Sunday, December 16, 2007

Merry Christmas to all, and to all.......

Well, not quite a goodnight, but certainly a festive greeting. Mrs Inventory and I climb aboard the big birdie later this week and fly off to distant climes. We will be spending Christmas visiting family in Ethiopia, which is sure to be a most "interesting" experience. It will be a step back in time for us, both figuratively and literally - Ethiopia has a different calendar to ours, and they have just celebrated the Millennium! Mrs Inventory thinks that being seven years younger for a few weeks will be great! On the way home, we stay a few nights in Dubai, so the contrast between destinations will be about as extreme as one could experience. Given that Ethiopia has intermittent dial-up internet (when it works!), no broadband and little to no cellphone coverage, there'll be no updates to Keeping Stock until our return to New Zealand in mid-January. Meantime the pile of must-do's is growing at a faster rate than the time to do them is dropping, so my focus this week will be on paid work.

To all who have visited Keeping Stock this year, my Christmas greetings, and election-year best wishes. I will be back in 2008, and as this forum is as yet unfettered by the about-to-become Electoral Finance Act, you can guarantee that I will speak my mind. Whether you agree with my opinions is academic - and vice versa - but, like Voltaire, I will fight to the death for our right to express them.

And don't forget the REAL reason for the season........

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Day in Welly

There won't be much activity from me today - Mrs Inventory and I are about to head to Wellington for the day to do a bit of business and have a bit of time out, also a pre-Christmas catch up with Inventory Jnr who has stayed on in Wellington at the end of the university year. This time next week, we'll be en route to Africa - more on that later.

And tonight, father and son will be found among the Yellow Fever faithful at the Ring of Fire as the mighty Phoenix look for back-to-back wins. If you don't see me, there's a better than even chance that you will hear me!

Go the 'Nix!!!

Winston - Pay it Back!

The MSM has been full of stories about Winston's "remarkable" decision to may a $158k donation to Starship Hospital in lieu of Parliamentary Services, aka the New Zealand taxpayer. And continuing its trend of opposing the EFB and its supporters, the Herald has devoted its editorial to the former MP for Tauranga this morning. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10482229

Now I know that it's the season of goodwill to all men and all that, but the Herald has put that to one side as they climb into Luigi - here's a snippet:

"So he has given it to the Starship. It is extraordinary that the hospital has accepted the money in these circumstances. It perhaps has not given enough thought to the implications.

It is letting itself be used for a petty political purpose. Mr Peters is using public sympathy for sick children to avoid a payment he believes his party should not have to make. Rather than accept the ruling against him and return the money to the public purse he has put the amount in a place he calculates to be beyond public reproach.

The Starship is being cynically used and must know it. The hospital is part of the public health service. By accepting a donation that properly belongs to the public revenue it is complicit in an act of political manipulation and potentially depriving parts of the health service that may be less well endowed of funds.

If the hospital means to keep this money it is obliged to explain to taxpayers why it believes the NZ First Party was entitled to dispose of the misspent election funds as it wished. This is not a political-legal dispute a public hospital would be wise to enter. The Starship would be well advised to return the cheque or, even better, pay it into the public accounts where it belongs."

But wait, there's more - and Winston won't enjoy the read as he "wakes up and smells the coffee" this morning:

"As for Mr Peters, the public doesn't seem surprised. Stunts of transparent nonsense have long been his preferred mode of operation. Most people have ceased to take him too seriously. He is excused for impish behaviour that would not be accepted from anyone else in public office.

Seldom, though, has he displayed such contempt for public opinion and public finance as he has on this occasion. He freely admitted yesterday that the misuse of party allowances at the 2005 election was an issue "on which the court of public opinion had already made its final ruling".

Since his party could not get a contrary declaration from the courts before the end of next year, he said, it proceeded to raise the amount the Auditor-General ruled that it owed but it was not willing to see the money disappear into the Government coffers.

