Life and Politics

Occasional comment on politics and the media in New Zealand

Tag: Phil Goff

Labour leadership

by Jake Quinn

It doesn’t bode well for NZ Labour when the headlines on my stuff and nzherald politics RSS feed read “Robertson a man for Labour’s future”, “Quietly ambitious Labour MP bides his time”, “Phil Quin: the anatomy of a failed Labour coup”, “Labour: We want to move on”, “David Parker: MP who could be Labour’s King”, and “Judith Tizard makes Labour party wait”.

Regardless of all the media speculation it is unlikely that Labour will have a change of leadership before this year’s November election. Until recently Labour has managed to hold its 1/3rd support in opinion polls, a solid position for any party undergoing a period of rebuilding following a decade in office. Read the rest of this entry »

The ball game is well and truly back on

by Jake Quinn

Over at the Standard Marty G says:

What a remarkable turn-around in the mood of the Left the last few weeks. People are seriously talking about 2011 as winnable. Key’s spark is gone, the media have said ‘enough grins, John, time to actually do something’, Phil Goff suddenly looks much more like a PM in waiting, and his speech, when you see it for what it actually is – the policy/strategy plan for the remainder of the term – has given Labour supporters something they can really get behind. I haven’t seen people this positive in years.

I would tend to agree.  When people asked me about Labour’s hopes for 2011 in the months after the 2008 election I would have said that they probably didn’t have a chance.  National had just cobbled together what looked like a cunning balance between the Māori Party and ACT, where no single tail could wag the dog.

It was a seemingly genius arrangement that allowed them to play each of their governing partners off against each other, while they would always look like the moderate sensible mediator.

What’s more, the economy was terrible and no one blamed National.  Every month their polls just kept going up, while newspaper editors the country over were talking about a three term National government.  Meanwhile, Labour was battling hard to just be heard, let alone have anyone agree with them.

And Key really did seem like he might just be a leader, like he might just do something bold, something outside of the tired and predictable National play book of the 1990s that would truly benefit New Zealanders.  I, like many Kiwis, was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Fast forward to February 2010 and the game has really changed.  National’s record stands at cancelling middle-class tax cuts and superannuation savings, halving kiwisaver, an announced but undelivered cycleway (to nowhere), increased ACC levies and cuts to its services, cancelled adult education classes (to find extra money for those struggling private schools – you know the ones, with NBA standard basketball courts!), hoisting a flag whose logo appears uncomfortably similar to that of the Maori Party’s all over government buildings, and some talk about mining the conservation estate.  Hardly ambitious, more like depressing.

Then along came the Tax Working Group and with it an orgy of suggested new taxes to slap on the middle class, none of which were ruled out.  Even just talk of new taxes is bad for the government, hence why Mr Key will probably (hopefully for his, the country’s, but not the opposition’s sake) rule out a GST increase tomorrow rather than letting that cancerous stick continue to be used to beat him.

All in all, the shine really seems to have come of this popular government and I fully expect the polls, particularly as the year progresses, to start to reflect this.  2011 is no longer a forgone conclusion, and the more the Labour leader realises this, the more forceful and energised he will become.  We’ve already started to see it with his speech ‘the many. not the few‘ delivered two weeks ago in Hamilton.

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.

Phil Goff gets his bounce

by Jake Quinn

Last night’s TV3 poll shows Labour up three and a half percent, while National are down nearly five.  More importantly for Mr Goff, he has finally risen above Helen Clark in the preferred Prime Minister rankings.

There is also good news for the Greens as they head back towards to eight percent mark after a few dangerously low polls in recent months.  National still maintain a commanding lead with fifty-five percent of the vote in this poll, but the narrowing will concern Mr Key, especially if the trend is confirmed or continued in further polls.

I would say that this small turn around is not just because of Phil Goff’s Nationhood speech (which succeeded in making him, rather than Key, the focus of much media comment), but rather because of National’s dubious dealings with the Maori Party over the ETS legislation, which is now law (and add to that a few thousand bikies disgruntled over proposed ACC levy hikes).

