Saturday, May 31, 2008

S14 final a rip-snorter

It was billed as the Final Crusade - especially for Robbie Deans - and the Crusaders gave him a fantastic send-off tonight winning 20-12. A dominant first-half despite conceding two tries and trailing at halftime, and a heroic defensive effort in the second half set the Crusaders up for their victory. In a match that lived up to its billing, the Waratahs put up a brave effort, but the Crusaders were just too good. Keeping the Waratahs from scoring while Brad Thorn was in the sin-bin gave the Crusaders a crucial pyschological advantage. A HUGE game from Richie McCaw, and Kieran Reid has surely played his way into the All Black #6 jersey.

Well done Crusaders. Mrs Inventory is a Canterbury lass, so she's rubbing it in!! And God-speed Robbie Deans - you WILL be missed!

The Hollow Leftists strike again

Colin Espiner breaks the story this morning of Labour's secret plan in the run-up to the 1990 election to destroy the reputation of Winston Peters. Read this:

"Labour feared Winston Peters and Ruth Richardson would lead the National Party and tried to destroy the man now helping prop to up the Government, secret papers reveal.
A document headed Interim Report to Cabinet on anti-National Strategy shows the lengths to which the fourth Labour government went to cling to power before its rout at the 1990 election.
According to the confidential document, one of the main aims of its strategy was to "render a Peters-Richardson combination impossible" and to "destroy Peters".
The paper went through the opposition front bench, targeting MPs and assigning "targets" to Cabinet ministers.
It suggested creating a series of "incidents" in government to exacerbate National's problems, focusing on Mr Peters, Ms Richardson and Opposition leader Jim Bolger.
Such tactics are common among political parties but it is rare for them to be committed to paper.
Nicky Hager's book The Hollow Men last year revealed similar strategies were employed by National during the 2005 campaign.

Oh dear! That reference to The Hollow Men will not make the Labour Party happy - so much for having been able to take the moral high ground! But Espiner continues:

"Among the targets was Mr Bolger, who was to be described as "lame duck", "weak, boring, timid, gutless" and "not up to being PM".
The strategies included ignoring Mr McKinnon ("Don Who?"), discrediting Miss Richardson ("inconsistent, expedient") and dismissing Mr Peters as "arrogant, flashy, superficial, lacking in substance".
The paper said Mr Peters had "third party appeal, now fading fast - shrill"

Well, they got that bit wrong eh - Winston is still here - 'til this election only hopefully.

Anyway, the reminder of 1990 is telling. So it's timely to resurrect this post, from early in February. It's just to remind readers that Labour's current "tight five" of Clark, Cullen, Goff, King and Mallard were all at the heart of the Lange/Palmer/Moore Labour government. So let's not ignore the likelihood that the Hollow Men and Women will indeed, like lightning, strike twice!!!

O'Sullivan on apologies

Fran O'Sullivan, that notorious "right-wing blogger" (Quote: Helen Clark, 2006) devotes her opinion-piece in this morning's Herald to the government's apology to Vietnam veterans.

Keeping Stock has already posted our opinion that Helen Clark did not go far enough in her apology to the troops. We concur with other commentators who agree that Helen Clark should not have used her speech to distance the government and the anti-war protest movement from fallout. We agree with other commentators who have criticised Clark for her pointed failure to use the word "sorry" at any point in her apology. We join those commentators who have applauded John Key for putting that part right in his speech in reply. We also agree wholeheartedly with Fran O'Sullivan when she states:

"If any politician was in a position to deliver a compelling and eloquent personal apology to the Vietnam soldiers it is our Prime Minister.

But instead of drawing on her own rich insights into why this group of New Zealand soldiers was so shamefully treated and for so long, Helen Clark delivered the bland words of a Crown statement."

As we opined at The Hive, the words of Sir Elton John seem to describe Helen Clark's attitide towards past wrongs:

"Always seems to me, sorry seems to be the hardest word"

New Parole stuff-up

The Herald reports this morning on other case involving a paroled sex offender allegedly reoffending.

One of New Zealand's worst sex offenders has been charged with indecently assaulting a 95-year-old woman - months after the Parole Board rejected calls to put him back behind bars, saying he posed no risk to the community.

The man, who is in his 60s, has spent more than half his life in prison after a series of attacks on young girls.

He was released more than 20 years ago, but re-offended within days.

Two years ago, he was released again, to live in a house near a school and a resthome.

Late last year, police and the Corrections Department appealed to have him recalled, fearing he would strike again. They said the man had been seen watching children as they walked to and from school.

But the Parole Board refused to recall him saying his case was considered a "highly successful release."

Now, six months later, police say the man sneaked into the Auckland resthome - which backs on to his house - and indecently assaulted an elderly woman.

It is understood the alleged offending took place less than a month after the man's 24-hour supervision - a condition of his parole - stopped without the board's knowledge."

What gives most cause for concern here is the allegation that the Police and the Corrections Dept tried to have this sicko recalled to prison. That is not a step that either would take lightly, so one wonders what justification the Parole Board gave for declining their request. Doubtless Phil Goff will face questions over this when the House resumes in a fortnight - the last thing Labour needed was this kind of mess dumped in its lap!

Meanwhile, a 95 year-old woman has been violated in circumstances which could well have been avoided, and the country is right to be outraged.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Friday Forum - 30/5/08

It's Friday again! And it's the Friday before the last holiday weekend for five months, as the radio rather unkindly reminded me this morning. So, welcome to the Friday Forum, come on in and unburden your frustrations, have a rant, or tell us a yarn - the floor is yours!

Comparisons with 1999

The Herald has a very interesting editorial this morning about the furore over the Housing New Zealand conference at Tongariro Lodge, drawing comparisons with the death-throes of the Shipley government in 1999. Here 'tis:

It begins thus:

"Housing New Zealand's expenditure of $65,000 on a two-day staff conference this month at the luxury Tongariro Lodge drew immediate comparisons with a Winz retreat at an exclusive Taupo resort in 1999. The National Party, which endured criticism of that event at the time, was only too ready to remind the Labour Government that it had promised to put an end to conferences at expensive venues. Yet here was another state agency charged with aiding the poor doing something similar, and apparently unaware how bad this looked.

The comparisons did not end there. The Housing NZ embarrassment occurred at a similar time in the Government's lifecycle as the Winz debacle happened in that of the Bolger-Shipley National Government.