They are his Government's coffers, though he pretends to be no part of the Government he serves as Minister of Foreign Affairs. That is another of his transparent poses. He accepts a ministerial salary but none of the collective responsibility that should accompany that monthly cheque.

Now he is behaving with supreme irresponsibility for the integrity of public finance. What if all taxpayers were to send their dues instead to their preferred charity?

The Starship has been astonishingly short-sighted to go along with his ruse. It does very well from private donations and cannot need to demean itself for Mr Peters' purpose. It should correct its lapse of judgment without further delay."

There's not much that one can add to that - except to say - PAY IT BACK WINSTON!


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Herald EFB poll

There is an online poll on the Herald website today asking a simple question:

"Do you support the Electoral Finance Bill?"

In light of previous instances of online poll-rigging by the left, here is the present score documented:

Yes - 288 (13%)
No - 1572 (74%)
Don't care - 274 (13%)

Total votes at 8.35am - 2134

Watch this space!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Arrogant Labour Knows Best

The Herald is reporting this morning that Labour, with the support of NZ First is holding on fast to the line that the majority of New Zealanders are "relaxed" about the passage of the Electoral; Finance Bill. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10481830&pnum=0

Once again, the arrogance of Labour is breathtaking, but totally expected. Labour has got what it wanted - de facto state funding - by means of a vicious campaign against a small religious organisation. Labour has gone to extreme lengths to justify the demonisation of the Exclusive Brethren. Labour has blindly followed an idealogical pathway to further entrench its socialist agenda on all New Zealanders. Worst of all, Labour, the Greens, NZ First, United Future and Jim Anderton have pointedly refused to listen to the concerns of "ordinary" New Zealanders because, of course they know better. Roll on November 2008 when the electorate can tell them, collectively and individually, otherwise!

Meantime - add your signature to Joseph Mooney's Save New Zealand Democracy petition to the Governor General:

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-nz-democracy.html

Monday, December 10, 2007

Environment-gate

The New Zealand Herald this morning runs an editorial that lambasts the the government, the State Services Commission and the Ministry itself. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10481340

The editorial commences:

"When a political mini-scandal runs so far out of control that it cannot be given one, easy name the portents are not good for those involved. The affair that began its life as "Setchell-gate" and then morphed repeatedly into "Clare-Curran-gate" and "Erin Leigh-gate" and now "Mallard-gate" is, for the Government, a many-headed hydra that just cannot be put down."

It's certainly been a bad year for the Environment Ministry, and for CEO Hugh Logan who really must be looking at a new career direction for 2008, whether by his own hand or that of Dr Prebble - who should also be dusting off his CV. As for Trevor Mallard - his annus horribilis continues - I almost feel sorry for him - almost! But if you live by the sword, you die by the sword - or by the insult, put-down and bully-boy tactics. I don't believe in karma, but am prepared to make an exception in Mallard's case!

The Herald concludes:

" Mr Mallard refuses, now, to apologise. The logic seems to be that what he said about Ms Leigh was wrong, but how was he to know that. Which is entirely unsatisfactory. The mishandling of these separate-but-connected issues shows that something is very wrong within the ministry and between the ministry and its minister(s). The chief executive cannot remain when his organisation is revealed as having, at its head and perhaps also at its heart, a culture so politicised. It was wrong to hear and act on Mr Parker's recommendation of Clare Curran; to give her the work uncontested; to ignore Ms Leigh's protestations.

It was wrong to discuss Ms Setchell's appointment with Mr Benson-Pope; to effectively sack her; to twice mislead Mr Mallard for answers he gave to the House. And it is wrong for Mr Logan and Mr Mallard to think they can wait out the criticism again, as we await inquiry No 4. The former should resign, the latter ought to apologise. Then begins the job of restoring this ministry to the tasks it should perform impartially and professionally."

This mess, and the EFB debacle are NOT the way that the government wished to enter election year. But to those of us who are unhappy with the government, it's a welcome early gift! Merry Christmas Helen; Happy New Year Trevor!!

