How close is too close?

Written By: - Date published: 7:20 am, June 3rd, 2011 - 54 comments
Categories: accountability, corruption, dpf, national - Tags: , ,

How close should corporate interests be allowed to cuddle up to the government? When is a gift not a gift? If it isn’t influence what is it? The Greens have raised important questions surrounding Westpac and the Nats:

Govt denies Westpac ‘buying access’ to ministers

The Government says the Green Party’s implication that Westpac Bank has bought access to ministers through generous corporate hospitality is wrong.

Replies to questions from the Greens to the Government show that nine ministers accepted hospitality from Westpac in the past year, including box seats at the Rugby Sevens, dinner at the White House restaurant in Wellington and tickets to rock concerts.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett attended last year’s Bon Jovi concert in Wellington in the Westpac Corporate Box.

The answers also show staff of 13 ministers accepted similar hospitality from Westpac.

The Greens say ministers should not be accepting hospitality from Westpac when the Government’s master banking contract held by the bank is under review. …

Not a good look? The Nats seem a bit rattled. Key is publicly calling (yet again) for his ministers to dial back on the perks:

MPs told cup must not runneth over

Prime Minister John Key has laid down the law to his ministers over accepting too many corporate box invitations during the Rugby World Cup.

How many is “too many” John?

His warning to be careful about the sort of hospitality ministers accept during the six-week tournament comes after the Greens questioned ministers and their staff accepting generous hospitality from Westpac Bank while the Government’s master banking contract is under review. Westpac holds the contract.

The Nats’ pet blogger is spinning so fast on this one that I can hear the high pitched whine from the Mainland. He tries to ridicule the idea that naked attempts at currying favour can have any effect at all. Its the usual stinking hypocrisy from DPF, who once hounded Winston Peters over a “scandal” involving a single free dinner. (Come to think of it the Nats took out a formal complaint over that one free meal.) Of course gifts to politicians buy influence, that’s why we have laws governing them.

More credible bloggers point out the problems. At Dim-Post:

But what if this is a regular occurrence? Over a three year term this kind of hospitality could easily be worth over ten thousand dollars – but each incident was only a low value, undeclarable gift. I’ve heard some MPs mention that their office fridge is always full of alcohol gifted by lobbyists for the hospitality industry. Crate of beer and a box of wine? Low value: non-declared, but worth thousands of dollars/MP over the course of a three year term.

I think the best way to phrase the question around this issue is: would we be comfortable if these were cash sums, ie. would we be happy if companies that had business arrangements with the government were able to pay MPs moderately small amounts of money on a weekly basis without any disclosure?

Excellent points. And finally I/S, as usual, doesn’t pull any punches:

Key supports corruption

So, John Key thinks there’s “nothing wrong” with accepting bribes from Westpac and other corporates. Of course he does. He is from the corporate world, where this sort of corruption is par for the course. But what he doesn’t understand is that we expect better from our elected officials.

As for the argument advanced by their recipients that these bribes are meaningless, and do not result in improper influence, then why do the corporates offer them? They think they’re getting something out of it – legally speaking, they’re not allowed to offer it if they’re not. And so should we. …

The party that spent weeks hounding an MP over a single free meal has a lot of questions to answer…

54 comments on “How close is too close? ”

  1. sean maitland 1

    Wait a minute – didn’t the Greens get caught doing the exact same thing recently too? Hypocritical much?

    • happynz 1.1

      Care to elaborate? What thing was it that the Greens were doing that equates to National’s ministers enjoying Westpac’s hospitality?

      • RobC 1.1.1

        I’ll elaborate for you happy – Sean is referring to Norman’s trip to the US – y’know, the one paid for by the US Government which is apparently “the exact same thing” as accepting free tickets to a Bon Jovi concert from a corporate business that, oh, has a commercial relationship with the Govt.

        The only thing hypocritical Sean, is the RWNJ’s whining this is all fair and above board for the reasons outlined in the post.

  2. Don’t you love the phrasing.  Key has “laid down the law” to ministers essentially not to submerge themselves too deeply in the corporate trough that their paymasters lay out for them.

    Fairfax resemble North Korea’s state newspaper sometimes.

    Just a little bit of thought would be appropriate before using such obsequious phrasing.

    • Armchair Critic 2.1

      Fairfax resemble North Korea’s state newspaper sometimes
      The main difference, perhaps, is that the government directly instructs the media on what to report in North Korea, whereas in NZ the chain of command is somewhat more convoluted (and less efficient, in the name of appearing to be deomcratic, balanced etc.).
      So much for the market providing a free press.

  3. happynz 3

    Turn on your TV for the evening news and this issue will get little to no play. That’s my prediction. NZ’s media are such lightweights.

  4. Matthew Hooton 4

    In the 1990s, Doug Myers used to send every member of the press gallery a dozen Steinlagers for Xmas. This led to a debate among some journalists about what to do, with two broad views emerging:

    1.) Return the beer, on the grounds that to drink it would risk creating a perception that past or present work on Mr Myers’ business interests was influenced by drinking the beer.

    2.) Drink the beer, on the grounds that to return it would risk creating a perception that you are the sort of journalist whose coverage might be influenced were you to drink it.

    I still don’t know which argument I think is the stronger.

    PS. I can’t recall if Mr Myers also sent beer to ministers’ offices (where I was working) but, if he did, I can assure you that not a single bottle would have been returned and it would all have been drunk by the staff without the ministers even knowing it had arrived.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      Did you get a bottle of wine from John Key at Christmas 2009?

      • Matthew Hooton 4.1.1

        No

        • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1

          “No” is also the correct truthful answer to that question if one had received a case of wine, instead of a single bottle, if it was a bottle of scotch and not of wine, or if the gift came from the PM’s office not from Key himself.

