Life and Politics

Occasional comment on politics and the media in New Zealand

Tag: Labour

He’s your best friend and would die for you

by Jake Quinn

It’s not unreasonable to assert that West Wing character Leo McGarry was the finest presidential Chief of Staff that ever lived, real or fictional. It is with that in mind, and prompted by the ever mischievous posts of a Mr W. Oil, that I put forth the following passage, care of Wikipedia (tongue in cheek of course):

When President Bartlet is giving instructions to the one Cabinet member who is appointed the designated survivor during the State of the Union address, he asks the man if he has a best friend, if that friend is smarter than him, and if he could trust that friend with his life. The Cabinet member says yes on all counts, Bartlet then says “That’s your chief of staff”, not aware McGarry has heard him in the next room and broken into a smile, visibly moved.

Alastair Cameron to be the Labour Chief of Staff?

by Jake Quinn

Image

Labour CoS Alastair Cameron

As you may have heard the NZ Leader of the Opposition’s Office Chief of Staff, former MP Stuart Nash, recently hung up his boots after just a few months in the job.

Today iPredict launched stocks on who would replace him. The candidates according to iPredict were Alastair CameronMarcus GanleyJon JohanssonConor RobertsJames Bews-HairJohn PaganiJohn Tamihere, and Gordon Jon Thompson.

Read the rest of this entry »

Labour onto a winner with Capital Gains Tax

by Jake Quinn

Most OECD countries have a capital gains tax (CGT) in varying forms. To not have a CGT is unusual and doing so provides no great competitive advantage to New Zealand, in fact it creates a tax haven for unproductive asset investment.

CGT is a common sense tax, it’s a fair tax, and it’s a rational tax. Not having one is stupid so I am pleased to hear the speculation, i.e. carefully leaked plans from Goff’s office, that Labour would introduce one if elected.

The presence of CGT levels the playing field between the productive sector (like the share market) and the unproductive sector (the housing market).  Not having a CGT essentially forces “rationally acting” investors to buy rental property, and to do little else. Read the rest of this entry »

What Nick Clegg and his Lib-Dems should do

by Jake Quinn

Smaller parties suffer disproportionately from any disruptive events that affect governing coalitions, they almost always lose votes at elections following ones where they have coalesced to prop up larger parties in government, and more Brits want the Labour Party out of government than in.

These facts make a Lib Dem-Labour coalition a probable nightmare scenario for the Lib Dems, despite that fact that the two parties make up 52 percent of the popular vote.  Supporting another Labour government (especially one led by Gordon Brown) would probably see the Lib Dems punished at the next election, guaranteeing a Tory landslide in five years time. Read the rest of this entry »

Goff speech hits mark walloping bludgers at both ends

by Jake Quinn

National have couched most of their decisions in office thus far in terms of the recession:  belt tightening, constraint, cuts here, cuts there, just like the ones ‘mums and dads’ are having to make around the kitchen tables of New Zealand.  Labour realises that undermining the overt ‘need for constraint’ message is key to undermining National’s supreme popularity in government, and their ability to cut public services without paying any political price.

In his State of the Nation speech delivered to 250 odd Hamiltonians (myself included) at the Ferrybank lounge, titled ‘The Many. Not the Few‘, Labour leader Phil Goff reminded us that the world was now out of recession, “the IMF says the world economy will grow by 3.9 percent this year, lets call it 4 percent” he said, and that “hard-working kiwis must share in that recovery”.  Naturally, he linked this message to the Tax Working Groups recommendations and the Nat government’s likely response to it, that is, a GST increase in return for a tax cut for the “wealthy elite”.  His claim that Labour would oppose such a GST increase was met with loud applause.

For me, the most interesting part of the speech concerned ‘hitting bludgers at both ends’.  Goff started off by blasting finance company bosses who screwed over the life savings of little old ladies while sheltering their own personal wealth from the losses incurred by their company’s.  Interestingly, here he refereed to the 50% of the wealthiest 100 kiwis who are not even recorded as paying the top tax bracket (because of avoidance), which was actually a tactical devise employed by the right to justify getting rid of the bracket.