PS - heard a great quote from a woman caller on NewstalkZB last night - talking about Michael Cullen she said "I'd rather be a rich prick than a prize prick" - classic!

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Ministry of Media

State-Controlled Broadcasting? In New Zealand? Surely not! Oh yes my friends, read this article from this morning's Herald:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10480871

I don't know about you, but I feel a sense of unease about ANY state intervention in the news media. Especially when the STATE television channel is the only media outlet to be running a story supportive of Trevor Mallard, who JUST HAPPENS to be the Minister of Broadcasting. I hope that National is asking questions as to who leaked confidential information to TVNZ, and whether the Minister's office thought it was a good idea for TVNZ to become a potential joint defendant in Erin Leigh's defamation action.

http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/1318360/1491345

Hat tip: No Minister

Save NZ Democracy II

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-nz-democracy.html

Slow but steady progress with Joseph Mooney's petition to the Governer General, which is now approaching 300 signatures. Given that the Committee stage of the EFB debate was not concluded this week, the third reading will not be until Wednesday at the earliest, so there is plenty of time for this petition to gain momentum, as happened with Blair Mulholland's similar petition over the retrospective validation legislation last year.

I sent a message of support to Joseph Mooney yesterday, and here is his reply:

"Cheers for spreading the word. It is indeed a very long shot but there are various precedents so I figure it is not impossible.

Lieutenant-General (the equivalent of the Governor-General at the state level in Canada) Bowen was faced with a similar situation which caused him to refuse assent to three bills that came before him. And of course the Governor General in Australia dismissed the Whitlam government in 1975, and in 1927 the Governor General of Canada Lord Byng refused a request by the Prime Minister to dissolve parliament. Not exactly analogous situations, but nevertheless indicative that the reserve powers of the GG can be exercised even though they are of a primarily latent nature.

I'm not unrealistic about the chances of the GG actually refusing assent, but all possible democratic avenues to prevent this undemocratic bill becoming a part of our legal structures need to be pursued.


Cheers for your message, Joseph"

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-nz-democracy.html

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Relative Spends



David Farrar has an excellent graphic from a reader, Clive, showing the relativity of the 2005 government advertising blitz, to the limits which will be imposed by the EFB. It's so good, that further commentary for me would be superfluous, but you can follow Kiwiblog's discussion here:

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2007/12/relative_spends.html#comments

Save New Zealand Democracy

Joseph Mooney has started an online petition asking the Governor General to withhold assent of the Electoral Finance Bill. It's a long shot, a very long shot, but it may be our last chance to do something practical to Kill the Bill.
Please, if you are concerned about the Electoral Finance Bill, follow the link, sign the petition, and tell your friends, workmates, everyone. Tell the media about it - I've just e-mailed Newstalk ZB. Let's tell the government just how badly they have misread the mood of New Zealand.

But It IS OK....

The NZ Herald is reporting this morning that Trevor Mallard "is refusing to apologise to a whistleblower who he attacked as incompetent and sad, despite the Environment Ministry yesterday saying her work was "of good quality".. Here's the link:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10480688

John Armstrong climbs into him as well

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/466/story.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10480691

Trevor need's to heed his own government's advice - it IS OK to ask for help, to which I will add, it IS OK to apologise when you make a stuff-up. In fact, and this may surprise the government, people's respect for you actually RISES when you 'fess up and try to put things right - but it would seem that Labour doesn't do humility.

I know this from bitter experience. I've made lots of stuff-ups in 50+ years. I've been through a marriage break-up. I've hurt people and breached trust. I reached a point where I had to be totally honest with myself, with others, and put things right. And along the way, I learnt that I am loved and accepted unconditionally.

