Feb 29, 2008

Tourist industry Canes Government Over Emissions Trading Policy

We repeat in full the press release from the Tourism Industry Association. This is hard hitting stuff, from an industry that supports the general direction of Government policy.

Emissions Trading Scheme threatens tourism businesses

Tourism businesses will be hit hard by expected electricity and fuel price increases resulting from the Government’s proposed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) says.

Some may be forced out of business unless there is targeted support for the tourism sector, TIA Chief Executive Fiona Luhrs says.

“The introduction of the ETS has been too rushed and there has been limited consultation with industries such as tourism, which will be impacted by the scheme from the outset,” Ms Luhrs says.

“As the government has stated, there will be increased energy costs associated with the introduction of the ETS. While the trading component of the scheme will not apply to tourism, the energy price increases will hit businesses hard, especially small and medium size businesses in the tourism industry.

“In the accommodation sector, for example, it is expected that financial yields for individual businesses could drop by between 3% and 14%. This is in a sector that is already characterised by low margins,” Ms Luhrs says.

“Recent analysis by Business New Zealand supports the view that the introduction of the ETS threatens the viability of many businesses in the SME sector, with the potential loss of thousands of jobs.

“Tourism businesses are already facing slowing visitor growth due to the high New Zealand dollar, economic slowdowns in some of our key markets and intense competition from other international destinations.”

New Zealand’s early participation in the ETS ahead of other countries also places New Zealand tourism businesses at a disadvantage to competitors in offshore countries. A number of these countries have no obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, Ms Luhrs says.

The tourism industry strongly supports the Government’s goal of environmental sustainability and that commitment is demonstrated in the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2015 www.nztourismstrategy.com. Many tourism businesses are already making changes to meet the challenges posed by climate change.

However, the development of climate change policies must be cognisant of business reality and of the longer term timeframes needed for businesses to introduce change.

“The Government has indicated that there will be transitional government assistance to help industries adapt to the ETS but there has been no detail advised on what this support might be.”
TIA believes the government assistance programme should consider:
longer term timeframes for tourism businesses and other SMEs to adjust to change
providing targeted incentives to encourage tourism businesses to take up new energy efficient technologies recognising businesses committed to reducing carbon emissions through an accelerated depreciation scheme, such as writing off depreciation charges on older, more energy intensive plant and equipment.

Read TIA’s full submission on the ETS at www.tianz.org.nz

Australia Getting Cold Feet On Free Trade With China

While New Zealand moves towards signature of its FTA with China, Australia might eb moving in the opposite direction. Trade Minister Simon Crean is reviewing the negotiation.

The Hive wonders whether this is really about concern at the quality of the potential deal. The FTA will be a difficult sell to some areas of Australian industry - and who is Industry Minister? None other than Kim Il-Carr (described to us today as probably the most left wing Minister ever in Australia's history).

Another Big Call By Cunliffe

Public enemy #1 in Hawkes Bay and now within Telecom! He is really in charge here! David Cunliffe today rejected Telecom's separation plan.

Air NZ Profit Up

It is great to see Air New Zealand doing so well. Remember back a year or so ago - without a codeshare with Qantas it was supposedly going to have to trim things back to the bone.....

It is also great to see the new services to China and Canada doing well. And in the China context, the direct link to Beijing couldn't be better timed - FTA and all.

Winston Peters Is A Liar

Have a look at Winston on TV last night. Thanks to The Standard for posting this.

In this interview Winston says that his Party has not accepted donations from big business - never since its inception.

Is Contact Energy not big business - two declared donations of $10,000 each.

Talleys - they were big business when they donated money to National.

Shame Winston. Have a read of your declared donations since 1996.

What Winston Didn't Say

David Farrar has done a good analysis of Winston's press conference answers yesterday.

Labour Leadership Coup: Are We Missing The Real Action?

The Hive team and most observers have been looking in the direction of Phil Goff to see whether he is willing to have a go at the top job. With Maharey going and with Mallard a non-starter there seems no other potential replacement for the PM. Cunliffe wants the job, but he will only get one vote - his. Jones wants the job, but it is too soon for him.

Lets look at some of the facts

Mid last week word starts being leaked out of the Labour caucus that Cullen is unhappy with the way that the emissions trading legislation has been handled

Moleworth and Featherston last week reports negatively on two of Goff's triumphs - China FTA and US entry into the P4 process

The next day someone high up in the Beehive leaks the news that the Labour party President has offered to resign. This embarasses both Williams and the PM

The Standard and some pro-Labour media start really pushing the Cullen originated beat up of Key over lower wages - it is still running in The Standard

Yesterday Vernon Small suggests that Williams and Heather Simpson are for the chop and leaves the question of the PM's position dangling

Later in the day Molesworth and Featherson leads with a piece on the Government re-think on emissions trading implying that the whole policy has been mishandled There is also an article critical of the Clark/Simpson election strategy " Labour’s strategy of trying to minimise mistakes and waiting for National to slip up is playing disastrously, but there is no move to change course. Leadership speculation this week never had substance, but the party needs to re-think its plan."

So what does this all add up to?

To get the answer you need to know why we are focussing on the link between Vernon Small, Moleworth and Featherson and Michael Cullen.

Who owns and writes Moleworth and Featherson? It comes out of Inhouse Media Limited and Sugar Media Limited

According to the Companies Office the Directors are:

Inhouse Media Ltd

CAVE, Shane Antony 5 Miro Rd, Raumati Beach

GRIGGS, Kim Marie 52 Helston Rd, Johnsonville, Wellington

SMALL, Vernon Albert 75 Grafton Road, Roseneath, Wellington

Sugar Media Ltd

HARBUTT, Josie 31B The Esplanade, Raumati South, Wellington

PAGANI, John 31B The Esplanade, Raumati South, Wellington

Interesting list isn't it?

Isn't John Pagani one of Cullen's speech writers?

Readers can draw their own conclusions

Mike Moore Sends Not So Subtle Message To Goff

Mike Moore is also sending a signal on the need for change in Labour leader. He has an opinion piece entitled The Nature Of Political Courage in today's Dominion Post.

It ends:

"And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but hee must do it because his conscience tells him it is right."

What Exactly Is Mad About Replacing Helen Clark With Phil Goff?

So asks Chris Trotter in this morning's Dominion Post. In his most blatant call for change yet, Trotter argues that "if Mr Goff has the wit and courage to embrace the zeitgeist of 2008, there is no reason why Labour shoudn't win its fourth term."

We will post electronic link once it becomes available. Here it is

Is This Man Fit To Be In Our Parliament?

Thanks to the NZ Herald we have this:

NZ First leader Winston Peters on whether billionaire Owen Glenndonated to the party:
Q: Has [Glenn] ever offered you money?
A: "No."

Have you ever asked for it?
"Oh, get lost, Barry."

Have you ever asked for it?
"We don't go and ask anybody for money. That's a fact."

Has he ever loaned you money?
"In those two nos you get a third no if you put your mind to it."

On his relationship with Owen Glenn:
"I know Mr Glenn because he owned a famous race horse. That's how I met him. We had a discussion on a whole range of things, including his latest investment in NZ education.
On the question of Monaco, did he express an interest? "Yes he did." [And what did you tell him?] "I'm afraid we have a process."

On whether he offered Mr Glenn the position of NZ consul in Monaco."We are not going to be climbing on the horse before we've got it saddled up. The first thing we have to do is decide whether we need a consul in Monaco or not. We are not ruling anybody in or out. Let's see who might be interested post us making a decision."

On the mystery sum of money NZ First president Dail Jones found in the party's account last December:"We have a treasurer in the party and he says it's a consolidation of amounts around the party. He should know. One can get confused when you look at documentation and perhaps he [Mr Jones] should have spoken to the treasurer."

Where the $158,000 came from to "repay" NZ First's unlawful spend at the last election:"We've had anonymous donations at $10, and $20, and $50 for a long, long time because some people used to think - and it's an attitude that still permeates New Zealand as a democracy - that one day the communists might take over and they will be all in the firing line."

Will National Really Desert The Agriculture And Forestry Sectors?