Next he walloped the well publicized and much hated ACC and beneficiary abusing cases (the guy on ACC with a sore back for five years who was videoed moving large boulders while landscaping his back yard, and the Christchurch white-supremacist gang family who’ve been on sickness benefits for 20 odd years because of ‘marijuana addiction’) saying that no one, weather on the top or the bottom of the heap, should be shafting their fellow hardworking kiwis.  This double ended attack on bludging and corruption can only be a win win.  I can’t imagine anyone, perhaps apart from those specifically under attack by Goff, disagreeing that something serious really needs to be done here.

Of course, the thing that most titillated Guyon and Garner’s gaggle was the Public Service Chief Executive pay cut bit.  In terms of the politics of it, well its a healthy little bit of populism that won’t warm anyone, so why the hell not? (heck its good enough for the British Tory’s!)  I’ve always thought that 500-600 thousand dollars a year seemed like an awfully  large amount of money for any one person to receive as a salary, especially when that salary is being paid out of taxes.

People enter parliament or public service leadership positions because they actually want to serve.  Foreign Affairs Secretary John Allen, for instance, gave up a salary of $1.2 million at NZ Post to serve his country (he took a pay cut of $600k for goodness sake).  If you want to be filthy rich you best do it some place else and without public money, thank you very much.

And frankly, while were bagging on public sector CE’s. I just don’t buy the ‘oh but they will go to the private sector if we don’t pay them heaps line’.  Show me the private sector (in Wellington) that is looking for an extra 30 executives to pay a total of 15 million dollars plus per year.  It doesn’t exist.  Of all the folks living in Wellington that I know, the wealthiest ones work in the public sector (Senior Advisors on nearly a hundred grand or Senior Managers earning double that).  But they’re not all through the wider state sector, not by a long shot.  God knows the staff of Radio NZ aren’t in danger if becoming millionaires any time soon.

Basically it was a solid speech, which had something for everyone, laid out a clear path and a clear attitude for Labour in 2010.  I got the feeling that the journo’s present were impressed by it too.  Those wanting to know where Goff and Labour stand on the big issues have no place better to look.

For further reading: here’s vernon’s, danyl’s, farrar’s, eddie’s & lew’s takes.

The Guardian on NZ’s carbon greenwashing

by Jake Quinn

You used to hear politicians talking about what was at stake if New Zealand didn’t do anything significant about its carbon emissions. Some listened, while others tuned out thinking “yeah whatever, no one cares what NZ does”.

Labour eventually got a meaningful Emissions Trading Scheme through Parliament (albeit as its last act after 9 years in government) that would have provided incentives for big polluters and emitters to make real reductions.  But now, under National, we look to be getting an ETS that will subsidize the polluter and emitter sectors for so long it almost seems pointless.

The article below justifiably does a great deal to undermine New Zealand’s brand as clean and green, something which is not just important for tourism but for making our wine, lamb and dairy products ‘appear’ better than they really are.

In marketing people talk about the value of a product and the additional ‘appearance of value’ of it. If you can sell something, but through branding and advertising make people attach additional value to it (that don’t necessarily exist) then you’re on the way to success.

Articles like this one strip down New Zealand’s facade exposing our products as, not just the same other countries, but worse because they are served with a side of hypocrisy.

Full article is here, some snippets below:

…my prize for the most shameless two fingers to the global community goes to New Zealand, a country that sells itself round the world as “clean and green”.

New Zealand secured a generous Kyoto target, which simply required it not to increase its emissions between 1990 and 2010. But the latest UN statistics show its emissions of greenhouse gases up by 22%, or a whopping 39% if you look at emissions from fuel burning alone…

To rub our noses in it, last year New Zealand signed up to the UN’s Climate Neutral Network, a list of nations that are “laying out strategies to become carbon neutral”.