Folks might not really understand the intricacies of emissions trading, but they can spot a mongrel when its barking in their face, and Mr Goff’s speech did act to draw attention to the deal and its unsavory undertones of ‘dodgy deals with elite iwi’ which, expectedly, would be unpopular with the vast majority of kiwis.

Astonishingly*, there has been no en masse liberal leftist abandonment of Labour for the Greens as a result of Goff’s speech on race relations, or the caucus’ backing of it.  Who would have though.  I can only imagine that Lew and Idiot/Savant were not polled (or perhaps would have voted for the Greens anyway?).

With the trickle of negative press stories about New Zealand coming out of the COP 15 in Copenhagen and with one more attention grabbing excursion from the Leader of the Opposition in the new year period, we could almost be excused for expecting another poll like this to come our way soon.

* implies sarcasm

A week at the beach

by Jake Quinn

I’ve been on holiday in the Coromandel for a week.  Been fishing, swimming and drinking gin and tonic.  It’s been swell.  So not that interested in news, but I did try watching the occasional 6 o’clock TV bulletin which, unfortunatley, just made me want to self-harm.

But I have been keen to keep tabs on the fallout from Phil Goff’s speech (earlier in the week the Herald twisted the knife with this rather negative editorial). What was interesting was Linda Clark’s discussion on TV3’s Sunrise (the show, which I’ve never before bothered to watch, is so bad it makes me want to watch Paul Henry).

Linda made some interesting points (just try to ignore Oliver Driver and Carly Flynn laughing like teenagers and making sideways glances at each other as they try and read the news).

She basically defends Goff’s actions, making the point that he is from the “Ken” school of Labour as opposed to the “Marian” one.  Ken is the blue collar, mostly male and often pro-union, Labour voter, while Marian is the urban, liberal, mostly female voter who “tends to wear more expensive perfume” (like her, she admits).

Also worth noting has been up-and-coming political-commentator-of-the-left Andrew Campbell’s wee tanty in reaction to the Labour caucus’s decision to “close ranks” and back Goff and his speech this week.  To be fair to the caucus, there was no alternative.  As many have noted, the mere fact that the question was being asked isn’t good news – just ask Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez what that’s like.

Also this week, Wellington “insiders” Trans Tasman released their annual review of MP’s which saw Speaker Lockwood Smith go top, trumping even our god-like prime-awesomeness-minister, Mr Key.  Colin Espiner gives his take, but I prefer Danyl Mclauchlan’s. I have nothing to add.  Living in Hamilton means I really don’t have much of a clue about such things, I only know what I read in the paper. heh.

Finally, I’m not sure what to make of (or where to start with) this NZ Herald editorial which states the obvious over the section 59 repeal (that omg the sky hasn’t fallen in, and yes, people still smack their kids, but the real nasty ones won’t, just maybe, be able to get away with it so much anymore) but fails tremendously to note the incredible hypocrisy and irony, of it being written in, wait for it, the NZ Herald.

I basically just can’t be stuffed googling “Herald” and “Anti-smacking” to link to a zillion ridiculous articles which would make this point stronger, because I know you know they’re there and have read them.  I do though look forward to reading whatever James over at Editing the Herald has to say about that one (at time of writing he hasn’t found it).

Now where is my sun lounger. Yes, I am aware that is 12:26 am.

Party unity, Nationhood speech and Foreshore and Seabed repeal

by Jake Quinn

An interesting piece by Vernon Small in today’s Dominion Post suggests that Labour MP’s will be ‘taking it’ to Goff, over his recent nationhood speech, at next week’s Caucus meeting.

Small notes that “Discontent, especially on the Left of the party, has centred around Mr Goff’s comments on the foreshore and seabed policy”, which Goff has signalled Labour will now oppose the repeal of.

One can’t imagine that much discontent, I mean these are the MPs that voted for the legislation in the first place. (I do wonder however, what Party President Mr Little will be thinking, having unilaterally announced that Maori should “have their day in court” at this year’s Labour Party Conference).

It is clear why certain MPs feel the need to publically take a stand on these issues (particularly the speech); as Farrar notes, “Grant [Robertson] will just be doing his job as a local MP. Wellington Central is a very liberal seat, and Labour activists there are very liberal. I have no doubt Grant will have been bombarded by supporters asking what the fuck is going on”. Indeed.  It would be fair to say that similar sentiments have resonated from a few Labourites around Auckland University.

