistan.

The first news of the Baghlan raid came from the governor of the Tala Wa Barfak district, Mohammad Ismael. On 22 August 2010, he told Agence France Presse:

Don Brash will get ACT above 10 percent, re-energising the right of New Zealand politics - or so the story goes. Some aren't so sure, including some in National

So, there are two ways of looking at the ACT overhaul. It's either a grand National plot or National are the biggest losers at the end of this week. I tend towards the latter. But what do you think?

The Government’s spin machine cranks into action but its selective secrecy policy raises more questions about SAS operations in Afghanistan than it answers

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp must have seen it coming.

Some say the media posing questions about our military presence in Afghanistan is 'disgraceful' and 'unpatriotic'. I say, regardless of the rights and wrongs, the opposite is true

Don Brash's attempted takeover of the Act party has quickly moved the minds of those of a political bent away from recent news about the war we're fighting in Afghanistan to the more internecine battle on the right of New Zealand's politics.

Rodney Hide and Don Brash want to lead ACT. That much we know; the rest is cloudy. So let's look at some of the core questions, battles and potential strategies...

It'll come down to the numbers. It always does. The Brash "coup" seems to be struggling to gain traction, up against Hillary Calvert's and, crucially, John Boscawen's initial loyalty to Rodney Hide. But that's not to say the temptation to change leaders won't be strong given Hide's woes in Epsom and ACT's continued low polling.

At new year, in spring time, and on Anzac Day, my calendar clocks another year, and I resolve to start again, again. This blog is not immune to it: it’s time for a change, because we know everything we need to, about National’s green blues

“This article is a stub. You can help [Wikipedia] by expanding it.”

Has Labour managed to stuff up even a pretty good idea? [Turns out no - not as much as I prematurely thought.]

It's becoming so fashionable to knock the Labour Party's efforts to connect with a voting populace that just seems determined to ignore it that the contrarian in me feels like jumping the other way and hailing John Pagani as a genius.

Mediaworks gets a $34 million government bail-out. TVNZ blows $79 million on two non-commercial digital channels. And successive governments drop the ball on free-to-air public service television. There has to be a better way of broadcasting

Review all the horse trading between the successive governments and the television networks over the last eight years, and you have to conclude that free-to-air, advertiser driven television networks cannot deliver on the taxpayers’ investment to see more New Zealand content on TV.

The Minister of Justice moved swiftly to change the rules on legal aid eligibility following Dame Margaret Bazley's report, but quick-as-a-flash, nothing's been done on her recommendation that creches be set up for kiddies in courts

For the past 17 months I've spent too many days hanging around district courts in Auckland and Lower Hutt as a defendant waiting for the square wheels of justice to slowly turn over.

In which the author takes the opportunity to settle accounts in a petty and petulent fashion.

So the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill has passed through the House, and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority is set to take over the rebuild of Christchurch.

Paula Rebstock is appointed to the ACC Board one day after the resignation of Chief Executive - National lays strong foundations for further ideological assault on ACC

Yesterday’s announcement that Nick Smith has appointed Paula Rebstock to the Board of ACC should really have come as no surprise.

Prime Minister John Key should keep his hands firmly in his pockets and avoid enlistment in a Middle East peace-making mission when he meets political leaders in Paris and London this month

Meetings with Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicolas Sarkozy are on John Key’s agenda, and while he has his short-list of topics for discussion, so do they.

Labour's list deserves scrutiny and poses questions - just not the ones raised by Damien O'Connor

Labour's party list has caused all sorts of consternation, following Damien O'Connor's outburst about gays and unionists.

The Labour party list comes under fact-challenged attack

Labour’s list came out over the weekend, and criticism of it was immediate and vehement. But the criticism was also mostly inaccurate. If you listen to the critics, you would think Labour’s list is overrun with gay Tongan women. In fact, Labour’s post-2011 caucus could well be tilted towards heterosexual white guys.

Unionists!

There is a dispute out in the sea. The police must be able to arrest someone ... musn't they?

Here is what I understand to be happening at present on the seas far off the East Cape. A seismic testing vessel, the Orient Explorer, is under contract to Brazilian petrol giant Petrobras to conduct a survey of the Raukūmara Basin seabed.

The government had its hand firmly on the economic tiller this week, tacking strongly through the waves of crisis and public opinion. Then Bill English gave a speech and stumbled

National hasn't won many fans this past week, what with the waka and the move to prop up insurance company AMI. But it actually deserves a round of applause, not least for acknowledging that we live in a mixed economy that requires governments to get their hands dirty now and then.

Why would I choose to make my vote less equal? Or, the growing challenge from the Supplementary Member system and how MMP can adapt and triumph in the referendum

The battle lines over the referendum on MMP are chrystal clear now that the Judith Tizard list fiasco has washed over the body politic.

So Hone Heke's bones are to be moved... What an excellent opportunity for us to re-connect with one of the great characters of New Zealand history and maybe build a new industry at the same time

Hone Heke is a heroic New Zealand figure, one of the great characters in our country's short history, and <

Sacked ECan regional councillor and life-long conservationist Eugenie Sage talks about ECan, doing conservation better, and her aspirations to and for Parliament, as the Green Party's Selwyn candidate

“Negligent … dismal … short-sighted”. “The new ‘romancing business’ approach risks decisions which are legally dubious (given the requirements of the conservation legislation) and sacrifices conservation values on the altar of commerce.”

Whatever else you say about Judith Tizard, you gotta admit she won the final round and showed some real chutzpah in announcing her political career over

You know what? Kudos to Judith Tizard for her decision not to return to parliament. She can now say she left politics on her own terms, and doing the right thing. Good on her.

The Labour leader has shown his sincerity over the Hughes case, but was he wise? How safe is his leadership? And where oh where was the plan?

Tomorrow's meeting in Dunedin of the Labour front bench will be somewhat uncomfortable for leader Phil Goff, but his job isn't likely to be in jeopardy. His handling of the Darren Hughes case has got some MPs thinking, 'what was he thinking?', but others genuinely believe the party line that he was "damned if he did, damned if he didn't".

Defending Darren Hughes may well be a fruitless task. But here's an attempt to do so ...

First things first - I have no special knowledge of the events surrounding Darren Hughes' leave of absence from the House beyond what I've read in the media.

The case of the latest MP in trouble shows once again how perilous it is to risk becoming an MP -- and how party selection processes militate for MPs who are 'safe', to the detriment of democracy

The breaking story that one of Labour’s young high fliers is currently subject to police investigation has been top of the New Zealand news over the last 24 hours, notwithstanding a new war, earthquakes and nuclear alarm.

The Budget - zero or otherwise- has suddenly become even more important than ever, as the government tries to borrow without incurring debt and cut spending without taking money from the economy

The political ground was always going to move after the Christchurch earthquake, and on Sunday we saw the first rumblings, with the Prime Minister unable to rule out TVNZ's Guyon Espiner's suggestion of a "zero Budget

The government’s austerity measures are exactly what they ruled out in 2009. And so is their defence of cutting taxes in a fiscal hole. This tells us more about backroom dealings in the Beehive than about a good plan to get New Zealand back on track.

The government has signaled that it plans severe austerity measures for this year’s Budget. Those measures will likely cover almost every aspect of the government’s work – even health and education, which will have nominal funding increases,

Assuming nuclear-generated power for New Zealand is a non-issue, what should be our stance on it globally?

Keith Locke says:

There'll be a lot of silliness before National's foreshore and seabed law gets passed. Here's my contribution.

I've largely been absent from the blogosphere for a couple of weeks - go on, did you notice? - due to a combination of actually having to do some work and moving house (with concomitant, albeit temporary, loss of broadband access).

But something has happened that so enrages me that I cannot allow it to pass by in silence. So I'm back.

The Greens’ policy platform needs as much rebuilding as any other party’s, to make it strong and sustainable

When I was a child, before I put away childish things, about, well, a year or so ago, I used to think that eventually, if I kept my ears open, the Greens would explain themselves to me; if I kept my eyes open, I would figure them out. They had a communications problem, I thought.

Huge changes are being made to early childhood education under the cover of the earthquake, as the government warms up for welfare reform

I was genuinely shocked to learn yesterday that from July 1 this year early childhood services will be allowed to have up to 150 children and/or 75 under-2s in one centre.

Baby farming, here we come.

How soon is too soon to ask the government how it intends to pay for rebuilding Christchurch? A spat has broken out on the blogs about where politics starts and stops, but who's kidding whom?

Good grief. Two of our largest right-wing blog sites have got their angry faces on about left-wing blogs advocating tax increases to pay for the rebuild of Christchurch.

The earthquake will ask some tough questions of all politicians this year - What will they cut? How much can they borrow? Either way, the government's austerity plans are on hold

Even as the funerals begin, the release of names continues to give flesh and blood to the tragedy and grief keeps clutching at us, the political and economic reality of this earthquake is starting to come to the fore. Like liquefaction.

In the Wellington Central electorate, Green candidate James Shaw is challenging Green stereotypes. “Give up your old prejudices,” he says, because it takes all kinds to save a world, including kinds like him

James Shaw is, for better or worse, part of a new Green generation— if the party will let him be. He challenges stereotype and, in a way, the Greens themselves, because he does want to change some things about them.

From eugenics to workfare, the Welfare Working Group report released on Tuesday has the potential to destroy lives, hopes - and our welfare system itself

Right now, I feel a certain reluctance to write about anything except the unfolding tragedy in Christchurch.

As people on facebook and elsewhere keep reminding me, now is not a time for party politics, or for petty factional squabbles which fade into insignificance in the face of Tuesday’s earthquake.

I know everything is political. But not every political decision is partisan.

I (and others) have had occasion to criticise the Government's (indeed, the entire Parliament's) response to natural disaster in the past.

There isn't much I can say about Christchurch's pain that we don't all know already. So this is a post about something a lot less important - politics.

What with recent floods in Queensland and Victoria, cyclones in Queensland, bushfires in Western Australia and now a brutal repeat earthquake in Christchurch, those who hew to the concept of an interventionist god might care to explain just what the Antipodes have done to piss him off so much.