The news this morning the United and NZ First support the proposed changes to the forestry aspects of the Government's emissions trading regime means that the policy is dependent on support from National (Maori will almost certainly be opposing the forestry and fisheries aspects of the Governments proposed policy). You can see why the remaining good political manager on the Labour front bench - Michael Cullen - is getting cold feet.

Feb 28, 2008

Bloomberg Will Not Run

Read his op ed in today's New York Times.

The Difference Between Bollard and Bernanke

Click here

We accept that Bollard has more legislative constraint. But give him six months and - election pending - it will be interesting to see what happens.

US China Relations In For A Rocky Ride

We don't like this at all.
Both Clinton and Obama have found a new bogeyman - China.

We have never liked the Clinton trade policy, and Obama's seems even worse. Now they are seeking to put the acid on China.

But the news isn't all that bad for US firms wanting to stay part of the global economy. They can move to New Zealand. We are about to have freer trade with China than the US.

Climate Change Legislation In Trouble

We wrote over a week ago that we had heard suggestions of a Government rethink afoot on its emissions trading regime.

Interestingly this was the theme of the lead item in today's edition of Molesworth and Featherston. What is particularly important here is not the similarity in theme, but the fact that Molesworth and Featherston has particularly close links to Dr Cullen. And the theme of our post was, that it was Dr Cullen who was getting more worried the more he dug into the issues.

We quote some of the M&F story:

The Government’s emissions trading scheme may be running
into a spot of bother.

There is concern in the business community and on the
finance & expenditure select committee that has to consider
the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable
Preference) Bill about the complexity of the legislation and
the time to prepare submissions.

Mr Parker is believed to be considering changes
to his bill through the climate change leadership forum led by
Warehouse boss Stephen Tindall. Mr Tindall is working on
changes with government officials, iwi and union leaders,
Greenpeace and businesspeople including Air New Zealand’s
Rob Fyfe, BP’s Peter Griffiths and Contact Energy’s David
Baldwin. With changes likely to be made by the Tindall group,
it is not clear what submitters to the Select Committee are
meant to submit on – the bill as written or so far unknown
changes. No matter, the deadline for submissions closes on
Friday. They are likely to have to be reopened once Parker’s
changes are known.

Of more worry to the Government, as we predicted when the
scheme was unveiled, Treaty claims could derail the whole
thing. The Federation of Maori Authorities and leading iwi are
believed to be preparing a challenge to the Waitangi Tribunal
against plans to impose a $13,000 per hectare liability on
owners of pre-1990 forests who want to convert to another
land use.

FOMA and others argue the liability conflicts with the Treaty
guarantee of “full, exclusive and undisturbed possession” of
lands and forests.

Going to the Waitangi Tribunal could tie up climate change
policy in the Tribunal for months or years, delaying the passage of the Bill – or forcing the
Government to ram through the legislation while it is still before the tribunal.

Also under pressure over the issue - some of the country’s biggest business lobby groups.
Some members of the Business Council for Sustainable Development have been agitated over
the vocal support of their lobby group for the emissions trading scheme and there are rumours of confrontations with the organisation’s ceo Peter Neilson.

Big Business Begins Its Rebellion

A group of large businesses is demanding change to the Government's emissions trading regime. We thought that business welcomed the scheme. That's what the Government and some groups say. Maybe Fonterra and CHH are not mainstream.......

Winston Comes Out Swinging

Winston remains in denial mode, and true to form he is resorting to bullying and intimidation. Do we really need someone like this in New Zealand politics? Rather than provide reassurance Winston is raising more questions in our minds than before.

We gag in particular at this

Peters said his party had assiduously complied with the electoral laws of the country

Ummmmm, if this is the case why was there any money to pay back?

Pressure On RB To Start Thinking Cuts

The implications of the latest proof of the drop in business confidence are potentially very negative for the economy. This will put pressure on the Reserbe Bank to be looking a cuts here, for the same reason the Fed is cutting in the US. This item from Morning Report is worth a listen.

Winston's Back

And he is still denying any five figure anonymous donation in December. Does this mean it came in earlier? We need more transparency here NZ First.

Heather Simpson For The Chop?

Vernon Small suggests so in today's Dominion Post. He also suggests that Labour President Mike Williams could go soon. To complete the plan, Andrew Little will take over as Labour President. That will make David Farrar's challenge to EPMU's election spend plans even more interesting.
We will try and post Small's opinion piece when it comes up on the web.

Hawkes Bay The Victims

In today's NZ Herald Paula Oliver looks at the Hawkes Bay DHB situation. She suggests

It's hard not to feel a pang of sympathy for many of the sacked members of the Hawkes Bay District Health Board, who have now launched a potent attack on Health Minister David Cunliffe.
Unceremoniously dumped from their jobs, they feel they are the victims of an unwanted saga that was started by former Health Minister Annette King, allowed to fester by her successor Pete Hodgson, and has now been unfairly cauterised by Mr Cunliffe.

From the moment Ms King appointed Peter Hausmann to the board in 2005, things started turning pear-shaped in the region known as the fruit-bowl of New Zealand.

There were immediate concerns among other board members that Mr Hausmann's company, Healthcare of New Zealand, would probably be involved in tendering for a DHB contract worth up to $50 million.

The reminder about Annette King's role in this fiasco will be an unwelcome one for the Government.

Was Cunliffe Displaying Good Political Management Skills?

Colin James wrote a few days ago in the NZ Herald about the need for Labour to improve its political management, a skill that had failed the PM in recent months. How does Labour respond? By really angering three local authorities - Napier, Hastings and Hawkes Bay Regional.

We are not saying that Cunliffe was necessarily wrong in taking the action he has. If left unchecked the Hawkes Bay DHB could have grown into an even bigger embarrassment for the Government. But would it not have been smarter to visit Hawkes Bay first - talk to the Mayors and other key community leaders? To at least try and win the hearts and minds of these key opinion formers?

Labour was probably not going to do well in Hawkes Bay this election. David Cunliffe has just ensured that it will do much worse.

Feb 27, 2008

The Great Debate

It was much warmer inside.

This from the New York Times on the Cleveland debate.

The Hive is on record as being suspicious of Senator Clinton's trade policy instincts. We are far more worried by Senator Obama. Go McCain!

Australia: Trade Policy Review

This will not be news to those who follow developments across the ditch closely. Last week Australia's Trade Minister Simon Crean announced a review of Australia's trade policy and trade performance. The reason: because, minerals aside, Australia has felt that it has been under performing in its exports.

This review seems a bit strange to us here at The Hive, particularly as it seems to being done by the wrong people. We would have thought it logical for the Productivity Commission (that most excellent of institutions that we are very jealous of this side of the ditch) to undertake any review of this nature. Instead it is being done by David Mortimer, the chairman of Leighton Holdings and Australia Post, will head the review, with the assistance of HSBC chief economist John Edwards, a former adviser to Paul Keating during his time as treasurer and prime minister.

Don't get us wrong, John Edwards is a good mate of one of our team. We meet with him regularly. And Mortimer is a serious player also, but neither has the real expertise that is displayed by the productivity commission.

We are also a little surprised that Australia has such a poor opinion of its recent trade performance. And on the policy front it has done very well. The only real misstep has been not to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (though the quality of their FTA with Thailand is pretty poor, and they could probably been tougher in the negotiation with the US). Joining P4 must now have greater appeal given the US entry into that process.

Lets hope that one issued covered is a serious questioning of why one economy - CER - negotiates so many FTAs separately? As with climate change we would be far happier if Australia and New Zealand moved in concert. We will drop John Edwards a line......

Clark Meets Rudd

It seems as though the PM and Rudd had a good meeting today.

The Hive is particularly pleased at the emphasis placed on cooperation on climate change. We believe that this issue is best tackled in concert with key trading partners. There is no better place to start than with Australia, our largest economic partner. We hope that Government rips up the current attempt at unilateral action and moves to a joint Australia New Zealand response......

Annette King Keeping Seat Warm?

Rather than ending speculation, Andrew Little has set tongues wagging around town with his announcement that he won't be seeking election in 2008. But look at the formulation used about the future:

However, he is not ruling out standing in 2011 or earlier.
"I don't rule out anything either then or beforehand."

As we commented over the weekend we can't quite figure why Annette King is wanting to stay on. Now we know. She is keeping the seat warm for Andrew. Watch this space, the next David Lange is about to be born. High profile by-election due some time in 2010?