    • felix 4.2

      There’s actually no debate there for any journalist with a shred of credibility, integrity, ethics, or understanding of their role in a democratic society Matthew.

      Also what sort of prick sends Steinlager?

      • Draco T Bastard 4.2.1

        Also what sort of prick sends Steinlager?

        The people who a) don’t drink the shit themselves and b) are out of touch with the rest of NZ 😛

    • McFlock 4.3

      Hmmm. I’d probably keep the beer (not that I drink Steinlager anyway – probably just give it away), but there’s a difference between an xmas gift and never having to stock your liquor cabinet, getting the best seats in the house for free if you want them, free helicopter rides when you can’t be bothered using the airforce ministerial luxury car, and so on.

      The difference isn’t only in scale – we’re talking about a small value one-off given at a time when gifts are conventionally given, versus creating an expectation of entitlement.

      I suppose a clear example of journalistic conflict would be a story I heard about a prominent tv chef who did one of those “walk the earth, taste the real cuisine” shows. Got pissed off at one manufacturer because chef was refused several hundred dollars worth of free product (outside any arrangement with the producers), so ended up spending an entire day at the factory for barely a mention on the show. THAT is clearly unethical – the expectation of gifts in exchange or under threat of spinning a review or report.

    • Barry 4.4

      3. hand it to the cleaning staff.

      • Matthew Hooton 4.4.1

        By the looks of most press gallery offices, there are no cleaning staff … but, if there were, that would have been a good option.

  5. nadis 5

    To me the most interesting part of this debate is the deafening silence from Labour. For a very good reason. Having been in a corporate box at the same time as previous ministers I think you can guess the reason. On issues like this, all politicians are the same – the reason the greens have clean hands is because they haven’t ever and probably never will be in cabinet.

    On the one hand (as a receiver of corporate hospitality) I don’t believe for a second that this will influence a tender like the govt banking business. But on the other hand – I think it is a shit and lazy look and politicians should avoid freebies of any sort. I know the Reserve Bank has a staff policy that they can accept corporate hospitality but that the corporate has to invoice the staff member personally for “fair value”. If Gerry had received an invoiced for $300 for bon jovi tx and paid it I dont think anyone would have a problem with that.

    • Blighty 5.1

      David Cunliffe has commented that when he was ICT minister he had a strict rule for himself and his staff not to accept any gift from companies in the industry.

    • I agree Nadis that there should be a very simple rule with no exceptions.

      No corporate gifts, no exceptions, and if they offer they should be asked to donate to Salvation Army instead.

      • PeteG 5.2.1

        That’s much better. Fair comment, I agree too, although I’d let them choose an appropriate charity themselves.

        With all the exposure over the last couple of years you’d think they’d have figured it out themselves by now.

  6. RobC 6

    Actually, the problem I have is this sort of thing is an absolute no-no for public service employees so why should elected officials (politicians) have different rules?

  7. PeteG 7

    Some clear rules and guidelines on this would be a good idea, but it is a difficult thing to define what is and what isn’t over the line, and there are a lot of potential anomalies.

    A $5000 party donation from a corporation is ok but a $100 meal or sport ticket isn’t?
    A $5000 party donation from a union is ok but supplied afternoon tea is too?
    Giving a politician a lift in your car because you’re going the same way is ok but no helicopters?
    A $5000 party donation from an environmental group is ok but a complimentary joint is or isn’t?

    I guess the sensible self imposed rule is if in doubt don’t accept anything.

    I wonder if Key was billed for the royal wedding breakfast (if he was there) – that would have been worth a bit.

    Maybe we should all practice what we preach, and not accept any more free toys in return for buying hamburgers.

    • PeteG trots out the well worn cliche that the trade union movement in New Zealand is as powerful and as well funded as the corporates.

      Not even close PeteG.  This is the sort of line that people uninterested in the truth and only interested in winning will trot out, just so they have something to shout to hopefully drown us out when we shout out that NZ is being taken over by the corporates.

      All I can say PeteG is BS, BS, BS.

      The trade union movement has been brought to its knees by a couple of decades of neo right activity.  The 5th Labour Government held the line but did not do much more.

      And coincidentally during this time workers’ wages and conditions have plummeted. 

      Are you able to debate the details PeteG, like National Party donations and Labour Party donations?

      • PeteG 7.1.1

        Steady on MS, you sound like you’ve just watched the Highlanders second half, they must have been using a Labour strategist.

        You’re isolating one thing out of a bunch of examples where they are obviously just to make an overall point, and then exaggerating your indignation to buggery. So you can take your BS back.

        Have a nice weekend off, you might feel a bit better for it.

        • mickysavage 7.1.1.1

          Um Peteg

          Your previous comment implied heavily that the Trade Union Movement contributed the same to Labour that the Corporates contributed to National.

          Do you agree or disagree?

          You are working late.  Is CT now springing for OT?  Hope it is at least at time and a half!  If not I suggest you join a union ; )

  8. RedLogix 8

    This is cut and dried.

    In an earlier corporate life (US based) I used to have to sit an annual test on ethics. It usually took about an hour or so, and each year the questions changed. You had to get it right.

    While there was a clear set of guidelines around normal business to business transactions and relationships… there was a different and much stricter set of rules relating to government business.

    In essence the rule was… no gifting of any sort that could be in any way connected to a particular transaction. ( Corporates themselves frequently donate to political campaigns, but US perceptions around this are different to ours and are considered an entirely separate matter.)

    In this case the gifting from Westpac can be clearly connected to a specific transaction…. the renewal tendering of govt banking… therefore in my book it is clearly and absolutely wrong. No if’s, no but’s, and certainly no spin from that hypocritical buffoon Farrar.

    • ianmac 8.1

      That looks unequivocal to me. I scanned the on-line papers this morning and found not one reference to the issue. Funny that.

