Global blues for good government

As the National party wrangles over Judith Collins’ replacement, they might take a crumb of comfort from the fact that a few of their corresponding centre-right political parties are also living dangerously.

Boris Johnson’s leadership of the Conservatives is being savaged by colleagues as Britain’s living standards sag (and poll ratings with it).  But at least he is in office, with a healthy parliamentary majority.

Continue reading “Global blues for good government”

Polls bring Labour back to earth while a warning is sounded about the need to brace for next economic crisis

So how  is  the  political landscape looking as the country  inches  slowly  towards   the goal  of  being 90%  vaccinated against Covid-19?

The  government  which  just 12  months   ago  was  blissfully floating beyond electoral threat somewhere  in the  political stratosphere  has  come  back  to  earth with something  of  a thud.

But National,  still  apparently  without  the  capacity  to  strike  the  wavelength  to  reach the  public  as  it  did in its  heyday, has   yet to find  its  old  mojo.  By  comparison, ACT  has been  flexing   a  new kind of   muscularity, without  suggesting  it has  yet  the  ability to  land  a  killer  punch

Meanwhile  a group  of  top  economists  is  warning   that  the  seeds  of  the  next   economic  crisis  have  been  sown. The steps taken by countries, including New Zealand, to counter the economic impact of Covid-19 have masked and in some cases exacerbated the risks.

“The Covid-19 financial support package has kept Kiwis off of the dole queue and saved many businesses from bankruptcy,” report co-author Bryce Wilkinson​ said.

“However, the government should promptly repay those debts in order to be prepared for the next financial shock. Failing to prepare now for the next financial crisis could destroy New Zealanders’ nest eggs and threaten their livelihoods.” Continue reading “Polls bring Labour back to earth while a warning is sounded about the need to brace for next economic crisis”

It will be 4pm soon – and (here’s hoping) the press will have an opportunity to question the PM

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Cabinet is scheduled to meet today to assess alert level restrictions, with announcements to be made during a 4pm press conference.  We look forward to hearing from the PM at that time.

So, too, will National Party leader Judith Collins, who has been pressing the PM to “come out from the shadows” after several days of no-shows at previously daily press conferences.

Collins’ demand for the PM to front up to news media followed the release of the latest Covid-19 numbers, which suggested the outbreak was slowly spreading around the North Island (the news has been somewhat brighter today).  She said:

“New Zealanders will be unsettled by the news – delivered via written statement – that we have 60 new community cases today and yet our Prime Minister did not even get one of her senior ministers to stand in for her at the podium.” Continue reading “It will be 4pm soon – and (here’s hoping) the press will have an opportunity to question the PM”

Holding the govt to account takes a curious toll – Nats sink in the polls and Collins rethinks her 2018 views on quitting

The hounds of the parliamentary press gallery are smelling Nat blood.

More particularly, they are smelling the blood of National Party leader Judith Collins, who is reported to be shrugging off talk of a leadership challenge.

Poor polls – she contends – are due to her party holding the Government to account.

Really?

Holding the Government to account explains why a recent opinion poll shows the party’s popularity sinking to just 21 per cent?

We wonder if something might be missing from that analysis and that inadequately holding the government to account might be a factor in the Nats’ poor poll showing and the rise (comparatively) of  ACT and David Seymour. Continue reading “Holding the govt to account takes a curious toll – Nats sink in the polls and Collins rethinks her 2018 views on quitting”

Learning the rules of Covid-speak: no mu is good news, our R number is comforting and NZ has moved up the OECD ladder

PM  Jacinda   Ardern   and  her  government   have  developed   a  Covid-speak   which  holds  its  own  fascination and,  according  to  some, needs  its  own  interpreters.

In much the same way (according to Forbes)  the World Health Organisation is monitoring a new coronavirus variant known as “Mu”, amid concerns that it has mutations which suggest it is more resistant to vaccines.

In a weekly pandemic bulletin, the UN agency said Mu – known scientifically as B.1.621 – has been designated as a “variant of interest”, a classification used to target research and highlight potentially worrying new strains.

“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” the WHO report said.

The  outbreak  of Covid-speak,  along  with Mu,  shows  NZ  is  far  from  being done  with Covid. Continue reading “Learning the rules of Covid-speak: no mu is good news, our R number is comforting and NZ has moved up the OECD ladder”

Henare is grilled over NZDF’s evacuation mission but the numbers left in Afghanistan are still being counted

Defence  Minister  Peeni  Henare in  Parliament  yesterday stoutly  defended the  government’s actions  in Afghanistan — even though an  estimated 375 people were left behind when evacuation flights  were   halted.