Hasn't NZ First Supported The Last Two Budgets?

NZ First has today issued a press release expressing concern at the impact of the high New Zealand dollar.

Is this not the ultimate hypocrisy?

Interest rates are high because the economy is inflated. The high interest rates are in turn causing the high dollar.

What is inflating the economy?

The excessive growth in poor quality Government expenditure that NZ First has been party to by propping this Government up! Or has Doug Woolerton not realised what he and his colleague have been voting for as the price for his leader enjoying bauble after bauble, and travelling to capital after capital.

Health In Crisis: Another DHB Bites The Dust

"I am in charge - really"

Health Minister and aspiring Labour Party Leader David Cunliffe has flexed his muscle big time and fired the Hawkes Bay District Health Board. Once more, Sir John Anderson has been called upon to mount the white charger and ride to the rescue.

Seafood Industry Slams Out Of Control Government Expenditure

In a press release today on the threat being posed to jobs in the fishing industry from the high New Zealand dollar Seafood Industry Council CEO Owen Symmans says

"The combination of high exchange rates, high interest rates, and growing government spending without a relative increase in productivity is disastrous for the seafood sector."

He said increased government spending had added to inflationary pressures.

Over the past five years, there had been a 38 per cent increase of Ministry of Fisheries staffing, while expenditure had risen 26 per cent.

New costs including $8m relating to greenhouse gas pricing would add $16m to the industry's costs this year.

The Hive shares your concern Owen.

Independent Financial Review Launches Savage Attack On Winston Peters

The Editorial in today's Independent Financial Review is a must read. Unfortunately it is not available on line. It contains a savage attack on the best foreign Minister since Talboys - Winston Peters, over his management of the NZAID component of his Foreign Affairs portfolio.

The Editorial begins

The Auditor-General's 43 page performance audit of NZAID is one of the most damning reports released about financial mismanagement by a Government department.

What does The Independent think about Winston Peters' response to this report?

This is a cop out.

Peters is the Minister of Foreign Affairs. As such it's his job to find out about NZAID's administration and investigate how the inefficient management of one of his own departments arose in the first place.


If Peters did not spend so much time junketeering around the world - 14 countries in the past six months alone - he might have a bit more time to delve into serious flaws that happened under his nose.


To say the audit report didn't suggest any aid funding had been misspent or misappropriated, or that its project were in any way compromised, is a whitewash.

Peters is the Minister responsible for the millions handed over to NZAID each year.


We've already seen Peters sweep the oil-for -food fiasco under the carpet.

And it ends

This is not good enough.

Peters must make sure his own house is in order before gallivanting around overseas to look at others.

Dollar Continues To Head Skyward

The New Zealand dollar continues its acsent into uncharted territory. It has passed US 81.80 cents.

Meanwhile The Independent Financvial Review is predicting on its front page that the dollar is picked to hit US 85 cents. Just what all exporters will be wanting to read.

Attention all oil companies - shouldn't we be looking at price reduction??

Auckland Airport Deal

Fran O'Sullivan also writes in the NZ Herald about the Government's move to reduce the appeal of the Canadian pension fund's bid for Auckland airport.

Cullen and Dunne have trod a careful path making it clear they have not consulted with interested parties to avoid any suggestion that opponents to the Mounties bid like Infratil CEO and Auckland airport director Lloyd Morrison have got in their ears.
It remains a "very Wellington deal" nevertheless.

The NZ Herald editorial also looks at the issue of retrospectivity which it notes is never a feature of good law. It reminds us

This, of course, is not the first time that the Government has acted against a potential airport owner. Last year, Trade Negotiations Minister Phil Goff shot down an attractive Dubai Aerospace takeover bid when he said the Government did not want to see key public utilities sold off. The move against stapled stock instruments was just as blatant in its intent, as was the timing.

Is National On Top Of The Housing Affordability Issue?

Fran O'Sullivan writing in today's NZ Herald suggests that National may have been too quick to dismiss Labour's housing affordability proposals. She also questions the depth of National understanding of the complexity of policy challenges in this area

More worryingly there is no sign (yet) that National - which has had its 2005 housing policy under review for more than 12 months now - has grappled with the complexities that underpin the modern housing market. Its policy will not be released till within months of the election date. Until that time don't expect other than a pro-forma critique of its opponent's policies.

Herald Not Flavour Of The Month In Clark/Davis Household

Various Herald staff collaborate on an article today on the attitude of Helen Clark and Peter Davis to the Herald - the views are not positive.

Blogging And Copyright

Poneke has a must read post this morning on blogging an copyright. He suggests that things are not as straight forward as Steven Price argues in a post on media law journal (certainly we are mindful of this issue every time we are summarising a media article). Poneke looks at the issue from the media use of blog generated materials, which is notes often doesn't even have attribution.
Certainly we are regularly noticing stories that we have generated in all forms of media. We even have our headlines or sarcastic comments copied ("a pity penguins can't vote" was used three times that we noticed). We are regularly (but not always) attributed in blogs but have yet to be quoted in the main stream media. We have however noted the occasional reference to Kiwiblog and Poneke was quoted, with attribution, on Media Watch this week.

Part of The Hive's mission is to point readers, including the media, in the right direction. We are delighted when one of our opinions or topics is picked up.

Monday Readership Hits 700

The Hive had its highest daily readership yesterday - just over 700. We had been averaging close to 500 a day Monday to Friday last week.

Thanks for reading The Hive.

Feb 26, 2008

Neocon Idol On Obama

William Kristol has a look at Mr Obama. The most flattering comment is right at the end

Barack Obama is an awfully talented politician. But could the American people, by November, decide that for all his impressive qualities, Obama tends too much toward the preening self-regard of Bill Clinton, the patronizing elitism of Al Gore and the haughty liberalism of John Kerry?

It’s fitting that the alternative to Obama will be John McCain. He makes no grand claim to fix our souls. He doesn’t think he’s the one everyone has been waiting for. He’s more proud of his country than of himself. And his patriotism has consisted of deeds more challenging than “speaking out on issues.”

Obama Most Likely To Beat McCain

Hot off the press from the New York Times....

Note that it is not all good news for Barack

But there are signs of vulnerability for Mr. Obama, of Illinois, in this national poll: While he has a strong edge among Democratic voters on his ability to unite and inspire the country, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is still viewed by more Democrats as prepared for the job of president. And while he has made progress among women, he still faces a striking gender gap: Mr. Obama is backed by two-thirds of the Democratic men and 45 percent of the women, who are equally divided in their support between the two candidates. White women remain a Clinton stronghold.

When all voters are asked to look ahead to the general election, Mr. McCain is more likely to be seen as prepared for the presidency, able to handle an international crisis and equipped to serve as commander in chief than either of the Democratic candidates.

Date For FTA Signing Narrows

Trade Minister Phil Goff today announced that the Government is seeking expressions of interest from businesses wanting to support the China FTA by being present for the signing. The ceremony will be between 6 and 9 April.

Inflationary Government Expenditure Takes Its Toll: NZ Dollar Hits Post Float High

Our absurdly high interest rates continue to attract international interest. The NZ dollar hit 81.5 c today, a post float high.

How To Keep Winston Out Of Trouble? Keep Him Out Of The Country

Not a bad strategy by the PM but it comes at a cost - $946,798 to be precise.

It is a pity that Mr Brownlie has not released more detail. While we would have no issue with most of this expenditure, we would like to scrutinise all of Winston's itineraries. For example, we would like to know what foreign policy objectives Winston was pursuing in Las Vegas last year? Or did Winston pay for that side trip himself?

Major EU Members Concerned At Economic Impacts Of Emissions Trading

It is good to see some Government's around the world listening to business concerns. Like New Zealand, EU Governments are wanting to show leadership on the policy response to climate change. But unlike New Zealand major European Governments are reluctant to press forward at the cost to industry.

According to this report from The Guardian France and Germany claim that Brussels risks sacrificing European jobs with its plans to cut industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

Europe should lead by example but must not "change the competitiveness of our economy and our companies" by adopting tougher pollution measures than in other parts of the world," said Herve Novelli, France's junior minister for industry.

