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;

Pete.

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?!"

Argh.

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.

Seriously.

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.

Balderdash.

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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Young Nats Social Media Fail - How's That Brighter Future Treating You, President Rowan?



Sometime last month, I blogged about the somewhat less-than-illustrious political "career" of then-aspirant-and-regrettably-now-President of the Young Nats, Joel Rowan.

One of Rowan's main claims to fame (apart from having the National Party up in Court over his hidebound insistence that his own 'personal' interpretation of the Electoral Act  trumped the actual law of the land - more on that later) ... was that he was some form of minor social media guru.

From a position as the Young Nats' "Digital Director", he headed up their social media campaign team - a position which, as far as we're aware, he still holds.

So when this article from The Ruminator cropped up on my newsfeed yesterday morning detailing how the Young Nats were in continual and egregious breach of copyright with their social media campaigning of late ... well, I knew *exactly* who to blame, didn't I.

See, what's happened is, the Young Nats have made a continual effort at taking images from other media sources, slapping their own branding on them, and calling it a social media marketing campaign.

Their latest clanger featured an unlicensed image sourced from Getty Images. Which they also then decided to editorialize by dubbing John Key as "Mike Hosking's Boss".

They're really not very good at this whole "winning hearts and minds" thing, are they.

Anyway, as The Ruminator points out ... National seems to have a bit of a compulsive problem when it comes to stealing the hard work and intellectual property of others. Anyone remember that time the Young Nats' parent party got caught blue-handed blatantly ripping off Eminem's Lose Yourself for their election campaign opening night broadcast...?

In fact, I'd go further. As we've seen on everything from state asset sales to plagiarizing NZ First policy ... this Government (and its pliant youth wing) have some SERIOUS problems distinguishing 'mine and thine'.

As John F Kennedy said: we can hardly do business with "people who say 'what's mine is mine - and what's yours is negotiable.'"

I'm sure I cannot be alone in watching with baited breath to see whether this issue gets the Young Nats slapped with some form of legal censure.

Great Job, President Rowan.

I think Morgan Godfery put it best: "If they can't do social media right, they probably can't run a country either.

I hope these people never stand for office.
"

Sunday, August 16, 2015

On Indian Independence, The TPPA, And My Dad's Birthday



Yesterday marked the birthday of two great entities: the Republic of India, and my father, The Rev. Rolinson. (which happen to be the same age, funnily enough).

Now while it might, at first, seem a little strange to be bringing up the national day of a far-flung foreign country, and one's father's birthday in a piece here on The Daily Blog ... the reason I do so is because yesterday ALSO marked the occurrence of one of the largest nation-wide demonstrations of recent years: the TPPA Walk Away protests against everyone's least-favourite infamous trade deal.

So what's the causal link between these three things?

Well, quite apart from noting that both India and The Rev. have played pretty important roles in my development and upbringing, the lessons I've derived from each were foremost in my mind as we marched down Queen St during yesterday's anti-TPPA action.

First up, in the case of India ... August 15th marks a celebration of a hard-won Independence from foreign (and, in the case of the historical East India Company, pretty much the worst excesses ever of quite literally foreign corporate) colonial misrule.

That's the right of every nation, and something which I found to be almost diametrically opposed to New Zealand's present experience under this (ironically misnamed) National government.

For you see, one of the most pernicious aspects to the TPPA agreement is the way in which it forces us to GIVE UP OUR SOVEREIGNTY to foreign law-courts and foreign corporations. It's why New Zealand First put a private member's bill in the ballot earlier this year to STOP the Investor-State Dispute resolution bits of the TPPA from ever having an effect on our law-making and our judicial process.

So at the same time that many Indian New Zealanders (and, for that matter, quite literally hundreds of millions of people elsewhere on the globe slightly to our north and west) are out there celebrating having won their right to national self-determination and liberation from the pernicious power of foreign governments and corporate exploitation ... New Zealand herself is preparing to sign a trade deal which would hand, slowly but surely, a very similar kind of power to that enjoyed by the old colonial empires over their satrapy client-states and vassals to shadowy tribunals working for faceless foreign corporates.