Critics  contend that if Cabinet hadn’t taken the weekend off, many of those 375 might  have  been  airlifted  out.

Henare  brushed  aside  questions about why  the Immigration  Department  had  turned  down  resettlement applications  in  July.   

He  did  claim, however,  there had been “an exceptionally fast response”  on August 19 when  he  and a ministerial colleague approved the deployment of an NZDF C-130 Hercules aircraft and up to 80 NZDF personnel, some to operate on the ground at the Kabul airport and the remainder to be based out of an airbase in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Continue reading “Henare is grilled over NZDF’s evacuation mission but the numbers left in Afghanistan are still being counted”

If recriminations could be turned into energy and stored, maybe the next power blackout could be avoided

Recriminations  flew  after  the  power blackout   on  Monday,  one  of the coldest  nights in  New Zealand.

Energy Minister  Megan  Woods blamed  a  market  failure  and “commercial decisions”. According  to  the  Dominion-Post,  she  pointed  the  finger  at  Genesis  Energy, which had not  turned on one of the  Huntly power station’s units.

The  government is  said to be  demanding  answers  from the industry.

Genesis chief executive Mark England said the company had been made a scapegoat and he will be asking the minister why.

Transpower has apologised after it asked lines companies to cut power in some areas to handle all-time-high demand for electricity, combined with insufficient generation, on one of the coldest nights of the year.

 Transpower CEO Alison Andrew said there was  enough generation to cover predicted demand on Monday evening. Continue reading “If recriminations could be turned into energy and stored, maybe the next power blackout could be avoided”

Poll results won’t deter Labour from its reform programme – but they shouldn’t unnerve the Nats, either

Latest  opinion  polling  has   created  a  stir  among  the  political cognoscenti.  On   one  side, ACT’s  rise is being seen as  a  big  problem   for  National. From  another,  Labour’s   fall  by 9.7 points   from the  previous poll points to  sharp  disillusion  with the Ardern government.

TV3’s  AM Show  told viewers ACT’s  four-point  rise  to 11 % constitutes “soaring popularity”.  Well,  not  quite.

Then there seemed to be  a  general  judgement  that Judith Collins’ fall below  ACT  leader David  Seymour’s rating  signalled  her imminent  demise  as  National  leader.

In  reality,  the  Newshub Reid  Research poll’s  findings,  while  recording sharp shifts  from  its  previous  sampling,  weren’t  much  different   from  the   Colmar  Brunton  post-Budget poll  which  recorded  Labour  down  to  46%  from  its  previous highs   in the  fifties. Continue reading “Poll results won’t deter Labour from its reform programme – but they shouldn’t unnerve the Nats, either”

How Ngai Tahu will be flush with governance powers under water reforms – but not in all parts of the South Island

Journalists hastened to work out what’s up for grabs in various bits of the country after the PM announced a $2.5 billion package for New Zealand’s 67 councils, if they opted in to the government’s water reforms.

This (we were reminded) follows $761m being given to councils for water infrastructure upgrades in July last year.

The media didn’t devote too much energy to examining how and/or why the boundary lines will be fixed when the responsibility for drinking water, wastewater, and storm water infrastructure is shifted from councils to four regional entities or the governance implications of having Three Waters boundaries aligned with tribal boundaries.

For example (as you will find towards the end of this Stuff report):

Under the proposed water reforms, Blenheim and Richmond could be lumped in with a largely North Island water entity covering from Wellington to Gisborne, while Seddon and Murchison could be tied in with the rest of the South Island.

Six elected members would represent 21 South Island councils in an arms-length governance role. Up to six others would have a governance role to represent mana whenua.

This regional entity would  cover the majority of the South Island except for parts of Marlborough, Tasman and Nelson.

Cabinet papers showed Marlborough and Tasman could be split between two water entities to align with iwi boundaries.

Like most of the South Island, Seddon and Murchison were part of Ngāi Tahu’s takiwā (territory), so had been added to Entity ‘D’ with other cities in the takiwā, such as Christchurch.

The rest of Marlborough and Tasman had been included in Entity ‘C’, along with Nelson, Wellington, Havelock North, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne.

