If I were National’s campaign strategist

Written By: - Date published: 11:05 am, April 24th, 2008 - 61 comments
Categories: election 2008, national - Tags: ,

National will not win by running on its rightwing principles and policy. For 20 years, New Zealanders have consistently said they do not want to sell public assets, they do not want weaker employment law, they do not want tax cuts at the cost of public service cuts, and they like government assistance like Kiwisaver and Working for Families. This, National has already realised. Given that, the strategy becomes obvious and it is the one that National has run.

Eliminate ‘scary’ perceptions by adopting all the Government’s policies, except those that go to the heart of why National is a party the employment relationship. There’s no point for business having a National Party if they’re going to start standing for better wages and workers’ rights. But adopt everything else. This will mean flip-flops; do them sharply and brazenly. If possible, pretend your new position has always been your position.

Don’t risk scaring away votes with significant differentiating policies. In fact, try to neutralise the question of what you would do with power as a campaign issue altogether. Having Key as leader helps here: he doesn’t have the rightwing record Brash and other senior National MPs have, he comes across like a nice guy, and he genuinely doesn’t care about National’s principles; he cares about winning.

Attack, attack attack. It doesn’t matter what the topic is nor how valid the attack, just make it. Find some good labels: ‘tired’, ‘corrupt’. Focus group and roll out a new attack phrase every few weeks to be repeated at every opportunity by every MP and ally (eg. ‘they’re just making personal attacks while the economy burns’). Keep everyone on message; repeat something enough and repeat it consistently and it becomes accepted fact. Keep the focus on Key, and keep him as the ‘clean man’ (leave the nasty stuff to Power, Ryall, the Smiths, and English). Don’t have Key speak in public too often: the more he speaks the more likely he is to say something seriously off message that will be costly.

The downside of this is, once elected, National will not have a public mandate to do anything. But that’s OK. The priority now is stop the creep to the left. Play it cool. Win this election and wait for the second term to starting moving right.

Your opponents have nine years of baggage and a bored media against them. This should be easy. Play it cool, don’t scare the horses, keep on smiling, and it’s in the bag.

61 comments on “If I were National’s campaign strategist”

  1. If I was the Nat’s campaign strategist I’d use an intermediary such as DPF to line up collusive campaigns with wealthy Christian backers. I wouldn’t want to get caught doing it though…

    http://newzblog.wordpress.com/2008/04/24/dpf-national-and-the-christian-right/

    Sorry for the link-whoring guys.

  2. Steve Pierson 2

    Yeah. We’re not kiwiblogblog, so we don’t talk about Farrar much, but I wouldn’t be leaving all my parallel campaigning up to Farrar if I were them. His reverse midas touch is legendary.

  3. Macky 3

    I hear around the place that there have been some pretty unpleasent caucus sessions recently for the nats. I don’t know the specifics of the arguments but its got to be about whether they stnad on any principles or do whatever it takes to win

    Key would be advocating whatever it takes I’m sure but a lot of MPs come from more right- wing positions than he does and they’ll be asking what the point of being government is if they’re just going to be labour/

  4. Billy 4

    They are sort of in the position that New Labour in the UK was in before the 1996 election. The government is so unpopular, anything you say can only hurt your chances. Shut up and you’ll win.

    For this reason, contrary to what they’ve promised, I think the Nats will see if they can get away with releasing no policy at all right up to the election.

    Everyone on the other side of the spectrum to the government is already going to vote for you, so you have to move closer to the government’s position on the spectrum to pick up everyone else.

    I hate it. They believe in nothing and nothing will have been gained by voting out Labour, except that one might expect less apetite for the silly social stuff (God I miss not being able to smoke in the pub).

  5. Tane 5

    (God I miss not being able to smoke in the pub)

    Amen to that Billy. I found one local that let me smoke in the pub on quiet weeknights but they changed ownership and went upmarket, damn them.

  6. mike 6

    “(God I miss not being able to smoke in the pub)”

    and we all remember what it was like to enjoy some Pinapple Lumps with the kids… http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10505902

  7. Tane 7

    Mike, if Pineapple Lumps are ever banned in this country I’ll buy you that one-way ticket to Australia you’ve been after for so long.

