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Nats try and fail to inoculate Key from Budget mess

Written By: - Date published: 11:10 am, June 10th, 2012 - 64 comments
Categories: education, Hekia parata, john key, national - Tags:

The Prime Minister chairs Cabinet. The Budget is signed off, policy by policy, by Cabinet. Any competent Prime Minister would be intimately familiar with the major policy changes well before they even get to Cabinet.

So, it was very interesting to see Audrey Young’s ‘insider’ piece on the education debacle yesterday. It’s chock full of tidbits that smell like they were supplied by Murray McCully (using the intermediate newsletters from his own electorate was a bit of a giveaway). What’s McCully’s objective going to be in giving inside information to Young for this kind of story? Well, he’s National’s political strategist, and loyal to whoever his current boss is. Clearly, it’s going to be all about inoculating Key.

But, as a bonus, McCully directs the blame to one of his old enemies, and kills one faction’s leadership ambitions.

All the blame is sleeted home to Bill English and Hekia Parata. We learn that English had been pushing for increases to the teacher ratios since 2009 to free up more money for discretionary spending in Vote Education (which may well be true, but isn’t it interesting we’re being told now). We’re told that Parata is English’s protege (and not that she is also tight with the same people who put Key in charge). English, we’re told, didn’t want to drop the policy even to the last.

We also learn that Parata quit National over Brash’s Orewa speech, which frames her as disloyal or not committed enough to the party.

So, that’s the English faction dealt with.

But where’s John Key in this story? Nowhere, McCully would have us believe. We’re given the impression he and other ministers had little notion of the policy before the Budget:

“The only people more surprised at the Budget outcome than the intermediate schools were the Cabinet ministers who had signed off on the policy without realising its effects. It seems they ticked it off at a Cabinet meeting chock-a-block with Budget items and were satisfied by assurances that 90 per cent of schools would barely feel the difference. … Exactly when during the process Parata realised what the huge impact would be on intermediate and middle schools she is not willing to say. But incredibly the Cabinet learned about it only after she had made her pre-Budget announcement in a speech to a business audience in Wellington on May 16.”

In the backwards world that we operate in, a Prime Minister not knowing about the basic effects of a major policy is a good thing because it means he isn’t to blame. All he did, we’re told, is come in on his white charger at the end of the day and kill the policy, once the polls told him he to.

I heard Matthew Hooton running this same spin on RNZ on Friday – ‘it was all Parata and English’s fault, Key saved the day, this was a victory for him’.

I’m sorry, but that’s just not going to wash. Key was defending this policy for two weeks. That doesn’t just go down the memory hole. The damage will be lasting.

And what damage it is: there’s the polling hit, of course, which National can ill-afford with all its support partners walking dead; there’s the loss of a potential leader who was far more electable than alternatives like Judith Collins and Steven Joyce; a policy that was intended to help break the power of the teachers’ unions has only strengthened them; National’s policy momentum is broken; and the Government looks weak – questions are now being asked about why it won’t back down over a similarly unpopular policy – asset sales.

All McCully’s spin can’t stop that sticking to Key.

64 comments on “Nats try and fail to inoculate Key from Budget mess ”

  1. Matthew Hooton 1

    McCully is not National’s political strategist. Steven Joyce is. You are 3 1/2 years out of date.

    • OK so maybe the wrong title.  But was McCully the source of Audrey Young’s story?

      • ghostwhowalksnz 1.1.1

        McCully is way down the pecking order. Audrey wouldnt rely on yesterdays sources. Joyce would be her new parrot.
        The point about cabinet ticking off wholesale changes is both true and misleading. Cabinet committees look after various policy areas and would have covered the education area in more detail.
        Looking at Audreys piece, its not Key they are protecting, hes not interested in detail anyway.
        Its Joyce who would have run the education policy committee of cabinet and didnt ask back for the detailed numbers.
        This then points to Joyce as the source and the one most interested in leadership ambitions. Parata at most would be a 2IC on a good day.
        And wouldnt it be Joyce who would hear about newsletters from Murrays Bay intermediate. Hes in the area

      • Matthew Hooton 1.1.2

        Who knows? McCully always takes a close interest in the schools in his electorate. I wrote about this on Friday in the NBR: http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/parata-fiasco-symptomatic-government-arrogance-120571

    • mike e 1.2

      I thought you were mad hatter

    • maffoo 1.3

      a Turd by any other name still smells like a turd… & yes, Key’s turds stink

  2. Anne 2

    Good try at diverting attention away from National’s unmitigated policy disaster Matthew.