This is not coincidental. It seems this is the time in such cycles when mini-scandals fall out of the woodwork and contrive to poison the atmosphere for the Government. It may have something to do with complacency, or perhaps inattention to detail. Whatever the reason, the parallels between the present Government and the Shipley Administration are striking."

The leader writer also pours scorn on Maryann Street:

"The Prime Minister sought to repair the damage by blaming Ms Street's inexperience. She likened her to National backbencher Kate Wilkinson, who slipped up by suggesting her party would scrap compulsory employer contributions to KiwiSaver. But Ms Street has been active politically since the 1990s, when she was Labour Party president. Seemingly, the only explanation for her behaviour was a mindset that refused to acknowledge any criticism, no matter how justified, thrown at the Government."

That last sentence will be another epitaph of the Helen Clark Labour-led government - a mindset that refused to acknowledge criticism, however valid. The slip-up was relatively minor, but the government's response did nothing to dispel the widely-held perception that Labour is uncaring and out of touch.

Bang on!

From the "Revenge of the Cartoonists" file, Rod Emmerson takes aim at Michael Cullen and scores a bullseye!

Post-Budget polling begins

The first of the major post-budget opinion polls is out, and Michael Cullen will be telling Helen Clark "I told you so!". It seems like Labour's "block of cheese" tax cuts, which Cullen opposed with every fibre of his being, and delivered through clenched teeth have failed to resonate with the electorate. Here's the story:

In short:

National 51.5% (down 0.6)
Labour 36.2% (down 1)

Ahead by 15.3 points, National can still govern alone. And in the PPM poll, John Key continues to lead Clark by 44.6% to 42.3%.

The clock is ticking for Labour.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Standard Key-bashing continues

It's pretty well acknowledged that whatever John Key says about anything, The Standard will want their pound of his flesh. However, even by their "standards" (pardon the pun) they've outdone themselves this morning:

The headline "Key: Vietnam War was "right thing to do"" implies that Key supported the war. But follow the link to the Newstalk ZB article, and you see the REAL quote

"Miss Clark, who was a young anti-Vietnam War protester at the time of the war, stands by her vehement opposition to it, but the National Party's leader says he was too young to take a serious view. John Key says the National Government at the time determined that being involved in the war was the right thing to do."

There's a BIG difference between someone's personal opinion, and a comment on a decision taken by a government 40 years ago. But since when did The Standard ever let the facts get in the way of a good story?

Key's not wasteful at all!!

You've got to hand it to Winston Peters. He never misses an opportunity to run interefernce for the government, and he seldom gets called to account for it. The public and the MSM seem to have an endless tolerance for Winston's grandstanding, though there is a legion of us hoping that patience will finally be exhausted in 2008!

Well, today you've got to hand it to David Farrar as he mythbusts the rantings by Peters, repeated by Helen Clark et al, that the Opposition Leader's office has 36 staff - read this:

Bottom line - the number of staff in Ministerial offices has grown significantly since Labour came to power in 1999. Total staff numbers have increased by 52%, and spin doctors by an amazing 73%!!

But that's not all!!! DPF reports that a kindly reader has supplied figures for the Opposition Leader's office in 1999 - yep, Helen Clark's office. Helen Clark employed 30 staff for 37 MP's, compared with John Key's 36 staff for 48 MP's. Key's numerical increase of 20% is small in comparison to the government's excesses. But on a per-capita basis, Key employs 0.75 staff per MP compared to Clark's ratio of 0.81!

Will Winston come rushing down to the House this afternoon to correct the false information that he has provided? We think not. Winston has misled the House enough this week:

A misleading headline

A big kick in the pants for whichever sub-editor came up with the headline for this article:

"'Sorry' says Government to soldiers"

Now pardon me for being anal about this, but "sorry" was one word that Helen Clark purposefully avoided yesterday. Kiwiblog carries the full text of her apology here:

As DPF reports, Clark used the first portion of what was otherwise a very good speech to distance the Labour Party and the anti-war protest movement from blame. By contrast, John Key DID use the s-word:

"So, to the members of Victor and Whiskey Companies of the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment; to 4 Troop New Zealand Special Air Service; to the members of the New Zealand joint services medical team; to 161 Battery Royal New Zealand Artillery Regiment; to the Royal New Zealand Engineers; and to those other New Zealand service personnel who served attached to units of the Australian and United States military, we finally say sorry."

So perhaps the headline writer almost got it right, and would have been completely correct if the headline had read:

" 'Sorry' says Government-in-waiting to soldiers"

Next Please!

Another day, another cartoon, and the honour of Gordon Minhinnick is defended. And this one is significant - Tom Scott is no friend of the right, but even he can'r resist having a dig at Helen Clark on what should have been a day of gravitas.

So let's have some fun today - who else might Helen Clark add to her list of apologies? I'll kick it off - Peter Doone.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Power Cuts 3 weeks away

Just heard on the Radio Network news that David Parker admits that we could be within THREE WEEKS of power saving measures being imposed. Given that the government has been very coy about this in response from questions from Gerry Brownlee and others, this is unwelcome news, especially as the weather gets colder and the daylight hours get fewer. And one thing is a given - power is not going to get any cheaper this winter!

The "winter of discontent" is here with a vengeance!

The beginning of the end?

Regular readers of Keeping Stock will be aware that I rate The Hive highly - it's one of the blogs that is a must-read every morning. The team of authors seems to be incredibly well connected, especially in Foreign Affairs and Trade circles.

So I was most interested in this post this morning:

According to The Hive, "The PM was very sensible on Checkpoint tonight when confronted by the Green's blackmail attempt on the ETS. She reminded the audience of the assurances that had been given to agriculture about 2013 and said that if she did not have the numbers she would delay the vote on the ETS".

This is good politics by Clark, but good news also for those who are calling for the legislation to be parked until after the election. For her, it will not be a backdown - it will all be the Greens's fault! For those who oppose the ETS legislation, there is a hiatus, and the likelihood that a change of government will see a change of direction.

But - and this is my speculation, not The Hive's - could this be the "excuse" that Helen Clark has been looking for to call an early election? The news is unlikely to improve much any time soon, especially when David Parker has finally admitted that power shortages this winter are pretty much inevitable. Will Clark use the ETS vote to collapse the coalition and supply abstention agreement with the Greens? Will Helen Clark go to the polls sooner rather than later, especially if there is a bounce in the polls post-budget?

Interesting times await us!

Spending priorities...

