Jul 31, 2008

Why We Keep Warning The Government About Risk

We are indebted to No Minister for this quote from Michael Bassett

Winston Peters made a name for himself in the 1990s with his crusade against some businessmen who used tax avoidance schemes to benefit themselves. He tried to paint himself as the “Mr Clean” of New Zealand politics. Many believed him. At the 1996 election he won 17 seats for New Zealand First, and became Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer in a coalition government with National.
However, New Zealand First was never more than a front for a lazy, self-obsessed showman. It had no substantial core of supporters except for a disparate collection of the discombobulated and the edentulous. Winston has twisted and turned, always looking for some kind of financial saviour and new political supporters. In 1999 his party almost disappeared, surviving the election with only 5 seats because he hung on to Tauranga by the slender margin of 63 votes. New Zealand First appeared to be in its death throes.
This was the point where the racing industry came galloping over the hill. Thanks to generous financial support from several major industry players, New Zealand First clawed its way back to more than 10% of the party vote and 13 parliamentary seats in 2002. According to Tony Wall, the popular Sir Patrick Hogan, unbeknown to most New Zealanders, paid for a lot of Winston’s election advertising and rounded up votes for New Zealand First. They formed a mutual admiration society that survived through the 2005 election by which time Winston’s party was suffering another attack of electoral anorexia. Indeed, it almost died. Winston finally lost the Tauranga seat that he’d held since 1984, and his party only just got above the 5% MMP threshold. It’s not too much to say that the money paid for New Zealand First’s campaign by the racing industry got the party back into Parliament. Then the racing industry’s investment paid a dividend in the form of a gusher from the government, a bigger return it seems, than any punter will ever receive either on course or through the TAB. Tens of millions of dollars, by the look of it, much of it taxpayers’ money has flowed into the racing industry over the last three years.
How much of all this has been known to Helen Clark and her government, and for how long? When she gave the ministry of racing to Winston Peters did she know the extent to which New Zealand First had become beholden to the racing industry? Did she realize when her ministry agreed to the reduced totalisator duty from 20% to 4%, said to be worth $32 million per annum to the racing industry, that it could be seen as payback to her racing minister’s big backers? The same with the new tax write-down periods for race horses, and this year’s budgetary $9 million for co-sponsorship schemes? Has Helen Clark kept an eye on Peters’ appointments to the New Zealand Racing Board to which, according to Wall, he’s appointed people with the backing of the big racing industry players?
No wonder top racing figures in the country regard Winston Peters as the best racing minister they’ve had. I was once Minister of Racing myself. I was subjected to arguments for tax changes, just as other ministers have been over the years. But like them, I couldn’t see any fairness in screwing the taxation scrum in a manner that specifically favoured one group within the community.
And under First Past the Post, the government I served in was never likely to be subjected to the sorts of pressures that can develop when election outcomes are usually cliff-hangers.
The industry’s moment came under MMP, especially when in 2005 the election outcome was unclear. The industry got their man into a position of influence. So eager was Labour to retain office that ministers appear to have looked at the wall ever since they took office for a third time while payouts have been made to Winston’s backers. On the face of it, this looks like a scandal that dwarfs the Winebox. It’s time Tony Wall received a bit more encouragement from the mainstream media. He must surely be the best investigative journalist in the country. What he has told us appears to amount to corruption on a grand scale.

On The Topic Of Thailand - Don't We Have A Breach Of An International Treaty?

We posted this on 2 January - being sporting types we though a reminder would be helpful...

Jan 2, 2008

Thailand: Pro-Thaksin PPP Says It Can Form Government
It looks like Thai politics will remain unstable for some time. The pro-Thaksin People Power Party believe that they have the support now to form a new Government, but as this AFP story suggests, the numbers game is a bit of a moving feast. The PPP has secured the support of three smaller parties, but 3 of the PPP's winning candidates look set for disqualification due to vote buying (some things don't change much in Thai politics!!). Even if the PPP do form the Government, Thailand is likely to remain a deeply divided country, divisions are likely to deepen further if former PM Thaksin returns home in April, as his threatening to do.The Hive's particular concern is what this instability, and Thaksin influence, will mean for the important services negotiations which are due between New Zealand and Thailand in 2008.We repeat below the relevant provisions of the Closer Economic Partnership (Labourspeak for FTA) which came into force on 1 July 2005.
ARTICLE 8.1Liberalisation of Trade in Services
1. The Parties agree to conclude an agreement which liberalises trade in services between the Parties and which is consistent with Articles V.1 and V.3 of GATS.
2. For the purposes of Paragraph 1, the Parties shall enter into negotiations on trade in services within three years from the date of entry into force of this Agreement, with the aim of concluding an agreement to liberalise trade in services between the two Parties as soon as possible.
According to our maths this means that negotiations must be started before 1 July 2008.
The Hive understands that preliminary talks about how to go about this negotiation had been planned late last year, but were shelved at the request of the Thai Government because of the forthcoming election. The Hive also understands that business groups remain angry that services were excluded from the original agreement and that there will be serious repercussions for the Government if it fails to deliver on the Agreement to have services incorporated into the agreement in 2008. Services make up close to 70% of New Zealand's GDP and close to 30% of New Zealand's exports.
Posted by Queen Bee at
2:38 PM
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The Treaty required that negotiations start before 1 July 2008. Have they started? Has new Zealand allowed Thailand a waiver? Has this been reported to Parliament and stake holders? How has this situation been allowed to occur? Parliament was assured at the time the 2005 treaty was ratified that services had not been excluded from this agreement and that these negotiations on services liberalisation would take place in accordance with the Treaty commitment. Has anyone resigned over this failure to deliver? Has anyone been disciplined? How has the main stream media allowed this issue to slip by????

Are Bilaterals The Answer??

We are a bit concerned at the emphasis that some commentators are putting on bilateral FTAs now that we a have a further delay in the WTO process. We agree with these commentators to a point, but remind them that for New Zealand agricultural exporters subsidies are still a big problem, and that the only away to reduce these is the multilateral process. We also stress that bilateral and regional deals must be of high quality. We can't afford to have any more "political deals"such as that which was negotiated with Thailand. We understand that Australia is being far from resolute in seeking a high quality outcome in the current joint negotiation with ASEAN. It is essential that New Zealand keeps pressing for a high quality agreement - without exclusions or non-free trade outcomes (5% does not equal free trade).

More EFA Pain For Labour

This from NZPA and the Dominion Post

A State Service Commission investigation has found government websites contain 13,600 references to the "Labour-led Government" which should be removed because of the Electoral Finance Act.
National deputy leader Bill English said the SSC had sent out a memo to 120 state agencies saying "Labour-led government" was not appropriate under the EFA.
A search by the SSC had found the offending phrase 13,600 times on taxpayer funded websites, Mr English said.
Cabinet Minister Pete Hodgson said the SSC had advised departments of their obligations under the EFA and he hoped they were well followed.
He said as time went by the references would be removed.
Mr English said departments seemed to ignoring the SSC advice.
Treasury recently removed all references to a Labour-led Government in budget material.
Mr English also claimed that a Labour MP was distributing stickers with the phrase "Labour-led Government" and featuring two ticks.
These were funded by the Prime Minister's office and in clear breach of the EFA, he said.
Mr Hodgson did not respond to the substance of Mr English's allegation.

Do You Think Winston's Language Will Reflect Well On New Zealand's International Image?

Every Embassy and intelligence agency based in Wellington will be reporting back the latest on the Winston Peters scandal to home base today, including his calling Philip Kitchin a "lying wanker". Is this the image we want for our Foreign Minister? We think not.

We revert to our earlier position. PM Clark needs to show leadership and fire Peters as Foreign Minister. If she wants to risk leaving him as Minister for Racing that is fine, but we stress the risk. We don't want Winston Peters to be the reason why Helen Clark loses the party leadership or the general election.

Another Undeclared NZ First Donation Emerges

Another bad day for the PM. Will Goff be back before she gets back from Tonga?

This from Phil "the lying wanker" Kitchin in the Dominion Post

More questions have been raised about donations to NZ First over a $20,000 deposit to the party's bank account that does not appear on its register of declared donations.
The Dominion Post has obtained a deposit slip showing $19,998 was deposited in one or more cheques into the party's coffers in December 1999. The donation, banked into the party's Westpac account, fuels the issue of big-business donations to NZ First - a party that has proclaimed that it does not take money from big-business donors.
Electoral Commission records for 1999 show that NZ First did not declare any donations of more than $10,000 - the threshold requiring such a donation to be reported.
Contacted for comment yesterday, the party leader, Winston Peters, said: "Phil, I told you I'm not talking to a lying wanker like you. See you." He then hung up.
The latest in the donation saga casts more doubt on the credibility of NZ First and its leader after Mr Peters' repeated previous attacks on big-business donations to other political parties - and their use of trusts to filter donations.
On February 28, Mr Peters said his party had never accepted money from big business.
On May 22, 2003, he called for the Serious Fraud Office to investigate a donation to the National Party because he claimed the party had failed to disclose the donation.
Now it is Mr Peters who could face an SFO inquiry after ACT leader Rodney Hide laid a complaint about NZ First donations.
The details of the 1999 donation to NZ First will raise even more questions for Mr Peters about his party's handling of political donations.
In 1999, ACT, National, Labour and the Greens all declared their parties received anonymous donations of at least $20,000.

