Tuesday, September 1, 2015

With Four Dud Options ... Time To Do As Winston Says And #KeepOurFlag

Well that was fantastically underwhelming, wasn't it. Yesterday, we saw the final four flag designs announced ... and hopefully, with any luck, the final four nails in the coffin of this insufferable exercise in Prime Ministerial arrogance.

Now I'm not naive. It's certainly possible that a reasonably large proportion of Kiwis were potentially open to a flag change, when this debate first got going. We'll never know precisely how many, because National decided in their inestimable wisdom to do this whole process back to front and ask us *if* we wanted the flag changed *after* getting us to choose which flag we wanted it changed to.

But through a combination of spirited advocacy by laudable organizations like the RSA, and a rising chorus of disquiet about both the $26 million dollar cost of the process as well as the somewhat lackluster results it's evidently produced ... public opinion appears to have swung in fairly decisively behind the "anti-change" camp.


For what it's worth, before the outset of this process I was not entirely unfavourably disposed toward one day changing the design of our flag. But it would have to be to the right one. And almost as importantly, done through the proper process.

None of these four designs are "the right one", as far as I'm concerned; and whatever you wish to call the way National has gone about attempting to ensure a flag-change, "proper process" sure isn't it.

And in any case, throughout the course of the flag-change debate ... I've actually discovered just how enamoured I really am with the one we've got at the moment, anyway.

I actually think I've come to really like it. Stirs the heart, fills it full of #Nationalist sentiment. Respects our history (well - part of it, anyway) ... and DOESN'T look like some sort of two-bit corporate logo.

Or, for that matter, an instrument of mass hypnosis.

It may not be perfect - but it beats out ALL the available competitors (all four of them) by a flag-pole furlough.

So as we careen toward the upcoming flag referendum with an ill-disguised sense of national nausea ... what are we to do.

Short of armed insurrection against the Government (settle down NZ Police - I'm not actually advocating that. Please don't drag Bomber down to Central Station again on my behalf), how are we to protect our flag from the forces of iniquity and inequality which apparently seek to despoil it?

After all, we can't vote to keep our flag in this initial referendum.

So what can we do?

Simple. Write "Keep Our Flag", or "KOF" on your ballot paper rather than ticking any of the lackluster options on offer.

This will "invalidate" or "spoil" your ballot.

The government doesn't really have to take notice of people who just simply don't vote.

But they DO have to record the numbers and make a note of it when you deface your ballot. (And yes, yes I am aware that given the four designs on the ballot paper, it's pretty much already fairly visually defaced as it is)

So what we're trying to do here is FORCE our Government to listen to the people, through an exercise of democracy. Radical idea, I know.

When enough Kiwis send back in spoiled ballots - rather than pliantly voting for the red-and-blue plastic plate logo, as we're expected to - it will become plainly apparent to the Government that this entire process has been not just an expensive farce, but a fizzer into the "bargain".

That's why Winston Peters is calling on New Zealand voters to send back defaced ballots, rather than taking part in this undignified exercise in highly expensive sack-cloth selection.

Because it's quite honestly the only option at this stage that makes sense - given we have no other real way to express our support for the present flag and the extant status quo.

In summary: when your ballot-paper turns up in the near future ... do the right thing and keep it Kiwi.

Don't bother voting for any of the seriously average designs on offer.

Just put "Keep Our Flag" or "KOF" on your ballot paper instead.

That'll ensure the Government gets the message!

Monday, August 31, 2015

WhaleOil Needs Your Cash

From: whaleoil@whaleoil.co.nz
Subject: From The Passenger Seat - WhaleOil Is Changing. Need Money Fast.

Dear Mr Sir.

I am Mr Pete, longstanding Gopher-To-The-Stars and Highly Executive Assistance to his Greasy Eminence, Mr Cameron Slater; working for WhaleOil Media Obfuscations.

As you know, WhaleOil is this country's most successful non-media media entity. We're bigger not-journalists than even Mike Hosking. And our glass is *just* as half-full. Or, at least, it used to be.

You see, despite attracting over two million views a month from nearly three hundred thousand loyal readers (only half of which hail from IP addresses in the Philippines) ... we've run into a spot of bother.

