Friday, September 29, 2006

Farewell, Walter...

Walter Hadlee has played his last innings. A creditable player at a time when New Zealand couldn't compete internationally, he was a dogged leader who brought together the likes of Bert Sutcliffe, John Reid, Martin Donnelly, Jack Cowie, and the much under-rated Merv Wallace. As with all the cricketers of his age, a seven year hole in Hadlee's time at the crease was attributable to World War II. Hadlee went on to become Chairman of New Zealand cricket: his gutsy character brought him into conflict with that other most dominant and bloody-minded cricketing personality of the 1970's, Glenn Maitland Turner.

Walter was an odd character. It takes a certain kind of obsessive mind to play test cricket. It takes an even more compulsive personality to captain his country; to breed three international cricketers is simply insane.

For the last sixty years Walter has been the grand old man of New Zealand cricket. His favourite party trick was based on his fanatical devotion to numbers and statistics. At a cocktail party, he would ask somebody their age and birthday. Within an instant, he would say: "Ah, you were born on a Tuesday."

Walter will now be debating Inzy's suspension with St Peter, and telling God what day He was born. Farewell, old chap.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Life (And Death) Of Brian

Every political party has its clever people. They live and breathe the game of politics far more than policy itself. There was once a time in the National Party when a tiny group of activists were individually referred to, in private, as the “Nth most EVIL person in the National Party”. There were about four of them in total. They played poker, stayed up all night at Party conferences brokering information, and argued the future of right wing politics.

They existed as a de facto group of Young Turks, arguing for change in a tired old party that was destined for a long walk in the wilderness until they reformed their Old Guard. It was a strange assortment of Wellington-based folk: they loathed Winston and his coalition, and believed that after nine years of selling the same team to the public, the public would bite them back. 1999, and 2002, proved exactly that.

The Labour Party has had its cabals: their internal and external factional powerbrokers will plot and plan its future even when the going is good. Helen Clark, Pete Hodgson, Trevor Mallard, Steve Maharey, Phil Goff, and David Benson-Pope have no great policy framework for the country. They simply enjoy the thrill of wielding and trading political power. Their unity is contingent on their ability to read the political tea-leaves and stay ahead in the polls. When they fail in that respect, they disintegrate. It’s now a matter of survival for them, since they have become Labour’s Old Guard. It is tired and reactionary. As Helen Clark comes under fire for strategic mis-steps, her only instinct is to fight back as viciously as her instincts can.

The atmosphere at the Ellerslie Racecourse on election night, September 17, 2005, was electrifying. Don Brash, the rookie MP who had become rookie National leader in his first term, had managed to double National’s vote at the polls. There were well over 1,000 supporters present. In the space of a year, Brash had rebuilt the National Party from near annihilation to within a whisker of the Government benches. He had rebranded the Party, and in his wake, had brought forth a whole new battalion of MPs.

Twenty-three of National’s current MPs are new faces. They owe their places in Parliament directly to the brand that Don Brash took to the country last year. That, coupled with the overwhelming support he got for taking the leadership on before the election, make his personal support in caucus very strong.

Brash’s leadership position isn’t set in stone. It is dependent on his ability to keep National in the lead. But with an eight point difference, and gaining, between National and Labour, only an absolute moron would suggest that National dumps Brash. Bill English and John Key may have leadership ambitions: but both know that they are far better placed to inherit the Prime Ministership when Brash chooses to step down, than to cause squabbles in the Party that prevent either of them becoming Cabinet ministers after the next election.

It is now a statement of political fact that only a complete moron, or a Labour Party supporter, would advocate Don Brash relinquishing the leadership of the Party when he has Helen Clark, and the Labour Party, so clearly spread on the racks. To their credit, the Labour Party is saying precisely that. Not content with losing the battle over their misuse of taxpayer’s funds on the pledge card, and finding that their strategy of personal smear against Don Brash made them less popular with the public, they are simply calling for his head.