While they’re on the topic next week, Goff might like to remind his MPs that such discussions are best undertaken in caucus however, and not in the Dominion Post.  The image of party unity is important to staving off leadership discussions, and as many have noted, the lack of descent dissent from the party and its MP’s was the hallmark of Clark’s years.

That said however, Goff has made it quite clear that he wishes to have a different managerial style from Helen (which has, for instance, lead to the creation of the Labour MP’s succesful blog Red Alert).  The question remains though: will Goff’s hands-off style work during what is a pretty serious rebuilding phase for Labour.

Armstrong and Trotter on Goff

by Jake Quinn

In the wake of Phil Goff’s Nationhood speech, two things worth reading this morning are;  Chris Trotter on the Liberal Left’s rejection of it, and John Armstrong who concludes that “the status quo is not an option. Goff has to take risks. If the strategy works, John Key will have much to think about. If it doesn’t, the Labour caucus will have to do likewise.”

Nationhood, take two

by Jake Quinn

I figured I’d let this one settle over night, because at first glance a speech titled Nationhood about race relations by the Leader of the Labour Party (yes, the Labour Party), couched in the langauge of “where one New Zealander is turned against another, Maori against Pakeha” seemed like some kind of strange horrible alternative universe nightmare.

Idiot/Savant was typically excersied: “Today in Palmerston North (of course), Labour leader Phil Goff gave a speech to Grey Power (of course) attacking the government for dealing with the Maori Party, “reopening” Treaty settlements, and revisiting the Foreshore and Seabed Act. While carefully caveated (of course), the underlying message was loud and clear: “National is in bed with the bloody Maaris“.

While Lew over at Kiwipolitio was similarly displeased: “Perhaps this speech is an attempt by Phil Goff to reclaim the term and concept of “Nationhood” from the clutches of rampant colonialism. If so, it is an abject failure. It compounds Labour’s cynical appeasement of National’s race-war stance in 2003 with a reactionary, resentful re-assertion of the same principles before which Labour cowered in 2004.”

However, rather than just parroting the howls of outrage from the left, I decided to actually read the thing.

Firstly, the decision to backtrack on ‘consensus building’ over the upcoming Foreshore and Seabed Act repeal is a wise one, politically. National has squandered large quantities of its political capital over the ETS.  For that reason, there will now be far more suspicion, than there would have otherwise been, about National’s handling of F&S Act repeal.  It therefore makes a lot of sense to ask the question “what is so wrong about the status quo, and can we really trust National to improve it when they’ve just been caught red-handed doing dodgy deals and selling out to a few rich iwi over the ETS?”

The speech also rightly – and repeatedly – points out the outrage that is the massive transfer of wealth from ordinary taxpayers to the big polluters via the ETS, by providing so many free allocations to the emitting sectors.  This is a hard message to sell the public however, who much more easily understand “National will reduce the price of petrol and power compared to Labour” (even if it’s actually just the govt subsidizing that reduction).

The message that New Zealand pays its liability no matter what, and that if polluters have to pay it, it might actually go down, is a hard one to sell, but Goff keeps trying.

In terms of the rousing rhetoric on race relations, it is ever-present throughout the speech (although, Gordon Campbell doesn’t seemed too phased). Fair enough on the Hone stuff, as we’ve said earlier, Goff is within his rights to attack Hone (and by association Key) hard on this, but Goff has taken a few steps further, picked up on Shane Jones’ publicly tested lines from the last few weeks, and streaked down the beach with them.

Goff said: “I reject strongly the allegation the Prime Minister made that anyone who has concerns about this deal is playing the race card. Race is a red herring in this deal. It’s about subsidies for big corporations, and I am not going to shy away from saying so.”

The irony of Goff saying that race is a red herring, in a speech titled Nationhood (Don Brash’s infamous Orewa speech of 2004, where he talked about Maori having “a birthright to the upper hand”, was also titled Nationhood) which is then slapped up for the website against a picture of a (supposedly threatened?) kiwi beach is self-evident.

