Sunday, October 23, 2005

Purgewatch: Ominous signs for the Speaker

In a Sunday Star-Times article featuring a climbdown from Winston Peters about the right of his party to sit in opposition, I found the following paragraph interesting:
The Leader of the House, Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen, said if the matter was not resolved before parliament sits next month, the new Speaker would decide where MPs sat.
New Speaker? In 2002, there wasn't any doubt after the election that Jonathon Hunt would return as Speaker while in 1993, Peter Tapsell had publicly accepted the job as Speaker before he was voted in. Lastly there is the example of Kerry Burke who in 1984 declared his interest to be Speaker to avoid a loss of face for being fired from Cabinet. Given these examples, I can't see any reason for Michael Cullen to be so coy. I conclude that Helen is on the lookout for a new Speaker that would be acceptable to Winston Peters if she hasn't found one already. If true, that would be a humiliating demotion for Margaret Wilson who was dismissed from Cabinet in the guise of being made speaker earlier this year.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Purgewatch: Georgina speaks out

Georgine Beyer has been complaining to the Herald about the pressures used to make her jump before the next election:
Transsexual list MP Georgina Beyer confirmed yesterday that she had been told by Prime Minister Helen Clark the party would not stand in her way if she found "new opportunities" during the present term.

She also admitted to being a little hurt by it.

She is 47 and has been an MP for only two terms, as MP for Wairarapa.
Considering that she's announced her intention to leave Parliament twice before makes her remarks rather strange. Was she hurt because she went to Helen Clark with the usual refrain with the expectation of being talked out of it only to find that Helen now agreed with her?

The article also mentions Russell Fairbrother and Dianne Yates as potential purgees and speaks of the disappointment of Tim Barnett and Steve Chadwick. I suspect Tim was passed over for a ministerial portfolio because of a veto by either United Future or NZ First due to his work on Prostitution Reform.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Which one of these is not like the others?

More on Winston's sadpacking here in the NZ Herald.

The upcoming purge

The NZ Herald, the Press and the Dominion Post are running articles on the upcoming house-cleaning that I blogged about here and here.

The Herald notes that Jim Sutton had turned down proposals and suggestions of being posted to Canada, Canberra or Washington. Likewise Dover Samuels has turned down a posting to Niue. For retiring MPs, they do mention Russell Fairbrother, Dianne Yates and possibly Ann Hartley on the account of their age. I was skeptical about Russell going but that was before I learned that he had been passed over for a Ministerial portfolio in favour of David Parker.

Lastly the Herald states in the final paragraph:
Dr Cullen is expected to stand down later in the term and Mr Mallard, another Associate Finance Minister, is considered his heir apparent in Finance.
Which is pretty much what I was thinking. However that it comes so late in the article makes me feel that the Herald reporter doesn't know for certain.

The Press states:
[Helen Clark] said she had an "expectation" of one Cabinet minister retiring next year and she expected others to follow suit. "So we are looking at exits with dignity for long-serving people".
Which indicates that we are looking at a resignation in addition to Dover (who isn't in Cabinet) and Jim (who's leaving this year).

Dover seems to be holding out against the unsubtle hints with the NZPA reporting that he's not seeking re-election in the next term. That's probably too late for Helen's liking and so he probably have more unsubtle hints dangled in front of him.

The Dominion Post article is less informative with the statement that a minister will go next year "appears" to have been directed at Dover. The reporter "appears" not to have noticed that Dover isn't in Cabinet and that Helen could have cut him loose as she has done with Taito Philip Field.

Speaking of which, the Press also reports:
Former minister of state Taito Phillip Field has also effectively been sacked from his position outside the Cabinet over allegations he used his ministerial post to obtain favours and profit on a house sale.

Those claims are still being investigated by an Auckland QC, but Clark said it was too late for Field whatever the inquiry's outcome.

"I've advised him that the train is moving by," she said. "We will see what happens at the end of the inquiry, but this is the complete ministerial list for the foreseeable future."
Given that there are at least two or three openings being created in the foreseeable future (Dover, Jim and another Cabinet Minister), Taito would have to be exceptionally dim not to have noticed the snub.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Two Cabinet Ministers to retire?

TVNZ's reported (in a news item that isn't online) that two Cabinet Ministers are expected to retire in this term. I got the impression that this was in addition to the already announced retirement of Jim Sutton. My list of suspects are:

Michael Cullen: is now sixty and has been overworked for some time. Since he's picked Peter Dunne as a Revenue Minister and Trevor Mallard as an Associate Finance, it could just be that he's keeping Finance for old time's sake but allowing others to do most of the work. If so, I'm wrong about Trevor being in disfavour.

Jim Anderton: is sixty-seven and just had his hobby-horse taken from him. There is the complication that he belongs to a different party and has no obvious successor to his Sydenham seat (Matt Robson is from Auckland and carpet-baggers aren't welcome). If he rejoins the Labour Party then this wouldn't matter.

Annette King: is only fifty-eight but has recently been put into a portfolio she could do in her sleep. Richard Prebble once remarked that he spend half a day a week on police matters and was considered an activist because of that. The only problem is that if she leaves, Helen won't have anybody to watch over Phil Goff.

Silly Spin

Helen Clark explaining why she kept Dover Samuels and Mita Ririnui on as Ministers outside Cabinet:
MPs Dover Samuels and Mita Ririnui have been rewarded for their loyalty - despite being rejected by Maori in their electorates.

Mr Samuels lost Te Tai Tokerau and Mr Ririnui lost Waiariki, both to Maori Party candidates.

But they have both managed to keep hold of their outside-Cabinet portfolios, both as Ministers of State along with a raft of associate responsibilities.

The Prime Minister says if the foreshore and seabed issue had not come along, they would be electorate members of Parliament.

Helen Clark says they have been loyal to Labour and that is reflected in the decisions.
Let's consider another Maori MP, Nanaia Mahuta. She voted against the Foreshore and Seabed Act (with permission from Helen) and retained her seat. Now she has been rewarded with a Cabinet Post. So if the Foreshore and Seabed hadn't come along would Nanaia have been elevated to Cabinet?