But if you read the small print of what New Zealand has actually promised, it is a measly 50% in emissions by 2050 – something even the US can trump….

This is not just political spin. It is also commercial greenwash. New Zealand trades on its greenness to promote its two big industries: tourism and dairy exports. Groser says his country’s access to American markets for its produce is based on its positive environmental image. The government’s national marketing strategy is underpinned by a survey showing that tourism would be reduced by 68% if the country lost its prized “clean, green image”, and even international purchases of its dairy products could halve.

The trouble is, on the climate change front at least, that green image increasingly defies reality.

Herald’s knives out for Goff’s team

by Jake Quinn

On Saturday, in the words of DimPost, the “New Zealand Herald falls to it’s knees and frantically bobs it’s head up and down to praise the government on it’s one year anniversary – because after all, lavishing praise on politicians is what good journalism is all about”.

While Sunday was Labour’s turn to receive some unabashed praise of similar proportions.  Well, not quite.

In today’s Herald on Sunday Editorial, the knives for Barker’s scalp and possibly Hughes too, are well and truly out:

To outside observers, Barker always appeared to have been promoted far beyond his ability. But in politics’ smoke-filled backrooms, success is sometimes less about brilliance than about blind loyalty. And that, unfortunately, is where Labour’s senior whip Darren Hughes – another former minister – has also disgraced himself.

Hughes is smart. But, like Barker, he has been found willing to insist that black is white if that is what the leadership expects of him. Hughes has fronted the media, insisting that Barker’s fraudulent poll was justifiable, allowing leader Phil Goff to duck for cover.

Barker has acted dishonestly. Hughes has sacrificed principle for patsy-ism. Goff has just cowered and, when confronted by political reporters outside the Labour Caucus room with nowhere to hide, obfuscated.

Labour’s leader must now stand up and take responsibility for the deception that was conducted with funds entrusted to him by Parliament.  Barker should be sacked from all his Caucus responsibilities. Hughes, too, must be left in no doubt about how repugnant his rationalisations are.

These, then, are the simple truths that are demanded of Labour’s tarnished leadership. And these are the truths Labour has forgotten.

Sacking Rick Barker over this would be a public relations disaster, as would chastising and publicly humiliating Labour’s great-ginger-hope and Mr Fix-it, Hughes.  Bowing to petty pressure from scalp hungry journalists would surely push moral and the polls to new lows.

The media loves scalps; that is why they write these editorials.  No one outside of Wellington gives a stuff about this crap.

And frankly, using your parliamentary office to conduct opinion polls, fake names or not, doesn’t remotely compare to changing your financial arrangements to gain tens of thousands of extra dollars in housing allowances, as our pious Finance Minister did so recently.

The issue of course is more about the handling than the supposed ‘crime’ itself.  Barker’s words “i don’t know what you are talking about” were not well chosen.  However, within hours, after gathering the facts, Hughes was fronting.

This is not a hanging offence, and as Farrar points out, the quantity of bad press is probably the result of a rather quiet news week.

So Goff does need to come out swinging but not at his caucus.

Overseas travels have seen him slip from the public’s gaze of late, and now he’s back and having to fight fires he didnt light, and all at time when the Government is providing ample opportunity for him to land some swift jabs.

ACC cuts and levy increases, constant talk of new taxes and GST increases, an ETS that will see average hard-working kiwis hand big money over to big polluters and big business, all while unemployment sits at decade highs.  Oh and where is the cycleway and the ultra fast broadband?

As an after thought, I’m rather puzzled about Labour Party President Andrew Little’s role in fuelling this issue from the start.  The day it kicked off Little said he knew nothing about the operation and that it would concern him very deeply.

Andrew Little has a reputation from speaking his mind.  At Labour’s conference this year he announced, one can only assume unilaterally, that the Foreshore and Seabed Act was a failure, that Maori deserved their day in court, and that the Reserve Bank Act and monetary policy was on the next Labour government’s chopping block.