Pin Striped Dwarf v. Political Dwarf In Yellow Jacket

This from the NZ Herald

The Serious Fraud Office says it will begin immediately to assess whether an investigation into donations intended for the New Zealand First Party is warranted.
Party leader and Foreign Minister Winston Peters last night attacked Act leader Rodney Hide for having lodged a complaint yesterday with the SFO, calling him a "political dwarf in a yellow jacket".

WTO Collapse Bad News For Climate Change Negotiations

The Hive has opposed the Government's proposed emissions trading scheme because it has been rushed and needs more work done to it. We have, however, advocated a stop gap carbon tax to get people used to paying a charge for emitting greenhouse gasses and to help meet the Kyoto liability (we would prefer to see the money come from the budgets of those departments responsible for this abysmal piece of negotiation but accept that this is probably wishful thinking). We also accept that climate change needs to be addressed but have stressed all along, that this is a global problem that requires a global solution that is much more sophisticated than the dreadful EU inspired Kyoto model. New Zealand's domestic actions are unfortunately not going to impact on this global problem because we are only responsible for 0.2% of the problem. A global solution is going to have to involve the world's biggest emitters. These happen to be the US and China (China has won recently won the race to become the #1 emitter).

The spat this week between the US, China and India(India is not quite so big a player on the climate change issue, but is still an important player) in the WTO have been ringing alarm bells with us as these three are going to have to reach an accommodation on the global response to climate change if a meaningful response is to be negotiated. It is also our view that a meaningful outcome on climate change is a far more ambitious goal than those that were on the table in the WTO over the last nine days.

We therefore read with interest this article on exactly this issue:

The failure of key powers to agree a new pact on global trade does not bode well for international cooperation in other areas such as climate change, top delegates warned Tuesday.
The European Union's agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer-Boel told journalists that the collapse of talks after nine days at the World Trade Organization headquarters in Geneva would have "wider consequences than we have ever seen before."
"If we cannot even manage trade, how should we then find ourselves in a position to manage the new challenges lying ahead of us" such as climate change, Fischer-Boel said.
Her point was echoed by Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean, who said that success here in Geneva would have been an "important signal" ahead of new international negotiations on climate change that are set to start next year.
The EU earlier this year pledged to reduce its greenhouse-gas pollution by 20 percent by 2020 compared with a benchmark year of 1990.
Hoping to spur the United States, Japan and Canada, the EU promised to deepen this to 30 percent if other rich economies followed suit.

Jul 30, 2008

What Is Winston Up To: Are We Being Played???

We have just watched One News and talked to some eye witnesses to one of Winston's staged press confrontations today. We have also read his speech to Grey Power in Wellington. We think we have the answer to the questions we posed yesterday about Winston's behavior. We think that Jessica Mutch (sad loss for Prime/SKY but good gain for ONE News) is onto Winston as well. Is this a politician under pressure or a cunning old politician seeking to gain more publicity?

It is beginning to look like the latter - plus a bit of our fourth question - short arse git who enjoys grandstanding. That was made clear by him being upset that he couldn't appear tall on TV tonight.

But will it work? Will Winston really be able to get through this scandal by facing "then down" as he suggested he can in his speech today?

Let me assure you these people will not win.We have faced them down before, and won and we will face them down again and will win again.

We shall see....

Winston's Problems Deepen Again

Lawyer Cactus Kate has some helpful advice to those journalists interested in asking the right questions and the right people.

Rodney Hide has complained to the SFO about Winnie.

David Farrar has several posts unhelpful to his cause also including this one from a couple of hours ago.

And we hear that Winnie may have put his foot in his mouth again today. And not just in Parliament.

Helen Clark In Drag?

Fran O'Sullivan joins those in the main stream media who are frustrated by the lack of policy detail emerging from National.

The list of National's economic policy flip-flops has now grown so big that it's tempting to wonder if John Key is auditioning to be Helen Clark in drag.
If so, he's making quite a success of it judging by the latest political ratings in the Herald's Digipoll.
Under Key's leadership, National has now embraced all Labour's flagship economic policies including: The Cullen Fund (NZ Superannuation Fund); KiwiSaver; Keeping Kiwibank and KiwiRail in state ownership; A moratorium on privatisations if only for National Government's first term; Student loans interest write-offs; Working for Families.
But even though the New Zealand economy is in recession and forecast Government revenues are dipping increasingly into the red, Key expects the business sector (and voters) to believe he can dish out a generous personal tax-cutting programme at this election without having to subsequently slash spending programmes or significantly increase borrowings.
If Key cannot spell out at this weekend's National Party conference in Wellington just how he intends to finance a personal tax-cutting programme that will far exceed Labour's plan, he does not deserve to enjoy the confidence demonstrated by National's current poll ratings.

We are not sure about Fran's policy proposals - we would have thought, for example, that NZTE's domestic operations were more ripe for contenstablility than its external operations (in contrast to MFAT where we believe the trade policy advisory function could well be put out to tender).

Has Winston Put Everything To Rest?

Not according to the Editorial in today's NZ Herald

The odour around Winston Peters' mysterious "Spencer Trust" grew worse yesterday when the Prime Minister met him and appears not to have pressed him for an explanation of the trust and its purpose. She was unable to give Parliament anything more than the word of her Foreign Minister that he has done nothing illegal. Either she did not ask for an explanation or, if she got one, it was not an explanation she wanted to relay to the country.
Either way, it leaves this affair more deeply disturbing. If Helen Clark does not want to inquire into her governing partner's financial arrangements it can only suggest she has no confidence that she might hear an explanation she could defend in public.
It is bad enough that her governing partner is treating the public with such contempt - Mr Peters has offered to brief the Opposition leader, too, but only in private - now the Prime Minister is playing the same silly evasive politics that are the Peters trademark. Yesterday she was reduced to echoing his attempt to deflect attention on to National's anonymous fund-raising trusts.

More Explanations Promised

Why are donations to NZ First by big business different from donations by big business to other parties?

We can't answer this beyong noting that in days gone by the cheque to NZ First used to get you a knighthood...

This also from today's NZ Herald

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters insists that there is a "massive" difference between his party getting funding from corporate donors via secret trusts and other parties getting it.
He won't say what, but is promising to spell it out in Parliament today.

Sir Bob To Go To The Police?

This from this morning's Herald

Mr Peters has referred questions about the Spencer Trust to his brother Wayne Peters, who won't give any details about it.
Sir Robert has sought assurances that the $25,000 he gave for New Zealand First's 2005 campaign through the Spencer Trust made it to the party.
Sir Robert said he was prepared to probe other donations made previously to Mr Peters.
"Honestly, these are police matters of course," he said yesterday.
He was waiting for a response from NZ First to a letter he wrote last week to MP and former party president Dail Jones, asking about the donation.
Sir Robert said he had given Mr Peters another $150,000 - $50,000 when he started New Zealand First, $50,000 towards his Winebox legal costs and $50,000 in the mid-1990s.
Sir Robert said while he was not yet looking at the other $150,000, he was prepared to "delve" if Mr Peters was to attack him.
"If he wants to take me on, I'm not bragging about this, but I certainly won't tolerate lies and deceit being told about me," he said.
New Zealand First has not declared any donations since he donated.
The money could have been lawfully laundered from the Spencer Trust to other legal entities and to the party in smaller amounts.
Party president George Groombridge says he has never heard of the Spencer Trust. The Electoral Commission noted that the statute of limitations had expired for prosecution of electoral law offences related to donations returns for 2005.

Winston Not A Man Of His Word

Audrey Young says in her blog that:

Winston Peters has not done what he said he would do.
Last Saturday during a press conference with Condoleezza Rice, the Foreign Minister was asked by TV3 what he thought about Bob Jones having accused him of lying.
[Bob Jones says Peters solicited a donation for New Zealand First: Peters says he didn't. In any event Jones wrote a $25,000 cheque to the Spencer Trust and doesn't know what happened to it.]
Peters said at the Condie press conference: "I can't wait to get down to Parliament next week and to deal with the three versions of Bob Jones' stories from Bob Jones. But I want to deal with this matter today which is so much more important.
"Next week you'll get all the answers you need. But all I would ask you to do in the meantime is find out which of the three versions that Bob Jones has given you believe and today I would like to concentrate on a very, very serious visit to this country and on important issues to do with our relationship in the 21st century. "
As he was leaving the room in Government House, he looked at Duncan Garner and said "Got that sunshine?''
It was that promise to give "all the answers you need'' that led to an expectation today that Peters might actually give Sir Robert the reassurance he wants that his $25,000 donation was actually spent on the party despite it not being disclosed as a donation.
Peters revealed nothing today on the matter enveloping his party that we did not know yesterday.
It is sounding familiar. He also said he would return from Singapore last Friday and deal with the allegations but instead held a press conference.
NZPA has done a transcript of part of it which I'll run at the end of this - and you'll see why Helen Clark yesterday described as The Greatest Show on Earth.