In the last week, Labour’s Pete Hodgson has issued no less than nine press releases calling for him to resign. It seems slightly bizarre that Hodgson, who is also Minister of Health, has had nothing health-related to talk about at the same time that Helen Clark vows off attack-politics. It is the equivalent of parliamentary stalking from Hodgson, and a strange kind of obsessive-compulsive behaviour from a man whose only strategic contribution to Labour in the last few weeks has been a strategic collapse of Labour’s support base.

Labour wants Brash’s leadership to become the issue. They need him to go if they have any chance of sneaking through another election. It’s understandable that they would target him. Yet they have become so blatantly obsessed with him that whatever they say from this point forward can only cement his leadership. Helen Clark’s government has become so untrustworthy that the more Labour attacks Brash, the more the public want him as Prime Minister.

National’s caucus, with one glaring exception, has been impeccably disciplined in recent weeks. They maintained a clear focus of attack on Labour’s corruption, and did not hold back from that clear focus when Labour started a dirty war. They did not retaliate on Labour’s terms. They maintained their dignity when Labour dragged National’s leader through the mud, and refused to speculate on Labour-driven spin on Brash’s leadership.

Labour has continued to lie and obfuscate, to its own detriment. Whereas once political commentators admired a Prime Minister who could stand up and openly claim that she had had conversations with Gallery journalists confirming various rumours, now the Gallery journalists are not prepared to go along with her spin. Kevin Brady, the Auditor-General, has made it clear that he will not accept untruths told about him, for the sake of the Prime Minister’s political expediency. That brilliant gall, which allowed Helen Clark to spin her way out of any controversy, is failing her. Her spin has lost any subtlety. Voters simply do not trust her.

Which brings me to Brian Connell. The Rakaia MP has studied Helen Clark over the past four years, and has formed the impression that he too is worth of a large office on the ninth floor. Except Connell has never understood subtlety. When a lone MP makes a dig at a party leader, it is wise to have other MPs supporting him. Connell hasn’t. The preposterous spectacle of the Labour Party egging Connell on, suggesting that Connell is a symptom of some gaping faction within the National Party, has ridiculed the mid-Canterbury MP. After writing his own political eulogy, by leaking discussions of a caucus meeting to the Independent’s Tim Donohue, Connell has finished his career himself.

Connell claims not to have been the leak after the caucus meeting. Instead, when the Independent story broke, Connell responded to media inquiries, saying that he was not the leak, but that since the information had been leaked, he was free to comment on it. That, of itself, constituted an act of shit-stirring that is unacceptable for a member of a political party. If Connell had said absolutely nothing to the general media after the original leak, it is possible he could have avoided sanction from the Party. That he chose to speak publicly confirming the caucus discussion demonstrates a baffling degree of political stupidity expected of Judith Tizard and her ilk. It’s not befitting of a National Party MP.

Connell is, of course, technically telling the truth about the caucus leak. Connell did not speak to Tim Donohue after the caucus meeting. Except two facts are crucial, and have not yet come to light. Firstly, Donohue, who is very close to Brian Connell, was able to quote events at the caucus meeting word-for-word. Secondly, Connell has refused to release his cellphone records on the day of the caucus meeting to the Whip’s office. Don Brash, and the National Caucus, have considerable reason to believe that during the caucus meeting, Connell’s cellphone was on, and open in a call to Tim Donohue. Connell didn’t have to comment to Donohue: he had the discussion verbatim anyway.

That act of sabotage by an MP has no place in the National Party. Brian Connell doesn’t represent any kind of tradition of “Young Turks” in any political movement, except the Labour Party.

They’re welcome to have him. With Taito Phillip Field on the way out, they may well need him.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Seems that there is a vast right wing conspiracy, after all.

He/she has published a song, Pay It Back.

I didn't know the Exclusive Brethren could sing so badly.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Sometimes it's nice to get another reassurance that our Rt Hon Minister of Foreign Affairs is doing his best to protect the taxpayer's interest in state assets. Consider this confidence-inspiring response to a question in the House, concerning a Close Up programme the night before:

R Doug Woolerton: Did Television New Zealand accurately portray the interest that the Minister has taken in this case?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Absolutely no. Television New Zealand last night completely misrepresented my letter to Mr Robinson’s family. [...]

R Doug Woolerton: Why does the Minister believe that Close Up’s report is so at odds with other reports that he has received?


Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Most of the reports on this matter are from reputable and highly professional Government agencies. The other report is a desperate attempt, with baseless tabloid journalism by a failing news organisation and its washed-up head of news, Bill Ralston, to win back the hundreds of thousands of viewers who are deserting Television New Zealand in droves. If this is the best that Mr Ralston has to offer the viewing public of New Zealand, it is little wonder that those who care about accurate news coverage that puts the facts before the egos of journalists are crying for his head.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sinister Elements: Pete's Story

A close friend of mine (for the purposes of this post, I shall call him “Pete”) works for a large consulting firm. Pete has a nice home in an exclusive Auckland suburb. He and his wife drive new model European cars. He plays golf on Friday afternoons. He earns well over $500,000 a year. He has little interest in politics.

Pete guy lives a privileged lifestyle. He has done exceptionally well over the last seven years. Although the economy has been pretty good, and he has property investments that have funded his retirement twenty years before he is entitled to superannuation, he owes much of his success to Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, Trevor Mallard, Annette King, and Steve Maharey. Between them, these five Ministers have presided over the fastest growth in the State Sector that New Zealand has seen since 1935.

It is difficult for those who live outside Wellington to comprehend just how enormous this public sector growth has been. The ballooning of the state is the direct reason why 62 of New Zealand’s 100 largest employers are in the state sector.

This development has been very beneficial to certain business interests who have been smart enough to engage with Wellington politicians and bureaucrats. Pete is at the centre of one of these business interests. Like all good businessmen, he goes where the money is. And the amount of cash flowing out of government departments on very large-scale, multi-multi-million dollar projects, is astronomical. The State is spending seventeen billion dollars more today than it is six years ago. Pete’s very happy with how this Labour Government has helped his business.

Pete lunches and socialises with Cabinet ministers and senior officials on a regular basis. He is not the biggest biller of services to Government by any stretch, but his firm will probably provide $10 million in services to various government departments in the next financial year. There are some players in Pete’s industry that will bill an individual government department several times more than that on a single project.

Pete is a sensible guy. He gets good personal financial advice. He’s not a genuine high-net-wealth individual, but he’s getting there. Pete has structured his income through various legal devices so that he is paying tax on only $60,000 a year, and the rest of his income is attributed to loss-qualifying companies. Pete pays a net 6% income tax.

Pete doesn’t stand to gain from tax cuts under a National Government. He’s paying bugger-all tax as it is. His company is rolling in cash, based on services he’s selling to Government clients that have no commercial sense. They don’t know what they’re buying. Government doesn’t care what it’s buying. It has the money, so it must spend. And they’re buying from Pete and many other Petes in Wellington.

Just over a year ago, things changed for Pete. He understood that it’s sort-of fun for a while increasing margins to government clients who don’t care what they’re buying, and making large sums of money in the process: Pete became involved with a project working with people in another company that was charging even more outrageous amounts to Government departments that cared even less what they were buying. Project schedules were over-run, service levels on the project weren’t achieved, and project costs snowballed. The Government client paid the bills, and nobody on the project—the external firms, nor the department’s internal managers, the public servants—were held accountable.

Pete’s outrage at the waste and over-indulgence in the public sector that was making him so much dosh drove him to loathe the current government, and how it was blowing away titanic sums of money for no effect. The issue for him was no longer personal business gain, but core belief. Pete was not a political guy. He could talk to politicians and bureaucrats, and sell them ideas, but he kept out of politics. He didn’t particularly have a great affection for the National Party, but he could see how Labour was destroying New Zealand.

Pete’s decision to donate to the National Party didn’t come lightly. He did so very cautiously. He did it anonymously, without ever having met any National candidate or official. It wasn’t an astronomical sum, but enough for it to be declared. On election day I asked him if he wanted to come to an election-night party; he declined because it didn’t interest him, but wished us luck all the same.

This guy has never met a National Party official. Don Brash has never heard of Pete. Nor has any senior National Party official. And if Pete has it his way, they never will know that he was the source of a donation inspired by his anger and outrage at Labour’s excess in the public sector.

