Funding furore is enough to bug voters (while marring the PM’s image) – and then the covid-19 virus comes along

Is  it  the   kind of headline  that  will  win  votes at the general  election?  “Rock-star reception in   Fijian  village”    followed  by a   sub-head  “Rapturous   greeting for  Ardern  during visit to launch $3m  sanitation project”.

The  reporter  (veteran Barry  Soper, Newstalk ZB’s  political  editor) poses the  rhetorical  question:  “Is there any wonder that Ardern loves going overseas?”

As   well,   there  has  been  the effusive   welcome  from  Fiji  strongman  Frank  Bainimarama  who,  according  to  another  reporter,  is  expecting, even “demanding”,  Ardern to  pressure  Australia  on  its climate  change  inaction.

Point of  Order  suspects  Ardern  may be  less  forthcoming than  Bainimarama  would  like,  when  she  meets  Australia’s  Scott Morrison.  Almost certainly  climate change  won’t be on the agenda  in the  Morrison-Ardern  talks.

Still, that  won’t  diminish  Ardern’s  popularity  with   those  New Zealanders   who  delight    in her   being  billed   as  one of the world’s  leaders,    by global  media   like  the  US  Time  magazine   which  featured  her  in a cover story   recently. Continue reading “Funding furore is enough to bug voters (while marring the PM’s image) – and then the covid-19 virus comes along”

Adoration of the PM is a strong card for Labour but polls are pointing to a close-run election

NZ   politicians  have  been  quiet  over the   holiday season,  perhaps  in the case  of   the  Labour team, reflecting  on the  “year of  delivery”  and where  it all  went  wrong.

But  now  we  are  into a new decade (one  authority has already labelled it  “the roaring 2020s”)  and New Zealand cannot stay  isolated in  some sort of  cocoon, no matter how  much  this may be desired.

Even   those politicians  who have succeeded  in finding a  peaceful  beach on which to  sun themselves  will  be  formulating the strategies  they hope will  work for  them  in election year.

Many  on the  Labour side  of the  fence   believe   Jacinda  Ardern  has a fan base    strong enough to  carry  the coalition to a  second term.   Here at   Point of  Order,   we have  encountered  sufficient adoration within  that  fan base  to  consider  that  they  will stay   loyal  when they  cast  their ballots.

And  she   is  regarded  as  one of the  most admired world leaders,  isn’t  she?

But  as  elections elsewhere have  shown,  particularly   in the UK  but also  in   Australia, constituencies  which have  never   deviated   from being  rock-solid  Labour  for  decades can turn decisively  away  from the party. Continue reading “Adoration of the PM is a strong card for Labour but polls are pointing to a close-run election”

2019 – when Ardern dished up bangers to Colbert and mash to NZ voters

Two fellow bloggers have referenced an article in Britain’s The Guardian,  by Wellington-based political commentator and analyst Bryce Edwards, which critically examines the PM’s performance last year.

Political performance, not TV performance.

The article was headed New Zealand’s year of style over substance.

Edwards noted that the year just passed was supposed to be the Ardern government’s “Year of Delivery”

“ … or so Ardern declared to the press at the beginning of 2019. It was a neat line, because 2018 had been the ‘year of the working group’ in which little reform was carried out, on the promise that the experts would hand the government some major new policies to implement. Continue reading “2019 – when Ardern dished up bangers to Colbert and mash to NZ voters”

Ombudsman invokes the Treaty and declares his aim to be fair – particularly to one group of citizens

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.  This was the declaration of the pigs who control the government in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm – a tart comment on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but gives power and privileges to a small elite.

This country’s chief ombudsman – of all people – has tweaked this and declared that, for the purposes of his office, all citizens are equal but some are more equal than others.

Peter Boshier has established a panel of Maori advisers, which (he says)

“ .. conveys our role as a watchtower ensuring fairness for all, particularly Māori.”

The panel is called Pūhara Mana Tangata and is made up “of prominent experts and rangatahi leaders”.

Boshier says it has been

“ … formed by representatives of tangata whenua for tangata whenua.”

We think he is acknowledging this is a race-based panel to meet the needs of just one of the population’s several ethnic groups.

But creating a watchtower to ensure fairness for all, particularly Māori, will require a rewriting of information we found on the Ombudsman’s website which explains the office’s current purpose: 

The Ombudsman and their staff help New Zealanders in their dealings with government agencies. We handle complaints against government agencies, undertake investigations and inspections, and encourage good administration.

We focus on fairness for all. We are independent and impartial.

Not any more, apparently.

Boshier further focuses on race distinctions when he says:

“One of my highest priorities as Chief Ombudsman is to be more responsive to Māori.”

None of the country’s many other racial groups are embraced by this expression of his mission.

Boshier says he expects the Panel’s experience in Māori governance and iwi engagement will help steer his office’s engagement and communications

” … to focus on matters that have the most positive and enduring impact on Māori communities.”

“We know we have work to do to raise our profile so more Māori are aware of our work”

Why not aim to make ALL citizens aware of his office’s work?

Boshier is supported as Chief Ombudsman by a Deputy Ombudsman, two Assistant Ombudsmen, a General Counsel and more than 100 staff located in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

So what is the reason for reinforcing this support by appointing a panel of Maori advisers?

His press statement says:

“The Chief Ombudsman acknowledges the partnership between Māori and the Crown established by the Treaty of Waitangi, and recognises it to be a critical factor in carrying out his work as the independent watchdog for Parliament overseeing and reporting on the actions of New Zealand crown agencies.”

