Morning Reading

Shearer gives team 12 months to shape up (Claire Trevett, NZ Herald)

Excellent. This is what we should be expecting of our caucus: they work hard and are rewarded for it.

Most Labour MPs are satisfied by Labour leader David Shearer’s first lineup – but he delivered the new rankings with a warning for the MPs to prove they were up to their jobs before a review after a year.

Kim Jong Phil [iTunes link] (The Egonomist)

It’s listening – not reading!

The Egonomist is the only political podcast in New Zealand I know of, which makes it the best! It’s rather good anyway – very funny and very informed. In this episode they discuss Kim Jong Il’s death, and the Labour leadership change. Just a quick word of warning, the language may be a little colourful for some, which is all part of the appeal as far as I’m concerned.

Lord Mandelson warns of dangers ahead for Labour leader (Nicholas Watt, The Guardian)

A very interesting piece regarding Mandelson’s thoughts on why Miliband isn’t getting traction.

“It’s not New Labour, he’s perfectly clear about that, but then he would say the circumstances and the conditions in Britain are not the same as they were when we were creating New Labour in the 1990s. Those were the days when markets were very much in fashion, the British economy and capitalist model of how we do things in this country seemed to be delivering, everyone’s incomes were eternally rising. They’re not now. And he believes that we need a different sort of social contract. Now there are dangers in developing that, but he has to navigate his way through, and I think 2012 is the year to do that.”

Labour line up – in detail

I would apologise for the flurry of posts about David Shearer’s first shadow cabinet announcement, but if you don’t like that sort of thing, you’re not reading this blog anyway.

In this post I’m going to go through the announcements and pick out some of the more interesting moves. I’ll leave looking at the commentary surrounding the announcement until tomorrows Morning Reading post. I’m going to try to focus on the positive aspects, I don’t want this to devolve into a slagging match.

Before I get into the MP by MP details, here are some general thoughts…

As Patrick Gower said, it’s “out with the old, in with the new”. The rejuvenation project Helen Clark started with the 2008 list has finally come to fruition. Shearer has been bold enough to move some old war-horses off the front bench, and given the party the new fresh face it needs so badly.

He’s also done a very impressive job with bringing Cunliffe and Mahuta back into the tent. The next few months will show how that works out, but both should be pleased with where they are now.

From David Shearer himself, the key quote: “Talent comes first and foremost”. Excellent.

And now looking at some of the individual MPs…

David Shearer – Science and Innovation and Grant Robertson – Environment. As I said in my earlier post, this is the firmest signal that Shearer has sent about the future policy direction for the party. On Shearer’s first day in office he was talking about a ‘clean, green, clever’ New Zealand – and he sure as hell means it. This is not lip service.

David Parker – Finance. A smart move. Parker is a very bright cookie and has the brains and work ethic to lead Labour’s finance policy. And with four associates, he won’t be wanting for helpers… (four associates does seem rather odd)

Jacinda Ardern – Social Development. The biggest promotion outside the leadership. Huge stuff. Jacinda really needs to prove herself or there will be others nipping at her heels. Can she do it? I sure as hell hope so.

David Cunliffe – Economic Development and Associate Finance. A very sensible position. Still at a very impressively high position (number five) and in a great position. If he can make some big hits against Steven Joyce then he may well expect a promotion to three or four. Putting Cunliffe here proves that Shearer is serious about re-uniting the party.

Nanaia Mahuta – Education, Associate Māori Affairs (Social). A very big promotion for Nanaia again proves that Shearer is keen to fight National with a united Labour front bench. Education is a big portfolio and will be a challenge, hopefully she’s up to it.

Maryan Street – Health, Disarmament and Arms Control, Associate Foreign Affairs. Again, a big portfolio with health Maryan has a lot of work in front of her. Interesting that she didn’t drop Foreign Affairs entirely – heaven knows Goff will be fine on his own.

Phil Twyford – Transport, Auckland Issues, Associate Environment. Excellent. Twyford is just the man for the transport portfolio. He has the brains, skills and connections in the sector to get some wins on the board with this portfolio, which Labour has struggled to do much with in the last term.

Lianne Dalziel – Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Earthquake Commission.  Say hello to Labour’s Earthquake Czarina. Lianne will do a fantastic job with this sort of stuff, good to see her taking over the portfolio.

Phil Goff – Foreign Affairs. A good, dignified place for Phil. He knows the portfolio inside out. His speech on Afganistan was one of his highlights as leader. I expect good things.