WTO Talks Collapse

In what is a major setback for our national interests the WTO Ministerial in Geneva has collapsed. Differences between India and China on one hand and the US and EU on the other were too great. This is not necessarily the end of the WTO or the WTO Round, but it will mean a further substantial delay.

This from the IHT

A high-level summit meeting to salvage a global trade pact collapsed Tuesday after the United States, China and India failed to compromise on farm import rules, according to trade officials.
Trade diplomats, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said that the meeting of seven commercial powers collapsed here at the World Trade Organization's headquarters.
Officials, two from advanced economies and one from a developing nation, told The Associated Press that a U.S. dispute with China and India over farm import safeguards had effectively ended any hope of a breakthrough. The comments were confirmed by a European official, who was also not authorized to comment publicly.
They said that the WTO chief, Pascal Lamy, had informed ministers that an agreement could not be reached after more than a week of talks.
There was no immediate word on whether the participants would seek to meet again in 2008 to try to salvage the talks.

Trade officials from 153 countries had been talking in Geneva for nine consecutive days.
Before the collapse, ministers had warned that failure would shake confidence in the global economy just as a number of economies enter a slowdown.
The breakdown will deal a significant setback to the credibility of the WTO, which polices the international trading system.
"If people don't want this deal," the European trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, said before the breakdown, "there's no better deal coming along and we just have to consider, if this fails, what they will lose."

Jul 29, 2008

David Parker Loves Rod Oram's Article

He quoted it twice in his answer to Nick Smith's question in Parliament today.

Question for tomorrow

How much money has Canon Rod Oram been paid by Government Departments and Government funded entities such as the Asia Foundation over the past 6 years? How much of this funding been related to climate change?

Daily Humour

JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Racing; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes; because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Why Is Winston Digging A Deeper Hole?

Winston's personal statement in Parliament explained nothing and disappointed everyone. And it made the media even more angry. Why would he be so silly?

  • could Winston see all this attention pushing him past the 5% threshold;
  • could Winston's fans fall for his media conspiracy theory?
  • or is Winston being careful because he doesn't know what is going to come out tomorrow? or the next day?
  • or is he just a short arse ego maniac who gets off on all the publicity?

Are The WTO Talks Dead?

Not far off unfortunately

This report just in

Finger pointing between the US and other countries like India and Brazil has resulted in the WTO talks coming very close to a breakdown. The deal breakers could be safeguards against import surges, lowering of subsidies for cotton by the US and sectors like automobiles, chemicals, textiles on which the US and EU want zero import duties over time. Talks have halted temporarily. They will resume in the evening as time and patience runs out in the last sessions of the Doha round.“There is no doubt that there are seven countries which are sitting there and we are one of them. I said on Friday that India does not agree with this paper, so there is no doubt in anybody’s mind. I don’t think there is any ambiguity,” said Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath.Susan Schwab, US trade representative, said, "Each of us has to make a contribution. There were 6 out of 7 in the leadership group which represented a very delicate balance because everyone has to stretch, everyone has to make a contribution." Schwab added, "I have noted with time that if you pull one threat it is likely to unwrap. So now we are in a situation where one country has parted with the original agreement and the second country is backtracking on its commitment it made to rest of us.”

Is The ETS Dead?

Everyone is asking this question and yes, Duncan a number of us have been talking about the slippage in the scheme down the order paper. We are hearing only negative things but maybe some deal with NZ First was done this morning. Bold move by the PM is true given what is about to come out.

Anyway TV3's Duncan Garner has tried to answer this question in his blog

Is the Emissions Trading System dead?Added 29 July, 2:00PM.
Has anyone noticed how the Government's dear and beloved Emissions Trading Scheme legislation is today sitting at number 31 on the order paper?
To be fair it could make it up the order paper very quickly. That's the Government's prerogative and right. But right now it's languishing.
It's a signal that the legislation is on the skids. When was the last time David Parker and Helen Clark talked about it? When was the last time they talked about compensation for households? It looks dead - at least before the election anyway.
If the election is in 3 months, then Clark has 6 weeks to pass the ETS into law before the house rises. She doesn't have the support. She needs Winston and NZ First. Maybe she can keep him as a Minister in return for his support. But there are so many opposing groups that now want the ETS sent back to select committee for reconsideration.
My sources around Parliament say 6 weeks ago the Government was 70-30 in favour of passing it before the election. 3 weeks ago, I'm told they were 50-50. Today, I'm told it is 30-70.
Neither Clark nor Parker will say it's dead. Neither will say it'll pass. It's in limbo land - and no one is pumping any oxygen into it to keep it alive. Unless Peters rescues Clark, her dream scheme - the one that helped her get a top United Nations environmental award - is dead. Will she hand her award back too?
And given most of the Nats belong to the Climate Change sceptics society, the scheme could be seriously watered down by next year.

More Disturbing Reporting From Geneva

This is what Europeans will be waking up to in their Tuesday morning Financial Times

Heated public disagreements broke out on Monday between the main camps in the Doha round of trade talks, as negotiations stalled over measures permitting developing countries to protect farmers from rising imports.
Speaking after 12 hours of inconclusive talks between the main trading nations, Keith Rockwell, World Trade Organisation spokesman, said: “The situation is very tense, things are finely ­balanced and the outcome is by no means certain.”
Open disputes pitting the US against China and India, and renewed sniping from Paris at Peter Mandelson, European Union trade commissioner, had soured the mood after broad acceptance of an outline deal on Friday.
The US on Monday repeated its warning that India and China were risking the collapse of the ministerial meeting by continuing to insist on special protection to shield farmers from international competition.
Susan Schwab, US trade representative, said earlier: “There is a real threat to the delicate balance that we achieved on Friday night and I’m very concerned that it will jeopardise the outcome of this round.”
Meanwhile, the French government had declared that the deal being discussed was not acceptable and said 11 of 27 EU member states shared its reservations.
President Nicolas Sarkozy is unhappy that China and other emerging markets are not committed to liberalising entire industrial sectors, and is frustrated at a lack of progress in extending legal protection to geographical names for foods such as Parma ham.
Mr Mandelson said that talks at the meeting, which on Monday entered their eighth day, were at a “difficult and complicated” stage but that the will to succeed remained. Officials said that while the divisions were serious, it was unclear whether the disputes were simply last-minute jockeying ahead of a final deal.
“A trade deal just about to break down looks much the same from the outside as one about to succeed,” one trade diplomat said.
Pascal Lamy, the World Trade Organisation director-general, last night postponed the issue of an updated ­version of the draft agreement he had circulated on Friday, which ministers had agreed to use as a basis for discussion.
India had said it still did not agree with some of the detail, notably the terms of a mechanism allowing it to raise tariffs to protect vulnerable farmers in the face of a surge of agricultural imports.
On Sunday Mr Sarkozy, who has been at loggerheads with Mr Mandelson since France took over the presidency of the EU on July 1, demanded an immediate meeting with him.
Peter Power, Mr Mandelson’s spokesman, said the commissioner would be happy to meet Mr Sarkozy but that his negotiating commitments had to come first.
The core seven negotiating partners – Japan, Australia, Brazil, China, India, the US and the EU – had resumed their meeting last night after breaking to consult their capitals.

Peters Thinks Everything Put To Rest

We don't think so. Lets hope tomorrow's Dominion Post arrives on time. But then the PM gets her copy before she goes to bed. We hope she sleeps well.

Meanwhile this is the report on Winston's wishful thinking from the Stuff site. We will put up the Hansard transcript from Question #1 in Parliament today once we have this. It was from Key to Clark on her confidence in Peters

NZ First leader Winston Peters has dismissed as "nonsense" speculation that the Government's majority is threatened over the NZ First funding row and has blamed the scandal on "dirty politics".
After meeting Prime Minister Helen Clark in her office this morning to discuss allegations of covert party funding, Mr Peters said he was confident the matters raised by questions over donations to NZ First had been "put to rest".
Describing the meeting as "cordial", he said its purpose had been to "clear up the media-generated hysteria of the past two weeks".
"Media speculation about the confidence and supply agreement between New Zealand First and Labour is nonsense.
"This whole affair is a shameful episode of dirty politics."