In the old days, back when this site was purely an archival repository of one man's vagrant attempts to supplement his sickness benefit while overcoming his mental illness by ranting endlessly at the pinko-commie government ... the site's operations were largely self-sustaining. We made our money through ad revenue, and the fat wads of donations that came streaming in from certain political figures who *ahem* liked what we wrote about them so very much, they were prepared to pay us a cash advance before they'd even seen what we'd written about them.

(So despite what the arch-leftist Green Taliban would have you believe, that's not "stories for cash" - that would entail people paying for stories *after* they'd been written rather than before. And after all ... a goodly chunk of our income came in from people who liked that we were *not* writing stories about them, instead. So the whole thing's completely inaccurate)

But recently, we've hit a bit of a snag.

Those dastardly red-tinge pimply-faced internesto Che Guevara wannabes have found our weakspot. Our Achilles Flipper, if you will.

They've worked out how to hit us where it hurts. In the pocket-book. By means of the ad-revenue.

Through the frankly monstrous means of using free market capitalism against us, they've started complaining to Google Ads about what goes up on our site. Which cuts into our revenue, big-time!

Worse, still ... the arrogant bastards have even started installing ad-blockers on their browsers, so that no matter what annoying pop-ups or flashy banner-wavers we code into the messy bowels and intestines of our cetacean-powered Raft of the Medusa, you don't have to see our precious, precious ads. And that means revenue lost. We're haemorrhaging hundreds of dollars here!

And unfortunately, it couldn't have come at a worse time. As you may have seen in the media, that imbecilic political werewolf Colin Craig is suing the pants off us for the shirt off our (collective) back!

How were we supposed to know that the most litigious pretend-politician in the country would try and take us to the cleaners just for alleging that he'd had an affair with his press secretary and an as-yet imaginary woman?! If anything, we were doing him a favour! Before us, he just looked a bit weird. WE GAVE HIM SEX-APPEAL, DAMNIT! AND PLACED HIM ON THE SIDE OF THE MORALLY RIGHT! THE MAN SHOULD BE PAYING US A P.R. STIPEND!

*Ahem*. Anyway, where was I.

Oh, right. Pleading with you, our readers, to help float our boat with your precious hard-earned fiscal liquidity. Our Whale is beached as, bro. And only your outpourings of cash all over the greasy bastard will be able to keep him alive, and his many paid minions in bread-sticks and butter. (Best not to ask what we do with the butter)

Right now, Cam Slater's on Trademe auctioning off his nearest and dearest precious possessions to keep us running and try paying our legal bills. He's already been served with bankruptcy papers. We can't go on like this!

So what can you do to help us out of this quang-tastic quagmire?

First up, start wiring money to our account. In return for this you will, in a few weeks, be given privileged access to a less-ads version of WhaleOil. We hit upon this revolutionary idea when we realized how much of a mint we were making off people paying for us not to talk about them. So we figured ... "why not apply the same logic to our advertising?" If people will pay for non-exposure, then we're sure you'll be happy to pay for us not to expose ourselves at you through banner-ads.

Next, complete consumer surveys on our site. You may not get the promised supermarket vouchers (we'll be keeping those in order to pay for Cam's fairly massive food bill) ... but at least it'll help us to keep our costs down, and you get to inform the market.

And third-and-finally, you can opt-in to our exclusive Whale-Flail Fan Club. Receive special direct-message emails from Slater himself! If you opt for Gold Card status, you'll even be privileged enough to get TEXT MESSAGES from him. Why, that's a rare treat hitherto only available to the Prime Minister and Judith Collins!

So don't delay ... opt-in today!

And remember: for every hour that you're not viewing our ads or paying for our emails ... a hungry whale waits!

In a shark-tank. Sort of like the ones your average Bond villain would use.

We're good like that.

Thanks and regards;


P.s.: do us a favour and buy a WhaleOil fedora from the gift-shop on your way out.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Great Inner City Visa-Checking Borderforce Walkabout Policy Backpeddle: Anatomy Of A Flip-Flop

...Well that de-escalated quickly.

No sooner had news of Abbott's latest political debacle started spreading across my newsfeed, than it all seemed to be over.

What am I talking about?

Operation Fortitude. A most curious scheme whereby Australia's answer to Colin Craig in speedos, Tony Abbott, decided to counter his own largely imaginary panic about illegal migrants by deploying his nation's paramilitary border control service onto the streets of Melbourne in a bid to stop and check the visas of anybody who might happen to look remotely non-Australian or illegal.