Tough as it may be to blame the PM for what looks like an extravagent car upgrade, it's the sort of mud that sticks and recalls another car-related mess and another PM's pleas of ignorance

This National government is often criticised for its political management, be it the lack of a strategic plan, how beholden it is to polls or its over-use of urgency. In recent days it has been damned for nearly setting an inconvenient precedent allowing foreign leaders to speak on the floor of the House whilst it's sitting and for rushing through the Marine and Coastal Area Bill.

John Key thinks that people using food banks are engaged in a lifestyle choice. So where's the evidence?

Danyl Mclauchlan at the Dim-Post has an interesting take on John Key (excuse the profanity ... he's a very rude young man):

A dinner-time phone call from a Tory pollster sparks some thoughts about the wording of political questions and the biases that appear between the words

I received a curious phone call last night. Actually, I received a Curia phone call last night; David Farrar's polling company wanted to know whether I'd spare five minutes to take part in a political survey. Never one to miss a chance to research the researchers, I naturally said yes.

Why the Government’s proposed Regulatory Responsibility Bill is ill- founded, constitutionally radical, and likely to hurt democracy.

John Key yesterday announced in his speech from the throne that the Government “will introduce a Regulatory Responsibilty Bill and send it to a Select Committee for submissions and debate".

Rush, rush rush... if only the protagonists in the Maori Party squabble could taiho they may find a way to reconcile. But the political timetable is pushing them towards division

Patience. Funny how it runs out when it comes to elections. The Maori Party could do with a healthy dose of it right now, and that should come naturally, given the emphasis in kaupapa Maori of taking the long view. But the impatience shown by Hone Harawira and his caucus colleagues is very modern and, for me, the spade they're currently using to dig themselves a real hole.

"Day after day, day after day, we stuck, nor breath nor motion; As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean." Could this be Hone Harawira's parliamentary fate?

So the Maori Party leadership have made their move against Hone Harawira.

When a pundit says "if this trend continues to the election," stop listening

At the start of an election year, many folk like to try and project the future. Some do it with gut instinct like “Key has the nation’s trust”, others by simple historical precedent like “New Zealanders favour multi-term governments.” These are good fun to read but aren’t usually very rigorous.

We're going to have a constitutional review, with these results. But here's some other thoughts on the matter ...

Last week I was interviewed by the Otago Daily Times for an article on the upcoming constitutional review. It is now on-line here.

The summer surge of politics continued this week with more big calls being made, especially by National, Labour and the Maori Party. But what do they mean? And where do they lead?

Wise decisions are at the heart of good politics. Judgment is everything when it comes to choosing what's best for our country and anticipating how voters will respond, and this week some big – politically massive – judgment calls have been made.

I figured Friday was as good a day as any to look back and ponder just how wise and wily party leaders have been this week.

Three parties laid out their wares last week. Nats and Labour gave us a left-right choice: Robin Hood-style tax-grab, or partial SOE sales. Thanks to a tidy paint job, when the ‘Bluegreens’ and Greens offered theirs, the difference was harder to spot, but no less large

It took me a while to parse the speeches. The blue one looks green enough to pass muster, and the Green one says as much between the lines as in them — which is fine, if you speak the language.

The government's decision to keep the SAS in Afghanistan for another year is sound, but its reasoning is gutless. Cabinet needs the courage to own its decision

Right decision, wrong reason.

We're going to the polls on November 26. Let the law begin!

May I just say how happy I am that John Key reads Pundit, even if it takes a good six months for the advice to sink in fully.

Nick Smith’s announced that some highly-polluting airsheds will be allowed until 2020 to meet air quality standards, costing something in the region of several hundred lives, but saving jobs — and why I think this is okay

About as many deaths as lung cancer. Four times the road toll.

Let's assume the Maori Party really wants Hone Harawira gone. What then?

Now that the Maori Party has decided to take Hone Harawira's case to a full Disciplinary and Disputes Committee meeting, I've been doing some thinking about how things might play out from here.

I should be working on a learned article that will set the world of legal academia aflame. But it's Friday.

So, it's Friday afternoon and I'm not really in much of a state of mind to do anything of any great value. That being so, here's some things that I have wondered about in the last few days.

Get your kit off, it's election year and the major parties are putting out already. We have a real choice about our economic future before the summer's over, so it's time to start asking the questions and doing the maths

Well, that came in a rush didn't it? We're still slipping, slopping and slapping, and the major parties have started throwing out major policy announcements as if the election was just days away.

Here's an idea as we go into election year. Instead of part-privatisation of state-owned assets, especially those which generate essentials such as energy, why not nationalise the food outlets?

It's such a ripper, I can't imagine why no party has cottoned on to it. I mean, last night when TVNZ covered the story on selling shares in Meridian and Mighty River Power, to whom did the reporter turn for comment? Why, Molly Melhuish, of course, the go-to person for rising power prices (to be fair, we got Sue Chetwin, consumer advocate as well).

Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is quite a piece of work. Think she could lead the free world?

Michelle Bachmann is a United States Congresswoman, who has represented the sixth district in Minnesota for the past four years. She's also one of the "leaders" of the tea-party movement, if that rather diffuse and confused phenomenon can be said to have leaders. For example, Mrs Bachmann gave the tea-party's response to Obama's state-of-the-nation speech yesterday.

The Dominion Post throws National a freebie by misrepresenting Labour's new tax policy, and by doing some scaremongering to boot.

The media in New Zealand are, in my view, pretty fair. All political parties, often with good justification, point to episodes where the media treated their ideas and leaders unfairly. In previous years, both Helen Clark and Don Brash have had their substance ignored by a media more interested in poking fun at their style.

Labour leader Phil Goff tossed off another election strip-tease item yesterday; underneath was something green

Something old, something new, something borrowed …  

MMP politics is like a jigsaw puzzle, and Phil Goff revealed a few more pieces today, which he hopes will create a picture with Labour back on a Treasury benches. State of the nation? Nah, state of the coalition more like...

And so the dark lines of policy have started to be drawn around Labour's mid-term outines, that Phil Goff began releasing last year. Yes folks, it's election year and Opposition leader Phil Goff has decided to catch people's attention early with his state of the nation speech in Auckland this afternoon.

Hone Harawira thinks the Maori Party needs to dance to his tune. Are his colleagues going to pull the plug on his stereo?

Last Sunday, Hone Harawira penned this opinion piece in the Sunday Star-Times, titled "crunch time for Maori grumbles".

Species ranked ‘nationally critical’ are dying in our fisheries. Legislative fixes have twice been voted down by the National party

Peeing off marine science and conservation was the lesser evil, it seems.

It was a year of much effort but little reward for Labour and the Greens (and the Progressives). So was it a year wasted, another step towards oblivion? Or was vital groundwork laid?

I seriously need to get over 2010, but first I need to write about the opposition parties; which means Labour, the Greens and, for the sake of history rather than politics, the Progressives.

In taking a whack at Maggie Barry's putting her hand up for the National Party's Botany candidacy, and almost every other journalist who's had a go in Parliament, the Sunday Star-Times editorial gives a once-over-lightly dismissal of some of the world's great leaders.

"Most celebrity politicians don't have a show" said the headline yesterday for the traditionally anonymous editorial in the Sunday Star-Times (SS-T).

What was 2010 like for the smaller parties propping up this government? Not a lot of fun, really. Big holes were exposed in ACT, the Maori Party and United Future, which raise even bigger questions

Power exacts a price. Of the three smaller parties with a role in government in 2010, the highest was undoubtedly paid by Rodney Hide and ACT, but the Maori Party too must be weighing up its political balance sheet. United Future is simply hanging on for grim life.

In which expert advisory work from the PCE illustrates why the ETS in its present form risks a massive lignite subsidy, and Tim Groser — quite rightly — observes that this would be “ridiculous” and “incoherent”

December brought more proof the emissions trading scheme is broken, in the opinion of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment; also, some interesting remarks from Climate Change Negotiations Minister Tim Groser who, presumably unintentionally, expressed the same view.

We may not have a National-led Government after the next election. Here's why we probably will.

In the spirit of this Sunday Star-Times fantasy, I present a transcript of the first cabinet meeting held after the 2011 election ...

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The government ended the year on the political mountain top thanks to a lot of luck and bucket full of caution... And my belated pick for minister of the year

And just like that, it was over. 2010: A pretty miserable year done and dusted. Sadly, dust was an all too literal part of the year, what with the Canterbury earthquake and our need to learn more about coal dust than any of us really wanted to, after the Pike River mine explosions.

California has never been in bigger fiscal trouble. So who do voters choose as their new governor? Jerry Brown, aka 'Governor Moonbeam', the budget-conscious pol who was their governor 28 years ago

The first time Jerry Brown led California, from 1975 to 1983, he was the state's youngest-ever governor, a playboy bachelor who dated singer Linda Ronstadt and ditched the gubernatorial limo for a 1974 Plymouth Satellite.

Whether the resolution of The Hobbit fracas is good or bad, the way it got resolved looks pretty dodgy to me.

At the time The Hobbit saga was threatening the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it, I wrote this post expressing some bemusement about its resolution. Specifically,

Many polls. Much excitement. Little change.

We have updated the Pundit Poll of Polls, and it shows that the last few months of political manoeuvring, scandals, by-elections, and so on has not had any marked impact on the overall state of play. National remains in the driver's seat and on cruise control.

The Supreme Court's ruling on leaky homes is both exactly right and terribly unfair. And it holds vital lessons for how governments govern and the foreshore & seabed

We're in the middle of renovating, my hands still speckled with paint from last night's marathon effort sealing walls, so the news in recent days that the Supreme Court has found in favour of those who have for so long suffered with leaky buildings has, you might say, hit home. I'm delighted for them.

The Electoral Finance Act is dead. Long live the Electoral Finance Act.

Cast your mind back, if you will, to late 2007/early 2008.

The attack on Bruce Mellor shouldn't be linked with arming our police. Instead, we need to unload and ask whether more guns and more fear of the police is really the best way forward?