EU: Future Of WTO Round In The Hands Of China And Other Developing Nations

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson is quoted as saying that China and other developing countries need to give more on non-agricultural market access if the current Doha Round is to make progress. This confirms The Hive's view that the real problems lie in the non-agriculture area rather than agriculture itself (though it would appear that Sarkozy and some other Europeans would disagree with us). However, without further moves on services and non-agriculture is will be easier for the European and American protectionists to argue that the agriculture text goes too far, and that there is not enough elsewhere to compensate for the pain that is going to be caused to European and US agriculture (this argument is bullshit but they will make it just the same).

So will China, India, Brazil and Argentina etc be prepared to offer more on non-agriculture? We think they can. So as Commissioner Mandelson says the future of this Round is in their hands.

Labour Down But Not Out

Tis seems to be the theme for today.

The Domion Post editorial suggests that Labour's problems are of its own making. It draws a parallel to 1990 when the gap in the opinion polls was about the same as it is today, but notes that the party is more unified and the economy in far stronger shape than 1990.

It concludes:

There is still a long way to go before polling day. Mr Key could still stumble.

However, Miss Clark and Labour should not rely on that, nor expect to squeak back on a business-as-usual strategy. The Fairfax Media- Nielsen poll - and others - make it apparent that the public is unhappy with the status quo, and wants change in both substance and style. What Miss Clark must to do to win her fourth term is embrace that desire, and hope there is enough time left to convince voters she can deliver it.

The NZ Herald editorial is in similar space.

It notes

Labour's problem, however, is that a mood for change may already be embedded. If so, the tide has simply run out on it, as happened with Mr Howard and as, in the local context, occurred with Jenny Shipley's National Government in 1999. When that happens, voters are not hearing any more. Worse, they see a party that is unable to do anything right. Prime Minister Helen Clark must, indeed, have felt that way last week during her stand-off with expatriate benefactor Owen Glenn at the opening of the University of Auckland Business School. Whether she acknowledged his presence or not, she was bound to be criticised.
The Prime Minister conceded yesterday that, if Labour was to win a fourth term, it had work to do. "We have to work on being a Government of substance, a Government of vision, a Government which has big ideas," she said. To achieve that, Labour had "a ton of ideas" that would be unveiled this year. Exactly this must happen if Labour is to have any chance of reversing its waning popularity. It must keep trying to gain traction for its policies, even though that is not happening at the moment.

And concludes

The big plus for Labour is that there remains time to buttress this position. It will have to use that well by presenting policies that make voters want to listen.

Colin James has a piece in the NZ Herald - not up electronically yet. He looks at the poor political management we have seen from labour in recent months. He concludes by asking

Is there still time for Clark and Cullen to turn voters' hearts and minds? The most that can be said as the mistakes roll on is that in politics one can never say never. And Key, too, has had small lapses of political management this past fortnight......

NZ First Donation Becomes More Curious

The Dominion Post today reports further on the NZ First donation mystery and says that the NZ First Treasurer is denying the existence of any large anonymous donations. Does this mean that they knew who the donor was?

Where Is NZ First On The China FTA?

The Dominion Post lead today suggests that NZ First has expressed alarm at the possible free movement of unskilled labour from China under the FTA. This seems a bit strange as we have never heard any suggestions that the China FTA would contain provisions on the movement of unskilled labour. But does this mean that the Party headed by our Foreign Minister is opposed to this critically important foreign policy development?

China Was More Open On The Detail

Kiwiblog today has an item about the China FTA and the question of who is telling its population more - China or New Zealand. The points we were making in our original post were about detail. China released far more detail in January than New Zealand has done in late February. The Dominion Post is leading on the FTA today and again notes that the detail is underwraps. We suggest that journalists wanting to know more should go back to the Chinese report which we have repeated in full in our post.

Labour's Leadership Woes

John Armstrong looks at the Labour leadership in today's NZ Herald. He suggests that the weekend polls and the Dominion Post's brutal front page coverage has had huge impact and caused members of the caucus to think the unthinkable. He doesn't think that Goff will mount a challenge until after the election.

No one is yet putting the words "Clark" and "leadership challenge" in the same sentence despite a horrid week for the governing party followed by a horrible poll. Combined with the accompanying "Poll-axed" headline, it all added up to a massive kick in the guts for Labour morale.

Labour's big fear is that should the leadership genie get well and truly out of the bottle, it will be impossible to stuff it back in.

It would be a disaster for Labour if Clark's leadership, which has been seen as an electoral strength, suddenly became a weakness through continued speculation on possible coups and challenges.

There was obvious Beehive nervousness yesterday about the possibility of that happening, with Clark cutting short questions on the subject at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference.

On a Goff challenge we would not rule it out completely in the next two months if the polls keep heading downwards for Labour, and as many MPs see potential unemployment as a result. However, should there be a change prior to the election we think a caretaker leader is more likely - Michael Cullen. It would be a huge risk, but Cullen hasn't turned the electorate off in the same way Clark has. And wouldn't a short stint at PM be the perfect way to cap off one's career in politics?

As we noted yesterday, don't write off Shane Jones. He is up to something.

Feb 25, 2008

Climate Change: EU Sees The Reality - Why Won't New Zealand?

The European Commission, bowing to industry concerns, said Thursday it was ready to exempt Europe's steel, chemical and power sectors from having to compensate for the environmental damage they cause — at least for a while.

The EU was keen to see a global deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, until a deal was in place, the EU would hold back on plans to force more companies to pay to pollute from 2013, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told European business leaders.

Last month, the EU executive said it would demand that major polluters buy all the carbon permits they need, which would raise the cost of manufacturing by charging them up to €50 billion (US$74 billion) a year and likely hike electricity prices by 10-15 percent.

Until now, companies get most of their carbon permits for free — and they say extra costs will make it harder for them to compete against rivals in countries that are less active in curbing climate change such as the U.S., China and India.

Barroso's comments aimed to soothe those worries.

"Ultimately, the best solution is an international (emissions trading) agreement," he said.

We agree

Audrey Young: It's Time For Real Answers Winston

Yes, the mainstream media are at last giving Winston the going over he has deserved for many years. We don't think they will let up this time.

Have a read of Audrey Young.

Idea for Winston - why not defect to the DPRK? No Foreign Minister has ever done it before. They will look after you well and you won't need to worry about difficult questions from the media.

Is Goff The Distraction? Should The PM Be More Worried About Shane Jones?

The Standard certainly seems to be backing Jones, giving much great prominence to his rather strange press release of earlier today than it deserves.

New President For The ROK

The reason that Winston Peters is able to avoid the media right now is the inauguration of a new President in the Republic of Korea. Korea was one of Winston's first ports of call as Foreign Minister. We can't recall the reason for the visit (either APEC or something ASEAN plus) but Winston found a flaw in the MFAT minder system. He was dropped of at a Foreign Minister only dinner (all the Foreign Ministers from our most important partners in the room to discuss key issues around Asia-Pacific security etc.) by a junior MFAT officer, who foolishly assumed that Winston would stay the distance and be in the room for the alloted 2 hours. The Australians are less trusting of their Ministers so left a junior officer at the venue when they dropped their Minister off. Much to the surprise if the junior Australian who had sensibly retreated to the bar, 15 minutes after this important dinner started Winston Peters emerges from the dining room and comes into the bar. He orders himself a drink (first of several) and spends the next hour and three quarters talking and drinking with the DFAT officer (until it was time to go). The young DFAT officer had never experienced anything like this in his system, but his verdict was that his New Zealand counterparts were very lucky having such a decent bloke as Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is good to know that New Zealand was so well represented at this dinner.

But the above is to digress.

Stef at the Ex-Expat has written another good piece looking at the ROK's sunshine policy.

Nader Enters Race

What does this mean?

Well he makes McCain look young - so that is good. Will he take many votes from the Democrats (which would be even better)? This from the New York Times.

Leadership Moves Within Labour Confirmed: Goff Forced To Issue Denial

Phil Goff has this afternoon denied a desire to replace Helen Clark as Labour Leader. We all know what that means.....