This suggests Ngai Tahu won’t get a governance grip on the whole of the South Island’s water-system infrastructure and its management,

It will do nicely, thank you, nevertheless.

These details call for an adjustment of the numbers in a press statement from Hobson’s Choice a few weeks ago (which news media did not publish and which Scoop and Voxy did not post):

  • One lot of co-governors would represent Ngai Tahu, a tribal business entity that claims the affiliation of 68,000 people,
  • The other lot would represent 23 councils which “may represent 750,000 people”.

Point of Order suggested another measure of the governance power being given without a blush or much explanation to southern Maori – bring 2018 census figures into the reckoning.  These show Maori comprise 110,301 (10%) of a total South Island population of 1,104,531.

While Stuff (and other media) have shied from too closely examining or explaining the muscle Maori tribes might flex under Three Waters governance arrangements, it does say some elected members from both the city and rural districts have raised concerns about the lack of control locals would have over the proposed new South Island entity.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff’s objections fundamentally are matters of ownership, control, governance and accountability.

Another critical question for ratepayers is the extent to which hefty rates increases being considered by several councils – largely to pay for neglected water-system infrastructure – can be modified.

Ardern said $500m of the package – which National Party leader Judith Collins and others called a bribe to buy compliance from local governments – would directly help councils during the transition phase of the reforms. The rest would ensure councils were better off financially once water infrastructure was taken off their books.

Savings to ratepayers are a critical consideration in favour of the reforms.  Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta says these would amount to thousands of dollars a year and ensure the estimated $120 to $185 billion in investment needed in water services over the next 30 years goes ahead.

According to news reports Point of Order checked this morning –

  • Christchurch has been offered $122.4 million from the $2bn fund while Selwyn and Waimakariri councils would get $22m each.

But Christchurch councillor Sam MacDonald said $122m was “pretty cheeky” when the council would hand over billions of water assets in the reforms.

  • Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman councils have been offered a combined $66.2 million.
  • Auckland Council would receive almost $509 million under the proposal.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff remains unconvinced. He said:

“The issue at stake here is about responsiveness and accountability to the people of Auckland through their elected representatives,” he said.

“We have real concerns about the governance structure proposed by the Government, which would remove mechanisms currently in place to ensure that Watercare is accountable to Aucklanders.”

Goff insists the council should be able to determine board directors and the strategic direction of the new water authority through a statement of intent.

He reportedly said the Government’s model would effectively remove Auckland Council’s control and influence over about 28 per cent of Auckland’s assets and 25 per cent of its expenditure.

“This risks creating a new water entity that is unresponsive to the communities it serves, and removes our ability to ensure that Aucklanders’ needs are put first,” Goff said.

But the PM says overhauling our drinking, waste and stormwater services will benefit all New Zealand communities, no matter where they are in the country.

A question about the $55m media fund made Ardern laugh… but not for long

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This article was written for The Democracy Project by Graham Adams, a journalist, columnist and reviewer who has written for many of the country’s media outlets including Metro, North & South, Noted, The Spinoff and Newsroom.

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Surprisingly for a Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson is an ebullient, jolly sort of fellow and it is not unusual for him to barrack from his seat next to the Prime Minister in Parliament to support her.

This week, Judith Collins had barely finished putting a question to Jacinda Ardern about media funding when he guffawed derisively.

Collins asked:

What does she say to people who are concerned that her $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund — which includes numerous criteria for media to adhere to — is influencing the editorial decisions of media outlets in New Zealand?”

The Prime Minister — perhaps encouraged by her deputy’s derision — rose from her seat to reply.

“Mr Speaker,” she declaimed emphatically, “I would abso-loot-ely reject that!”

With Robertson continuing to chortle at the ridiculousness of Collins’ question, Ardern was emboldened.

“But, better yet, Mr Speaker,” she said, grinning broadly and stifling a laugh: “I would put the question to the media and ask whether they agree with that sentiment.”

Despite the Prime Minister’s obvious glee and that of her colleagues, this was an exceedingly stupid retort. Presumably she is not acquainted with Mandy Rice-Davies’ contribution to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as a result of the Profumo scandal in 1960s Britain. When legal counsel pointed out that a peer had denied having had an affair with her or even having met her, Rice-Davies uttered the immortal line:

“Well he would [say that], wouldn’t he?” Continue reading “A question about the $55m media fund made Ardern laugh… but not for long”