The gallery are scurrying around demanding to know how Labour will fund its new policies. Fair enough, but can anyone find me a single line from a news-story questioning where National’s $400 million for super-teachers was coming from?
This is a routine double-standard in our politics. National get to announce stuff and the money appears by magic, left-wing parties have to account for every dollar. I guess the assumption is that Key is a former merchant banker and English is a former Treasury official so they can both be trusted to be totally accurate and scrupulous about finances.
This Herald column by Massey University lecturer Damien Rogers is a target rich environment, so I’ll restrict myself to a few points:
When Labour Party president Moira Coatsworth and general secretary Tim Barnett influenced recent decisions to select Meka Whaitiri to fill the vacancy left by Parekura Horomia, and Poto Williams to fill the vacancy left by Lianne Dalziel, they sent a strong message to the voting public, party members and party affiliates.
The message is that under their leadership, the Labour Party is gearing up for – when it is not already waging – a war for gender equality and minority rights.
Interested observers could be forgiven for thinking Coatsworth and Barnett are no longer, if indeed they ever were, committed to winning the next election.
Both seem more concerned that their reform agenda attracts international attention for its pyrrhic victory in addressing gender equality and minority rights within the narrow confines of the Labour Party.
The fact that the battles over gender equality and minority rights were largely decided elsewhere during the early 1980s seem to have passed Coatsworth and Barnett by. The quota-based approach favoured by the Labour Party leadership not only fails to evade the ugly structures of gender and ethnic discrimination, but helps to strengthen those structures.
I suspect Dr Rogers is about to have a number of robust conversations with his female colleagues and students over his allegation that gender equality was won in the early 1980s (why the early 1980s? Because that’s when ’9 to 5′ starring Dolly Parton came out?) and I wish him luck there because he’s going to need it.
Firstly, the issue of women as minority voters: according to the 2011 New Zealand Electoral Survey, 55% of the people who cast votes in the 2011 election were female. So this is one of those interesting minority groups that is actually larger than the majority group of male voters. Which is the minority. If you follow me.
Secondly, female voters are swing voters. In 2005 – the last election won by the Labour Party – 48% of eligible female voters voted for the Labour Party. In 2011 only 25% gave their party vote to Labour. So targeting female voters isn’t so much a frivolous politically correct waste of time, as it is vital to Labour’s chances of winning back government. Finally, according to the NZES a plurality of female voters would like to see more female MPs in Parliament. I thought that the ‘man ban’ was a terrible idea. But trying to use the lists to increase the number of female MPs in the Labour Party is a smart thing to do. Women vote! More than men! And women want more female MPs in Parliament!
Update: Someone in the comments section alleges that the column was written by the partner of Labour’s
recently dismissed Chief of Staff (Fran Mold wrote in to say that she wasn’t dismissed, so let us say ‘recently departed Chief of Staff). Which might explain a few things.
I was chatting to a National Party staffer, and pointed out that it was both amazing and totally not amazing that during this very tumultuous period for the Labour Party, Trevor Mallard – shadow leader of the House and one of its most senior, long-standing MPs – was in San Francisco watching a boat race. The staffer replied:
Remember that during the previous election when he was strategic campaign manager he was having a bike race with a beneficiary who has a blog
Google suggests results for the leaders of our two main parties:
One of the odd aspects of contemporary New Zealand politics is that opposition policies are subject to extraordinary scrutiny – what are the details? how much will it cost? can we see the figures? where will that money come from? – while the actual government can toss up schemes like Paula Bennett’s plan to subject about a tenth of the adult population to a paedophile test and instantly sack anyone who fails it.
Teachers, doctors and any other government employees who fail Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s tough new child-abuse screening test will be instantly sacked.
The new child-protection laws will trump existing employment legislation, removing the need for bosses to go through a fair process of verbal and written warnings to dump anyone suspected of sexually preying on children.
Screening of all government employees working with children is one of the main planks of Bennett’s incoming child protection regime, unveiled last week.
All staff working with children in schools, hospitals, government agencies and organisations that get government funding must submit to security screening every three years. It is estimated to affect 376,000 people.
What test will the government use? ‘Yet to be revealed.’ What are the false negative and false positive rates? (ie, how many actual paedophiles will it fail to detect and how many non-paedophiles will it falsely identify? That’d be useful to know, right? If you’re screening 376,000 people using a test with a very high confidence interval – say, 99.9% – that means you’re incorrectly identifying 376 people. How long will the screening test take? A day per person? That works out at 376,000 days of police time. Sounds expensive. How invasive will it be? What happens if you refuse to take it? Will the government sack, say, a paediatrician who refuses to take the test because they consider it a breach of their privacy?