You can probably guess whom he meant by that.

Anyway. This operation was announced at approximately 10:14 yesterday morning Australian time, with the local Border Force Regional Commander bluntly stating that "Officers will be positioned at various locations around the CBD speaking with any individual they cross paths with."

The first thing that leaped out at me upon hearing about this was that it was most peculiar indeed for a large-scale law-enforcement operation to be announced not only in advance - but also in great detail as to precisely *where* in the country it would be being conducted.

This isn't exactly normal policing protocol in any developed nation I've ever heard of where the goal of an operation is to actually catch lawbreakers and intercept infringement. The reasons for this confusion on my behalf ought to be painstakingly obvious ... but if you're having trouble grasping the problem here, consider the following:

Say the Auckland metropolitan police wanted to catch a whole bunch of drug-dealers, specifically the ones who ply their wares down on Hobson St just past the City Mission. This is actually something that's happened rather recently - in large part aided and abetted by undercover policemen and swift rapid-intervention enforcement actions - and consequentially netted offenders.

Now consider how many drug-dealers the police would have caught in the resulting operation if they'd announced twenty four hours beforehand that they were going to be blitzing Hobson St for drug offenders.

See what I mean?

My suspicions that this was merely a gigantic exercise in police-abetted political PR stuntery were further confirmed by some bright spark's decision to announce a Border Force press conference, to be convened for 2 p.m Australian time outside Melbourne's iconic Flinders St Station.

You might like to compare this, in the rubric of our earlier analogy, to the Auckland Police's district commander walking down the street from Central Police Station to go stand on the corner outside St Mathews In The City while shouting into a megaphone in the general direction of the City Mission carpark "WE ARE GOING TO BE HERE TOMORROW AND SUNDAY ARRESTING DRUG DEALERS".

But it's what happened next that truly took my breath away.

The promised 2 p.m press conference never eventuated.

Within an hour or so of the press conference being announced, a teeming throng of Melburnians had descended upon Flinders St Station. They didn't just manage to shut down traffic and trams.

They actually managed to shut down the press conference entirely. I'm told, by hemming Border Force and other associated personnel into the station.

At 2:26 p.m - almost half an hour after it was scheduled to start - the press conference was called off.

Less than twenty minutes later - at 2:40 p.m - the entire operation was called off.

More amusingly, the same institution which had declared earlier that morning that its officers would be "speaking with any individual they cross paths with" in a bid to target visa fraud ... then issued a statement declaring that "the [Australian Border Force] does not and will not stop people at random in the streets and does not target people on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity."

In other news: We Have Always Been At War With Eurasia.

This is a pretty astonishing backdown by the Border Force and its officials; and I can only look in askance while wondering why the same breathtakingly imbecilic minds who presumably thought this was a goer in the first place suddenly (and thankfully) found themselves insufficiently stubborn to see the operation through the rest of its stultifying chartered course.

It's possible that one of the brighter minds somewhere in the chain of command realized that pinging everybody who looked even vaguely un-WASPishly-Australian during the course of a jam-packed socializing Saturday night in Melbourne was going to be a thankless and nearly impossible task.

Perhaps somebody quietly pointed out the legal issues Border Force officers were going to have using questionably lawful searches and inspections as the bases and pretexts to pack people off to Immigration Detention hellholes?

Certainly, yesterday's protests would have played a fairly massive part in the decision-making. It is, after all, pretty hard to carry out sustained and serious policing operations when your host population turns rambunctiously and ribaldly against you.

But I'm wondering. Perhaps the Abbott Administration got spooked. It's not just a matter of People Power On The Streets. The specter of a readily-armed Border Force (which, let's all remember, didn't even EXIST until last month) situated *well away* from the nation's borders, and taking part in highly problematic policing actions - well, it just leaves a bad taste in the mouth, regardless of how you look at it.

It's pretty worrying when a country's government decides to deploy a paramilitary force onto its nation's streets. Even more so when the reasoning for so doing seems vague and undefined.

Good on Melburnians for standing up to Abbott's Border Force on this one.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Peter Dunne Causes Waste Of Perfectly Good Champagne By Faking Resignation

Damnit. I thought Peter Dunne was supposed to be resigning! Turns out the whole thing was a farcical troll-attempt on his part.