The interesting thing to watch now will be the reactions from Labour party people.  I can’t imagine Young Labour supporting this speech and could see them going as far as speaking out publicly on it.

At the end of the day I’m not comfortable with much of the rhetoric in it, and definitely think the title was cynical, but the speech has many an important message, with many a valid point.  And you too should read it.

Update: Eddie at The Standard calls it “stupid and wrong on so many levels”, MP Grant Robertson give his take, and DimPost calls it “essentially the same speech [as Brash's] with the same title, updated for contemporary issues.”

Update 2: Parekura has just issued a statement saying ““Phil’s my mate. I’ve known him for more than 20 years and he isn’t a racist”, in response to the Maori Party’s one, where they say they are deeply offended by Goff’s comments yesterday.

Conspiracies and race-cards

by Jake Quinn

Chris Trotter conjures up an interesting conspiracy theory.  His character plays the role of a fictional journalist asking the curly ones about HoneHarawira’s email leaker, Mr Buddy Mikaere.  The central question being, what, if anything, does Mr Mikaere have to gain from Hone departing the Maori Party (and how this might be related to his leaking of said email)?

Totter’s character asks: “Who is this man? What does he do? Who does he rub noses with? Did he have anything to gain by becoming involved in the Harawira controversy? Who, if anyone, did he talk to before releasing the offending e-mails?”

Trotter’s theory, as I read it, goes a little like; Maori Party supports Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) legislation and in return gets Foreshore & Seabed Act repeal plus ETS sweeteners for Maori (exclusive tree planting rights on DOC land etc), and Mikaere benefits in some way because of his role representing Iwi in such dealings and Hone is the only man who could possibly stand in his way… or something like that.

It could be totally off the mark.  But who would know.

David Farrar then draws our attention to the reasonably legitimate accusation from Colin Espiner that Phil Goff has played the race-card not once, but twice, in the last week.

Espiner writes: “Twice in the past week, Goff has played the race card, albeit carefully, by suggesting first that there was one rule for Harawira over his comments about white mo-fos and another rule for other MPs, and then raising the prospect that National’s proposed settlement with iwi over the ETS was based on ethnicity.”

It most certainly doesn’t resemble Brash’s despicable “birth-right to the upper hand” version of the tactic, but sounds like a mild dog whistle none the less. (That’s if it’s possible for a mild one to exist, I mean they either hear it or they don’t, right?)

Not many around here (based on this kind of logic), but plenty of folks are mightily peeved by Hone’s words, and his direct attack on Goff (saying he should be shot for his involvement in passing the Foreshore and Seabed Act) could be seen to have given the Labour leader legitimate cause to enter the fray. However, he should be very careful, as David suggests,with how he treads this line.  Going blue-collar on motorbikes is one thing, but let us not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Update: I just saw Patrick Gower’s bit in the Herald yesterday where he congratulates Goff for using Brash-like language (one law for all, bludged off the tax payer) and where he says Michael Law’s thinks Goff is “becoming relevant again”.

Sigh. Caucus next week should be interesting.

Oh, and the Standard likes it.  How odd (I’m not being sarcastic, I actually find it odd).

What could time-out time for Hone mean for the Maori Party?

by Jake Quinn

Hone Harawira, according to the NZ Herald, will be pushed if he doesn’t jump.  This week really hasn’t been a good one for him.  When the story first broke of his leaked email calling white folk “white mother-f**kers” my initial reaction could best be summed up as “lol”.

You see, I am just not that easily offended and what’s more, I am simply willing to tolerate, to a point, more ‘racism’ from Maori towards non-Maori than vice-versa, in the same way that I tolerate, to a point, more sexism or violence from women towards men than vice-versa.  It’s about power relationships.

People have likened Hone’s outburst to that of Paul Holmes ‘cheeky darky’ comments about Kofi Annan.  The main difference here was that Hone was running his mouth in anger, but about something he truly feels passionate about (that is, how dastardly Pakeha have treated Maori throughout history), whereas Holmes was most likely being mischievous in his comments because Newstalk ZB was in a ratings period, and he knew his comments would cause a stir and increase his ratings above that of his main rival during the survey period.  The two outbursts thus cannot be compared.