Why would he say “it would concern him very deeply”, thus fertilising the ground for a scandal, and why didn’t he call the Leader’s Office first to check it out?

Time to Move Beyond the Beltway

by Jeremy Greenbrook-Held

Labour: English’s homes saga not over

Um, yes, it is. Well, at least in the eyes of voters beyond the beltway.

I earlier posted that Bill English should go. I personally still believe he should be removed, but any legal grounds for him to be removed have now been extinguished by the auditor general’s report. In the eyes of your Joe Bloggs voter, English has paid back the money and the auditor general has vindicated him – this matter is closed. Labour need to face the facts that it has lost this one and move on.

And Labour will continue to lose the wider debate if it insists on focusing on issues which don’t generally affect undecided voters without adequately framing what the implications are. Included in this is the opposition’s obsession with the amount of Urgency being used. Yes, the government is rushing legislation through, riding rough-shod over the legislative process – but for your average voter, this means that our politicians are wasting less time debating ‘innane’ laws and more time actually ‘doing their job’ – win-win in their eyes.

Labour has been handed their opposition agenda on a platter – there is plenty this government is doing that could be used against them:

These are the Government’s equivalent of Labour’s ‘lightbulbs and shower heads’ issues. I’m not saying that these should form the basis for the next election campaign – New Zealand deserves to be offered something a little more comprehensive and strategic than “vote for us, because we’re not them” – but these are issues that get under the skin of voters and could be used to lever support away from the Government.

At the moment, Labour is getting too caught up trying to act like a Government-in-waiting. And there will be a time when this is called for, but first they have to act like an opposition and go after the Government on issues which are important to the voters, not issues that are important to the MPs.

Bikers unhappy, opportunity for Goff?

by Jake Quinn

So the Bikers are very displeased. The ACC levy on their bike registration is going up big time as part of changes Nick Smith is making to ACC.

The Press reports:

Motorcyclists say there will be loud protests against the proposed $500 ACC levy increase on large bikes. “It’s ludicrous – what are they thinking of?” Motorcycling New Zealand chief executive Paul Pavletich said. Owners of bikes over 601cc will see their annual ACC levy increase from $252.69 to $745.77 under the proposal.

It is going up, obviously, because motor cyclists have more serious crashes (or the crashes they have, do themselves more damage) and require more ACC.

The stats are here and point out that the risk of being involved in a fatal or injury crash is more than 18 times higher for a motorcyclist than for a car driver over the same distance travelled.  So the fee increase is simply putting the cost at the cause and although unpopular, it makes some sense.

Now remember how Phil Goff turned up to the Labour Party Conference on a Triumph?

His love of two wheels puts him in an interesting position.  He and Labour can oppose this increase (without looking too cynical) and look like they’re battling on behalf of hog-loving-kiwi-blokes against the ever hungry bloated bureaucracy.

This is surely the kind of constituency that Labour wants to target now; you know, those ‘Waitakere men’ who left in their droves last election to vote for National.

What’s more, an online stuff poll shows more than 80% of its readers think its unfair and that motorcyclists should pay the same as car drivers.

So Goff would be on the side of the people. But the problem is that he might also believe that increasing the fees makes sense. Oh well.

This issue, like the road user charges increase under the last government, has the potential to turn into a real headache for National.