That's nuts!

But you try telling Tim Groser that.

Now as applies my father, The Rev. Rolinson ... he wasn't just in my thoughts yesterday afternoon because it was his birthday - or, for that matter, because he helped me make my awesome NZ First Fighting Foreign Corporate Control sign for the rally.

Instead, it was about two things. Values and Vision. Something which, as a clergyman, he's abundantly blessed with on both fronts.

In terms of values, I would not be the man I am today without his ongoing guidance. (Please don't blame him *too* severely!) Many of my views about the importance of #nationalism, of social responsibility, the state, and the duties of care which we owe to each other as fellow-citizens of a nominally caring (but not necessarily young) democracy have been formed as the direct and attributable result of our ongoing interaction.

So when I was thinking about the perfidy of this Pacific Partnership (that's the trade agreement, not our filial relationship), a lot of the values he's instilled in me instantly leaped to mind. Because this "trade agreement" rides roughshod over almost every single one of them.

There's no "democracy" (or public participation, still much less "approval") inherent in how this treaty's been negotiated - and, for that matter, how we've found ourselves signed up and shackled to the damn thing. The sense of "social responsibility" which we're all supposed to feel toward one another (particularly on the part of our politicians for our people) has been fundamentally stripped away in ethos, to be replaced with abstract and acidically dangerous "corporate responsibility" - to overseas, and to bottom lines. Further, the way in which our state itself can act as one of the most compassionate and powerful tools of safeguard and surety for our citizens - for example, by legislating better outcomes for people by lifting the minimum wage or ensuring cheaper medicines for the sick and elderly thanks to #PHARMAC - is, itself, directly imperiled by the possibilities represented by the Investor-State Dispute resolution portions of the agreement. But most dire of all (and this is how it links back to the Independence of India) ... our very nation-hood and national sovereignty and self determination stands - indeed, our fundamental ability to Own Our Own Future - stands under dreadest threat from both without and within.

And that's not something which either Rolinson Snr. or Rolinson Jnr. are particularly happy about.

But this isn't just a statement of high-minded ideals setting out the ways in which my father's contributed to my political ideology and activism.

As applies that "Vision" thing I mentioned earlier ... well, let me put it this way. He's the same age as India, and a Gold Card holder. Going forward down the decades, I reasonably suspect that he'll find himself steadily more reliant upon the state in his future than he is, perhaps, now. My concern for what agreements like the TPPA - and, far more fundamentally, the failing, flailing governing ideology of Neoliberalism to which our Government subscribes - is therefore not entirely motivated by an abstract desire to see his values immanentized in our creature of state. Instead, it's very much a personal statement of fret and fear that the state and society which he retires into won't be nearly as caring or as courageously compassionate as the one which he grew up in. Or, hell, even the one that *I* technically speaking grew up in.

And when you watch someone you care about get older, that matters. I've already mentioned PHARMAC, for instance, as one core government service which older New Zealanders disproportionately rely upon that will almost certainly be under serious and severe threat should we sign up to the TPPA. There will, no doubt, be countless other ways in which such an agreement would negatively and perniciously effect his - and, for that matter, my - life going forward.

So as we proceeded down Queen Street yesterday afternoon, I think it's pretty plain to see why both of these birthdays were fairly foremost in my mind.

In the case of both India and The Rev. Rolinson, first and foremost, as a frightening reminder of that which we might very well lose - our national sovereignty, and all the hallmarks of a caring and compassionate society capable of taking command of its own destiny (via the state) which come with that.

But also, and very much at the same time, thoughts about how those respective pasts - both India's national moment, as well as the distant echos of the far more self-determined, self-assured, and self-sufficient/assisting New Zealand which my father grew up in - can, well, and should inform our nation's future going forward.