Ministers outside Cabinet

The Ministers outside Cabinet are:

Judith Tizard: Minister for Consumer Affairs, Archives, National Library and Auckland Issues. Associate in Arts, Commerce and Transport. This is sheer patronage as she has been a minister ever since 1999 but still hasn't been elevated to Cabinet.

Dover Samuels: Minister of State. Associate in Economic Development, Industry and Regional Development, Housing and Tourism. Given that he was politically weakened by the loss of his seat, Helen must be trying to keep the Maori Caucus happy.

Harry Dunhoyvern: Minister of Transport Safety. Helen's still keeping him at arms distance.

Mita Ririnui: Minister of State. Associate in Corrections, Treaty Negotiations, Forestry and Health. Even though he has been useless and now has no electorate seat, Helen's still keeping him on.

Winnie Laban: Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector. Associate in Pacific Islands, Social Development, Economic Development. She was raised as Taito Philip Field's replacement. His loss of portfolios even before the report is due out on his activities means that he is finished.

Mahara Okerera: Minister of State. Associate in Social Development, Arts and Conservation. Raised for retaining his Maori Electorate seat.

Oh yes. There's also Winston Peters and Peter Dunne but I've said enough about them. So the total size of the executive is 29 members, the largest ever.

Our New Cabinet

The new cabinet portfolios are being announced.

Michael Cullen: Continues as Minister of Finance and Leader of the House. He loses his post as Attorney-General and becomes the Minister for Tertiary Education.

Jim Anderton: loses Economic Development and picks up Agriculture, Biosecurity, Forestry and Fisheries. I feel he's being put out to pasture. His other responsibilities are Associate Porfolios for Tertiary Education and Health as well as responsibility for the Public Trust.

Steve Maharey: Picks up Education and the Education Review Office. He retains Broadcasting and Science.

Phil Goff: Picks up Trade, Pacific Island Affairs, Disarmament and Defence. Helen's still determined to keep him out of sight as Mark Burton wasn't very visible in the Defence Portfolio. Hopefully he won't defend the country by disarming our armed forces and shaking hands with the likes of Yassir Arafat. The appointment of the PI Portfolio will come as a relief to those islands as it keeps them out of Winston's way. He will also pick up Trade Negotiations when Jim Sutton retires and has an Associate in Finance. I suspect Michael Cullen will be wary of him as a possible replacement for the Finance Portfolio.

Annette King: loses Health and picks up Police. It'll be a breeze for Annette after Health and the Police will finally have a Minister who can tell her arse from her elbow. My only worry is that she might instill the Police with the ethos of the murder-house. She also becomes Minister of Food Safety, State Services and Race Relations as well as an Associate in Defence and Trade! Why do the Defence and Trade Portfolios require an Associate? Doesn't Helen trust Phil?

Trevor Mallard: Becomes Minister of Economic Development, Industry and Regional Development, and State Owned Enterprises as well as continuing as Minister for Sport and Recreation and an Associate in Finance. This smells like a demotion to me. Jim Anderton was hardly challenged in Economic Development and so I assume Trevor has lost credibility with Helen as a fixer.

Pete Hodgson: Becomes Minister of Health and retains Land Information. He's going to become unpopular given that Michael Cullen has already said that we can't keep throwing money at Health.

Parekura Horomia: Keeps his job as Maori Affairs Minister as well as his Associates in Fisheries, Social Development, Education and State Services. Helen couldn't get rid of him even if she wanted to without any viable successor.

Mark Burton: becomes Minister of Justice, Local Government and the Law Commission. He also continues in charge of Treaty Negotiations and Deputy Leader of the House.

Ruth Dyson: becomes Minister of Labour and continues with her other portfolios of ACC, Senior Citizens, Disability Issues and CYF.

Chris Carter: Picks up Housing and continues as Minister for Conservation and Ethnic Affairs.

Rick Barker: picks up a number of Portfolios. He is now Minister for Internal Affairs, Civil Defence and Veteran's Affairs and continues his old role as Minister for the Courts.

David Benson-Pope: Picks up Social Development and Environment. Since he has been leapfrogged by Rick Barker and has not returned to Education, the Tennis Ball of Damocles still hangs over him.

Lianne Dalziel: becomes Minister of Commerce, Women's Affairs and Small Business. I'm surprised by the lack of serious portfolios as she used to be a heavyweight once.

Damien O'Connor: becomes Minister of Corrections and Tourism, and continues as Rural Affairs Minister and Associate Minister in Health.

David Cunliffe: takes over the Immigration portfolio and picks up an associate in Economic Development. He continues as Minister for Communications and Information Tech.

David Parker: becomes Attorney-General and also picks up Energy, Climate Change and Transport. I can only presume that Russell Fairbrother who was Cullen's PPS to help him with legal matters last term didn't do a very good job. There is a odd footnote that he has responsibility for the Serious Fraud Office. Is there some reason why Mark Burton won't handle this?

Nanaia Mahuta: becomes Minister of Customs and Youth Affairs. She avoids being Minister for Family Affairs but also has an associate in Environment and Local Government. The Maori Labour Caucus is reportedly spitting tacks that she got promoted despite her opposition to the Seabed and Foreshore issue.

Clayton Cosgrove: is now Minister for Building Issues and Statistics. Helen still hasn't forgiven him. But he has associates in Finance, Immigration and Justice, which could prove the foundations of a bigger role in a post-Clark cabinet.

Jim Sutton: continues as Trade Negotiations until Christmas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Helen feels sorry for the Greens

According to a radio report, Helen Clark said in the end, it was beyond her control about keeping the Greens out of government. The blame, she asserts, lies with Winston Peters and Peter Dunne who would not tolerate the Greens in Cabinet.

That Peter Dunne was opposed to the Greens in Cabinet was known before the election but Winston's opposition was revealed only after the coalition deal was announced.