Goff Worried About WTO Round

Just spotted this on the wires from NZPA

Crucial talks on world trade liberalisation are hanging by a thread and the next 24 hours could determine the outcome of the latest round of World Trade Organisation negotiations, Trade Minister Phil Goff has told NZPA.
"The round in many ways is closer than it's ever been to reaching an outcome, which is the tragedy of the situation if we don't succeed," he said from Geneva this morning.
"There's a lot at stake, including the reputation of the WTO and multi-lateralism."
The ministerial-level talks were called to find a way through the impasse over agriculture, in particular the tariff rates that countries impose on imports.
The issue has been holding up wider trade liberalisation deals and Mr Goff said significant progress had been made over the last 11 days he has been in Geneva.
But a confrontation between the United States and developing countries led by China and India is threatening the outcome.
Mr Goff said it was over the Special Safeguard Mechanism, which allows importing countries to raise tariff levels to protect their local farmers when there is a surge in imports.
In the package the WTO is working on, that could happen when imports reach 40 percent above normal.
"Now China and some of the developing countries are saying the trigger point should only be 20 percent," Mr Goff said.
"Where we've got to is the US feels it has made as many compromises as it is able to and still sell the package to its domestic constituents and to Congress," he said.
"They have said no, the package can't be breached and it's a bottom line for the US."
Mr Goff said he hoped a compromise could be achieved, but if India and China, and some of the developing countries, also regarded their position as a bottom line the talks could break down.
"We're pretty much at crunch point," he said.
"It's hanging by a thread, if we're going to do the job, it has to be done in the next couple of days even if that means meeting through the nights."
Mr Goff said New Zealand, and every other WTO member, had much to gain from agreements already reached but the single issue of the Special Safeguards Mechanism was putting it all at risk.

Is Zespri About To Lose Its Monpoly?

This from WTO DG Lamy's speech to the the full WTO membership today

Regarding STEs, there is convergence on eliminating the square brackets in the text which will, inter alia, eliminate the monopoly powers of STEs. There is an understanding that the base period for elimination of export subsidies as regards volume commitments will be 2003-2005. With these adjustments, the Export Competition chapter is stabilized.

Zespri is a STE - State Trading Enterprise - its export monopoly is a right vested by Government

Obama Victory A Certainty?

As the European and wider international newsmedia continue their love affair with Comrade Barack neocon commentator William Kristol gets at first enraged, then morose, then filled with hope in today's New York Times.

How Can McCain Win The Undecided Voters?

In today's Wall Street Journal Blog polling expert Peter Brown tells us the story of a couple who explain how McCain might pick up the votes of the undecided

Verne and Lois Spence neatly explain why Sen. John McCain trails in his race for the White House, and how he could win the Oval Office when it gets to November.
The couple isn’t sure whom they will vote for in November, but in the past they have generally backed Republicans for president.
They are concerned about the economy, which gives Sen. Barack Obama a chance for their votes. Yet they are skeptical about Democrats on national security in general and Sen. Obama in particular.
Verne, a 60-year-old retired Volusia County deputy sheriff, and Lois, 63, a property manager, typify the millions of Americans who will decide the November election. They are not overly political and are only now beginning to focus on the election.
They are blue-collar in mindset and lifestyle, if not in current occupation — their annual vacation is a three-week motorcycle trip around America.
Their mixed feelings about the presidential race — and especially who will best keep America safe — mirror the uncertainty that a series of Quinnipiac University polls nationally, and in key battleground states, found in the electorate. These voters, who make up about one-fifth of the electorate, think the Iraq war was a mistake for the U.S. — which is a cornerstone of Sen. Obama’s campaign — yet they are more comfortable with the proposed solution suggested by Sen. McCain.

Supporting Winston Bad For Labour

We told you so. The latest Herald DigiPoll is a disaster for Labour

National has widened its lead in this month's Herald-DigiPoll survey, recording its highest support in a year, while Labour has dropped to just above 30 per cent with the election no more than 3 1/2 months away.
The poll is the first to be completed since New Zealand First leader Winston Peters became embroiled in fund-raising controversies, but his party has gained slightly and his personal rating has dropped only marginally.
National leads Labour by 24.6 percentage points - reversing signs of a Government comeback in other polls.
National has risen half a percentage point since June to 55.4 per cent support, while Labour has dropped 1.6 points to 30.8.
The only other party to get across the crucial 5 per cent threshold to enter Parliament is the Greens, with 5.5 per cent. But New Zealand First, at 4.1 per cent, is edging closer.

WTO: Worrying Reporting Coming Out Of Geneva

The WTO Interpreter is carrying three worrying reports this morning. One suggests that new agriculture and NAMA texts have been delayed until at least late Monday Geneva time - meaning that the talks may have to be extended until the end of the week. Another talks about continuing problems from the French. The third talks about India and China being accused by the US of putting the negotiation in the "gravest jeopardy" over the propsed "special safeguard mechanism" for agriculture.

Jul 28, 2008

Condi's Inbox

We once more try and be helpful to our friends at the Embassy

Confidential and Highly Sensitive

From Wellington

To State Flash

Attention Secretary Rice

From DCM Keegan

Position Of New Zealand Foreign Minister Peters

Secretary Rice has requested daily updates on the political scandal growing around Winston Peters.

Peters' position is becoming increasingly untenable and as we write the Opposition Leader Key (who impressed the Secretary) is calling for more leadership from PM Clark.

The major papers in Wellington and Christchurch both had hostile editorials today calling for answers.

Radio and TV interviews by the PM today sent mixed messages. On TV she seemed to be suggesting that the end was near, but on radio she seemed more supportive.

There are a number of witnesses now emerging from the woodwork who seem to know enough to contradict Peters' denials and those around Wellington who know the law are all telling us that a breach of either the former or current law seems likely to be provable, thus increasing the risk for the Government.

There are two schools of thought around town. One suggests that PM Clark is using this as a means to secure Peters' support for the unpopular emissions trading scheme. The other suggests that Clark is prepared for Peters to dig an even bigger hole for himself for a bit longer. Once the Australian PM's visit is over and the scandal is at fever pitch she will seek to demonstrate strong leadership by firing Peters and calling an early election. The need for a firmer majority and the failure of her climate change legislation will be the pretexts. This would be a ballsy act but Helen Clark has political balls. Labour has clawed back a bit of support in recent polls so going to the electorate on the leadership issue might claw thing back enough to win in coalition with the Greens and Maori parties (under this scenario Peters' so called New Zealand First Party would become a thing of the past).

With the PM leaving for the lunatic King's coronation in Tonga on Thursday we are not expecting resolution of this matter for quite some time.

On another issue former PM Bolger is very sorry for the slip of the tongue and the inappropriate mention of Senator Obama in his speech on Saturday. This has unfortunately been picked up in the media.

Jul 27, 2008

Goff Playing A Key Role In WTO Progress

There is much positive comment coming in from Geneva over the role being played by Phil Goff at this Ministerial. He is seen as playing a particularly strong leadership role in the Cairns Group. But in wider meetings it is reportedly noticeable that the room goes silent and strong attention is paid to his interventions. Many important delegations are asking for copies of his speeches.

The WTO Interpreter is keeping progress updated.

Bob Jones Bites Back

And we are very pleased to see that former staffers like Rex Widerstrom are prepared to set the record straight. This from the Herald On Sunday

Peters has said he has "no involvement with that trust" administered by his brother, but former NZ First staff member Rex Widerstrom told the Herald on Sunday he was prepared to swear an affidavit stating the trust was set up around the time of the Winebox Inquiry to funnel anonymous donations from people who wanted to support Peters' various legal battles.
He said he had the opinion that during his time with Peters there were occasional discussions in the NZ First parliamentary offices about the Spencer Trust, and he was absolutely convinced Peters had knowledge it existed and what its function was.

He recalled one conversation between Peters and ex-staffer Sarah Neems when Neems asked Peters if a donation should go into the Spencer Trust and Peters agreed it should.
Another former NZ First staff member - who did not want to be named - said it was his understanding the name "Spencer" was decided on because of Peters' great admiration for his namesake Winston Churchill. Churchill's middle name was Spencer and for years his photograph hung in Peters' Wellington office.
Controversy over the Spencer Trust follows claims NZ First has received donations from wealthy donors which it has not declared to the Electoral Commission. Peters has dismissed the claims as unsubstantiated rubbish.
Wayne Peters told the Herald on Sunday he had no comment to make about the Spencer Trust, while Peters told journalists yesterday attending a press conference for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice he would not be answering questions on the issue.
He could not be reached last night for comment on Widerstrom's claims.
However, yesterday Sir Robert went on the front foot over suggestions by Peters that his "memory was failing him" over the donation, questioning why Peters would solicit funds for a trust he had no knowledge or involvement with.
He said he would be writing to Wayne Peters this week asking what the money had been spent on.
All donations to political parties of more than $10,000 must be declared to the Electoral Commission.