Confused? Let me explain:

Every MP, during the course of their three-year term selects a Youth MP. This is a representative for the young people in their community/constituency, and helps to keep the MP in touch with the opinions and sentiment of young people. They also get to participate in a Youth Parliament mid-way through next year.

Now, for most parties and politicians ... recruiting a young person to be their Youth MP is not especially difficult. The only serious problem is finding some way of filtering through the many, many applications of seriously talented young people that come back in order to find the stand-out youngster to be it.

Not so for Peter Dunne.

Evidently, he's so short on youth applicants - or, heaven forbid, youth appeal - that he has to rely upon perfidious gimmickry in his press releases in order to get noticed and manage to lure some unsuspecting young person into his clutches.

Which explains yesterday's press release.

"Ohariu MP Peter Dunne says he will stand aside as MP for Ohariu next year to enable a new, young MP to be chosen for the vibrant, growing north Wellington electorate.
“I have been MP for Ohariu since 1984 – but plan to hand over to a new youthful MP in July."

So you can see why I was initially overjoyed that one of the longest-serving wastes of space in our Parliament was *finally* giving the people what they want - and vanishing from public life in a puff of synthetic cannabis smoke.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. And as Andrea Vance revealed later in the day (why is it *that* journalist getting the inside word...) - the whole thing was merely a fake and false-front exercise in gimmickry designed to attract widespread media attention in order to assist his bid to find a youth MP.

As former Greens staffer Simon Tapp put it on twitter: "how am I supposed to get the cork back in this bottle?!"


Oh well. Guess we'll just have to get back to the serious business of rolling him the old fashioned way.

With less than 700 votes between Peter Dunne and his next most strongly performing rival (Labour's Virginia Andersen) at the last Election ... I'd say within three years, he'll have a serious decision to make about what he intends to put into his *actual* letter of resignation and farewell.

That date can't come soon enough.

On the Surprising Sanity of Donald Trump

It started simply enough. Like tens of thousands of others, I watched open-mouthed and slack jawed in amazement as Donald Trump singlehandedly exposed the festering corruption that sits at the sclerotic heart of American politics, during his performance on last week's Republican presidential candidates' debate over on Fox.

That was three weeks ago.

Since then, I - and, no doubt, half a legion of political pundits the world over - have found myself curiously captivated by this most .. cursory of candidates.

What does he stand for? How did he go from headline-based joke to headlining the joke party? *WHY* is he?

Well this piece doesn't purport to contain the answers to any of the above. We're no doubt going to be churning out screeds upon screeds of political analysis for at least the next decade about how all of this came to be - and why he's not just another re-run of the Ross Perot phenomenon.

But what I found, buried within the dusty mounds of internet links and expert opinion which I daily trawl through and then nest in ... were two important truths.

First up, that Trump isn't as stupid as he looks. (Which would, if he were, be a singularly impressive phenomenon in and of itself)

And second, that because of this ... he operates in some ways *outside* the establishment-spectrum of American politics. That's the root of his popularity, in many ways - but it's also a worrying indictment of that establishment in the first place.

People talk about how the Republican Party used to be the Party of Lincoln - then the Party of Nixon (whom let's remember wanted to be an American Disraeli) ... before finally sliding into its almost complete antithesis in terms of human values and common sense as the Party of Bush.

Where Trump fits in is as a corrective tendency - a lever which, whether by accident or design, will serve to break open the Establishment consensus on what's "acceptable" politics. And in doing so, try to bring at least part of this sphere crashing back to closer proximity with what a reasonable swathe of the American people *actually* want.

And contrary to what you might think (particularly upon reading his absolutely ghastly and abominable comments on certain ethnic minorities, to say the least) ... that's not always such a bad thing!

Consider, for starters, his stance on the TPPA. Where President Obama was running around hailing moves toward the deal's completion as a "win" for his administration, Trump thinks the whole thing is a "disaster".

He's right. But unfortunately, he's one of the few leading politicians in the race (and yes, the idea of him as a 'leading' politician is simply terrifying) - particularly on the right wing of politics - to recognize this as a fact.

Meanwhile, Establishment favourites Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are dyed-in-the-wool free traders. That's not to say that Trump isn't, but at least he can recognize a disastrous free trade deal when he sees one.

To her credit, Clinton has since come out with some gentle skepticism as to the TPPA's hoped-for benefits - but as has been pointed out elsewhere, this simply seems like yet more evidence of her political dynasty's habitual tactic of focus-grouped faux-populism rather than any genuine disavowal of a dastardly deal.