Oh dear, Helen Clark will be forever rueing the day she attacked the cartoonists - what's that old saying - "Many a true word spoken in jest"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oh dear Ms Street

Kathryn Street has been touted by some as a future Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Her chances won't have been helped by this exchange in the House this afternoon:

Phil Heatley: Does the Minister agree with Steve Maharey, who said: “Government agencies have no business holding conferences in luxury resorts.”, and “Social agencies should be helping the disadvantaged rather than spending money on exclusive conferences.”; if so, why did 94 corporation staff spend 2 days this month at the luxury Tongariro Lodge under her watch?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I absolutely agree that a State housing agency should be looking after State tenants. The purpose of the conference was to improve the service to those tenants.

Hon Steve Maharey: What are the Labour-led Government and Housing New Zealand Corporation doing to help to house some of New Zealand’s most needy families, away from Tongario?

Hon MARYAN STREET: This Government has done a number of things, including reintroducing income-related rents, and, through Housing New Zealand Corporation, housing some 200,000 vulnerable people.

Phil Heatley: How does it, as she just said, improve the lot for the 10,000 families on the waiting list and State house tenants who are living in squalor to do these things at the luxury conference: “promoting consistent delivery strategies”, “critically reviewing processes”, and “enhancing capability and delivery mechanisms”; how will help those poor people?

Hon MARYAN STREET: The cost for this conference was some $250-odd a night for accommodation, food, and venue hire. That was not a luxury price. The other important thing is that if the member had got his facts right, he would see that these people—94 of them—came from across the country to that place to talk about the corporation’s strategic vision, its goals, and how it might improve service delivery. If that is the upshot of this conference, done at cheap rates, then I am all for it."

$250 per night? "Cheap rates"? Well, I guess when you live in a Ministerial bubble, driven around in your new BMW, you lose your sense of perception. But wait, as they say on the Infomercials, there's more:

"Phil Heatley: Whatever happened to Helen Clark’s pledge that “Labour will be a very careful custodian of taxpayers’ money—no more squandering public money on luxury resorts.”, and how many, if any, alternative quotes did the corporation get from less exclusive venues?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I am advised that the costs for this conference were at a very competitive rate, that the corporation struck a competitive rate with that organisation for comprehensive coverage—

Madam SPEAKER: It is impossible to hear the Minister’s answer. You have had your fun. You ask yourselves for other members to be quiet by saying “Shh” when your member asks the question. You should have the courtesy to let the rest of us hear the answer.

Hon MARYAN STREET: Further to my answer, I would say that the National Party cannot talk about conferences. It did send its housing spokesperson, Phil Heatley, to a private sector housing conference just recently, which I refused to go to because of the cost. The conference featured Don Brash, but that does not matter. The cost to each attendee was $1,495 for the day.

Phil Heatley: I wish to make a personal statement.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection?

Hon Trevor Mallard: Can he indicate what it is about.

Madam SPEAKER: Can the member indicate what it is about.

Phil Heatley: It is about the fact that I was a guest speaker there.

Madam SPEAKER: Does the member still wish to make his statement?

Phil Heatley: No, I think the House gets the point."

Oh dear! Even when Ms Street tries to score a point at Phil Heatley and National's expense, she scores an own goal. You'll have to do better than that Ms Street!

Pork Watch

Audrey Young and her colleagues at ther Nz Herald last week introduced a new dimension to the political landscape with Pork Watch, and the Porkometer, designed to capture that election-year phenomonen, pork barrel politics. Today Audrey brings us a post-budget update:

Here's the latest:

"The Herald's Porkometer of Labour and National election-year promises ballooned after last week's Budget.

The centrepiece was Labour's promise to spend $10.6 billion over four years on tax cuts.

The tax cuts, with other highlights announced on Budget day, have added $12.29 billion to Labour's brag-bag of policies.

When added to the previous $3.99 billion identified on Pork Watch, Labour's Porkometer has reached $16.28 billion."

We will be watching this with interest. Cullen's budget was cynical in the extreme, and with no reduction in government spending to compensate for his hated tax cuts, he will push the economy into deficit from next year. His post-budget comments make it clear that this was his sole objective - to cut National off at the pass, and give them no room to announce any policy initiatives. The hypocricy of the Helen Clark government is now such that they don't even try to conceal the deception any more, which is an insult to the intelligence of the electorate.

C'mon Helen - do us all a favour, and go to the polls now. Give us the chance to say who we REALLY trust to run the country. Meanwhile, the Porkometer will tick on, and Keeping Stock will keep you informed!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Clark's dangerous game

Helen Clark is playing a VERY dangerous game by overtly telling police to reopen the investigation into the murder of the Kahui twins. Both news channels have carried the story tonight, and Clark's attempt to influence the police does not sit comfortably with Keeping Stock.

Ian Wishart's excellent book Absolute Power - the Helen Clark years showed that there has been a series of incidents involving Helen Clark and the supposedly independant New Zealand Police. She is implicated in lying to the media in order to turn public opinion against Commissioner Peter Doone. She herself has been interviewed by the Police more frequently than any other leader of this country. She and her colleagues have received preferential treatment from the Police despite evidence of lawbreaking on a number of occasions.

Chris Kahui was investigated by the Police over the death of his sons, charged, sent to trial and acquitted in a matter of minutes. That in itself suggests that the Crown's case against him was flimsy. Having been acquitted, he cannot be tried again. But Helen Clark is not satisfied with that outcome, and says that someone needed "to be brought to account". That may be her personal opinion, and she has every right to hold it. However when she expresses a personal opinion while being interviewed in her capacity as Prime Minister, it takes on an entirely different context. But any decision to reopen the Police file should be the decision of the Police alone. It is, after all, an operational issue, and we have heard many Police Ministers over the years, from both sides of the House, refuse to answer questions in Parliament saying that they don't get involved in operational matters. Helen Clark should take heed, and keep her opinions to herself.

Scott Dixon - Victory at Indy

One of the joys of working from home, and using a laptop and a wireless network is being able to work in front of the telly when something significant is on.

This morning was certainly significant for Scott Dixon! He had the fastest car all May at Indy, but that counts for nothing on race-day. And today Dixon nailed America's Great Race, the Indianapolis 500 to earn a huge wad of cash, his name on the famous Borg-Warner Trophy, and the traditional celebratory pint of milk! As I type this, Dixon is just on his way to the winner's circle, so more will follow...