Jul 26, 2008

Condi's Outbox


From Condi

To The Shrub

Day One In New Zealand

Dear Shrubby

The things I do for your administration!!

Just back to my room after another reception and dinner and having to be polite and watching a game that I don't fully understand. These people are all very nice but they are trying too hard to please!

And I thought New Zealand was part of the OECD not a third world country. You drive in from the airport to the major city on a tiny back road, half the people in the biggest city are without power, and they all seem fixated on a game of rugby. Everyone was looking at the their watches as the end of dinner approached and the room was empty by just after 10pm. Many people we staying behind at the hotel to watch this game against Australia because they would not have power at home. (I have just been warned by my staff that New Zealand lost the game. This will apparently send the nation into shock tomorrow. I have been told not to raise the subject or mention Australia in my talks tomorrow).

That dreadful little man Winston Peters is at my shoulder every second. He is so pompous. Back home he would be lucky to make a city council. You can imagine him selling second hand cars or being an ambulance chasing lawyer. The newspapers are full of stories about various scandals that he is involved in. Maybe this will be the last time I have to see him. It seems sad that the political system here is so bad that the Prime Minister can't sack this guy.

These New Zealanders are the easiest people I have had to deal with. They say yes to everything I ask and don't seem the slightest bit upset that we keep saying not yet to their FTA request. They are so desperate for recognition. There is no way they are going to pull their people out of Afghanistan. By the way tell Mrs Shrub that I see what she means about that warrior dance she had to survive in Afghanisan. They did one at the start of the rugby tonight. Mrs S. did well not to turn and run!!

I meet the PM Helen Clark and the likely PM to be Key tomorrow. One of the politicians called him a rich prick at dinner tonight. He used to trade currency for Merrill Lynch and clearly left at the right time!

I can't wait to get back to civilisation. Look forward to seeing you soon. Have you heard anything more about the Football Commissionership?



Lets Go Dancing - Notice how much taller Condi is than Winston

We are very pleased to read the positive things that Secretary Rice has been saying about the relationship - particularly that we have put the nuclear differences behind us.

WTO Progress

These press reports provide a good summary of what is going on.

From the IHT

and from Reuters

Things can still go wrong but this is very positive progress which will be of great value to New Zealand if it can hold.

Cabinet Turns On Wounded PM

OK this article is about Gordon Brown but we wonder if the same will happen here. What if Winston's assurances to the PM prove not exactly the whole truth (unlikely as this is)? What is frustrating here is that the wounding would be self inflicted. The right thing to do is for the PM to stand Winston down and clear up the facts. There are now far too many unanswered questions. The PM says Winston can stay on so long as he hasn't done anything illegal. How are we going to know without an investigation? How many trusts have been receiving donations that are being used to fund Winston Peters and NZ First? Has the funding from these trusts to NZ First been declared? Lets have a full audit of these trusts with the auditors asked to report on all receipts and disbursements. Without this kind of investigation the PM is taking an enormous risk. And this risk is beginning to disconcert a growing number of senior colleagues.

Does any of this sound familiar? This from the Herald website

The first cracks in the British Cabinet's support for Gordon Brown appeared yesterday as Labour MPs urged senior ministers to tell him to quit after the party's humiliating defeat in the Glasgow East by-election.
Although cabinet ministers said there would be no immediate attempt to oust the Prime Minister, some predicted he would face a concerted move to force him to stand down in September possibly before the Labour conference, which starts on 20 September.
Ministers acknowledged that the disastrous and unexpected defeat at the hands of the Scottish National Party could prove to be a "tipping point" for Mr Brown.
"The mood is changing," said one source in the Cabinet.
"It is starting to cement."

Liar,Liar, Your Pants....

Sir Bob says Winston is a liar. This is no surprise to The Hive as we have found instances of this trait before.

We have also been warning the Government about how Winston might ruin Condi's visit. But have they listened?????

This from the Dominion Post

Sir Robert Jones has accused Winston Peters of "lying" about a $25,000 political donation.
Property developer Sir Robert's attacks now threaten to overshadow the NZ First leader's finest hour as foreign affairs minister.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Auckland last night with Mr Peters still dogged by the controversy - despite his angry rebuttal of allegations swirling around NZ First funding yesterday.
Mr Peters revealed he expects to brief Prime Minister Helen Clark on funding issues next week - a sign of concern in the Government about continued fallout.
Dr Rice will hold meetings with Mr Peters, Miss Clark and National leader John Key before flying out for Samoa with Mr Peters tomorrow.
Mr Peters lashed out yesterday at what he labelled a campaign of "innuendo and character assassination". He insisted he had done nothing wrong after revelations by The Dominion Post that Sir Robert's $25,000 cheque for NZ First was not disclosed to electoral authorities.
In response, Sir Robert accused Mr Peters of talking "rubbish". "I'm very sad that Winston has now resorted to blatant lying," Sir Robert told The Dominion Post.
Mr Peters confirmed the newspaper's revelations this week that a $25,000 cheque from Sir Robert was paid to the Spencer Trust. The trust is administered by Mr Peters' brother Wayne.
Asked for details about the trust, Mr Peters said he could not answer the questions and repeatedly told reporters to "ring the trust".
"I have no involvement with that trust."
But his version of events, in relation to the circumstances in which the $25,000 cheque was given, is completely at odds with Sir Robert's.

Winston In Trouble

The Herald has an article, an opinion piece and an Editorial on Winston's credibility problems.

The article says

Serious credibility questions remain for Foreign Minister Winston Peters after he failed yesterday to throw any light on what happened to a $25,000 donation given by Sir Robert Jones in 2005 for Mr Peters' NZ First Party.

The opinion piece says

Winston Peters has to be brought to his senses. So the Prime Minister has been holding the smelling salts under his nose. Judging from yesterday's angry press conference, they are taking some time to work.
Trying to bring Peters back into the real world - rather than the fantasy world he has been inhabiting for the past fortnight - is not an act of kindness. It is an act of necessity to stop NZ First's downward spiral taking Labour with it.
Helen Clark has gone out on a limb for Peters this week at no inconsiderable risk to her own reputation. But her assistance comes with strict conditions attached.
She does not want to sack her Foreign Minister. She does not want to upset the warm relations between Labour and NZ First. But she has given her warning. When it comes to NZ First and political donations, she has taken Peters on his word that he has done nothing illegal. What is left unspoken is that that assurance had better stack up - and keep stacking up. Otherwise, she will have to ditch him from her ministry.

The Editorial has a timely reminder for Winston - this is not a game

Winston Peters returned yesterday to face some very serious questions. What is this Spencer Trust, run by his brother, for which Sir Robert Jones says he wrote a cheque at the request of Winston Peters? What political purpose, if any, does the trust serve for the New Zealand First Party? Why was the money not declared in electoral finance returns and why has the party president never heard of the trust?
From the moment Sir Robert expressed his concern at reports that his donation does not appear to have been disclosed to the Electoral Commission, the troubles for the Foreign Minister took a more ominous turn. Until then, Mr Peters had been up to his usual merriment, fielding questions about the Owen Glenn contribution to his legal costs and the sums he is said to have received from racing interests some years before he sought and received the ministerial portfolio for racing in the present Government.
The Jones disclosures prompted the Prime Minister to seek an assurance from Mr Peters in Singapore that he has done nothing illegal. The same day, he issued a statement promising to clarify matters "in an orderly manner" on his return yesterday. He has not done so.

He denied any personal involvement with the Spencer Trust, declined to explain what it was and can not explain why Sir Robert would write a cheque for a trust Sir Robert had never heard of.
Sir Robert says his secretary was told by Mr Peters to make the cheque out to the trust and Mr Peters took the cheque away. And Sir Robert says Mr Peters' brother, Wayne, wrote the receipt he received in the mail. What the donor does not know, and we would very much like to know, is, what the cheque was used for.

We are surprised Winston has lasted so long. We continue to give just a few days as Foreign Minister. We know how he fund raises.........but where has the money gone? This is going to be very interesting....

Good News From Geneva

Well it wasn't an all night session. Phil Goff and his team are now out on the town in Geneva. There is still much that can go wrong but the WTO talks now look as though they will be continuing through the weekend until at least Tuesday. Tomorrow the focus will be on services and on whether the US will be able to make some concessions on the movement of people.

WTO Deal Still Possible

Ministers have made some progress and the talks are continuing. It has a coupld of hours agao moved from a small group process to a full Green Room process so New Zealand's Phil Goff is once again an important player. It could be an all night session.

Jul 25, 2008

Is Winston Having Some Form Of Breakdown?

We would welcome feedback from our readers in the medical profession.

He really doesn't seem himself. He was sweating profusely over the period of the part conference and seems to be increasingly irrational, almost in denial. And he is increasingly seeing conspiracies.....

