Bryce Edwards:  Why Faafoi’s lobbying position should be illegal

DR BRYCE EDWARDS,  director of the Democracy Project, looks into Kris Faafoi’s entry into the lobbying business within a few weeks of his retirement as a cabinet minister and why this is allowed in New Zealand whereas it is illegal in many overseas democracies… 

Probably the most corrupt and broken part of the New Zealand political system is the role of corporate lobbyists influencing policy decisions of governments on behalf of vested interests. This is a group of political insiders – usually former politicians, party staffers or senior Beehive officials – who work at the centre of power and then depart with inside knowledge and networks that they can leverage to help corporate clients influence government policy.

It’s known as a “revolving door” in which corporate interests can prosper through having insiders who move backwards and forwards in and out of the Beehive and other positions of influence. It’s a growth industry in Wellington.

The extraordinary thing is New Zealand is unique in having no regulations on this part of the policy process. Corporate lobbyists profit greatly from a “wild west” setting, in a country where Government decisions are often made to benefit the wealthy. Continue reading “Bryce Edwards:  Why Faafoi’s lobbying position should be illegal”

Covid is still with us, so don’t expect gang violence and ram raids to be eradicated now that Hipkins has the Police portfolio

Buzz from the Beehive

On the Beehive website, news of Kris Faafoi resigning from Parliament preceded news of the PM reshuffling her cabinet.   Indeed, Faafoi’s resignation – along with news of Trevor Mallard stepping down as Speaker of the House – provided the rationale for the PM’ reshuffle.

The timing in our email in-tray was different.  First (at 3.14pm), we learned of the Cabinet reshuffle and then (at 3.16pm) we were advised of Faafoi’s  resignation.

No matter.  The PM’s press statement said she has made changes to her Cabinet line-up following the decision of senior Minister Kris Faafoi to resign from Parliament and Speaker Trevor Mallard’s nomination to a European diplomatic posting.

There will be no mucking about with the reshuffle (which is more substantial than generally had been expected).  The changes will take effect after a ceremony at Government House this  afternoon.    Continue reading “Covid is still with us, so don’t expect gang violence and ram raids to be eradicated now that Hipkins has the Police portfolio”

Democracy or the Treaty? Faafoi can’t see it, but cocooning Ngāi Tahu from Canterbury voters makes the answer all too clear

National and ACT MPs this week were given a platform to express their objections to the democracy-enfeebling Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill.

This legislation will give one group of Canterbury citizens, Ngāi Tahu tribal leaders,  a governance  privilege that has been given to nobody else in this country.  They will be able to avoid the challenge of nominating candidates, then campaigning for popular support at the ballot box to win places on the regional council.   Rather, they will appoint two councillors who will have full decision-making powers (often on matters affecting the tribe’s considerable business interests).

National MP Paul Goldsmith, during the second reading debate, said the Nats were opposing the bill

“… because it alters and offends two key principles of the democracy that we have enjoyed in this country for many decades and is fundamental to the success of New Zealand as a democratic country.”

The first is that all New Zealanders have equal voting rights.

The second is that there is accountability at the ballot box on a regular basis. Continue reading “Democracy or the Treaty? Faafoi can’t see it, but cocooning Ngāi Tahu from Canterbury voters makes the answer all too clear”

Faafoi is sharing few firm figures on the funding of public broadcasting after TVNZ and RNZ have been merged

Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi had few firm figures to share with the public, when he was questioned in Parliament about the merger of TVNZ and Radio New Zealand and the likely cost to taxpayers.

Budget confidentiality was one part of the explanation he gave for keeping numbers under wraps. Not knowing perhaps explains some, if not most, of the rest.

One number was provided in response to the first question asked by National’s Melissa Lee on Thursday:

“How much has he been advised the merger of TVNZ and Radio New Zealand will cost, and how much ongoing taxpayer funding, if any, will the new public media entity he is creating receive?”

Faafoi began his reply by providing information that had not been sought:

“The Government recently announced that it will create a new single public media entity. This, as I said in my response to question No. 7, is to ensure that our public media is fit for the future challenges of audience change and international content via online platforms”

Then came the one firm figure he seems willing to mention:

“Cabinet’s decision also included funding of $14.6 million to begin establishing the new entity.” Continue reading “Faafoi is sharing few firm figures on the funding of public broadcasting after TVNZ and RNZ have been merged”

Parliament is in recess but Kris Faafoi is too busy to discuss proposals for hate-speech laws


The Minister of Justice appears to have gone into hiding. GRAHAM ADAMS,  writing for The Democracy Project,  provides an update on how the public debate on hate speech regulation is going, especially in terms of whether political opinion should or shouldn’t receive an exemption from new laws.


It fell to RNZ to break the news to the nation late last week that the Minister of Justice, Kris Faafoi, had “gone to ground”. Despite making repeated requests to interview him about proposals to expand hate-speech laws, the public broadcaster has been told the minister in charge of managing their introduction is too busy — even during a three-week parliamentary recess — to discuss them.

With her Minister of Justice having gone AWOL ever since a disastrous television interview on the topic a month ago, the Prime Minister’s call for a national debate has lurched from a shambles into farce. The government allowed only six weeks for public submissions and now — with less than two weeks to go until the August 6 deadline — the cat has apparently got Faafoi’s tongue in an iron grip.

On Newshub Nation in late June, Faafoi failed to offer coherent explanations of what kinds of speech would likely fall foul of a new law — including whether Millennials could be prosecuted for expressing hatred against Boomers because of house prices, or whether someone claiming that homosexuals are destined for hell would be liable for prosecution. Continue reading “Parliament is in recess but Kris Faafoi is too busy to discuss proposals for hate-speech laws”

The dangers of putting media on the government’s payroll

Accusations by Stuff journalist Andrea Vance that the Prime Minister leads an unusually secretive government don’t tell the whole story about its desire to control information, says Graham Adams.