Because seriously. As the great peoples of India most certainly understood just after midnight on the 15th of August 1947 when their sovereignty was finally and insurmountably enshrined ... Sovereignty and self-determination aren't just pretty words to be bandied about in speeches and high-minded, idealized rhetoric. They're real, reified concepts with actual, tangible importance both day-to-day and across the decades.

Almost everything we do in an economic sense, a political sense - and yes, even often in a personal sense - is impacted upon by the serious questions our states face when it comes to what, how and for whom we govern.

These things matter. And not simply because I am an ardent and unapologetic #Nationalist. As I've hopefully demonstrated by invoking why I was motivated to march, in part, by a concern for my father ... the issues of sovereignty and economic justice impacted upon by the TPPA have very, very real consequences for both everyday New Zealanders and our society at large.

So going forward, let's be inspired by the glorious example of India.

Let us pursue independence and self-determination.

And let us never, EVER voluntarily perambulate the pathway toward the questionably-"post" colonial status of an economically vassalated perishingly pasteurized politically pusillanimous push-over of a pretend nation-state.

In closing ... Jai Hind! And a very Happy Birthday to The Reverend Rolinson.

Let's hope by this time next year, that the TPPA is very much a thing of the past. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

23% of Kiwis Think Mentally Ill Should Face Workplace Discrimination? That's Just Nuts!

Well this is concerning, isn't it. According to the Herald, a quarter of Kiwis are OK with workplace discrimination against the mentally ill. Specifically, 23% of respondents to the HPA's Health and Lifestyles Survey reckoned that an employer was a-ok justified in hiring a candidate with less work-experience and a clean bill of mental health over somebody more experienced, yet who also had a history of mental health issues.

Now let's be clear about this. I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

You all know that mentally ill Kiwis are people just like you and me (in fact, I'm one of them). It's also vitally important to stress that mental illness is an absolutely *huge* and multidimensional spectrum of ailments and impairments - some of which are curable and others merely 'manageable'. Many of them don't even directly interface with the workplace or effect performance therein in the first instance.

So the first thing we need to get absolutely clear if you're one of the 23% of Kiwis who think having a history of mental illness automatically justifies somebody being excluded from swathes of the workforce ... is that it's a ridiculously broad category of people you're discriminating against. And given the question asked about a "history of mental illness" rather than "someone who is presently mentally ill", you could well be excluding Kiwis who are, in fact, perfectly FINE despite having had a bout of depression or a psychotic episode many, many years in their past.

And that doesn't make very much sense, does it.

Yet as long as mental health issues continue to carry a public stigma attached to them, it's all too easy for many otherwise good people to think this way. Because there's this great big scary ontological boogeyman called "Mental Illness" in most people's minds, we don't always bother to look behind and beyond that to see both what's *actually* entailed by a given illness, and who the real person suffering (or recovering from, or remembering) the illness is.

As I've previously argued, when the average person thinks of somebody with a "history of mental health issues", they're more likely to insta-conjure the Patrick Batemans, William Bells or Clayton Weatherstons of this world - rather than, say, some relatively innocuous type who mostly keeps to him-or-her-self and manages his/her depression via a small handful of SSRIs in the mornings.

Now to be fair, there are some mental illnesses which can seriously negatively impact upon a sufferer's ability to perform in the workplace. One of the reasons why I'm on the modern equivalent of a sickness benefit, for instance, is because the last time I was in a sixty-hour-a-week job, I started hallucinating objects, details and people in a manner that effectively precluded me from holding down a day-job. So I definitely do acknowledge that not every mentally ill person is employable - and that in some cases, an average layman's trepidation that it could all start again for somebody with a history of the illness, is not born out of a completely blind bigotry.

