The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no license for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quick horrorshow 15 minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels And Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg. Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty 20-1, and that was what we were peeting this evening I’m starting off the story with…
- Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
You can see acceptable and unacceptable behavior as a set of Venn diagrams, with large circles of things you’re allowed to do intersecting with other circles of permissible behavior and the illegal and immoral falling into the shaded regions in-between. Alex in Clockwork Orange is allowed to drink milk plus and he’s allowed to drive a Durango 95, but not at the same time.
Politicians often seem to get caught-out in these shaded zones of intersecting permissible behavior and that’s where I think Judith Collins is right now with her troubles over visiting the offices of the Oravida company – of which her husband is a Director – on a trip to China last year. Collins explains that she just dropped by for a glass of milk on the way to the airport. Oravida’s website makes it look a little more formal.
Collins has also explained that there’s no conflict of interest here because her husband is a director of the company, not a shareholder. In a year of dumb, dumb spin I think this is the worst line any of Parliament’s comms experts have fed an MP and it’ll be tough to beat.
Anyway, it’s routine for Ministers to visit New Zealand companies overseas, routine for those companies to promote those visits, and it is also routine for New Zealand politicians to have family members involved in New Zealand business at a high level and it’s ALSO routine for New Zealand businesses to donate money to the National Party. Which I why – I think – Collins and her fellow Nats are a little bewildered at the suggestion that there’s something wrong about her taxpayer funded promotional visit to a company run by her husband that donated a large sum of money to the National Party, while everyone else stands around with their jaw open, stunned that the Minister of Justice could do something so stupid.
Hard to believe now, but only a couple of months ago the Internet Party was predicted to be a huge deal in New Zealand politics this year. And I guess it still might be. But I’ve just walked around the clubs stalls at Victoria University and as usual National, Labour and the Greens all had booths there, harvesting emails and signing up volunteers. But there wasn’t an Internet Party stall. Maybe that’s another indicator that they’re going to do everything differently and change the way campaigns are run, but for me its another indicator that this party isn’t going to happen.
Also of interest. No Act on Campus stall. At least, not that I saw.
Jordan Williams has posted about the Mojo Mathers story. He writes:
The Taxpayers’ Union did not seek media attention on this story. There is no associated press release. The Herald called yesterday evening asking for comment, as happens often.
Here’s how I’m guessing this works. The (taxpayer funded) opposition researchers in the National Party find a smear story they like. They pitch it to an editor at the Herald and – because they can’t provide comment themselves for obvious reasons, such as John Key’s taxpayer funded golf game – they say, ‘Call Jordan Williams at the Taxpayers’ Union and he’ll give you comment.’
So, that’s sort-of how political media works. All political parties come up with stories and pitch them to journalists. And I’m guessing that when we see some unionist endorsing the Labour Party line or some environmental organisation endorsing the Green Party line its because they’ve been supplied to the journalist by the party pitching the story.
The important difference, I think, is that groups like the CTU or Greenpeace are actual groups with members and values that might coincide with those of a political party in some areas, while the Taxpayers’ Union is basically just a scam that ACT and the National Party have set up. It’s not a union. You can donate to it but you can’t join it. You can’t vote for the leaders or have any input into its actions. It’s a web-site and a bunch of National/ACT activists pretending to speak for ‘the taxpayers’. So a Green MP spending $550 on travel is of huge concern to them. Items not of concern to the Taxpayers’ Union in recent weeks:
- The National government paying Paula Rebstock $290,000 for her failed inquiry
- Gerry Brownlee spending $1500 to lease an SUV while watching the America’s Cup race in San Francisco.
- Tim Groser and a private secretary spending over $8500 to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington for a week, during a month in which Groser spent $18,200.
- John Key, DPS bodyguards and staffers flying down to Queenstown for the New Zealand golf open, at an as-yet unknown cost.
You get the picture. There are hundreds more examples. Patrick Gower actually sought a comment about the Rebstock inquiry from Jordan Williams on twitter and Williams replied that he was too busy to look into it. $290,000.
I remember when the Taxpayers’ Union was set up. There was general hilarity at the idea of a bunch of ACT Party activists and National staffers setting up a ‘non-partisan union’ because they were SO worried about taxpayer waste, while simultaneously stuffing their own pockets with taxpayer funds. Who would be dumb enough to take such an obvious scam at face value?
The Herald covers another scoop from the Taxpayer Union. Deaf MP Mojo Mathers spent TAXPAYER FUNDS traveling to a radio station to be interviewed because she can’t do interviews over the phone:
Standard Air NZ flexible fares between Christchurch and Wellington are $199 each way. A small rental car from one of the suppliers used by the Parliamentary Service is $148 – so the trip is likely to have cost the taxpayer a little under $550.
The Taxpayers Union questioned whether it was value for money.
“It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand,” director Jordan Williams said.
Here’s my question for the Taxpayer’s Union and the journalists who run their copy. How much of the revenue of the various companies, consultancies and law firms run by the founders and directors of this ‘union’ is taxpayer funded? Given the individuals involved – eg Jordan Williams, David Farrar – I’d be shocked if the taxpayers were paying less than a million dollars a year to the people involved in this organisation who run around planting attack stories against opposition parties.
John Armstrong writes:
The biggest risk is that hiring McCarten is viewed by voters – especially those in the centre – as confirmation that Labour is shifting markedly and permanently to the left under Cunliffe’s leadership.