Pork Barrel Politics: 1996 Revisited

Yesterday we quoted from the great leader Winston Peters himself:

Big businesses, their advisers, lobbyists, law firms and merchant banks shell out cash to the candidates and often fund a number of them. After the election of course, it is payback time. There are huge contracts to be won and brimming pork barrels to be emptied. There are jobs for the boys and girls.

Today we would like to ask some questions about 1996. Readers might like to refer to the NZ First donor list for 1996.

In reading this list you will note an unusual concentration of conservative Maori interests and fisheries interests listed as donors:

Independent Fisheries
Talleys Fisheries
Tamatea Fisheries
T O'Regan

Questions for journalists to follow up:

Were these donations made before or after NZ First gave Labour the cold shoulder? Were there ever any discussions between these donors and NZ First over which way NZ First would swing in the post election Government forming process?

Was there any link with the Fisheries Act that also went through in 1996?

After the election was there any payback in terms of quota allocation? What happened at payback time - to quote the great leader?

Asking the donors would be the best place to start. It would also be interesting to know whether these donations were completely spontaneous or were the donors approached by Winston Peters or NZ First?

Saudi Blogger Allowed To Call Home

Poneke reports the good news that detained Saudi blogger Fouad Al-Farhan has been allowed to talk to his family by telephone from Jeddah’s Dahban Prison.

Gun Foreign Minister To Meet Rice Today?

The NZ Herald is reporting that Winston Peters is expected to meet with the US Secretary of State today in Seoul. We have been known to be critical of Winston's performance from time to time, but we do give him credit for developing a good relationship with Secretary Rice.

We also hope that Mr Peters is able to progress the FTA with Korea following the release last week of the study on the likely benefits to both countries. But what is Winston's view on this FTA? Does he support them? Will he vote yes for an FTA with China which includes enhanced opportunities for short term work opportunities for Chinese workers in New Zealand?

Interesting Poll On Stuff

Should Labour change leaders before the election?

Yes, they need a fresh face at the top (418 votes, 51.0%)
No, Helen Clark could lead them to victory (401 votes, 49.0%)
Stuff polls are not scientific and reflect the opinions of only those internet users who have chosen to participate

Helen Clark's Hebdomas Horrenda

Tracy Watkins reviews Labour's horrific week in the feature section of the Dominion Post . She reviews Glenngate fallout, and opinion poll results, and concludes by noting:

It's the ultimate irony that the very thing Labour thought it could use to ensnare National, its Electoral Finance Act - the secret donors and mates rates deals - could deliver the coup de grace it its own hopes instead.

High Interest Rates And Fuel Prices Taking Toll On Small Business

The Dominion Post reports another survey of business opinion is showing a big decline in confidence. The latest Research New Zealand and WHK Sherwin Chan & Walshe business confidence poll shows a 160% rise in negative outlook amongst small businesses. Domestic worries such as high interest rates, rising fuel prices and the ongoing labour shortages seem the major concerns rather than a global slowdown.

Feb 24, 2008

Pork Barrel Politics French Style

Are they not a lovely couple?
We will come back to the photo in a minute as there is a New Zealand angle which we suspect the NZ media will allow to fly by.
Anyway Monsieur Bruni has proved that not much has changed in French politics apart from the sleeping arrangements. He has let rip at the WTO agriculture text. Speaking at the opening of the Paris agriculture fair Sarkozy said Europe shouldn't bow to pressure from the World Trade Organization to cut farm subsidies.

``Europe must show much greater resolve to defend its interests, instead of always making bigger concessions without any hope of regaining the ground it loses.''
``They should not count on my signature,'' Sarkozy said. Europe must defend its interests as its ``American friends'' defend their own, he said.
In case readers had not registered this, one of the reasons for rapid progress being essential now, rather that later in the year in the WTO negotiations is that France moves into the EU Presidency in June. What are Sarko's priorities for the Presidency? They don't sound that helpful to the resolution of the Round.
Sarkozy pledged to begin overhauling the Common Agricultural Policy as soon as France gains the EU presidency. He said discussions would focus on maintaining food supplies, increasing production, fighting climate change, and protecting farmland.
Anyway back to the photo. It is of Sarko's new bride's first official engagement. Sarkozy and Bruni are photographed while meeting with the family of Columbian politician Ingrid Betancourt. Betancourt is now in her sixth year of captivity in Columbia where she tried to run for the Presidency. Where is the NZ angle - she used to live here. She and her former husband were stationed here on assignment with the French foreign service in the 1980s. She has quite a few NZ friends. After she returned to Columbia and death threats started to be made she had to send her children to New Zealand for their safety. Our question - why is NZ not more active on her behalf? Her continuing incarceration is an outrage.
As an aside we note that in New Zealand the Marxist rebels would be unlikely to kidnap a leading Green politician - the parties have merged.

How Does NZ First Fund Itself?

A search through the relevant sections of the Elections NZ website on donations received by political parties shows up some unexpected results for NZ First. In 1996 they received multiple donations to a total of $82,178. No more donations are declared until 2002 when two donors contribute a total of $25,000 (one donor is anonomous but we suspect the $10,000 was Contact Energy). Contact Energy is the only declared donor in 2003 and 2004, again donating $10,000. Then in election year 2005 NZ First declared no donations. 2006 again has no declared donors. So the news about a sizeable donation is 2007 is very much atypical behavior from this Party. Indeed in the period since 1996 the single biggest donor to NZ First was $15,000 in 2002 from Gold Times Sports (P O Box 47 350, Ponsonby, Auckland) - can't find a company of this name on the Companies Office site but there was one a Gold Times Casino - now struck off. The second biggest donor was in 1996 from Charles Sturt ($12,250). Sturt is currently a Norther Ward representative on the Rotorua District Council. Upper Hutt City Councillor and former MP Peter McCardle is the only other person or company to give more than $10,000. He gave $10,353.32 in 1996.

Solomon Islands: Is RAMSI Doing Everything It Could On The Development and Reconstruction Fronts?

We have been critical from time to time about the lack of focus in our media on our immediate region. Chris Laidlaw has been one of the exceptions. This morning he did an interesting interview with an Australian critic of the development and reconstruction work undertaken to date by RAMSI in the Solomon Islands. The paper that stimulated the interview has drawn a critical response from Dr Jonathan Austin, the Deputy Head of RAMSI on secondment from MFAT. You can listen to Laidlaw's interview with Gourav Sodhi here. For the record, we agree with Sodhi, a land register would be a great way to start the economic revitalisation of the Solomon Islands economy.

Pork Barrel Politics: Who Said This?

Spending vast sums of money on the electoral process raises the spectre of American politics, which hinge on the expenditure of billions of dollars by political candidates to get elected. It has been estimated that the 2008 US presidential candidates will need at least $US500 million in their war chests. Democratic and Republican candidates have been touring America, holding lavish fundraising dinners and meeting wealthy individuals. The candidates try to convince the richest groups in American society that their interests will be defended, and indeed enhanced, if he or she is elected. Ordinary Americans and their needs are ignored during this process.

Big businesses, their advisers, lobbyists, law firms and merchant banks shell out cash to the candidates and often fund a number of them. After the election of course, it is payback time. There are huge contracts to be won and brimming pork barrels to be emptied. There are jobs for the boys and girls.

And the answer is? CLICK HERE

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Wicked Sense Of Humour?

The Hive team is shocked that at least one blog has misintepreted our post yesterday on the use of negative images of the PM in the media as anything other a genuine concern to see the PM portrayed fairly.

Glenngate: Time To Call In The Police?

Matt McCarten writing in the Herald on Sunday draws a parallel between Glenngate and UK cash for honours scandal - which he reminds us is being investigated by the police. We can see no difference between the UK scandal and aspects of the Glenn case. Indeed if Glenn has donated one cent to NZ First after a discussion about the Monaco Honorary Consulship then we would have a clear case of cash for honours. Given that we are not getting anything close to a credible answer from NZ First, shouldn't we have a proper investigation launched?

We make some other quotes from McCarten

There's an old saying that goes, "be careful what you wish for, you just might just get it". The Labour Party and New Zealand First were the two main parties that rammed through new electoral finance laws to stop businesses and other vested interests from secretly funding their opponents.

They made much ado about sinister forces using money to buy political influence.

