Why the Maori Party won’t walk out

The Maori Party hoped to be a part of any government, regardless of its leanings. Then [Pita Sharples] confessed: “Actually, I got so used to the increase in salary I told the Prime Minister you’d better be good because if the other guys get in, I’ll go sell myself over there to keep my ministerial salary. I just got a new house, man – I can’t afford it on a backbencher salary so I’m up for grabs.” Whoops.

NZ Herald, 8 Feb, 2010

The market responds to the Nick Smith scandal

The Nick Smith scandal is just getting bigger. This morning there are new claims about the “nature” of the relationship between the former ACC minister and Bronwyn Pullar – the National Party member who received highly sensitive information about 6700 ACC clients. From the NZ Herald

Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister John Key to authorise a formal inquiry into former ACC Minister Nick Smith’s involvement in his friend Bronwyn Pullar’s case amid speculation about the past nature of their friendship.

During a snap debate in Parliament, NZ First leader Winston Peters called for Dr Smith to resign or be removed from Cabinet, describing the furore as “a shabby little case involving blackmail, sex, a minister with a conflict of interest”.

And Opposition leader David Shearer last night called for Dr Smith to resign or be sacked for trying to influence ACC’s treatment of Ms Pullar.

It’s interesting to see the different responses to this turn of events.

The long-standing iPredict stock on the departure of a minister in 2012 had been trading at $0.79 for the past week, until it spiked back up to $0.85 on Sunday evening.

iPredict have also launched a new stock – ‘Nick Smith to lose all his Ministerial warrants before 1 April 2012‘ – which is probably a pretty good bet despite the short time frame. It’s currently trading at $0.18 but I’d expect that to go up dramatically during the day.

Update: In the half hour or so since I published this post, the odds of Nick Smith being given the boot have skyrocketed to $0.44

“Nasty” Mr Key

This piece from yesterday’s edition of Bryce Edwards’ excellent NZ Politics Daily frames what is happening in New Zealand politics quite nicely…

Have we seen the end of Mr Nice Guy? The number of voters who say they’d like to have a beer or bbq with John Key might soon plummet, as the Government appears to be getting into the hard decisions early in its second term. According to John Armstrong, ‘National seems unaware of how hard-edged it is starting to look with its noticeable drift to the right. The contrast with the soft pragmatism of its first term is starting to become pronounced’. In his column, Ministers risk seeming uncaring as jobs culled, Armstrong writes that public sector reform looks likely to start having a real impact on frontline services – despite Government promises – particularly with possible layoffs of nursing staff at district health boards. He warns that the Government is still to reveal the extent  of contracting out of public services to the private sector, and says it may have a hard job selling that to voters. Tracy Watkins agrees and says even though changes to date have been done far more carefully than in the 1990s, real savings  – particularly in the big budget health sector – will mean job losses in the thousands – see: Public service cuts get deeper.

In my humble opinion, the “new” welfare reforms announced by John Key and Paula Bennett are perfect examples of knee-jerk conservatism. They didn’t actually have any new ideas for reducing welfare dependency, just some half hatched ideas to kick the poor while they are down. The thing is, even these ideas aren’t new, they were announced during the election campaign.

So why re-release them? Their polling is obviously not looking flash. They’ve seen that they’re losing traction to the opposition parties, Labour in particular, and want to remind people that they can be tough. The National Party will be expecting a bump in the polls from an announcement like this, and they may well get it. But will it be the 3-5% they need to actually open a lead in the polls? I doubt it.

Key on the defensive…

From Audrey Young in the Herald

This was the week John Key was to have set the political agenda.

It was the Prime Minister’s first full week back after the summer break, the first Cabinet meeting, the week of the state-of-the-nation speech, the first overseas visit – to Australia.

Instead of projecting strong leadership, Key has been on the defensive.

He began by defending the minister who was consulted over Kim Dotcom’s residency application.

The internet posting of the private taped conversation between Key and Act candidate (now MP) John Banks at the height of the election campaign again forced him on to the back foot.

And he has been defending the sale of Crafar farms to the Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin all week, as well as yesterday after the approval was given.

Every party seeks to set the agenda but the past week has made it easy for new Opposition leader David Shearer and that old expert on opposition, Winston Peters.


John Key’s shoddy data

As reported in the Herald, John Key’s office have sent a Christmas card to a victim of the Pike River disaster. His widow is understandably distressed.

“I found it really distasteful. I’m not happy about it at all,” Mrs Osborne told the Herald.

“It’s distressing to get a Christmas card wishing him all the best for the festive season when he’s down that bloody shithole (in the mine) where he is at the moment. That really hurts.”

“I’d taken my husband’s seat on council in March, so if it was one of those things that every councillor in New Zealand receives, it should have been addressed to me, not my late husband, for a start.”

“He’s so out of touch with what’s going on, it’s ridiculous.”

If this were a time of year that people were actually paying attention to the media, it would become a serious issue for Mr Key.

The Christmas cards were sent to every mayor and councillor in New Zealand (a list of 888 people), using a list provided by Local Government New Zealand after the local body election in October last year.

Some will try to fob this off as a storm in a tea cup, but it really goes to show that Key’s office don’t know how to run the sort of contact management system that would be expected of an office of that nature. As Cameron Salter would say: if you can’t run a mailing list, how can you run the country?

It’s really not that hard. I’ve had to deal with the same sort of situation in my professional capacity, and dropping the ball like this is totally unacceptable.

The two things that should have happened are:

  1. Key’s office should have used an up to date list from LGNZ. Using a second-hand list that’s over a year old is a recipe for disaster. He also sent cards to 207 foreign leaders using a list from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Did Colonel Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak get cards too?! Rookie mistake.
  2. The office really should have a suppression list on all contacts. Not only should it include the victims of the Pike River mine, but also those who lost their lives in the Christchurch earthquakes – explicitly. Matching against the death register would also be a very smart idea.

If you can’t run a mailing list, how can you run the country?

A fiscal ‘satan-sandwich’

Yesterday the National Party released the details of their confidence & supply arrangements with United Future and ACT, which give them the numbers to form a Government.

As well as bringing in charter schools, the arrangement with ACT also looks to impose a spending cap on the Government.

Commentator and analyst Keith Ng has done a very useful breakdown of the numbers. It’s well worth a read.

Check my numbers by all means, but with a budget that is explicitly fixed and exploding NZ Super costs, there’s not much room for ambiguity. This is not a cap. It’s not even a slow withering of the state. This is a substantive and perpetual cut.

How is it that Key can casually commit to this? Who the hell would swallow this satan-sandwich just to get John Banks in return?

This is the cynical part. He’s doesn’t actually have to swallow it. The law change will take place in two years, probably choosing the 2014 budget as the baseline, so there won’t be any actual cuts till 2015, after the election. It probably won’t be Key’s problem by then, and possibly not National’s. He even points out that future governments can abolish it if they want to. So, he’s basically setting a completely unreasonable promise in place to force future governments to renege on it.