Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Smacking's not banned here!

Homepaddock reckons she has found the cure for daylight-saving-induced grumpiness, and having just had a go at beating up on the PM, I agree with her!

Hat-tip: Homepaddock

Another porkie from the PM

She's at it again! Helen Clark had told the nation that the decision to exclude the minor party leaders was a result of "decisions made at chief-of-staff level". Which would be fine if it had been!

But Mark Jennings from TV3 let slip on Radio NZ this morning:

"Clark doesn't want to share the stage with these minor parties, she's talked Key into it," he said on Radio New Zealand.

"They've done a backroom deal...I don't know what they're scared of."

Oh dear. And just when "This is an election about trust" too!

NZX slumps

This from the Herald:

The New Zealand stock exchange has slumped this morning, falling 4.3 per cent on opening. It is the first of the world's exchanges to open after the shock congressional rejection of the US Govt bank bailout plan this morning.

About 10 minutes after the NZX opened at 10am today, the benchmark NZSX-50 index was down 137.46 points or 4.3 percent to 3051.08.

Among major stocks, Telecom was down 16c or 5.8 percent early to $2.62, Contact Energy was down 34c or 4.1 percent to $7.95, and Fletcher Building lost 36c or 5.2 percent to $6.55.

By 10am the NZ dollar was down to around US67.15c against the greenback, having been as high as US67.90c soon after the failure of the bailout to get the nod.

The market reacts..

The old adage that a picture tells a thousand words is well and truly proven in this photograph from the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange this morning.

Hat-tip: The Hive


A bit of a cock-up on the Herald's website. Leading the "Opinion" section is a story by Brian Fallow that begins:

American lawmakers may have pulled the United States and the rest of us back from the brink of economic calamity, but the path down from the clifftop remains long, tortuous and slippery.

Whoops - wonder how long that story will last in light of the events of the last two hours!!

Wall Street pandemonium

Breaking news - The US House of Representatives has vetoed the US$700B bailout of the financial sector, and Wall Street has responded accordingly, dropping steeply

That doesn't bode well for the NZX when it opens this morning - stay tuned!

UPDATE: The Herald reports on Wall Street's reaction


More brilliance from Tom Scott this morning - but I bet a that a certain other self-proclaimed kingmaker is peeved!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Winston says...

Winston Peters has been blogging again, and it's a doozy!!

The Privileges Committee wasn’t a jury of my peers. For the most part it was just a bunch of politicians with partisan prejudices, who voted along party lines. Some members of the committee were decent enough to go in there with open minds and judge the information as they saw it, but the majority weren’t.

At the end of the day, what the committee found was that I didn’t fill in a piece of paper correctly. There was no fraud. I did not personally benefit from doing so. Not one cent.

But its time to move on from that debate.

Our enemies have tried to bring us down, but we’re still standing. And we’ll still be standing on November 8th. The only court we care about is the court of public opinion. We are happy for that court to judge us because we have faith in the people of New Zealand.

"I didn’t fill in a piece of paper correctly" - that's Winston's way of saying KNOWINGLY providing false information!

Leaders' Debate cancelled

Stuff is reporting the TV3 has cancelled its proposed Leaders' Debate set for next Thursday:

TV3 has cancelled a debate between leaders of political parties in Parliament after Helen Clark and John Key refused to share the platform with minor party leaders.

A TV3 spokesman told NZPA the separate head-to-head debate between Miss Clark and Mr Key was now "under active consideration".

In a statement TV3 said the National and Labour leaders' position made broadcasting the 90-minute debate inviable and it would not be going ahead.

It had been scheduled for October 9.

Minor parties have reacted angrily.

Keeping Stock suggests that the fact the minor parties have "reacted angrily" is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with MMP. Let's get real here. Either Helen Clark or John Key is going to be the Prime Minister after the election, and that's where the attention should be focused. By all means, set up a debate with just the minor party leaders, but Clark vs Key is where this election will be won or lost.

An inside job on Peters?

Pat Booth writing in, of all places, Autocar, suggests that the campaign to discredit Winston Peters is not a media conspiracy; it originates far closer to home. He writes:

Winston Peters might not need to look very far for the whistle-blower who caused him so much strife.

He has thrashed about whipping up emotional storms over what he describes as intrigues to destroy him and his party.

But evidence suggests an inside job from his own New Zealand First by someone who drew from secret party files.

That certainly piqued my interest! So I read on:

That seems a logical source of a series of highly significant letters sent to media investigators over several months. Some letters were long and verbose but they were also full of specific, damaging detail and precise figures.

One of the most important was backed by a copy of a Vela Brothers’ donation cheque. Specially written for $9995, it could and did slip past the legal obligation to declare donations of $10,000 or more. As did others from the same source.

That evidence of a specially crafted and secret donation process looked out at Winston Peters, his critics and supporters, from the front page of Wellington’s Dominion Post as long ago as July 22.

That cheque rebutted Winston Peters’ denials that Vela corporate money had changed hands – and in this sleight-of-hand, drip-feed fashion.

The cheque and other details in those anonymous letters were part of a two-year investigation by the paper’s Phil Kitchen, New Zealand’s most determined and skilled investigator of his generation. Ask Louise Nicholas and various former policemen about him if you have any doubts.

The parliamentary privileges committee hearing and current investigations by both the Serious Fraud Office and police – plus widespread and probing cover by other media – have followed.

It’s been the sort of detailed, complex and long-running inquiry that Phil Kitchen thrives on. And he still hasn’t revealed all that he knows. Not by a long way.

"And he still hasn’t revealed all that he knows. Not by a long way." Oh dear, that could be VERY bad news for the underemployed Foreign Minister ('E's not dead' 'e's restin'!). This article is well worth a read, and I won't spoil it with any more snippets. But in support of his argument, Pat Booth does tell us more about the mysterious Greek goddess Eumenides - and his conclusions are fascinating.

