Friday, July 25, 2014

Haere rā Tariana

Tariana Turia has mellowed since she first entered the public consciousness. In the mid 1990's, she was one of the faces of Maori activism in and around Whanganui, and was one of the leaders of the occupation of Moutua Gardens/Pakaitore in the city.

Mrs Turia became a Labour list MP in 1996. She famously left the Labour Party in 2004 to form the Maori Party, and since 2008 has held ministerial roles in the John Key-led Government.

Yesterday Mrs Turia bade farewell to the place that has been her second home for 18 years. Here's her valedictory speech, courtesy of In the House:




Whilst we do not share Mrs Turia's political views, she has earned our respect in recent years. Joining John Key in government was not popular with many Maori, but there is little doubt that Maori have benefitted more from being in the whare than from being outside, in opposition.

We also admire Mrs Turia for sticking to her principles when she could no longer abide by the Labour Party's Foreshore and Seabed legislation. It took a lot of guts to stare Helen Clark down, but that is exactly what she did.

Mrs Turia also paid a warm tribute to Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson. The issue of treaty settlements is both complex and controversial. This was her mihi to Mr Finlayson yesterday:

I cannot leave this House without recognising a real friend, Chris Finlayson. Chris is the greatest Treaty settlements Minister that we have ever had in this country.
In our iwi we have had the longest litigation in the history of this country over our river. It is just around the corner, and I want to say thank you to you so much for working so hard alongside our whānau, hapū, and iwi of Whanganui. 

It will indeed be a moment of significance when the claim of the Whanganui River iwi is finally settled. Whilst it is unfortunate that won't happen during Tariana Turia's tenure as MP for the region, she will doubtless be closely involved in the process.

We wish Mrs Turia a long and happy retirement from public life. We are sure her husband, children and the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren she proudly referred to yesterday will be pleased to see her a little more frequently.

Haere rā Tariana.


Hell hath no fury...

The old saying is that "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". If that's the case, imagine the fury that the wife of a scorned broadcaster might generate.

And that's exactly what happened yesterday; check this out:



Kudos to Kate Hawkesby for sticking up for her husband. Of course, David Cunliffe is probably wishing this morning that she hadn't, as it directs the spotlight at him.

Mr Cunliffe has got himself into an argument he cannot win. If he boycotts the TVNZ leaders debate he will look like a precious, petulant child who didn't get his own way. If TVNZ backs down and replaces Mike Hosking, the Labour Party will be accused, and rightly so, of exerting political pressure on the state broadcaster to suit its own means. And if the status quo prevails, Mr Cunliffe will have an underlying sense of unease going into debates moderated by Mike Hosking.

David Cunliffe stated on Tuesday that he and his MP's would "stick to the Labour knitting and make sure everybody hears the same stuff at the same time." but the events of yesterday suggest otherwise. The fact that somewhere in the War Room someone has been tasked with the job of going through all Mike Hosking's public comments to add those adverse to Labour and Cunliffe to a dossier suggests that, far from focusing on "real issues", Labour will continue to nit-pick rather than knit.


UPDATE: An online petition has been started calling on TVNZ to stand firm on its decision to have Mike Hosking moderate the leaders' debates. You can sign it here


A golden start


The Commonwealth Games are off to a flying start for the New Zealand track cycling team. The world champion men's sprint team of Sam Webster, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins has added a Commonwealth Games gold medal; the Herald reports:

New Zealand struck gold for the first time at the Commonwealth Games in real style at the Chris Hoy velodrome today.
The trio of Ethan Mitchell, Sam Webster and Eddie Dawkins flew around the 250m track in a Games record time of 43.181 seconds, eclipsing the record they had set in qualifying a couple of hours earlier.
The ebullient Dawkins immediately lifted his bike above his head saluting a block of New Zealand fans, before a New Zealand flag was produced and draped around the trio's shoulders.
"We came here to win gold and to walk away with that is just...unreal," Mitchell told Sky Sport.
"I think we just had to do the same process we did in the qualifying, we rode really well. We went out quicker and to back up like that is a credit to how fast these guys [Webster, Dawkins] go really."
They always had their noses in front of gallant England, who recorded a time of 43.706s.

As world champions, courtesy of their victory in Cali, Colombia earlier this year, they were favourites. But it's one thing to have that mantle; another altogether to justify the tag.

The men's sprint team has emerged as the class turn of New Zealand track cycling. Considerable resources have been invested in developing sprinters of international standard, and this year's success is the pay-off for that investment. With World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medals, they must be in the early running for the Team award at the Halberg Awards early next year.