More prisons, more police power, and more guns. This is the vision of the Police Association and it's long-term leader Greg O'Connor, its path to greater safety for the police and public. It's a message that many New Zealanders seem happy to hear; and if the world was more like a cops 'n robbers film or video game, they might have a point.

2010 was all about one question: how, exactly, does one balance economic opportunities with environmental responsibilities? It was a 'politic, cautious' year

In 2010, we heard a lot about ‘balancing economic opportunities with environmental responsibilities’. Also, 'doing our fair share'. The government did not much, cautiously. Sometimes that worked well for conservation. Other times, it didn't.

Comments from the Prime Minister suggest that the government's willingness to act tough on welfare may go a lot further than many expect

What is the real Key agenda on welfare reform?

It could be a lot scarier than media commentators and the public think.

If you want to know why the wine industry's up the creek without a paddle, just look to those at the top. Join the Wine Institute of NZ Inc and stuff up a good thing.

There's no doubt about it, New Zealanders are great at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory when it comes to things agricultural.

The Government has announced its review of New Zealand's Constitution. I'm announcing what it will recommend - except about the thing that really, really matters.

The Government (finally!) has announced the bones of its review of constitutional issues, a key component of the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the Maori Party and National Party.

Heather Roy reckons our nuclear-free policy is stopping a free-trade deal with the US. Someone needs to tell her that the '80s are over, Reagan isn't president anymore and Iowa doesn't give a toss

ACT's Heather Roy's had a tough year, being treated roughly by her own party and leader, and I can't help but feel some sympathy for her. Yet there was politlcal naivety in the way she tried to advance her leadership ambitions, and she doesn't seem to have learnt from that.

If you find yourself calling people "clowns" or "paranoids" in the course of your day job, it's a good sign that you need to join the blogosphere.

At the risk of generalising, and without wishing to offend my fellow Punditeers, I think those of us who participate in this blogging malarky share a number of characteristics. One is a (possibly overinflated) sense of self-worth and confidence in the import of what we write.

Everybody except Nick Smith thinks the emissions trading scheme is dumb. Unhappy with mainstream climate change policy responses, environmentalists are looking elsewhere. Here’s a new idea, that we’ll hear more of in 2011: an election year idea, all about tax and cuts

When is a tax not a tax but a dividend, that cuts carbon, and boosts the economy?

The Regulations Review Committee thinks the Government is using the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act appropriately. This is good news.

Following the Canterbury Earthquake, Parliament unanimously enacted a piece of legislation called the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010 (Or CERRA, for short).

Labour is going after National on early childhood education costs, and for once actually has the politics on its side and the government on the ropes

Smaug, the mighty dragon in The Hobbit, looked near invulnerable when Bilbo first laid his eyes on him. His hide covered in scales, jewels encrusting his soft underbelly.

Two offshore spills in less than a month – but New Zealand is still drifting in a policy and legal vacuum when it comes to deepwater oil prospecting and production

Kapiti coasters like to think of their home as Nature’s Coast – an endless strip of sun-scorched, dark sand in summer, a windswept tumble of driftwood in winter, stretched between the sharp, steep slopes of west coast North lsland hills that almost stumble across a ribbon of railway, highway and houses and into the heaving

The government Welfare Working Group's 'Options Paper' was released this afternoon. While Paula Rebstock says nothing is decided yet, its overall direction confirms my earlier fears. It could make the 1991 benefit cuts look like a picnic

The Government’s Welfare Working Group (WWG), headed by former Commerce Commission Chair Paula Rebstock, has just issued its second major position

Economy, by definition, means prudently managing resources, yet in practice growth consumes them, unsustainably. We need a new narrative, say the Greens, that decouples progress from growth: this might be a myth and it is a gamble, but so is growth

Here is a spectre of some straw men. Huddled around a carbon-emitting camp-fire, they scorn even the primitive fun of chewing on a mammoth bone: it’s burlap and lentils for these guys, if they’re lucky.

The Mana by-election was Labour's pre-campaign test. It flunked

On past performance, the Mana by-election last weekend should have been a shoo-in for Labour. It was far from that. Phil Goff’s hand-picked candidate Kris Faafoi limped in with a majority of just over 1,000 votes to spare over National’s second-run candidate from 2008, Hekia Parata.

Even though more important things are happening on the Mainland, Parliament is displaying its worst and best qualities this week.

Although the dreadful vigil at Pike River overshadows everything else, Auden reminds us that even tragedy cannot stop the world from turning;

In which I'm perplexed why people are so afraid of equality and compassion, and reflect on freedom and the filthy rich Westpac CEO, all because I've finally got around to reading The Spirit Level

It's to ideological politics what An Inconvenient Truth is to climate change - The Spirit Level has put the cat among the political pigeons over the past year or two, prompting books, websites and debunking from all quarters.

Among the many things people don’t get about the Greens and the green movement is -- it’s organic. This is not just a nice conceit. Greens live and breathe above and below ground, which makes them resilient

People think the Green party in Parliament is the Greens. The trolls in the blogosphere wish it were so: so easy, such rich pickings, to gobble up each of the nine as they step out on to the bridge.

The Green party in Parliament is only the bit people notice. Its MPs are like fruit on a bush.

David Cunliffe offers personal observations from the Greens’ economic conference, on how to do good — “to do good, first we must win” — and possibly, also on how to win

The convenor fires off two cheap shots, one not quite appreciated by his audience (a snipe about burning coal at Huntly, to air-condition the chilly late-afternoon room) and the other hugely enjoyed, including by butt of the joke Nick Smith.

David Suzuki says by ignoring warnings of over-consumption and its dire consequences, we are following 99.9999% of our fellow animal species to extinction; and the Greens convene a cross-party economic conference, populated mostly by Greens

David Suzuki chuckles, remembering a sign he saw on a shop door (“no animals allowed”) and parents’ reaction when he told their children that’s what they are: just animals. “Boy, were they pissed off … we don’t like to be told that,” he comments dryly.

As the welfare debate again rises from the grave over the next few weeks, it'll pay to remember that life is messy and keep asking 'where are the jobs?'.

I suspect we can start this post by agreeing that having 325,000 people on benefits is not a great thing and we'd like to see more people in work. And I suspect the agreement ends about there, such is the red rag welfare tends to become in political debates. It divides and infuriates people faster than

In Robert Frost's poem, taking 'the road less travelled' made all the difference, and so it is with the economic choices we face as a country. Will it be growth for growth's sake, or a more sustainable growth?

You might call it the tale of two growths.

The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.

Over at Kiwiblog, David Farrar is having a connipition at some school principal in Invercargill who, on his Facebook page,  vindicates Godwin's law by comparing Anne Tolley to Hitler.

In which I absorb the lessons of the mid-terms, am confirmed in my belief that it should have been Madam President, and advertise some good telly

So, the mid-terms in the US have delivered the Obama White House what the president himself has called a "shellacking". He has promised to try harder. Here's what I take from the results:

Supreme Court decision in James Mason case nothing to do with s59 law change; NZ First heading backwards, with support for Family First's demands. Time to give it up, Bob.

The s59 law change hit the headlines again yesterday by default, with the Supreme Court overturning Christchurch man James Mason’s conviction for assaulting his four year old boy by pulling his ear and punching him.

National arrived in government promising a unified approach to economic growth, but two years into its term The Hobbit debacle revealed a reality at odds with the rhetoric

The National government has developed a liking for talking about this country as New Zealand Inc. It fits with its business-friendly ethos and gives voters the impression of decisiveness and efficiency in tough times. But The Hobbit debacle raises serious questions as to whether New Zealand Inc. is anything more but a political conceit.

There's something about this Hobbit business that doesn't sit quite right with me. I need help to understand it.

The Hobbit saga (at least, the contemporary version) began with the actors union - backed up by overseas acting guilds - threatening not to work on it unless some vaguely specified terms and conditions got agreed to ... or, at least, talked about with them. It was, near as dammit, a strike.

In which the author confidently predicts the resolution of The Hobbit saga. Accuracy, or indeed any connection with the real world, not guaranteed.

Prime Minister John Key announced today that The Hobbit would be filmed in New Zealand, following an agreement with the Warner Brothers studio.

"This is great news for the Kiwi film industry and New Zealand as a whole", Key said. "Warner Brothers just needed some reassurance on a number of matters, and the Government has been able to give it the message it wanted."

The union boss is taking his show on the road... all the way to Mana. McCarten wants to "make them work for it", and it's a safe bet both Labour and National will be on the receiving end of his sharp tongue

Matt McCarten is either an adorable mischief-maker or a dangerous revolutionary, depending on who you talk to. But what everyone can agree on is that he is one of the sharpest political minds around, so when you learn, as we have this morning, that he's standing in the Mana by-election you know something's up.

The Hobbit stoush has been a Hollywood production, sadly a million miles from the New Zealand that once seemed so perfectly suited as the real world home of hobbits. It doesn't feel like we can trust anyone in this picture

As a teenager, I used to debate with friends how the JRR Tolkein movies should be made and who should play the lead roles. I wrote extensively and happily about The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the New Zealand Herald when I worked there.

National is certainly on the offensive with its employment and welfare reforms, even proposing a law change specifically to benefit producers of The Hobbit; but it faces a new mood of resistance and dissent

In the last 24 hours both John Key and Gerry Brownlee have been reported as saying they are seeking changes to employment laws in a bid to keep production of The Hobbit in New Zealand.

The first civil unions occurred in 2005. Five years later, as we're overtaken on gay marriage rights by Argentina, Mexico, and other countries: did we fight the right battle?

Gay New Zealanders have now had the right to earn state recognition of our rainbow-coloured relationships for a little more than five years. In that time, a lot of the predictions made before civil union legislation have been proved wrong.

That old adage about lovers of sausages and the law? It's true.

I've just finished watching Parliament move a step closer to disenfranchising all sentenced prisoners whilst they are serving their terms of imprisonment. It was not an edifying spectacle.

The new law on the foreshore and seabed is not just about legal rules. Its a symbol, and that's what everyone is fighting about.