The Monday Quote - 29/9/08

Could it be anything else? Winston Peters's rather extraordinary speech in his own defence prior to censure by Parliament is now forever in Hansard. It's a bit too long to reproduce in its entirety, but here are the first two paragraphs which set the tone for what followed:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Thank you. Over 29 finance houses have collapsed, owing $3 billion to mainly older New Zealanders, and hundreds of thousands of people face home affordability problems, and the ship “New Zealand” is sailing in troubled international waters. Against this backdrop there has been an attack on an MP and his party, premeditated, orchestrated, and relentless, in the hope of bringing him, his party, and the Government down. New Zealanders have become heartily sick of it. Every minute and every page that is wasted on that obsessive character assassination is another minute of another hour, or day, or another page of a newspaper, that is diverted from the real issues that face all of us.

This is a road seriously walked along before. Whether it be the Māori loans affair, the BNZ bail-out, the BNZ sale, or the wine-box inquiry, the constant hymn of hate has been consistent in the allegations made of my being a liar, deceiver, manipulator, or populist demagogue, or of cultism. The allegations have failed, of course, but what is common in those events is that there never was an admission of who was right and who deserved an apology. That is not important, nor is personal vindication in the pursuit of worthy causes, when one seeks to march to a different drum.

You can view the text of the full debate here if you are that way inclined! However Keeping Stock believes that the words "allegations made of my being a liar, deceiver, manipulator, or populist demagogue, or of cultism" fit Winston Peters perfectly!

Peter Brown caption contest

It's Monday, so it must be time for a Caption Contest! There's honour, glory and bragging rights at stake, so tell the world what YOU think Peter Brown could be telling the immigrant community!

I'll get the show on the road - "Rivers of blood I tell you, rivers of blood!"

The election is nigh!

Yep, the electiion is indeed nigh. You know that's the case when NZ First turns its attention to immigrants. The Herald report begins:

New Zealand First says it will not welcome immigrants if they come from societies with a "class system" or where women are treated as subservient to men.

So who said that? Why, in a moment of supreme irony, the words were uttered by NZ First's deputy leader Peter Brown, who is, of course, an immigrant!! The Herald continues:

Deputy leader Peter Brown, an immigrant from England, told a crowd of mainly refugees and immigrants at a political debate in Mt Albert yesterday that New Zealand was an "egalitarian society" and those who could not integrate were not welcome.

In this country "Jack is as good as his master, and Jack's wife is as good as Jack", he said and suggested that under New Zealand First's immigration policy, those who could not accept this would not be wanted.

Mr Brown was speaking to a crowd who packed the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall yesterday to listen to eight political parties debate immigration and say how their party would support migrants and refugees.

Many in the crowd were seen shaking their heads with disapproval at Mr Brown's suggestions, with some - such as refugee Mohd Faisel Daud - leaving the hall.

Mr Daud said: "I still don't know who I will vote for, but after listening to Mr Brown, at least I know who I will not be voting for."

It was Tommy Gear!!

That name crops up again!! Tommy Gear, NZ First's taxpayer-funded runner of interference for the Rt Hon Winston Peters has been "outed" by the Dom-Post as the staffer who heavied the Maori Party. TheDom-Post says:

NZ First's mysterious Tauranga staff member, Tommy Gear, was used to lean on the Maori Party to get it to change its parliamentary voting stance against Winston Peters.

The Dominion Post understands Mr Gear had a meeting with Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell in Rotorua last weekend.

It is believed that Mr Gear put pressure on Mr Flavell to vote along ethnic lines to oppose the vote censuring NZ First leader Mr Peters in Parliament on Tuesday.

The ploy did not work as the Maori Party, along with National, the Greens, UnitedFuture, ACT and independent MPs Gordon Copeland and Taito Phillip Field, voted to censure Mr Peters over a $100,000 donation from billionaire expatriate Owen Glenn.

After the vote, Mr Peters accused the Maori Party of "treachery", saying he was shocked Maori would not back Maori.

Mr Peters said yesterday he was not going to waste his time commenting on "mindless speculation" about a possible meeting.

He denied any knowledge of the meeting and said he had no intention of talking to Mr Gear about it.

Mr Gear, who has received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars from Parliamentary Service for a job many in NZ First know little about, did not return calls yesterday.

This is just another nail in the coffin of Winston First. The party is already under investigation by the Police for a breach of the Electoral Finance Act involving unauthorised billboards being erected at Gear's Tauranga home. At the time, it was revealed that the shadowy Mr Gear was employed in a wide-ranging but secretive role, and paid for by you and I via Parliamentary Services, to whom NZ First still owes $158,000.

Keeping Stock calls on Winston Peters to come clean over this shady episode, but doesn't expect that to happen today, or tomorrow, or.....

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A belated win for the 'Nix

It had to happen didn't it? The first Phoenix match that I haven't either watched or videoed this season, and they finally had a win, 2-1 over the "glamour boys" of the A-League, the joint league-leaders Sydney FC. The photo at left is of Tim Brown (with the bandaged head) celebrating after slotting home the 72nd minute winner.

It's been reported that Terry Serepisos read the riot act during the week after a series of lacklustre performances. Whatever he said, it must have worked, as the 'Nix turned on their best performance of the season to date to lift themselves off the foot of the ladder.

The Phoenix website carries the match report. The Yellow Fever site hasn't yet been updated; presumably the webmasters are still celebrating at the Backbencher!

"Labour is running out of time"

So said Duncan Garner on 3News tonight, as he gave an overview of the latest 3News poll. And the news wasn't good for Labour, down 1 to 36% while National has risen by 1 to 49%. With the margin now 13 points between National and Labour, and the smears against John Key (both from the Labour Party and its attack dogs) clearly not working, Clark has a problem. On tonight's poll, only the Greens reach the 5% MMP threshhold. New Zealand First languishes at 3%, and Act, The Maori Party, United Future andthe Progressives will need to reatin the electorate seats they presently hold.