Colin Espiner on Labour’s nanny state apology

by Jake Quinn

This piece by Colin Espiner was in the Waikato Times tonight (and The Press today). The rest can be found here. Whilst I agree with much of Colin’s thinking here, I think that backing away from the ‘nanny-statisms’ (ie the apology) is key to Labour’s strategy for taking back the blue collar working man who abandoned Labour on mass at the last election.
Labour, however, appears frantic to discover the reason for its rejection by voters last November, as if there is some magic elixir which, once unveiled, will ensure its return to the Beehive in 2011. The current strategy seems twofold: apologise for everything, and show the public how nice that Mr Goff really is. And so Labour is sorry. It’s sorry for the Electoral Finance Act, for the child- discipline legislation, for low-flow shower heads, for energy-efficient light bulbs, for Winston Peters. “We were voted out because they [the public] thought we were getting distracted by sideshows,” Goff told Labour’s conference at the weekend. “On occasion, we got it wrong and I am sorry for that. We weren’t listening enough.”
This, of course, is bunk. Labour lost the election because voters were bored with the government and wanted a change. And because Key presented a non-threatening and more personable alternative to Helen Clark. It’s that simple, and the sooner Labour realises this, and accepts the nature of political cycles, the sooner it will begin the journey it must undertake to prepare for government once again – though in all likelihood, not for another five years.
Saying sorry actually makes things worse, because it sends the signal that somehow Labour now regrets its achievements in office, which were considerable. Labour should be reminding voters that virtually every major policy of this National administration was its own – from Working for Families and interest- free student loans to an independent foreign policy, nuclear-free ports, KiwiSaver, and four weeks’ annual leave. Labour has also started flagellating itself for being too “nanny state” in the past, which simply reinforces the myth perpetrated so successfully by National.
Even Goff seems to have forgotten that the so-called anti-smacking legislation was passed by National as well, and that Key is currently refusing to change the law in spite of the demands of a majority of New Zealanders.
National is no less “nanny state” than Labour was. Had it not been for the efforts of the Food and Grocery Council we’d all be eating folic acid in our bread from next month.
National is entertaining pleas from the Maori Party to massively increase the price of cigarettes. The Government’s chief wowser, Steven Joyce, is banning hand-held cellphones in cars, and proposing to cut the drink-drive limit. None of these fit with National’s core philosophy of individual responsibility, and most are ideas rejected by Labour as too interfering.
Sure, Labour made mistakes in government, but probably no more than any other long-term administration.
While in mea culpa mode it should remember that the fifth Labour government was amongst the most electorally successful of any in our history.
The only thing Labour ought to be sorry about is that it is in opposition.

This piece by Colin Espiner was in the Waikato Times tonight (and The Press today). The rest can be found here. Whilst I agree with much of Colin’s thinking here, I think that backing away from the ‘nanny-statisms’ (ie the apology) is key to Labour’s strategy for taking back the blue collar working man “and his mrs” who abandoned Labour on mass at the last election.

Labour, however, appears frantic to discover the reason for its rejection by voters last November, as if there is some magic elixir which, once unveiled, will ensure its return to the Beehive in 2011. The current strategy seems twofold: apologise for everything, and show the public how nice that Mr Goff really is. And so Labour is sorry. It’s sorry for the Electoral Finance Act, for the child- discipline legislation, for low-flow shower heads, for energy-efficient light bulbs, for Winston Peters. “We were voted out because they [the public] thought we were getting distracted by sideshows,” Goff told Labour’s conference at the weekend. “On occasion, we got it wrong and I am sorry for that. We weren’t listening enough.”

This, of course, is bunk. Labour lost the election because voters were bored with the government and wanted a change. And because Key presented a non-threatening and more personable alternative to Helen Clark. It’s that simple, and the sooner Labour realises this, and accepts the nature of political cycles, the sooner it will begin the journey it must undertake to prepare for government once again – though in all likelihood, not for another five years.

Saying sorry actually makes things worse, because it sends the signal that somehow Labour now regrets its achievements in office, which were considerable. Labour should be reminding voters that virtually every major policy of this National administration was its own – from Working for Families and interest- free student loans to an independent foreign policy, nuclear-free ports, KiwiSaver, and four weeks’ annual leave. Labour has also started flagellating itself for being too “nanny state” in the past, which simply reinforces the myth perpetrated so successfully by National.

Even Goff seems to have forgotten that the so-called anti-smacking legislation was passed by National as well, and that Key is currently refusing to change the law in spite of the demands of a majority of New Zealanders.

