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.
I’ve been reading The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark, a very good history of the origins of WWI. And I’ve been joking to myself that if I were Chris Trotter I’d be gleefully stuffing every event in New Zealand politics into some tortured parallel of fin de siecle Balkan history. (Just as Dragutin Dimitrijević outmaneuvered Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić, David Cunliffe must outwit John Key and assassinate the arch-duke of west-Auckland voter turnout.)
Only, this thing with Australian and New Zealand supermarkets does have a pre-July crisis vibe to it. You have an international system in which politicians and other players make short-term rational decisions based on business needs or domestic politics, possibly leading to an escalation as individuals in the other country also respond with their own domestic politics or short-term interests at heart. Hopefully this won’t all lead to a trade war. (Or an actual war.)
Also of note about The Sleepwalkers. Clark notes in the introduction that the various statesmen involved in the outbreak of war all published post-war memoirs giving their eye-witness to history account of things. And when their private diaries, meeting notes etc were declassified decades later the memoirs all turned out to be steaming piles of self-serving lies. Worth bearing in mind. (I’ve noticed that politicians tend to read political memoirs rather than actual history.) Also of note. None of the key political players involved in the outbreak of a war that led to approximately twenty million deaths ever showed the slightest flicker of remorse or self-doubt about their actions.
I know I’m not the only person offended by Patrick Gower’s ‘yarn’ based approach to reporting (see previous post) in which the political editor makes something up and then runs around breathlessly reporting it as a breaking news story. But it’s easy to forget that Gower used to be a serious journalist and that his instincts are still sharp. Underneath the mountains of bullshit there’s often a substantive issue.
So I don’t think the Green’s Russel Norman made any deal with Kim Dotcom. Norman has always said the case against Dotcom was compromised by the illegal actions of the New Zealand Police and Intelligence organisations. He went to Dotcom last November and asked him not to form a political party. Dotcom turned him down and went ahead with setting up his party. This turned into a fiasco. Initial polls have it at zero, so Dotcom’s indicated he’ll disband it if that doesn’t increase. Hard to see a deal there.
And yet . . . Dotcom is such a problematic person for our MPs to be sitting down and meeting with. Here’s a guy with a criminal background, a staggering amount of money and serious legal problems that a sympathetic government can solve in an instant. Our MPs need to understand that if they meet with someone like that and keep it quiet there is (a) HUGE public interest in the media covering it and (b) HUGE political capital to be made by their political enemies in painting the meeting in a sinister light.
Thinking about Dotcom this morning put me in mind of those war pigs the Romans used in battle. They’d cover them with grease, light them on fire and send them into the enemy ranks where they’d run about setting fire to everything. The difference with Kim Dotcom is that he doesn’t seem to get burned. The allegations as-of this morning are that in addition to Russel Norman, Winston Peters and two Labour MPs have gone to Dotcom’s mansion to meet with him.
Aside from the obvious question of how the Prime Minister – and Minister of Intelligence – knows so much about who his opposition MPs are meeting with, I do wonder why so many politicians are keen to sit down with a guy who seems to destroy the career of almost everyone who goes near him.
TV3′s political editor has broken another story about a political party rorting the MMP system:
It’s dirty. It’s dodgy. And it’s happening. Yes, the Labour Party who have stuck the knife in and twisted the boot attacking National’s electorate deals have done a dirty dodgy dirty deal themselves.
Yes. You heard right. And it gets dodgier and dirty. The deal is with Ymir, King of the Frost Giants. A being of pure malevolence formed from the frozen rivers of poison that run through hell. Ymir has a real grudge against John Key. And the bad blood flies both ways. It’s a grudge match. Also a perfect storm of grudge.
Behind the scenes Labour is stiching up a dirty deal with Ymir for the electorate of Ginnungagap, a formless void of ice and rime located on Auckland’s North Shore.
Details of this deal are kept tightly under wraps. The Electoral Commission won’t even admit that the Ginnungagap electorate exists. Journalists who vault their reception desk and smash open computers looking for proof of Ginnungagap are led away by security. That shows you just how sensitive these deals are. A week is a long time in politics.
Labour’s spin-doctors say there is no deal and that Ymir doesn’t actually exist. They say I’m locked in a psychotic delusion. Well I’ve heard that before. Hundreds of times. It means they’re scared. They know that hard-working families don’t trust immortal frost giants. And with good reason. Remember, when Odin wounded Ymir in the runup to the 2002 election Ymir’s blood flooded the whole world. Yes, that won’t go down well with hard-working voters.