  9. randal 9

    so what this really means is the national mp’s are just a bunch of on the make cheapskates.

  10. Bunji 10

    The claims that it doesn’t buy influence are somewhat ridiculous – just the same as “advertising doesn’t influence me”. If it didn’t get the corporate anything, they wouldn’t do it.

    Danyl makes a very good point of several small gifts adding up to more. Currently gifts under $500 are undeclared, but getting $300 tickets to whatever event each week should add up. For political donations if you donate $999 a hundred times it counts as one big donation, so if you get a dozen $300 event tickets from a corporate (or 52 weekly cases of wine etc) in a year it should have to be declared.

    It’s the sort of thing you need clear rules around, as – as Matthew says – if you’re given a crate of beer and it’s not against the rules, are you really going to turn it down? (good work on not letting the minister be influenced by drinking it first Matthew 😉 )
    Altho I should make clear I think advisors should be on the same rules of ethical conduct – those unelected “servants” generally have more power than Backbench MPs after all…

    And the squealing that “Labour do it too” – so what? If some of their ministers/ministerial staff did it, that wouldn’t make it right.

    Stephen Franks on Afternoons yesterday was coming up with an even more ridiculous argument that politicians shouldn’t get too remote from the public and taking their corporate hospitality away from them would somehow do that. a) corporates don’t make up a very big slice of the public / public opinion, b) ministers having to pay their way at events shouldn’t stop them going…

  11. arants 11

    The Greens should ask about Telecom & Sky’s corporate hospitality too. Both probably dispense more than Westpac & both have benefitted from pronounced favouritism.

  12. joe bloggs 12

    Must be a slow policy day when the Labourites start parroting the Greens.

    Evidently someone’s forgotten the Westpac donation of $15,000 to Labour in 2007, or the $23,500 they donated in 2006, or the $30,000 in 2005. Wonder what those displays of benevolence bought?

    Hang on I see a pattern here – a loss of that loving’ feeling from Westpac.

    Could it be this spleen venting from the LWNJs is actually a bunch of sour grapes?

    • RedLogix 12.1

      Evidently someone’s forgotten the Westpac donation of $15,000 to Labour in 2007, or the $23,500 they donated in 2006, or the $30,000 in 2005. Wonder what those displays of benevolence bought?

      Many different people and entities donate to political parties. And while you selectively quote donations to Labour, more than likely Westpac was making similar donations to National at the same time. This is accepted practise….unless you want to condemn and stop ALL donations to political parties (and presumably move fund political parties from the public purse) you really haven’t anything to say.

      What is happening here is quite different. Here we have Westpac gifting individual Ministers immediately during a period when a major banking business tender is being conducted. This is a complete and absolute no-no.

      It is corrupt. Waiting anxiously for burt to arrive and demand all the Ministers involved resign immediately…..

      • joe bloggs 12.1.1

        PeteG has already highlighted the inequity of a system that considers a $30,000 donation from Westpac to Labour to be OK yet a $100 ticket to a game or for a meal to be dubious.

        Perhaps you should give that some thought.

        And while you’re about it, consider also the $300,000 ‘donation’ from Owen Glenn to Labour (sparked by a behind-the-door promise of an honorary consulship, and rewarded with the New Zealand Order of Merit), along with Mike Williams vehement denials (and subsequent offer to resign when he was caught lying).

        That corruption you smell is closer to home that you would have the rest of us think.

        • joe bloggs 12.1.1.1

          How remiss of me – Owen Glenn didn’t buy his NZ Order of Merit for $300,000. It cost him $500,000 in 2005 plus a top-up interest free ‘loan’ of another $100k in 2007.

          Remind me again:
          He wasn’t born in New Zealand.
          He hasn’t lived in New Zealand for over 40 years.
          He wasn’t eligible to vote in New Zealand…

          I wonder? Did Owen ever get his $100k interest free ‘loan’ back? What price corruption, eh?

          [lprent: That is quite off-topic for corporate bribes to ministers and a quite deliberate diversion troll. Your previous comments are similar. You know better and therefore accept the risk you’re taking.

          Banned for a month (and I was reaching for the banned until after the election button). ]

          • Colonial Viper 12.1.1.1.1

            Corruption needs to be stamped out, i wonder what Rodney was offered to accept the knife in the back from Key and Brash?

        • r0b 12.1.1.2

          I’ve got your solution joe bloggs.

          Total ban on all corporate / private donations to political parties and individuals. State funding of parties on a vote share basis. Problem solved.

          Are you with me?

          • Colonial Viper 12.1.1.2.1

            Yes public funding on a vote share basis which is then capped at 25% of the vote. That means that a party with 50% of the vote does not get 2x as much money as a party on 25% of the vote, and it doesn’t get 10x more money than a party on 5% of the vote.

            Levels out the playing field rather nicely 🙂

            • Draco T Bastard 12.1.1.2.1.1

              No it doesn’t. It keeps it tilted in the incumbents favour.

          • PeteG 12.1.1.2.2

            Only partially solved. Changes in circumstances between elections can be significant. If, for example, National and Labour were neck and neck on the polls now would it be fair to fund them based on last election’s votes? And new parties like Mana wouldn’t qualify at all, even if they applied for funds in time.

            There will never be a perfect solution – that keeps all politicians happy. I’d be happy if less was spent on political broadcasts and advertising on TV, and on mail boc drops – some people may actually take some notice, and some of them may be swayed, but I’d be surprised if it’s value for money.

          • lprent 12.1.1.2.3

            joe bloggs will be quiet for the next month. You may have to wait for that answer.

  13. Tom Gould 13

    With Goldman Sachs under investigations by state and federal authorities for rorting around the melt-down, is it fair to ask what government contracts and contacts they have here? Just asking.

  14. Banks are not known for spending money for no return are they? Politicians can say it doesn’t influence any decision making, but corporate interests wouldn’t bother otherwise, now would they?