And to make Helen Clark's evening worse, she continues to trail Key in the preferred Prime Minister poll, 34% to 32%.

National's Electoral Law policy

John Key has released National's Electoral Law, Treaty Negotiations and Maori Affairs policies this afternoon. You can read the full details at the National Party's website, but in brief:

  • National will repeal the "draconian and unworkable Electoral Finance Act, while ensuring transparency around donations remains. We will reform electoral law through a process that involves all parliamentary parties, and the public."
  • National will hold a binding referendum on MMP, no later than 2011. Jojm Key says that "New Zealanders have had to wait long enough for a chance to have their say on MMP"
  • National "intends to devote fresh energy and leadership to advancing Treaty settlements, and aims to achieve just and durable settlements of all historic Treaty claims by 2014."
  • National will initiate a constitutional process to abolish the Maori seats once historic Treaty claims have been resolved
So there you have it. John Key promised in his speech during the Third Reading debate on the EFA to turf the Act out, saying:

Let me say this to the people of New Zealand who are engaged in this debate and who are interested: National will repeal this legislation. We will go back to basics. We will go back to the way it was. We will ask independent people to go out there and come up with electoral law. You see, electoral law is not owned by the Labour Party for the benefit of the Labour Party. Electoral law is owned by the people of New Zealand so that we can have a democracy.

Keeping Stock believes that it is great news to see this written into National Party policy, and has no doubt that an incoming National government will deliver on this promise. There has to be a better way forward.

Keeping Stock also believes that National's policy to hold a binding referendum on MMP will receive widespread support. Referenda are pointless if the government of the day does not have to comply with the expressed wish of the electorate. The sight of the poltical process being held captive by minor parties seeking influence far beyond their level of support has been the hallmark of the MMP environment. Doubtless, the minor parties have a role to play in our democracy,but the tail should not be allowed to wag the dog.

That didn't take long!

Winston Peters has only been blogging a relatively short time, but it hasn't taken him or his acolytes long to start dishing out the personal stuff - check this out.

Memo to Winston: At least Rodney Hide paid his own bill!!

Laws on the Muliagas and the media

I don't propose to quote selectively from this piece, because Michael Laws' opinion-piece this morning on the Folole Muliaga inquest findings and the role of the media should be read in its entirety.

However I will make the comment that one of the better decisions the Labour Party has made this year has been to find an alternative candidtae for the Botany electorate.

Smelly business...

Homepaddock notices the stench coming from the LabourFirst axis. Firstly she reproduces this excellent cartoon from Garrick Tremain.

But Homepaddock's best work is here, with a smorgsabord of media quotes over the nasty aromas that Helen Clark, with her supposedly well-tuned political nose seems able to ignore. And amongst some pretty caustic media analysis, Colin Espiner's shines out:

. . . it meant Labour and Winston Peters failed to pervert the cause of justice and will of the majority despite the most underhand of tactics. As I’ve said below in this post, Labour’s attempt to politicise the committee and discredit its findings was shameful - amongst the worst things the party has done in the past nine years, in my opinion.

Homepaddock closes by saying "We know Labour and New Zealand First can’t but we won’t know until election night how many of their supporters are prepared to hold their noses." Well said!

The Peters defence

Bill Ralston takes aim at Winston Peters in his Herald on Sunday column this morning, and calls Peters on the line of defence his is likely to run during the election campaign. He begins:

Watching the post-censure antics of Winston Peters it truly feels like I've fallen into a world where everything is turned around. Black is white, the sun rises in the west, and a zillion angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Listening to his interviews on Radio Waatea with Willie Jackson and on Close Up with Mark Sainsbury, you can see the defence he will use in the run-up to the election in the hope of rebuilding his party's support.

He is the victim of a conspiracy to pervert the truth by a biased media. The charges were cooked up by his enemies from the Winebox inquiry.

The affair has been subverted by the Act and National parties to destroy him and they have been aided in this by the treachery of the Maori Party and the duplicity of the Greens and United Future.

If there are any mistakes made or wrongdoing done it is the fault of party officials or staff, not him.

The Serious Fraud Office, the police and the Electoral Office aren't investigating Peters. They're probing the New Zealand First party.

And technically, Ralston is dead right. The Privileges Committee hearing was the only investigation directed at Winston Peters personally, But he then goes on to point out just how bizarre that defence is:

It may sound extraordinary that Peters seeks to distance himself from the party he created and has led since its inception.

To most people Peters and New Zealand First are synonymous but, technically, he is correct.

If I was a New Zealand First party official or staffer I would be a little nervous hearing that. It sounds like Peters is prepared to throw them to the wolves if the investigations find something wrong.

Of course, presumably as leader of the Parliamentary party he must have some role in the party's executive and governance process and, therefore, must have a measure of responsibility for what the party has done. But he seems not to acknowledge that.

When a mistake can be proved he blames those around him.

This really is stretching the bounds of probabilities. To most people, NZ First is affectionately known as Winston First. He might just as well be as overt about it as Jim Anderton, and name the party Winston Peters's NZ First Party! And the revelations of a few months ago that he personally asked Bob Jones for cash in 2005 fly in the face of Peters's defence. And lastly says Ralston, there's the role of the media:

Weirdest of all is the media conspiracy, of which apparently I am a chief conspirator because TV3 cut short its live coverage of him at the privileges committee.

"TV3 had shut the direct transmission down. Why? Because it wasn't going their way.

"These people don't want the truth," Peters says.

Actually, it was a cock-up not a conspiracy. TV3 cut back to an episode of the The Simpsons because it lost its nerve and feared it was losing viewers and revenue from lost ad breaks.