I see Tim has put in his 5 cents worth - see, he knows the true current value of his thoughts! - on this topic, but as I'd already typed a chunk of this post before his went up I'll carry on irregardless.

As ACT and the Maori Party kick sand in each other's face over an amendment that changes nothing, we get a good look at the politics of perception and National's misery in trying to hold its coalition partners together

In law it all comes down to one word - "free" - but to understand the Maori Party's political affront to ACT's proposed amendment to the Marine and Coastal Area Bill requires two words, and they are "mana enhancement".

Te Papa took a beating for suggesting Maori cultural values are a reason to treat genders differently. So what happens when Parliament legislates that Maori must be treated differently?

Seeing as the topic de jour is the invidiousness of discriminatory treatment based on characteristics such as gender or race, I assume we have universal condemnation of a law change solely designed to prevent Maori doing something non-Maori are entitled to do?

New Zealand's great voting fraud story looks to have died - for now, anyway.

For a while there it looked like the Auckland Supercity election could end up getting decided by a judge, as the unfolding claims of fraudulent voter registrations merged with claims that the early flood of votes from South Auckland were being matched by later turnout in assumedly "pro-Banks" parts of the city.

Greenpeace’s old mojo, zooming about in front of Japanese ships, was getting a bit tired; anyway, they’re constructive parties to the anti-whaling talks now, implicating Fonterra in rainforest clearance instead

Last month, Greenpeace barricaded Fonterra’s Auckland corporate headquarters.

John Banks' campaign has him peering over motorways and turning up on television at the eleventh hour. Len Brown, meanwhile, is everywhere

For political aficionados, the tussle for the super city mayoralty is the most interesting local election in years and, whatever the result, it is already surprising in many ways.

For a start, the right has been clearly out-organised and out-campaigned by the left.

Paul Henry must go - TVNZ is culpable if it nurtures this culture of bullying any longer

Paul Henry is a bully who should be fired forthwith. His latest insult aimed at the Governor General is an insult to all Indians, and to all New Zealanders of whatever background who don’t wish to be identified with such racist abuse.

His employer, TVNZ, should also be held to account for their ongoing defence of the indefensible.

If there is no post-Kyoto climate deal, of the kind attempted at Copenhagen, few if any will care. Jeanette Fitzsimons, back in the country and back at work, tells Pundit why she doubts Kyoto and the ETS can help us. She wants to start again

It turns out that Copenhagen was, in fact, more of a failure than we knew: it was not the destination some hoped, not even another milestone, but a rock in the road so large that we may need to take another route.

Council campaigns are in the home straight... In Auckland, Orakei is set for change for the first time since World War II, but will be much the same. In other wards, it's tight as heck. And in Christchurch, the campaign's being won by a jacket

He's been labelled a carpetbagger, a betrayer and too ambitious by half, but Cameron Brewer has the profile, 'nice young man' charm and momentum to kick Citizens and Ratep

Austerity protests rage across Europe, and here in New Zealand a leading proponent of the free-market economy rethinks his stance

Yesterday I was astonished to read of Bernard Hickey’s stunning conversion from high priest of neoliberal economics to advocate of far greater control by New Zealanders of our own economy.

Citizens & Ratepayers look to be on the ropes in the Auckland elections as voters tune in and the Prime Minister is notable by his absence

We're half way through voting for the new Auckland mayor, and the signs aren't looking great for the grand old party of the biggest city, Citizens & Ratepayers, or its de facto candidate John Banks. Early indications are that Len Brown's supporters are, as they say, voting early and often.

Twenty-seven academic experts in constitutional law have a warning about the legislative response to Canterbury's earthquake.

In my last post, I indicated that there is widespread concern amongst legal academics with an expertise in constitutional law about the precedent set by the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010. Today a press release has been issued, setting out the reasons for that concern.

Apparently the Canterbury earthquake emergency legislation is completely consistent with our fundamental rights and freedoms. Or ... is it?

One of the (many) things that surprised me about the passage of the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010 (CERRA) through Parliament was the absence of a notice from the Attorney-General flagging an inconsistency with th

The legislative failings exposed by Andrew Geddis this week also reveal a depressing political reality

Andrew's post on the Law and Order committee's incompetent drafting has certainly got folk talking this week, and it's got me pondering how imprisoned our political thinking on prisons has become.

In which the author tries to show why he is right ... so nyah, nyah, nyah.

Apparently the way to get noticed in our present political discourse is to loudly use the terms "dumb" and "stupid". Not sure whether to be saddened about this fact about our society, or to feel an element of shame in stooping to meet those standards.

The National and Act Party members of the Law and Order select committee not only have no regard for basic individual rights, but they want to give William Bell, Graeme Burton and Clayton Weatherston the vote. They are not only moral pygmies, but they are really, really dumb.

I have long been a big fan of New Zealand's commitment to parliamentary sovereignty, whereby we as a society leave the last word on our laws to the elected representatives of the people. Students in my Public Law class roll their eyes with the frequency and enthusiasm with which I refer to this basic principle of our constitution.

Can small political parties, or political movements, survive their own members?

There's been talk this week, in the wake of the Act Party meltdown, about the possible formation of a new new-right political party. Could such a party rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes? Is one needed, to keep pulling National to the right?

It's been easy to be a right-wing politician in New Zealand the past couple of years. It looks like it's about to get a lot trickier, as Garrett goes

Remember the "five-headed monster", John Key's attempt to scare voters in his direction at the last election? Well, it's back, or will be soon, as the politicians try to figure out the implications of ACT's disintegration as a credible political voice.

In order to rebuild Canterbury after the earthquake, Parliament has given the government legal powers far wider than it would have if ravening undead hoards were to spread through our land.

My recent post on the (now) Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010 (CERRA) seemed to strike a chord with fellow blogosphere denizens - or perhaps Judge Harvey's decision that Cameron Slater was guilty of breaching name suppression laws has just frighten

Prisoners used to get just the Bible to read in their cells. David Garrett might want to take a look at the parable of the unforgiving servant himself, as he looks for a way out of this week's mess... and what it all means for ACT

The best line on David Garrett's tribulations comes from Howard League campaigner Peter Williams QC, and steals my thunder somewhat. Williams told the Herald simply that the ACT MP had "demonstrated that no human being is perfect, and some recognition should be given to rehabilitation and repentance".

Support from some Green and Labour MPs for conservative Manukau prostitution legislation is a real shocker

This week I was shocked to see the earthquake recovery legislation rushed through the House with support from all political parties

Tim Flannery — professor, former Australian of the year, David Attenborough-acclaimed scientist and explorer, chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council — offers some free frank advice to New Zealand

Nicholas, Lord Stern is British, diplomat to his fingertips. Professor Tim Flannery is Australian: no less eminent, eminently personable, but a great deal more blunt.

To fix up the aftermath of Canterbury's earthquake, Parliament is going to give the Government almost complete control over our laws. That's maybe not such a good idea.

At the risk of voicing a commonplace sentiment, Canterbury's earthquake and its aftermath was A Bad Thing to have happen. Furthermore, the response to date of government both local and central has been admirable. The damage to both physical infrastructure and people's lives demands the best efforts of our leaders and bureaucratic agencies.

Lord Stern's visit to New Zealand last week didn't upset any apple-carts, but it again raised the question of whether or not New Zealand's ETS is a world leader

Let's cut through the shilly-shallying and be clear about this. New Zealand's emissions trading scheme is a world leader...

Rodney Hide's recent appointments ensure the new CCOs will be wide open to suspicions of corruption, justified or not

Between the bailout of South Canterbury Finance and the Christchurch earthquake, another ominous piece of news seems to have almost completely zipped by beneath the public radar.

Big dairy’s effects on the biosphere, and all of our back pockets, are sucking the country dry — a net picture less positive than the PR paints it

Soil, water, and air: the stuff of life. Dairy compromises them all, to the point where you have to ask if the good things it does for the country are good enough.

While the Finance Minister will worry about long-term implications, the earthquake is good news for a lot of New Zealanders facing tough times, especially Bob Parker

I don't know what Jim Anderton and Bill English have done to the gods, but it seems they are Lear's flies to wanton boys, the playthings of the divine, after this weekend's Canterbury earthquake. Or, at least, they will be quietly cursing their luck.

The payout to South Canterbury Finance investors is NZ Inc. in action - the public represenatives acting for the greater good. But if we're willing to rescue those deemed too big to fail, why not do the same for the little guy?

Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, we've seen again that there are no pure capitalists when big business fails, putting capital at risk. Not many, anyway. And not, it seems, in the National party anymore.

With the Australian election result still hanging in the balance, what can political strategists on this side of the Tasman learn? Five tips, plus the insight of one old man

While the Australian federal election still plays out, it is always interesting to play the 'what could we learn for New Zealand' game, and there are some clear lessons for political parties on this side of the Tasman.

Heather Roy's return to parliament this week was a bit rich – Katherine Rich, that is. By following the former National MP's example, Roy has bought herself some time, but is it borrowed? And will the right-wing parties can together or divide?

If you front up, they can't stab you in the back. That seems to be the theory Heather Roy has decided to go with this week, as she returned to parliament talking about her commitment to the party and her appetite for hard work.

And so far, it's worked a treat.

Where the F word is not a dirty word, and what a breath of fresh air that is.

I've just returned from two weeks in the United States, hence my absence from these pages.

As the wife of current president of the NZ Bar Association, each year I get to tag along to sessions at the American Bar Association's annual conference. The US organisation is vastly different from this country's. For starters, their motto is, "Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice".

A short history of the ‘primitive combat' that is practiced internally by the ACT Caucus.

For all of his years spent perfecting the art of attack, Rodney Hide has clearly learned little about defending himself in a media firestorm.

The party that introduced the three strikes law is itself one strike away from permanent political imprisonment. Its fate now lies in the hands of others, as it looks more like a party of past

As the week nears the end, we know so much more about the long-presumed tensions within the ACT party, and yet are left with so many questions. As you dig around in the detritus of Heather Roy's sacking, one question leads to another, and then another, and then more, like an avalanche.