This week's revelation of Owen Glenn's funding for Labour is potentially catastrophic. Labour's president, Mike Williams, normally extremely astute, has landed himself, Glenn and his party in deep trouble.

One of Williams' main tasks is to be bagman for corporate campaign funds, which he does well. I think it surprised everyone when Glenn made a half-million-dollar donation to Labour's last election campaign, and a close watch was kept on whether he was rewarded for it.

It's clear now that when Labour agreed to pay back the $800,000 to the taxpayer after the Auditor-General's findings, this money wasn't just raised by rank-and-file party members - Williams also tapped known business supporters for large cheques.

What I think has happened is that, given Glenn's high-profile donation at the previous election, there would have been a reluctance to be seen to be making another large public donation. The electoral laws require all donations to be declared, but a loophole allows someone to make a so-called interest-free loan with no settlement date without declaring it. What any fool can see is that these are, in fact, donations and are paid as loans to avoid disclosure.

Meanwhile, there are questions over a $100,000 donation to NZ First. NZ First President Dail Jones seemed to imply there may be some connection with Owen Glenn. Peters, a much sharper operator, realised the danger immediately and quickly smacked Jones down, claiming he and the party had no idea where this money came from.

But anyone in politics knows that there is no such thing as an anonymous donation of this size. Someone has to give them the bank account number.

McCarten ends with an interesting point

For Labour's sake, there had better not be any other so-called interest-free loans from benefactors on its books. If there are, its arguments for transparency in political donations when pushing through the Electoral Finance Act will be seen as deeply hypocritical, making an already difficult election year virtually impossible.

Are there any more interest-free loans?

The Glenn Scandal Gets Even Worse

Why was there no interest from Government in appointing an honorary consul in Monaco until Glenn came along? Fran O'Sullivan has obtained years of correspondence on this issue. The article is a must read.

How can Labour appoint its financial sugar daddy as honorary consul to Monaco when it has previously consistently refused to appoint a New Zealand representative, despite personal representations from Prince Albert himself?

Letters obtained by the Herald on Sunday show that Labour has repeatedly turned down requests from Monaco's honorary consul in New Zealand for a reciprocal appointment in the principality.

Even Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters did not agree when approached in January last year to consider the matter.

So what has changed in the intervening 12 months?

What are the words to that song - money makes the world go around???

Shame on Labour and shame on Winston Peters.

The final two sentences of Fran's article make very interesting reading also -

The rumour mill is rife that Peters and Glenn are to have a meeting offshore to discuss the furore.

Peters has said he will make no comment on the issue until he returns to Wellington. It should make for an interesting return.

Are Glenn and Peters meeting offshore? There is no legitimate way for this information to be withheld. We need an answer.

Growing Influence Of Blogs On The Media

It was great to hear Poneke's views on the print media readership survey quoted so extensively on Media Watch on Radio NZ National this morining. The actual show does not yet appear to be up on the website but this link will take you close once it is up. Today's edition of the Sunday Star Times seems to prove Poneke's case with regard to that publication.

Update: Mediawatch is now available.

Feb 23, 2008

WTO: Deadlock In Geneva?

Reuters is reporting grim news from Geneva. We have not yet been able to corroborate anything in this story but given the importance of this negotiation to New Zealand and the lack of reporting in the New Zealand media we simply provide the link.

Is Taiwan About To Lose Another Ally?

Is the Pope Catholic?

Where there is smoke there usually fire, and we are not talking about smoke signals from the Sistine Chapel here. It is looking as though the Vatican is thinking of making the switch. While not really that important the Vatican is Taiwan's only ally in Europe. It is also one of the most sought after jobs in the Taiwanese foreign service.

What Is Going On With Molesworth and Featherston?

A week or so ago David Farrar caught out Molesworth and Featherston for making a pretty fundamental mistake about a possible election date, the sort of mistake you would not have expected from the people we understood to be the authors. (Molesworth and Featherston is in the Trans Tasman mould - it purports to have inside info on what is going on in Wellington. At least one of the people who used to write for it was a leading press gallery journalist with a major daily - someone who would certainly know that the last possible date for the election is 15 November. There is a free version and a subscriber version).

This week there is a very negative article on the China FTA, false information about MFAT and Fonterra in the context of Fonterra's operation in China, a negative article on the US entry into the P4 process, an article suggesting that Glenngate is a storm in the teacup and that the media should get over it, and an article suggesting that the problems at NZAID are not management problems (therefore management should not be held responsible) and a paragraph suggesting that NZAID should be separated completely from MFAT (which everyone sensible in town knows would be a recipe for total disaster).

So what the hell is going on? Has M&F been sold? Has it some new contributors? Is Don Clarke or one of these other people involved? Has it been taken over by either anti-globalist anarchists or Trotskyites?

If there is a smoking gun, it was some of the detail around the China FTA which has not appeared anywhere else. There have been a few briefings given - Fonterra and CTU have been briefed and other briefings of stakeholders are due in the week ahead. So it seems to us that either CTU or someone in the MFAT/NZAID system is involved. The detail is being kept pretty close within MFAT so if the info is correct it must be from somewhere pretty high up - again it points in a certain direction.

If M&F is still being written by the original team could we suggest that they check their sources or at the very least, not believe everything they are being told by their informants.

Why Is The Media Being So Cruel In Its Use Of Imagery?

Irish Bill writing for The Standard is critical of an NZ Herald cartoon that suggests a similarity between Prime Minister Clark and Fidel Castro.

Earlier on today we commented on the front page photo in the Dominion Post that makes the PM look like a Sith Lord.

What is going on? Why can't the media play fair.

So we went back through our archive to find a fairer photo of the real Helen Clark.

There were several possibilities but in the went for this one:

It shows the PM caught unawares in a moment of real joy and happiness (from memory one of the Lord of The Rings films had just won an oscar). What is more, it shows that the PM is loved by at least one of her colleagues in Parliament. So come on newspaper editors. Stop showing the PM up in such a bad light. We challenge you to use this image instead.

Why Is Annette King Staying On?

Page A8 of today's Dominion Post contains a brief analysis of the growing list of Labour MPs that are leaving the sinking ship. The article was stimulated by the news that Margaret Wilson had confirmed the speculation that she too was not wanting to waste any more time in Parliament.

Two names not on the list, but which perhaps should be are Michael Cullen and Annette King. Cullen we understand. He will fight hard for the cause and try his best for the Party. You never know, if things get really bad and Labour needs an interim Leader/ PM Cullen might well do a Mike Moore. What better way to cap off his career in politics. He is list only so after the election and the real leadership change he just stands down, becomes a full time golfer and someone comes in from the list.

Annette King is more complicated. She has been there a long time. She had a reputation for being one of the most solid Ministers - no scandal would stick. However she clearly can't cope with either of her main portfolios and is increasingly relying on Minister Fixit Cullen for help on Transport and as Justice Minister. This has meant that she doesn't even have a hope at the Deputy job when it comes up. So why does she want to hang around and spend three more years in Parliament in opposition, trying to defend the long list of scandals that will be revealed when National really gets a chance to look at the books.

King is an electorate MP - for Rongotai. She has made it a very safe seat, and it has become safer on paper as a result of the boundary changes. She will win the seat in 2008, so if she stands down there will have to be a by-election.

Is this the reason she isn't retiring in 2008? King stands down in early 2010 - Andrew Little (who lives in the electorate and who has established the EPMU HQ square in the middle of it - in Rongotai to be precise (go have a coffee at the Flying Saucer, sit on the couch and look out the window) stands and gets huge publicity, wins, and sails up to the Labour leadership - just as happened with David Lange? A bit risky. Goff or Cunliffe will be onto this already and will not be wanting a bar of it.

But what if Annette announces that she is standing down in 2008? Andrew Little can be there for the leadership contest that is inevitable when the Party purges itself of Clark. We can't say that he has a good chance of winning in 2009 or 2010 but this can't be ruled out completely. Goff will have even fewer allies from the right in the new Parliament than he does now. The PM has made sure of that - all the new candidates seem to be from the left faction. Cunliffe might think he has a chance, but he is still hated by most of his colleagues (and voting Cunliffe into the top job would be seen as a wonderful outcome by National who just love "those Cunliffe moments". Who else is there? Mallard?

Watch this space.