I know it was a decision it regretted the next day when it saw the ratings and the huge number of people who had been watching.

Peters insists I am biased because he is suing me.

To the best of my knowledge he is not suing me.

He does have legal action pending against TVNZ from the time I was running news there.

That case is over a story about NZ First's funding and big business donations. Sound familiar?

Indeed. Keeping Stock reminds any reader who is sympathetic to Peters that he has for 15 years railed against donations from big business and secret trusts, while all the while being as bad as those he was lambasting. If nothing else, he is a liar and a hypocrite - not good qualities, when "This is an election about trust".

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Warriors vs Manly updates

Welcome to the Keeping Stock NRL information service!

There's not a lot in this match so far. Manly has had one try-scoring chance which they took, and the Warriors had one golden chance to Manu Vatuvei which somehow Manly defused. There's half an hour gone, and it's Manly by 4-nil.

34min - Try to Steve "Beaver" Menzies - Manly lead 8-nil.

Bugger! Right on the stroke of halftime Steve Matai scores - unconverted, so it's 12-nil to Manly at the break.

Double-bugger!! Manly open the scond half with a try by the posts after a couple of promising Warriors attacks - 18-nil Manly, and it's probably a bridge too far for the Warriors now.

53min - Manly have scored again - 22-nil and the Warriors look beaten now.

Triple bugger!!! Not only have Manly scored two more tries, but the laptop has spat the dummy - 32-nil to Manly.

Final score Manly 32; Warriors 6

A comprehensive win to a very good Manly side. Bad luck for the Warriors, but they have exceeded all expectations, and they won't be the salvation of Helen Clark and the Labour Party!!

Bassett on Peters and THAT censure...

Lindsay Addie's Cicero blog is a welcome addition to the VRWC and the blogosphere in general. And it was Lindsay who kindly gave me a heads-up to Michael Bassett's most recent opinion-piece on the subject of the censure of Winston Peters by Parliament.

After some opening commentary, Bassett opines that the treatment dished out to Peters was, by historical comparison, mild, and expresses concern that Peters may have been given a forum by Parliament:

Winston Peters suffered no such indignity. His sentence was the very least that the public could reasonably expect, given the fact that approximately 90% of New Zealanders believe that he did not tell the truth over the donation he received from expatriate businessman, Owen Glenn.

Peters, it seems, has no intention of complying with Parliament's order. With an election at hand and his low standing in the polls, he wants a soap box. He's already crying that he has been treated unfairly; if he's charged with contempt for failing to accept Parliaments order he'll lift the decibel level and scream persecution. That, of course, is his usual way of trying to get out of tight corners. When caught, he acts like one of those giant Canterbury Plains excrement sprays that revolve above the pasture, showering everything with you know what. My guess is that while the House would be quite within its rights to take further action against Winston, they'll probably hold back because to do so would only play into his hands. Peters, after all, has managed to exploit double standards most of his political life and right now just about everyone wants to be rid of him.

This is a very real concern. No-one plays the role of a persecuted man better than Winston Peters. And now that John Key has unequivocally ruled out any deal with NZ First, only Labour can benefit from a Phoenix-like performance by Peters. But Bassett's concerns run far deeper than just Winston Peters, as his closing paragraphs suggest:

What worries me about this whole sorry saga is that the terms of reference of the Privileges Committee on this occasion were extremely narrow. Members and the wider public have a right to probe why so many people were ready to lavish money on Peters. Wealthy people don't all give money away in $100,000 lots. It seems that most of those involved with Winston have interests in the racing industry, an area known for its corruption down through the ages, here and everywhere else. Why have they been prepared to dig so deep for the Minister of Racing in recent years? What did they expect to get, and what might they have received in turn? At the end of July this year, Tony Wall of the Sunday Star Times reported that the minister had upended the taxpayers' cash register over the racing industry to the extent of tens of millions since 2005. This largesse with our money occurred with the knowledge of the Prime Minister, who appointed Winston Peters Minister of Racing after the 2005 election. When she gave him his warrant she must have known of the extent to which he was beholden to the racing industry for party, and possibly personal funding. Overtly buying political influence by giving large donations to parties and murky private trusts like the Spencer Trust appears on the face of it to be corruption of a kind that has been foreign to New Zealand, and which is always likely to bring any Parliament into disrepute. When will these matters be investigated by the Privileges Committee? Why has Winston, who has always posed as a friend of the old and the vulnerable, been spreading tens of millions of dollars of public money on wealthy racing magnates who don't need it, rather than on better health care and services for his supporters? And in particular, why has the Prime Minister been a party to all of this by allowing her ministry to fund Winston's backers? There is much yet that needs unearthing about this whole murky business.

Lots of other parliamentarians are involved in all of this. Will they escape investigation? This is a serious question: many people know more than they have admitted to about this sorry business. The integrity of Parliament will be the loser unless the investigation now widens.

Bassett makes some very important points here, especially with his references to the racing industry, and the largesse displayed by Peters, despite advice to the contrary from Treasury. Bassett also points to Peters's hypocrisy, having railed against secret donations from "big business", whilst all the time his now-infamous Spencer Trust was receiving exactly that!

And lastly, Bassett provides a reminder that bigger fish than Winston Peters are involved in this - a reference to Helen Clark perhaps? Keeping Stock agrees wholeheartedly with Basset's sentiments. In the meantime we need to remember two things:

  1. A vote for Labour is a vote for Winston Peters, and
  2. This is an election about trust.

Hat-tip: Cicero's

Can the Warriors' run continue?

Steve Price looks pretty relaxed heading in to tonight's NRL preliminary final againsy Manly at the Sydney Football Stadium. And so he should be - it's game #299 in the NRL for Price, and a win to the Warriors tonight would see him clock up #300 in the Grand Final - how good would that be? But Price is philosophical. He said on TV last night that the game after this will be his 300th - and whether it's this year or next really doesn't matter.