  8. Joker 8

    Steve, Your posts are starting to really show that you are becoming consumed with your ideology.

    You write like a man who truly believes that the National Party is full of sinister Shylock-esque characters. If this is really what you think then you have lost touch with reality.

    Some Nats may have nasty streaks (granted) but really they are a bunch of people who differ in thinking to you in some areas on how to make New Zealanders happier and wealthier.

    I dont want to sound like a dick but it may be a good idea for you to take some time out from thinking so obsesively about this stuff and perhaps get a girl/boyfriend to pursue other interests with.

    Captcha: Grams line – sounds like the recipe for a good night out

  9. mike 9

    “Mike, if Pineapple Lumps are ever banned in this country I’ll buy you that one-way ticket to Australia you’ve been after for so long.”

    No thanks Tane – I like it here and it looks like its going to get even better come Nov.
    Like JK said ” This is a great country – if it was a company I’d buy it and replace the management”

  10. Steve Pierson 10

    joker.

    Which part of my argument are you criticising? the ‘nasty stuff’ line? it’s not saying they’re nasty people, it’s saying what should be obvious – their job is to do the nasty attacks while Key stays clean – Labour employs much the same strategy with Clark above the fray while Goff, Mallard, and Cullen get into it.

    I don’t think they’re full of sinister shylock-esque characters. I think they represent a base within society, business and wealth, and want to see that base in power. To do that they have to adopt certain strategies. It’s just a fact of life. Do I agree with their ideology? No. Do I understand why, given their ideology, they campaign as they do? Yes.

    oh and thanks for the advice, I’m always trying to get my partner to pursue other interests with me more often.

  11. Tane 11

    Like JK said ‘ This is a great country – if it was a company I’d buy it and replace the management’

    I guess that means his “New Zealand Sucks” campaign is an attempt to damage the company’s share price and make it an easier target for takeover?

  12. outofbed 12

    If I was the Nat’s campaign strategist I’d take the Greens down any possible way I could
    They are the people who stand in the way, being in opposition or being government
    Green under 5% Nats in
    Greens Over 5% Nats out

  13. outofbed 13

    although probably not a good idea to use the EB this time!

  14. Steve Pierson 14

    outofbed. I think you’re right. In fact I think it’s in National’s interest for both the Greens and New Zealand First not to get back in. However, it’s not easily done – how does a major party reduce the vote of a minor party on the opposite side of the spectrum that has a very solid base?

    It’s one of the lesser issues that I couldn’t really get into in a post that’s meant to be under 300 words.

  15. Joker 15

    Apologies Steve. Looking back on my post I was being nobbishly condescending.

    It is when you say things like:

    “There’s no point for business having a National Party if they’re going to start standing for better wages and workers’ rights”.

    that I think you are off the mark.

  16. Susan 16

    Inspiring speeches might help.

    “We must move forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling twirling twirling towards freedom”

  17. outofbed 17

    Well they get someone like N smith to front Green initiatives to drag the 2-3000 vote that would get the Greens under the 5%
    And then (as rumour has it) you quickly replace Mr Smith as the Environment Minister post Election as he is too Green

  18. Phil 18

    I used that one earlier in the week Susan…

    Flip-flopping at warp speed

  19. Joker, Steve in fact writes almost the same as one of Helen’s press jockey’s which begs he question as to why she didn’t just get him to write her answers…he will anyway, well He’ll try dome lines here first to see if they resonate then feed them into the focus groups and voila! Clark has a position.

    If I was Labour’s campaign strategist I would counsel to drop the smears and attacks, no one is listening and the opposite effect of what was intended is happening, but as it their only strategy is it any wonder it has been suggested here by a ninth floor staffer?