After all, she spent a good chunk of her tenure running the State Department as a pretty avid and vocal proponent of the TPPA in the first place. It's even been cited (together with fast-track authority for negotiation) as one of her achievements.

But it goes further.

When it comes to Healthcare, for instance, Trump is - personally at least - arguably to the left of many modern Democrats.

Sure he opposes Obamacare ... but on a personal level, that appears to have initially been due to his enthusiasm for what the Americans call "Single Payer" healthcare. A benightedly Orwellian term for what you and I here in the Antipodes (or, for that matter, much of the rest of the Developed World) would instead call a "Modern Public Health System". Something which he seems to agree on with Bernie Sanders of all people.

More to the point, unlike pretty much EVERY SINGLE OTHER REPUBLICAN RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, he's furiously opposed to proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

His logic's pretty compelling: as he quite rightly points out, it's patently unfair to slash back a service which many millions of Americans have been paying into for decades in full expectancy of its benefits, just on an ideological political whim.

Between his continued advocacy for a healthcare system that actually *works* for the poor - rather than preying upon them and profiteering off them through expensive emergency room visits; and his frank and straight-up statements that yes, yes he did oppose the Iraq War - and for a plethora of strikingly sane reasons ... you could almost be forgiven for forgetting you were viewing a man running as a Republican. Still, much less, the man LEADING the Republican Primaries.

And that, I guess in a nutshell, is why Trump matters.

Because when he's standing there, right next to George W. Bush's brother and in a field of warmongering Hawks, pointing out the Iraq War was a bad idea ... that means something. Not as an empty gesture of protest - but as a striking visual reminder that there IS indeed another way. Same deal when he sticks out like a sore thumb in the Republican field about wanting to PROTECT rather than UNDERMINE or ABOLISH key government programs like Medicare.

All of that, together, serves to break apart and undermine the Establishment doctrines you might have heard of under a similar guise such as "TINA". There Is No Alternative. There's ALWAYS an alternative - often espoused by the person crazy enough to see things a little differently (Hello!). And often fiercely pushed back and resisted against by people who have the most to gain from adhering to the dominant thinking about an issue.

Exposing live on national television the way Establishment politics *actually* works (i.e. the money-for-influence conveyor-belt system) certainly helps with that, into the bargain. Particularly when his opponents are so breathtakingly stupid as to petition Trump for donations (presumably in exchange for influence) *right in the middle of the segment in which Trump discusses how donations buy politicians*.

People are freaking out wildly about what Trump might mean for US politics. And considering his quite frankly appalling comments on a few issues - perhaps quite rightly so.

But much to my frank surprise and amazement, it's also possible that he'll restore sanity to certain parts of the American politisphere.

And for that, if nothing else, I'll look seriously at him as a politician - rather than relegating him to the merely "entertainment" section of my mind.

Oh, it's also possible that either through a Trump victory irreversibly splitting and therefore destroying the modern Republican party - or instead via the route of Trump sabotaging the eventual Republican nominee's 2016 campaign by running as an Independent Ross Perot style - he might inadvertently contribute to the Democrats being in a far stronger position within American politics in the future ;)

And for that, at least, I think he ought to be outright celebrated :D

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Winston Peters for Prime Minister?

Well this is interesting, isn't it.

On yesterday's The Nation program, embattled Labour leader Andrew Little was forced into the revealing position of refusing to rule out the next Labour government being lead by none other than Winston Peters.

Say what?

No, that's not a typo - or some wild-eyed frenzied supporter's fulsome flight of fancy.

Little was repeatedly asked by TV3's Lisa Owen about how Labour would possibly be able to govern without New Zealand First. And the best he could come up with was by pointing out that the Labour Party can sometimes work with National when it wants to get legislation through the House without relying upon NZ First and/or The Greens.

Wow. What a position of strength for what's supposed to be the nation's leading Opposition party - having to rely upon your positive working relationship with THE GOVERNMENT in order to fend off suggestions that somebody else ought to be in the driver's chair.

Still, as this week's Roy Morgan polling seems to strongly suggest ... relying upon smaller support parties is about all Labour's got left. They're shrinking, the Greens are shrinking (albeit at a much slower rate) - only New Zealand First and National appear to be making any great gains.