However Helen could have sought a deal with the Maori Party who weren't opposed to the Greens but chose not to. Why? Because of apparent bad blood between her and Tariana Turia. Yet in 1996, there was bad blood between Jim Bolger and Winston Peters but the two still overcame their differences to form a coalition government. Another excuse that the Maori Party was talking to National is untenable to me for two reasons. Both NZ First and United Future were also talking to National. More importantly, the Maori Party didn't begin public flirtations with National until the week before the coalition deal was announced. Hence I can only conclude that Helen considered an alliance with the Maori Party to be less palatable than her current governmental arrangements, which reeks of foolishness to me.

Specific Green Proposals

Continuing from an earlier post.

Energy Efficiency and Solar Initiative

First, four goals are listed:
Significantly reduce the projected $0.5b Kyoto deficit by 2008
Repudiating Kyoto would be an easy way to achieve this considering that the Carbon Tax proposal has been held up by the United Future agreement.
Meet the government’s NEECS target of 2% pa improved energy efficiency
The NEECS homepage is here. Is there some reason why the second target, that of increasing supply of renewable energy by 22%, isn't agreed upon? I suppose it's because the easiest way of achieving this target is damning a few more rivers.
Improve living conditions with warmer, drier homes and solar hot water
I can't help thinking of the leaky buildings fiasco when I read about "warmer, drier homes".
Slow the increase in the cost of oil imports
This is bizarre. If there is a 5% drop in the price of petrol and a 4% increase in the volume of petrol imported then that will qualify as meeting the goal even though it would not be what the Greens intended. Don't they know how to construct watertight agreements? Considering that their agreement ran to over ten pages with far fewer goodies for them to crow about, obviously not.

Then there's the main initiatives.
"Clarify the mandates, working relationships, gaps and overlaps between EECA, the Commission, the Climate change office and Ministry for the Environment"
A.k.a. starting another bureacratic turf-war.
Build capacity in the solar water heating manufacturing and installing industry through economies of scale and bring down the price of units with a bulk order mediated by the government.
How can you build and install stuff through economies of scale? If the government is to bring down the price with a bulk order then it will have to purchase overseas.
Significantly raise the fuel efficiency of vehicles coming into NZ with a mandatory market based mechanism.
Well, at least the raise is supposed to be significant which indicates that the Greens are finally starting to learn how to craft agreements. But the only mandatory market based mechanism that would work would be to subsidize the price of vehicles with good fuel economy.
Increase and extend support for insulating and damp proofing homes.
Subsidize Pink Batts.
Urgently upgrade the building standard for new homes to reflect what is efficient at today’s electricity prices.
What does energy efficiency have to do with electricity prices?
Change the culture of energy efficiency with a greater sense of urgency and drive and spread the message that it has a whole of government support.
A whole what? of government support. The Greens need better proofreaders.
Move beyond research into demonstration and commercial projects in biofuels in co-operation with industry.
So the government has to co-operate with the industry in building bio-fuels? If bio-fuels were so wonderful, the industry would be building them themselves.

Then there is the requirement to progressively increase the budget of the EECA. So all the government has to do to fulfill this oh-so-important level 1 agreement is to increase the budget of the EECA by something like 5% a year. The goals don't have to be met and the initiatives can be lost in the paper shuffle but the requirements, the only thing that the government is bound to do, is easy. I note due to its non-inclusion in the list of Budget initiatives on page 3 of the agreement, the government is not obliged to spend any money in implementing these initiatives.

Buy New Zealand Made

Creating awareness of the employment, economic, environmental and social benefits of buying locally made products and services
They are only worth buying if it is cheaper and/or better than imported alternatives. It is a more efficient use of the resources that the greens are so concerned about to buy overseas if their product is cheaper.
Building brand loyalty for New Zealand made products
What New Zealand made products don't have any brand loyalty?
Reducing imports, especially of consumption goods
Our major imports are machinery and equipment, vehicles and aircraft, oil, electronics, textiles, plastics. The only thing that can be reduced is textiles which means that clothing will become more expensive. Everything else requires a larger manufacturing capacity than we've ever had.
Helping to reduce New Zealand’s trade deficit
The best way to do that would be to make our products worth more. Extensive research and development is the best way to do this. A Buy NZ-made campaign is not.
Helping to increase New Zealand’s manufacturing capability
Oh dear. More manufacturing capacity requires more machinery and more oil imports, thus driving up our imports.
Helping to create employment
Again this is counterproductive. If the Greens want to reduce consumption, then the best way is to make people poorer, not to make them richer.
Helping to reduce fuel consumption
A direct conflict with the desire to increase manufacturing capacity. Don't the Greens ever think about these things?

The main initiatives are:
Media marketing campaign
Investigation of ways of better distinguishing New Zealand made goods from imports
A sticker of label that says this produce is NZ-made is insufficient?
Government leadership through public sector procurement policies and further development of the Industry Capability Network

In other words, the government is going to tell its own people to buy locally, an indirect subsidy.
Audit of New Zealand imports
And what are we going to audit them about?

Finally the requirements are:
Proceed in co-operation with business sector interests, especially Business New Zealand who operate the “Buy NZ Made” brand.
In other words, the Greens are planning a campaign which impinges on already existing intellectual property.
Be consistent with New Zealand’s commitments under ILO, WTO, CER, CEPs and other international agreements.
I thought the Greens were opposed to the WTO and CER? There's about 33 documents on the Green site attacking the WTO including Farmers need to be wary of the WTO and GATS demands would destroy NZ. For CER, there are about twelve documents including CER no level playing field and Twenty years of CER: Counting the Cost. Now the Greens have signed up to an agreement affirming these commitments?


The Nutrition agreement is strange as it is not broken down into specific goals, initiatives and requirements. Instead there is the simple statement that:
The Green Party’s proposal is to expand current government budget and policy health initiatives aimed at improving children’s nutrition by encouraging healthy eating.
How is this to be implemented?
This could [emphasis mine - PHM] be done through a range of initiatives including:
In other words, this is one of the two level 2 agreements that the government has agreed to provide budget initiatives for yet the the government is not committed to providing specific budget initiatives? Sue Kedgely needs an appointment with the cluebat.