Here's hoping that this morning's gold medal is the first of many for the New Zealand team in Glasgow. The Commonwealth Games may not be in the same league as the Olympics, but we can still expect some outstanding performances from our athletes.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

No more sledging? Yeah right

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has confirmed today that he offered to resign after a "stupid error" at Christchurch Airport this morning; the Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key has declined to accept Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee's offer of resignation, after Mr Brownlee and two of his staff deliberately bypassed airport security this morning.
"Running late for a plane this morning, I took a door that is normally used for an exit at Christchurch airport onto the forecourt ... and you're supposed to go through airport security," Mr Brownlee told reporters this afternoon.
He said he did not give it any thought, but has now apologised unreservedly for the action.
Mr Brownlee only offered his resignation after he was contacted by Aviation Security.
"I didn't initially consider that it was a huge problem. [Only after a phone call from Aviation Security] I suddenly realised, 'Hell, this is a pretty serious matter'.
"I should have known. There's no question, that's why I've offered the resignation."

Mr Brownlee has front-footed this and remains as Transport Minister, albeit a somewhat chastened one, after John Key would not accept his resignation.

But the incident has caused a couple of Labour MP's to defy their leader's ban on sledging, and put the boot into Gerry Brownlee. Rob Hosking from NBR reports:

Labour has also seized on the incident, with Clayton Cosgrove telling media he has doubt's about the Transport Minister's airport story — namely that Brownlee was "running".

And Cosgrove's colleague Phil Twyford has run the same line on Twitter, for which he has duly been called out by a number of people:



In his haste to be all things to all people, David Cunliffe has effectively stopped his MP's having a bit of a dig at their rivals across the House; a legitimate tactic in the robust arena which is Parliament's Debating Chamber. Focusing on the big issues is all very well, but politics is by its very nature adversarial. 

Notwithstanding, one of the best pieces of television we've seen in some time took place this morning as Trevor Mallard presented the retiring Tau Henare with a gift at the end of their final Breakfast segment together. These two have locked horns more than most, but Mr Mallard's gesture certainly appeared to be both warm and genuine.

David Cunliffe has hamstrung his MP's by creating a sledge-free zone. The absurdity of that action is what is being mocked today.

Joyce on apologies

The General Debate on a Wednesday afternoon is generally a pretty loose affair. But with only four more sitting days in the life of the 50th Parliament, there was plenty of election-year posturing and positioning going on yesterday.

And none did a better job than Steven Joyce, who led the General Debate off. Here is his apology-laden speech, courtesy of In the House:




Although Steven Joyce failed in his quest to find some burning political issue for which David Cunliffe had not already apologised, he made his point. And his gradual reduction of Mr Cunliffe's "united behind the leader" team was excellent.

There was a serious side to the speech behind the mirth though. Mr Joyce reminded voters just what they will get if a Labour Green government is elected on 20 September including a Capital Gains Tax on all businesses, a significant increase in the Carbon Tax and a halt to further trade deals. 

Well done Steven Joyce. And we're sorry you couldn't find something to be sorry about that Mr Cunliffe hadn't already been sorry about!

Tweet of the Day - 24 July 2014

The Labour Party is having a bleat about Seven Sharp and Newstalk ZB host Mike Hosking moderating TVNZ's General Election leaders debates. However Labour seems to have no objection to John Campbell doing the same job over at TV3.

That's prompted this tweet we spotted a few minutes ago:



Amusingly, Labour claims to have a "dossier" of Hosking misdeeds; Andrea Vance reports:


Leader David Cunliffe's inner circle believes the Seven Sharp host is too close to National and has compiled a dossier of examples.
It includes Hosking dismissing Cunliffe as a "moron" - and his endorsement of Prime Minister John Key before a major political speech last year.
A Labour source said that, despite protestations, the party was unlikely to pull out of the two scheduled TVNZ debates. "When we heard it was Hosking the initial reaction was ‘Are you f...ing joking?' But we are trying to get it changed. We are not making a hullabaloo about nothing, we'd rather they get someone else." 

So much, we suppose, for Labour's renewed focus on the things that matter to New Zealanders; like Mr Cunliffe's lovely red scarf!


UPDATE: Laura McQuillan from Newstalk ZB chimes in, picking up on the "focusing on the things that matter" theme...

 

Ophelia Cunliffe

Herald cartoon Rod Emmerson takes it to the limit with his offering this morning:



If you're unfamiliar with the story of Ophelia, a character in Hamlet, there are worse places to go than here. And Rod Emmerson has taken inspiration from this as well, given the Wiki page features this 1852 painting by John Everett Millias which he has painstakingly reproduced; with a twist:



The Labour Party and its leader may not yet be officially dead in the water, but they are certainly standing on a crumbling river bank, or clutching a tree branch which is about to break.