There are three serious questions churning at the core of New Zealand Politics right now.

The first one is whether, over the long arc of the electoral cycle, Labour is losing ground - or, for that matter, treading water - at a rate faster or slower than National is (re-)gaining it.

Next, what's happening with the support parties. In specia, if The Greens have genuinely topped out - or whether Shaw can bring in those treasured middle-class urban votes (preferably without alienating much of their already-extant support base); and perhaps more importantly - how far further up in the polls New Zealand First's star can rise.

As a result of putting i) and ii) together, we wind up with iii): what sort of hypothetical post-Election governing arrangements are actually viable enough to be worth talking about in the first place.

As usual, only one man can answer that third question.

And if even he knows yet, I doubt he'll be telling.

But two things seem certain.

First up, that Labour's days as the axiomatic center-of-gravity of Opposition (or, indeed, left-wing) politics are some distance behind it. They may have the numbers in the House at present to be regarded as the Opposition's center of mass, but in terms of political dynamism or ability to inspire and capture the electorate - they seem to merely be so much dead weight.

And second ... however you choose to slice it, New Zealand First is increasingly central to our politics and our Parliament. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about opposition to the TPPA, or who's likely to be the fulcrum around which post-2017 governance turns. We're there, at the heart of it all.

Now some might say that The Greens are well positioned to play an equally important role in any hypothetical future non-National government. And that's certainly one of the reasons why I, personally, advocate the #BlackGreen2017 anti-neoliberal coalition option.

But despite the fact they're still a skerrick ahead of us in the polls at the moment - they aren't gaining ground nearly as fast as we are. In fact, if anything, they're arguably either static or losing it.

More to the point - when The Greens demanded the Finance Minister's portfolio and suggested a dual-occupied Deputy Prime Ministership to Labour in the run-up to the last Election ... Labour balked, and said "No Deal".

Now, less than twelve months later, the man who said Winston was too old to take Northland (and look how that worked out) is having to fairly openly contemplate the proposition that Winston Peters will in fact be leading the next Labour government.

Considering Winston's recent eclipse of Little in the Preferred Prime Ministership stakes, I can hardly say I'm surprised.

Maybe Ron Mark's prediction of Darroch Ball as a future Defence Minister, will be coming true *far* sooner than any of us anticipated.

In any case, voters are right now flocking to New Zealand First by the bushel for two simple reasons:

First, because they respect and admire our principles. They know that we have New Zealand's best interests at heart. It's right there in our name.

And second, because right now we are the Party of success. We haven't just increased our Caucus size by 50%. We've won one of the safest National seats in the country. We've fundamentally changed the way New Zealand Politics looks at the Regions. And we're right now engaged in the process of building a Nationwide movement to deliver change.

Ordinary New Zealanders from right across the country see that - and they want in.

Yesterday's concession of weakness by Andrew Little is also a towering admission of strength for New Zealand First.

Coupled with another few positive poll results - and our continuing stellar performance in the House - and there'll soon be no doubt in anyone's mind that New Zealand First is well on its way to becoming the preeminent Second Party in New Zealand's political arena.

However you choose to look at it, government in the post-2017 strategic environment looks set to be a very much more egalitarian affair indeed.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When It Comes To NZ First - It's Wise Insurance Not To Trust Andrea Vance

Few things are more infuriating than that most rampant of political scourges, a journalist with a ravening revenge complex.

Facts are distorted. Lies broadcast. And some seriously twisty turpentine interpretations are allowed to advance in legion formation from conjecture to catechism by a so-called and supposed guardian of the truth from our Fourth Estate.

On a bad day, that's what some people think I do. On a good day, it's what Cameron Slater does. And on most days, when it comes to New Zealand First, there's at least one journo with an axe to grind meting out *exactly* this to my own beloved Party.

Often, it's Andrea Vance.

We saw this earlier on in the year, when Vance took to task NZ First MPs for the princely crime of having the gumption and the gunnery to actually continue to issue press releases and comment on the pressing issues of the day, over the summer holidays.


Somebody ACTUALLY decided to raise protest about our MPs doing the job they are paid to do, simply because the spectacle of a properly-performing politician is something Vance took exception to. Why? Maybe it's due to the fact they were NZF MPs doing the job journalists SHOULD have been doing of holding the powerful to account over that time. Or perhaps, in her view, the political year stops in early December and nothing perfidious ever happens on the political ramparts between then and late February. I don't know.