That's a great attitude from the Warriors' captain. The Warriors have been playing on a knife-edge for about the last two months, when they were 13th in the NRL, and rated no chance of making the playoffs. Now they are just one game away from a Grand Final meeting with the Melbourne Storm.

The Sydney punters will have mixed feelings about tonight's match. Manly is disliked in Sydney even more than Auckland is disliked in NZ rugby circles! But the thought of another non-Sydney Grand Final might be too much to bear! Whatever, there will be plenty of "home" support for the Vodafone Warriors tonight.

Manly will be a huge challenge, make no mistake. But this is finals football, and if the Warriors can stay close at half-time as they have done against the Storm and the Roosters, anything is possible. The return of Wade McKinnon brings an x-factor to the team which thy've lacked for most of the season. This could be Reuben Wiki's last match for the Warriors - but then again, that's what they've been saying for the last three weeks! The head suggests that Manly might just be too strong all round, but inside this chest beats a Kiwi heart...

Cullen's "comfort zone"

Michael Cullen makes an astounding admission in this morning's Dominion-Post. Having guided the New Zealands economy through almost nine years of "dream" conditions, he's now outside his comfort zone!

Government debt is blowing out and Finance Minister Michael Cullen admits being "beyond my comfort zone" as the economic contraction starts to bite.

Statistics NZ confirmed yesterday a recession, with the economy shrinking 0.2 per cent in the June quarter, after a decline of 0.3 per cent in the three months to March.

Dr Cullen said the forecast level of debt was "not a pretty picture" and would exceed his target of 20 per cent of gross domestic product when the Treasury opened the books on Monday week.

He had said at the time of the May Budget, with a cash deficit of $3.5 billion a year for the next four years, that he was "at the edge of my comfort zone".

"Yes, I would say that I am beyond my comfort zone on Monday week so it is going to be important over the next three years for government to very carefully manage its accounts and not to add to those fiscal pressures." He expected a third consecutive quarter of contraction in September, but said growth was likely to resume in the last three months of 2008.

That really is an extraordinary admission for the Finance Minister to be making, especially when his leader has told the nation that "This is an election about trust"! Cullen must be dreading the "opening of the books" on Monday week when the true economic picture is revealed - the picture that shows that he and his collegaues have successfully spent eight years' worth of surpluses. I guess the only comfort supporters of the right can take from this is that he's left himself little room for an election lolly-scramble - after all, he can hardly castigate National for its plans while throwing bucketsful of dosh hither and yon could he? Or else we wouldn't be able to trust him!

A week to learn from

John Armstrong reflects on what has been a tough week for John Key.

For John Key, winning or losing the election may now hang less on tax and more on his syntax.

When it comes to diction, Helen Clark's careful choice of language conveys calm, authority, security, control of what is going on around her, and an absence of self-doubt. All are essential attributes for a successful politician.

In contrast, Key's wretched interview on TVNZ's Breakfast summed up the National leader's verbally challenging week. His response to Paul Henry's first question contained around a dozen "ahs" and "you knows".

Hesitation from a politician suggests doubt. Hesitation suggests an inability to handle pressure. Hesitation suggests there is something to hide.

Hesitation is death.

He's certainly got a point there! Even though the issue itself was relatively minor, Key's hesitant manner didn't help the public perception of the PM-in-waiting. Armstrong suggests that it has been a valuable learning experience for Key and his advisors, on more than one front:

Staring down the barrel of another 42 days of ever-intensifying media scrutiny on their boss before the votes are cast and counted, Key's media minders could be excused an attack of mild panic.

Key looked to be in desperate need of some media training. His answer instead is to pick himself up and throw himself back into the fray - but not before exhaustively analysing what went wrong, backed up with a gritted-teeth determination there be no repeat of such debacles. That is what he has always done. That is how he has got to the top.

National has learned two lessons from the Tranz Rail shambles: first, that media organisations fed information by Labour will attempt to ambush Key throughout the campaign, and second, that Labour isn't too fussy about what kind of information it uses to try to destroy voters' confidence in Key.

Make no mistake. This was a set-up by Labour. One News has yet to correct the error it made, accusing Key of personal ownership of shares, when documentary evidence has been produced to the contrary. But that is of little consequence. More than anything, it shows the lengths that Labour will go to in order to win a cherished fourth term in office. And Armstrong draws the inevitable comparison between Key and Winston Peters on evasivesness:

While Key's ability to hammer Labour for trusting Peters has been compromised by the Tranz Rail share episode, National believes any long-term damage will be minimal.

Unlike Peters, Key confessed to making a mistake. The story quickly died. People will soon forget it.

Unlike the Peters saga which refuses to die - to Labour's increasing cost.

Indeed. Now that the 48th Parliament has effectively dissolved, and Peters remains as part of the government, albeit sidelined, it will be hard for LabourFirst to counter the arguement that Clark and Peters are joined at the hip. John Key just has to be a whole lot more articulate and authoratative in hammering home that inconvenient truth. After all, in the immortal words of Helen Clark "This is an election about trust".

Friday, September 26, 2008

A tale of two cards...

John Key came up with a great line in the adjournment debate today. He described the term of the 48th Parliament as a tale of two cards. "Labour started with the PledgeCard, and they're finishing with a red card!"

Well said Mr Key, and if anyone felt the urge to change the name on the red shirt to "Clark" or "Labour" with a bit of photoshopping, who would I be to complain!!

What's happening Dr Cullen?

A week since Ian Wishart broke this story, the MSM has finally got hold of it. New Zealand's Solicitor-General, Dr David Collins is under investigation by the NZ Police, yet remains in office, despite both the Prime Minister and Attorney-General Michael Cullen being aware of the allegations and the investigation.