But thanks to advances in modern medicine and psychiatry, many conditions are now treatable. Most of those that are not substantially reversible are, at the very least, manageable. You would be genuinely surprised at the number of otherwise relatively normal people in YOUR workplace who might have scary-sounding conditions like "paranoid schizophrenia" or "cyclothymia" ... and yet who manage to function perfectly well and adequately without even the merest hint of their illness emerging in their day-to-day interactions with you or the spreadsheets.

In other words, there is absolutely no justification, in most cases of people with a mental illness or a history of mental health problems to discriminate against those people in the workplace. Particularly when it's a previous *history* of mental health problems - that sort-of by itself indicates that it's a past issue which is hopefully, for all intents and purposes, vanishing off into the distance of the mists of time with proper intervention and care.

In fact, I'd go even FURTHER.

Occasionally, mentally ill people seem to be able to make an excellent contribution not in spite of, but perhaps BECAUSE of their disorders.

That's why in some industries - although definitely not all - it could be argued that we're already quite accustomed to looking at people with an acknowledged history or present of mental illness, shrugging our shoulders, and wondering in frank askance why anyone would bother to hold it against them?

Winston Churchill's bipolar, for instance, is arguably one of the things that made him the politician and war-leader that he was. Ditto with Abraham Lincoln's major depression. And I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking Stephen Fry's bipolar probably added to his prowess as a comedian. Heck, with John Nash foremost in mind, there's been a whole range of mathematicians and artists who've suffered from schizophrenia - yet produced great things in their respective fields, quite possibly in part due to the disease.

Obviously, these are not going to be generally representative of either the experience of mental illness generally, or for the individual and their community.

But they do go to prove an important point: that it's seriously, SERIOUSLY foolhardy if not outright irrational to write somebody off from being able to make a contribution to the workforce or to our Nation purely on the basis of their having a mental disorder and perhaps seeing the world a little bit differently.

It's time we stopped, as a society, looking upon both mental illness and the mentally ill with such stigma.

We can and should be more accepting, as well as more supportive in helping people with all manner of cognitive backgrounds to be able to find ways in which they can make THEIR contribution to our community and progress.

Because a situation wherein 23% of us think the more than 16% of us who've been diagnosed with a mental disorder ought to face workplace discrimination ... is quite frankly just plain nuts.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

John Armstrong Gets It Wrong On Winston And NZ First - AGAIN



Early last week, Herald resident naysayer John Armstrong published a piece which basically set out that New Zealand First - a Party which, according to sane observers, is pretty much in the form of its life - had no future.

The reaction to this was fierce. And I don't just mean from die-hard zealots such as myself.

All across the mediasphere, pundits came out of the woodwork to tell Armstrong how wrong he was.

Evidently, Armstrong has taken heed of this ... because his latest piece published Saturday morning takes the opposite tack.

Instead, it's a column about the future of New Zealand First.

Which is awesome in one way - and I commend Armstrong for having the courage to write a piece contradicting his previous assertions, and in so doing implicitly admit he was in error ... but unfortunately, he's once again gotten the wrong end of the stick.

Now that's not to say Armstrong's piece is completely without merit, however.

With regard to what he gets right, he's absolutely 100% correct to suggest that Winston's in "rude good health and is as passionate and energized as ever". I would also agree with the assertion that Winston "will want to show that his byelection victory in the Northland seat was no fluke or was the result of voters having the luxury of voting against the Government without having to worry that they might end up ousting it".

Indeed, the nation-wide outpouring of support for Winston's stirling campaign effort up in Northland would seem to suggest that there is a very large, very real, and very vocal demographic of new New Zealand First supporters lining up behind our Party and silently-or-shoutingly willing us to victory with the stern suggestion that we outright CHANGE the government.

But as applies what Armstrong gets wrong ... reading his second piece again, it hit me that the whole thing is an exercise in very carefully crafting a subtly insidious metanarrative around Winston - that he's old, fuddy-duddy ... a man eering into his nineties with no genuine plan for the future, and still stuck in that mythical 1950s period Armstrong keeps assuming is the status quo NZ First nirvana.