National is no less “nanny state” than Labour was. Had it not been for the efforts of the Food and Grocery Council we’d all be eating folic acid in our bread from next month.

National is entertaining pleas from the Maori Party to massively increase the price of cigarettes. The Government’s chief wowser, Steven Joyce, is banning hand-held cellphones in cars, and proposing to cut the drink-drive limit. None of these fit with National’s core philosophy of individual responsibility, and most are ideas rejected by Labour as too interfering.

Sure, Labour made mistakes in government, but probably no more than any other long-term administration.

While in mea culpa mode it should remember that the fifth Labour government was amongst the most electorally successful of any in our history.

The only thing Labour ought to be sorry about is that it is in opposition.

David James Shearer maiden speech

by Jake Quinn

The thing that strikes me about David Shearer is his decency.  His humility almost bowls you over when you speak to him. Unlike some of his parliamentary colleagues, he does not appear pompous, arrogant or self serving in any way, shape or form.

He encapsulates the attitude of someone who wouldn’t have committed a moments thought to how much the job paid, how much free air travel he’s entitled to, or what size his office would be.  The absolute commitment he has shown to helping others has been obvious throughout his entire impressive career (clink link for David Shearer’s bio/CV).

His maiden speech (above), examined on paper was excellent – it covered all the bases a Labour supporter would have wanted it to.

His oratory skills however lacked the inspiration to match his character.  From his first speeches and sound-bites on television, from the university rallies to the panel discussions and street corner stand-ups of the Mt Albert by-election campaign, his lack of oratory prowess was quite clear.

Does this matter? Many would suggest it does not.  John Key’s oratory skills are also lacking (his election night acceptance speech a fine example), yet in different ways,  and he became a prime minister who commands huge levels of public support.

In fact, some people would suggest that Key’s chewing and bumbling of his words and down-home kiwi accent actually increase his likability with the public. Tall poppies and all that.

So will David Shearer’s lackluster oratory hold him back in the long run, or will he improve with experience as he gains in confidence? After all, he is already been touted as a future Labour Prime Minister and according to iPredict has about a twenty percent chance of rolling Phil Goff before the 2011 election.

I don’t know the answer to this particular question.  To me the wider question – that of the impact of strong oratory on the fortunes of New Zealand politicians – is an even more interesting one.  Perhaps I should read Jon Johansson’s new book.

[Update: for an example of strong (i.e. inspiring, motivating, emotive) oratory see this speech to the House by Clayton Cosgrove on National’s cuts to special education]

Sour note finishes tough week in politics for nats

by Jake Quinn

A TVNZ Mt Albert by-election poll released yesterday put David Shearer on a staggering %59, Melissa Lee on %21 and Russel Norman on %15.  I understand that this is consistent with other private polling.

PredictionsRussel will beat Lee on polling day because apathy will see both Nat and Lab voters stay at home (as the result appears to be a foregone conclusion), plus the leftist protest vote will go to Norman instead of Shearer now that they’ve seen the poll result that Shearer is “safe”. Shearer will still win comfortably, but not by anything like this margin.

A strong victory for Shearer and Labour in Mt Albert is a strong endorsement of Phil Goff’s leadership of the Labour Party and will see questioning of his leadership off the agenda for sometime.

Today’s Herald leads with an Audrey Young piece about the poll capping a bad week for National and explains: “Labour may even increase its majority in the seat this weekend, which would be a big boost to the authority of new leader Phil Goff within the Labour Party.”

It was also interesting to hear John Key backtrack on his odd endorsement of John Banks for Super Mayor of Auckland. NZPA reports: “A spokesman from Mr Key’s office said this morning there were no endorsements for any candidates and it was up to the people of Auckland to decide who they wanted as mayor.”

This is yet another example of botched political management from John Key and his staff. How could the words “Can I start by acknowledging the mayor – more importantly the Super Mayor of Auckland city – John Banks,” be seen as anything but an endorsement?