If the Afghanistan alarm bells were not ringing in Wellington over the last weekend – they should have been

The weekend saw four significant events that should be giving New Zealand’s foreign affairs and defence specialists cause for grave concern about our current risk exposures in Afghanistan.

Response to last week's Welfare Working Group report shows that not so many of us are fooled by shonky stats and a new generation of beneficiary bashing rhetoric

A week ago today, Welfare Working Group Chair Paula Rebstock launched their first official report ‘Long term benefit dependency – th

Hone Harawira's view that he doesn't want his children going out with pakeha is already last week's water cooler debate. But his words will come to haunt both him and the Maori Party as they cut to the heart of Maori progress

Hone Harawira's loose, lazy confession that he wouldn't want one of his children coming home with a Pakeha partner is fading from public debate, but my guess is that it's the most damaging thing he's yet done to the Maori party and its developing political muscle.

The quashed ‘cubicle dairy’ consents and withdrawn applications were only the opening line of a much more difficult conversation: can you tell happy cows in a barn from sad ones in a so-called factory?

As the dust settles over the quashed ‘cubicle dairy’ land use consents, we’ve yet to grasp the bull by his horns.

The government says we're in Afghanistan to stop it becoming a safe haven for terrorists. Problem is, the war has changed and that rationale no longer stands up to scrutiny

The government is right when it says that the death of Lt Tim O'Donnell is no reason to pull our troops out of Afghanistan, but it still has one heck of a problem explaining to New Zealanders why we're there and what we're achieving.

It was all hints and mirrors, but the Labour Party seems set to embrace one of the big ideas from its own past, one that our grandkids would thank us for

Labour's finance spokesman David Cunliffe was the picture of political discipline on The Nation this morning. He said not a thing that he didn't want to say, but in his own words he was dropping some pretty big hints. Sadly, the interviewers and panel missed those hints.

Unemployment and benefit figures keep rising, but Government continues with misguided and dangerous reforms; Jobs Summit passion a faded memory

There has been a sharp and sudden rise in unemployment over the last 3 months, apparently taking economists and forecasters by surprise.

It's not the first time an MP has fallen apart under the public's gaze, but under the Labour Party constitution Chris Carter's breakdown creates new political challenges

I thought I knew Chris Carter well. He's my local MP and I've broken bread with him on several occasions. I've been to his home and know his partner.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer's Gaza flotilla inquiry already looks beset by political storms, but could it turn out to be another step up the ladder for Helen Clark at the UN?

Already it's begun. Within hours of Israel relenting and agreeing to a UN-led inquiry into its attack in May on the Gaza aid flotilla, the political games and attacks are underway. In the coming weeks, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, our former Prime Minister, will learn the true meaning of "damned if you do, damned if you don't".

A new Bill proposes that incumbents shouldn't be able to use public funding to pay for their election ads. Surely that's cause for celebration?

Over at No Right Turn, Idiot Savant castigates National for its hypocrisy in introducing a Bill to limit what MPs and political parties can use their publicly funded parliamentary entitlements fo

Chris Carter’s slide into the political wilderness shifts the focus to Labour leader Phil Goff’s ability to be an election-winner. Goff has a stormy ride ahead

Someone should have seen it coming. Chris Carter’s implosion was absolutely predictable. His sense of grievance was evident from the moment he was fingered last June for travel and expenses excesses as a minister in Helen Clark’s last cabinet.

The appointment of Carl Davidson raises some problematic questions about the future of the Families and Children's Commissions

If a 3-year-old's teacher adds $320,000 to the future income of that child's class, should we pay a bit more to keep that teacher in a job? Or would you rather have a tax cut now?

My journalist-trained colleagues on Pundit probably will wince at my opening with such a hackneyed cliche, but everything changes when you have children of your own.

In what may be the most amateurish coup attempt ever, Chris Carter has killed his own career in a way that ensures none of his colleagues could ever back him. Unintentionally, he's made Phil Goff's leadership more secure and given him a fresh opportunity

In law enforcement circles they call it 'suicide by cop'; those situations when someone acts in an aggressive, confrontational way, thereby provoking police into a lethal response.

Have politicians forgotten just who really holds the power in a democracy?

In Monday's Dominion Post column, Colin James wrote that local government minister Rodney Hide has stated Auckland's new mayor will be the "second most powerful politician [in New Zealand] after the prime minister". James added this is debatable, but I took issue with Hide's assertion for different reasons.

Gerry Brownlee, in his haste to scrape the bottom of the oil barrel, is showing some disregard for Maori that is not mana-enhancing

“Our prime purpose is with regard to petroleum. I think some people are interested,” said Rt Hon Keith Holyoake, in 1965, introducing the Continental Shelf Act.

What the Retirement Income Policy and Intergenerational Equity conference told us about selfish generations, and raising the age of pension entitlement

I missed the conference's closing remarks, but here are a few of my own.

The government says it's backdown on mining is evidence that it listens. But the question left is whether there's any policy Key and Co. will fight to the death for? And where's that step change coming from now?

Timid and without principle or pragmatic and unwilling to get ahead of voters. Yet again the government has, with its backdown on mining Schedule 4 land, given us a choice as to how to view them.

The government's decision to change the patent law regarding software has got techies and lawyers up in arms. It's out of kilter internationally and raises questions about the select committee process

It's been a quiet controversy, but last week's decision by Commerce Minister Simon Power that software should not be patented - at least not unless it's "embedded" (ie, software built into a device) - was

In the face of National's employment law and welfare reforms, how will Labour and the unions respond?

Yesterday John Key used the National Party's annual conference to announce drastic changes to employment law.

On Wednesday I argued that New Zealand should fix the general election date in law. Here's how it could be done.


New Zealand should fix its election date in law. Otherwise, John Key needs to tell us when the 2011 election will be held ... and soon.

On Monday I had the pleasure (and I'm not being sarcastic here - it genuinely was a pleasant experience) of talking to Parliament's Electoral Legislation Committee for the best part of an hour about the bills to set up the 2011 referendum on MMP

As the field widens, a serious new candidate for the Auckland mayoralty may just be the ticket. But whether it's Brown, Banks or Candidate C, the result's likely to come down to just one thing, and it's got nothing to do with policy

If I was David Lewis, former Pundit on this very site and now the communications king of Len Brown's Auckland mayoralty campaign, I'd be doing two things about now - giving my candidate a long lecture about discipline and organising the biggest enrolment drive in the city's history.

New Zealand's main political websites are joining together, asking you to support an up and coming young journo. Who says we can't agree on anything?

Many people are concerned about the quality of public affairs journalism in New Zealand. Being concerned is a good start, but how can you take the next step? How can you help make it better? Yes, you.

Recent events have caused the government's popularity to increase, and Labour's popularity to fall. These short-term moves mask a longer period of consolidation that  also helps the government.

After something of a hiatus, Pundit is pleased to again be offering its Poll of Polls. We will update things about once a month until either: (a) something exciting happens in the polls; or, perhaps more likely, (b) the 2011 election campaign starts.

In which the author tries his hand at satire. Results most definitely not guaranteed.

Auckland's new "party central" for the Rugby World Cup will be Prime Minister John Key's front lawn, it was revealed today.

The government's announcement of tougher penalties for knife crimes is a preamble to the bigger, harder issue – gun control. Will it have the courage to tackle our gun culture in this political climate? And what about online sales?

Isn't it curious how quickly we forget? Fourteen months ago today, police were exchanging shots with Jan Molenaar in Napier and sending LAVs up to his front door.

Why do some vegetarians claim moral superiority over meat eaters?

A while ago on Facebook, my online equivalent of the officewater cooler, someone asked this question (I've probably changed the wording):

Forget the World Cup. Expenses and allowances are still the real football of the moment.

Here's a wee lesson for any aspiring politicians out there, whether they have local or central government office in their sights, courtesy of current Manakau City councillor (and aspiring Auckland Supercity candidate) Dick Quax.

Opposition MPs walked out on the Law & Order Committee yesterday because of Sandra Goudie's poor chairing--John Key should take action; after all committee work is at the heart of an MP's job

Sandra Goudie hasn’t exactly been a star in the parliamentary firmament since she first attained a place at the rear of National’s much diminished back bench in 2002.

The rest of the world is about to start reining in all those stimulus packages that took the edges off the recession. That could be really good for New Zealand, or really, really bad

If you only caught the headlines from the weekend's G20 summit, you could be excused for thinking all is coming right with the global eocnomy.

If we went back several centuries and peeled away all the legislation which forced us to care for each other, would mankind be voluntarily philanthropic and benevolent?

I know I've been wheeled on to Pundit as a token right-wing commentator. I'm regularly invited on to television for the same reason, and one of the many advantages of living in rural Martinborough is I have a watertight excuse for refusing (beyond the lame, "my hair is too dirty") - I'm too far away from a studio.

Rudd's remarkable run in power was driven by state politics, factions and Wayne Swan; and it was those same forces that brought him down

When Kevin Rudd led the Australian Labor Party to victory in the federal election of 2007, it marked a high watermark for ALP hegemony on the continent, with all six states, both territories and the Federal Government in Labor hands for the first time Australian histor

Banning smoking in prison stops crime. The Daily Telegraph says so. It must be true.

The news (update: confirmed here) that the Government intends to ban smoking in prisons by 2011 isn't entirely surprising.

“Gone by lunchtime”… If only the same could be said of the debate that wouldn’t die: carbon tax vs emissions trading

The post has been updated, to address the Atomic Energy Act. Hat tip: Graeme Edgeler, the Legal Beagle.

After a Fiji holiday, the MPs' spending scandal looks incredibly tame; plus university reminiscences

 

Last month I spent a blissful week at a remote resort in Fiji with my oldest friends. (More of that later.) 

Fiji is a poor country with a military dictatorship for a government, a collapsed property development sector, and just recovering from a devastating hurricane.

President Karzai has lost his preferred commander – General McChrystal falls on his sword – and New Zealand’s commitment to Afghanistan has not changed. Does anyone know what’s really happening in the labyrinth?

Prime Minister John Key says the Rolling Stone row in Washington will not influence New Zealand’s commitment to Afghanistan.