  15. randal 15

    well just just give them “two” crates of steinlager each and nobody will bea ble to answer anything. q.e.d.

  16. djg 16

    If Nats had not decided to put the contract up for tender would any of this be an issue ?

    Who gets to advise on the tender outcome, is it Treasury or National ?

  17. randal 17

    hooton is fibbing. he wasn’t around when myers was spreading his liquid largesse around before he shoved off to London to get away from the rubes who could be bought witha carton of beer.

  18. Tom Gould 18

    Interesting to see the rampant media coverage of the allegation on Peters about the Kermadec dinner, and then fast forward to the extreme troughing of these born to rule Tories, which passes with hardly a whimper in the MSM and around the Gallery. Maybe it is time the Gallery started to declare their freebee perks and moonlighting jobs, just so we can all be on the same page over who is buying what influence with whom?

  19. I would have thought that Paula Bennett would have done her self a bit more good if she had gone on a diet instead of eating out with Westpac.
    Every time I see her I realise she will soon be costing the health system expenses that should be avoided .

    • Tom Gould 19.1

      Postman, they had both Paula and Gerry at the concert. That catering bill would have fed the average family for weeks, maybe months. I guess with the Westpac cash earnings up by 68 percent to $210m for the half, they can afford to treat these two to an ‘all you can eat’ buffet?

  20. The most disturbing influence in these sorts of transactions is the interpersonal socialising that is done.

    Humans are humans, and we operate at an interpersonal level. Politicians developing ‘relationships’ with people in corporations is far more insidious a form of influence on subsequent decision making than some notional dollar value associated with the socialising. Especially if the interactions are repeated and/or frequent and long-lasting.

    Also, gifts come along with a whole swag of social psychological inferences and deeply rooted norms that influence individuals – whether or not they are aware of those influences. There is so much research on this I don’t know where to start. Being given a gift, some ‘informal help’, being praised by someone, simply being smiled at by someone. All of these kindly dispose us to people in ways that affect our considerations later about issues that might affect that ‘someone’.

    In the US, for some reason, politicians are quite open about how money and gifts provide access to them. They then fight the battle on the claim that, of course, the money/gift hasn’t bought the decision – only ‘access’.

    But ‘access’ allows the kinds of interpersonal influences that matter in decision making. Those interpersonal influences work particularly well when a person is already predisposed to see the ‘someone’ (or their organisation) in a good light. 

    (The interpersonal interactions also occur between journalists and politicians, of course.)

    • McFlock 20.1

      Hell – Bennett got those family skills boxes in the budget based purely on the interpersonal factor, rather than anything so useless as a tender process…

    • PeteG 20.2

      Yep, we live in a complex wee world, don’t we.

      Blogs have obvious merit, but interpersonal interactions are mostly left out of that. That can have benefits and drawbacks – one of which is it can take a lot longer to get an idea of what different posters are really like – if you find out at all. Most do gradually reveal a degree of humanity.

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    Fight! Fight! Fight! Had the assassin’s bullet found its mark and killed Donald Trump, America’s descent into widespread and murderous violence – possibly spiralling-down into civil war – would have been immediate and quite possibly irreparable. The American Republic, upon whose survival liberty and democracy continue to depend, is certainly not ...
    3 days ago
  • 'Corruption First' Strikes Again

    There comes a point in all our lives when we must stop to say, “Enough is enough. We know what’s happening. We are not as stupid or as ignorant as you believe us to be. And making policies that kill or harm our people is not acceptable, Ministers.”Plausible deniability has ...
    Mountain TuiBy Mountain Tui
    3 days ago
  • The Kākā's Chorus for Thursday, July 18

    TL;DR: The top six things I’ve noted around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy today are:The inside stories of KiwiRail’s iRex debacle, Westport’s perma-delayed flood scheme and Christchurch’s post-quake sewer rebuild, which assumed no population growth, show just how deeply sceptical senior officials in Treasury, the Ministry of ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    3 days ago
  • What's that Jack Black?

    Ah-rah, deeSoo-guh-goo-gee-goo-geeGoo-guh fli-goo gee-gooGuh fli-goo, ga-goo-buh-deeOoh, guh-goo-beeOoh-guh-guh-bee-guh-guh-beeFli-goo gee-gooA-fliguh woo-wa mama Lucifer!I’m about ready to move on, how about you?Not from the shooting, that’s bad and we definitely shouldn’t have that. But the rehabilitation of Donald J Trump? The deification of Saint Donald? As the Great Unifier?Gimme a bucket.https://yellowscene.com/2024/04/07/trump-as-jesus/Just to re-iterate, ...
    Nick’s KōreroBy Nick Rockel
    4 days ago
  • June 2024: Earth’s 13th-consecutive warmest month on record

    This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Jeff Masters and Bob Henson June 2024 was Earth’s warmest June since global record-keeping began in 1850 and was the planet’s 13th consecutive warmest month on record, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, or NCEI, reported July 12. As opposed to being focused in ...
    4 days ago
  • Connecting the dots and filling the gaps in our bike network

    This is a guest post by Shaun Baker on the importance of filling the gaps in our cycling networks. It originally appeared on his blog Multimodal Adventures, and is re-posted here with kind permission. In our towns and cities in Aotearoa New Zealand, there are areas in our cycling networks ...
    Greater AucklandBy Guest Post
    4 days ago
  • Webworm Down Under Photos!