    [bro, you ran a sycophantic interview with a guy whose ‘most explosive political biography in New Zealand history’ has been greeted with universal yawns. The leaders of the political parties, including the PM, have agreed to be interviewed by us using the questions our readers (you know what they are, eh?) submit. Says something where you stand in the scale of things. And no, I’m not a media person for any party or organisation. SP]

  20. Hey Cameron – I understand the auditors investigation (which cited amongst other things sloppy and incomplete paperwork) into your failed business venture was never followed up. Is that because you settled after the liquidation?

    I also noticed you’ve not had a lot to say about absolute power – wasn’t it supposed to bring the government to its knees?

    Here’s some advice dumbass – go back to your little filthpit and don’t bother coming around here or anywhere else accusing them of smears until you act like a real man and apologise for yours. Moron.

    [play nice. it’s ok to criticise someone when they’re being hypcritical but the ‘moron’ comment isn’t needed. SP]

  21. Oh Michael sweetie, be very, very careful about what you say, very careful.

  22. James Kearney 23

    Steve in fact writes almost the same as one of Helen’s press jockey’s which begs he question as to why she didn’t just get him to write her answers

    Doesn’t that suggest that Steve isn’t in fact one of Helen’s press jockey’s?

    he will anyway, well He’ll try dome lines here first…

    If that’s the case why wouldn’t he have written them earlier? You inhabit a strange universe Whale. Back to your pornography son…

  23. James Kearney 24

    Oh Michael sweetie, be very, very careful about what you say, very careful.

    Busted Whale. Corrupt failed businessman. How does it feel?

  24. Ha! Or what? You’ll threaten to sue me and then back down? Oh no wait a minute you’ll get your mate eddie to stalk me! I’ve got a better idea Cameron. Why don’t you HTFU or STFU. You’re a pussy and a bully Cam but I’m a bigger bully than you’ll ever be.

    Oh and Cam? You’ve still not answered my question – did you settle?

    [Sod, settle down. You’re only encouraging Cameron’s trolling and ruining the thread for everyone else.]

  25. gobsmacked 26

    (ignoring the usual mudfight, and on topic …)

    Billy said: “They are sort of in the position that New Labour in the UK was in before the 1997 election.”

    I agree, but with one crucial difference. UK Labour had been shattered by the unexpected defeat in the previous election (after the Tories had dumped Thatcher they recovered enough for Major to scrape back in). As a result, Blair (and his predecessor John Smith) were able to make changes to party structure and personnel. After 4 defeats in a row, the Labour party was ready for internal change. And the MPs elected in 1997 were more “moderate” than in the 1980’s. In short, New Labour really WAS new (for better or worse, but that’s another story).

    There is no New National. The party hasn’t changed at all. The candidates are no different from before, and depending on the party list rankings, the 2008 caucus could actually be moving to the right. They certainly aren’t choosing liberals or centrists in the electorates.

    So National are doing fine in the polls as an opposition party. But how are they going to govern, when the leader is forcing the caucus to do so much they don’t want?

    I don’t think their strategy is smart at all. It is a sure-fire recipe for internal conflict, and one term. This idea that National can win power first, and persuade the public later, is FPP nonsense. They are never going to be more popular than they are now. “Clark and Cullen Out” is not much use as a rallying cry once they’ve gone. Do National seriously believe they will get more votes once they start breaking promises?

    If you can’t argue for what you believe when you’re well ahead in the polls, when can you?

  26. mike 27

    “Do National seriously believe they will get more votes once they start breaking promises?”
    Lets see – broken promises: Chewing gum tax, OECD rating, 5% of taxpayer paying envy tax, shorter waiting lists…..

  27. gobsmacked 28

    Mike – resulting in more votes?

  28. mike 29

    gb: I’m sure National will get more voters once people see that if they work harder they can ahead instead of being ass-raped by the good Dr whenever they try to earn a little extra.

  29. gobsmacked 30

    Oh dear.

    Mike, my post is for those interested in the OP, some analysis of strategy, regardless of who we vote for. Steve P makes the case for the current strategy, I’ve made an argument against. It’s for the grown-ups to discuss.

    If you have something to contribute beyond a fixation with your nether regions, please do.

  30. mike – you mean the Hon. Dr. Lockwood Smith?