At the end of the day this last ditch effort might just see Labour in government and a giant made of snake’s venom on the Treasury benches. Only time will tell.
This chart shows the aggregated poll results for National vs Labour-Greens adjusted for poll bias: There’s been a bit of talk recently about Winston Peters being ‘Kingmaker’ after the election. But if something like this happens Peters won’t have much power at all. If National polls around 40% and Peters polls around 5-6% then even a National+Peters+ACT+United Future+Maori Party coalition won’t have enough seats in Parliament to form a government. The only viable coalition is Labour+Greens+Peters.
Obviously that changes if National gives an electorate seat to Colin Craig and he pulls in ~2.5%. Then we see the very sane, sensible National-Colin Craig-Winston Peters-ACT-United Future-Maori Party coalition running things.
Via David Fisher at the Herald:
The spy agency which illegally monitored Kim Dotcom’s communications has admitted deleting information needed in the upcoming $6 million damages hearing, according to the tycoon.
Dotcom last night tweeted the claim, saying: “The GCSB spy agency seems to have deleted evidence relevant to my case against the GCSB for illegally spying on NZ residents.”
He quoted Crown lawyers as saying “some communications have automatically aged off. We propose to include … those communications which are still recoverable”.
Dotcom claimed lawyers acting for the GCSB told him the material had “aged off” the system, suggesting it had automatically deleted.
Apparently the government are citing section 23 of the GCSB Act:
Every person who intercepts any communication under section 16 or under an interception warrant or a access authorisation must, as soon as practicable after the interception, destroy any copy that he or she may make of the communication, or any part of the communication, and any record, whether in writing or otherwise, of the information obtained by that interception, except to the extent permitted by section 25 or to the extent that the information recorded in the copy or record relates directly or indirectly to—
- (a) the protection or advancement of 1 or more of the interests specified in section 7; or
So the most benign explanation here is that some of the intercepts of Kim Dotcom’s communications were irrelevant – personal conversations or whatever – and that GCSB have some document management system that automatically deletes anything that doesn’t get tagged as relevant after a certain date. And Dotcom’s lawyers asked for all of the intercepts they gathered on him and they had to admit ‘Well, we gathered all of these personal conversations but they were aged off and got deleted.’
But its also possible – given their previous form – that the GCSB are just running around illegally deleting and shredding everything that might make them look bad in court and citing this section of the legislation to cover themselves now that they’ve been caught out. We don’t know, we probably never will and that’s kind of the problem with the GCSB.
- National – 44.5 percent, down 1.9 percent
- Labour – 33.5 percent, up 1.3 percent
- Greens – 12.4 percent, up 2 percent
- NZ First – 5.7 percent, up 1.5 percent
- Conservative – 2.1 percent, down 0.7 percent
- Maori Party – 1 percent, down 0.2 percent
- Mana – 0.3 percent, down 1 percent
- ACT – 0 percent, down 0.8 percent
- United Future – 0 percent, down 0.1 percent
I know, I know – it’s only one poll. But it feels right, right? Sure, there might be a run of polls next week that completely contradict it but you can see the logic behind the movements: Key endorsed Winston Peters so a bunch of National voters switched their votes to New Zealand First. I can see that. So let’s assume the poll results are broadly accurate and the movements aren’t just random noise.
- It tells us that voters (or at least voters in this demographic) are listening and responding to signals from politicians. Key only made his announcement about Peters a couple of weeks ago.
- It tells us that Conservative voters and New Zealand First voters don’t seem to overlap as much as National seemed to think they did. Key and Joyce’s grand plan, remember, is for New Zealand First and The Conservatives to both get just under the 5% threshold, wasting their votes and thus putting National into power, somehow.
- No votes for the Internet Party. (Unless you think all those Kim Dotcom lovin’ young urban National voters aren’t being sampled because cellphones.)
- Voters aren’t responding to National’s ‘rock-star economy’ marketing campaign. Or maybe they are? Perhaps some voters feel more comfortable changing governments during a time of economic growth?
Cameron Slater’s WhaleOil blog has been down for a few days:
Blogger Cameron Slater has handed over a stack of death threats to the police after angering hundreds by calling a dead man “feral”.
His website has been hacked and he wants a police investigation, while the grieving family of Judd Hall say they want a face-to-face meeting with him.
Clutching pages of evidence, Mr Slater claims he’s the victim of cyber bullying.
The blogger is known for the often inflammatory posts on his Whale Oil website, but this time the reaction has been extreme.