It's probably motivated by a punitive desire to retaliate against NZ First for Winston's role in exposing Vance's informational gold-card-mine during the GCSB scandal, in the form of Peter Dunne.

If so, impeding the informational flows about important goings-on in our democracy purely out of vexatious spite for somebody performing a public service in excoriating a fundamentally defective Minister ... is tantamount to a dereliction of journalistic duty.

But anyway, I digress.

The reason why I am writing this piece, is I wish to respond to something Vance put out earlier in the week alleging Barbara Stewart was engaged in the act of "[defying] the Party and her colleagues" via the introduction of a new Private Member's Bill last week.

That's an absolute and outright lie.

What actually happened is, on Thursday last week Barbara Stewart introduced a piece of draft legislation into Parliament via the Member's Bill ballot process (and, might I add, with Caucus approval to do so) which sought to do a number of things.

Part 1 of the Bill mandates that migrants to New Zealand entering our country under the parental reunification category of residency would be required to take out ten years of health insurance, specifically covering elective surgery.

Parts 2 and 3 of the Bill (which are, to my mind, vastly more important anyway) make it easier for New Zealanders to get access to health insurance. In specia, Part 2 removes taxation disincentives toward Kiwis purchasing health insurance (or, in the case of Part 2, section 8 ... their employers providing it for them as a fringe benefit); while Part 3 provides for a rebate of up to 25% of their health insurance premiums if they're a Super Gold Card holder.

So while I have some issues with Part 1 of the Bill, which we'll go into later ... fundamentally and all up, I think it's a pretty sound piece of legislation - both in intent and in application.

Unfortunately for those out there wishing to get an accurate picture of what our representatives get up to in Parliament in our name and on our behalf ... sensible insurance/taxation policy and looking after the elderly isn't something that's traditionally regarded as sexy reading. Internal party splits and MPs allegedly behaving badly, by contrast, is. (And in order to pre-empt some of the baying voices down in the peanut gallery ... I fully admit and acknowledge that I'm occasionally guilty of picking salacious topics to write about, too)

So you can see why Vance has chosen to cover this aspect and this alone of the draft legislation - rather than focusing on the actual positives and core benefits which Barbara's sought to enact via this piece of legislation.

But before we get into the nitty-gritty of the debate on the merits of Part 1 of the Bill, I'd like to set the record straight about some things.

Yes, yes there was some rather vocal dissent from the Floor of our Convention down in Rotorua about a vaguely related remit, I believe from the Rodney electorate, which sought to mandate that *all* migrants had to have 10 years of health insurance to their name before settling here. Yes, yes this did feature at least two NZ First MPs rising to address serious philosophical issues and concerns connected to the proposal. And yes, yes I am given to understand that the Remit failed to gain majority support from those on the Floor in the subsequent and ensuing vote. (Although for what it's worth, I don't agree that the policy-as-proposed would have breached the Bill of Rights Act as Denis O'Rourke seems to have claimed ... and am much more on-side with what Mahesh Bindra supposedly advocated, but more on that later)

Now, at this point, I do have to issue my own point of personal clarification. For various reasons I won't go into, I wasn't allowed in to Sunday morning's Policy Remit session at NZF's Convention. I am therefore reporting much of the above very much second-hand and as the result of triangulating information from a reasonable number of eye-witnesses. But hey, unlike Vance I'm at least able to acknowledge my own gripping perspective bias.

Anyway. Straightaway an immediate contradiction between what Vance has written and abject reality ought to become plainly apparent. The policy-remit that was voted down was a proposal for *all* migrants to take out 10 years worth of health insurance before settling here. The draft-legislation that Barbara has put forward is a proposal to make health insurance cheaper and more accessible for all New Zealanders (and Gold Card holders specifically), which also militates that *one highly specific category* of migrant take out health insurance which covers elective surgery before settling here.

This isn't the way Vance has put across the story - instead, she's deliberately sought to cloud the waters by hugely artificially conflating the two issues to the point that they're supposed to be indistinguishable.

Why? Because she wants to make us look bad. Why *else* does anyone in the Press Gallery seemingly write anything these days.