I mean, apart from the continual suggestions that Winston is some sort of latter-day Winston Churchill - replete, no doubt, with a snide undercurrent of suggestion that we look at the somewhat disastrous second term of Churchill as PM - and in particular the way he deliberately clung on to power for as long as possible in order to disenfranchise his successor Anthony Eden by denying him the limelight and a decent shot at power - there's also a slew of other elements.

First up, the idea that Winston has "bowed" to pressures to launch himself onto social media. Typical cliche - and typically wrong. I was the man who first brooched the idea of setting up facebook and twitter accounts for Winston to Winston (and indeed, for a long time *was* Winston Peters on facebook, in coalition with two other individuals) ... and inspired by the extreme successes of other politicians overseas in the medium, he leaped upon the concept with a characteristic vigor. This was some five years ago. Now he's writing haikus at the Prime Minister which get reported in daily newspapers.

As applies the "endless circuit of Grey Power speaking engagements" claim Armstrong makes about how we fund ourselves and campaign ... that's blatantly false.

Yes, yes we DO have a productive relationship with the Super/Gold Community. Yes, yes Winston DOES attend a reasonable number of their AGMs as a guest speaker. But for the most part, Winston (and our other MPs) speak to a whole slew of community organizations - and, more to the point, hold our own NZF public meetings which often end up packed to the rafters all by themselves.

I personally remember being at a speech in Auckland which had more than a thousand people in the room, for instance; while you'll find a score of citations in the media for often-open-air public meetings up and down the country which have attracted hundreds and hundreds of attendees each.

We also all remember Winston's epic campaign effort (on a bus) up in Northland - night after night on the 6 o'clock news, you'd have clips of him walking the streets and pounding the ground from small-town center to small-town center across National's forgotten heartland in order to connect with voters and raise enthusiasm and anti-Government ire.

I certainly don't think all THOSE street-corner meetings were just exclusively with Grey Power! (Further, where Armstrong claims there's some sort of necessary duality between twitter and street-corner meetings, I note that Winston found a useful synergy - broadcasting the success of his face-to-face social interactions on social media, instead ;) ... Keep up, John! You must be having trouble getting to grips with all this new technology!)

In any case, the bit where my eyes *most* went bull-attracting-colour while also causing me to lose my bull-attracting device (so to speak - same colour) ... was the final few paragraphs about likely successors to Winston.

Now as my long-time readers will know, this is a subject both near and dear to my heart.

In fact, I'm half-way through covering the exact same issue in a reasonably well-read series right here on TDB entitled "Life After Winston".

The first piece covered the prospects of men like John Tamihere and Shane Jones - and comprehensively wrote them off in favour of more serious contenders like Ron Mark.

And while I'm glad that Armstrong's evidently given my piece a passing glance ... it would have greatly behooved him to actually read the damn thing, rather than just scouring it for Dramatis Personae.

If he'd done so, he'd have realized that both men are eminently less-than-suitable for the future leadership of NZ First. That's why their piece was subtitled "Pretenders To The Throne".

In the case of Tamihere: yes, yes he does have a certain ability to "reach out to conservative working class voters". At the arguable cost of offending just about everyone else. And, more to the point, he's rigidly staked his colours to the mast by attempting (highly publicly and ultimately somewhat humiliatingly) to rejoin the Labour Party. He's also something of the "anti-Winston" when it comes to the latter's fastidious approach and attention to detail. In fact, I believe that's *exactly* what seasoned and senior Press Gallery journalist Jane Clifton called him. On top of all of this, you'd have to wonder how a former politician whose two main media outings in recent years have been an enthusiastic endorsement of Whanau Ora (which Winston spent most of the previous term furiously attacking, demonstrating a dissonance of values with Tamihere) - and an appallingly handled on-air appearance about the rape of a minor - could ever hope to step into Winston's slickly shined shoes.