The possible initiatives are:
Expanding the nutrition section within the Ministry of Health
The Nutrition section leader can now hire a secretary.
Establishing a Nutrition fund administered by the Ministry of Health to fund initiatives aimed at creating a healthy eating environment. Funded proposals could include:
- High profile, multi-media and other educational campaigns to encourage healthy eating
- Helping schools and other public funding institutions to implement healthy eating guidelines.
- Funding for educational and children’s sports organisations seeking to replace sponsorship of activities presently funded by food companies that promote unhealthy food to children.
This Nutrition Fund which the government could establish has a number of ways listed in which it could spend money. But because the Greens are gullible trusting tools, the chances that any of these things will happen is slim.
Developing and publishing nutritional criteria to identify which food or drinks are considered to be nutritious and would be recommended as a routine part of a healthy, balanced diet, and which would not be recommended as a routine part of children’s diet. While New Zealand has no criteria, much of this work is in development in the UK and New Zealand could draw heavily on this experience.
Ask the UK to send us a pamphlet or two and publish that as our own work.
Producing healthy eating policy and guidelines for schools and other publicly funded institutions, and setting a timetable for their implementation.
Sue may think she's engineering a power-grab over what can or cannot be sold at the tuck-shop but that all important "could" means nothing will happen.
Publishing an annual Children’s Food Promotion plan that sets out how the Ministry intends to develop an environment in New Zealand that supports children to make healthy eating choices. This would involve producing an annual report to Parliament outlining its strategies and plans.
A plan that requires an annual report to be presented to Parliament will only produce toilet paper for Parliament to use after it has passed a motion or two.
Developing recommended daily intakes for children for fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt and key nutrients.
What's wrong with existing recommended daily intakes? This sort of recommendation has been done before.
Developing a ‘traffic light’ labelling system to enable consumers to quickly identify healthy food.
Since KFC, McDonalds and Pizza Hut already use red as part of their advertizing, I doubt anybody will be put off.

Organics Advisory Service

The Green Party proposes to work with the government to better support New Zealand’s organic farmers through increased funding for advisory services for organic farmers. This could include:
They've managed to commit the government to budget initiatives but the "could" makes an appearance here yet again to avoid committing the government to anything specific.
Financial and other assistance to support mentoring of new organic farmers by experienced farmers
I note that the experience farmers are not required to be organic. Oops.
Funding of website or phone advisory service run by experienced farmers
Like the Federated Farmers website?
Education, research, or advocacy services
As well as having the form of an unfinished note composed in haste, the "or" could be interpreted to mean that the government could finance education services or research services or even advocacy services but not any combination of the three. Which only illustrates the perils of signing an agreement full of holes.

Environmental Education

The Green Party proposes to work with Government to build on the Greens' 2002 Budget initiative to enable the implementation of the 1998 national Strategy for Environmental Education and the 1999 Guidelines for Environmental Education in Schools. In particular the project would aim to:
"Would aim to" is better than "could" but not by much.
build capacity in the Colleges of Education and in schools to deliver environmental education, including in bilingual and total immersion schools
Building capacity to teach environmental education in Maori is open to the type of abuse that gave us Te Wanaga blowouts and hiphop study tours.
Co-ordinate the various environmental education initiatives occurring at present
Co-ordinate is a code for power grab.
Develop cross-curricula achievement standards in environmental education.
What's wrong with the NCEA? On second thoughts, forget that I asked.

Winston and Foreign Leaders

Winston defends himself against allegations that his past views will make difficulties for his new job as foreign minister
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says his views on immigration won't stop him doing his job as foreign minister.

No foreign leader had ever raised his views on immigration with him, he said today.
Which only raises the question: How many foreign leaders has Winston spoken to?

Less than one?

Labour List MPs to retire?

Helen Clark has indicated that she "expected several retirements from list MPs". She does not rule out the possibility that Jim Sutton will retire although elsewhere it's said that he will stay on as a supernumerary cabinet minister until Christmas. The Labour List MPs are:

Rick Barker: Not likely to retire as he is still in Cabinet.

Georgina Beyer: A good possibility. She's recently retired her electorate seat and presumably remained in Parliament to oversee the passage of her bill against Transgender Discrimination. Since that's now unlikely to pass, she'll probably go.

Ashraf Choudhary: Unlikely to retire as he's only served one term and is a member of a minority that Labour hopes to court.

Michael Cullen: Not at all likely to retire at least until Helen throws in the towel.

Russell Fairbrother: I doubt that he'll retire as he's only served one term and helps out Michael Cullen with his legal homework.

Darien Fenton: Just entered Parliament and so won't be going.

Ann Hartley: Ann has only served two terms and has risen to Deputy Speaker. I think it unlikely that Helen will ask her to go.

David Hererora: Only been in Parliament for one term. Won't be going.

Shane Jones: Since he just got in, he won't be getting out.

Moana Mackey: She entered Parliament in 2003 when Graeme Kelly retired. Hence probably won't go.

Sue Moroney: Just got in after years of trying. Won't be going out.

David Parker: Just got into Cabinet and hence won't retire.

Jill Pettis: A possibility. She's been around since 1993 and has been sinking down the party list (from 14th in 1996 to 27th now) for most of that time.

Mita Ririnui: A strong possibility to retire. He has been around since 1999 and when he was appointed associate minister outside cabinet, he was widely considered to have been promoted beyond his ability. SInce he has just lost his Maori electorate seat, his electoral utility to Helen is minimal.

Dover Samuels: A strong possibility to retire. He has been around since 1996 and has just lost his seat. But his high list ranking (11th) meanings that making him go will require lots and lots of gentle persuasion.

Maryan Street: A friend of Helen's that just entered Parliament and hence won't retire.

Jim Sutton: Already indicated that he will be going.

Margaret Wilson: A possible. Helen's already shafted her by making her Speaker. Considering that her position is not assured, it is possible that Helen has assented to her demise as part of Winston's secret protocols.

Dianne Yates: She has been around since 1993 and is currently ranked 29th on the Party List (down from 16th in 1996). She'll probably be asked to go.

So that's about seven List MPs identified of which three are male and three are maori. Who would their replacements be?