Well done Wellington Phoenix


When Newcastle United beat Sydney FC four-nil on Tuesday night, the gulf between the English Premier League and the A-League was there for all to see. So expectations were modest for the Wellington Phoenix when the side took on West Ham United at Eden Park last night.

But it was fairytale stuff for the 'Nix; Stuff reports:

West Ham United have had their Premier League bags sent packing, stunned 2-1 by the Wellington Phoenix in Auckland tonight.
Two goals in the first half-hour of the Eden Park exhibition saw captain Andrew Durante and Alex Rodriguez dispatch excellent finishes to give the Phoenix one of their most iconic victories in the short history of the A-League club - and one which will no doubt be remembered for years to come.
In fact, Wellington Phoenix captain Durante described it as a win for the entire country.
"First and foremost, beating a Premier League side is a huge achievement for this club," Durante said.
"It's great, it was a great feeling. The team are very excited. It was a big occasion for us and a big occasion for New Zealand. We're just glad that we contributed to a pretty good game.
"Credit to West Ham, they put us under the pump, especially toward the end of the game. Ernie spoke to us all week about just enjoying ourselves, not going into our shell and letting the occasion overawe us."
Phoenix coach, Ernie Merrick, said it was important to keep feet planted on the ground and the performance represented a positive step.
"You know me, I'm very careful not to get carried away with something like this," Merrick said.
"Glen Moss pulled off a couple of great saves, it could have gone the other way but there are a lot of good signs. I won't get carried away with it. West Ham were a wee bit unlucky today.
"It was crucial for us to put on a good performance, to win the ball and keep it. Our real strength was a rock-solid backline who were well protected by a bank of midfielders. 
"For the boys to perform like that, it was outstanding."
Merrick said the important thing was now for his side to re-focus for Saturday's game against Newcastle United.
"We want to play well there. My concern is getting them to recover for the next one." 

In a result which the Phoenix back office might have dreamed of, but would never have seriously considered, Saturday's double-header in Wellington has turned into a genuine series final. The two losers, West Ham United and Sydney FC will play for pride and third place. And the two Round One winners will be playing the main game, and the Phoenix players will have the unparalleled opportunity to claim two EPL scalps in the space of just a few days.

We heard last night from a Wellington friend there are just 4000 tickets left for Saturday's double-header. Unfortunately, we have a couple of commitments we can't break on Saturday, or we would be there. But we reckon those remaining tickets will be snapped up quickly, and the Ring of Fire will be packed to the rafters on Saturday.

The Wellington Phoenix organisation deserves lots of credit for taking a punt and organising the tour by Newcastle and West Ham. Here's hoping the financial results are good enough for them to make it, if not an annual at least a regular event on the footballing calendar. If nothing else, the 'Nix players have shown that the EPL sides venturing down to New Zealand will be given a good pre-season test.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A tale of two bowlers

One of these two bowlers has been deemed by the ICC to have an illegal bowling action. The other has not:



So whose action is illegal then? Stuff reports:

Black Cap Kane Williamson has become the first New Zealand cricketer to be suspended from bowling in international cricket because of an illegal action.
It was announced today that Williamson, a part time off-spinner, would not be able to bowl in the international game until he had remedied his action, submitted it for reanalysis and satisfied assessors of its legality.
The suspension is a blow not only to Williamson but to the Black Caps team as a whole. While the 23-year-old is pre-eminently a batter, he is often used as a bowler.
Williamson has bowled in 34 tests and has 24 wickets at an average of 40.66 while in his 54 ODIs he has taken 23 wickets at 30.91. In T20 he has taken three wickets at 37.00.
He made his test debut and ODI debuts for the Black Caps in 2010 and his T20 debut in 2011.
A statement from New Zealand Cricket this afternoon said independent analysis of Williamson's action, conducted earlier this month at Cardiff Metropolitan University, had concluded his elbow extension exceeded the 15 degrees of tolerance permitted under International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations.
Williamson was reported by the umpires and the match referee during the second test between the West Indies and New Zealand at Port of Spain in June. 
He last bowled for the Black Caps in the second T20 in Dominica on July 6. 

You can take it as read that we don't have much faith in the ICC's ability to manage bowlers with suspect actions. And few bowlers have more suspect actions than former Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Murialitharan.

Yes; Williamson's action is dodgy, and remedial work will hopefully help him conform to the rules. But it was an outrage that Murali was allowed to gain such a huge advantage as a bowler by the degree of flex he had, supposedly as a result of a childhood deformity.