UPDATE: Here's a story from the IndyCar website:

The Monday Quote - 26/5/08

At first it was going to be John Key's "It's a long time between toasted sandwiches" line in his Budget speech, but Bill Ralston snuck home with this one in the Herald on Sunday yesterday:

"In the meantime, as a "rich prick", I am plotting what to do with the extra $28 a week in my savings account come October 1. Actually, come to think of it, there is not a lot of point because it won't be there. My car will have swallowed the lot."

A cheesy cartoon

With all the references to cheese in regard to last week's budget, Guy Body sums it up rather nicely...

"I would've if I could've"

That was the message from Dr Michael "Scrooge" Cullen on Agenda yesterday. He is quoted as saying that he was looking at cuts of around $40 per week, and of $73 per week for higher-income workers...

"[But] it just didn't pan out in terms of the Treasury forecasts upon growth and revenue and so on," he told TV One's Agenda programme.

"We very quickly moved into operating deficits and cash deficits which were so large that we were starting to borrow for the groceries and of course at that point you're also ... borrowing to pay the interest on the extra borrowing."

Now remember that this is the same Michael Cullen who gave us the chewing gum tax cuts in 2005, then stuck the chewing gum back on the bedpost overnight. This is the same Michael Cullen who has run years of record surpluses, but wouldn't give back to "non-families". This is the same Michael Cullen to whom personal tax cuts are an anathema. Not to mention the same Michael Cullen who hates :"rich pricks" with the same passion that he loves government spending!

So when Michael Cullen says that we should believe that he REALLY did want to make "rich pricks" $73 per week richer, Keeping Stock (NOT a refuge for "rich pricks"!!) says - YEAH, RIGHT!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Old Trafford - the 2nd Test

It's been a traumatic weekend. Mrs Inventory and I have been away at a conference, and the place that we were staying at had no wireless internet and no Sky TV!!! I mean, how much can a man take??!!

So I am really looking forward to the start of play on Day 3 at Old Trafford in Manchester. From what I heard, Ross Taylor played a gem of an innings, and he is already showing signs that he will be the lynchpin of the Black Caps's batting order for many years to come. And as today's play beckons, the bowling of Daniel Vettori could see New Zealand set up a useful first innings lead, if they can quickly break the Petersen/Bell partnership. There is an intriguing day (or night) ahead. And of course, if you fancy a change of pace, there's always Scott Dixon off poll at Indy in the morning. Spoiled for choice I reckon - and making up for lost time!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Helen's new low - the video

WhaleOil is onto it. Here is what Helen Clark thinks about our children "supporting me in my old age"!

Hat-tip: WhaleOil

The Friday Forum - 23/5/08

It's Friday, the morning after the Budget. Are you overwhelmed or underwhelmed? What else is on your mind this morning? The floor is yours.....

What the public thinks

Online polls are one thing, but the growing use of online comments is quite a good barometer of public opinion. So what is the public saying about Cullen's "Old Mother Hubbard" budget? Check this out:

Helen Clark's new low

Whether by accident or design, Helen Clark told us this morning on Breakfast what she thinks of us, and especially our children. She told Paul Henry:

"I don't have children, but thank God most people do , and they're going to be looking after me in my old age."

That must rate as one of the most outrageous things that our PM has ever said, so pass it on. She is a multi-millionaire, has a gold-plated superannuation scheme, and will probably leave Parliament and New Zealand to a high-paying job elsewhere. And yet she expects "other people's" children to support her in her retirement! I have not raised my children to support Helen Clark or her ilk. I am trying to ensure that my kids will not even have to support Mrs Inventory and me. Yet Helen Clark, a socialist until the bitter end, has a different mentality. Which explains a lot, doesn't it!

UPDATE: The video is now up on the TVNZ website - go to the "Latest Video" box near the foot of the page. The money quote is at 3m39s

The tribe has spoken!

The Herald is running yet another of its unscientific (but very interesting) polls in the wake of the Budget. Asking the question "Will this budget help the Labour govt?", the verdict is telling. As I write this, the scores are:

Yes: 658 (20%)
No: 2616 (80%)

Total votes: 3274

Now that is a fairly large number of votes. And for the result to be so emphatically one-sided suggest that the "phone's off the hook" comment is right on the money, and that Labour is, in the immortal words of Paul (Fatty) Vautin of Footy Show fame - gooooooooooone!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

John Key's response

Here 'tis - John Key's lead-off speech in the Budget debate

Budget 2008 - Cullen's disappearing act!

Cullen's disappearing act? Sure is, according to Audrey Young - check this out - he's made all the money disappear:

The cupboard is almost bare and that is the way Michael Cullen planned the 2008 Budget.

He has delivered a Budget that offers a little of something for almost everyone but his biggest gift is to National - an election-year headache.

There is so little cash left to play with, $1.75 billion, that National will have little headroom to make attractive tax promises without saying what funding commitments Labour has made it will scrap.

That is what Michael Cullen promised and that is what he has delivered. The $1.75 billion isn't real either because $750 million of it was earmarked for health long ago.

Phil Goff's revealing comments this week showed that Labour is into legacy politics and this is a legacy Budget - a legacy to National. It will make it harder for National to win and if it does win, it will make it harder to govern."

So that's why Cullen has been so chipper lately. He has thrown National a right-and-proper hospital pass. But will it be enough? Recent polling suggests that the public has gone right off Labour, so will this be exposed as just enough desperate ploy by a government on its death-bed? The next round of polls will tell the story, I guess.

The Budget - Live!!

So, what's in it so far.....

Well, up until now, it's everyone's fault except ours! Food prices, fuel prices, credit crunch and drought

- Tax Cuts on 1 October - base rate and threshhold changes - top tax rate threshhold out to $80k

- Tax at minimum wage drops by 1/4; at the average wage by 1/6; at the top rate by 1/8th

- Super is up - Winston will be grinning!

*Breakout* The Herald website reports that someone on the average wage of $45,800 will get $16.54 per week - too little, too late?

- $63.6m extra for Early Childhood Education - welcomed by me, but I need to see the details

- Rail & ferry services - he's talking this up! Big push for rail in Auckland - electrification & tunnels under the harbour - no specifics in $$$'s though

- Broadband investment - no "monopolies" allowed - $500m over five years as part of a ten-year plan

- Increases in business tax filing threshholds - hopefully IRD might be easier to deal with!!

Cullen finishes with a self-congratulation on being the first Finance Minister since 1948 to present nine consecutive budgets.