So Trevor - apologise to Erin Leigh. People will think far better of you than they do when they read the paper this morning.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

65-56

That's how the voting is going on the Committee stage of the Electoral Finance Bill. Barring a couple of Chris Finlayson's amendments which have been accepted, the voting blocs are:

Pro-EFB

Labour (49), NZ First (7), Greens (6), United Future (2), Progressives (1)

65 votes

Anti-EFB

National (48), Maori Party (4), ACT (2), Gordon Copeland (1), Taito (1)

56 votes

NZ First, the Greens and United Future are in bed with the government. Punish them in 2008!!

Of course, a comment like that will be illegal in 26days time!

Mallard Plucked

Big development in the House this afternoon. Environment Ministry CEO High Logan has released a statement "regretting" that there were implications of incompetence in Erin Leigh's work. The government is standing by the information originally provided to Trevor Mallard by Logan, but this does not look good for Mallard. As I type this, Key is now accusing Helen Clark of having misled the House yesterday with her "mild by his standards" quote.

More on this as it develops.......however, I suspect that the General Debate this afternoon will be particularly acrimonious.

Update - 3.50pm

Here's Logan's statement - hat tip DPF

"I am concerned that written material provided to the Minister in preparation for a question in the House led to a reflection on the work of Ms Erin Leigh in 2005/06 that was not intended by the Ministry.

Ms Leigh, a professional communications consultant, was contracted in 2005 by the Ministry. Her contract was renewed three times. In May 2006 she notified the Ministry that she was ending her contract and ceased work. At the time the Ministry accepted this without seeking any further explanation, and paid all contract fees billed to it.

Ms Leigh had completed a number of projects under the four contracts. Her media work was professional and of good quality, especially work that she did in respect of the Waitaki Water Allocation Board of Inquiry.

The climate change work on which she was engaged, with other Ministry personnel, was not yet concluded and was subsequently completed by others.

Two weeks ago the Ministry was asked to provide the Minister with information on her work and her departure. Under time limitations, a briefing note was prepared from internal records and provided to the Minister.

As Chief Executive, I was responsible for that briefing. I did not take it or intend it to reflect on Ms Leigh’s professional ability or her performance under contract to the Ministry.

The events which have followed show that the note could be, and was, interpreted in this adverse way. In particular, the Minister understood it in that way, with public and personal consequences for Ms Leigh and for the Ministry.

Because these events were connected with an investigation that had already been initiated by the State Services Commissioner, I initially considered that there should not be a separate public response.

I now consider that there should have been a Ministry response and so I am releasing this statement. Because Ms Leigh has not agreed to the public release of the briefing note, the Ministry will not be releasing it with this statement.

Both personally and on behalf of the Ministry I apologise for what has occurred, and I regret the public attention which has been generated.

Hugh LoganChief Executive "

"Mild By His Standards"

So that's it. All coventional standards of behaviour for government members and ministers have gone out the window, and the test will now be for behaviour to be measured against the lowest common denominator - Trevor Mallard's behaviour.

How did this arise? Well, read this exchange from Question Time yesterday:

"Ministers—Confidence
4. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in all her Ministers?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes.
John Key: Does she condone or approve of Trevor Mallard’s savage attack, using parliamentary privilege, on Erin Leigh when she blew the whistle on political interference at the Ministry for the Environment?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My understanding is that the Minister spoke on advice. Having read the Hansard, I consider it rather mild by his standards."


So, Helen Clark considers it perfectly in order for one of her most senior colleagues to make a vicious, and as yet unsubstantiated attack on a public servant, Erin Leigh. Ms Leigh has received no end of support from former workmates. managers, and even Ministers; in contrast, Mallard's allegations remain uncorroborated.

However bad the words by themselves are, add in the video and audio, and the callousness of Helen Clark is there for all to view - this from 3News last night:

http://www.tv3.co.nz/VideoBrowseAll/PoliticsVideo/tabid/370/articleID/40759/cat/67/Default.aspx#video

The "money moment" starts at 1m15s with John Key's question. What made me most angry was the sneering tone of Clark's reply, and the laugh as she delivered the "mild by his standards" slur. Clearly, Clark's "disappointment" with Mallard over the Tau Henare affair was false, and her defence that he was "defending a woman's honour" is shot down by her own words - after all, Mallard's slanderous remarks were directed at a woman.