  31. j 32

    Rodinsod
    Doing defamation in law school at the moment. Just out of interest can you actually prove the whaleoil is a corrupt businessman? I’m just trying to work out your hypothetical defence should it go to court. Usually you’d have issues with identification but I think you done that.

    As far as I know no one in NZ has been sued for blog comments so it could be groundbreaking stuff.

  32. mike 33

    Very patronising gb, we you make stupid statements like “They are never going to be more popular than they are now” my response about tax relief is on topic

  33. Steve Pierson 34

    j. he might argue truth, or honest opinion. or he could argue that there is no defamation as the comment wouldn’t tend to lower public opinion of whaleoil – on either the grounds that no-one believes a word of what robinsod says or whaleoil’s reputation is already lower than a snake’s belly. And, anyway, it’s like I always say: never sue in defamation unless it’s really really justified. it’s not worth having the smear repeated and dissected repeatedly in public.

    Seriously, folks, let’s have a little less of the personal stuff and a little less of the empty threats of legal action, you’re getting the second year law students worked up.

  34. j – If you bothered to read my comment you’ll see that I simply asked a question based on the facts available from a public legal document. I would suggest that you either study a bit harder or consider changing courses.

    Oh and j? if you really are keen on becoming a lawyer you should work on your writing – “but I think you done that.” is nonsensical.

  35. no-one believes a word of what robinsod says

    Steve – I am more than happy to publish the auditor’s report and provide a link if you have concerns about the veracity of my information.

    [just winding you up, old boy. loved the book review, btw. as for the auditor’s report, I don’t think it’s something the standard would be interested getting into but if you want to post it somewhere and put a link in a comment, hey it’s a free internet. SP]

  36. Matthew Pilott 37

    Did everyone else know that mike’s idea of an ass-raping is for someone earning $100,000 to be paying $2,400 tax more than someone on $60,000. You’re like a child, crying because it’s past your bedtime and you don’t wannagotobed!

    If that’s stopping you from ‘getting ahead’, mike, then I suggest you have very little talent for getting ahead as it is.

    Steve Pierson, I can’t disagree with one of your points more.

    The downside of this is, once elected, National will not have a public mandate to do anything.

    If they are voted in without laying a platform apart from that of Obamaesque ‘change’, then they’ll have a mandate to do anything and everything. I hope the swinging public and those weaker (i.e. not too dedicated) NP voters, and the opposition (us!), can hold them to account; to release some policy prior to the election – otherwise they could do pretty much anything.

    That worries me a whole lot.

  37. r0b 38

    In haste, in transit, on dialup (argh!). But surprised to see no mention of the Maori party.

    IIWNCS I would be jettisoning my Orewa baggage fast, making friends with the MP, keeping quiet about Maori seats, and working out how to give the MP what it wanted re the foreshore wihout startling “mainstream New Zealand”.

    Otherwise I think Steve pretty much nailed it. Head down, no policy, sleepwalk to victory.

  38. outofbed 39

    I actually don’t think they are sleep walking to victory ,After Labour keeps gifting them opportunities to be attacked The Nats are only ,what 3 or a charitable 5% ahead of a left centre coalition.
    We know this gap will close in the election campaign as it always does.

    The National party in the form we know it is never to going to gain power It might after the defeat in the next election split into two and the center leaning part may form a coalition with someone in 2011
    But this election Not a fucking chance

  39. Steve, Ii think you have summed up the best possible strategy National could use. It’s a no brainer really and it appears that they are going to follow this strategy all the way to the wire.
    Of course your comment about them having no public mandate to do anything is true as well. Luckily for National the public have become accustomed to fundamental changes once a party has attained the treasury benches.
    Labour have done a tip top job in ramming through changes that were hitherto unannounced prior to winning so i don’t see any significant problems with national promising one thing and then changing it all after they get in.
    it’s what we expect from our politicians.