Labour To Ask Glenn For Another Donation

We cannot believe our eyes. With a decision still pending over the Honorary Consulship to Monaco, Labour Party President Mike Williams is on record in the NZ Herald as saying that he will be approaching Glenn for more money. We wish we had seen the PM's face when she opened her paper this morning. Another good piece of journalism by Paula Oliver.

Fran O'Sullivan: Labour Hoist By Its Owen Petard

Writing in today's NZ Herald Fran O'Sullivan says

There must have been times when Helen Clark wished she could issue a cease-and-desist order to shut ex-pat billionaire Owen (Oggi) Glenn up (permanently).

The Prime Minister has made a political fetish out of her campaign for transparency and accountability in the democratic process.

How ripe then that her Government - that bunch of co-conspirators who rammed through the assault on our democracy that is the Electoral Finance Act - should find themselves hoist by their Owen petard within weeks of the legislation coming into effect.

She then lists each of Oggi's revelations. The list is so long that Fran suggests that anywhere else there would have to be an enquiry. But we don't have corruption here do we, so we don't have an anti-corruption commission. We do have a Minister of Justice but

according to her risible comments in Parliament this week, does not understand basic electoral law over what constitutes a political donation.

Fran concludes by thanking Oggi for being so open.

We agree, without Oggi's loose lips we would not know (publicly) about the state of corruption we have sunk to, nor about the modus operandi of low life like Winston Peters.

John Armstrong On Glenngate

Armstrong assesses the fallout from the ongoing Glenn scandal in today's NZ Herald:

At week's end, the carnage is truly gruesome; the casualties truly staggering.

Like Mr Magoo suddenly handed the reins to Boadicea's chariot, expat billionaire and philanthropist Owen Glenn scythed his way through the political landscape seemingly oblivious to the havoc.

Those left to lick their wounds include no lesser figures than the Prime Minister and Labour Party president Mike Williams, while questions about whether NZ First was also on the receiving end of Glenn's generosity have infuriated Winston Peters, who has directed his anger at his party president for even speculating on the possibility that NZ First might have taken such a donation.

The immediate damage to Labour is the momentum the party had started to build with a series of staged policy announcements has been brought to a sudden halt. In its place, a minor irritant which should have been wiped off the political agenda on Day One was still leading the television news on Day Seven.

What Is Worse As The Headline On A Major Daily - Poll-axed or Glenngate?

Those in Labour hoping for an end to the domination of the Glenn scandal in the headlines may be wishing it were back on front page. Today's front page of the Weekend Dominion Post could not be worse for Labour. Accompanying a dreaful photo that has the PM looking more like the evil Emperor from Star Wars than usual, we have the headline Poll-axed. Sub headings are National's lead biggest since Labour took office and A mood for change. Even worse for the PM, the tone of the commentary by Vernon Small, Tracy Watkins and Tim Donoghue suggests that they have lost faith in any chance of a Labour victory at the polls. Clark seems secure in her party's leadership, but the tone is that she has become lame duck and that loss followed by leadership change in Labour seems inevitable.

What has caused this swing in attitude? The Roy Morgan Research poll? No, the latest Fairfax Media-Nielsen poll. This poll taken between 13 and 19 February - so only slightly influenced by Glenngate - shows:

National 55%
Labour 32%
Green 6%
NZ First 3%
Maori 2%
Act 1%
United F 0%

Even worse for the PM is the preferred PM rating. Key on 44% and Clark on 29%. The only good news that the political team can find is that Goff is not featuring in the preferred PM rankings - so they see this as easing the chances of an move on Clark's leadership from within the Party.

Clearly association with Labour is hurting both United Future and NZ First. It is probably not helping the Greens either. This has huge implications for the stability of Government.

Roy Morgan Poll Corrects - Back With The Mainstream

It is looking increasingly that the last poll from Roy Morgan Research was a rogue result. Labour took great comfort from it, but the current poll will take the wind out of Labour's sails. It shows a big drop in support for Labour and an even bigger increase in support for National. Labour is down 4% to 32.5% while National is up 6% to 51.5%.

Other parties:

Greens down 1% to 8%
NZ First down 1% to 3%
Maori up 1.5% to 3%
ACT, United, Progressive are all on 0.5%

Gary Morgan's commentary says:

“The drop in support for the Labour Government to fresh 6 month lows is driven by the significant drop in median house prices early in February, along with the continued record high interest rates which are a great concern to many New Zealanders. The extent of these concerns is evident when one looks at the fall in the Roy Morgan New Zealand Consumer Confidence Rating, which has fallen to an 18 month low.

“Combining these economic worries with the political damage caused to Helen Clark by her non-attendance at the Waitangi day dawn ceremonies, which contrasted sharply with the enthusiastic approach taken by Opposition Leader John Key, has topped off a bad few weeks for the Labour Government.

“The lead now enjoyed by the National Party would be enough to see them returned to power at this year’s election for the first time since the defeat of Jenny Shipley nearly 8 years ago.”

Feb 22, 2008

A Lesson To Left Wing Blogs And News Sites

The well known right wingers in conservative capital San Francisco (yes where they used to wear flowers in their hair) writing for the San Francisco Chronicle , have written this analysis of the extremely poor attempt by the New York Times to malign John McCain. Note how poor journalism has backfired.

Is Anderton Going To Vote Against Emissions Trading?

Jim Anderton's new found fundamentalism on free trade and industry subsidies - as expressed several times yesterday, including in the question time exchange below (that blew up in his face) was rather unfortunate given the growing interest in the Bill Lloyd case. But it may also come back to bite him when its comes to the Government's emissions trading policy. What is free allocation of credits if not a subsidy? The value of these free allocations across the economy will be worth far more than $200 million. What did Anderton say yesterday would result from a $200 million subsidy?

"that would devastate our international trade reputation."

National Should Make More Use Of Tim Groser

This exchange in Parliament yesterday shows why - Anderton was thinking himself very clever in arranging a patsy from Leslie Soper. He ended up with egg on his face -

Tim Groser: Given that in 1999 this Minister of Agriculture described National’s tariff and subsidy removal plan as “sheer idiocy”, but yesterday, in claiming erroneously that National wished to go back to tariffs and subsidies, he told the House that tariffs and subsidies were “the economic ruination of this country”, would the Minister like to share with the House the sequence of events that led to this happy, if remarkable, change of world view?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Madam Speaker—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Right! Members will hear this answer in silence.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: That seems, in the first instance, to be an acknowledgment that the National Party is going back to a policy of export subsidies, and if that is true, the member will have some questions to answer outside this House pretty quickly from the media, I suspect. Let me remind him that I was on record, and have been on record, as saying that the National Party’s then policy of family benefits for sheep, which is what this policy represents, was a disaster for New Zealand. It was a disaster for New Zealand, and so will any policy of this kind followed by any future National Government.

McCully Doesn't Like Misuse Of NZAID Monies On Kelsey's Travel Either

Just when we thought our concerns about NZAID money being used to fund Jane Kelsey's attendance at anti-globalisation events went by unnoticed someone takes notice. Murray McCully has this to say:

NZAID Funds Radicals and Trouble-makers

Like nature’s innocents located at the worldwide headquarters of mccully.co, most New Zealanders will have fondly imagined that the aid monies generously provided by this country’s taxpayers are targeted at improving the lives of the World’s poor and dispossessed. And, at least in part, we would all be wrong. Leaving aside the sneaking suspicion that rather too much of our aid budget ends up indirectly in the hands of NGO bureaucrats, it is clear that some NZAID monies are ending up in the hands of the least deserving.

Take for example the 2002 donation of $2000 from the Council for International Development-administered NZAID NGO Travel Fund to well known leftist Professor Jane Kelsey for the purpose of representing the radical organisation ARENA at “The World is Not For Sale” meeting in Oslo. This was not, in an ordinary sense, a conference, but rather a gathering of extreme leftist forces from around the world for the purpose of disrupting the World Bank conference being held at that time. As a reasonably well-paid professor at a major New Zealand university, it might have been imagined that Ms Kelsey could afford to indulge her left-wing fetishes at her own expense, without stripping funds from the mouths of the World’s starving millions.

