Polls portend the toppling of Peters and his extraordinary political career – replacing him in Foreign Affairs won’t be easy

Will  we  miss him  when  he is  gone?

Love him  or  loathe  him,  Winston  Peters   is  one   of the  extraordinary  characters  on the  NZ  political  stage.  Through  his  remarkable  career,   he  has  registered   the  highs — and  lows — of  politics.

But  now  after  his  latest stint  as  Deputy Prime Minister  and  Foreign  Minister, the latest opinion polling show he is  facing political  oblivion.  NZ  First’s support  has shrunk to  just 1%.

This  perhaps  comes  as  no  surprise    after   the  financial  shenanigans  involving    the  NZ  First  Foundation,  despite  Peters   asserting  the  party  and  MPs   have been  “exonerated”.

 The  Serious  Fraud  Office  announced  last week  that two  people  are  being charged  after  a  probe  into  the  foundation.

The   SFO investigation discovered  credible  evidence   of   criminal  wrongdoing   at  the foundation,  which has  no other purpose  than to  serve  the  NZ  First  Party.

No matter how  Peters rails  against  the  SFO,  the  hard  truth  is that one of the  country’s  major  law  enforcement  agencies  is charging  two  people  with  connections  to the  NZ  First  Party, even if  they  are  not current members  of it. Continue reading “Polls portend the toppling of Peters and his extraordinary political career – replacing him in Foreign Affairs won’t be easy”

Boris shows some backbone

A lot of people – including quite a few in Britain’s Conservative party – don’t like Dominic Cummings, special adviser to PM Boris Johnson and a key figure in the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2019 Brexit-focused general election.

So there was some undisguised joy when it was suggested that he had – like some other prominent and now departed public figures – broken the lockdown rules, in his case by travelling from London to Durham to ensure emergency childcare. Continue reading “Boris shows some backbone”

When you sing Happy Birthday while washing your hands on April 11 – think of Winston

How  quickly   the political  landscape  can change.  A   month ago,  Deputy  PM  Winston Peters,  along with  PM  Jacinda  Ardern,   was  deep into  a  trans-Tasman  sledging   match   after  Ardern  attacked Australia’s hardline  deportation.

But   as  the  coronavirus  crisis broadened, it  was  Peters  on the line to  Canberra  seeking  Australia’s  assistance in  repatriating  stranded  New Zealanders in places as far  apart as  Nepal  and  Peru.

Whether    Peters   offered an  apology for his  earlier  megaphone diplomacy is  not  known  (we suspect  not).  He  thought he was  on a winner  back then  in  March  (the coronavirus pandemic  at that  time was being glossed over lightly by the government )  as he  gave   the Scott Morrison government a verbal  towelling.  He told  the ABC  it was a bit rich for Australia to be shipping its unwanted people to NZ when an Australian has been charged over the deaths of 51 people in the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Did we make a song and dance about Australia about that? It was the worst tragedy we’ve ever had – 51 people lost their lives – scores and scores were damaged forever.  Far worse than Port Arthur, and nobody in my country sought to abuse Australia about that, that’s my point … and we want a thing called respect.” Continue reading “When you sing Happy Birthday while washing your hands on April 11 – think of Winston”

Russia and the airlines – not the conspiracy you think

Russia Today (sometimes referred to as Kremlin TV) does not have a widespread reputation as a fair and balanced news source. But occasionally if they say it’s raining, you might want to check outside to see if you need an umbrella.

So there is some interest in its reporting of ‘Black Swan’ author Nicholas Taleb’s suggestion that the UK government should let Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic airline go bust, rather than bail it out.

“Planes will fly w/new owners!” as he succinctly put it.

Alert readers will recall that Point of Order raised this very point last week, less directly and with more technical verbiage naturally.

RT also reported (with ill-concealed glee) some nastier bits – quoting Taleb on Branson as “a tax refugee” who “walks around virtue-faking with [the] TED [and] Davos crowd”.

And made the unevidenced allegation that the airline industry had been hugely influential in preventing governments from halting flights from China in the early stages of the epidemic.

But back to the meat of it – should governments ‘bail out’ businesses and, if so, how.  The same question which arises from the global financial crisis back to the demise of Mosgiel Woollen Mills in 1980 (and before then to be clear).

The orthodox view is simple and principled.

When a complex entity is short of cash because of a crisis, but viable, you can provide loans at a penalty interest rate, that will be paid back.  In general terms, this is what happened for quite a few of the big US banks (leave aside the murkier case of the dodgy mortgage lenders). It’s at the heart of central banking practice and done well, provides support at a price, rather than a moral-hazard inducing capital bailout.

Of course the owners get the upside on recovery, and, if the liquidity is cheaper than the market, a bonus.  And historically those with the best political connections or visibility tend to get the most generous consideration.

If the business is not currently viable, there is a procedure to resolve the competing claims and distribute the losses.  It’s called bankruptcy. If possible, a working business is plucked out of the wreckage by new owners.  

This is what Taleb refers to.  This normally means writing down the value of the shareholders to near-zero, concessions by workers and bankers, and restructuring the business to new patterns of demand.  Note that if Mr Branson keeps his airline, the last two are likely to happen anyway.