Clark's behaviour yesterday was a disgrace. Then again, measured against Labour's new standard, I guess it was "mild by her standards".

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Labour Blinks!

The Herald is reporting that Labour tried to extend an olive branch to National today with an 11th hour offer of talks on the EFB. Here's the link:
However, this time round National has quite wisely given Labour a big fat "thanks but no thanks". It would appear that now even Labour can see that they are out on a limb with the EFB, and having made their own bed, now have to sleep in it. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.
Meanwhile, the Committee Stage of the EFB debate is already underway. Labour "heavyweight" - not - Rick Barker led off for the government, and took less than 90 seconds to say "Hollow Men", "Exclusive Brethren" and "rort", all in the same sentence, whilst National's response was, both fittingly and symbolically from John Key. A night of fireworks awaits - stay tuned!

Speak Now......


The NZ Herald again devotes its front page to the Electoral Finance Bill. No commentary from me - the editorial speaks for itself:


"There will be no winners if the Electoral Finance Bill is passed into law this week. The Labour Party will have revised the electoral rules to suit itself, but that will be a pyrrhic victory if it loses the next election, as polls suggest it will. The National Party has promised to repeal the bill as soon as it gets the chance.

Thus our electoral law is reduced to a game of political ping-pong, a game that would not have started had the Government done the right thing from the beginning.

Even its friend the Green Party has been urging it to refer its concerns about election finance to an independent body that could recommend changes to the law if necessary from an impartial position.
But the Government has ploughed ahead, making minimal changes to the bill's clamp on political expression from January 1 until after election day next year, and adding an extraordinary new dimension, making the Electoral Commission the vehicle for disbursements of parties' secret donations. That drastic sudden proposal alone should tell the Government this is not the way to make constitutional change.

Unless the Greens and United Future act on their reservations and withhold support for the bill this week it will pass. And they will be as guilty as Labour and New Zealand First for the offence to free speech.

From next month until a probable November election, any person or group wanting to promote an issue of concern would face a legal and bureaucratic minefield. For the right to spend their money they would need to register as a "third party", file declarations about donors and expenses and keep within a spending limit of $120,000, just 5 per cent of the amount MPs' parties may spend.
The regulations would apply to any material that might encourage people to vote or not vote for "a type of party or a type of candidate" described by reference to views, positions or policies even if the party or candidate is not named.

As revised, the bill seems to catch everything from a billboard to a bull-horn, but the Justice Minister says "common sense" will apply. Whose?

The self-serving electoral fix is being done now in the hope it might be forgotten at an election 11 months hence. Those 11 months will be quieter than they would have been without the electoral finance gag. Labour's union allies will be as constrained as any moneyed group agreeing with National. Public debate will be constrained and our politics poorer.

Money does not win elections unless the message it is financing strikes a popular chord. Labour is legislating in fear of messages it might not like. At the same time, it has given parties in Parliament the right to use public funds for purposes the Auditor-General ruled improper at the last election.

The country should not stand for this. It is not unduly susceptible to paid campaigns. The bill is an insult to our intelligence as well as our rights. Even now, at the 11th hour, it can be stopped and sent to an impartial panel. Let's hope the common sense outside Parliament can prevail."