Oh dear.  He has invoked the troubling “partnership” which is not actually mentioned in the Treaty of Waitangi.

When Kelvin Davis’s ministerial domain was expanded by the establishment of the Office for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti, we emailed questions to him to establish if he supports the establishment of more co-governance arrangements around the country and – if so – in which areas of public administration and governance?

We also asked:

  1. Will the promotion of co-governance arrangements be among the objectives of the newly established Maori-Crown relationship agency?
  2. What does the Minister believe is meant by the Treaty “partnership” (it is not actually mentioned in the Treaty of Waitangi) and when was a Treaty “partnership” first officially invoked for governmental policy-making purposes?

We did not receive answers.

More recently, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage told Point of Order:

“The principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are not explicitly stated in the articles of the Treaty itself.  

“They have evolved primarily though jurisprudence…”  

They also have significant governance and constitutional implications.

Sage further said:

Section 4 of the Conservation Act 1987 requires the Minister of Conservation and DOC to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in the interpretation and administration of the Act (including all enactments listed in Schedule 1 of the Act). This is one of the strongest weightings of Treaty of Waitangi principles in legislation.

The principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are not explicitly stated in the articles of the Treaty itself.  They have evolved primarily though jurisprudence, most notably the Lands case (New Zealand Maori Council v Attorney-General [1987] 1 NZLR 641).

The Treaty principles most relevant to DOC’s work are as follows:

–       Partnership – mutual good faith and reasonableness

–       Informed decision-making

–       Active protection

–       Redress and reconciliation

Mark Burton, Minister of Justice in the Labour-led government in 2007, reflected on the history and development of the Crown-Maori “relationship”. 

He referenced Sir Robin Cooke, writing in 1994, who observed that 12 decisions from the Court of Appeal between 1987 and 1993 on matters relating to the Treaty of Waitangi

 ” … enabled a new line of jurisprudence to emerge in New Zealand – Treaty jurisprudence.” 

Burton also acknowledged “treaty principles” being hard to pin down:

” In the view of the Courts and the Waitangi Tribunal, Treaty principles are not set in stone. They are constantly evolving as the Treaty is applied to particular issues and new situations. Neither the Courts nor the Waitangi Tribunal have produced a definitive list of Treaty principles.

“As President Cooke has said:  ‘ The Treaty obligations are ongoing. They will evolve from generation to generation as conditions change’.”  

Further information on the Treaty principles and DOC can be found here. 

What about the Ombudsman’s job?

He has authority to investigate approximately 4,000 entities in the public sector in New Zealand.

According to the Ombudsman, the public sector includes:

  • government departments and ministries
  • ministers and the Police (in relation to decisions on requests for official information)
  • local authorities
  • crown entities
  • state-owned enterprises
  • district health boards
  • tertiary education institutions
  • school boards of trustees.

All government agencies must cooperate with the Ombudsman’s investigations.

But the co-governance partners which are spouting at local authority level around the country are not “government” agencies – are they?

Boshier could clarify this during his meetings with the panel and ascertain whether Maori co-governance partners are willing to be subjected to the Official Information Act and Ombudsman’s investigations – or whether they would rather be held accountable only to fellow Maori.

Labour’s poll slide: let’s see if Jacindamania (and a tax cut?) can compensate for Cabinet’s incompetents

Labour’s rating  with  voters has  dropped   to its lowest in  two  years, according to  the  latest  Colmar  Brunton  poll.   This has provoked a  flurry of  action  by   ministers,   with  a  $400m  new spend on  schools  and  promises  of   big  infrastructure  projects  to  be  announced  in the  half-year  fiscal  update.

Finance  Minister  Grant Robertson    is sticking to his mantra  that the   economy  continues to grow at faster rates than the countries it compares  itself    with, notably  Aust, the UK    and   the  US—even though the Treasury   says  overall NZ GDP growth  is likely to  fall below Budget forecasts.

Two  per cent  GDP  growth  is  hardly  likely  to  create  any  surge of  enthusiasm,  especially if it keeps trending down.  For the  man and woman in the street,   cost of living  inflation  is  eroding  the impact of   any  recent  wage  increases.

As  for  the  politics,   the  government’s  claim  for its performance  in  what was   to be the  “year of  delivery”   echoes   hollowly. Continue reading “Labour’s poll slide: let’s see if Jacindamania (and a tax cut?) can compensate for Cabinet’s incompetents”

The PM dances on a pin about funding furore – but she can’t waltz away from the question of her govt’s integrity

Are  ministers  in   Jacinda  Ardern’s  coalition   beginning  to  live  in  a  dreamworld  of their  own,  distant  from  the  one  where ordinary  New Zealanders  live?

In Parliament, in answer to patsy questions from their own  backbenchers, they  congratulate   themselves  on  their  extraordinary  ( as it  seems to them)  achievements. They  appear  supremely  unconscious  of or oblivious to the  world  most  New Zealanders inhabit.  And this week   they were   doing  their best  to  ignore   the   raging  furnace  torching  NZ  First.

It’s  possible  they were  yawning because  they had  heard it  all before.

But other  NZers found  the allegations  of  financial shenanigans inside  the structure of  NZ  First disturbing.

Stuff reports  the  NZ  First Foundation received 26 donations of $325,900 in just a five month period, adding:

Donors to the foundation include food manufacturers, racing interests, forestry owners and wealthy property developers.”    Continue reading “The PM dances on a pin about funding furore – but she can’t waltz away from the question of her govt’s integrity”