Key is speaking now, referring to "Michael Cullen's ninth and final budget" - Key says "He read it, but he didn't believe it". Has just called the tax cuts for the average family as "the same as a family block of cheese" and referring to the two-year wait for Stage 2 as`"a long time between toasated sandwiches"!

Bank spoils Cullen's party

Oh dear! On the very morning that Michael Cullen is psyching himself up to deliver his ninth, probably his most impoprtant, and hopefully his final budget, the Christchurch Press has pulled the rug out from under him - read this:

Here's a hint as to the bad news that awaits the good Doctor:

"The country's biggest bank is preparing to release a damning report on the poor quality of government spending.

A senior ANZ National Bank official said yesterday the report was likely to cause a "feeding frenzy" and a decision had been made to wait until after today's Budget to release it in a bid to minimise the political fallout.

The Press learned of the report, which is critical of excessive spending on "back-office" government department functions, from sources attending a closed-door presentation by ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie this month.

The report is likely to come as a significant blow to the Government as it fights an uphill battle for re-election. The National Party has made halting "runaway growth" in spending on the public sector bureaucracy a foundation of its campaign."

I find the timing interesting. The report is going to cause a "feeding frenzy" according to the bank, so they delay it until after the Budget. But "someone" leaks the story, so the feeding frenzy is beginning even as Cullen straightens his tie, pins on the red rose, and heads the for House. Poor Dr Cullen!!

The Budget Forum - have your say...

So what rabbit is Michael Cullen going to pull out of the hat today? Does he have any rabbits? Does he even have a hat?

What do YOU reckon will be in today's budget?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Budget - Cullen or English?

The Herald is running another of its interesting but unscientific polls today asking the question "Who would you prefer to be giving tomorrow's Budget?"

As I type this the scores are as follows:

Michael Cullen - 773 votes (28%)
Bill English - 2019 votes (72%)

Keeping Stock will be watching this poll closely given previous instances of NZ Herald polls where hackers have entered from stage left to skew the results.

The Budget - almost an afterthought

With all the other stuff swirling around at the moment - an immigration scandal, a careless Cabinet Minister and an unwanted, over-priced railway, it would be easy to forget that Michael Cullen has the expectations of the left to deal with tomorrow as he delivers his budget speech. Claire Trevett does the pre-match analysis in this morning's NZ Herald:

Trevett thinks that this is a bridge to far for Cullen and for Labour:

"Yet far from being the party's salvation, this Budget - with expectations riding almost impossibly high - could well be Dr Cullen's Waterloo. Dr Cullen has drunk from the cup of parsimony far too many times and Victoria University lecturer Jon Johansson said it had led to "an intractable negative perception" of him.
A political science lecturer, Mr Johansson doesn't think it will matter which figure Dr Cullen pulls out of his hat tomorrow. "When you talk to people about Cullen there is real intensity and negativity. I think he is Labour's biggest liability."

Ouch - that must hurt Cullen! He's prided himself on being Labour's biggest "fix-it" man, and now he's being called a liability. I don't envy the job he faces, especially given the latest poll results. Then again, if he'd been a bit more beneficient in better times, the public night not have such an "intractible negative perception".

What can Cullen do? Does he have any rabbits to pull out of the hat? Does he even have a hat? I'd love to hear what you think...

On a platter...

I guess that this was inevitable.......

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

White flag from Goff

There's a very interesting story in today's NBR about Phil Goff, that suggests watching Alt TV at 8.30pm tonight mught be rewarding. Here's the link:

So, he we have one of the government's most senior Ministers admitting that "Sure, there's a prospect of defeat" I suspect that Helen Clark will be apoplectic!

But wait, there's more. Goff suggest that he will be a candidate for the Labour leadership post-election if Helen Clark was to stand aside. Meanwhile, the PM enjoys his wholehearted support, Radio New Zealand reports. Know we all know what THAT really means!!

BBQ at Phil's place? Bring your own knife and sharpener!

UPDATE: Audrey Young gives Phil a slap around the ears on her blog, and talks of raised voices and tension in the Labour caucus room today - funny that!!

Gutsy performance from the Black Caps

I tried. I stayed with them for as long as I could! But sometime just short of midnight my eyelids got heavy, and I had to leave the Black Caps to save the Lord's test by themselves, without my moral support.

But if there is one quality that New Zealand cricket teams possess it is guts. We produce few superstars. Many of the current team, especially in the batting department, are good first-class cricketers, but are a long, long way from being established internationals. So inevitably, the burden falls on the senior players.
And in this test, the senior players stood up. Brendon McCullum batted brilliantly in the first innings, and will be mortified to have again missed a century at the home of cricket by the narrowest of margins. Chris Martin bowled with pace and purpose on day four, and began New Zealand's fightback. Daniel Vettori was awarded Man of the Match for his batting/bowling double. With 250 test wickets now to his credit, he seems to be thriving on the added responsibility of captaincy, and if he can have a prolonged spell of good fitness, Richard Hadlee's total of 431 test wickets is not out of reach.

And today it was Jacob Oram, with a magnificent century, 101, which will see his name written into Lord's history for posterity. Big Jake has been out of touch with the bat for some time, and his two-metre tall frame has accentuated his awkwardness. His nemesis throughout the New Zealand summer was Ryan Sidebottom, who again claimed Jake's wicket in both innings of this test. But there would be enormous satisfaction for Oram to bring up his ton with a lovely cover drive of the "hairy one"!

I've just heard Michael Vaughan, the England captain complimenting the New Zealanders saying that his side "knows what the game means to them". This series will not be a three-nil whitewash, and if the English are looking beyond the current series towards the South Africans, , they would be doing cricket a disservice.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Auditor-General to probe Immigration

Regular readers of Keeping Stock (whose numbers seem to be growing if the Alexa stats I've been directed to are correct) will be aware that I have few kind words for Helen Clark. And so, with the announcement tonight that she has asked the Auditor-General to investigate the scandals within the Immigration Service, I'm not sure whether to view her with grudging admiration or disdain. Anyway, here's the Herald story:

Part of me wants to say "Well done Helen" for acting quickly on this. She only arrived back in the country over the weekend, and she has certainly acted decisively. The Auditor-General will have wide powers, and will set his own terms of reference. It is sure to be a comprehensive enquiry.