  40. Steve Pierson 41

    ouofbed. I agree. I don’t think they’ll win. Hell, I wouldn’t bother exposing them if I thought it was pointless. I just think this is their optimal strategy to win, and the strategy they’ve adopted.

    r0b – yeah, no mention of the minor parties – have to keep the post short. and minor parties don’t really feature in their strategy – you see Key constantly referring to getting over 50% alone. Minor parties will be the backup plan and I guess they’ll wing it. ACT and United Future will be first choices. NZF or Maori Party would be next.

  41. j 42

    I was going for truth and honest opinion as well.

    But I don’t think Robinsod has a chance with honest opinion as he is representing opinion as fact which is a big no no.

    He could also be sued by the auditors as well as he calls their work sloppy and incomplete which has the inference of incompetence, unprofessionalism and failure to discharge their statutory duty.

    Truth would be a bitch too because Robinsod would have to prove the imputation that whaleoil bribed the auditors to look the other way and not investigate the liquidation due to Robinsod’s claims of questionable paperwork.

    [i think he’s saying the auditors’ report finds whaleoil’s paperwork was sloppy and incomplete. Always liked honest opinion myself, so easy to frame a statement as opinion implicitly or explicitly, rather than fact. SP]

  42. mike 43

    “We know this gap will close in the election campaign as it always does.”

    The gap will widen this year as people really start to struggle with record living costs and flagging economy.

    Labour could not have aworse run into election year – their personal attack politics is backfiring and there will be worse to come with the EFA/ antismacking ref etc.

    Great to see you guys pumping each other up in the face of defeat though – if nothing else you pinko’s are resiliant.

  43. randal 44

    I think J might actually be dave re-incarnated. just as well he is a second year law student as he cant be prosecuted yet for claiming he has a degree to which he is not entitled….tee heee…I’m a linguist but only an amachewer

  44. j 45

    Um no I’m not dave.

    Considering there are about over 1000 odd law student at any one time in NZ it is not impossible that there is more than one posting here.

    In a way I’m torn as part of me wants see Robinsod sued mostly because it would be a fascinating and precedent setting case but also because he’s slightly creepy. But, on the other hand I wouldn’t want our freedom of speech to be encroached upon.

  45. Absolute Power 46

    I agree j freedom of speech is vital in a moral democracy.

  46. outofbed 47

    “Great to see you guys pumping each other up in the face of defeat though – if nothing else you pinko’s are resiliant”

    Look at this Mike

    http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0804/3poll200408.pdf
    The undecideded vote % is closely linked to the LAb %

    It is ( the undecided) just not going to go to the Tories
    There is one thing registering your discomfort with Lab to a pollster it is quite another to actually put your tick in a National Party box

    It is highly unlikely that The Nats will form the GOV in 2008

    The fact is that most of the media do not seem understand MMP or maybe they just want to mislead, I don’t know.
    It is very close at the moment but
    I wouldn’t be panicking just yetl if i were a Lab supporter

  47. Adolf Fiinkensein 48

    Don’t worry your little head Steve. You’ll never be National’s campaign strategist.

    Just worry about how you’re going to find jobs for all your unemployable erstwhile Labour seat warmers.

  48. DS 49

    “I wouldn’t be panicking just yetl if i were a Lab supporter”

    Agreed. Worried, yes. Panicked, no.

  49. j 50

    “It is highly unlikely that The Nats will form the GOV in 2008

    The fact is that most of the media do not seem understand MMP or maybe they just want to mislead, I don’t know.”

    Yeah bro, thats it
    people who spend their professional lives analysing and writing about politics haven’t got a fcuking clue about the subject.

    or could it be that you’re in deep denial.

  50. Nah, they’re amateurs. A bit like you j.

    Adolf – why should anyone take you seriously when you name yourself after Hitler. That’s just stupid.

  51. AncientGeek 52

    j: Depends which ones you read. My advice is to look at the ones who have been looking at at least a minimum of say about 6 elections. Then they have a bit of perspective.

    Even amongst those you need to avoid the more excitable ones who tend to move with the winds. For instance Chris Trotter who seems to flip-flop almost as fast as Key does.