The ICC changed its laws to accommodate Muralitharan. It was kow-towing of the worst kind, and his career statistics remain tainted in our view. The ICC's laws of illegal actions are an ass, especially when they are selectively enforced.



More good news; the Aussies envy us!


Australian Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey is in town. And as he ponders the sea of red ink in the books he is trying to balance, a legacy of Labor/Green profligacy across the ditch, the politics of envy have reared their head, in the nicest possible way; TVNZ reports:

Joe Hockey has called New Zealand's economy "the envy of the world" during his first visit here as Australian Treasurer.
Mr Hockey told TV ONE's Breakfast today that Australia could learn some lessons from their Kiwi neighbours.
"New Zealand has done a splendid job, the Key government is a standout government around the world and as a result of that it is heading towards a surplus," he said.
"New Zealand is starting to live within its means."
Delivering his first budget this year, Mr Hockey said he was forced to slash spending by $10 billion because of the previous Labor government's overspending.
"They took us to a position where if we don't take immediate action we will face much bigger debts," he said.
"If you make the difficult but important decisions up front then you get the benefits down the track. We've got a long way to go to catch up to the budget position of New Zealand."

Joe Hockey started out in the same position that Bill English was when he inherited the New Zealand books in 2008. At the time, Treasury was forecasting a Decade of Deficits. History will show English's parsimonious financial management has done the job, and the books are headed back into the black four years ahead of prediction.

It's rare that our trans-Tasman cousins are so effusive about New Zealand, but on the issue of the respective economies, Joe Hockey has little option. He inherited a mess from Kevin Rudd, and he could do much worse that take some advice from Bill English as to how to get his books in order.

In the meantime, migration to Australia has almost dried up as the former Lucky Country is down on its luck. Thousands of those who left New Zealand during the recession to try their luck over the ditch are returning as New Zealand returns to economic prosperity, and as the Australians recover from their Rudd/Gillard hangover.

Who's the Lucky Country now Joe?

Labour's Education "game-changer" changes nothing


If David Cunliffe and the Labour Party thought smaller class sizes were an electoral game-changer, DigiPoll has delivered them a rude surprise; the Herald reports:

New Zealanders would rather money was spent on improving teaching standards than on reducing class sizes, a Herald-DigiPoll survey reveals.
Education has become a political battleground before September's election, with both major parties promising to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on it.
Asked about their priorities, more than 60 per cent of those polled said they would spend money on trying to improve teaching standards rather than cutting class sizes.
Labour has included reducing class sizes in its election policies.
Another of its policies, a promise to pay schools which do not ask parents for donations, gained support in the poll.
National has pledged $359 million for a scheme that would pay the best teachers and principals more.
Labour countered by promising to use that money to instead hire 2000 more teachers and reduce class sizes.
Asked about those policies, 61 per cent of those polled said the money was better spent on trying to improve teaching standards.
Thirty-five per cent thought it should be used to cut class sizes.

We're not surprised by this poll result. Although the NZEI has agitated against Hekia Parata's Investing in Educational Success initiative, the PPTA is continuing to negotiate with the Minister and her Ministry in a rare and welcome display of election-year good faith. That is commendable.

Meanwhile Labour's Education spokesman Chris Hipkins is trying to put a brave face on the rejection of Labour's game-changer; read on:

Yesterday, Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said he rejected the premise of the question.
It did not convey that Labour's plan to hire more teachers would also allow for teacher training, and that its education policy was strongly focused on teacher quality.

If what Chris Hipkins is saying is correct, it's a shame that David Cunliffe didn't articulate the policy with more clarity at Labour's congress a couple of weeks ago. All the media reports of Mr Cunliffe's rallying call to the troops focused on smaller class sizes, even if Labour was going to have to bring teachers out of retirement and employ more immigrant teachers to meet the quota prior to 2018.

There may well have been some devil in the detail of Labour's policy, but as with other policies Labour has launched, the details were lost in the hype. The party is that desperate for attention it has to grab for the headlines.
 
This policy was supposed to be a winner for Labour. Could it be now that the electorate is so turned off by Mr Cunliffe and his party that not even a new car in every driveway would be enough to turn back the electoral tide?

Tweet of the Day - 23 July 2014

We blogged earlier in the week about the tragic death of Newcastle United football fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney in the MH17 disaster. As Dave Goosselink from 3News tweeted last night, Newcastle United and Sydney FC acknowledged the tragedy before they went head-to-head in Dunedin last night:


Tonight attention turns to Eden Park in Auckland for the match between West Ham United and the Wellington Phoenix. By a quirk of extremely bad timing, we will be arriving home FROM Auckland where we have been attending a computer conference just as the match kicks off! Had we twigged as to the dates, we would have extended our stay in Auckland.