But that wasn’t the only reason Pete wanted to remain anonymous. Just as Pete, and countless another anonymous donors in 2005 donated to Don Brash’s National Party because they were disgusted with the thought of three more years of Labour’s squandering of opportunity, Pete wanted to remain anonymous out of fear. Just as Labour Ministers are now inventing fictitious insurance backers of the National Party, Pete knew the consequences of Labour Ministers knowing of his donation.

The Labour Party is vindictive. There was never going to be a guarantee that if he made a contribution to the National Party, that National would win the election. And Pete and his wife still have to make a living, whether or not Labour is in power. Pete knew that would have been a whole lot harder if his name had ended up on a National Party donors’ list.

History has shown Labour’s motivation to target people it does not like. The public sector's tentacles are very long, and Labour has tamed them reach in every corner that serves its interest. It is these sinister elements drive people to make anonymous donations. Those elements are the fear of reprisals by the Labour Government to a known anti-Labour supporter.

I don’t personally approve of anonymous donations to political parties. If the culture of fear has become so great—and Labour has shown that it will do anything to remain in power, even steal an election with taxpayer funds—then in my mind that shows even more reason why we should stand up and be counted. Far more people need to have the courage to stand up to Labour and say that we will not support graft, vote-buying, and corruption. The more people who are prepared to put their names to their support for National, the easier it will be for others to join us.

And the sooner we do that, the sooner we will be rid of this corrupt gang of political hooligans.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Field of Dreams

Pondering the outstanding cast from Labour’s South Auckland constituency, it’s easy to see why Mangere voters can do without Taito Philip Field for six months while they work out whether he’s a crook or not. Labour's stand-ins in South Auckland will do an outstanding job during Field's absence.

The reason is that Labour has an unparalleled cabal of brilliant and hard-working group of MPs in the Auckland region, who never balk at the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and put in a top performance for the team.

The MP for Mangere may have been banned from his constituency office, and from Parliament, while he sits at home on full pay (including electorate MP allowances) pondering the refurbishment of his seven residential properties and the general management of TP Field Developments Limited. Field does so in the knowledge that neighbouring Labour constituency MPs will be doing their best to represent the good people of Mangere on Field’s behalf.

George Hawkins, the former diligent and hard-working Minister who inspired so many, sits to Mangere’s South East, in Manurewa. Hawkins’ much-publicised mastery of his Police portfolio mean that crime will be a thing of the past once the Police have finished their investigation into the sitting Member.

Ross Robertson, the prolific and internationally-celebrated MP for Manukau East, is parked right next door to Field’s electorate. Robertson’s rapid rise through the Labour Party ranks over the last eighteen years to the dizzying heights of Assistant Speaker in the current Parliament mean that Field’s constituents will get a good hearing in the House.

Further to the North, Mangere’s constituents will have the resources of the admired and formidable Judith Tizard, MP for Auckland Central. Tizard, as the long-standing Minister for the National Archives and the National Library, will serve the reading interests of Mangere’s 18,000 speakers of Samoan and Tongan with aplomb.

Mangere is a General Electorate seat. Only one of the two Maori seats bordering Mangere is held by a Labour MP: Nanaia Mahuta in the Tainui seat is established in Wellington circles for her energy and vitality as a Minister outside Cabinet. Mahuta is also the Minister of Customs. Since Customs offices are often situated in close proximity to immigration offices, Mahuta is well qualified to represent Mangere’s constituents on immigration issues.

Yet no single Labour constituency MP in the area can fully replace Field's ingenuity for novel parliamentary methods. List MP Ann Hartley, although rejected by Northcote voters, is a one-time manager of the Child Abuse Prevention Society. She will be able to put her theories to good test, and eliminate child abuse from the Mangere electorate over the next six months.

Finally, List MP Darien Fenton, the especially telegenic former Vice President of the CTU, lives in the electorate. Fenton worked closely with Field in the Service Workers' Union, where they were organisers together. Fenton will be able to demonstrate a similar degree of compassion and concern for Mangere's least fortunate citizens as Field has managed over the last nine years.

Voters in Mangere can rest assured that for the next six months, their parliamentary interests are well-served by Labour’s Auckland team.