Hone’s problem has been his handling of events since the outburst, such as calling for Goff and Labour to be lined up against a wall and shot, and probably worse for him, he clearly fell out with his party’s co-leaders by refusing to take their line of advice, which would have no doubt included a slightly more hyde-esk mea culpa.

Last night I conducted my weekly political focus group session (that is, Thursday night poker) and have concluded that 20 something Hamiltonian Pakeha males think Hone has done the Maori Party no favours at all, that he is racist and that there is a double standard if he gets away with it, and that for the Maori Party to succeed they need to sack him and let that nice Mr Sharples get on with working with that nice Mr Key. This sentiment is no doubt shared by many in the country.

So where does this leave Hone.  If he is removed from the Maori Party he could stand in and win his seat, returning as an independent.  But what would be the point?  Hone doesn’t want to be some rouge independent, off-side from his Maori Party constituency.  What’s more Hone leaving the party but maintaining a political presence could fracturing the activist and pragmatist Maori vote, and signal the beginning of the end of the Maori Party as we know it.

The Maori Party has some tough decisions to make over this stuff and none of it comes lightly. My advice? Chastise, chastise, chastise, but don’t kick him out as it could be the beginning of the end for your party.  Many Maori Party voters need a Hone in there to cling to.  They respect Sharples, hell everyone does (and that’s half the problem), but Hone brings X-factor to the table that his colleagues simple cant.

Update: Associate Professor Ann Sullivan, Head of Maori Studies at the University of Auckland, seems to agree; she says the Maori Party co-leaders have made a mistake and that Hone is more important to the Maori Party grassroots than the mainstream media acknowledge.  She also says that playing this saga out through the media, and so quickly, is a mistake (7 minutes 40 seconds in - on Afternoons with Jim Mora on RNZ today).

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?

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.

English under the gun but Key won’t be too concerned

by Jake Quinn

The persistant questions around the Finance Minister’s actions concerning his ministerial housing allowance will really have started to bug and distract him.Labour has assigned a double hit squad, Trevor Mallard and Pete Hodgson, to target Finance Minister Bill English over his housing allowances.

But their aim is to wound him politically, not force him to resign, says Mr Mallard, who talked to the Herald yesterday about why Labour has renewed its attack six weeks after the facts around his situation emerged.
He is running a blogging campaign against Mr English and Mr Hodgson has been running a campaign in the House for the past two weeks.
Mr Mallard blogged this week on Labour’s Red Alert site that: “This story will last as long as English is a minister”, but he said the aim was not to get him to resign. “Actually we would prefer him to stay there.”
They believe Cabinet colleague Steven Joyce would do a better job for National, so politically Labour would prefer to see Mr English stay.
Mr Mallard said that whenever Mr English “gets involved in trying to cut something or talks about priorities or inappropriate expenditure or whatever he will be reminded of this”.

The persistant questions around the Finance Minister’s actions concerning his ministerial housing allowance will really have started to bug and distract him. But what would Prime Minister John Key think about the whole unsavoury affair?

Labour’s Trevor Mallard speaks to the Herald’s Audrey Young about their strategy to keep the heat on the Finance Minister:

Labour has assigned a double hit squad, Trevor Mallard and Pete Hodgson, to target Finance Minister Bill English over his housing allowances.

But their aim is to wound him politically, not force him to resign, says Mr Mallard, who talked to the Herald yesterday about why Labour has renewed its attack six weeks after the facts around his situation emerged.

He is running a blogging campaign against Mr English and Mr Hodgson has been running a campaign in the House for the past two weeks.

Mr Mallard blogged this week on Labour’s Red Alert site that: “This story will last as long as English is a minister”, but he said the aim was not to get him to resign. “Actually we would prefer him to stay there.”

They believe Cabinet colleague Steven Joyce would do a better job for National, so politically Labour would prefer to see Mr English stay.

Mr Mallard said that whenever Mr English “gets involved in trying to cut something or talks about priorities or inappropriate expenditure or whatever he will be reminded of this”.