Coincidence or Conspiracy

The Electoral Finance Bill will be back before the House today for its Committee stage. No doubt, this will be a protracted and acrimonious debate, even though the outcome is already guaranteed, thanks to whatever deals Labour has done with the Greens and NZ First (shame on both parties!).
So, is it smokescreen time? I certainly wouldn't bet against it. And if there IS to be a smokescreen. might this be it?
3News reported last night that yet another colleague of Erin Leigh had come forward and corroborated her version of the events she blew the whistle about two weeks ago. So far, only Trevor Mallard corroborates his own version of the events. However the 3News story has dropped David Parker deeper, with revelations from former Environment Ministry staffer Keith Lyons implicating Parker in much more than just a "suggestion".
The significance of this? OK - here goes Conspiracy Theory #236! Well, the Electoral Finance Bill was read for a first time on Thursday 26 July 2007. But earlier that day, there was a very significant occurence at Question Time - this from Hansard:
"6. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister for the Environment: Did the Chief Executive of the Ministry for the Environment ever ask him for his opinion on the appointment of Madeleine Setchell as the communications manager of the ministry; if so, what did he say?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for the Environment): No; I had one conversation with the chief executive relating to this matter before it was resolved. That conversation happened when he drew me aside in the context of a meeting about other issues and advised me there was an issue he was dealing with involving the partner of a National Party staff member, and that he had formed a preliminary view that there was a conflict of interest and that he was working with the State Services Commission to manage that issue. I noted two things: first, that this was clearly an employment issue and therefore his responsibility alone to manage, and, secondly, that from the point of view of my office I would likely be less free and frank in meetings with such a person. That was a statement of the obvious.
Gerry Brownlee: What miraculous events have occurred overnight for the Minister to have this greater recollection of the meetings held on 29 May that he could not remember yesterday, and has he also perhaps forgotten that he did say to Mr Hugh Logan: “I won’t have that woman in my office.”?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No miraculous events have occurred and I did not make that statement."
This of course, was the moment that left Benson-Pope hung out to dry - sent to the House with instructions from the PM to tell the truth and accept the consequences. I still smell a rat over this - it was too easy for Gerry Brownlee, getting that damning admission on the primary question. Was Brownlee told by someone 9 floors above Bowen Street just what to ask?
The upshot of course was a media feeding frenzy, during which time the EFB was read, passed and sent to the Select Committee. Was it just coincidence for the government, or were other forces at work? And is there to be a Ministerial resignation or two in the wind in the next day or so? Watch this space!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Putting the Duck Before the Beak!


I never thought I'd see the day - a Labour Cabinet Minister in the dock!

(Hat tip - Kiwiblog, and thanks to Kehua for the title)


Update - 3pm

WhaleOil's on the ball - check this out!!


Chris Carter - Minnister of Edukashin

OK - I'm a bit slow off the mark with this one, but it's worthy of mention - better late than never! WhaleOil blogs that he was handed an e-mail from Chris Carter to Simeon Brown, a young Auckland student with concerns about the EFB. Simeon received a first e-mail from Carter last week suggesting he join the Exclusive Brethren! Here's the e-mail in question:


I suspect that Carter will be one very embarrassed Minister today! Not only has he shown himself to be a bigot, intolerant of a particular religious group (a real irony, considering Carter was the first openly gay MP in New Zealand), but as Minister of Education, it is clear that he needs a crash course in grammar, spelling and punctuation! Or is that no longer important with the new curriculum he has just introduced?

Hat tip - WhaleOil

Trouble at t' Mill for Labour

Newstalk ZB is reporting that Russell Fairbrother has beaten off the challenge from Aucklander Stuart Nash for the Labour nomination for Napier. Here's the link:
Now, as I remember it (and the memory does play tricks sometimes), there was a bit of a ruckus recently when it was revealed that none other than Labour deputy Michael (Scrooge) Cullen signed Nash's nomination papers. However the local LEC has given the Labour's Head Office the upraised middle finger, and good on them! I know many people who have been, or are involved with the Labour Party on a local level. They, and not Clark, Cullen et al, are the heart of the Labour Party. And many of them will privately tell you how much they dislike the direction of the current administration. Several I know have told me that they will not vote for Labour next year - a first for each of them. The EFB debate, and the arrogance on the government in ramming it through despite overwhelming opposition is the last straw. At least there is honesty in the Labour Party at a local level.