    Hi,I wanted to share a few thoughts and photos from the Webworm popup and Tickled screening we held in Auckland, New Zealand last weekend.In short — it was a blast. I mean, I had a blast and I hope any of you that came also had a blast.An old friend ...
    David FarrierBy David Farrier
    4 days ago
  • The Kākā’s Pick 'n' Mix for Thursday, July 18

    TL;DR: My pick of the top six links elsewhere around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy in the last day or so to 6:30 am on Thursday, July 18 are:News: Christchurch's sewer systems block further housing developments RNZ’s Niva ChittockAnalysis: Interislander: Treasury, MoT officials' mistrust of KiwiRail led ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    4 days ago
  • The Kākā’s Journal of Record for Thursday, July 18

    TL;DR: As of 6:00 am on Thursday, July 18, the top six announcements, speeches, reports and research around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy in the last day are:Verbatim: Climate Change Minister Simon Watts held a news conference in Auckland to release the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan, including ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    4 days ago
  • The politics of managed retreat

    Climate change deniers are now challenging the Government over a key climate change adaptation policy. That begs the question of whether New Zealand First will then support Government moves to implement processes to deal with a managed retreat for properties in danger of flooding because of sea level rise and ...
    PolitikBy Richard Harman
    4 days ago
  • Some changes are coming

    Warm welcome again to those who are here. The Mountain Tui substack was officially started on the 2nd of July. I wrote about what led me here on this post. Since then, it’s been a learning to navigate the platform, get to meet those in the community, and basically be ...
    Mountain TuiBy Mountain Tui
    4 days ago
  • About fucking time

    The US Supreme Court has been rogue for years, with openly corrupt judges making the law up as they go to suit themselves, their billionaire buyers, and the Republican Party. But now, in the wake of them granting a licence for tyranny, President Biden is actually going to try and ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    4 days ago
  • Climate Change: False accounting and wishful thinking

    National released their draft 2026-2030 Emissions Reduction Plan today. The plan is required under the Zero Carbon Act, and must set out policies and strategies to meet the relevant emissions budget. Having cancelled all Labour's actually effective climate change policies and crashed the carbon price, National was always going to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    4 days ago
  • The Enemies Of Sunshine And Space.

    Our Houses? The Urban Density debate is a horrible combination of intergenerational avarice and envy, fuelled by the grim certainty that none of the generations coming up after them will ever have it as good as the Boomers. To say that this situation rankles among those born after 1965 is to ...
    4 days ago
  • Still the 5 Eyes Achilles Heel?

    The National Cyber Security Centre (NZSC), a unit in the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) dedicated to cyber-security, has released a Review of its response to the 2021 email hacking of NZ members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC, … Continue reading ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    4 days ago
  • Britain's Devastating Electoral Slip.

    Slip-Sliding Away: Labour may now enjoy a dominant position in Britain’s political landscape, but only by virtue of not being swallowed by it.THE BRITISH LABOUR PARTY’S “landslide victory” is nothing of the sort. As most people understand the term, a landslide election victory is one in which the incumbent government, or ...
    4 days ago
  • Gordon Campbell on why right wingers think all governments (including their own) are incompetent

    Since open denial of climate change is no longer a viable political option, denial now comes in disguise. The release this week of the coalition government’s ‘draft emissions reductions plan” shows that the Luxon government is refusing to see the need to cut emissions at source. Instead, it proposes to ...
    WerewolfBy lyndon
    4 days ago
  • The Kākā's Chorus for Wednesday, July 17

    TL;DR: The top six things I’ve noted around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy this morning are:Chris Penk is set to roll back building standards for insulation that had only just been put in place, and which had been estimated to save 40% from power costs, after builders ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    4 days ago
  • Open Letter to Pharmac

    All this talk of getting oldIt's getting me down, my loveLike a cat in a bag, waiting to drownThis time I'm coming downAnd I hope you're thinking of meAs you lay down on your sideNow the drugs don't workThey just make you worse but I know I'll see your face ...
    Nick’s KōreroBy Nick Rockel
    4 days ago
  • A blanket of misinformation

    Two old sayings have been on my mind lately. The first is: “The pen is mightier than the sword”, describing the power of language and communication to help or to harm. The other, which captures the speed with which falsehoods can become ingrained and hard to undo, is: “A lie can ...
    Greater AucklandBy Connor Sharp
    5 days ago
  • The Kākā’s Pick 'n' Mix for Wednesday, July 17

    TL;DR: My pick of the top six links elsewhere around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy in the last day to 7:00 am on Wednesday, July 17 are:Scoop: Government considers rolling back home insulation standards RNZ’s Eloise GibsonNews: Government plans tree-planting frenzy as report shows NZ no longer ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    5 days ago
  • The Kākā’s Journal of Record for Wednesday, July 17

    TL;DR: As of 6:00 am on Wednesday, July 17 , the top six announcements, speeches, reports and research around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy in the last day were:Simon Watts released the Government’s draft Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP), which included proposed changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    5 days ago
  • “Shhhh” – National's 3 Waters is loaded with higher costs and lays a path to ...

    This is a long, possibly technical, but very, very important read. I encourage you to take the time and spread your awareness.IntroductionIn 2022, then Labour Party Prime Minister Jacinda Adern expended significant political capital to protect New Zealand’s water assets from privatisation. She lost that battle, and Labour and the ...
    Mountain TuiBy Mountain Tui
    5 days ago
  • Plugging a video channel: Dr Gilbz

    Dr. Ella Gilbert is a climate scientist and presenter with a PhD in Antarctic climate change, working at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Her background is in atmospheric sciences and she's especially interested in the physical mechanisms of climate change, clouds, and almost anything polar. She is passionate about communicating climate ...
    5 days ago
  • Some “scrutiny” again

    Back in 2022, in its Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, the government promised to strengthen scrutiny of Official Information Act exemption clauses in legislation. Since then they've run a secret "consultation" on how to do that, with their preferred outcome being that agencies will consult the Ministry of Justice ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    5 days ago
  • Crashing New Zealand's health system is not the way to prosperity, Prime Minister

    Another day, and yet another piece of bad news for New Zealand’s health system. Reports have come out that General Practitioners (GP) may have to close doors, or increase patient fees to survive. The so-called ‘capitation’ funding review, which supports GP practices to survive, is under way, and primary care ...
    Mountain TuiBy Mountain Tui
    5 days ago
  • Closer Than You Think: Ageing Boomers, Laurie & Les, Talk Politics.

