The new Internet Party is making it incredibly easy for people to join. Perhaps, too easy. It’s innovative new mobile app makes the application process a cinch. The low cost of 99 cents for three years is an extremely low barrier as well. Add these factors together with the fact that the party is receiving mega publicity at the moment, and it’s clear that the party will very quickly gain its required 500 members in order to register with the Electoral Commission. The novelty of joining Dotcom’s latest project will surely ensure success. [Read more below]
The main issues in NZ politics today are Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party, John Key in Europe, Cyber-bullying law, the Genesis sale, fiscal policy, Kohanga Reo Trust, and the Press Council. [Read more below]
The main issues in NZ politics today are Dotcom's Internet Party alliance with Mana, the Kohanga Reo scandal, NZ-China relations, and the Labour Party. [Read more below]
The main issues in NZ politics today are the Kohanga Reo scandal and Hekia Parata, the Dotcom Internet Party alliances, the funding cuts to the Problem Gambling Foundation, and NZ-China relations. [Read more below]
This is the Twitter reaction so far to the official report released about the allegation involving the Kohanga Reo National Trust, and then the handling of this by the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata. As usual, the tweets below are in rough order of latest through to oldest, and will be updated. [Read more below]
Here's a selection of recent tweets and twitter-discussion involving or about Justice Minister Judith Collins (@JudithCollinsMP) about her Oravida scandal. [Read more below]
The main issues in NZ politics today are John Key in China, Judith Collins, Hone Harawira, the Kohanga Reo Trust, Forestry, and the Labour Party. [Read more below]
The main issues in NZ politics today are the Greens, NZ First, Judith Collins, the economy, education, and David Cunliffe and the Labour Party. [Read more below]
The main issues in NZ politics today are Judith Collins, National's citizenship waiver, Amy Adams, the Genesis float, and polling and the election. [Read more below]
The main issues in NZ politics today are the announcement of the general election date, the flag change referendum, Shane Jones and the Greens, and Judith Collins and Oravida [Read more below]
The main issues in NZ politics today are about the relationship between money, business and politics. Additional topics include Colin Craig vs Russel Norman, the Labour Party, the National Party, education, and gender equality. [Read more below]
The fundraising controversy over the National Party’s use of the exclusive Auckland restaurant, Antoine’s, raises many questions about the ways in which politicians and political parties can avoid making having their finances scrutinized by political finance transparency laws. The nature of political finance means that inevitably there are attempts made to circumvent the laws, for a variety of reasons. Political finance scholars liken political money to that of high-pressured water, in the sense that you can construct barriers to it, but inevitably the money gets through somehow because there’s always some leaks. [Read more below]
In New Zealand the Electoral Act allows political parties to raise their money privately through business trading ventures. If a party has a good or service to sell, there are no additional restrictions on that commercial activity just because they are a political party. This makes business activities a perfectly legal avenue for the collection of money from private interests, and one that does not need to involve donation regulations.
Legally, therefore, a dinner with politicians can be sold to the public, with large amounts of money exchanging hands without the donation laws kicking in. Any party – or an individual on behalf of the party – could in theory charge, say, $20,000 for a dinner with a Prime Minister or any other politician, and technically this money would not have to be declared to the Electoral Commission. It would simply be a business transaction, which is essentially exempt from the Electoral Act. As the Electoral Commission has said in the part, ‘People who pay to attend a fund-raising event will generally be paying for goods or services rather than making a donation’ and hence are not subject to the disclosure regulations.
Of course, the Electoral Act also says that if the money being charged by a party is in excess of the ‘market value’ of the goods or service, then the difference between those amounts needs to be declared as a donation. In reality, this ‘market value’ provision means very little when it comes to the goods and services that political parties can sell. It’s very hard to argue that a dinner with the PM, for example, isn’t worth $20,000 (or whatever amount). For many people – especially those in certain businesses – such meetings could be incredibly value for their commercial interests or lobbying agendas.