This is simply not good enough. Keeping Stock is not going to try and litigate this matter online by furnishing details, but significantly, it relates to events that are alleged to have occurred SINCE Dr Collins took up the role of Solictor-General. Helen Clark was made personally aware of this matter almost three weeks ago, and Michael Cullen's office confirms that Cullen is aware of the the investigation, as is Collins himself. Could the reason that Collins has not been stood down be that he is pivotal to Michael Cullen, possibly the only Attorney-General anywhere who isn't a lawyer, being able to function in that role?

Whatever, this is yet another bad look for the Labour-led government.

The Friday Forum - 26/9/08

It's Friday again - where has this week gone? And only six more Friday Forums until the election - bring it on!

So there's plenty to debate today - John Key's gaffe, the Clark/Peters axis, and who has what over whom, and of course, there's a lot of buzz at the moment about a VERY big story about to break which isn't going to reflect well on the government or the Police.

So welcome in. This is YOUR place to have your say, rant, rave and generally get things out of your sytem before a relaxing weekend.

Scott on Peters

Another beauty from Tom Scott this morning - although I can't say that the thought of Helen Clark as a nurse does anything for me - shades of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest!

Is this the OFFICIAL one?

WhaleOil reports that yet another Labour Party website has been launched. You really MUST go and visit this one! Seriously!! And spend a few minutes on the "Labour's policy" page - you'll come away informed - and amused!

Hat-tip: WhaleOil

Herald poll all blue

National continues to maintain a big lead over Labour in the latest Herald Digipoll which has been published this morning. In fact, the gap has widened by 2 points in National's favour - here's some commentary:

The political divisions and allegiances triggered by the furore over secret donations to New Zealand First and leader Winston Peters have had little effect on party standings in the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey.

Support for National, which has said it would not work with New Zealand First after the election, has risen slightly, by 1.4 percentage points, to 51.4 per cent of decided voters.

This would give it 68 seats in Parliament - enough for it to govern without a coalition partner.

Labour, which aligned itself with Mr Peters, is down 0.6 points to 35.7 per cent.

New Zealand First is up by 0.7 but to only 2.8 per cent - not enough for it to stay in Parliament after the November 8 election without winning an electorate seat.

The Green Party has slipped under the 5 per cent threshold, and at 4.9 per cent would also be a casualty without an electorate.

With the news that the Maori Party looks far more likely to support National post-election, Labour has to be concerned about this poll, just six weeks out from the election. Not only is Helen Clark running out of post-election suitors, but the gap of almost 16 points to National must seem like a mountain to her. Rumours abound of splits within the Labour caucus, and there will be some nervous MP's from around 30 downwards on the Labour list as they see their taxpayer-funded lifestyle in peril. And we've long been told that where Auckland goes, so goes New Zealand - National's support in Auckland is significantly higher than its overall support at 55%.

Pita Sharples is right when he says that Helen Clark is "nearing the end of her time". Meanwhile, Homepaddock helpfully reminds us that there are only 43 sleeps left until the election!

A benefit crackdown - from Labour!!

Could it be that the Labour Party has a secret agenda? You know, the party led by the PM who said "This is an election about trust". Here's what the Dom-Post has to say about Labour's secret benefit crackdown:

Thousands of long-term beneficiaries are targets of a crackdown that threatens to cancel payments if they shun jobs or training opportunities.

The Government plans to send a "clear signal" to about 6000 benefit recipients that being "inactive is not an option", Cabinet papers released to The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act reveal.

Those unemployed for more than two years will be targets because many face significant barriers to finding a job - such as drug and alcohol problems, poor work habits, poor literacy and numeracy or health problems, the papers say.

There is strong evidence that long periods of unemployment can result in weakened work habits and a lack of confidence, the papers, which went to the Cabinet last October, say. "Despite the reduction in unemployment numbers, there are still too many people who have been on unemployed-related benefits for too long."

I'm guessing that Phil from www.whoar.co.nz or our comrades from The Standard won't be feeling too favourably disposed towards Helen Clark this morning!

Maori Party on trust

Dr Pita Sharples has spoken about trust in an interview on TVNZ according to the Dom-Post. And facing what the PM has said "is an election about trust", Sharples has been frank - he is no longer sure he trusts Helen Clark! The Dom-Post reports:

The Maori Party has indicated it is positioning itself for a possible support deal with National after the November 8 election.

Party co-leader Pita Sharples said he was no longer sure if he trusted Prime Minister Helen Clark, and said she was nearing the end of her time.

"She has been a great leader; she has done great things for the country," Dr Sharples said in an interview recorded yesterday for TVNZ 7. "But maybe she is nearing the end of her time."

Recent events in Parliament showed Miss Clark was clinging to power, he said.

"She is appearing quite desperate ... she is behaving like someone who is really, really desperate to get back into Parliament at any cost."

This is pretty blunt stuff from Pita Sharples. Following hot on the heels of Hone Harawira's reference to the "coalition corpse" of LabourFirst, it is certainly a sign that the Maori Party is putting some distance between itself and the Clark/Peters axis. That could be very welcome news for the National Party post-election.

And for those who believe that the Maori Party will be happy to sit on the sidelines after the election - think again:

Dr Sharples said the Maori Party would not allow itself to get "hung up" on matters such as retaining the Maori seats, which National has pledged to abolish eventually.

Treaty of Waitangi matters, retaining the Maori seats and the repeal of the foreshore and seabed legislation were "deep-structure policies" for the party.

They were all bottom-line, "but not necessarily a barrier to aligning ourselves with any other group for progress".

"The real need right now is health, education and those sorts of things amongst our people," Dr Sharples said.