    Redefining Our Terms: “When an angry majority is demanding change, defending the status-quo is an extremist position.”“WHAT’S THIS?”, asked Laurie, eyeing suspiciously the two glasses of red wine deposited in front of him.“A nice drop of red. I thought you’d be keen to celebrate the French Far-Right’s victory with the ...
    5 days ago
  • Come on Darleen.

    Good morning all, time for a return to things domestic. After elections in the UK and France, Luxon gatecrashing Nato, and the attempted shooting of Trump, it’s probably about time we re-focus on local politics.Unless of course you’re Christopher Luxon and you’re so exhausted from all your schmoozing in Washington ...
    Nick’s KōreroBy Nick Rockel
    6 days ago
  • How the Northwest was lost and may be won

    This is a guest post by Darren Davis. It originally appeared on his excellent blog, Adventures in Transitland, which we encourage you to check out. It is shared by kind permission. The Northwest has always been Auckland’s public transport Cinderella, rarely invited to the public funding ball. How did ...
    Greater AucklandBy Guest Post
    6 days ago
  • The Kākā's Chorus for Tuesday July 16

    Luxon has told a Financial Times’ correspondent he would openly call out China’s spying in future and does not fear economic retaliation from Aotearoa’s largest trading partner.File Photo: Lynn Grieveson / The KākāTL;DR: The top six things I’ve noted around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy on Tuesday, ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    6 days ago
  • The Kākā’s Pick 'n' Mix for Tuesday, July 16

    TL;DR: My pick of the top six links elsewhere around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy in the last day or so to 6:00 am on Tuesday, July 16 are:PM Christopher Luxon has given a very hawkish interview to the Financial Times-$$$ correspondent in Washington, Demetri Sevastopulu, saying ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    6 days ago
  • The Kākā’s Journal of Record for Tuesday, July 16

    Photo by Ryunosuke Kikuno on UnsplashTL;DR: The top six announcements, speeches, reports and research around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy in the last day to 6:00 am are:BNZ released its Performance of Services Index for June, finding that services sector is at its lowest level of activity ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    6 days ago
  • The second crisis; assumption was the mother

    Late on the night of July 16, 1984, while four National Cabinet Ministers were meeting in the Beehive office of Deputy Prime Minister Jim McLay, plotting the ultimate downfall of outgoing Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon, another crisis was building up in another part of the capital. The United States ...
    PolitikBy Richard Harman
    6 days ago
  • Can we air condition our way out of extreme heat?

    This is a re-post from The Climate Brink by Andrew Dessler Air conditioning was initially a symbol of comfort and wealth, enjoyed by the wealthy in theaters and upscale homes. Over time, as technology advanced and costs decreased, air conditioning became more accessible to the general public. With global warming, though, ...
    6 days ago
  • Review: The Zimiamvian Trilogy, by E.R. Eddison (1935-1958)

    I have reviewed some fairly obscure stuff on this blog. Nineteenth century New Zealand speculative fiction. Forgotten Tolkien adaptations. George MacDonald and William Morris. Last month I took a look at The Worm Ouroboros (1922), by E.R. Eddison, which while not strictly obscure, is also not overly inviting to many ...
    6 days ago
  • Media Link: AVFA on the Trump assassination attempt.

    In this episode of “A View from Afar” Selwyn Manning and I discuss the attempt on Donald Trump’s life and its implications for the US elections. The political darkness grows. ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    6 days ago
  • Law & Order: National Party 1, Police 0, Public -1

    What happened?Media is reporting that police have lost in their pay dispute with the Coalition Government.Some of you might remember that the police rejected Labour’s previous offer in September, 2023, possibly looking forward to be taken care of by the self-touted ‘Party of Law and Order’ - National.If you look ...
    Mountain TuiBy Mountain Tui
    6 days ago
  • Gordon Campbell on the Trump shooting and a potential hike in fees for visiting the doctor

    Having watched Donald Trump systematically exploit social grievances, urge people not to accept his election loss and incite his followers to violent insurrection… it is a bit hard to swallow the media descriptions over the past 24 hours of Trump being a “victim” of violence. More like a case of ...
    WerewolfBy lyndon
    6 days ago
  • The Kākā's Chorus for Monday July 15

    The exploitation of workers on the national fibre broadband rollout highlights once again the dark underbelly of our ‘churn and burn’ economy. Photo: Lynn Grieveson / The KākāTL;DR: The top six things I’ve noted around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy today are:An extraordinary Steve Kilgallon investigation into ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    6 days ago
  • The Kākā’s Pick 'n' Mix for Monday, July 15

    Photo by Jessica Loaiza on UnsplashTL;DR: My pick of the top six links elsewhere around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy in the last three days to 9:00 am on Monday, July 15 are:Investigation: Immigration NZ refused to prosecute an alleged exploiter despite a mountain of evidence - ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    7 days ago
  • City Centre Rebuild: How Soon Is Now?