But here's where my attennae start to twitch. Once an inquiry is underway, the matter will effectively disappear from the public domain. Opposition members will be limited in what questions they can ask, and Ministers, and indeed the Prime Minister, will have a ready-made excuse for obfuscation - "I can't comment on that. All will be revealed when the Auditor-General completes his inquiry." - so there is little political capital for the opposition parties to use. And as the cheese ad says, "Good things take time" - I'm sure that it will be a stretch for the A-G to conduct and complete an inquiry then report back to government prior to the election.

Helen Clark is the consummate politician. She admits to being "blindsided" by this rapidly spreading cancer. However in a quote in the Herald article, she seems to be trying to innoculate her Immigration Ministers, both current and former from fallout when she says:

""We feel we have been constantly blindsided by events and developments," she said.
"It's fair to say that the confidence of the Cabinet has been somewhat shattered. There are things that obviously never came to our attention."

I don't buy that. So on the basis of probability, I believe that Clark's decision today to call in the Auditor-General is more about political expediency that it is about good governance. And I'm probably not alone when I recall the Ingram inquiry into the actions of one Taito Philip Field.

Mikey the Grinch on Reckless Key

The gloves are off! And it seems in the run-up to the budget that the election campaign is now in full swing. John Key has this morning dropped hints at significant tax cuts under National. Contrast that with Dr Cullen, who could have offered meaningful tax cuts to all for New Zealanders over several years, such was the level of surpluses he was running. But of course, his ideology got in the way.

And so the Herald website is giving prominence to The Grinch's reaction to Key's announcement this morning - here 'tis:

Here's what Mikey the Grinch has said:

" Dr Cullen said today Mr Key's promise to "out tax" Labour before he had any report on the Government's fiscal position or economic growth and revenue forecasts showed a "worrying recklessness".
He was surprised Mr Key would commit himself to a dollar figure before Treasury had opened the books

Aha, the books! Wasn't that the problem in 1990, leading to a change with the Fiscal Responsibility Act? And who was the the Associate Finance Minister around then? But wait, there's more:

""Mr Key has not yet seen up-to-date inflation forecasts, he has no idea what Treasury is predicting by way of economic or revenue growth in the year ahead and no idea if his $50 a week or more in tax cuts would result in higher interest rates for New Zealanders.
"He does not know if his proposed tax cuts are affordable and he does not know if the economy can absorb them," Dr Cullen said.
The finance minister has played down expectations of large cuts under Labour but has said the Government will provide some relief to households facing rising costs.

It's pretty obvious. Not only does Cullen not WANT to deliver tax cuts; he can't. And so the "rich prick" mentality kicks in, and Cullen ridicules his opponent. Oh dear - he must have had a right bagging from the PM when she got home - it was certainly Labour's worst week of the year. And now that Slippery Rich Prick has gazzumped Labour and Cullen on several fronts on the eve of the budget. When he said "This is a contest about power in New Zealand - you're playing with the big boys now" Mikey the Grinch may have momentarily forgotten that John the Trader was previously known as The Smiling Assassin, and has played (and won!) with much "bigger boys" than the good Dr Cullen!!

The Monday Quote

I read a lot of blogs. Monday is usually a grim day as we all head back to work, so to lighten the mood, I'm going to highlight the best quote I've come across during the week. The honour of the first winner goes to none other than the undisputed King of New Zealand blogs, DPF for this gem:

"The huge 27% gap in this morning’s Fairfax poll suggests that the electorate have not just taken the phone off the hook for Labour, but they have pulled it out of the wall, thrown it in a furnace and scattered the ashes out at sea."

What bribes will Labour offer?

No, I'm not talking about the budget!! I'm asking "What bribes will Labour offer to the Greens and to the Maori Party for the support of the ETS legislation?". I pose this question in light of Helen Clafrk's determination to push on with the legislation, despite National withdrawing its support -

To the Greens I say - You claim to be a party of principle. You claim to care for the environment. You are on record as saying that this legislation does not go far enough in addressing your concerns. Do not allow the government to buy you off, or you risk being seen as afringe party at the election, in the same league as New Zealand First. While I disagree with many of you policies, I do not doubt your sincerity. Stand up for what you believe in.

To the Maori Party I say - Kia ora koutou. You too claim to be a party of principle. The ETS will have particular implication for Iwi, as you have chronicled. Maori has embraced you as a stand-alone party which represents Maoridom, not as a lap-dog for a government which has taken the long-time support of Maori for granted. Maoridom will be watching you to see if your mahi is the same as your korero. Be strong - kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

National and the ETS

I was delighted with John Key's speech today at National's lower North Island conference. Ponder these words:

"Labour has been racing towards a political deadline – the 2008 election – and has been prepared to cut corners to get there.
National is not prepared to cut those corners. Not when the financial security of Kiwis is at risk. Not when getting this wrong means exporting jobs, ratcheting up inflation, and viciously squeezing household budgets.
We believe that the current rushed timetable for the design of the ETS and the Select Committee process is reckless, given the importance of the issue. National thinks that this process, left unchecked, is likely to lead to an ETS that will meet neither New Zealand’s economic needs nor our environmental obligations. In particular, it could well have negative and unintended consequences.
So today, I am calling for a delay in the passage of this legislation

This is entirely consistent with what I have been saying on this, and other blogs over the last couple of weeks. This is vitally important legislation - not only to the environment, but to the economy as well. The old Latin proverb - Festina Lente (hasten slowly) seems particularly apt.

We have seen what happens when important legislation is rushed for no other reason than to meet a self-imposed deadline. The Labour-led government and its partners-in-crime rushed like a bull at a gate with the Electoral Finance Act in order to have it passed so the regulated period could start on 1 January 2008. That legislation is full of flaws, and has already produced some absurd "unintended consequences". The EFA threatens to make this year's election a farce.

We cannot afford a repeat, especially with a bill as important as the ETS bill. The election is less than six months away. The government shlould accept that to push this bill through now is not only unwise; it borders on irresponsible. Let parties take their proposals to the electorate during the campaign, and let the public have input into the decisionmaking process.

The government, David Parker in particular, has tried to paint National as not caring about the environment, but Key made it plain in his speech today that National does care:

"Let me state clearly: National has not given up on this legislation. We are committed to a well-considered, carefully balanced Emissions Trading Scheme for New Zealand. We believe this bill can be amended and progressed to that end, and we believe it can be done in a timely fashion. But the New Zealand Parliament must take the time needed to get it right. New Zealanders’ livelihoods depend on us taking that time. "

Key is quite right. This is NOT something to be rushed. And who knows, when the dust settles on the election campaign, with clear heads and perhaps some new faces in pivotal roles, it may even be possible to achieve cross-party consensus.