I don’t have any data to back this up but I’m gonna suggest that no one outside the tiny cohort of non ‘centrist’ politics geeks has (a) any idea who Matt McCarten is and (b) what a political party’s Chief of Staff does or (c) what the employment of someone they’ve never heard of in a role they don’t care about signals about New Zealand politics.
Another day, another raft of New Zealand Herald columns, news stories and editorials about the ACT party. The editorial is happy to see Richard Prebble running the campaign but isn’t sure about flat tax. Fran O’Sullivan loves Prebble and ACT’s ideas about superannuation (Prebble is pictured in a field of daisies playing with a dog.) Earlier this week we had an approving story by political editor Audrey Young based on Jamie Whyte’s thoughts on superannuation. Young also ran a story the same day on Prebble and his flat tax. The day before that: another story about Prebble. And on it goes. Search the Herald site for Jamie Whyte and you’ll find dozens of glowing interviews, editorials, features and columns about the new leader of the ACT Party. At this point in the election they’re easily receiving as much coverage as National and Labour.
Which is weird because this is a really, really, really tiny party. They only recieved 23,889 votes in the 2011 election. Fewer than the Mana Party. WAY fewer than the Maori Party. Less than a 10th of the support of the Green Party. In the only by-election we’ve had since then they were beaten by the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (Where are their editorials and columns and soft interviews?). According to my aggregated poll results ACT are on about 0.4% at the moment which, based on 2011 turnout, suggests they’ll get less than 10,000 people voting for them in the election.
ACT aren’t totally irrelevant, since National will give them an electorate and they’ll get to be in government. But this party is approximately as popular and significant as United Future. Who is their campaign manager? What are their new policies? We don’t know because, frankly, it doesn’t really matter because United Future aren’t a real political party. Neither is ACT but because a bunch of activists for this microscopically small party WAY out on the lunatic fringe happen to be senior staff at a major newspaper we have to hear all about it.
There are a couple of rumours running around about who Labour’s new CoS will be, and one of them – Matt McCarten! – is floated in the Dom-Post.
Labour doesn’t seem like a happy place right now. There’s staff turnover. The longest-standing MPs in the party hate the current leader. Every time Cunliffe takes a position on anything related to trade or foreign affairs Phil Goff instantly issues a press release contradicting him. The same faction is briefing people like Duncan Garner, Matthew Hooton and Cameron Slater to undermine Cunliffe.
Can Matt McCarten turn things around? If you’re seeking to unify the party then the answer there would be a massive ‘No.’ The last thing Labour leads is a Chief of Staff with a big personality, big profile, big ego, talent for skullduggery and a strong left-wing political agenda that’s totally at odds with those of his leader’s enemies within the party.
But if you’re Cunliffe and you’re looking at Goff, Mallard, Cosgrove, King et al and coming to the conclusion that unity with them is impossible, war is inevitable and the best thing to do is try and win it then McCarten would be a pretty great choice
The bias corrected poll (it compares polling before the election against the actual result and adjusts subsequent polls) is here, also non-interactive version below. Non bias-corrected is here. It all speaks for itself. National definitely trending up. Labour trending down. New Zealand First probably trending up (National ruling them in?). The Greens probably down (Norman meeting Dotcom?). I’ve added the Conservative Party to illustrate the lack of traction this party has despite extensive media coverage and repeated stunts.
So the big political story on TV3 news over the last few nights has about a bunch of reporters in TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Unit acting as Labour Party activists. It’s a good story, and another indication of how comprehensively the TV3 political journalists are setting the news agenda and dominating political reporting. (I keep seeing people on my twitter feed demanding to know the difference between Shane Taurima and, say, Mike Hosking or Paul Henry. I think the main difference is that if Mike Hosking wanted to set up a fundraising operation inside TVNZ the National Party wouldn’t let him because it would look terrible and destroy his career).
But it was a clip from another TV3 story the same night that’s really haunting me. Here’s a screen-grab of Labour leader David Cunliffe standing in front of a super-luxury yacht company explaining that his $2.5 million dollar mansion is just a ‘do-up’, after criticising Key for living in a nice house.
It’s hard to compress so much failure into a single image. Up to now I’ve felt that the outcome of the election is too close to call. The sides are pretty even, small changes at the margins could have huge impacts on the results. But my gut feeling now is that Labour’s support will collapse and National will win a third term. It feels like a replay of the 2011 election in which Labour keep doing baffling, stupid things and then demand to know why the media is biased against them and how anyone could like John Key. People don’t want idiots running their country.
Everyone – including me! – is excited about the idea that John Key found out about Winston Peters visiting the Dotcom mansion via the state security services.
But an allegation that Peters made three visits was in the Herald’s gossip column last Friday, which also ‘broke the story’ of Russel Norman’s visit. The Herald’s gossip journalist Rachel Glucina is a loyal little cog in National’s comms wheel so I guess you could claim that the Nats gave the story to her. But would they really give GCSB intel to the gossip columnist? Sure, maybe ‘that’s the genius of it all!’ But I doubt it
Meanwhile Kim Dotcom is on twitter claiming that virtually no one knew about Winston Peters’ visits so the PM’s information must have come through surveillance. Now, I’ve never owned a gigantic palace filled with servants but I have sat through a few episodes of Downton Abbey and I’m guessing it’s harder to keep secrets in the country’s largest mansion than Dotcom thinks. And I’m also guessing that not everyone who works there is totally loyal to their boss, and that at least one of them is willing to sell information about what goes on there to, say, a gossip columnist. The advantage National has is that they could – hypothetically – call Glucina and query the legitimacy of the source before they raised it in Parliament.