This tour is a brilliant initiative by the Phoenix. Here's hoping the club is rewarded with a bumper crowd in Auckland tonight, even if we are not amongst it.

Dedicated to the cause

Hamish Walker is the National Party candidate for Dunedin South. He'll be going up against Labour MP Clare Curran, who doesn't have the comfort of the party list to fall back on.

And Hamish Walker has shown just how dedicated he is to the cause; Ele from Homepaddock reports:

Hamish Walker, National’s candidate in Dunedin South received one of those Ice Challenges and accepted it with a twist.
He chose to do it by total immersion in the sea at St Clair,wearing a kilt, with the support of some Young Nats and the accompaniment of the bagpipes.

Can't say THANK YOU enough to John BP, Katy H & Liz B who were stupid enough to join me this morning for the Ice Challenge- what commitment to the National Party!

It goes to show there’s no sea cold enough to stop the pursuit of party votes for National and #TeamKey who are seeking #3moreyears.
You can see it on video here - while you’re there you could like his Facebook page too.

You've got to have a reasonably tough hide to jump into the sea off Dunedin at the best of times. But to do it in the middle of winter, clad in a kilt and the the accompaniment of bagpipes is not only fitting for the Edinburgh of the South, but a rare old show of dedication.

Dunedin South is traditionally a Labour stronghold. Clare Curran had a majority of just over 4000 votes in 2011. Significantly though, National won the party vote in Dunedin South which was a fantastic effort. If there is to be an upset, who better to deliver it than a Dunedin-born, kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing lad by the name of Hamish, totally dedicated to the cause?

Best of luck Hamish Walker. Here's hoping there was a wee dram waiting to help you thaw out!

Mr Cunliffe is sorry again

Another day, another apology:


Actually, this is one thing that David Cunliffe should NOT have to apologise for. Yes, the timing might have been a bit off, but the toll on MPs' families is brutal, and we do not begrudge any MP a holiday with their spouse and children.

But what is happening now is that Mr Cunliffe is constantly being reactive, instead of being proactive. He made a statement on Monday that he worked as hard as any MP in his party; why is he not sticking to that? Has he been forced to make another embarrassing back-down by the majority of MPs in the Labour caucus who do not support him? 

When David Cunliffe is so confused as to whether having a holiday was a good idea that he tub-thumped on Monday about his work ethic, then meekly rolled over and apologised the following day, it's not hard to question his suitability for a role which will require fast decisions on matters of huge importance.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two strikes, and Claudette Hauiti is out

We blogged last week about Claudette Hauiti's latest indiscretion. The National List MP has decided that politics is not the life for her; Stuff reports:

National MP Claudette Hauiti is calling time on her short stint in politics, removing herself from contention at the coming election.
It is understood Hauiti reached her decision after Prime Minister John Key phoned her last night. 
It is believed he would have reiterated what others had been telling her, that there was no future for her in National and that she had come to be seen as a liability.
She had been selected at as the party's candidate for Kelston, but told her caucus colleagues of her decision this morning. 
Her decision comes just days after it emerged she surrendered her Parliamentary charge card after using it to pay for a Christmas trip to Australia.
That trip, and other unauthorised spending on the card - known as a purchasing or p-card - led to the list MP returning it to Parliamentary Service in March.
Outside the caucus room, Hauiti confirmed her intention to stand down from politics at the election, but refused to comment further.
Hauiti said in a statement to the NZ Herald it had been a difficult decision and she was announcing it with regret.
"I wish to thank the National Party for the opportunities that been given to me to be part of a stable, effective government that has been good for New Zealand and will, I am sure, continue its good work after the general election on 20 September."
It's understood she was told she would receive a low list ranking, and Kelston was considered to be a safe Labour seat. 

That Ms Hauiti didn't learn from her first mistake made the consequences of a second cock-up a no-brainer. National was fortunate that its list had not been finalised. 

And even though finding a late replacement candidate in Kelston will pose a few issues logistically, they pale into insignificance when compared to the ongoing damage to the integrity of the party caused by an MP with a cavalier attitude towards spending Other People's Money.

Meanwhile David Cunliffe must look at the seamless move to change in National's caucus with barely a ripple appearing on the water. If he tried to encourage 20% of his caucus to seek a new direction in their lives it would be an absolute political bloodbath. He must wonder what John Key has that he does not.