Would electing a serving police officer be a valuable addition to a local authority, or a threat to our very constitution? Whatever your view, you 're too late ...

My friend and fellow constitutional law nit-picker, Dean Knight, has drawn my attention to yet another questionable use of parliamentary procedure by the present Government.

Green MP Ken Grahams Public Finance (Sustainable Development Indicators) Amendment Bill, newly introduced to the members ballot, would revolutionise the annual government budget

Businesses report on their

What did Green Party co-leader Russel Norman expect when he exploited his position as an MP and waved the Tibetan flag at China's vice-president Xi Jinping? Enough grandstanding already

When my children were little and ran to me telling tales of sibling bullying, my first reaction inevitably was, what did you do to cause your sister's wrath?

Second Wellington welfare conference in two weeks locks out all but the wealthy or well-funded

Welfare reform is certainly a hot topic on the Wellington conference circuit this month.

The debate over the Green party co-leader's protest in front of Xi Jinping is drawing out all kinds of criticisms, but surely the thing to remember is that protest is designed to confront

What is the purpose of protest? It's one of the core questions to ask when we're debating the rights and wrongs of Russel Norman's waving the Tibetan flag at the Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping.

New Zealand’s biofuel market is, apparently, a model of sustainability and transparency; it might be our route to fuel independence. Fitzsimons’ Bill to regulate it looks likely to be rejected

Biofuels are a bit of a yawn, but wake up!

Lockwood Smith is sending out a message. No-one disrespects the rules of his crib.

The Speaker has had enough. The television media's behaviour in chasing Chris Carter through Parliament's hallways, down its stairs, and even pushing into his office, has so contravened the rules of the House that he is left with no option but to dish out some payback.

Monty Python had it right. The only way to really determine if someone should be demoted for misusing expenses is to see what sort of cellphone plan they are using.

Nick Smith’s on the road again, selling his emissions trading scheme to a hostile public. It’s a green lemon: the less voters understand it, the better it will be for the government

Environment Minister Nick Smith is defending his emissions trading scheme (ETS), which commences for energy and industrial sectors on 1 July. He’s holding 20-plus public meetings nationwide, dropping pamphlets, doing the media.

Whether like Labour you believe the foreshore is everybody's or like National you think it's nobody's, this impasse was always coming. We need to debate ownership of the coastline as a whole

Those long summers of my childhood taught me to be careful of sharp rocks and rips when I was playing on the foreshore or being dumped by waves onto the seabed. National and the Maori Party are learning the same lesson at the moment, quite possibly at their electoral expense.

As the United States shuts down deepwater oil drilling to get it back under control, New Zealand opens the door. Gerry Brownlee may not get much more mining on the conservation estate, but he can get it off-shore. How good is that?

Genial Gerry Brownlee was not ready to concede defeat when he appeared on TV3’s The Nation at the weekend, even though his plan for more mining in the conservation estate seems to

The swarm of locusts that is the baby-boomer generation starts retiring this year, so we can delay no longer. The warnings from Treasury are scarily stark. It's time to grasp the question of retirement

In America they talk of the third rail; an issue so charged that to touch it is certain death, politically. It can refer to a number of issues, but most commonly it 's used to describe social security.

Political junkies take note--the leadership battle across the Tasman is about to get really interesting

In 2007 Helen Clark knew Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister of Australia before Kevin Rudd did.

Here’s how that happened and why political junkies should be looking across the ditch at a fascinating fight shaping up in Federal Australia.

"Curiouser and curiouser!" cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English) ... . That little phrase might make an apt replacement for our Supreme Court's current moto, "Tuitui tangata, tuitui korowai".

Presently she began again. "I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it'll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward! The Antipathies, I think--" (she was rather glad there was no one listening, this time, as it didn't sound at all the right word) "-- but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know.

Yes, that’s “T” for Treasury – not Tea, as in the United States. But Treasury secretary John Whitehead’s step into New Zealand post-budget political cauldron could have a similar effect.

In his unprecedented post-budget interview on Q+A at the weekend, the Treasury secretary turned up the heat on incumbent politicians in government and opposition.

Quebec has waded in to the burqa fight, and while the legislation that will lead to a limited ban on full facial covering has been suspiciously suspended, the debate of persecution versus xenophobia rages on.

As the French and the Belgians tear back the veil worn by Muslim women, so too is Quebec enmeshed in the same row

A well-managed Budget could still cause political problems for National if the Opposition is able to re-connect with New Zealanders who don't usually vote... let alone go to the symphony orchestra

Kick me, I'm in a time warp. Did National's strategists get the year wrong? Or is there a cunning plot to call an election this November?

Wasn't that an election year budget?

A child learns young that if you cry loudly enough, you're more likely to get attention. Do A, and you'll probably get B. So why can't New Zealanders and our governments so incapable of figuring out the same truth?

Ploughing through the news of last week has led me to one inevitable conclusion, that New Zealanders just haven't been able to get their head around 'cause and effect'. Y'know, the idea that if you do A, then you're likely to get B.

The worst thing about Budget 2010 is that was so predictable. What’s not so predictable is its sustainability

Bill English promised his second budget would be solid and sensible.

Notes from Kate Wilkinson’s recent talk to a Christchurch tramping club raise real questions about the job she is doing as conservation minister

Note: This post has been edited to reflect questions about the source material.

 

The Finance Minister will paint a grim tomorrow of high debt and cumbersome taxes to justify his agenda. The truth is something other, but hey, this year's Budget is taking us right down the rabbit hole

In recent weeks, Phil Goff has been trying to argue that the National government deserves no credit for the upturn in the economy and growing employment; we're simply benefiting from a rebounding global economy. Of course that's the reverse of his argument during the recession, when National was solely to blame for the spike in unemployment and the world an innocent bystander.

The Prime Minister's sorry, the Rugby Union's sorry, Tuhoe is really sorry, and Tariana Turia is in high dudgeon

It was a week of apologies.

Everyone was apologising to everyone else about the pakeha-only rugby tours of South Africa and the Prime Minister apologised to anyone who took offence at him cracking the same cannibal joke at a couple of functions.

State owned enterprises Meridian and Solid Energy have gone feral down on the wild West Coast, where it's every man for himself and his hydro proposal

Remember when Helen Clark misspoke, and called West Coasters "feral"? There must be something in the water down there: our SOEs have caught it.

Like Helen Clark before him, John Key has stepped into the middle of a Maori process and said, 'this far, no further'. But ignore talk of a "gaffe", this is carefully contrived politics

Was this John Key's "Shrek" moment? Almost exactly six years ago, Helen Clark let her tongue run away with her, saying that she would rather pose with an over-wooled merino than with members of the hikoi that was heading to Wellington, protesting over the foreshore and seabed.

Ratepayers are an easier target for councils than the enterprises making money out of water, and using most of it. It’s ineffectual and unfair, especially for those growing food

Environment Minister Nick Smith did a good thing last week. I would like to encourage him to do another one.

Gordon Brown's falling on his sword after losing the British election may have made life more difficult for the Liberal Democrats as they chose between a party that is more in line politically or the party which won the largest minority. Winston Peters may be finding this awfully familiar

To borrow from George W. Bush, (I know…I know), you’ve done one helluva job Brownie!

How Gerry Brownlee's mining blunder has put Nikki Kaye on the endangered species list and blown a hole in National's blue-green image; and notes from the year's best A-list party

Paul Holmes’ sixtieth birthday bash was the best party I’ve been at in years, but regrettably I can’t add any juicy detail to the reported contretemps involving Simon Dallow, Wendyl Nissen and Gilda Kirkpatrick.

Could the United Kingdom's 2010 general election become the new Florida?

I'm writing this as the first indications of the United Kingdom election result filter in - the exit polls are predicting that the Conservatives will be the largest party, but still falling short of an overall majority in the Commons. But of course exit polls are not the real result, so the suspense continues ...

Funny how no-one has picked up on the fact that John Key's decision to consider extending the stay of NZ troops in Afghanistan is in direct contradiction to his own military chief, who says they have things to do back home

Now that John Key's back in the country after his foray into Afghanistan, he'll have time to catch up on what I'm sure is a long list of phone messages that has been building up during his time away.

If our voting system was more like Canada's and the United Kingdom's, we could change our governments more easily. Ummm ... right?

There's a certain irony in the fact that as New Zealand gears up to "kick the tyres" of MMP - a move seemingly fueled by longing backwards glances at that halcyon era when gods walked amongst us and governments could truly govern - the First-Past-the-Post bastions of Canada and the United Kingdom look set to wallow in "hung parliament" uncertainty.

Something happens when politicians put on the steel helmet and flak jacket to join then troops on the battleground in Afghanistan – over there John Key couldn't stop talking. Back home, however, he's keen to keep secrets

The prime minister’s not-so-secret visit to Afghanistan was packed with all the right photo-ops – from the high-security Hercules swoop into Kabul Airport, through the full-metal-jacket welcome, the grim-faced chopper ride to the secret location of the SAS, to th

Chris Carter’s excoriation of the Key government on whaling is rubbished by official MFAT papers showing similar negotiations when Labour was the government and Carter whaling Minister

Here’s a cross word clue: 1 across, a 9-letter word that starts with H _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .

‘Clean, green’ New Zealand is the only OECD country without an Act requiring environment health checks. What will we do about it, asks the Parliamentary Commissioner?

The Kiwi emperor has no green clothes.

National and Labour need to look beyond their differences on government taxes and borrowing. The real challenge ahead is how New Zealand avoids a jobless recovery

Phil Goff and Bill English are at it, hammer and tongs, this week. Phil wants tax cuts for the low and middle income earners.

The cowardice of the business lobbies are on display for all to see as they try the same old ETS stalling strategy. It's just dumb management

It was as predictable as it was short-sighted. No sooner had the Australians parked their emissions trading scheme until after this year's election, the New Zealand business lobby had its megaphone out whinging about our scheme, which is due to kick in on July 1.