Annette King – Housing, Local Government. An interesting combination to be sure.

Moana Mackey – Energy, Climate Change. A subject area Moana is very knowledgable about. Will tie in nicely with Shearer’s theme of a ‘clean, green, clever’ NZ.

Raymond Huo – Building and Construction. This is pretty out of the blue. It will be interesting to see what he does with the portfolio…

Kris Faafoi – Police. Good to see Kris take on a beefier portfolio. A big chance to prove himself.

Kim Jong Il and Where Now?

A guest post by our Korean correspondent, James Barnett.

As widely reported, Kim Jong Il is dead. It’s not surprising given his health has been poor for at least three years now, which is perhaps why I’m not as worried as I could be (living in South Korea). I think that Jong Il and his leadership hierarchy will have been planning this for at least the last three years.

The likely new leader is set to be Kim Jong Un but how much actual power he will have remains to be seen. Jong Un is still very young (expect to see him be 30 this year so that Kim Il Sung is 100, Kim Jong Il 70 and Kim Jong Un 30 – they like their symmetry in numbers) and therefore inexperienced, also he still has a relatively low profile (although my guide in NK said “I really hope Kim Jong Un is our next leader” when I asked him) since he has only been known to the people for about a year. I think the actual power is going to lie in the hands of Jang Song Taek, Kim Jong Il’s brother in law, who is already number two in the country. Basically I think Jong Un will be a figure head until he gains more age and experience (age being very important in Korean culture).

However there is the alternative route…

Kim Jong Un has not undergone the same grooming as Kim Jong Il did. Jong Il was handling the internal running of the country for at least two years before his father’s death as well as being the head of the army. Yet it still took him 3 years to consolidate power when Il Sung died. So it is not unreasonable to think that things could go horribly wrong. Don’t go expecting a popular revolt though, I’m not sure those two words exist in North Korean vocabulary. The people will follow whoever eventually takes power. If there is a power vacuum then I’d imagine the very large military will fight to fill it. That scenario is scary, there are three outcomes:

  1. A group of military leaders succeeds in gaining control quickly and things return to normal.
  2. A long bitter power struggle erupts, bad for the people and the country (possible civil war!?)
  3. China steps in and “influences” things. China only entered the Korean war in order to prevent US soldiers being on it’s border. It is in China’s best interests to preserve North Korea as a separate state. Therefore they will do all that is necessary to stop an implosion.

The last question I guess one could have is: will there be a war? No. Why would there be? For many reasons, the South is not going to invade; and starting a full scale war (which they will lose) is not going to help anyone in North Korea consolidate power. So, I for one feel quite safe sitting here in the South.

Caucus rankings – who’s moved

I’ve compiled the following table showing the rankings of the new caucus, compared to the last major reshuffle Goff undertook in February 2011 (I believe there was a more minor reshuffle later in the year, if anyone has the rankings for that can they please send them through and I’ll update this list). A straight comparison is difficult, as Shearer has cut off the number rankings at 20, and Goff cut his off at 28. For purposes of comparison, I’ve counted all those unranked in February as being numbered 29, and those unranked in December as being 21.