Ten days ago National’s Housing Minister announced an inquiry into the cost of building materials:
Nick Smith, speaking on “The Nation” said there was significant concern that items “the likes Batts, likes of Gib and concrete” were more expensive than what they were in Australia.
Batts and Gib are Fletcher’s brands and the company is a major concrete supplier.
Here’s what’s happened to Fletcher’s share price over the past thirty days:
According to the Steven Joyce/Fran O’Sullivan theory of political sharemarket vandalism, Nick Smith has ‘destroyed’ about $260 million dollars worth of wealth in the last ten days. I look forward to their columns/press releases warning of capital flight, skies raining blood etc.
Aaron Gilmore looks set to remain in Parliament, at least until his party can dig up more dirt on him and compel him to resign. This has always seemed like a pretty stupid story to me: total nobody is mildly offensive. What’s more interesting is how comprehensively the lawyer who dined with Gilmore – Andrew Riches – has destroyed this idiot’s career.
Riches left a note for staff at the restaurant apologising for Gilmore’s behavior He also seems to have been the person who took the story to the media. Then, when Gilmore made a public apology Riches came forwards, contradicted the apology and expanded the story, adding that Gilmore invoked the name of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Then several days of media feeding frenzy later, Gilmore makes another public apology via a press conference. The next day Riches leaks the text messages between Gilmore and himself which contradict the version of events that Gilmore gave at the press conference.
It’s that final bit that interests me. It wasn’t unreasonable for Riches to go public contradicting Gilmore’s first version of events. Like he said, he was just defending his own name, standing up for the truth, or whatever.
But making an accusation, waiting for the denial and then leaking proof of your accusation isn’t standard ‘standing up for the truth’ behavior. It’s a political communications strategy. It’s what you do when you want to destroy someone’s credibility and career.
Which is not to express sympathy for Gilmore who could have avoided all this with a simple and heartfelt apology. I think he should resign – for his own good, as much as anything else: he doesn’t look like he’s coping very well. But the guy has been played.
(I don’t think this is all a National Party trick to distract the public from the GCSB or Mighty River Power: if Gilmore splits from his party and stays in Parliament as an independent and John Banks is convicted in court, the Nats could lose their majority.)
Josie Pagani has a post up on Pundit regurgitating her one big idea about political strategy: that Labour needs to move to the right and embrace National’s ‘get tough’ policies on crime and welfare.
The Paganis have been saying this for years and it still makes very little sense to me. The National Party wants to get tough on welfare, criminals (and teachers) to distract people from their actual policies, or the failures thereof. The number of unemployed rises and falls with the economy, crime has been trending down for many years across the entire western world, and our education system is regularly rated as one of the best in the OECD.
If you’re a National politician you try and solve these problems that don’t actually exist because it’s part of a wider strategy to promote other policies that are unpopular with the general public but benefit your donors and core voter demographics. But why would a (nominally) left-wing politician buy into that scam? Why not address real problems that would help your constituency? Or, failing that, create your own fake problems that advance your own political agenda instead of your opponents? Or – if you’re not inclined to help your voters or advance your own values – just leave politics and go and do something else with your life? I genuinely don’t get it.
Update: Josie responds. Opening quote:
If you think crime, welfare and unemployment are ‘problems that don’t actually exist’ you are out of touch with the facts as well as public opinion.
If anything will resolve the high exchange rate, urban housing crisis, low wages and exodus to Australia, surely it’s convict labour.
I don’t have any moral/philosophical objection to making prisoners work to offset the cost of their imprisonment, or help skill them up to re-integrate them ‘back into society’, but if you combine it with National’s policy of private prison management, it’s not hard to see how the goals of rehabilitating and releasing prisoners could clash with the prospect of having a subsidised compulsory zero-cost workforce.
If you are in a car and there is a rush of blood to the head and Labour and the Greens do get there, you had better like your radio station because you will spend a long time in a traffic jam, because the first thing that will be gone with those people are the roads.
Prime Minister John Key in his Opening Statement to Parliament yesterday, in which the PM traditionally lays out his policy agenda for the year, our current Prime Minister . . . not so much.