"Poverty for many, housing, that sort of stuff, and that is where we want to find some sort of advantage. If we do try to go into some sort of arrangement with another group that will give us an advantage to do those things, then we may well end up in a relationship."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Brian Donnelly dies

Stuff reports that Winston Peters has informed the House that Brian Donnelly died this afternoon after a short illness.

That is indeed sad news. Donnelly was the pick of the NZ First crop in this Parliament up until his retirement from the House to take up the role of High Commissioner to the Cook Islands. He recently had to stand aside from that role due to ill-health. The photograph to the left is of Donnelly receiving his Queen's Service Order at a recent investiture at Government House.

Keeping Stock extends its sympathy to the Donnelly family, and to the NZ First caucus.

A pair of billboards

DPF has leaked the first of David Benson-Pope's campaign billboards. He makes the point the DB-P can feel hard done by compared to Winston Peters!!

He does have a point. Helen has let Winston away with lies to the media, lies to her, lies to the public, lies to the Privileges Committee and he is still there with all his baubles. While DBP got chopped down for far far less - not only losing his Ministerial baubles but also deselected.

And the there's this effort from MacDoctor, who may find a new career as a designer of tell-it-like-it-is billboards for the National Party! Well done MacDoc!!

Hat-tips: Kiwiblog & MacDoctor

Justice is blind...

It's very much a graphical day today, but I couldn't resist posting this excellent cartoon from Mike Morehu. Considering that the Prime Minister has told us that "This is an election about trust", and that she and her deputy have made much hullabaloo about the "politicisation" of the Privileges Committee hearing into her Foreign Minister, Keeping Stock thought that this was a pretty telling commentary by Morehu - well done!

If only ,,,,

Ian Wishart makes a bold prediction!

Hat-tip: The Briefing Room & Big News

QC slam-dunks the PM

Audrey Young alluded to what follows in her most recent blog-post yesterday afternoon, saying:

This is the evidence that shows that Peters was not quite telling the truth when he told Upper Hutt Grey Power in a written speech that he had checked the records and that he himself had reimbursed Brian Henry the $40,000.

And this is the evidence that Cullen wanted heard in secret. More about this from my colleague Paddy Gower in tomorrow's paper.

And Paddy Gower has indeed debunked any myth that may have the opportunity to grow legs suggesting the the SFO acted unlawfully - he writes:

Serious Fraud Office director Grant Liddell made a brave and correct decision to hand over evidence showing NZ First leader Winston Peters misled the privileges committee, says an Auckland Queen's Counsel.

Jim Farmer said criticism of Mr Liddell's judgment by Prime Minister Helen Clark and her deputy, Michael Cullen, was wrong and unwarranted.

Mr Liddell's evidence was uncovered in the SFO investigation and showed that Mr Peters had a $40,000 debt paid for him by the Spencer Trust, contradicting his version that he paid it himself.

Dr Farmer said Mr Liddell had a simple choice: whether it was responsible to "sit on" relevant information, or to hand it over.

"He is in charge of his own office and should do what he thinks right.

"He has obviously taken a responsible decision. It is very defensible on its merits and it doesn't warrant attack from politicians, particularly personal attacks in the form of saying he has poor judgment."

The criticism of Mr Liddell's judgment was particularly directed at how he did not consult Crown Law before handing over the evidence.

Gower's article certainly comes across as trenchant criticism of Clark and Cullen's complaints against the SFO. And in a further blow to Winston Peters's credibility (if such a commodity exists), he reminds readers of just what the SFO told the Privileges Committee:

The SFO's evidence about the $40,000 was obtained when it used its special powers to seize the Spencer Trust's records in its separate inquiry into the Sir Robert Jones and Vela family donations.

The records showed the trust paid the $40,000 legal costs Mr Peters was ordered to pay National MP Bob Clarkson after the unsuccessful electoral petition following the last election.

In a letter to the privileges committee, Mr Liddell said he approached it after considering "my responsibility as head of a law enforcement agency where I have information that is relevant to possible breach of the laws of New Zealand".

We should be grateful that the head of the SFO takes his responsibilities seriously. We should be grateful that LabourFirst did not succeed in disestablishing the SFO and bringing it under the umbrella of its "friendly" Police. And Keeping Stock expresses its support of Mr Liddell and his team, who may in the next few months have more work than they can handle - especially when they have interviewed the elusive Ross Meurant!

They would say that wouldn't they...

What a surprise. LabourFirst denies heavying the Maori Party over their vote on Winston Peters. The Herald reports:

Parties try to persuade each other to their viewpoints all the time, but Prime Minister Helen Clark expressed concern at any "politicisation" of the committee.

That would have made any lobbying by Labour hypocritical.

Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia admitted he had telephoned Dr Sharples on Sunday and on Monday but said that that was not out of the ordinary. The subject of the call was a kura kaupapa (Maori language primary school). He acknowledged they had discussed the Peters case but denied trying to persuade the Maori Party to change its mind.

"No I didn't. They are big enough to make their own decisions."

Mr Horomia said Dr Sharples had asked what the censure motion meant.

Mr Horomia said he had explained that Labour was supporting Mr Peters as "an elder statesman" in the Parliament - and on the evidence.

All Keeping Stock can say is that if LabourFirst, three of whose five members of the Privileges Committee are lawyers, made its decision "on the evidence", we would hate to have them sitting on any jury that we might have the misfortune to face!

Scott on dirty politics

Another gem from Tom Scott this morning ...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Mendacity" from Winston Peters

That's the word that Colin Espiner uses in his latest blog-post. For the benefit of all the other literally challenged:

Mendacity (n)

1.the quality of being mendacious; untruthfulness; tendency to lie.
2.an instance of lying; falsehood.

Here's what Espiner had to say about the mendacious (I like that word!!) Mr Peters - he begins:

It’s the story that just won’t quit. Indeed it’s starting to appear as if Winston Peters is intent on taking down the Labour Party with him.