Name

Portfolios Caucus Rank (Dec 11) Caucus Rank (Feb 11) Change in Rank
David Shearer Leader, Security Intelligence Service, Science and Innovation 1 24 +23
Grant Robertson Deputy Leader, Environment, Tertiary Education, Skills and Training 2 12 +10
David Parker Finance 3 4 +1
Jacinda Ardern Social Development 4 19 +15
David Cunliffe Economic Development, Associate Finance 5 3 -2
Clayton Cosgrove SOEs, Commerce, Small Business, Trade Negotiations, Associate Finance 6 6
Shane Jones Regional Development, Associate Finance, Economic Development (Māori), Fisheries 7 13 +6
Nanaia Mahuta Education, Associate Māori Affairs (Social) 8 20 +12
Maryan Street Health, Disarmament and Arms Control, Associate Foreign Affairs 9 7 -2
Su’a William Sio Employment, Pacific Island Affairs, Inter-Faith Dialogue, Associate Foreign Affairs 10 16 +6
Phil Twyford Transport, Auckland Issues, Associate Environment 11 17 +6
Trevor Mallard Shadow Leader of the House, 13Associate Finance, America’s Cup 12 9 -3
Charles Chauvel Justice (incl Courts and Corrections), Attorney General, Arts, Culture and Heritage 13 11 -2
Lianne Dalziel Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Earthquake Commission, Consumer Rights and Standards, Associate Justice 14 15 +1
Chris Hipkins Senior Whip, State Services, Associate Education 15 26 +11
Phil Goff Foreign Affairs and Trade 16 1 -15
Annette King Housing, Local Government 17 2 -15
Darien Fenton Junior Whip, Labour, Immigration 18 23 +5
Damien O’Connor Primary Industries, Food Safety 19 21 +2
Clare Curran Communications and Information Technology, Broadcasting, Open Government, Disability Issues 20 +9
Ruth Dyson Conservation, Senior Citizens, Internal Affairs 5 -16
Parekura Horomia Māori Affairs, Treaty Negotiations 10 -11
Sue Moroney Early Childhood Education, Womens Affairs 14 -7
Moana Mackey Energy, Climate Change 18 -2
Iain Lees-Galloway Defence, Transport Safety, Veterans Affairs, Associate Health (Alcohol and Drugs)
Raymond Huo Building and Construction, Statistics, Land Information
Rajen Prasad Ethnic Affairs, Associate Social Development
Kris Faafoi Police, Customs, Associate Health
Louisa Wall Sport and Recreation, Community and Voluntary Sector
David Clark Revenue, Associate Tertiary Education New MP
Andrew Little ACC New MP
Rino Tirikatene Tourism New MP
Megan Woods Youth Affairs, Associate Science & Innovation New MP
Ross Robertson Nominee for Assistant Speaker, Racing, Associate Disarmament (Small Arms)

New Labour line up announced

Labour have announced their new lineup, the first real test of David Shearer’s leadership.

Here is the list. The first nine will be on the front bench, and the caucus rankings only cover the first twenty. Full details here.

  1. David Shearer. Leader of the Opposition. Security Intelligence Service, Science and Innovation
  2. Grant Robertson. Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Environment, Tertiary Education, Skills and Training
  3. David Parker. Finance
  4. Jacinda Ardern. Social Development
  5. David Cunliffe. Economic Development, Associate Finance.
  6. Clayton Cosgrove. SOEs, Commerce, Small Business, Trade Negotiations, Associate Finance
  7. Shane Jones. Regional Development, Associate Finance, Economic Development (Māori), Fisheries
  8. Nanaia Mahuta. Education, Associate Māori Affairs (Social)
  9. Maryan Street. Health, Disarmament and Arms Control, Associate Foreign Affairs
  10. Su’a William Sio. Employment, Pacific Island Affairs, Inter-Faith Dialogue, Associate Foreign Affairs
  11. Phil Twyford. Transport, Auckland Issues, Associate Environment
  12. Trevor Mallard. Shadow Leader of the House, Associate Finance, America’s Cup
  13. Charles Chauvel. Justice (incl Courts and Corrections), Attorney General, Arts, Culture and Heritage
  14. Lianne Dalziel. Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Civil Defence and Emergency Management, Earthquake Commission, Consumer Rights and Standards, Associate Justice
  15. Chris Hipkins. Senior Whip, State Services, Associate Education
  16. Phil Goff. Foreign Affairs and Trade
  17. Annette King. Housing, Local Government
  18. Darien Fenton. Junior Whip, Labour, Immigration
  19. Damien O’Connor. Primary Industries, Food Safety
  20. Clare Curran.  Communications and Information Technology, Broadcasting, Open Government, Disability Issues
  • Ruth Dyson. Conservation, Senior Citizens, Internal Affairs
  • Parekura Horomia. Māori Affairs, Treaty Negotiations
  • Sue Moroney. Early Childhood Education, Womens Affairs
  • Moana Mackey. Energy, Climate Change
  • Iain Lees-Galloway. Defence, Transport Safety, Veterans Affairs, Associate Health (Alcohol and Drugs)
  • Raymond Huo. Building and Construction, Statistics, Land Information
  • Rajen Prasad. Ethnic Affairs, Associate Social Development
  • Kris Faafoi. Police, Customs, Associate Health
  • Louisa Wall. Sport and Recreation, Community and Voluntary Sector
  • David Clark. Revenue, Associate Tertiary Education
  • Andrew Little. ACC
  • Rino Tirikatene. Tourism
  • Megan Woods. Youth Affairs, Associate Science & Innovation
  • Ross Robertson. Nominee for Assistant Speaker, Racing, Associate Disarmament (Small Arms)

Aside from Shearer and Robertson, the big winner is Jacinda Ardern, who has made it all the way to number four and now holds the massive social development portfolio.