In fact, there are many examples of charity auctions raising considerably more money for dinners with politicians. These have the impact of showing that the market value of such goods and services are remarkably high.
Of course it’s intrinsically hard to tell how much business trading activities goes on amongst the political parties, because by its very definition, such activities doesn’t have to be made public.
Nonetheless, there are various known examples (in addition to the Antoine’s saga). For example, in 2010, Matt Nippert investigated Wong’s mysterious $200,000 fundraiser (http://bit.ly/1eig6tz). This is the key part: ‘According to several National Party sources, Mrs [Pansy] Wong raised $200,000 at an event held in 2007 at Auckland’s now-closed Ocean City restaurant. It is understood party leader John Key was present at the event and after an auction $50,000 was paid for his tie. Sources said Ms Wong was thanked for this fundraiser at the party’s conference at the Langham Hotel held in August that year. “It was announced from the stage to the assembled multitude – she [Mrs Wong] was the star of the show,” one eyewitness recounts. Yesterday the National Party hierarchy insisted the donation was handled by the book but several informed party sources told the National Business Review of their concern over the whereabouts of this donation and how it was accounted for’.
I was quoted in Nippert’s story at the time: ‘Edwards said the funds could be accounted for in a number of convoluted ways without being declared to the Electoral Commission as a technical donation. The Waitemata trust might have been the recipient, he said: “It is quite possible that the money received by Pansy Wong’s fundraising was funnelled through a legal trust and then given to the National Party.” Mr Edwards said the fund-raising venture could also have been organised as a “bogus business venture” with attendees charged market rates to “meet important people with great status”. The $50,000 paid for Mr Key’s tie could be defended in a similar fashion, Mr Edwards said. “How do you determine the market value of what is arguably a piece of iconic political memorabilia from a leader who is now prime minister?”’
So in this particular case study, it could well be that much of the $200,000 raised in the one night by Wong at the fundraising event was money paid by attendees just to attend the dinner and be entertained and informed by the politicians also attending. It’s quite possible that Wong charged her supporters and friends $1,000 or so to attend and meet influential and powerful people with great status. Although that hypothetical $1,000 entry fee might arguably look like a political donation – and it certainly does to me – legally there is nothing to say it was not a business transaction.
Similarly, with the purported sale of John Key’s tie for $50,000, a explanation could quite conceivable be made for why this was a business transaction and not a political donation. Although it sounds like a donation to me, the political finance laws are very vague on this. They suggest that a donation might make up that portion of the money exchanged that is above the market price of the good that is sold. But how do you determine the market value of what is arguably a piece of iconic political memorabilia from a leader who is now prime minister?
All you can do in such examples is speculate – due to the fact that New Zealand political parties are not open about their business activities. The reality could be that there is very little commercial trading carried out by the parties. Nonetheless, it’d be good to have this murky area investigated further.