More immigration woes

No doubt you've all at some point moved a piece of wood, and watched the slaters scatter as they are exposed to the light. What's been happening with the Immigration Service this week is very similar to that analogy. When Mary Anee Thompson eresigned last week, the inhabitants of the Beehive must have hoped that the story would be killed. Far from it; the Immigration Service has had bright light shone upon it, and the slaters are scattering with a vengeance.

I missed One News last night, but here is the latest revelation - which links directly back to Mary Anne Thompson:

According to One News a $500,000 contract was awarded, uncontested, to a friend of Thompson's. If this allegation can be proven, it is another serious blow to Thompson's integrity, to Immigration, and to David Cunliffe and Clayton Cosgrove. Kindred bolgger Adam Smith at The Inquiring Mind has been covering this messy scandal in detail - here's his perceptive take on the latest revelations:

And while we're on the topic of One News, we believe that the latest Colmar Brunton poll is due, which can only mean one thing - another headache for Helen Clark and the Labour Party!

Where to now for Labour?

It's budget week. Given the spate of poor poll results of the last month in particular, Labour needs something spectacular. But what, if anything, can he do? Fran O'Sullivan opines:

"Finance Minister Michael Cullen's ninth (and probably last) budget will not bring home the electoral bacon for Labour.
That is, unless his colleagues and some frightening political poll results have persuaded him to throw in a last-minute major lolly scramble - fear of losing seats might do that.
But digging into taxpayers' pockets to fund another bribe - such as major expansion of Working for Families - would simply risk a backlash from other sections of New Zealand society

Is it too late for major budget changes? Does Cullen have the resources, or even the political will to throw money at this "problem" that Labour has? Fran O'Sullivan goes to the heart of it:

"The reality is there is "no silver bullet" that will offset the punishment household budgets are taking. Kiwis are feeling the pinch as rising food and fuel prices, and higher interest rates, slam those in the mortgage belt.
But Cullen's ability to do much is constrained by the impact of the credit crunch on global growth and finance costs, and the fact that the economic cycle is at a low point.
The Government's own tax revenues are dropping as a result of the contracting economy

O'Sulivan then lists a number of areas in which she expects spending announcements - broadband investment to trump National's announcement, the environment, superannuation and health. But there is a chilling tone to her closing sentence:

" Beyond that it is a case of how desperate Cullen's colleagues are to hold on to their seats."

Desperate times usually call for desperate measures - is there one more rabbit, or is it too late for Labour?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Every picture tells a story

Words aren't needed for this one.....

...but this is a different kettle of fish. Even in her treasured Preferred PM poll, Helen Clark is taking a pounding. She now trails John Key by 17 points. It would seem that even Helen Clark cannot save the Labour Party now!

A Poll Shocker!!

Rumours abounded yesterday of a shock poll result today that would be an attention-grabber. The rumour machine got it right. It is indeed a shocker if you belong to the Red Team!!

The Fairfax-Neilsen poll has National on 56%, a whopping 27 point lead over Labour on, get this, 29% support. Yes, that's right - Labour has, for the first time, slipped BELOW the 30% mark. Here's what the Dom-Post says:

"There are bad polls and then there are unmitigated shockers. For Helen Clark they surely do not come much worse than 29 per cent support and a 27 point abyss to close on John Key's National Party.
Labour has consoled itself that by polling in the mid-30s it was within cooee of its 1999 election-night result. That it was within striking distance given a good campaign. Even that with the Greens thrown in, the gap was easily bridged.
Today's Fairfax Media Nielsen poll leaves no place to hide

I suggest that there will be a "hive" of activity on the 9th Floor this morning, in anticipation of Dear Leader's return from Asia. But leading in to budget week, this is NOT where Labour wanted to be. To make matters worse, the poll was taken between Wednesday of last week and Tuesday of this week, so it has missed some of the fall-out for the government over the immigration scandal, the Toll loan take-over and the Australian budget with its generous tax cuts. I'll leave the last word to the Dom-Post:

"But maybe the electorate is determined to exercise its right to make a change, and is deaf to Mr Key's "slipperiness" or holus-bolus adoption of Labour's flagship policies making him "Labour-lite".
It may be too late, but such a psychologically devastating poll must spark calls for a rethink.
A lolly scramble would look desperate and run counter to Dr Cullen's prime fiscal directive.
But desperation versus annihilation? A fairly easy call to make, you would think

Friday, May 16, 2008

Toll and the Labour Party

I was just going back to an old Kiwiblog post when I discovered something interesting.

Who was the New Zealand Labour Party's largest CORPORATE donor in 2007? A rail and freight company by the name of TOLL New Zealand Consolidated Limited - $25,000.00.

Source: Electoral Commission -

Now, I don't what the relationship is between Toll New Zealand and Toll Australia. But I do know that Toll Australia is about to become cash-rich thanks to the largesse of the New Zealand Government. Surely, it's all just a coincidence - surely..........

No-one supports Winston First!!

There's a press release from the Electoral Commission on the Scoop website confirming that ACT and NZ First have filed their 2007 return of donations.

And New Zealand First's total donations? $0.00. Nil. Nothing. Nada. Nix.

In 2007, not one person donated one cent to Winston First!!

Good look for the Police?

When she was in China for the FTA signing, NZPA reported that Helen Clark told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that Chinese forces "could not stand by as people were attacked" referring of course to the attackes in Tibetian dissidents. At the time, I pointed out Helen's hypocricy in light of the police response to Len Richards's "megaphone diplomacy" at last year's Labour Party conference. Here's my post:

OK- different day and different circumstances. But why did the Police allow pro-cannabis activists to flagrantly break the law in the grounds of Parliament yesterday, for four hours as reported in this morning's Dom-Post? And who has cropped the photograph above, which in an earlier online appearance was NOT a close-up, and clearly showed a uniformed Police officer in the background? Are the New Zealand Police top brass again embarassed to have their indifference towards illegal activity highlighted in the public domain? If not, they should be! The law may be an ass, but it is the law, and Police officers are sworn to uphold it.

Update - just found the original picture, from Stuff ealier this morning (around 8am) - coincidence, or conscience? You be the judge!