This from Stuff

NZ First leader Winston Peters has angrily refused to reveal who and what the Spencer Trust is, the organisation property developer Sir Robert Jones says he gave money to.
He would not say when he knew of the trust.
"Neither I nor my barrister has any involvement with the Spencer Trust."
To questions about the trust he repeatedly said "ask them".
He assailed media coverage of his party funding, saying it was "unsubstantiated rubbish".
"Every donation New Zealand First has ever received has been legal and no individual has ever personally retained any donations," he said.
"NZ First is once again caught up in a power struggle for control," he said.
He said he had no knowledge of the Spencer Trust which Sir Robert Jones said he had paid money into.
"What are you left with?" Peters said.
"A campaign of innuendo, misrepresentation and character assassination promoted by some particular interests of their own purposes.
"These campaigns have been going on since 1991 and they have always failed," Peters said.
"New Zealand First is again caught in the centre of a power struggle for the control of the country's resources in 2008.
"We are sure that the people will be acutely aware of what will happen to their pensions, wages and strategic assets if their protection is lost."
He said Jones memory was failing him.
Before New Zealand First was formed he said Jones announced he would give money.
Peters said it was $50,000.
Peters said he did not solicit the money from Jones; he gave it unsolicited.
Jones "wrote a cheque for the Spencer Trust" but he would not say what the money was used for.
"You had better ask the Spencer Trust."
He added: "I have been advised by party officials at the time that there is nothing New Zealand First is required to disclose arising from the Spencer Trust."
He said the money from the Vela racing family is lawful.
An angry press conference is continuing, with Peters attacking journalists as unprofessional.
TV3's John Campbell began to walk out at one point and Peters demanded he sit down.

The Perfect Storm

As the Metservice worries about storms about to hit at the weekend both the NZ Herald and Dominion Post worry about the political storm awaiting Winston Peters. Even Trans Tasman this week speculates about the end of Winston's career.

We think it disgusting that the PM allows such a tainted figure remain as New Zealand's Foreign Minister.

WTO Talks Heading For Failure

Unless there is a miracle we are looking at a long delay before negotiations resume. Our Geneva sources are uniformly gloomy. And to make matters worse French President Sarkozy has just had an unhelpful brain fart which has thrown things further into crisis. The services signalling conference sheduled for tomorrow has been put off again to Saturday but most people are betting that Saturday will be the day to fly home. This has been a very frustrating meeting for PM in waiting Phil Goff who has had to sit on his hands for two days now while a small group try and nut things out.

The next 8 hours will tell.....

Jul 24, 2008

Fallow On The Cut

Brian Fallow analyses the Reserve Bank's surprise interest rate cut

In a 'What the hell, why wait?' decision Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard has cut the official cash rate, for the first time in more than five years.
With two monsters on the rampage, recession and inflation, his money is on the former to deal to the latter.
He is betting, in short, that much as they might want to people will struggle to pass on the higher costs they face to their employers or their customers.
But he expects inflation to get worse before it gets better, rising to 5 per cent in the September quarter (an increase from the 4.7 per cent the bank was forecasting only six weeks ago).
Bollard implicitly acknowledges that the Reserve Bank's official cash rate decisions are only one factor affecting the interest rates borrowers in the mortgage belt or in business face.
"The cost of funds raised abroad by banks has been rising as the international financial situation has deteriorated," he said.

Yet Another Undeclared Donation

Why was Bob Jones' $25 K not declared? You really have to cut the ties Helen. This could bring you down.

Winston Peters faces mounting pressure over undeclared NZ First donations amid revelations that Sir Robert Jones gave the party $25,000 — which was banked into a trust administered by Mr Peters’ brother.
An investigation by The Dominion Post has learnt from NZ First sources that property magnate Sir Robert gave money to Mr Peters to help fund the party.
The $25,000 donation has not been declared to election officials.
It is understood the cheque went to the Spencer Trust, which a NZ First source has described as secretive. Its identity was known to only a handful of party MPs, officials or supporters. Money sourced from the Spencer Trust had been used sometimes to pay NZ First’s bills, the source said.
The Dominion Post has learnt that Sir Robert gave the money to Mr Peters a month before the 2005 election.
The Electoral Commission has confirmed it has no record of NZ First declaring a $25,000 donation from Sir Robert, any of his companies, or from the Spencer Trust in 2005 or in later years.
Mr Peters’ brother Wayne administered the Spencer Trust.
When contacted yesterday, Sir Robert said he was making his own inquiries with NZ First officials and would not comment further at this stage.
The latest revelations add to growing controversy about Mr Peters and unanswered questions about donations to NZ First.

Interest rates lower

The RB has dropped the rate to 8%. This will be a surprise. Expect the dollar to fall sharply. They will be celebrating on the 9th floor!

Unfortunately this means that the RB thinks that things are really bad with the domestic economy.

Brian Fallow On NZ First's Latest Protectionist Idea

Brian Fallow analyses Winston's idea for a fund to buy back NZ assets.

New Zealand First wants to reduce foreign ownership of New Zealand assets and proposes setting up a fund to buy some of them back.
It is time, Winston Peters told the party faithful last weekend, to staunch the haemorrhage of money to Australian-owned banks and other foreign interests.
Yet this tub-thumping came only three days after the Treasury published research which concluded that foreign capital has been on balance positive for national income.
Just as well, because we are certainly hooked on it.

Is National Being A Proper opposition?

John Armstrong looks at National's performance over the Peters' scandals.

We wonder whether National is making the most of this issue and whether National's lack of killer instinct on Peters is part of the recent small shift of support away from National. We agree, however, that the PM should be under the spotlight on this issue. It is a disgrace that Peters remains a Minister.

Frustrating Day For Phil Goff

With the WTO talks in crisis actvity has been focussed on a core group of countries excluding New Zealand. Goff can do nothing but wait to see if there is some convergence between the larger members before being called back into the room.

Jul 23, 2008

No Progress Yet At WTO Ministerial

And it looks like slow going for a few days yet. The WTO Interpreter is updating developments regularly. New Zealand has even received a mention!

Why We Need Transmission Gully

From Stuff

Knee-high water on the road has forced the closure of State Highway 1 north of Wellington.
Earlier this afternoon, police warned motorists to defer travel on Centennial Highway between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki because stormy weather was causing waves to crash against the sea walls and onto the road in some places.

If the climate change scientists are correct this is going to be a daily occurrence. Sea level will be 50cm of so higher (and rising).

PM Seeking Legal Advice

So she should

Prime Minister Helen Clark is seeking advice on whether Winston Peters should hand over the $100,000 donated by shipping billionaire Owen Glenn under rules requiring ministers to disclose gifts.
Miss Clark told Parliament she wanted to know if the donation, to help pay Mr Peters' legal bills from his failed court bid to overturn the 2005 Tauranga result, counted as a gift under the Cabinet Manual.

If it was not a gift what was it - a bribe???

Where Has The Vela Money Gone?

The Dominion Post reckons thaat the Vela family paid NZ First at least $150k yet NZ First sources say nothing like this amount was deposited into the NZ First bank account. So who has the money???

An investigation by The Dominion Post revealed that donations totalling at least $150,000 were made to NZ First from various accounts linked to the Vela family. The donations were all in payments of less than $10,000.
But NZ First sources say nothing like that much Vela money was deposited in the party's bank account.

Urgent Investigation Into Parliamentary Services Needed

How many NZ First people are on the Parliamentary Services payroll? First we have some bloke living in Tauranga, now we have this lawyer fellow being paid $45 K. What the hell is going on?

Party Funding

This from the Dominion Post

An investigation by The Dominion Post revealed that donations totalling at least $150,000 were made to NZ First from various accounts linked to the Vela family. The donations were all in payments of less than $10,000.
But NZ First sources say nothing like that much Vela money was deposited in the party's bank account.
Mr Peters is also embroiled in controversy over revelations billionaire Owen Glenn paid $100,000 into his legal fund.
Miss Clark said yesterday that the allegations were "serious" but unsubstantiated and she retained confidence in Mr Peters as her foreign affairs minister. "I think it's important to be fair and not rush to judgment."
There were a range of "competent authorities", including the auditor-general, Inland Revenue and police, who could "take up such matters" if they thought it justified. But Miss Clark revived her call for state funding to get rid of corporate donors altogether.
Yesterday Mr Peters dismissed the latest claims and noted the Velas denied giving as much as $150,000. He said the donations were all lawful. "What is the issue? The accounts of NZ First are audited and all money received accounted for."
It was also revealed that his lawyer, Brian Henry, was paid $45,000 out of Parliamentary Service funds for legal services.
Mr Henry confirmed payments from the Parliamentary Service, but none was for Mr Peters' failed court action to overturn the 2005 Tauranga election result. All work paid for from the service was authorised and invoiced.
The Electoral Commission, which polices party funding and spending, said it was not investigating because there was no allegation the law had been breached.