    Patrick Reynolds is deputy chair of the City Centre Advisory Panel and a director of Greater Auckland There is ongoing angst about construction disruption in the city centre. And fair enough: it’s very tough, CRL and other construction has been going on for a very long time. Like the pandemic, ...
    Greater AucklandBy Patrick Reynolds
    7 days ago
  • Peril, dismay, resolution

    This afternoon we rolled into Budapest to bring to a close our ride across Europe. We did 144 km yesterday, severe heat messages coming in from the weather app as we bounced along unformed Hungarian back roads and a road strip strewn with fallen trees from an overnight tornado. Somewhere ...
    More Than A FeildingBy David Slack
    7 days ago
  • Bullet the Blue Sky

    In the locust windComes a rattle and humJacob wrestled the angelAnd the angel was overcomeYou plant a demon seedYou raise a flower of fireWe see them burnin' crossesSee the flames, higher and higherBullet the blue skyBullet the blue skyThe indelible images, the soundtrack of America. Guns, assassinations, where-were-you-when moments attached ...
    Nick’s KōreroBy Nick Rockel
    7 days ago
  • The Kākā’s Journal of Record for Monday, July 15

    TL;DR: The top six announcements, rulings, reports, surveys, statistics and research around housing, climate and poverty in Aotearoa’s political economy in the three days to 6:00 am on Monday, July 23 are:University of Auckland researcher Ryan Greenaway-McGrevy published an analysis of the impact of Auckland's 2016 zoning reforms.BNZ's latest Performance ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    7 days ago
  • The Kākā’s diary for the week to July 23 and beyond

    TL;DR: The six key events to watch in Aotearoa-NZ’s political economy in the week to July 23 include:PM Christopher Luxon has returned from a trip to the United States and may hold a post-Cabinet news conference at 4:00 pm today.The BusinessNZ-BNZ PSI survey results for June will be released this ...
    The KakaBy Bernard Hickey
    7 days ago
  • Was The Assassination Attempt Fake?

    Hi,It’s in incredible photo, and we’re going to be talking about it for a long time:Trump, triumphantly raising his hand in the air after being shot. Photo credit: Evan VucciYou can watch what happened on YouTube in real time, as a 20-year-old from Pennsylvania lets off a series of gunshots ...
    David FarrierBy David Farrier
    7 days ago
  • 40 years ago, inside the crisis that made modern NZ

    It had rained all day in Auckland, and the Metro Theatre in Mangere was steamed up inside as more and more people arrived to celebrate what had once seemed impossible. Sir Robert Muldoon had lost the 1984 election. “Piggy” Muldoon was no more. Such was the desire to get rid ...
    PolitikBy Richard Harman
    7 days ago
  • 2024 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #28

    A listing of 34 news and opinion articles we found interesting and shared on social media during the past week: Sun, July 7, 2024 thru Sat, July 13, 2024. Story of the week It's still early summer in the Northern Hemisphere. The season comes as our first year of 1.5°C warming ...
    1 week ago
  • Unsurprising, but Trump shooting creates opportunity for a surprising response

    I can’t say I’m shocked. As the US news networks offer rolling coverage dissecting the detail of today’s shooting at a Donald Trump rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, and we hear eye-witnesses trying to make sense of their trauma, the most common word being used is shock. And shocking it is. ...
    PunditBy Tim Watkin
    1 week ago
  • Escalation in the States as Trump is shot and his allies capitalize on the moment

    Snapshot summary of the shooting in the States belowAnd a time to remember what Abraham Lincoln once said of the United States of America:We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We ...
    Mountain TuiBy Mountain Tui
    1 week ago
  • Bernie Sanders: Joe Biden for President

    I will do all that I can to see that President Biden is re-elected. Why? Despite my disagreements with him on particular issues, he has been the most effective president in the modern history of our country and is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump — a demagogue and ...
    Mountain TuiBy Mountain Tui
    1 week ago
  • Questions from God

    Have you invited God into your online life? Do you have answers for his questions? Did I just assume God’s pronouns?Before this goes any further, or gets too blasphemous, a word of explanation. When I say “God”, I don’t meant your god(s), if you have one/them. The God I speak ...
    Nick’s KōreroBy Nick Rockel
    1 week ago
  • The politics of money and influence

    Did you know: Four days ago, the CEO of Warner Bros Discovery (WBD), David Zaslav, opined that he didn’t really care who won the US Presidential election, so long as they were M&A and business friendly. Please share my Substack so I can continue my work. Thank you and happy ...
    Mountain TuiBy Mountain Tui
    1 week ago
  • Auckland & Transport Minister Simeon Brown's insanity

    Excuse me, but I just don’t feel like being polite today. What is going on with Simeon Brown? I mean, really? After spending valuable Ministerial time, focus, and government resources to overturn tailored speed limits in school and high fatality zones that *checks notes* reduces the risk of deaths and ...
    Mountain TuiBy Mountain Tui
    1 week ago

  • Oceans and Fisheries Minister to Solomons

    Oceans and Fisheries Minister Shane Jones is travelling to the Solomon Islands tomorrow for meetings with his counterparts from around the Pacific supporting collective management of the region’s fisheries. The 23rd Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee and the 5th Regional Fisheries Ministers’ Meeting in Honiara from 23 to 26 July ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Government launches Military Style Academy Pilot

    The Government today launched the Military Style Academy Pilot at Te Au rere a te Tonga Youth Justice residence in Palmerston North, an important part of the Government’s plan to crackdown on youth crime and getting youth offenders back on track, Minister for Children, Karen Chhour said today. “On the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Nine priority bridge replacements to get underway

    The Government has welcomed news the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has begun work to replace nine priority bridges across the country to ensure our state highway network remains resilient, reliable, and efficient for road users, Transport Minister Simeon Brown says.“Increasing productivity and economic growth is a key priority for the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Update on global IT outage

    Acting Prime Minister David Seymour has been in contact throughout the evening with senior officials who have coordinated a whole of government response to the global IT outage and can provide an update. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has designated the National Emergency Management Agency as the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New Zealand, Japan renew Pacific partnership

    New Zealand and Japan will continue to step up their shared engagement with the Pacific, Foreign Minister Winston Peters says.    “New Zealand and Japan have a strong, shared interest in a free, open and stable Pacific Islands region,” Mr Peters says.    “We are pleased to be finding more ways ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • New infrastructure energises BOP forestry towns