New Zealand's military chief wants to negotiate with the Taliban. It's a controversial approach that raises the classic question of whether we talk with terrorists... and dozens of other questions alongside

In May 2008, then-President George W Bush stood before the Israeli Knesset and said, "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."

New Zealand's support for the Declaration of Indigenous Rights ends one debate for Maori. But it begins another, one which strikes at heart of what it means to belong to this country

Indigenous. It's a word that has been used a lot this week after Dr Pita Sharples popped up unexpectedly at the United Nations to offer New Zealand's endorsement of the Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples. And it's a word that I think must become key to our identity politics in the next generation.

As consumers wake up to the false economy and cruelty of ‘factory’ meat and poultry, free range producers are bringing home the bacon while sales soar, according to industry sources

Ostrich — sorry, Pork — Industry Board stalwarts have buried their heads in the sand, threatening legal action against higher animal welfare standards. Meanwhile, the market shops elsewhere, where the chickens and piggies roam free.

Pita Sharples cut a fine figure at the UN. But what, if anything, did it all mean?

Pita Sharples rather clandestine dash to New York to tell the UN that we now think its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a grand idea is an object lesson in how to portray two half-full glasses as overflowing.

Bill English is running scared of big bang reforms in this year's Budget, fearful of voter backlash. But what about some big ideas that have broad public support?

It's a month until the Budget and you can almost hear the alliterators warming up. Will it be a bitter budget or a bleak budget, beleaguered or simply businesslike? We know there's not a lot to look forward to – just $1.1 billion in new spending, of which something like half will go to healthcare. Many public sector budgets will be cut. The talk will be of more tough times to come.

Extinguishment of Hurunui litigation rights recalls the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and it is breathing life into the embers of green activism

The damned Hurunui has lit a fire that will not be put out…

Supreme Court flip flop... Queen’s Counsels quiver... old friends part company... horseracing interests dissolve... charges of “apparent bias” upheld... Where will the inquiry into the conduct of Supreme Court judge Bill Wilson take us next?

The days are past when appointment to the judiciary compelled social and civic isolation,” according to the New Zealand Guidelines for Judicial Conduct.

A lovely bit of writing that I had a little hand in creating... brilliant historian Simon Schama warns against New Zealand committing a national 'suicide'

Just had to share this lovely piece with you. A friend from the US forwarded me the link having heard it on the BBC World Service. (Thanks Keith!)... Simon Schama on New Zealand via Q+A, when we had him on the programme during his recent visit for the International Arts Festival. It's a must-read.

NAWAC’s draft welfare code for pigs, on which submissions close this week, is conservative, and not supported by the experience of free range pork producers, who speak openly to Pundit about their pigs

So, SAFE’s done it again.

Talk about changing New Zealand's nuclear-free stance couldn't come at a worst time. It's a policy that's time has come and which is now more a national asset than ever

Timing is vital in politics. Sir Geoffrey Palmer knows that from harsh personal experience, having been handed the prime ministership just as the fourth Labour government went into terminal decline. So you've got to wonder why he chose this week of all weeks to pronounce that it would be not only possible, but "desirable" for US naval vessels to return to our ports.

The onus is on the government to explain how a looser overseas investment policy will have net benefit for New Zealand

This year we’ve seen two examples of the way the global rip current is pulling, yet we’re out swimming in it, Piha Rescue-style.

Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai has been threatening to join the Taliban. He should be encouraged to do it and we should leave his country quickly

This month, New Zealand dispatched its 16th rotation of troops to the Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Bamyan Province. Our SAS unit in Kabul must also be almost due for rotation. We are unlikely to hear about that changing of the guard until it has happened.

Wanna guess how many dole bludgers there are in New Zealand? Let me set you straight

It's one of New Zealand's great myths.

What do Housing Minister Phil Heatley and North Shore City mayor Andrew Williams have in common – beyond a couple of bottles of wine?

Try the following for starters: media witch-hunts, a penchant for hyperbole, significant differences with John Key, an ability to embarrass Rodney Hide, and strong survival instincts – and, sometimes, they can be dangerous to be around.

Politics and sports are separate things. Yeah, right.

I love football. I'm talking here about proper football as The World recognises it, not the activities the USA or NZ insist on calling "football". They're OK sports too - just not as good as the real thing.

I've been running my own personal protest against Shell for more than a decade, so I'll be delighted to see the sale of its petrol stations and its blood-stained brand removed from this country

International oil company, Shell, this week sold its New Zealand petrol stations – what it calls its downstream assets – and within three years the Shell brand will disappear

Can we stop talking about Auckland, just briefly? Canterbury matters as much to the future of New Zealand, and tells us more about the character of the government

An open letter to Gerry Brownlee, surgically exploring his cranium, and finding some fossils inside

David Bain has filed a claim for compensation with the Minister of Justice. He'll be damn lucky to get it.

So David Bain has decided to apply for compensation for wrongful imprisonment following his acquittal at his 2009 retrial. Fair enough. If he really did spend 13 years behind bars for something he did not do, then we collectively owe him a lot of money.

Social development minister Paula Bennett promises a benefit reform that brings “an unrelenting focus on work”. But just how sharp is that focus going to be?

Promising to tighten the screws on welfare bludgers is the stuff that gets chat radio humming, but actually doing it is much more difficult, particularly when unemployment is still on the rise in an economy that is tottering out of a recession.

Labour's candidate selection for the Auckland electorates seemed odd, but National's willingess to risk the city for a bit o' gold and silver in the Coromandel is one hell of a punt

As Auckland goes, so goes the election.

As Barack Obama enjoys the thrill of history, John Key should take a look at his own party's history on mining before commiting too heavily to some big holes in the ground

History. Americans understand how important it is to daily life, New Zealanders not so much. While President Barack Obama declared that the healthcare vote "answered the call of history", New Zealanders debated mining unable to remember back even a few years.

Last week’s outbreaks of foot in mouth, by John Key and Federated Farmers, were illuminating and obfuscating, respectively

We’ve all heard about this government’s objective to balance the environment and the economy.

Is the government's investigation of the performance of Environment Canterbury open to more robust critique than it has been getting?

The worm turns.

And so the saga of the Brash email invesigations ends, not with a bang, but with continued denials by those exposed

When my book The Hollow Men was published over three years ago, the National Party-aligned PR man Matthew Hooton wrote a furious newspaper column saying that the source material for the book had obviously been illegally hacked and that he and others were going to investigate and bring me to justice. Time has proved him wrong on both points.

We opted out of Australia in the 1890s, and although some at the time hoped we'd have another chance at Australasian union, that was our one and only shot. Our distinctive New Zealand voice is now pulling us further away from our neighbours than ever before

After we released the UMR poll results on Q+A this past Sunday, New Zealand's been having a ding-dong go over the question of whether we should become the seventh state of Australia.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson has told Parliament that disenfranchising all prisoners cannot be justified in a free and democratic society. So why does it look like he's going to vote for this to become our law?

Looks like some oik at Crown Law has been at it again.

The man who has the Prime Minister's ear has quietly but forcefully defended climate scientists and thrown down the guantlet to the skeptics

A few weeks ago an article by the Prime Minister's Chief Science Adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman appeared on his website. No fanfare accompanied its unveiling and it was little noted, but it was another robust public statement as science seeks to recover its poise on climate change after the expose of the IPCC's errors.

My theories on the Greens’ “conspiracies”, which will undermine their brand as much as National’s

The Greens have broken out into a little rash of conspiracy theory. Frog was in yogic contortions last week on her blog, trying to scratch all the itches.

This is a shameless attempt to attract media coverage for a relatively obscure blogsite. Please print my story - it's about a gay Labour MP.

It would be nice if more people read the Pundit website. I suspect one of the major reasons why they don't is that not a huge number of people have heard of us. (Another problem concievably could be that those who have heard of us just don't like what we write here, but I'm going to hastily turn my face away from that possibility and hum a happy tune.)

Aucklanders are giving the government’s super city plan the kind of reception that makes a lead balloon look positively stratospheric. Can Rodney Hide and Steven Joyce pull the Key coalition’s irons out of the fire?

Debate over new legislation normally drops under the radar once it moves into a select committee for a quiet makeover. The government’s grand plan to unite the warring suburbs, cities and districts of Auckland into a united super city is turning into a grand exception.

Why should we bother trying to catch up to Australia when we can just become Australia?

On the back of a UMR poll indicating that only a minority of respondents believe it is even worth debating a union between New Zealand and Australia, let alone actually support such a step occurring, Sir Don McKinnon went on TVNZ's Q+A programme and declared this development to be

For every tilt to the right, the government has a counter-balancing move to the centre. Whether that's due to mixed-up ideology or the height of political pragmatism, this is a National government a long way from the party of Richardson, Shipley and Brash

The howls of outrage are starting to be heard around Auckland as its citizens start sensing that they're being stitched up by some old-fashioned right wing ideology.

A newspaper photographer catches Willie Apiata walking home from an observation mission. John Key promises a new policy of openness about the SAS. The elite troops get involved in the first major fire fight of their mission. Where does the openness go?

The lid lifted briefly on SAS operations in Afghanistan last January. Then it slammed straight down again.

Shame on Labour spokesperson Chris Carter and partisan blog The Standard for using anti-whaling diplomacy for short-term political gain

Never has the right-wing sobriquet “The Stranded” seemed more appropriate.

Our liberty cannot be guarded but by freedom of the press. But does a free press really have to suck so bad?

I've had some unkind things to say about Mayor Michael Laws. Last week I fulminated about what appears to be his attempt to extract vengance against the local newspaper for an editorial stance he disapproves of.

It's the job of MPs to push the policies they believe in. It would be constitutionally outrageous if they didn't.

Dr Michael Bassett occasionally ventures into cyberspace to vent his spleen on the decline of civilization and the

After a year of elision and mishap, John Key's government has hit its stride

I’ve found the missing Key to democracy. It seemed to get lost, for a while there; it’s good to have it back.

Sterilsation is again being recommended as a solution to bad parenting. It's obscene, stupid and is another stigma attached to struggling parents by those devoid of compassion

It's an endlessly hideous and stupid suggestion, one that recalls the worst abuses of state power, yet it somehow seems to be acceptable as part of our public debate. That's right, I'm talking about paying "bad parents" to be sterilised.