Charles Chauvel: Described as a leading lawyer. Unfortunately his speciality is Labour Law.

Lesley Soper: A Trade Unionist that entered Parliament this year when Jonathon Hunt retired. Purportedly, Jonathon delayed his retirement for so long to stop her finding her feet in Parliament.

Louisa Wall: Serves in the Human Rights Commission. Despite being a netballer, yong and a sports columnist for the NZ Herald, she managed to lose to the untelegenic Paul Hutchinson by over twelve and a half thousand votes.

Su'a Sio: A Samoan Councillor on the Manukau City Council. Probably big among the Samoan community.

Brendon Burns: Head of the Government Media Unit. There seems to have been a lot of politics involved in his running. He won the Labour nomination for Kaikoura unopposed yet he was placed 48th on the Party List. Hence I get the impression somebody wanted him out of their hair for a few months.

Hamish McCracken: Studying for a Ph.D. in politics.

Denise MacKenzie: A special needs teacher that Labour picked to succeed Georgina Beyer as MP for Wairarapa. Supposedly she won the nomination as a compromise between Labour Head Office and the local electorate branch.

Considering that the replacements seem to reek of more of the same for the Labour Party, I doubt that the intake will rejuvenate the Party caucus to any great extent.

More coalition strangerness

Helen Clark said on Close-up that Winston Peters will not have an Associate Foreign Minister to act as a safe pair of hands while he swans around the world on foreign pub crawls. Instead Winston will be "working closely" with Helen. At this point, I feel like paraphrasing from a Man for All Seasons:
Why Helen, it profits a woman nothing to give her soul for the whole world... but for a Third Term in Government?
The only consolation is that the all important Trade Negotiations are handled by a different Minister.

Monday, October 17, 2005

New Cabinet appointments

Labour's new Cabinet has been announced with six new faces. They are:
Clayton Cosgrove
Damien O'Connor
David Cunliffe
David Parker
Lianne Dalziel
Nanaia Mahuta
In addition, Jim Sutton has fallen on his sword and is no longer in Cabinet. This is a surprise since he had stayed on when Paul Swain, Marion Hobbs and George Hawkins announced their resignations. David Benson-Pope still seems to be hanging on.

Damien O'Connor and David Cunliffe are Ministers outsider Cabinet and their promotion to Cabinet was not unexpected. Lianne's return to Cabinet was similarly anticipated as she has served her penance for lying to the media.

Nanaia's elevation was not expected as she had done little or note in the past term. I suspect that Helen raised her because she needed fresh Maori blood in her Cabinet. Considering that Nanaia almost lost her seat in 2002 after a scandal in which her first cousin left his wife for her, Helen could make her Minister for Closer Families.

Clayton Cosgrove had merit but his main shortcomings are that he had been bloody stupid when Helen dethroned Mike Moore as Leader of the Labour Party and that nobody likes him. His sudden elevation (he has not had a portfolio outside Cabinet nor even a PPS) indicates to me that Helen is really desperate for fresh blood.

David Parker is literally a Dark Horse. He won Otago, a National stronghold, in 2002 and lost it again this year. Until his mention just now, I was literally unaware that he had managed to return as a list MP. Heaven alone knows what Helen sees in him.

Labour New Zealand First Agreement

This agreement, like United Future's, is again only six pages long. Which suggests that the Greens were duped.

The preamble of this agreement is self-serving apologia by NZ First to explain why it reneged on an undertaking it gave to the public.

* Confidence and supply. No surprises. Good Faith.

* Consultation.

While the Greens and United Future have four areas of consultation, NZ First requires consultation on only three (and one of those with a specific qualification). The missing criterion is "major policy issues". Presumably Winston likes to publicly attack government policies in the House rather than make constructive suggestions beforehand.

* Meetings between Winston Peters and Helen Clark as required [emphasis mine - PHM].

I just have to love that "as required". While other parties require regular meetings in their agreement, that's clearly insufficient for Helen or Winston. I'm just a little disappointed that no protocol is established as to what might happen if Helen needs to see Winston who is partying up in Courtney Place.

* Winston gets a portfolio.

* Collective responsibility within portfolio and confidence and supply.

* The Government commits itself to a Senior Citizens Card.

* The Government commits itself to 66% Super as of 2006.

* Investigation into ways of better recognizing war veterans.

* Improve options of access for foreign pensions.

Jonathon Hunt will be happy.

* Address Elder Care in 2006 Budget.

Meaningless fluff.

* Conduct review of immigration and taking note of other items raised by NZ First.

So whenever Winston makes a vague allegation in the media, the Minister of Immigration is required to purge his department immediately and publicly execute the malefactors. Should anybody be surprised why Winston didn't take the Immigration portfolio?

* Increase police numbers by 1000 over three budgets.

Presumably 250 of these are community constables as per Labour's commitments card and 750 are front-line police.

* Review the home detention system with the involvement of the NZ First spokesperson.

Since the relevant spokesperson is Ron Mark, this is better than it initially looks.

* New initiatives to reduce youth offending and discourage youth gangs.

While Old People are to be pampered, Young People are to be disciplined.

* Evaluate costs and benefits of demerging traffic patrol from police.

They would have done better to conduct a review of police traffic priorities.

* Expedite treaty settlements.

I'm surprised they haven't declared a deadline. But then again they don't need to since it is Labour's own policy to have a deadline.

* Review appropriateness of Chief of Waitangi Tribunal being also a Maori Land Court Judge.

Winston's out to get Joe Williams for some reason.

* Nominate 2007 as an export year.


* A new taxation regime for racing.

Why do we even have a Ministry of Racing?

* Increase minimum wage to $12.00/hr if economic conditions permit.

Markedly less fluff than the parallel Green agreement but of course the economic conditions will not permit.

* Review company tax regime.

Same proposal as United Future. This makes me suspect it came from the Labour Party.

* Review Carbon Tax.

Much less detailed than the United Future proposal. So I guess the Labour Party put the same proposal to both parties and Peter Dunne rewrote it.

* No strategic asset sales.