    You wonder how Helen Clark would have handled it. Well, it would never have happened in the first place because she was always on top of her govt’s policy changes.

  3. prism 3

    Alan Pease has done a lot of books on body language which when passed by his judgment can be said to mean anything. I wonder what the hand and body position would reveal about the thoughts of the two pollies, is that Parata? in the illustration for this page.

  4. gobsmacked 4

    there’s the polling hit, of course

    Another hit for National in the 3 News poll tonight. Good.

    But Labour should be doing better. It’s very noticeable that National’s week from hell has come while Parliament is in recess. So who is the effective opposition? The parade of articulate and sympathetic and persuasive teachers (principals, etc) who have been all over the media in recent days – or the ex-teachers like Shearer and Mallard? (who are paid twice as much, by the way).

    The real opposition is outside the House. The official opposition are being led, not leading. Listen and learn, Labour.

  5. Dr Terry 5

    It seems that no Tory can be exonerated, the entire Cabinet is implicated (sleep walking its way through life), but Key most of all, as is proper. Nevertheless, I fear Key idolaters will (yet again) be astoundingly ready to “forgive and forget”. Memories are short, and Key will depend upon that. The Government has never ceased foul-ups since November, and even yet they rate highly. What must it take for people to stop obdurately believing that Key and his lot will “in the end” save the country (and their interests, of course)? We could be in for a long wait yet, I very much regret to say. “Austerity measures” (affecting the poor, and such professions as teaching) will ultimately “save” all the “haves” in society (and their interests). What a bizarre conclusion, not to say potentially disastrous.

    • gobsmacked 5.1

      “The Government has never ceased foul-ups since November, and even yet they rate highly.”

      Because people haven’t heard …

      “What must it take for people to stop obdurately believing that Key and his lot will “in the end” save the country”

      … an alternative.

      • bbfloyd 5.1.1

        I’m starting to wonder if people in nz are living in caves up in the mountains or some equally remote locations….

        Or are we still relying on the news media to inform us regarding the levels of opposition being offered to the asset stripping process……if so, then ignorance is still the biggest stumbling block to proper debate we have….

        the reality is that ALL of the opposition parties are hard at it, demonstrating the stupidity, and shortsightedness of this pseudo governments actions….but if the expectation is that hand picked tory syncophants are ever going to report what is being said, and done by the opposition accurately when their paymasters are in power, then we may as well accept defeat now, because we are helping the tories get away with it….

        it’s tiring, and demoralising to hear people falling so easily into the trap of blaming the labour party for not being able to get a fair hearing from a fourth astate that was bought off decades ago….

        reality check….. the msm will NEVER do any more than spin every utterance by the “enemy” out of recognition…..

        Have we forgotten already why the original “standard” was published in the first place??

        Is it so hard to grasp why it is that we now have such a reprehensible piece of shit standing up and calling himself “leader”??

        If david shearer was leader of a national party opposition, then the herald would be hailing him as the “next messiah”…..

        It can;t possibly be that hard to see through… surely???

        • gobsmacked

          No, it isn’t hard. And maybe you should consider that people are not simply “ignorant”, and that we are not all gullible victims of media manipulation. But thanks for the condescension, anyway.

          Here are some things that Labour – and ONLY Labour – are responsible for. Not the MSM, not right-wing bloggers, not commentators, but the Labour MPs and staffers themselves. They are responsible for …

          … what they write on their own blog.
          … what they say in their own speeches.
          … who they permit – or prevent – from appearing in media interviews
          … what they say in their own press releases
          … what they choose to ask questions about in Parliament
          – and much more.

          Thanks, but I am quite capable of going to the original source. I am quite capable of reading what Labour people say, unfiltered by the MSM. I am quite capable of seeing that the Greens are doing this much better. I am quite capable of listening to a Shearer/Parker interview live (not an edited soundbite), and judging for myself whether they said anything that is worth getting excited about (answer – very rarely, and if you disagree, please provide the evidence).

          So I suggest, BBFloyd, you take up this chronic communications failure with the people responsible. Thanks.

          • bbfloyd

            try not to take things so personally gob….if you read my comment again, you might notice that i havn’t addressed you personally…. you simply highlighted a reality that needs recognising….

            You are missing the point of my comment as well, while gifting the opposition much more power than exists…. labour can’t force tv one, three, prime, and the herald, to name but a few, to publish, or broadcast whatever press releases, speeches etc they wish them to….