Even John Armstrong Thinks Peters May Have To Resign

This from this morning's Herald

It does not yet qualify as a full-blown scandal. It is still some way off being a full-scale crisis. But the overwhelming feeling around Parliament yesterday was of things teetering on the brink, that Winston Peters - for all his formidable survival instincts - risks drowning in the sheer volume of allegations and unanswered questions now raining down on him.
In his absence - he is in Singapore - the Prime Minister is doing her level best to help him while carefully quarantining Labour from suffering collateral damage through its association with NZ First as her Government's support partner.
But much more of this and Peters may yet have to step down as a minister and relinquish his Foreign Affairs portfolio.
It may not come to that. The Prime Minister will willingly soak up a lot more taunts from National about her protecting Peters before reluctantly cutting him loose.
Nevertheless, the rapid turn of events had questions being asked of her yesterday as to whether Peters can viably carry on as Foreign Minister given the serious nature of the allegations against him and with his credibility simultaneously melting at such a horrific rate.

Jul 22, 2008

We Need An Independent Commission Against Corruption

We used to think that NZ was not corrupt. Now we know that this not the case we need to move fast to stamp it out.

Just listen to this summary of all the investigations that are needed into one politician - and this was before the information on influence from racing interests became available.

TV3's Duncan Garner Agrees With The Hive

Peters should resign. This from Duncan's new blog

Clark should break her silence. Arguably, the Owen Glenn donation also breaks the rules set out in the Cabinet Manual.
Auditor General Kevin Brady should investigate Peters. He's nailed Labour before. He's got the guts to nail Peters. The IRD should look at the tax status of the donation. The Privileges Committee should start its kangaroo court - at least it would provide some theatre.
Peters may have used up his nine lives. He voted to end secret and covert funding - yet took it on the side. Indeed, it was so secret, we're meant to believe he didn't even know.
He should resign. The saga is a disgrace. And on his way out he should apologise to the NZ Herald Political Editor Audrey Young who broke the story. But don't hold your breath. There's more chance of Peters working in a multi-party coalition with Jeanette Fitzsimons as Prime Minister, Tariana Turia as her deputy and Jim Anderton as Foreign Minister.

PM Still Has Confidence In Peters

This from Stuff

Do her colleagues still have confidence in her? We know of one senior colleague who is extremely angry over her lack of leadership over Peters.

Condi's Inbox

Again we make Dave Keegan's job a bit easier

Confidential and Highly Sensitive

From Wellington

To State Flash

From DCM Keegan

Please pass immediately to Asst Sec Hill

New Zealand Politics

The situation here surrounding Foreign Minister Peters has just become much worse.

Unless the PM fires Peters we recommend against the Secretary visiting.

This is most unusal as New Zealand had once had a reputation as one of the least corrupt societies in the world. But now it appears that one of New Zealand's best known politicians has been accepting money from vested interests for years and repaying this support with substantial Government grants - grants made against Treasury advice.

Secretary Rice is reported in the NZ media to be friendly to Winston Peters. This potentially makes matters worse. Does she really want to be seen in this man's company?

CIA have further and even more worrying reporting on the sources on Winston Peters' funding.

Good Work Philip Kitchin

Read this.

We are so angry we will leave comment to David Farrar.

NZ First and Leader Winston Peters have taken us all for suckers. He has intimidated the media for so long he has thought they will never catch up with the truth that he is a dirty little man who doesn't declare where his money is coming from or the interest that he is really representing. No wonder the racing industry love him. He is deep hock to them. How much funding did they get against Treasury recommendations?

Why did Cullen ignore this advice or did the PM insist? Clock ticking guys and gals - it is you and Winston or just Winston - your decision........

Labour's Bounce About To Be Shortlived

Unless the PM is resolute. Lets all face it. Peters stinks. He is not the type of politician you want to have in your Government. And he should not be our public face to the world. We were once regarded as non-corrupt.

He Has To Go Helen!

Did Peters Breach Rules?

From Audrey Young (who seems to have the bit between her teeth)

Since 2006 all MPs have had to declare assets and gifts. Before that, only Cabinet ministers needed to do so.
If Owen Glenn's donation to Winston Peters' legal bill is considered a "debt" or a "gift" it should have been declared.
Pecuniary Interests Register
What must be declared by MPs includes:
- A description of all debts of more than $500 owing by the MP that were paid (in whole or in part) by any other person and the names of each of those persons.
- All gifts over $500 and, if known, the name of the donor.
The period for which information must be provided is the 12 months before January 31 of the year the return is submitted.
Cabinet Manual
- Ministers must declare all gifts over $500 and relinquish them unless they have the Prime Minister's okay.
Tax law
The lack of details about the payment makes it unclear where there are tax obligations for either Mr Peters or Mr Glenn.
If gift duty on Mr Glenn's donation was due, it would amount to $25,000 - but experts say it would depend on a variety of factors, including Mr Glenn's Monaco home. Gift duty generally does not apply where the donor does not live in New Zealand or the money has come from overseas.

Tax lawyer Tony Wilkinson from Buddle Findlay said he doubted whether Mr Glenn's donation could be treated as "income" for the purpose of tax.
While there were few details about the payment, for it to be taxed as income it had to be "an income payment in nature", such as salary, wages or payment for work.
"Ordinarily gifts or donations don't meet that threshold," Mr Wilkinson said. "Here it would be unwise to assume simply because there seems to be a significant payment that it will have tax consequences.
"Not all payments naturally have a tax liability attached to them."
Inland Revenue would not comment, but has previously said if one person pays another's liabilities with nothing expected in return it generally meets the definition of a "gift", for which gift duty must be paid on sums over $27,000 a year.

PM Beginning To Back Away From Peters?

From this morning's Herald

The Prime Minister gave cautious support to Winston Peters last night as fallout from his about-face on his $100,000 donation continued.
Helen Clark also risked a backlash from the volatile New Zealand First leader and Foreign Minister by publicly saying that the Owen Glenn email the Herald published had been "right" in that Mr Glenn believed he had given money to Mr Peters.
Mr Peters has repeatedly said the paper was wrong and accused it of lying - as recently as yesterday morning - despite his bombshell admission on Friday.
Mr Peters, having repeatedly denied ever receiving a personal or political donation from the Monaco-based expatriate billionaire, said that night that Mr Glenn had paid $100,000 towards the legal bill for his Tauranga electoral challenge in 2005.
Mr Peters said his lawyer, Brian Henry, revealed to him the identity of the donor that evening.
Asked if Mr Peters' story was credible, Helen Clark said yesterday: "I'm in a position that Mr Peters is an honourable member [of Parliament] and I must accept his word unless I have evidence to the contrary."

Key: Peters Has Not Met Standards Expected Of A Minister

We agree fully with John Key

Mr Key said Miss Clark had failed to hold Mr Peters to the standard required of a minister.
"She hasn't wanted to prosecute the issue, because if she had done so it may have left her in a difficult position when it comes to the arrangements of her Government, and this is not a prime minister who currently wants to face an election."
Some have accused National also of being soft on Mr Peters, but Mr Key said he did not agree with this.
"We had no option but to accept Mr Peters' word, even when it is completely contradicted by the email evidence.
"Now that he has made it clear he did receive a donation it is important he takes it to the next step and admits he gained from it."

New Problem With Winston's Story

Ok Winston and his lawyer tell us Winston new nothing about being the recipient of $100k from Owen Glenn until Friday.

Today, Monday, Rodney Hide files a complaint with the Speaker saying that this was in effect a personal donation and that Winston had not declared it.

Today Winston says that he has had legal advice that this was not a personal donation. --- Um, what kind of lawyer wouldd give advice on this type of issue so quickly? Either Winston has not had very good advice or else he is maybe not telling us exactly what was said.

Jul 21, 2008

WTO Ministerial

The WTO Ministerial has begun in Geneva. The Geneva based blog WTO Interpreter has detailed coverage of latest developments.

We understand that Phil Goff has been busy having held bilaterals with his US, EU, Australian and Swiss colleagues as well as the Director-General. He briefed NZ business reps this morning. Dairy, meat, kiwifruit and services sectors are represented.

The Kiwifruit delegation included Zespri and Kiwifruit Growers Inc representatives. They are very worried about maintaining their single desk seller status which media reports (HOS and NBR) suggest are under threat.

What Did Labour Know?

