Archive for July 29th, 2008

“The bland leading the bland”

July 29, 2008

Colin James in today’s Herald rues the caution and blandness that is the Leader of the Opposition today. He asks us to “consider John Key, the trader who used to back himself and made a whizz-bang fortune at it. Where has he gone?”

James suspects that this is the product of marketing. I’d say that it is out and out manipulation of the electorate.

More importantly, James ruminates on the tensions between the Labour-lite policies that we have seen in many areas and the vague promises of economic step-change and closing the gap with Australia. On the latter, apart from universal fast broadband all we have is an indication that National “will promise bigger science… Oh, and tax cuts and lighter regulation. And ‘ambition’.”

(In passing, I await the bigger science policy with interest, as this vital driver of growth has been neglected by governments of all stripes.)

James also reveals that in the major policy areas:

“… in behind the bland one-pagers lies quite a lot of study, consultation with outsiders and internal shadow cabinet debate. A 34-page paper backed the workplace relations one-pager. Law and order policy was well footnoted.”

Even Farrar agrees that the one-pagers we are being feed don’t provide enough detail. He says that 1 per cent of the population wants the detail, but doesn’t say who these people are. I’d say that it’s more than that, and includes the opinion leaders who many of the others will rely upon to look at the detail and pass judgement.

I’m really pleased to hear that there’s more work behind these policies than appears on the surface. But why then do so many important points in the workplace relations, arts and other policies beg clarification? Why, for example, did we have National’s broadcasting spokesperson confirming on media7 that funding for Maori TV and Radio NZ would be maintained?

And if you’re going to release stuff on one side of A4, why not have a press conference so that these things can be clarified on the spot?

If you have pretentions to running the country, then at least act professionally when it comes to releasing policy. At the moment it looks very amateurish, as well as bland.

Update (hat-tip The Standard): Seems that National doesn’t have detailed policy analysis to back up the scraps of paper we’ve been served up. (Why don’t they just hand over the envelopes with their policies on the back?) Colin Espiner reveals:

“Unfortunately, it appears James didn’t get it quite right – at least according to John Key’s office, which has just told me that there is NO 34-page policy document on industrial relations. It is, in fact, a 14-page document that simply backgrounds previous changes in industrial law, according to Key’s office.

Even Espiner, who features in The Hollow Men as probably the most enthusiastic messenger for the right in 2005, finds this galling:

“I’m unsure whether this is supposed to make me feel better or not. Personally I would have been happier to know that National had done more work in this area, even if it wouldn’t release it.”

Peters returns: Much heat, little light

July 29, 2008

It was billed as the showdown in Parliament. In the event it was more of a snowjob.

Peters provided more of the same “answers” to the questions being asked about big donations from Owen Glenn and Sir Robert Jones. That is, he denied any wrong-doing and denounced the media. You know, “the truth is ignored”, etc, etc.

Clark continued with the line that Peters had assured her that no illegality had occurred and that she, like everyone else, was obliged to take this at face value. “From my point of view, I have been given no reason to believe that there is any illegality. I continue to watch closely developments on all matters around Ministers, but at this time I have no reason to doubt Mr Peters’ word.” (emphasis added).

To anyone who has known Helen Clark for any period of time, the high level of frustration she feels at the situation she finds herself in was very clear. She looked at her best — as always — attacking National, but otherwise was very grim-faced and thin-lipped, even for Clark.

Jeanette Fitzsimons and (on occasion) Rodney Hide acquitted themselves well. Key continued to look ineffectual and sounded confused at times. Not that this will bother him, as the strategy is to keep embarrassing Labour, and it’s the headlines that count, not how he looks in Parliament.

Peters revealed that a National backbencher didn’t declare in the Register of Pecuniary Interests of MPs 2,524,750 shares in a firm called something like  Cynotech. Not something that’s likely to bring National down, although it will probably bring a smile to David Cunliffe’s face.

Clark shifts tack on Peters

July 29, 2008

The Herald detects of subtle shift of tack in Clark’s position on Peters. It’s hard to disagree. She usually signals her displeasure in veiled terms ahead of acting. When she starts using terms like “serious matter” and “morality” she is positioning herself and readying the public for a decisive move. The Herald:

“Prime Minister Helen Clark distanced herself from Foreign Minister Winston Peters last night, implying he could be judged to be hypocritical if his New Zealand First Party accepted donations from secret trusts.

And she also offered the bare minimum in terms of expressing confidence in him.

“As long as ministers are in their position, I retain confidence in them,” she said at her post-Cabinet press conference. She dismissed any suggestion that the situation could lead to an early election.”

It looks as though Clark has accepted that the levels of hypocrisy and duplicity — we have at least two big donors who thought that they were donting to the Party only to find that they probably weren’t — are unsustainable.