            To assume otherwise would be naive…

            • Craig Glen Eden

              While I agree that the media are biased towards National ( just look at how they suck up to Key who is as useless as tits on a bull) I also have to agree that Labour are not helping themselves. Case and point last week Jacinda Ardern on Breakfast agreeing that 1in 5 children failing was not good enough. This 1 in 5 line is total bullshit. One question smashes that whole line and it is this, who makes up the 20% of children. The answer if Ardern had cared to do her home work is ESOL, Special needs and children with learning or cognitive difficulties. Now no teacher however competent is going to get those kids across the line. If teacher incompetence is the problem how have these 20% been unlucky enough to have got all the (bad) teachers through out their whole education. Stupid Labour Mp’s quoting National bullshit lines certainly does not make for a strong or effective opposition and when the Labour Leader quotes Nationals campaign slogan in his speeches what chance has the opposition got of sticking it to this useless Government.

            • Anne

              Agree with bbfloyd.

              Two things have happened recently (one political the other personal) that confirms for me the MSM bias which is what the public relies on for their information.

              1) Two weeks ago, Labour and National held their Northern Regional Conferences in Auckland on the same week-end. TV1 (not sure about TV3) had an extensive item about the Nat. conference on their 6pm news, and I think the NZ Herald had an article on it too. As far as I could tell all the main news outlets ignored the existence of the Labour conference.

              2) Had a long conversation with a typical ‘middle NZ’ couple – both professionals who have done well in their respective occupations. I was aghast at their political ignorance. They live in their own little comfortable bubble…. completely insulated from the reality of the world around them. They think anyone who hasn’t done as well as them have nobody but themselves to blame. They believe everything John Key says, and are convinced that the Labour Party is the party of liars and cheats. They are typical of Middle New Zealand.

              How do you fight such stupid and wilful prejudice?

              • Populuxe1

                And yet the Nazis-in-training on FailOil’s site are saying exactly the same things about MSM’s supposed Left-wing bias. So who is right?
                Probably the National Party conference is a little more newsworthy given that the sad twats are in power and there’s limited time for coverage thanks to the sad murder of TVNZ7 – the only bastion of intelligent broadcasting left.
                Actually I don’t think there is a particular ideological bias, only a tendency to focus on the party in power as they did when Labour ran the show.

                • felix

                  Pretty much.

                  The media don’t represent the left or the right of politics at all, they represent corporate power. Or more accurately they are corporate power.

                  And as long as political actors stay within the paradigm preferred by corporate power, the media reps generally don’t really care what colour your tie is and will cover you as they do any other sports team. Even the Greens get reasonably favourable coverage now that they’ve cleaned up their image and don’t look like they pose a threat to the status quo.

                  Lefties think this represents a right-wing bias because ring-wing philosophy is more closely wedded to corporate culture and interests. Righties think it represents a left-wing bias because they expect their views to dominate entirely in this environment and throw their toys when anyone else gets a look in.

                  The corporates don’t care what you think as long as you don’t rock the boat.

            • jack

              bbfloyd, your point is the most important point in politics. I’m with you. I have seen the MSM do very little to expose the truth of what Key is doing. Don’t forget TV3 borrowed 43 million from Key’s government. Notice the timing, before the elections. When Key was commenting about how the news media was getting in his face, that was a smoke screen..the MSM never asked the hard questions and let Key get off on every count. Key should have been crucified about the Banks saga but he was nevery really interviewed especially when he said he never knew who kim.com was until the day before the raid.. no one said anything!! In Parliament he sits so snug in his seat being protected by Lockwood Smith when the hard questions are asked of him. His other side is starting to come out but it took 4 years.

  6. Johnm 6

    Re Picture at head of post:

    It’s not my Fuhrer’s fault I stuffed up! He’s so wonderful! It wasn’t a Fuhrerbefallen, Really! Oh my God he’s so smooth and rich!

  7. questions are now being asked about why it won’t back down over a similarly unpopular policy – asset sales.

    That’s quite different. The class size policy came out of nowhere.

    The mixed ownership model was signalled almost a year before the election, extensively debated during the election, and National increased their vote with the electorate knowing about their MOM proposals.

    • ianmac 7.1

      Suppose the long lead in means Asset Sales must be OK? Yes?
      They couldn’t back down on Asset Sales because then we would have an early Election. Is everyone ready for that?