    I’d watch the old fogy political commentators. They’ve seen it all before. So far they’re not calling any kind of a landslide, because that is hellishly hard under MMP. It is going to be a very hard fought election because the polls are getting the opinions of the accessible.

    At this point I think it is all going to come down to an ability to form minority coalitions. That is not known to be a significant skill amongst the Nat’s. It involves listening, negotiating with, and actually working with coalition partners. It is bloody hard to charm your way to a MMP coalition.

    I’m looking forward to the rather amusing bursts of outrage again from the rabid right with their perennial cries of ‘stolen’ elections. The reality is that the Nat’s still seem to be living in the past and operating as if it was still FPP. But of course that is the fate of most conservatives (with a small ‘c’)

  52. j 53

    “Nah, they’re amateurs. A bit like you j.”

    Very touchy. I guess if they were slanting the coverage to labour then they would be propagand… um… professionals.

    I actually respect trotter and he seems very willing hold fast to his principles as speak out even if they are unpalatable and inconcenient to labour supporters at certain times.

    Some people here tend to get mixed up between loyalty to party and to leader. It’s certainly important to know the difference.

  53. j – no. The bulk of them are amateurs. I watch them making the most uninformed remarks every day. Just as I watch blog commenters and posters do the same.

    Hmm captcha is “him Melville” I wonder who here is Ahab?

  54. Billy 55

    Surely there’s a white whale joke in there somewhere.

  55. Absolute Power 56

    Billy, I think the joke is the most unfortunate Robinsod, who thinks his opinion of bloggers is relevant to circustances in the big wide world of blogosphere. In my humble but equally relevant opinion I think the poor robinsod chap is suffering from a delusional syndrome.

  56. Ted 57

    The poppy on the banner is a nice touch.

  57. outofbed 58

    J , I am most certainly not in deep denial

    I know that J Key will have to operate a gaff free environment closer to the election
    I know by observation that J Key is not up to that job
    I therefore know that The Nats wil not get as many votes as the polls at this stage suggest
    I know that the”don’t knows are close tied to the Lab %(see above http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=1772#comment-30805)
    I know the National Party are going to have the biggest percentage of party votes
    I know that the MP is most unlikely to support the Nats
    I know the Greens are most unlikely to support the Nats
    I know therefore the Nats coalition options are limited

    So I can make a pretty fair guess that the NAts are not going to have the numbers to Govern

    With respect I don’t think it is I, that is in denial

  58. j 59

    I think you left some parties out or are the limits to how much you know.

  59. lprent 60

    Ted: “The poppy on the banner is a nice touch.”

    More out of guilt than anything else. I woke up this morning to a dawn service on the radio, and realised I’d forgotten my resolution from last year to attend.

    The old soldiers in my family are dying out, and the younger soldiers like my sister-in-law (Bosnia) are too busy raising kids. But the rememberance of the cost and sacrifices of war needs to be kept up.

    Beside I have remote cousins serving offshore at present.

    So I crawled out of bed and did some minor artwork. A small contribution, but better than nothing.

  60. Oh it’s good to be back online. Dial up is just diabolical.

    I wonder, with the house market diminishing, food prices going up because of hedge funds speculating amongst others and hundreds of thousands of NZers having lost their money because of the finance companies collapsing due to the sub prime crisis, John Key buying a luxury mansion in a luxury resort in Hawaii were in the poorer areas people are starving because of artificially inflated food prices would be a somewhat misguided political move, wouldn’t it?
    It’s a bit like giving NZers suffering the consequences of the international finance markets speculative moves (Yes, I mean those of his bankers cronies higherstandard) the finger, isn’t it?

    It also makes perfectly clear what he will do after his “political career”; Enjoy the company of other “rich pricks” in paradise while it’s people are starving as the result of their policies.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,549187,00.html

    I wonder where John Key diversified his money into after he came back from Merrill Lynch, as he said he had in a recent interview, he’s not stupid and he has mates who tell him were the next bubble is going to be. Perhaps a good question to add to my already long list of questions. Or perhaps to ask him as part of the Standards questionnaire.

    captcha: allegedly Smith, sounds like good blog name to me.

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