He’s succeeded in further souring relations between Labour and the Maori Party, that’s for sure. Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples is absolutely furious with Labour over some phone calls from Parekura Horomia, who he claims has been trying to heavy Sharples into voting against the censure motion involving Peters.

Now that's interesting! All that lovin' from the PM, and Peters has turned feral on her, like a scorned lover!! And I always thought he was SUCH a gentleman! But I digress - here's how Espiner closes:

Horomia hasn’t denied calling Sharples either, but says such phone calls are normal before any vote and that he wasn’t trying to heavy anybody. I accept that the practice of lobbying does of course occur, as Labour tries to seek support for legislation. I would, however, have thought that Horomia or whoever it was would have had the sense to be extra careful on something as sensitive as this.

At best it was stupid. At worst it was intimidation.

Whichever, the phone calls, and the Maori Party’s decision to make them public, aren’t going to do Labour’s relationship with the Maori Party any good at all. And it seems the Maori Party’s relationship with NZ First is pretty wrecked too, given Peters’ outburst this morning on radio, in which he accused the party of “treachery” because it did not vote for “one one of their own”.

I’ve never known Peters to trade on his race before - in fact sometimes he actively downplays it. But he knows many Maori vote for NZ First, and he’s trying to undermine the Maori Party for refusing to back him at the privileges committee.

The plot thickens, and the fallout widens. A toxic brew indeed that Peters has created through his own mendacity.

Well done Colin Espiner for calling it as you see it - and for educating the author today!

UPDATE: Judge for yourself whether Winston Peters was mendacious again when interviewed on Campbell Live tonight.

Dirty tricks from LabourFirst

They're at it again. The heavies from LabourFirst tried to get the Maori Party to vote for Winston yesterday, using standover tactics and threats - Stuff reports:

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says a New Zealand First staffer and Government minister tried to put pressure on his party over how it would vote in yesterday's censure motion against Winston Peters.

The Maori Party, National, the Greens, ACT, United Future and independents Gordon Copeland and Taito Phillip Field backed the censure motion, with Labour and NZ First opposed.

Jim Anderton broke ranks with Labour and abstained.

The vote was to censure the New Zealand First leader following recommendations in a privileges committee report that found him in contempt for failing to declare the $100,000 that was used to pay the fees of his lawyer Brian Henry.

Today Dr Sharples said he was "disappointed" over attempts to influence his party.

"I personally had two separate phone calls from a senior minister urging me to vote in favour of Winston, and suggesting that there would be unpleasant repercussions from Maori people if I didn't," he said in a statement.

"Both (fellow co-leader) Tariana Turia and myself were disgusted with this kind of activity, aimed at perverting the course of justice and fair play."

Dr Sharples said Mr Peters' fate would be decided at the election.

"His populist antics versus our integrity," Dr Sharples said.

It's just as well that "This is an election about trust" eh - because you can sure trust the Labour Party to dish the dirt around!

UPDATE: DPF has the full media release from Pita Sharples

UPDATE #2: Newstalk ZB leads the 2pm bulletin with the headline "Maori Party accuses senior government Minister of blackmail". And Barry Soper has just come from a media conference with Pita Sharples, and says the evidence points to Parekura Horomia, even though Sharples won't name names.

Tom Scott strikes again

Tom Scott has long been one of New Zealand's very best cartoonists and political satirists, right back to the days when he used to lock horns with Sir Rob Muldoon. This cartoon shows why, as he gets to the bottom (pardon the pun) of the Privileges Committee report.

Michael "Scrooge" Cullen - the UCTotY

Roar Prawn posts about Michael Cullen's sanctimonious appearance on Close-Up last night where he arrogantly tried to defend the indefensible - the indefensible being the underemployed Foreign Minister ('E's not dead; 'e's restin'!).

Cullen's supercillious manner, and his "I know how to spend your money better than you do" attitude really grate at times. He can be brilliant in the House, but it is almost always at someone else's expense. So, Keeping Stock hereby annoints the good Dr Michael Cullen as New Zealand's Upper Class Twit of the Year, in keeping with the video that follows.

What does Owen Glenn think?

It's interesting now to reflect on Owen Glenn's comments from yesterday, made a few hours prior to Parliament censuring Winston Peters - this courtesy of the Herald (my emphasis added):

Glenn on report

Mr Glenn said today he doubted Mr Peters would be worried by being censured.

The businessman gave evidence to the inquiry and was able to give records showing he called Mr Peters and minutes later Mr Peters' lawyer sent an email with his bank account information.

Today Mr Glenn said he participated in the inquiry to clear his own name and did not think the penalty had anything to do with him.

"I didn't really rate it as a vote of confidence or anything. I just told the truth and it was up to 13 men and ladies good and true to make a decision."

Mr Glenn said Mr Peters' actions were clearly inappropriate and he was bound to be caught.

He said the censure finding was "nothing to do with me. You know if you do something wrong you've got to take the consequences. Do you think it will really worry him?"

Mr Glenn said he was offended by Labour's attempt to discredit his evidence and suggested that was something that could be investigated.

"They don't do that on their own, they take orders."

Mr Glenn was asked if he thought Mr Peters should lose his ministerial roles, he said that was up to the Prime Minister.

"What criteria does she go by in terms of selecting ministers? There's questions of ethics and integrity here that she should be standing up for. She is the leader of the New Zealand people and there are a lot of questions she has to answer in my opinion."

He added: "I think it's a very sad place New Zealand at the moment. And I think we need more adult people in Parliament."

The comments against Helen Clark are particularly barbed. It suggests that Mr Glenn is still feeling slighted over the way that Helen Clark snubbed him at the opening on the building bearing his name at Auckland University. And as for his closing line, all Keeping Stock can say is "Roll on November 8th"!!