This is a selection of some of the more interesting tweets in reaction to Patrick Gower’s interview with John Key – as reported in: Key 'tricky' with donation dinner details. It includes discussion about political finance, more generally than just the dinner donation allegations. [Read more below]
The main issues in NZ politics today are the allegations about Judith Collins, David Cunliffe's trusts, Labour and its ICT leaks, and John Key. [Read more below]
The main issues in NZ politics today are David Cunliffe's secret trust, the Labour Party, Judith Collins' alleged conflicts of interest, Labour's ICT leak, and Colin Craig. [Read more below]
This is a selection of some of the tweets about the revelations that Labour leader David Cunliffe used a trust fund to collect donations for his leadership campaign last year. The tweets below are in (rough) reverse chronically order – the most recent tweets are first. More will be added. [Read more below]
Russel Norman vs Colin Craig. Clash of the minor leaders. The ultimate liberal versus conservative SmackDown. So, what should we make of this scrap between the Green Party and Conservative leaders? Well firstly, expect this scrap over the role of women and position of gays to get nastier, and to even be a prominent feature of this year's election campaign. That is, what better way to rock National's support than to ignite a liberal moral-panic over John Key's new mate, Colin Craig and his Conservative Party? But why is Norman wanting to ignite a US-style cultural war in New Zealand? For a very simple reason. The fact is that the Greens, who have consistently moved further towards the political centre over recent years, have few policies to differentiate themselves, especially in terms of economic policy, from any of the other parliamentary political parities. As with both National and Labour, the Greens both recognise and endorse the 'positive' power of the market, and so endorse the post-neoliberal environment that frames political and economic discussion in this country. In this guest blog post, John Moore argues that Russel Norman has cynically demonised a rather easy target, the traditionalist and somewhat flaky Conservative leader Colin Craig, in a purely opportunistic move. [Read more below]
Colin Craig's rather backward social views should be critiqued and even slammed. However, this man and his party should be taken for what it is. Craig is no extremist, or even particularly ideological. Certainly he has some rather backward and old fashioned views, as he does see himself as championing 'traditional values'. However, Craig is far from being the intransigent moral conservative we see say on the periphery of the US Republican Party. When sharing his views on the American Christian Right, Craig has been less than flattering. He sees his party as a measured form of conservatism, and is quick to distance himself from the American right: “I think probably conservatism in America has some pretty strong elements that most New Zealanders wouldn’t identify with, and I certainly wouldn’t myself.”
The party’s website makes no mention of gay marriage, abortion, or any other divisive issues associated with conservative politics. Craig says his personal views on these subjects have been widely reported in the media, but the party has no official stance: “I don’t think discussion around these things is actually that beneficial or helpful for our nation," he says. "I’m not sure that you can legislate morality, I’m not sure that works well."
And Craig has made it clear he has few bottom lines in terms of getting into bed with either of the two major parties. For example, he has made it clear he is not trying to dismantle the majority of social-liberal reforms of the past few decades, saying that the Conservative Party won't be pushing for the repeal of the gay marriage law or legalised prostitution after next year's election, but would try to get the anti-smacking law overturned.
So why is Russel Norman laying into Conservative leader Colin Craig, as if Craig presents one of the major threats to the social-liberal hegemony in New Zealand? With Norman's recent attacks, which can be read as a labeling of the conservative leader as both gay-hating and misogynistic, we are witnessing the utilisation of US style cultural-war rhetoric in New Zealand's political arena.
Culture war style politics, which dominates discourse in the United States, lacks in both style and nuance, and is all about building an election base through demonising ones opponents, and building up a state of panic amongst ones supporters over the possibilityof the opposition gaining power. Rather cringe worthy examples in the US include vice-president Joe Biden warning blacks that they would be put back in chains if Mitt Romney had his way, and Republican congressman Rick Santorum raising alarm over the Democrat's apparent pro-gay agenda, which he argued would lead to future promotion of incest and even bestiality.
Russel Norman's attack on Craig follows the pattern of demonisation and alarmist style politics that we see in the US. But then the obvious pressing question is, why is Norman, who leads a party that preaches consensus and non-aggressive politics, now playing the hard-man and leading an attack to shatter the image of Colin Craig? Why? Because the fact is as the Greens have moved increasingly to the centre, they now have little to grab onto in terms of differentiating their party from the other major political players in parliament. So now they desperately need some issues to promote themselves as a unique political brand. Shed of their once radical image, the besuited and bourgeoise-jacket wearing Greens now need to grab onto issues and concerns that do not threaten their carefully crafted centrist image as sensible and professional political players.
This shift to the centre was most succinctly expressed by former Green MP Sue Bradford when she was in the process of the leaving the party. When asked if the Greens had lost their radical edge, she said: “We did have a real radical cutting edge [in 1999]… I think that we have, to some extent we have begun to lose a little bit of that differentiation with the other parties in Parliament - in terms of being a little less willing to take risks; a little less willing to be radical and “out there”; and the sense that too many political parties – including perhaps our own – are focused on winning the middle ground voters and not seeing the voters out to the sides – in our case, out to the left, and to the environmental left, as being as important as the voters that are in the middle and to the right.”