A similar proposal in the 1996 agreement didn't do much good. Winston was forced to agree to a sale of airports and then sacked.

* Investigate the feasibility of decontamination of used car imports offshore.

Decontamination from what?

* Review airline advertising so they display the full price.

I guess Winston couldn't read the fine print when buying a ticket.

* Free primary health care for under six year olds.

The first positive policy towards young people. Although unfortunately under-sixes can't vote for at least another dozen years.

* Reasonable access to 24 emergency health care.

What's unreasonable about our current access? The problem is with waiting lists.

* Reintroduction of Electoral Integrity act.

Oh dear. Fortunately none of the other parties are committed to supporting this.

* Support an NZ First treaty bill to the select committee.

But no word on what the Bill's provisions might contain.

* Support a bill lowering the age of responsibility from 14 to 12 years. If the bill has not been successful in the ballot for two years then incorporate it into a government bill for consideration at the select committee.

In other words, there's a private members bill out there that Winston wants brought before the Select Committee. Why he doesn't decide to withdraw it and impose a government bill on the government instead I don't know. I also don't know why Winston's obsessed with the Select Committee given that a) he can't play to the cameras very well there and b) he doesn't realize that bills can be buried in the select committee.

* NZ First support for Labour's Commitment Card policies.

Winston finally gets around to giving Helen Clark something in return.

* NZ First votes for government on procedural motions unless it is a bill in which they have already registered their opposition.

This clause compromises the Confidence and Supply Clause!

* Confidentiality. Before offering the Papers, the Minister should make it clear if their contents are likely to compromise NZ First's policy positions.

In other words, Winston suspects Labour will try and use the Confidentiality Clause to silence other parties and has negotiated an out.

* Relationship with other parties.

Usual clause.

Lastly there's an appendix in which the government promises to "address" various NZ First goals. These include

* Ensuring aid in south pacific remains a top priority.

* Review Defence salaries.

* Funding Maori Wardens.

* Exploration of a "University of Technology" "non-university" class of institution.

They are called polytechs.

* Appointing a representative of NZ First to the Shipping Dialogue Group and requesting a full report from that group by 2006.

I'm mystified as to why this should interest Winston so.

* Review of Judge's super.

I worry at the possibility of some mischief here.

* Designation of Tauranga bridge as a fully funded highway.

Winston is trying to stop the local council collecting tolls on a bridge it built
and which it has now paid for.

* Review the way in which physiotherapists are paid by the ACC.

Winston raised a question in the house about this but nothing came of it. I'm surprised that he's still pursuing the issue.

* non-statutary proposals for public access to Queen's chain and foreshore.

Similar to the United Future proposals. I suspect that Labour tried to buy them of with a clause and that it underwent slight rewritting.

* Opening access of NZ apples to Australia.

Since every government since Michael Joe Savage has wanted this goal, I don't see why Winston should see the need to include in his agreement.

Look on the bright side. The agreement hasn't mentioned a "commission of inquiry" for anything.

Labour United Future Agreement

The agreement between United Future and the Labour Party is six pages long.

* United Future promises confidence and supply to the government.

* A "no surprises" clause.

* The government will consult regularly with United Future on various matters (pretty much the same as the Greens).

* The Leader of United Future shall receive a ministerial posting.

Then come a whole series of initiatives that are actually more concrete than the Green proposals.

* Labour will not decriminalize cannibas.

* Labour will not enact hate-speech legislation.

* Labour will not touch the Families Commission.

So the government is forbidden to put a useless quango out of its misery.

* The Business tax regime system will be reviewed to put us on a better footing against the Australians.

Is Michael Cullen is going to use this as a excuse to introduce significant company tax cuts? Or will he bum Peter Dunne off with risible tax cuts as he did earlier this year?

* A new tax rebate scheme for charities.

If this isn't done carefully then people can get tax rebates for supporting Al-Qa'ida.

* The Carbon Tax proposal shall be looked at again using criteria agreed from the sector.

An possible excuse by the government to renege on Kyoto?

* Improvement of access to student allowances.

* Use of private hospital capacity to reduce waiting lists whenever feasible.

A significant policy change here if I'm not mistaken.

* Review of the Prostitution Act to address street soliciting, underage involvement and local authority control.

Address is left worryingly undefined. The government could address underage involvement by lowing it to 16 for example.

* Improved public access to Queens Chain and Seabed and Foreshore through non-statutary measures.

Conservation department regulations shall be introduced to appease the Outdoor Recreation faction in United Future.

* Issues involving agrarian water runoff shall be addressed.

Many of the Outdoor Recreation faction are keen fishers upset by cowpats polluting their favourite fishing spots.

* United Future shall be consulted in a review of medicines usage and Pharmac.

Looks like a specific United Future proposal wasn't accepted but Labour decided to allow it to put forward its case during the impending review.

* United Future shall be consulted in a review of a Nation-wide pest reduction strategy.

The only pests I can think off that might concern UF would be the Tahr.

* Money to be available for Transmission Gully Highway if that is the preferred option of the current evaluation.

What's to stop the government from manipulating the evaluation so that the Highway doesn't become the preferred option.

* Government develops a policy document on tax on income splitting.

And will also commit itself to burying this document in a Cabinet Committee.

* United Future agrees to support legislation to implement the Government's Commitment Card.

No qualifications here unlike the Greens.

* United Future spokespeople to be briefed on politically sensitive issues.

I suspect that Peter Dunne will nominate non-MPs as spokespeople in order to maximize his influence in the government. But what do they mean by politically sensitive? Why not defined policy areas as the Greens have done?

* Confidentiality, Collective responsibility in Portfolio, Confidence and Supply and support of governmental procedural motions.

Labour Progressive Agreement

This short agreement is only one page in length. The specific details are:

* Both parties are committed to stability through a sustainable and growing economy in a progressive, just and fair society.

So "progressive" does not mean "just" or "fair"?

* A no surprises agreement.

No surprises there.

* Appropriate credit shall be given to the Progressives for their policy agreements and they shall be allowed to diverge from the line of the Labour government.