Just what is there in Whanganui's water that makes people there act like morons?

I don't think anyone would disagree that Michael Laws has a rather healthy ego, or that he takes his job as mayor of Whanganui exceptionally seriously.

Auckland is heading for a real “Toyota Moment” – a head-on collision into the reality of out-of-control growth, with Rodney Hide in the crash dummy’s seat

The old Toyota ute was close to indestructible.

You can argue 'til the cows come home about the rights and wrongs of Phil Heatley's resignation, but at the end of the day it's the perception of meanness that people will remember

So, where do you stand on Phil Heatley? Such are the range of positions being staked out around the country regarding his resignation as minister, you could call this "The Heatley Question".

Key promised no state assets would be sold or partly sold in the first term of his government. But that’s in effect what’s happening, to our biggest state asset of them all

“Wheeeeee! We’re balancing the environment and the economy!” shrieked the little girl dressed in green. Then she saw Gerry Brownlee, lumbering towards the see-saw, smiling his small wry smile.

Probably not. But Phil Heatley's decision to fall on his sword over two bottles of wine is an awfully extreme act of contrition.

Let's assume that, contra some fevered speculation on the part of Labour's online cheer squad, the whole story about Phil Heatley has come out, and there isn't any nasty skeleton lurking in a d

John Key and Bill English are sending out mixed signals about the next government budget while public confidence in New Zealand’s economic recovery wanes. Why?

The TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll tells us that public confidence in New Zealand’s economic recovery is slipping. Last November, 68% of respondents were optimistic about our economic prospects.

The question and process for the 2011 referendum on MMP have been announced. It's all good.

I am aware that three posts in a week on electoral law matters may be bordering on overkill. But this last topic probably is the most important of the lot, so I want to say something about it.

MMP could have been overwhelmed by nay-sayers, but Simon Power's process will make for a fairer referendum, mimicing Jim Bolger in the 1990s

Well, National has done it again.

The Government has announced what it plans to do with the law on electoral financing. Not all that much, actually.

For anyone who doesn't know, my specialist area of academic research is electoral law, with a particular interest in the law that regulates how electoral contests are financed.

Last December’s uproar about whether we should have cubicle dairy farming in New Zealand was misinformed, because it’s already happening in New Zealand

It’s like an episode straight from Jane Eyre: New Zealand’s grubby secret, the gibbering creature in the attic.

John Key expects more mining in Crown land, which includes our national parks. Is this going to be his year for living dangerously?

To date, caution has been the mark of the John Key government. At mid-term, he now seems ready to take some risks and spend some political capital.

The Green response to John Key’s tax policy statement raises questions about who they’re representing, and some bits of their policy they momentarily forgot

The Prime Minister’s tax skeleton outlined last Tuesday is surely a bit stunted, maybe a bit deformed. But so was the Green response to it.

There's no scandal in the PM's uranium shares, but there is an opportunity for John Key to mine the politics of the situation by providing an example to New Zealanders on ethical investing

As Fran O'Sullivan has written in today's New Zealand Herald, it's remarkable that Prime Minister John Key had a bunch of mining shares in his own name, rather than in his blind Aldgate trust.

Paul Quinn wants to take us back to the days when all prisoners could not vote. Why on earth would he want to do that?

Last week, for my sins, I attended a couple of conferences in Wellington. One involved a comparative look at Canada and New Zealand, seventy years after the first diplomatic connections between those countries was established. The second, "We the People(s)", centred on the vexed question of how popular participation in government occurs, and how it should occur.

With the housing market so volatile, vendors are girding their loins while buyers are hopelessly confused

Our little house in the hood is on the market. It smells like orange zest and window cleaner, and I don't see how it could look any cuter—it is a plastic red Monopoly house brought to life, squatting on a prominent corner, palm trees and agaves gathered round it like disciples.

All we can do now is wait for those cashed-up buyers we were promised to come rushing through the doors.

Unsurprisingly, initial political reaction to the Law Commission's drug law review has been negative, despite its measured approach. So how can we tackle the drug problem in New Zealand?

Readers won't be surprised by the very blunt assessment of our drug law given by the Law Commission.

Jeanette Fitzsimons’ valedictory speech in Parliament today ends a political era. Will it be the death of the Greens, or their coming of age?

Every politician and commentator in the country is doing the political obituary; so the memes are multiplying.

Key's likeability is about to be tested as he tells voters that GST is on the rise. At last parliament has something tangible to get its teeth into

You could see it in Phil Goff's face... "at last", it seemed to say. At last the Opposition has something to kick against. At last the government is spending some political capital, venturing into political realms that will upset some of those who voted for National in 2008.

The stand-off between teachers and politicians over the introduction of national standards in schools is simply a side-show in a much bigger struggle over who controls the country’s education system

The idea of setting and measuring standards in schools is seductively simple, so why is it proving so difficult?

As the Key administration prepares for the opening of parliament for 2010, where is the plan and wisdom required for good governance? And where's the opposition? Here's a report card – in plain language

Seeing the tino rangatiratanga flag flying over prominent New Zealand landmarks will swell the pride of many Maori. But should a flag representing only one people only fly from government buildings? Is it exclusive? And what does it stand for?

Today, anyone strolling around Wellington or driving across Auckland will notice a new flag flying from prominent landmarks. Despite it being our national day, it will not be our national flag. Should that vex us?

I have a pet. Being cruel to animals is wrong. But why put more people in jail for it?

A quick, and I trust unnecessary, upfront disclaimer. I think torturing kittens and deliberately starving puppies to death is wrong and worthy of criminal punishment.

Don’t fire up the bulldozers in the McKenzie Basin just yet. Land use consents for cubicle dairy farms granted by the Waitaki District Council may need to be reheard

This is not widely understood, and was only belatedly understood: all of the publicity around cubicle dairy farming proposals stems from only one aspect of the proposals.

Prime Minister John Key promises to be more open about the special operations role of NZSAS troop in Aghanistan. So, what do you really need to know?

The Prime Minister’s announcement last week came with an important caveat.

The Tax Working Group has concluded that it's just too hard to stop tax avoidance by the rich. Their solution is the tax equivalent of allowing doping in sport

There's a lot to recommend the Tax Working Group's 70-odd page report released last week, but for poor New Zealanders it represents another kick in the nethers at a time of rising unemployment.

The report kicked off what will be one of the biggest political debates of the year – what to do about our taxes.

 

War hero Willie Apiata is back on the frontline. New Zealand troops are armed with so-called “Jesus guns”. Our troops are training Afghan soldiers and police in counter-insurgency operations. Now, why shouldn’t we know that?

The healthiest development of this month has been the sudden emergence of some real public debate about our military involvement in Afghanistan.

Targetting repeat offenders makes sense, but the three strikes bill has fundamental flaws that undermine our judiciary and make us less safe. That's right, less safe

A couple of years ago my teenage niece asked,"why do we call it a life sentence when people aren't in prison for the rest of their lives?" She was struggling to get her head around our criminal justice system. Sadly, many New Zealanders are in the same boat, and so there's limited understanding of the substantial changes contained in the government's three strikes bill.

This week the countries bogged down in Afghanistan meet in London to set new goals for their international mission and Hamad Karzai's government. But against a growing Taliban insurgency and runaway corruption, can talk deliver tangibles?

The end of this week will see yet another international conference that has about as much chance of achieving peace in Afghanistan as Copenhagen had with delivering consensus on cl

The New Zealand Defence Force is going to talk to the Herald about its use of Willie Apiata's photo. Perhaps it wants to take the photos of him off its own website first?

Freedom of speech is not absolute, and there are rare times when the media should refrain from publishing news and photos, and one of the most important times is when publication could put lives at risk. Having said that, I tend to sympathise with media which have chosen to publish Willie Apiata's photo over the past 24 hours.

The saga of Prince William’s encounters with the natives of New Zealand during his first Royal overseas mission – to open one of the world’s ugliest buildings

It is a fair bet that Prince William’s memories of his first official Royal visit will endure almost as long as the plaque he unveiled at the new Supreme Court building in our capital.

Two of the three sites for which cubicle dairy farms are proposed were formerly Crown pastoral land, made freehold by the Clark government

When we think of Helen Clark in her former Prime Ministerial capacity, we might recall her on her holidays, hiking and skiing somewhere, with or without sundry members of the Labour caucus.

The Tax Working Group has set a new standard for transparency, so its report today won't exactly be full of surprises. That doesn't mean the political dynamite it contains will be any less explosive, however

When the Tax Working Group – aka the Buckle Brigade – release their final report this morning the government will be handed the final piece of the toolkit with which they're to rebuild the New Zealand economy this year.

The Judicial Conduct Commissioner's preliminary inquiry into Justice Bill Wilson's conduct has begun. Did you notice how much our constitution has changed?

I've already posted on the curious case of Justice Bill Wilson and his failure to step aside from deciding a case in which he had a fairly substantial conflict of interest, looking at the Supreme Court's ultimate response to that failure.

When Hillary Clinton does make it to New Zealand, we need to be talking nukes with her. The time is ripe for New Zealand to offer its support to Obama's crusade

As the government looks to increase New Zealand's relevance on the world stage, it has focused largely on business relationships, re-connecting with America and, as I wrote yesterday, its Global Research Alliance.

Jeanette Fitzsimons, as you’ve never seen her, glams it up on Next magazine’s February cover

People like to talk about Jeanette Fitzsimons’ “steely” political character. Former co-leader Rod Donald called her “the steel magnolia”. On Next magazine’s February cover, Fitzsimons owns the page.

Hillary Clinton's visit almost put us on the world stage for a second or two. It raises the question about our place in the world and why another other country should bother to notice us

Relevance. It's at the heart of foreign affairs in a small country such as New Zealand. Much of our daily diplomacy revolves around making a small Pacific nation – what it sells and what it believes in – matter to the rest of the world.

Hillary Clinton's saying taiho, delaying her trip to the Pacific