To be fair, you could argue that there is some conceptual overlap between the Bill which has gone forward and the policy remit which got voted down two weeks ago, and you'd probably be right. But it's a pretty long bow to draw to state that because we, as a Party, rejected the very very broad manifestation of a principle, that we also therefore axiomatically reject its highly specific application. That would be like suggesting that just because someone is against the carte-blanche legalization of cannabis, for instance, that they're also thus completely against highly specific medicinal marijuana administration. And even Peter Dunne's not *that* much of a puritan.

But it goes further.

Going off Vance's article, you'd be forgiven for thinking this Bill had simply fallen out of the sky, fully formed, in the immediate wake of our Party Convention as a deliberate 'screw you' to the Party Faithful. In fact, the narrative Vance appears to be somewhat-more-than-implying here appears to be exactly that - that Barbara's picked up a piece of legislation and decided to forcibly ram it through over the heads of the rest of our Caucus and Party Faithful in what can only be construed as a giant Ron Markian hand gesture.


Here's a cached copy of the parliament.nz page for the bill as it was just before it was drawn from the ballot showing that it was introduced into the legislative process (i.e. the ballot) on the 18th of February 2015.

Needless to say, that's SIX MONTHS AGO. And it rather strongly implies that instead of openly "defying" her Caucus and Party supporters, Stewart has simply done what most MPs in Parliamentary political parties do: had a bright idea, workshopped it about the place, run it by her Caucus for approval first, and then chucked it in the ballot. Before having a stroke of luck six months later and having the bill drawn out of the hat. (And it always gets me that there's such an element of randomness in control of some of the most important parts of our legislative process and agenda)

Nothing wrong with that in the slightest.

Further, quoting the speech O'Rourke's gave to our Convention in opposition to Rodney's policy remit as if it were actually a statement of opposition to Barbara's largely unrelated draft legislation ... is absolutely scurrilous and represents an outright fabrication of an alternate reality. I can only profess myself somewhat aghast that the "journalist" in question's perceptive powers are apparently unhampered by the stringent constraints of time, space, and causality which the rest of us here on this mortal plane are almost invariably subject to.

Vance should know better.

Anyway, before I round off ... I'd like to get in a statement of principle.

I like this bill. I thoroughly endorse and enjoy what goes on in Part 2 and Part 3 of said bill. In fact, one of the reasons why I've waxed lyrical at such great length in writing this piece - and included a rundown of the bill's contents, instead of just pointing out Vance's shortcomings ... is because I genuinely think that strong and creative legislative work such as this deserves greater exposure.

However, that being said - I'm not necessarily a huge fan of Part 1 of this legislation. In fact, I'm looking at it a bit sideways as we speak. (Although I have had a variety of explanations put forward by some within teh Party which make me rather less uncomfortable with it than I had been previously).

Put simply, one of the things I have *always* loved about New Zealand First is Winston's frank and honest statement that what whether you've been here for five years or five hundred years - if you're prepared to make New Zealand your genuine home and contribute in a worthwhile manner to the growth and wellbeing of our nation ... then we owe you *exactly the same duties* of protection and safekeeping which we do for any other citizen. It's as simple as that - in fact, it's the very essence of the Civic Nationalism to which we all all theoretically adhere.

Now I do understand and appreciate the arguments advanced by Tracey (whose electorate the remit came from in the first place) concerning "putting into the tax bucket your fair share". I also have some time for the proposition that skilled migrants in reasonably paying jobs who are bringing their elderly parents over here with them, will be able to afford health insurance premiums for the relevant members of their families.

But ultimately, I do resolutely believe in the idea that once you're actually a citizen - which, let's remember, is several years after you've entered the country - we do, very much, have a duty and responsibility to look after you, no matter which category of entrance you used to obtain your immigration pathway and eventual citizenship.

I'd therefore look at reducing the ten-year period, accordingly.

And what I've just don there ... is I've disagreed (slightly, and in a reasonable way) about a detail of a policy with one of my Members of Parliament; while still overall backing the scheme and the bill.

According to Andrea Vance, that presumably means I'm in open and outright dissension from my Caucus and ought to be hung, drawn and quartered for treason accordingly.

That would be nonsense.

Much like the latest in Vance's spin-cycle overdrive efforts at political "reporting".

So let's just be absolutely clear about this. When it comes to Andrea Vance's writings about NZ First - she's almost invariably attempting to pull a sheen of the finest-grade sheep-derived export-fabric-material over your eyes.

Take note, and disregard her accordingly.