      • bbfloyd 7.1.1

        can’t imagine any other administration being as incompetent regarding governance as this one has proved to be…

      • Pete George 7.1.2

        It has looked like some who lost the last election have been angling for another one before it’s due. Not great for democracy.

        If we had an election soon I’d think Greens would be able to make a good job of preparing and campaigning. They only have a list to organise and probably wouldn’t need to change much except line up the next ones in line.

        But I don’t think Labour have done anywhere near enough rebuilding yet, and have been too busy trying to destroy government rather than prepare for being in government.

        So that’s why Greens may be keen for an election as soon as possible.

        • RedLogix

          It has looked like some who lost the last election have been angling for another one before it’s due. Not great for democracy.

          There is no rule in our democracy that says every government must last it’s full three year term.

          • Pete George

            Of course there’s no rule, but it wouldn’t be good for it if a government only lasted six months.

            And even worse if bringing down governments and drastically shortened terms was seen as something to aim for. Or do you think that would be ok?

            • McFlock

              It’s called democracy. The government has to be careful what it makes a confidence issue so that especially idiot or controversial policies don’t bring it down. MPs are encouraged to vote according to their conscience and what they genuinely think their constituents support. And the worst that can happen is that the people are directly asked their opinion slightly more often than otherwise.
              Having so-called “coalition partners” who simply rubber-stamp the dominant party’s policies is just cheap and tacky, and genuinely makes our political system a laughingstock.

              • a) A party with 59 of the 61 seats needed generally should dominate policy decisions, it would not be good for 1-3 seat parties to dominate.

                b) Coalition partners don’t just rubber stamp the dominant party’s policies anyway. Peter Dunne spoke up against the class size debacle and has stated other policy positions contrary to National.

                • McFlock

                  A) So the people who actually voted for a minor party based on its policy should not expect to see and substantive policy even if their party is part of the governing coalition?
                  B) You mean he actually spoke up when a policy was intensely stupid, fiscally bunk, highly inequitable, and actively opposed by a massive chunk of the voting population? Wow. Now there’s just the rest of the moronic, sociopathic crap he rubberstamps.

                  • felix

                    “B) You mean he actually spoke up when a policy was intensely stupid, fiscally bunk, highly inequitable, and actively opposed by a massive chunk of the voting population? “

                    Yes McF, but that didn’t stop him voting for it. ‘Cos he’s sensible.

            • RedLogix

              Not necessarily. But what is sacred about a three year term? Or a four year one… or a twenty year term for that matter? If stability is a good thing why not just have one election every fifty years or so? Why not do away with them altogether? That way we could have all the stability you wanted.

              Now like you I’d personally prefer that most governments saw out their term. It would be good if we kept the bar to early elections fairly high, because if we made it too easy then obviously there would be a real incentive to abuse the process of venal political gain.

              Yes there is an argument for stability, but it is not an absolute one either. In the event that a government turns out to be spectacularly incompetent, corrupt or just plain unpopular there is also a good democratic argument to get rid of them as soon as possible.

              • I agree that full terms should not be absolute and there may be circumstances that justify an early election. We haven’t had many over the decades, fortunately.

                • felix

                  “there may be circumstances that justify an early election”

                  It’s hard to accept that you mean that in anything other than a purely theoretical sense, given your previous statements to the effect that Peter Dunne could theoretically vote against govt legislation with which he strongly disagrees but in reality he never should because to do so might hurt the government.

                  • I didn’t say that. Dunne is committed to voting on C&S (except under extraordinary circumstances) but he can and does speak and vote against government legislation.

                    The MOM votes are going to be interesting. There’s a bit to find out about that still.

                    • felix

                      Your ring-fencing of C&S issues as untouchable is dishonest, as Dunne has publicly spoken out against several including the absurdly backwards class size clusterfuck.

                      If he cares enough to speak out publicly against it, he’s dishonest to vote for this sort of shit.

                      Your usual response to the accusation I’m leveling is that if Dunne were to break the C&S agreement the govt could be disrupted so badly that we might have to resort to a democratic election or something equally as repugnant, but you know what? That just shows how wafer-thin National’s mandate to govern is.

                      So why the fuck are you defending him voting for things he doesn’t even agree with just to support a govt that by your own admission is only hanging on to power by the skin of its teeth?

                      It actually weakens your argument to make such excuses.

                      p.s. I’ve asked you before for examples of govt legislation that Dunne has voted against and I don’t recall you coming up with any.

                • RedLogix

                  Personally I would hope that if National attempt to ram the Asset Sale legislation through the House under Urgency that Peter Dunne would refuse to support it.