Jim Anderton shall be given deserved praise whenever possible (if necessary, the Labour party shall err on the side of undeserved praise) and no criticism of his statements will be tolerated even if they do conflict with government policy.

* Jim Anderton will receive a Cabinet posting but is not obliged to be on every cabinet committee.

A magnanimous concession by Jim Anderton.

* Both parties shall work with other parties to form a stable government with a positive legislative programme.

Even National and ACT?

Labour Green Agreement

The Labour-Green Agreement is online as a pdf. It runs to ten pages of which the points are:

* The government consults with the Greens on its legislative program, key legislative measures, major policy issues and broad budget parameters.

Since the government does this sort of thing to the opposition anyway in the guise of select committees and the like, it's a mystery to me why the Greens should consider this a must-have.

* Designated Green MPs have access to relevant Ministers.

Again something of the sort is in place with Ministers and opposition spokespeople and has been for a long time.

* Regular meetings between Prime Minister and Green Co-leaders.

Regular is left undefined so a meeting once a year would satisfy this agreement. What the Greens should have asked for was "frequent".

* No surprises between the Government and the Greens.

A concession that costs the Greens more than it costs the Government.

* Briefings by the Government before any significant policy announcement.

There's bound to be problems of privilege if Parliament is required to be informed first.

* Input into the Budget and inclusion of Green Budget initiatives.

The cost of these initiatives is not given. The Government could satisfy the agreement by giving the Greens 50 cents to spend every year.

The next part of the agreement establishes levels of policy agreements.

* Level 3 agreements require the two parties to consult with the aim of achieving support for legislative measures and/or policy proposals. Although it is the lowest level of policy agreement, No example of a level 3 agreement is given.

* Level 2 agreements expects that there be good faith between the two parties in working towards an agreed outcome that advances the goals of both parties. The Greens require access to relevant papers, public acknowledgement of the Greens contribution, agreement on the time table for implementing the agreement, support in the house from the Greens and full confidentiality. There are other provisions but they are rehashes of the first part of the agreement. Examples of Level 2 agreements are: Environmental Education, Initiatives to improve Nutrition and "Community and voluntary sector".

The inclusion of a good faith provision here implies that good faith is not required for the level 3 agreement or general business covered by the first part of the agreement.

* Level 1 agreements require the conditions of level 2 agreements as well as a written agreement by the relevant Minister, Greens having direct access to officials, budgetary documentation, Green reports to the Minister, Minister shows the Greens Cabinet Committee Papers and the Greens make submissions to the Cabinet Committee. Examples of Level 1 agreements are: an enhanced energy efficiency programme including solar energy promotion and a buy kiwi made programme.

From the explicit mention of cabinet committee papers in the level 1 agreement, it appears that the "relevant papers" mentioned in the level 2 agreement do not include Cabinet Committee papers! Likewise the stipulation of a written agreement signed by the Minister here implies that any agreement required by level 2 is oral presumably so that it can be fudged at a later date.

* The next part of the agreement covers specific issues that the Greens see the priority to address in the current parliamentary term. The government commits itself to seeing these issues are addressed.

The meaning of address is left undefined. If the Greens want the issue resolved to their satisfaction then they should have included words to that effect in the agreement.

* The government commits itself to addressing Budget initiatives to increase public transport capacity, increasing the number of students receiving student allowances, reducing child poverty, increasing ODA (?), increasing nutritional enviroment especially for children and enhancing Organic advisory services. Environmental education and conservation are also mentioned here.

I dunno what is meant by ODA. The stipulations on increasing this and that do not include any criteria on whether the increase should be significant or not. The mention of already agreed level 2 agreements make me wonder if the government is not obliged to addressing budgetary initiatives for the other levels 1 and 2 agreements that have not been mentioned in this list.

* The Government will continue to increase the minimum wage to $12.00 by the end of 2008, if the economic conditions permit [My emphasis - PHM].

Since the government will increase the wage in line with inflation, the only way economic conditions permitted a $12.00/hr minium wage would be if the government allowed a 15% inflation rate for the next three years.

* Work must be undertaken to ensure that non-GM producers can maintain GE-free production and to be able to identify their produce as such.

Who shall undertake the work is not stated. The Greens may think the Government should do it but the Government can just as easily interpret the agreement to it was the Green's responsibility.

* The Greens shall talk to the government about its peacemaking endeavours at the leadership level.

Keith Locke is forbidden from talking to the government about his foreign policy outside the role allowed to him as a member of parliament.

* The government agrees to retain Maori Seats until the Maoris decide they no longer need them.

Despite the Green belief they should be entrenched, the government isn't committing itself to doing anything.

* The government is committed to delivering programmes which are consistent with broad Green policies that are described in Appendix 3. These policies happen to be already agreed levels 1 and 2 agreements.

The point of this little paragraph escapes me.

* The Greens commit to supporting in the House certain Government commitments (interest-free loans, kiwisaver, working for families, rates rebates) but reserve their position on treaty deadline legislation.

But what about other specific Labour commitments such as more operations, more apprentices, more community constables, nuclear free status and four weeks minimum leave? The only reason they aren't listed is that the government does not require the Greens help in implementing them which suggests they might be in trouble from either NZ First or United Future.

* The Greens co-operates in the house and supports government procedural motions.

Another item that has already been said.

* The Greens are committed to keeping quiet about any papers they have seen.

A good way to keep the Greens quiet: show them something and then refuse to release it publicly.

* Greens not bound by collective responsibility but they are bound by something they have agreed to.

Why didn't they get a Cabinet post or Ministerial Portfolio on the terms of United and NZ First? Did Helen mislead them into thinking this wasn't an option?

* The Government commits itself into entering other agreements inconsistent with this one and the Greens agree they will allow all agreements to be complied with.

So if the government commits itself to a policy platform opposed to the Greens that isn't specifically mentioned in this agreement, the Greens are obliged to allow them to comply with that agreement.

Then in an appendix comes the specific details of the level 1 and 2 agreements in the appendix, which I shall address in a seperate post.

Oh dear, this doesn't sound too good.