His “arch-nemesis” (please read inverted commas as an indication of sarcasm) Paul Henry was kind enough not to ask any tough questions about this on Breakfast this morning, rather he ended his piece with “it’s [the tough last week] character building, and you’ve got a good character”. Thank you Paul.

Thought for the day: Goff has got John Key and his “Minister for Ethnic Affairs” Richard Worth “by the texties”.

Gang insignia, genitals and whanganui

by Jake Quinn

The Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Bill passed its third reading last night, 62-59. Very close.  It’s wonderful to see the Act Party and Rodney Hide sticking to their principles. I just cant imagine what we’d do if we didn’t have a  true liberal party in Parliament utterly committed to battling to the death for our freedom to wear what ever we wanted

The Standard has some interesting insites into how and why Act voted the way they did:

The law only passed because John Boscawen, David Garrett, and Rodney Hide (who in an eariler moment of anger revealed that supporting this law is a trade for National’s support on the 3 Strikes Bill) voted for it. More principled libertarians Sir Roger Douglas and Heather Roy voted against it (it was Douglas’s refusal to back this bill that led to ACT announcing their MPs would be allowed to vote against the party line).

The Bill originally passed its first reading by 106 votes to 13, with Labour in support. Labour withdrew its support at second reading as they simply didn’t think the legislation would work. Michael Cullen, in his usual fashion, had an cheeky observation or two. I particularly enjoyed these bits:

“No doubt National Party supporters will say `this has worked’ because the one gang member they saw last year they haven’t seen again.”  He scorned its provisions, saying it would require signs to be put up. “Dear gang member, please don’t display your insignia. “Some gang members will wonder what insignia is for a start. They may think it’s their genitals, I have no idea.”… “Given our knowledge of gang behaviour, those signs aren’t going to last very long.”

Inventory2 of Keeping Stock has blogged on the Bill and gives his whanganui supporter point of view in a comment on kiwiblog:

I live in the Black Power part of town. Each day I drive past the house where Jhia Te Tua was shot. The shopping centre where I go each morning to get the mail is frequented by these thugs. Wearing a patch gives them a swagger which reduces markedly when they are out of the patch. As Chester Borrows said yesterday in the House, the gang code is that you die to defend your patch, and the ultimate insult is to be “skinned” by a rival gang, i.e. to have your patch forcibly removed. Take away the patches, and you neuter a significant part of gang culture.

But hang on, won’t the patches  remain as members will simply turn their jackets inside out, like they do in bars up and down the country? 

This legislation is an example, like the Section 59 debacle, of a debate that is not  actually about the legislation in question, but about a broader much more complicated social issue that cannot be fixed with a simple local, or any other, Bill. 

But hell, if it makes the good people of Whanganui happy, then i’m glad they got their Bill.

David Shearer heavy hitter for opposition

by Jake Quinn

The decision by the Mt Albert Labour members and Labour HQ to nominate David Shearer to contest the upcoming by-election is likely to bring to Parliaments ranks a serious contender for high profile opposition spokespersonships.

His election to Parliament would bring a man who intellectually, in public appeal and in relevant life experience, matches or exceeds many of his more senior colleagues. Like his good friend Phil Twyford, David won’t have quit his high ranking and lucrative international role to twiddle his thumbs on the backbench.

Given the opportunity, Shearer will be putting his hands up in the very near future for the opposition portfolios of Defence (held by Pete Hodgson) and Foreign Affairs (the associate portfolios are held by two other respected and up-and-coming members; Grant Robertson and Phil Twyford. Helen Clark was Labour’s spokesperson, and I’m not sure if they’ve filled it yet). [Update: Foreign Affairs is now held by Chris Carter.]

So who will be moving aside for the new man on campus? For someone must – Goff cannot bring in a guy like this and not use him up the front. The media would punish that, deservedly, as bad management.