So, at a time when most people in New Zealand are at least OK with gay marriage, and ideas that women are somehow lesser than men seem quaint if not just stupid to most of the population, what better way to build up support than to engineer a panic that extremist politics are about to enter the New Zealand political fray. Therefore, Colin Craig represents the perfect reactionary bogeyman, a rather inept politician who allows Norman to position himself as both a sensible and inclusive politician who can act as a bulwark against an apparent risk of a shift to the moral-right in this country.
Most leftists and liberals in New Zealand have essentially endorsed Russel Norman's painting of Colin Craig as a dangerous conservative. It seems that for most of the left, the mere fact that Norman has highlighted the backward views of the Conservative Party alone means that they too should follow along with the Green Party leader’s attempt at whipping up a culture war in New Zealand. What many on the left fail to see, is what the Greens' pro-gay/pro-women discourse is really all about.
As the Greens have transformed themselves into a mainstream political party, and as they have accepted that the liberal-democratic capitalist framework is the only game in town, the party desperately needs to latch onto issues that both promote themselves as a unique brand, and that also don't in anyway act to allow the party to be presented as radical or as challenging the essentials of the established economic framework in New Zealand. Norman himself has been the most articulate Green in promoting the party's shift to being explicitly pro-capitalist and pro-market. Norman has even gone as far as saying that the Greens should be all about saving capitalism from its own destructive tendencies. He's worth quoting at length on this point:
It’s a funny position we find ourselves in. Just as the social democrats (Europe), labourists (UK, Oz, NZ) and new dealers (US) of the 1930s and 1940s had to save capitalism from its own destructive tendencies by introducing a range of modifications and interventions on the market system, so now the Green Parties of the world find ourselves in possibly a similar position. The best of the old social democrats like Michael Cullen are too locked in the old paradigm to understand it, and the sectional interests like the business roundtable and employers federation are too narrow to see it, but we have to intervene on the market system to place a price on resource use and pollution so that we can save the planet. And in the process we will quite possibly save the market system from its natural tendency to destroy or consume all resources leading to its own demise
And on top of arguing for the Greens to save capitalism, Norman has also argued that capitalism can be utilised to save the planet. That is, Norman has gone to great lengths to emphasise that his solutions for ‘saving capitalism’ and the planet will in no way interfere with the market mechanism of the economic system. In fact, he has indicated a general desire to embrace ‘the market’ (and therefore capitalism). In his first speech as co-leader, Norman stated:
We had Keynesian economics, we had neoliberal economics, now is the time for some Green economics. Now is the time to harness the undoubted power of the market to internalise the costs of pollution
So, in light of the Greens ditching their previous radical image, and not only endorsing the 'positive power of the market, but actually wanting to save capitalism, a further shift is needed to rebrand the party. Therefore, Russel Norman's attacks on Colin Craig need to be seen for what they are: as a brand-defining move and nothing to do with emancipatory and liberation politics.
The main issues in NZ politics today are the Act Party conference, the Mojo Mathers controversy, Matt McCarten, Tamati Coffey, and offshore oil and gas. [Read more below]
This is a selection of some of the tweets about the state of the Act Party, its annual conference, its new leader Jamie Whyte, and his controversial statements about incest. The tweets below are in (rough) reverse chronically order – the most recent tweets are first. More will be added. [Read more below]
This is a selection of some of the tweets about the Taxpayer Union’s allegations about Green MP Mojo Mathers, as reported in Patrice Dougan’s Green MP's 800km taxpayer-funded trip questioned. The tweets below are in (rough) reverse chronically order – the most recent tweets are first. More will be added. [Read more below]