“Yes I might say offensive things, but I’m allowed to say offensive things. What you are not allowed to do is threaten people with death threats and rape against your daughters,” he says.
The threats were incited after he labelled West Coast man Judd Hall, who died in a high-speed car crash, as “feral”.
It’s not like the ‘feral’ remark was a first offense. Making fun of the recently deceased and their families is one of Cameron Slater’s favorite things in the whole world. He finds it especially hilarious when young children who have non-traditional names die horribly, the big joke being that funny names correlate with violent death.
So here’s Slater laughing at a six week old baby who died in Titahi Bay. Here’s Slater laughing at a fifteen month old baby who was savaged by a pitbull. Here’s Slater mocking a two year old accidentally crushed by a car and killed. Search his site and you’ll find dozens of ‘Silly First Name’ posts, most of them laughing about the death or serious injury of very young children. There’s other horrible stuff of a similar nature on a pretty constant basis. If you’re reading WhaleOil regularly you’re reading a lot of content that mocks the victims and families of horrible tragedies.
I can’t really get past this. To me this material marks Slater out as an obvious sociopath, someone so horribly damaged that all you can do is pity them and ignore them. Right? So I find it a little weird that so many other people read Slater’s site and don’t have a problem with how deranged it is. The Justice Minister Judith Collins is a huge fan; the Prime Minister’s office supply him with content. He’s a regular guest on various talk-back radio shows. Duncan Garner and Sean Plunket appear to be WhaleOil fans. The Herald’s media columnist John Drinnan routinely links to his site.
People generally defend him by saying, ‘He’s controversial’, or ‘I don’t agree with everything he says.’ Fair enough. I can’t tell people what they should and shouldn’t read. But I sometimes feel like a character in a horror movie who can’t convince the rest of the villagers that the mysterious stranger is obviously the monster responsible for all those disappearing cattle. I just don’t get how people read this site and simply think ‘Hey! That’s controversial! Let’s put this guy on the radio’ and not, ‘Hey! What a vile hateful animal!’ Or am I crazy here?
The period from 2008 to 2011 was a horrible time for the New Zealand left. The Goff led-Labour party stumbled from one bafflingly stupid blunder to another (Remember the time they published their confidential donor list on the internet? Remember when Goff died his hair orange before a big speech? Remember Chris Carter’s coup?) interrupting them only to jump on Labour’s Red Alert website and demand to know when the New Zealand public was going to ‘wake-up’ and put them back into government. The public sent them what seemed like a very clear message: that they didn’t want incompetent fools running their country and Labour received its worst election result ever.
Jump forwards to 2014. This week started out well for Labour. Big policy launch on Monday. National were cautiously dismissive of the ‘BestStart’ policy, then went nuts on Tuesday presumably after seeing the overnight polling figures. ‘Labour’s policy was too expensive! The country couldn’t afford it! Besides, National was already doing it! Except for the stuff they weren’t, which they might! Hey, everyone: how about a referendum on the flag????’
They should have held back on the flag thing. By yesterday it was apparent that there was a huge error in the policy as Cunliffe announced it in his speech. Via TV3:
Labour leader David Cunliffe has admitted he got a key detail wrong when announcing his $60-a-week baby bonus policy.
Mr Cunliffe said in a speech on Monday that 59,000 families would get the bonus for a full year, but the actual number is closer to half that.
The baby bonus debate hit question time today with all the focus on that key line in his State of the Nation speech.
The fine print reveals 26,000 parents will be ineligible for six months because they get paid parental leave. This means only 33,000 will get it for the full year.
TV3 political editor Patrick Gower thinks this was done intentionally to mislead the public. Maybe, I guess, but political parties don’t really work like that. What’s far more likely is that the people who designed the policy didn’t write the speech, the speech-writer didn’t fully understand the policy and there was no process in place to fact-check it before the leader delivered it.
Then there’s the Facebook thing. Labour’s revenue spokesman popped up and told TV3′s Tova O’Brien – one of the best political reporters in the country, based on her ability to get politicians to say moronic things live on camera – that a Labour government might ban Facebook.
The phenomenon of online multi-national corporations undercutting domestic businesses and wiping them out because domestic companies pay tax and Facebook, Apple, Amazon etc don’t is a huge problem facing governments around the world, but if little old New Zealand tries to address it unilaterally we’ll just be the stupid little country that banned Facebook. Labour took a day to reverse their position.
It all seems horribly familiar: Labour making stupid statements and clumsy mistakes, and National catching them out and flaying them alive for it. People just aren’t going to vote for that no matter how awesome their policies seem.