                  Dunne has served in our Parliament for a long time now and surely he understands how fundamentally unacceptable such a move would be.

                  • Poission

                    The clock is ticking with banksgate on the horizon,in addition we have the ACC virus simmering for Collins.

                    After seeing 60 minutes on the Pullar problem,we should either see some management changes in ACC due to the failure to pass the sniff test,or some robust questioning in parliament where some suspicions are the libel case is merely a deflection ie poisoning the well,to attain a defensive position.

    • bbfloyd 7.2

      What a load of drivel little pete…. you obviously have one of the new fangled “convenient” memories installed…..because i well remember polls published before the 2011 election that had even a majority of national voters against the asset stripping….

      Do you not possess a shred of moral fibre? Is it that expedient to support the raping of our infrastructure?


      • Pete George 7.2.1

        Shameful….to misrepresent facts as badly as you’ve done?

        • bbfloyd

          at least you’re openly twisted little pete…. you know you’re transferring, yet not a hint of shame…. that makes you a good candidate for money trader, if nothing else…

        • felix

          With which particular facts do you disagree, Pete?

    • tracey 7.3

      yeah but who knew the pm didnt think asset sales wld help the economy!

  8. Carol 8

    TV3 News Poll: Nat 59%: Labour +Greens 61%: MaoriP kingmaker:

    Duncan Garner doing a live online chat about it now:


      • Carol 8.1.1

        Sorry – National 59 seats: Labour + Greens 61 seats.


        It’s most interesting to see how it’s reported, with the long term slide being an after-thought. Translating this polls to seats in parliament is a dodgy exercise. Garner talks up what key/National have to do to turn things around, rather than focus on the rise of the Greens & Labour.

        As some people commented in the online chat, the Maori Party are likely to lose Turia and Sharples for the next election, so their future looks a little bleak.

        Garner reckons Norman is the REAL leader of the Greens …. if that’s so, they’ve definitely lost my vote.

        Cunliffe has registered for the first time as preferred PM, on between 1 & 2 %.

        Around 3% margin of error, also.

        • Pete George

          Sorry – Labour + Greens + Mana + Maori Party = 61 seats

          And that ignores NZ First, who do better in elections than they poll.

          • Carol

            Ah, I think it’s 61 without the Maori Party, but, yes, with 1 Mana seat.

          • Anne

            Lets add to that for total clarity.

            National – 57 plus Act – 1 plus UF-1 = 59 seats.
            Labour – 42 plus Green -18 plus Mana -1 = 61 seats.

            Semantic stuff really for reason Pete G has given.

            The Maori Party was not included in Labour’s total. That was Garner’s point. Based on this poll alone, they would be the king-maker for either side.

            • ScottGN

              Maori Party would only be kingmakers if there was an overhang and 62 seats are required. And there will probably only be an overhang if the Maori Party win their Electorate Seats (which given that Turia and Sharples have indicated they are standing down is not a certainty) and 62+ seats are required otherwise the poll tonight is the first mainstream poll to suggest a Labour/Green Majority Government is possible with 61 seats in a regular 120 seat parliament.

          • mike e

            jeez Pete its 62 seats because Unbridled Followers will join the party that has a majority and get a outside cabinet post.
            Dunnes record would be in tatters if he couldn’t ,As he would loose his 100% record so far.

        • Dv

          Glad it was not %

          • seeker

            Likewise. Nearly had a heart attack when I saw Carol’s first comment on the poll.

  9. Dv 10

    From the nbr
    The Auckland academic still believes that in terms of class sizes, “the bottom line is it hardly makes a difference.”

    Why? Because teachers typically don’t change the way they teach when given smaller classes, Prof Hattie said.

    So the nacts interpret this as ok to increase class sizes.

    The ‘hardly makes a difference is in the range of 18 to 26 i believe.

    Was he ever asked what about a class of 40 , does that make a difference?

    The nacts said they going to improve teacher quaility. There was no real indication of how this would happen. Any way the improvement would take a while. So the sensible approach to make it work would do the training etc first and then intoduce the new ratios.

    It just doesnt make sense.

  10. Maui 11

    I find it interesting that the backdown on teacher sackings came when Key was overseas.

    Is it an indication, perhaps, that his credibility is crumbling within National caucus ?

    Hooton tells us (in, I think, the first post in this thread) that Joyce is the current National party strategist. Joyce is also currently minister for Tertiary Education, and of Economic Development.

    Is there something in this ?

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