He has taken a closer look at the guidelines for the new $55 million journalism fund in an article for the Democracy Project

He writes:

Despite widespread cynicism about the Government’s ability to fulfil its promises — whether it is KiwiBuild, light rail along Dominion Rd, or planting a billion trees —  journalist Andrea Vance still found enough fresh outrage last week to launch a blistering attack over a pledge Jacinda Ardern made in 2017 to lead “a more open and democratic society” that would “strengthen transparency around official information”.

In fact, Ardern’s lack of transparency was on show very early in her prime ministership. Shortly after the 2017 election, she refused to release notes from the coalition negotiations between Labour and NZ First — leading one journalist to opine:

“A month seems early for a new government to dash hopes of a fresh start yet Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s team seems determined to break the speed record when it comes to disregard for public transparency.”

From Vance’s standpoint as a journalist, little seems to have improved since then.

The damning conclusion she arrived at after citing delays in responses to Official Information Act requests and ministers’ refusals to be interviewed was:

“At every level, the government manipulates the flow of information.”

It’s not difficult to find other instances of the Government denying access to important information in addition to those Vance mentioned — not least its record of obfuscation over significant details of its Covid-19 management and vaccination programme.

Examples of the kind Vance offered of the government hiding or distorting important information are the most obvious form of political censorship. There is, however, another form of political censorship which can be even more insidious — that is, attempting to impose narratives which suit the government’s purposes and thereby crowd out competing views. Continue reading “The dangers of putting media on the government’s payroll”

Faafoi is far from helpful when asked how business people can avoid being accused of causing cultural offence

The makers of Indiginous gin had a sobering experience after getting the approvals they thought they required from this country’s trade marking and branding authorities.  Their brand name was approved and they went to market with the gin they make at Reikorangi Valley on the Kapiti Coast, only to be intimidated into rebranding and remarketing their product by people who barraged them and their retail outlets with a campaign of abuse and threats.

The owners of a Wellington shop which called itself Huruhuru were reported to have been similarly bombarded with abuse and threats after it emerged the name of their business could mean pubic hair.

The owners of the shop, Aynur and Ercan Karakoc, said they had wanted a name to represent New Zealand and had gone through the proper process without any issues arising.  They say the brand name was approved by IPONZ’s Māori Advisory Committee and they assumed therefore it would not be offensive.

Thus the principals of two businesses – at least – have been harassed and accused of causing cultural offence despite seeking the proper authorisations from the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) and consulting its Maori Advisory Committee. Continue reading “Faafoi is far from helpful when asked how business people can avoid being accused of causing cultural offence”

Northland projects get a further boost from the PGF trough – and Jones hasn’t forgotten his forestry ambitions

New Zealand First ministers seem to be doing nicely, thank you, in demonstrating to the good people of Northland that they have the best interests of the local economy at heart.

The Point of Order Trough Monitor has recorded two fresh press releases announcing more millions of public monies headed north for projects already boosted by Provincial Growth Fund money in that part of the country.

Isn’t that the home patch for some New Zealand First leaders? We do believe it is.

The PGF late in 2018 provided $13.9m towards the construction of the Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangarei.

And yesterday – hurrah! – Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced an additional $4.5 million for the centre.

The Ministers said the art centre will house two galleries. The first will be only gallery outside of Austria to house a permanent display of artist Friedrich Hundertwasser’s art, worth millions of dollars. The Wairau Maori Art Gallery will become the national home to the best examples of contemporary Māori art.

“The art centre is estimated to bring in an economic benefit of $26 million to the region and more than 250,000 visitors to Whangarei annually, in line with the number of visitors the Hundertwasser toilets attract in Kawakawa,” Mr Jones said.  Continue reading “Northland projects get a further boost from the PGF trough – and Jones hasn’t forgotten his forestry ambitions”

Another dip into the PGF and – shazam! – here’s $2m for digital hubs and better connectivity

Five projects will receive $400,000 each for new hubs:

  • Gisborne, operated by Tairāwhiti Technology Trust
  • Katikati, operated by Western Bay of Plenty District Council
  • Te Kateretanga O Kura-Hau-Pō, operated by Horowhenua District Council
  • Woodville, operated by Tararua District Council
  • Murupara Regional Digital Hub, operated by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Manawa Trust

That adds up to $2 million and builds on the $3.6m already announced by the Government for eight other regional digital hubs in Northland, West Coast, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatū/Whanganui/Horowhenua.

Jones dished up the goodies from a trough officially referred to as the PGF’s local digital connectivity funding package of $21m.

As well as establishing regional digital hubs, this package helps connect marae to the internet. Continue reading “Another dip into the PGF and – shazam! – here’s $2m for digital hubs and better connectivity”

PGF projects – and $439.8 million worth of investment – are up and going again under Alert Level Three

Provincial Growth Fund troughers will be delighted to learn they are back in business (or some of them are).

They may not be so chuffed to learn that troughing has become commonplace and many more Kiwis are dipping into public funds through an array of  programmes set up to revive an economy ravaged by Covid-19 and the government’s response to it.

The bigger the number of troughers, the smaller the serving for each of them, although this consideration perhaps is overcome by the printing of money, quantitative easing, and what-have-you.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones brought news of the resumption this  week of Provincial Growth Fund projects around the country that were halted during Alert Level 4.

At Alert Level 3, more than 60 projects representing $439.8 million worth of investment are expected to get going again.

While we were digesting this news, Jones – in tandem with Kris Faafoi, Minister of Communications and Digital Media – threw out another announcement. Continue reading “PGF projects – and $439.8 million worth of investment – are up and going again under Alert Level Three”