An inspection of the list of donations over the years demonstrates a propensity on the part of NZAID to dispense small amounts of taxpayers’ cash to such activists. That the recipients appear to be uniformly of a left-wing persuasion raises questions of judgment about the officials who dispensed the cash. That left wing activists are paying fancy hotel bills with cash intended to feed the World’s poor and hungry is something that must, in due course, be addressed.

Murray McCully On NZAID

We are pleased to see that Murray McCully has posted on the serious problems at NZAID.

NZAID Flunks Audit New Zealand’s overseas aid budget will this year hit $429 million, headed for $600 million in 2010. The critics in the aid community maintain the traditional refrain that this is too little, too late. But recent reports suggest that they would be better occupied focusing on the quality, not the quantity, of the current aid expenditure.

In late 2007, Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee commenced its annual financial review of NZAID. Such reviews are commenced with a report from the Audit Office, detailing their findings from the mandatory audit process. And last year’s review, the results of which became public this week, do not make for pretty reading. The Audit Office report identified a litany of serious deficiencies:

NZAID had “entered into contracts for services without having gone through a normal tender process,” had “failed to ensure the agency was not being funded for the same work by other donors,” could not produce “evidence to indicate whether or not NZAID had considered ‘value for money’,” and had departed from “what we regard as good practice around paying only on delivery of services, or, when paying in advance, only paying a proportion to minimise the risk of public money not achieving desired outcomes”.

The Auditors also criticised a lack of “any provision to retain funds pending successful contract completion”, and identified an aborted contract where no attempt had been made to recover pre-payments.

Asked to explain, the NZAID officials argued that the pace of aid budget increases had given them speed wobbles. In fact, the report was truly damning, its criticisms going right to the heart of the organisation whose role is to deliver the assistance generously provided by New Zealand taxpayers to the intended recipients. And with more taxpayers’ money in the pipeline for next year, the Audit Office identified “major improvements” as being required, “to which the entity should give urgent attention.”

The great irony, of course, is that NZAID sits under the wing of the Foreign Affairs Ministry (MFAT) as an autonomous entity. The Audit report on MFAT itself was positively glowing. So, how could it be that an entity that was part of MFAT, until the current government decided to make it an autonomous being, could attract such a shoddy audit report, when its parent is, we are told, in pristine audit condition? Ammunition, to be sure, for those critics who saw the original split as an expensive exercise in political correctness.

More Critical Reviews There was more bad news for NZAID last week when the Audit Office produced a performance audit of selected projects currently in the pipeline. The performance audits are part of a programme of regular reviews of government agencies for which the Audit Office has received additional funding.

The Auditors selected a sample of nine NZAID funding arrangements. They found “poor practice in six of the nine funding arrangements.” So, what sort of poor practice did the auditors find? Well, fundamentally poor practice, when you consider the nature of the NZAID work programme:
-“contractors being contracted before a search was carried out on the ACS database.” - “management of conflicts of interest not being documented.” -“contractors starting work before a contract was in place.” -“contracts not being tendered when the contract value exceeded the stated limits.” -“contractor fee rates increasing during the contract without a clear documented reason for the increase” and -“contract variations for retrospective funding.”

In any government agency, these findings would be serious. In an agency whose sole business is the efficient administration of $429 million of aid monies annually, they strike at the heart of its reason for being.

Glenngate Spreads

Kiwiblog asks important new questions....

A Bit Heavy Handed?

If you had purchsed an art work from a Dunbar Sloan auction in good faith and be described as blameless by the police, would you be suprised to have your house raided by the police so that they could impound said item? Maybe there is more to this but we think this looks very strange. Was there not a better way to handle this?

Another Great Week For Phil Goff

No wonder he is smiling. Labour leader in waiting has had a great week, in sharp contrast to his leaders and most of his colleagues. While they are all mired in crisis and scandal Phil quietly and consistently delivers. He achieved a great result on cluster munitions . Earlier in the day he was able to announce another good news story - positives moves towards an FTA with Korea

“This study is a strong foundation from which our two countries can discuss the possibility of an FTA. We enjoy a highly complementary trading relationship and an FTA would be mutually beneficial. We also work closely together as longstanding friends on issues affecting the Asian region,” Phil Goff said.

Both countries rely strongly on trade, and are proponents of an open trading environment. New Zealand’s total trade with Korea was worth $2.7 billion in the year till June 2007.

“The study concluded that the growing and strongly complementary relationship shows that, under an FTA, consumers in both countries stand to gain from increased opportunities for trade, investment, knowledge transfer, and the productivity gains that come from a closer trade relationship.

WTO: Agriculture: What The Text Really Means

The WTO has overnight released a helpful guide to the text that is on the table for agriculture. Those intersted in the detail might like to give it a read.....

Has Winston Told The Truth About Donations From Owen Glenn?

We know that Winston First has recieved a donation a few days after Labour repays a $100,000 loan to Glenn, now look at this analysis from Audrey Young - you reach your own conclusions. The full Audrey Young article is worth a read. Very good investigative journalism.

Owen Glenn says he has given cash to other New Zealand political parties but won't name them:

National: Won't discuss donors.
NZ First: Leader Winston Peters says no, president Dail Jones doesn't know
Greens: No
Maori Party: No
United Future: No

Glenngate: Major Turmoil Within The Party: Who Leaked The News???

The Press reports on the turmoil that is developing within the Labour party over the Glenn affair and over the leak of the news about Williams offering to resign

Labour appears in turmoil over the shock resignation offer of its long-standing president, Mike Williams.

It is also trying to escape the ongoing fallout from its relationship with the billionaire donor Owen Glenn, which prompted Williams's offer.

Labour's embarrassment over the affair was made clear last night when Prime Minister Helen Clark sat out an official hongi that would have brought her and Glenn face to face.

Earlier, Clark was forced to admit that Williams had tendered his resignation over the way he managed public statements about Glenn's financial contributions to the party coffers. Clark refused to accept the resignation.

However, party officials are now upset that damaging details of a private conversation between Williams and Clark were made public.

This is raising further speculation about turmoil within the party.

The Prime Minister's office has flatly denied it leaked the news of Williams's resignation attempt and Williams himself is refusing to talk.

"It was a private conversation between Helen and me. I have no comment," Williams told The Press yesterday.

Even If The Power Stays On Your Going To Be Hit In The Pocket

This from The Press....

David Cunliffe's Leadership Aspirations

Has anyone else noticed David Cunliffe's new activism? Sure, he is trying to get the scandals out of the way before the election campaign proper - but is there a secondary agenda? Is Cunliffe seeing the end of an era fast approaching? What message does he want out there? Could it be Cunliffe man of action? Cunliffe future Party leader? Watch this space.....

Feb 21, 2008

Why We Wish Australian Wages Were A Bit Lower

$1350 a week in Oz; $667 in NZ

This is the headline in an NZPA article just up on Stuff.

This is also why we need to focus much more on productivity. Higher productivity growth = higher wage growth.

Why We Need More Infrastructure Investment

NZ First And Glenn

Kiwiblog has a comprehensive analysis.

Glenngate: Mike Williams OffersTo Resign

But the PM tells him not to be so silly.

EU Divided Over WTO Ag Text?

Reports from Europe are suggesting a big rift within the EU (the negative voices being led by France - just for a change) on the WTO agriculture text. This looks like the usual posturing from France and the agricultural protectionists. Note that Mandelson doesn't seem too worried.

Poneke On Climate Change

Poneke disputes The Hive's view that he is "brave". But today he risks being attacked again as a "denier" by his post on the science of climate change.

Labour Turns Guns On Key

John Armstrong writes in the NZ Herald that Labour is trying to deflect the attacks against it by trying to attack John Key. Jim Anderton accused him of trying to move NZ back to the bad days of agricultural subsidies while Labour (with the support of its union friends) are trying to suggest that Key wants wages to drop. David Farrar is saying today that Key was talking about wages in Australia. Our view is that Key was probably trying to explain the need for productivity growth before big increases in wages but the reported did not understand the point. John Armstrong says that no one can contact the reporter concerned. But Armstrong concludes that

Key's second skin remains intact. Whatever Labour throws at him, nothing seems to stick.

and as for the Labour/Anderton attacks

the prevailing sound is of a barrel being well and truly scraped.