Helen Clark has announced for Peter Dunne and Winston Peters:
Collective responsibility will apply to the areas for which they have portfolio responsibility.
In other words, on matters of foreign policy, senior citizens and racing, Winston Peters has to stick with the government. On other matters, such as immigration, policing, corruption and so forth, Winston is quite free to emerge from the Teepee of Government and publicly relieve himself upon it. Even worse, Ministers can ask questions in the House.

Which makes a mockery of this particular statement from Helen:
Helen Clark said that time and care had been taken by all five parties to negotiate arrangements for a stable and durable government in the interests of New Zealand.
If "time and care" had been taken in constructing the current governmental arrangements, I really hate to see what would have happened if the arrangements had been constructed in a slapdash manner.

More Government Details

More information about Helen Clark's new government have come to hand. In addition to his portfolio as Foreign Minister, Winston Peters also becomes Associate Minister for Senior Citizens and Minister for Racing. Here's hoping he doesn't confuse his portfolios and start pondering on the best way to ship senior citizens off to the glue factory. Peter Dunne also has a associate portfolio on health but the specific portfolio area has not been announced.

Most puzzling of all is that the Greens have not given an undertaking of supply and confidence but they do have "an agreement on policy areas". What's the point of having a policy agreement?

I bring bad news. We have a Government.

So it's official. Winston is Foreign Minister outside Cabinet and Peter Dunne is Revenue Minister. It can now safely be said that the three losers of this election are:

3rd place: The Greens. For being on the winning side yet not winning a cabinet post.

2nd place: National. For not making it onto the Treasury benches.

1st place: Labour. For having to shackle itself to two turkeys in order to form a government.

Winston as Foreign Minister?

So Winston Peters is to be Foreign Minister? The only foreign policy experience that he has is getting into stoushes with immigrant taxi-drivers. One should be thankful for small mercies however - instead of getting drunk at public expense, he will now do so at the expense of other countries. The other alternative, that of Attorney-General, is barely tolerable considering the precedent of David Lange.

Doug Woolerton, the NZ First President, has confirmed that he has resigned over Winston accepting a ministerial post as it would be a betrayal of campaign promises. This is good news as it indicates that there are more principles in the NZ First caucus than previously thought.

It also looks like Peter Dunne will be a Minister which indicates that the Greens are out in the cold (as Peter has publicly declared that he won't be part of a Cabinet that included the Greens). No word has been made about the likely portfolios although something useless such as Minister in charge of the Families Commission would be entirely appropriate.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

State of the Coalitions

According to the Herald on Sunday:
While Mr Brownlee claims Helen Clark has "completely failed" to seal a deal, Ms Clark dismissed his claims yesterday as "bluster and bravado".

She said through a spokesperson that Labour was continuing to negotiate with the Greens, NZ First, United Future and the Maori Party "in good faith" and the proposal from National to Mr Peters was "spoiling tactics".
The first thought that occurs to me that anybody that deals in good faith with Winston Peters should be committed immediately. More significantly, Helen now appears to be talking the Maoris and United after having failed to get a commitment from Winston Peters. Presumably the Greens are also being talked to because their deal needs to be renegotiated in order to save Peter Dunne's face.

I'm dubious about National's attempts to form a coalition as shacking up with Winston is a recipie for credibility loss and a government meltdown midway during the term. Hence I'm inclined to agree with Helen about Gerry's claims. But if National were truly desperate about getting Winston-free power then I have a cunning plan.

Very cunning indeed.

National simply has to talk to Jim Anderton.

Think about it. A coalition of National, ACT, United, Maori and Progressive yields 58 seats. Opposing the government would be the Labour-Greens with 56 seats while NZ First would be stuck out on the crossbenches. Winston will be bound to break his word about not voting to bring down the government that that can be used against him in the resulting early election.

The only question is what would Jim Anderton's price be? I don't know but he will be damn sight more reasonable than Winston will ever be.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Government rumours

It's three weeks after the election and we don't have a government. Normally the impression being received by the media is that the process of forming the next government is progressing well, but today there have been some interesting developments.

The first was some rumour reported on the radio about how a National-led Coalition had been formed. That rumour is false and was probably based on this report in which the Maori Party have indicated that they would be happy to support such a coalition. My impression is that somebody was trying to spook Helen Clark.

The more interesting development is that Helen is now trying to entice NZ First into supporting the government on matters of confidence and supply. This indicates that she's got the Greens support but hasn't got United or Maori. It's undoubtedly ominous that the hitherto media-shy Winston has started clowining in front of the cameras again.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Three Ministers resign

Three Cabinet Ministers are reportedly stepping down: George Hawkins, Paul Swain and Marian Hobbs.

George Hawkin's resignation has long since been anticipated ever since he took his name off the Labour party list. He claims that he would have had support to remain in Cabinet which only demonstrates that his colleagues didn't have the heart to tell him the truth.

Marian Hobbbs has always been known as a bit of a bumbler but I had thought that she would have remained. She says that she informed Helen eighteen months ago that she would not seek a cabinet spot if Labour won a third term. I can only presume that eighteen months ago, Marian made a huge blunder that was successfully covered up. But the price for the cover-up being that she was out at the next election.

Paul Swain is a huge surprise as he has been a competent minister. His official reason for quitting is the "spend more time with family" bollocks. Unofficially? I guess that after being lied to by his Immigration Department in the Iraqi immigrants scandal, he lost whatever stomach that he had for being a minister.

Of the other possibilities that have been mentioned: David Benson-Pope isn't stepping down because to do so at this stage would look like an admission of guilt in the Tennis Balls affair. Jim Sutton looks an almost cert to retain his cabinet seat as does Rick Barker. The other ministers, being outside Cabinet, hold their portfolios at the discretion of Helen Clark and so nothing will be gained by resigning.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Final election results.

The specials have been counted. The end result is that the overhang has been reduced from two seats to one and as a result, National loses one MP. The change in the party vote over the last election is:
NZ First5.72%10.38%-4.66%
United Future2.67%6.69%-4.02%
Other parties1.30%4.89%-3.59%