With Shearer holding Science and Innovation, and Robertson taking Environment, it’s sending a pretty clear signal that Labour are taking David Shearer’s priority of a ‘clean, green, clever’ New Zealand very seriously. I expect it will be a theme that will dominate the next three years.

With Cunliffe at 5 and Mahuta at 8 Shearer is making a very strong attempt to re-unify the caucus. This is very good. He has a team of 34 people and he needs every single one of them working their hardest to get Labour onto the treasury benches in 2014.

These are just some quick initial thoughts, I’ll get some other ideas about the future direction this signals out there in the next few days.

The next test will be the address in reply speech on Wednesday, though given how little time Shearer’s had to prepare for it, I don’t have particularly high expectations. That said, we are starting to see a very promising theme starting to emerge!

Democratic ignorance

From Science via io9

You might think that democracies work best when people care and know about the key issues. But a new study argues that for a democracy to function at all, you need lots of ignorant people blindly siding with the majority.

That’s the argument put forward by Princeton researcher Iain Couzin and his team, who make the argument that a fully informed electorate would collapse into an unworkable hodgepodge of minority factions or risk being dominated by a single forceful minority group. But if most voters don’t really think about the issues, they will just tend to side with whoever is popular, allowing majority rule to continue and democracy to keep functioning. Yeah, you might want to check your last shreds of political idealism at the door for this one.

Sounds like a very interesting study into voter behaviour. The thing is, it’s not. It was a study on animal behaviour, performed with a school of golden shiner fish. Still, interesting stuff.

 

Morning reading

In advance tomorrow’s commission opening of Parliament, and Wednesday’s state opening, David Shearer will today unveil Labour’s new lineup.

It’s going to be interesting. Firstly, to see how Shearer balances experience with new talent: on Goff’s last front bench team of 12, there were only two people (Robertson and Chauvel) who were not ministers in the Clark government. Secondly, it’s going to be interesting to see how he deals with David Cunliffe and Nanaia Mahuta – and a good measure of that will come down to what they will accept. I’ll post my thoughts on the new lineup later in the day.

Labour readies new front bench (Adam Bennett, NZ Herald)

The final shape of new Labour leader David Shearer’s front bench will be announced this afternoon but a question mark remained over what role defeated leadership challenger David Cunliffe would take.

“We want to reflect that there’s change and it’s fresh faced and I think people will see that tomorrow,” Mr Shearer said yesterday.

Shearer to chart new direction for Labour (Tracy Watkins & John Heartvelt, Stuff)

Mr Shearer will unveil his lineup today and says it will signal that Labour “has turned a page” and is ready for a fresh start – a nod to the number of new faces on his front bench.

Mr Shearer has made it clear he wants Mr Cunliffe to occupy one of the eight frontbench slots and expects to give him a senior role. He confirmed yesterday that he was looking for Mr Cunliffe “to play a senior role in a senior position”.

Other MPs tipped for the front bench include deputy Grant Robertson, high-profile Maori MP Shane Jones, who is likely to pick up an economic role, David Parker – who dropped out of the leadership race early – in finance and second-term MP Jacinda Ardern.

Mr Cunliffe’s running mate, Nanaia Mahuta, is another possibility for the front bench, potentially in the Maori affairs portfolio.

 

Sunday reading

Questions over Waitakere vote (Kathryn Powley, NZ Herald)

Evidence of dodgy voting has emerged in the battle for Waitakere. A judge has found nine people voted twice and 393 people voted despite not being on the electoral roll.

The issue here is not quite what it seems. The nine people who double voted have well and truly broken the law, and should be punished appropriately.

However, the situation of the 393 who were not on the roll is different. I’m sure all of them thought they were properly enrolled. Because of the way our voting system works, they get to cast a special vote anyway, however they will never find out that they are not properly enrolled and therefore their vote does not count. It’s an issue that we need to get sorted out.

National president flying the flag (Chloe Johnson, NZ Herald)

National Party president Peter Goodfellow has been labelled pretentious for flying the New Zealand flag from the bonnet of his ex-ministerial BMW – the prerogative of the Governor-General or the Queen when she visits.

I think ‘pretentious’ is putting it mildly.

I’ve just been internalizing a really complicated situation in my head (Nicky Hagar, Pundit)

Nicky’s thoughts on the election result. Very thorough. I could devote weeks covering what he’s said. Instead, you can read it for yourself.