And it’s more or less what happened with General Motors during the global financial crisis, except that in that case the government ended up chipping in an extra $11 billion, which helped reduce the pain for the auto workers and the company’s creditors.

To extend the analogy, the capital bailout of an airline by a government without a formal restructuring procedure will probably mean an even bigger increase in government debt (for us all to pay back through later ‘austerity’) in order to reduce shareholders’ capital losses and minimise the concessions which workers and creditors need to make.

This is somewhat different from the rest of us chipping in to help workers whose income has just fallen off a cliff.

But at the time it’s rarely so simple or principled. The politicians who make these decisions and the people who benefit from them are often keen to obscure the difference between temporary support eventually repaid and capital transfers.  Even now when the numbers are added up, who would have thought that Morgan Stanley got the former and GM the latter?

So Mr Branson’s airline – and indeed airlines more generally – are starting to look like a good test cast for who might get favourable consideration at the expense of the rest.

The PM disapproves of politicking when it questions Covid-19 policies – but not (it seems) if it supports them

Kiwiblog drew our attention to Labour’s politicking to exploit its response to the Covid-19 virus.

National – on the other hand – has announced it supports the government’s decision to move the country towards Level 4 of the Covid-19 alert system over the next 48 hours and to extend the economic package for all businesses.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges said:

“This is an unprecedented situation and we support any measures that will protect the health and safety of New Zealanders.

“I understand that this will be a worrying and stressful time for New Zealanders. I encourage everyone to stay calm and follow the rules that are now in place.

“We will work in a supportive and constructive way with the Government in the interests of bringing New Zealand through this crisis together.

“I have offered the Government the services of our MPs and staff to assist where we can.”

More significantly, Bridges said in a separate statement he has asked all MPs and candidates to put campaigning on hold. Continue reading “The PM disapproves of politicking when it questions Covid-19 policies – but not (it seems) if it supports them”

The Greens have a little list – and the high-flying MPs on it are big spenders of public money

Keep an eye out for armies of tree planters hard at work.

No, not the One Billion Tree programme.  We refer to the tree planting that is essential to offset the carbon emissions generated by high-flying Green Party MPs.

Newshub drew our attention the other day to Climate Change Minister James Shaw’s international travel expenses, the highest of all ministers from October to the end of December, at $77,771, compared to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s $54,487.

When asked to justify the expenses, Mr Shaw told Magic Talk on Friday the Green Party offsets all travel through tree-planting, something he said he’d “recommend people do”. 

“Those programmes have to be verified and part of the verification process is that the tree planted has to be additional to what’s already being planted. We do that through a programme that’s run by Enviro-Mark.”

“I am carbon neutral. But, the best thing to do would be to reduce emissions – that’s the main thing you’ve got to do. You can’t just buy your way out of trouble with offsets,” Mr Shaw said.  Continue reading “The Greens have a little list – and the high-flying MPs on it are big spenders of public money”

And McConnell shows how Republicans are likely to play the post-impeachment game

There’s been good coverage of the impeachment case against Donald Trump.  If you found it a little harder to get a sense of why the Republican-leaning half of America has seemed less impressed by it, listen to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s statement of the case for dismissing the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress (despite the old saw that the latter is one of President’s main duties).

McConnell cast the impeachment exercise as a case of partisan fever in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives – with the Senate’s job being to break the fever, before it breaks the country. Continue reading “And McConnell shows how Republicans are likely to play the post-impeachment game”

NZ First pumps PGF millions into Maori projects in Northland – then accuses Bridges of politicking at Waitangi

No-one  should have been astonished to learn from a Newsroom headline that  Political sparks fly at Waitangi as PM promises ‘more mahi’

The report began by noting

There was a sharper, election-year edge to proceedings at this year’s Waitangi pōwhiri. Simon Bridges and Winston Peters clashed, while Jacinda Ardern made the case for why Māori should have patience with her Government

The report observed that National leader Simon Bridges’ speech seemed to be addressed not to those on the paepae, but for the New Zealanders who would be following events at Waitangi from home.

After a glancing reference to National’s record on Treaty of Waitangi settlements, Whānau Ora and partnership schools, he moved swiftly to attacking Ardern as he referenced her speech at Waitangi last year.

“She said there would be less poverty, she said that she would reduce inequality between Māori and Pākehā, sadly the Government has failed to deliver on these promises.” Continue reading “NZ First pumps PGF millions into Maori projects in Northland – then accuses Bridges of politicking at Waitangi”

How centre right parties win and lose elections these days

As New Zealand’s politicians contemplate a September election, are there lessons for them from the successes of right of centre parties in Australia, the US and UK – and their failure in Canada?

Caution is needed in drawing conclusions, given a few well-placed ballots can be the margin between radiant success and crushing failure.  Reference the election of Donald Trump with fewer votes than Hilary Clinton in 2016, and last year’s defeat of Andrew Scheer’s Canadian Conservatives despite winning more votes than Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party.

But one thing to reflect on is what right of centre parties stand for – and what the median voter thinks they stand for. Continue reading “How centre right parties win and lose elections these days”