    New developments in the heart of North Island forestry country will reinvigorate their communities and boost economic development, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones says. Mr Jones visited Kaingaroa and Kawerau in Bay of Plenty today to open a landmark community centre in the former and a new connecting road in ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • 'Pacific Futures'

    President Adeang, fellow Ministers, honourable Diet Member Horii, Ambassadors, distinguished guests.    Minasama, konnichiwa, and good afternoon, everyone.    Distinguished guests, it’s a pleasure to be here with you today to talk about New Zealand’s foreign policy reset, the reasons for it, the values that underpin it, and how it ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Delivering 24 hour pothole repairs

    Kiwis and freight operators will benefit from the Coalition Government delivering on its commitment to introduce targets that will ensure a greater number of potholes on our state highways are identified and fixed within 24 hours, Transport Minister Simeon Brown says.  “Increasing productivity to help rebuild our economy is a key ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Peer Support Specialists rolled out in hospitals

    Five hospitals have been selected to trial a new mental health and addiction peer support service in their emergency departments as part of the Government’s commitment to increase access to mental health and addiction support for New Zealanders, says Mental Health Minister Matt Doocey.  “Peer Support Specialists in EDs will ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Consultation opens for the Emissions Reduction Plan

    The Government’s draft Emissions Reduction Plan shows we can stay within the limits of the first two emissions budgets while growing the economy, Climate Change Minister Simon Watts says. “This draft Emissions Reduction Plan shows that with effective climate change policies we can both grow the economy and deliver our ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Benefit stats highlight need for welfare reset

    The coalition Government is providing extra support for job seekers to ensure as many Kiwis as possible are in work or preparing for work, Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston says. “While today’s quarterly data showing a rise in the number of people on Jobseeker benefits has been long ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • School attendance continues to increase

    Provisional school attendance data for Term 2 2024 released today has shown more students are back in class compared to last year, with 53.1 per cent of students regularly attending, compared with 47 per cent in Term 2 2023, Associate Education Minister David Seymour says. “The Government has prioritised student ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • $22.7m of West Coast resilience projects underway

    Transport Minister Simeon Brown has welcomed news of progress being made by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) on the first of several crucial resilience projects underway on the South Island’s West Coast.“State highways across the West Coast are critical lifelines for communities throughout the region, including for freight and tourism. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Migrant school leavers to get part-time work rights

    The coalition Government is providing migrant school leavers with greater opportunities, by increasing access to part-time work rights for those awaiting the outcome of a family residence application, Immigration Minister Erica Stanford has announced.  “Many young people who are part of a family residence application process are unable to work. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Funding to support use of NZ Sign Language

    Seven projects have received government funding totalling nearly $250,000 to maintain and promote the use of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). Initiatives that received an NZSL Board Community Grants this year include camps that support the use of NZSL through physical and sensory activities, and clubs where Deaf people and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Inflation data shows progress in economic recovery

    Today’s Consumer Price Index data which has inflation at 3.3 per cent for the year to July 2024, shows we are turning our economy around and winning the fight against rampant inflation, Finance Minister Nicola Willis says.  “While today’s data will be welcome news for Kiwis, I know many New ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Experts to advise Minister on Oranga Tamariki

    The Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board has been re-established by the Minister for Children, Karen Chhour. “I look forward to working with the new board to continue to ensure Oranga Tamariki and the care and protection system, are entirely child centric,” Minister Chhour says. “The board will provide independent advice ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Expectations set for improved medicines access

    Associate Health Minister David Seymour says he has set clear expectations for Pharmac around delivering the medicines and medical technology that Kiwis need.  “For many New Zealanders, funding for pharmaceuticals is life or death, or the difference between a life of pain and suffering or living freely. New cancer medicines ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Regional Development Minister to host summits

    Regional Development Minister Shane Jones will hold a series of nationwide summits to discuss regional priorities, aspirations and opportunities, with the first kicking off in Nelson on August 12. The 15 summits will facilitate conversations about progressing regional economic growth and opportunities to drive productivity, prosperity and resilience through the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Government delivers new school for Rolleston

    The Coalition Government is addressing growing demands on Canterbury’s school network, by delivering a new primary school in Rolleston, Education Minister Erica Stanford says. Within Budget 24’s $400 million investment into school property growth, construction will begin on a new primary school (years 1-8) in Selwyn, Canterbury.  Rolleston South Primary ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New speed camera signs to improve safety

    The Government is welcoming the rollout of new speed camera signs for fixed speed cameras to encourage drivers to check their speeds, improving road safety and avoiding costly speeding tickets, Transport Minister Simeon Brown says. “Providing Kiwis with an opportunity to check their speed and slow down in high crash areas ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • NZ, Korea strengthen relationship

    New Zealand and the Republic of Korea continue to strengthen their relationship, Foreign Minister Winston Peters says.   “New Zealand and Korea have a long history – from New Zealand soldiers fighting in the Korean War, through to our strong cooperation today as partners supporting the international rules-based order.    ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Investing for future growth in tourism and hospitality

    The Government is moving forward with recommendations from the Tourism Data Leadership Group, beginning with establishing a Tourism Data Partnership Fund says Tourism and Hospitality Minister Matt Doocey. “The Tourism Data Partnership Fund is funded through the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) and will provide up to $400,000 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • 4000 more job seekers to get case managers

    A new over-the-phone employment case management service will see thousands more job seekers under the age of 25 supported to find work, Social Development and Employment Minister Louise Upston has announced. “MSD case managers provide valuable support to help people into work, but less than a third of those receiving ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • Trade Minister to attend G7 meeting in Italy

    Trade Minister Todd McClay will attend the Group of Seven (G7) Trade Ministers meeting in Reggio Calabria, Italy next week. This is the first time New Zealand has been invited to join the event, which will be attended by some of the world’s largest economies and many of New Zealand’s ...
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