David Shearer is, on balance, probably the front runner to win the seat and it is his, and Labours, to lose as National’s Melissa Lee is a strong contender and her National Party are still enjoying an extended honeymoon.

The Green’s Russel Norman doesn’t have a shitshow of winning it, but his presence will draw a few votes, possibly (although not likely) enough to split the left vote. The media coverage of this contest coupled with the political awareness of Mt Albert voters (who rather enjoyed having the PM as their MP for so many years) will lead to a high awareness of the ‘vote split’ possibility, which in turn will minimise its effect.

This garbage about Norman being the only progressive candidate will not wash. Shearer fronted the United Nations (yes that ‘darling of the Left’ progressive international organisation so derided by much of the right the world over) humanitarian efforts in Iraq for goodness sake.

And being ‘Goff’s Man’ surely can’t be used as further fuel for this fire. Goff and his staff are not right wing. Goff might be less left wing on some policy areas than Helen Clark, but so what? The Left is a broad church just as the Right is – and as they should be.

In opting for David Shearer (52) over Meg Bates (24) Labour has played the shorter term game rather than the longer term one; choosing a ‘hit the ground running’ MP over young blood for the future.

Should Bates have been selected then elected she would have gone straight to far backbenches, picked up an associate spokespersonship and got to work learning the intricacies of Caucus, the House and its Select Committees all while coming to grips with being a local MP in a busy electorate at the age of only 24.

She would have managed these tasks well and gone on, in 6 or more year’s time, to be a contender for serious portfolio delegation, all still at the tender age of around 30 years old.

Ms Bates missed out this time but she will have her chance sooner rather than later. Well known to be the second choice candidate in a strong field, perhaps even initially favoured by many Labour locals, she impressed many during this short nomination campaign and that will not have gone unnoticed. Meg may well be given a winnable position on the 2011 Labour party list, who knows.

[Update: some suggestions Meg Bates won the floor vote? Interesting.]

Dr Cullen valedictory did not disappoint

by Jake Quinn

The audio is here and the NZPA summary is here.  Call me a fan, but sheesh the Father of the House really knows his way around a speech.

The gallery was full of old school political journos, the House was stocked with MPs and the public gallery was a who’s who of Cullen and Labour ex-staffers, public sector chief executives and Cullen family – and I was saving seats, “Oh I’m sorry Secretary of Justice but this ones taken..”

As Clark’s valedictory summed up her prime ministership with a mixture of humbly admitted yet self assured achievements, low key yet welcome praise for those who assisted her along the way and a sense of ‘i’d rather move on’ than address ‘perceived’ negatives of the 5th labour govt, Dr Cullen delivered his valedictory speech in his accustomed style. 

Others have addressed a few of the witty highlights:

To those in government, a genuine thank you for the NZPost appointment. When I attacked National last year for swallowing so many dead rats little did I think that some might see me as one of them…

…To the Greens — good luck. But loosen up a bit; saving the planet needs to sound less like punishment for our sins if it is going to succeed…

…The attorney-general does not have to be a lawyer any more than the minister of education has to be a teacher, the minister of health a doctor, or the minister of corrections a convict.

This evening Dr Cullen was never cruel – he pulled punches I am sure – and he went out like the elder statesman for which he will be remembered by all but the most partisan of opponents.  

At the post speech function in Parliament’s Grand Hall he spoke, after long time ally and close friend Annette King and Labour Party Leader Phil Goff, warmly, candidly and emotionally. He stressed, as Jason Knauf referred to yesterday, the importance of family in what can be an utterly brutal business.

Wife Anne was there rambunctiously interjecting as the former Finance and Deputy Prime Minister offered his final words – and he loved it, joking that when Ann was there he was never concerned with what we (the crowd) were thinking, but rather what would she would say next.

One thing’s for sure, watching the House won’t be the same for a while – and best of luck to the new Shadow Leader of the House, Mr Darren Hughes.

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