Tracy Watkins asks

Now, there are legitimate questions over what Labour knew of the donation.
National's Bill English has queried whether Labour Party president Mike Williams played any role in brokering the deal.
Mr Williams openly approved of the Tauranga petition. Labour had more than a passing interest, after all, in testing the electoral rules in a case involving a National MP with deep pockets. And, of course, Mr Williams has a phone number for Mr Glenn, who was Labour's wealthiest supporter. If it were known about in Labour circles, then it would have been known that Mr Peter's denials were a shade too emphatic.
That would have raised alarm bells, given Mr Glenn's pursuit of a posting as New Zealand's honorary consul in Monaco – a position over which Mr Peters has some influence, though Prime Minister Helen Clark has all but ruled it out.
Certainly, it appeared that some within senior Labour circles held doubts last week that Mr Peters' denials would be the end of the story. But Mr Williams has categorically denied any involvement.
After weeks of being effectively incommunicado after one gaffe too many in Miss Clark's eyes, he was moved to break his silence yesterday with a statement: "I can state that I have had a number of discussions with Mr Glenn over recent years. At no time have I been involved in arranging for Mr Glenn to make donations to any other person or party."
The surprise is that the donation was kept secret in the first place. Mr Glenn is no shrinking violet when it comes to putting his name to political donations. The $500,000 in total he gave to Labour came with fulsome and public testimonials from Mr Glenn about his admiration for Miss Clark.
A few straight answers now would be good, but they have been pretty thin on the ground lately.

Is This The End For Winston?

Tracy Watkins suggests that this might be

The touchstone within Parliament is that a member's word is his honour. As an old-school politician who has graced Parliament's corridors longer then most, Mr Peters might rely on his word that he did not know about the donation till Mr Henry told him on Friday being enough to settle the matter.
But outside the rarefied world of Parliament where no such automatic privilege applies, it may take more than Mr Peters' word to restore NZ First's credibility over the affair.
In typical Peters fashion, he has suggested that even if he had known, he would still have been telling the truth, since the money went not to him or to NZ First, but to his legal fund.
But on that score, the master of the semantic argument may be stretching believability too far – for the average punter, there is rarely so much grey around "no". It is usually taken to mean just that. The bluster might wash with NZ First's hard-core supporters. They are the true believers who have, after all, stuck with the NZ First leader through many more bad times than good.
But outside that close circle, the belligerence that has accompanied his admission might look more like the response of a man who feels cornered than one who considers himself in the right.
Contrition – not just because he appears to have been wrong but because he allowed the reputations of others (his MPs and the advisers who spent the week hotly defending his position) to rest on his staunch denials – might have been a wiser course.
Best to admit he was wrong than continue to muddy the waters by insisting, Clintonesque-style, that even if he was wrong he was right.

Herald Editorial Spot On

We agree also with the Herald Editorial. This is a problem of Winston's making, and he is making it worse.

Only Winston Peters knows why he decided to deny receiving a donation from the hapless (and utterly respectable) expatriate benefactor Owen Glenn. As Mr Peters' admission now reveals, he was in no position to deny it. He may not have been aware of the identity of donors to his legal aid but he was aware that his lawyer has been fundraising for this purpose for many years. That fact alone should have made him more circumspect when asked whether he had received any money from Mr Glenn.
Now he looks very foolish - and worse, in the eyes of many. It was one thing to make a denial without checking all possible sources of his financial support, and flourish a silly sign to news cameras, but Mr Peters did not hear alarm bells even when the Herald discovered an email in which Mr Glenn asked a public relations adviser, "You are saying I should deny giving a donation to NZ First? When I did?"
A wiser man would have run a quick check on all sources of funds related to his personal political activities and his party. Instead our Foreign Minister descended to baseless and disgraceful allegations of his own - against the integrity of this newspaper, its editor, and our fair-minded political editor, Audrey Young.


Indeed, it might disturb Mr Glenn to hear that the donation was technically not for a party's legal action but for an individual MP's, because that MP is the country's Foreign Minister and the Monaco-based billionaire would like to be appointed our honorary consul there. It is a humble enough request from an expatriate who leads a multi-national logistics enterprise and has given millions to his country of birth, most recently to endow the new Auckland University business school that carries his name.
He was also the Labour Party's largest donor at the last election, a connection noted when he was named in the New Year Honours. Labour weathered that news easily enough and NZ First could have done likewise, had Mr Peters not foolishly denied it. He has put himself in this hole and he would be smarter to stop digging.

John Armstrong: Vanity Causing peters To Make Errors Of Judgement

We agree fully with John Armstrong this morning

Once he discovered he had benefited from Glenn's generosity - and his previous assurances had been contradicted - the smart move would have been to fess up to the mistake and show at least some contrition.
That would not have put an end to the matter. There are still questions surrounding the donation in terms of whether it should have been disclosed to electoral authorities and whether it should have been declared in the ministers' register of assets as a gift.
Still, an apology of sorts to the public might have cooled things and removed what is fast becoming a major obstacle to NZ First striking a firm and lasting rapport with the tens of thousands of voters it needs to win over to ensure its parliamentary survival.
But no. As usual, it is all guns blazing as Peters firstly and typically blames the media, and then endeavours to create a distraction by yesterday zeroing in on "immigrant crime" in yet another attempt to find a moral panic on which NZ First can ride back into Parliament.


NZ First was already on shaky ground with its refusal to pay back $158,000 to the public purse following the Auditor-General's ruling on the misspending of parliamentary funds for electioneering in 2005.
The handling of the Owen Glenn donation will be widely seen as more evidence that when it comes to party funding, NZ First is just as bad as other parties.
A vital element of the party's unique brand has been destroyed - largely by the actions of its leader.

Might Helen's Continual Defence Of Peters Cost Her The Top Job

Yes, it might. We think that she has been most unwise. first in accepting Winston's word last week and now saying it "appears" that he has broken no rules. Should a breach be proven then the PM is now in deep doo doo land. She should know better.

Glenngate: The Latest, Peters and PM feeling the heat

So they should

Mr Peters - who is Foreign Minister as well as NZ First's leader - dropped the bombshell on Friday, saying Mr Henry had told him that day that Mr Glenn had donated to the cost of his 2005 electoral petition against National MP Bob Clarkson.
Prime Minister Helen Clark today said she accepted Peter's statement that he only found out about the donation from his lawyer on Friday night.

However she said that was an embarrassing situation after Mr Peters had denied for days he had received anything from Mr Glenn, who is also one of Labour's largest donors.
"Obviously it's embarrassing for Mr Peters because he had been very adamant that that money had not gone to him or his party," she said on TVNZ's Breakfast programme.
"In his position, I'd be embarrassed if that was what I was told after making clear denials.
"However there is a distinction between whether someone gives to a party, whether someone gives to a person and whether someone gives to there expenses."
On that basis the donation did not appear to have broken any rules, she said.
"A legal defence fund is one thing. Someone giving you money for your own purposes or electoral purposes is another and Mr Peters would not be the first member of Parliament to have people contributing to legal costs."
Mr Peters admission followed a Weekend Herald story on July 12 showing Mr Glenn had said in emails that he had donated money to New Zealand First.

Jul 20, 2008

Brazil Prepared To Wait Four Years For WTO Outcome

Posturing continues in the run up to the WTO Ministerial, with Brazil continuing to be particularly vocal

Brazil is willing to wait until 2012 in order to secure a better deal on the negotiating table at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), its Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said Saturday.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, where WTO talks are set to enter a crucial new phase on Monday, he said a failure next week would put back the conclusion of an agreement by another three or four years.
The Geneva meeting will bring together around 30 big WTO players in a bid to salvage the so-called Doha Round of trade liberalisation talks, launched in the Qatari capital in 2001 and which has struggled ever since with developed and developing countries alike refusing to budge on their core interests.
"If we wait, we will obtain a better agreement" than the one currently on offer, said the minister, adding that public opinion was "changing in our favour."
Amorim is the developing world's main representative in the WTO talks and the public face of the G20, the grouping of developing countries co-led by Brazil and India.
He is seen as a hard negotiator committed to seeing wealthy countries cut agricultural subsidies that are barriers to farm imports from Brazil and other nations.
Amorim accused developed countries of demanding too much from other countries. "One cannot snatch the maximum from the weakest and give only the minimum in exchange," he said.

Zespri The Price NZ Will Have To Pay For WTO Outcome?

This is what Fran O'Sullivan is suggesting in today's HOS.

Goff suggests that the decision by Canada and Australia to remove the export monopolies enjoyed by their wheat boards will increase pressure on New Zealand to abandon its sole remaining single desk exporter.

Might this be an opportunity for Winston? Might he be able to turn this against the Government? Has he not already seen fit as Foreign Minister to oppose the Government's biggest single foreign policy achievement. The WTO outcome might be even bigger for New Zealand. What is wrong with opposing this??

Political Party Funding

Bill Ralston writes today about the Peters/Glenn scandal and the impact that it might have on Helen Clark and the Labour Party - points that have been a concern for us. He also comments on the implications for all parties if this scandal causes a new debate to start on the transparency of funding sources. We think that such a debate is inevitable. And we also think new laws are essential. But first we need a full investigation into New Zealand First's funding arrangements and their formal declarations. The results will be very interesting.