It might seem unusual for Mr Mallard to be sharing his strategy with the Herald but it’s not. So long as he and his colleagues continue to land hits (and that seems likely as Mr Mallard says “there is more to come”, it will continue to embarrass the Deputy Prime Minister.

The media can’t blame Labour for mounting a scurrilous or secret plot against Mr English because Labour’s cards are very much on the table. If it does back fire, which looks unlikely (it would be more likely to fizzle out than backfire), Phil Goff is protected because he has been kept at arms length from it.

The Prime Minister won’t be too concerned either. After all, Mr English as Deputy PM and Finance Minister with Steven Joyce further down the cabinet list is a case of keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer.

Mr English was and remains John Key’s main competition to lead the party and has always fancied himself as the natural leader of a conservative National Party.

While Bill English has questions looming over him about how moral his actions have been, his popular Prime Minister is getting letters from Barack Obama, planning to meet the President shortly, and generally being statesmanlike.

It wouldn’t be a good look for the PM if he had to change his number 2, and i’m sure that he doesn’t want that, at least in this term.

So while Labour keeps the heat on Mr English but without landing the final death blow, Key can keep looking competent by comparison and all while keeping any hint of leadership aspiration from his deputy easily in check.

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.

Greens not hot on Goff’s apologies

by Jake Quinn

It’s funny watching the Greens (and many on the left) get their knickers in a twist over Phil Goff’s apologising for the ‘nanny-state-isms’ of the last Labour government. They say in bowing to pressure and conceding defeat over light bulbs and shower heads that Goff is handing victory to the right. Jeanette has an open letter to Phil Goff.  She says “Even using their term, “nanny state” fails politics 101 – never repeat your opponent’s terms of abuse.”

Phil’s actions could be an exception to the rule in this case. If you asked the tens of thousands of voters who abandoned Labour at the 2008 election why they didn’t vote for Labour most would answer in one of two ways: Either the “it’s time for a change” line, or the “Labour got too nanny state” one.  So the nanny state argument, a brutally successful tool devised by National, was won on election night.

So how do you come back from that? Do you pretend that the sentiment didn’t exist and keep trying to argue the merits of your initial position? Or do you say, bugger it, maybe we should have incentivised those energy efficient products rather than trying to ban the alternatives.

Sometimes in politics you have to concede defeat. Yes water efficient shower heads are a bloody good idea, especially if you can’t even tell the difference because of how well they’re designed. And yes, efficient bulbs are a bloody good idea too; they save money, power and with the newer flashier ones coming though, you can get the orange-light-effect so many people love about the old ones.

But, a ban is a ban is a ban. And when you’re party is on the ropes for banning too many things, you’re a fool to throw petrol on the fire (as Labour ending up doing).

So when you do, it is the right thing to do to man up and say sorry. Not sorry because the light bulbs or shower heads are crap, but sorry because it was stupid to try and force them on people sick to death of being told what to do. They should have instead just heavily subsided the things, requiring no ban, and people would have lapped them up.

All in all the Greens will be feeling pretty positive about the new niche they can now fill. With Labour hunting the working class tradition left ‘Waitakere man‘ vote, the urban liberal is free to flirt with Met and the Sues’. And in the end, if it works for Labour and they summon back some of those voting blokes they lost, (while the Greens pick up some of Labour’s more liberal academic types) it’s all about more votes for the left.

Update: head here for an interesting analysis of events by former senior advisor to Helen Clark, Rob Salmond (Like his former boss, Rob is now based in the US). Rob has a simple message for Labour’s top brass: Keep it simple.

Phil is right: Labour’s message needs to be simple and clear. By 2011, everyone needs to know that Labour is for improving quality of life for all in New Zealand by pushing lower-level living standards higher. Full stop. Elections are won with a very small number of clear and well-developed ideas, not with a plethora of ideas in various stages of development. Floating very public trial balloons about exciting things like the legal threshold for party representation undermines that clear and simple message.

So what should Labour say now? How about: “MMP can of course be modified, and we can talk about that later. But in order to improve MMP first you need to keep MMP, which the people will decide on soon. Labour’s focus is not on the electoral system right now. It is on improving quality of life for all New Zealanders…”

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