The Friday Forum - 16/5/08

Yes! It's Friday again, so the floor is yours. Will the 'Canes beat the Blues tonight? Is Labour history? Spent your tax cut yet? Whatever you want to rant, rave or review, this is the place, so welcome!

Is the Immigration Service corrupt?

One News's lead story last night really was the bottom of the bucket for the government, with revelations of bribery, fraud and theft in the Pacific branch of the Immeigration Service. Here's the story, with video:

This is a real example of a story which has fed off itself. The timing of the resignation of Mary Anne Thompson was a surprise. The announcement that Police had been asked to investigate was a bigger surprise. It was no surprise to learn that at least two government Ministers knew of the saga, possibly as early as April 2007. And last night's expose on One News was something of a bombshell.

I worked as an Immigration Consultant for several years in the late 1990's. Whilst the then NZIS could be incredibly frustrating to deal with, and decisions were sometimes inexplicable, there was never a sense of any inappropriate dealings. Indeed, the branch we worked closest with even refused to accept a small Christmas gift one year, so as not to raise any suggestions of conflict of interest. Our applications we always assessed on merit, and when an unfavourable decision was pending, we were given an opportunity to have it reassessed if we could find valid grounds for approval under the existing policy.

So I will be watching developments with interest. And in the meantime, I will be a regular reader of Adam Smith's contributions at The Inquiring Mind - Adam's observations are a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in this saga. Find his latest update here:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bring on the cricket!

You beauty! My Sky decoder is already set to channel #30 at 9.30pm tonight for live coverage of the first test bewteen England and New Zealand. The Lord's test, traditionally the first test of the English season is always a special occasion, and I'll be ready! The timing is great - the first session will run to about midnight, then it'll be time to turn the video on!

Regular readers will know that I am a cricket tragic, and despite all the froth of the IPL, test cricket is still, and will always be the ultimate for this devotee. The Black Caps are inexperienced, but if they can't get "up" for a test match at Lord's, the home of cricket, one would have to wonder if they are even breathing!

I have a list of sporting events I want to take in before my days on God's earth are done, and watching New Zealand play Mother England at Lord's is right near the top, along with an Open Chmpionship at St Andrew's. Meanwhile, I'll have to make do with the telly.......

Michael Cullen and the Dance Exponents

What's the connection? "I'll say goodbye"! Paula Oliver describes Michael Cullen's pre-budget speech to the Canterbury Manufacturers's Association this afternoon as "almost a farewell". Here's her story, including a link to the speech itself:

Firstly Oliver notes the size of the crowd - just 36 table places set - and mentions references to the "phone is off the hook" line. She goes on to say:

"Still, Dr Cullen delivered his speech with typical vigour - even though it felt like one that was designed to lower expectations around next week's Budget.
Dr Cullen offered very little in the way of news in the speech.

Instead he began with an outline of Labour's legacy, how it had lifted lots of children out of poverty, lifted wages for workers and presided over economic growth.
It almost sounded like a farewell.

Noting that Cullen was downbeat over the vexed topic of tax cuts, she closes:

"The only thing I can think of to explain the mood of today is that it felt pretty sombre.
Retail sales figures just out this morning paint an ugly picture. Alongside poor job figures last week there was a lot on the minds of the business people in the audience.
I bet a significant number were hoping Labour is deliberately trying to keep expectations down - and that it will over-deliver in a big way next week.

Does he have a rabbit to pull from the hat, or was Dr Cullen indeed imitating Jordan Luck?

More jobs to go Ms Dyson?

News today that almost 100 jobs at Auckland Museum are to disappear "under a restructuring programme":

Minister of Social Development, the Hon Ruth Dyson responded, saying "I don't think that this is bad news at all, actually".

OK, I'm being mischievious here - she didn't say that today - BUT - those were Ruth Dyson's EXACT words when it was announced that 29,000 jobs had vanished in the first three months of 2008. And as jobs continue to vapourise on a daily basis, the insensitivity of Ruth Dyson towards those losing their jobs will continue to be exposed. So much for Labour being the "Workers's Party" eh!

More about Mary Anne...

The Mary Anne Thompson/Immigration scandal is growing legs, and growing them fast! This morning's Herald and Breakfast TV are both all over the revelation that the London School of Economics has denied conferring a PhD on Thompson. Here's the Herald story:

Kindred blogger Adam Smith at The Inquiring Mind posted another update last night, and his coverage to date has been the most comprehensive of any of the blogs I have been reading - here's his latest piece

So many questions - but I guess the two most significant are WHY was Mary Anne Thompson allowed to resign and be paid all her entitlements (including a reported three months's salary) when there seem to be strong grounds for her dismissal on the basis of serious misconduct? And does anyone REALLY believe that the Immigration Minister wasn't told about the findings of the Oughton Report in that staff in the Immigration Service acted illegally by approving residence applications outside policy? After all, the only person who is, by law, allowed to depart frompolicy is the Minister himself!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Right out of left-field!

The Mary Anne Thompson saga has taken another, and more sinister, turn this morning, even since I blogged about it around 8am. Read this:

This goes to the heart of the matter:

"Department chief executive Christopher Blake said she had done so "in the interests of the department and the wider public service".
But it later emerged that she had quit as the State Services Commission prepared to refer her to police after seeking Crown Law advice over "serious questions" that had been raised during its investigation into the Kiribati controversy.
Those questions related to the qualifications Ms Thompson said she held in applying for senior roles in the public service, Deputy State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie confirmed in a statement.
Mr Rennie issued the statement late yesterday after The Dominion Post asked both the commission and the Labour Department whether Ms Thompson's qualifications formed any part of their inquiries

Meanwhile, kindred blogger Adam Smith at The Inquiring Mind has been following this story closer than most, and has a very interesting perspective:

Lawmaker or lawbreaker?

Trevor Mallard has broken the law again. Mallard is one of Labour's most senior and most experienced politicians, but seems to have a particular contempt for the laws that we pay him a handsome ministerial salary to exact. This from today's Herald:

Now, Mallard was one of Labour's "heavy hitters" during the Electoral Finnace Act debates. And we all know about his other "heavy hitting", culminating in a court appearance last year. Clearly, if even a senior Cabinet Minister can fall foul of legislation his own Cabinet drafted, then the law is an ass, as are the lawmakers.

And now doubt there will be a few Exclusive Brethren, famously described by Mallard as "chinless scarf-wearers" who will smile at the irony of the Minister who demonised them when they broke no law, once again having legal difficulties of his own!