And as applies Shane Jones ... well ... I'd *like* to say I share Armstrong's appreciation for Jones' merits on paper - but I don't.

Armstrong is right to say that Jones has an "intellect", an ability with "oratory", and some "political nous". I wouldn't go so far as to say that he "ticks all the boxes" on those fronts, or that he implicitly deserves to share a podium with Winston when it comes to his relative merits in those fields.

But he does have some skill.

Unfortunately, NONE of those aptitudes are in the right areas to take NZ First forward on into the future.

I mean, yes. Obviously a smaller (but rapidly growing) Party needs a charismatic frontman. And particularly given the populist-politics NZ First has previously prided ourselves on promulgating, pushing passionately from a pulpit is pretty much a pre-requisite de rigeur for any politician purporting to perambulate as Peters' protege.

But it's not enough. What we need for the immediate post-Peters future (and there's no sign that'll be at any point near to the horizon just yet), is an organizer. Someone who can inspire our people, gather them up, whip them into shape, and ultimately BUILD A FUNCTIONAL MASS-MOVEMENT PARTY OUT OF THEM.

Someone, in short, like Ron Mark.

Even leaving aside Jones' immense Nepalese-sherpa-conveyed-baggage-train of previous encumbrances (ranging from the trivial one you all know about, through to the much more important public perceptions of him as the man who abandoned his people to pursue a plum job dangled before him by the National Party, through to his ongoing run of electoral failures, and most important of all the fact that nobody like a johnny-come-lately parachuting in to lord it over all the rest who've been in for the long haul) ... he's just not capable of matching Mark for organizational aptitude and talent.

If New Zealand First is to survive past the visionary period of Winston Peters' Leadership (and rest assured, we will) ... we need to be lead and inspired by a man who is resolutely capable of actually *building* movements and formations. That way, even as the mighty beating heart of our Party dims a little, we still wind up organized and coagulated around a set of core common principles and unified into action.

As a viable mass-movement political party. Rather than, as Armstrong seems to believe, an organization which attempts to be almost North Korean in its veneration from the shadows of its Eternal President; rather than moving forward gracefully with the spirit and the ideals of the past helping to inform - rather than onstrain - present or future action and growth.

An ability to use long words and flowery rhetoric's nice and all (hence one of the reasons people keep reading my writing, I guess) - but at the end of the day, it's no substitute for an actual overwhelming connection to our values; ability to motivate, muster and manage large groups of people; and ultimately, the ability to BUILD a Party, rather than simply inheriting one created off the backs of the hard labour of others.

So far, the mass-media narrative around Jones has completely failed to demonstrate how he can do any of that, instead appearing to believe that a certain way with words will win the day in its stead.

Until they're capable of doing that - and rest assured, they won't - there really is only ONE man capable of leading New Zealand First on into the post-Winston period.

And that's Ron Mark.

Because when it comes to the future of YOUR Party and YOUR Nation ... accept no substitutes.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The New Kiwi Deal - New Zealand First

One of the more interesting parts of last weekend's New Zealand First Convention was Winston's announcement of the so-called New Kiwi Deal. This immediately grabbed my attention as a direct and potent example of a social democratic slash against the seriously silly status quo economica which we languish under today.

Unfortunately, not everybody was *quite* so enthused, and several members of the Press Gallery appear to have taken it upon themselves to pour cold water on the idea.

I've detailed my thoughts about the rest of John Armstrong's article on our 2015 Convention elsewhere, but suffice to say the part of Armstrong's article which really gnashed my goat in a grinder was his commentary about Winston's unveiling of the New Kiwi Deal campaign. Specifically his suggestion that this part of Winston's speech only served to substantiate the charge that our Party is old, tired, and ultimately stale.

Rather like Armstrong's analysis itself, in fact.

Now it's true that we're once again (consciously) looking to the past on this one. As some commentators have noted, both the name and the scope and ambit of the policy are directly inspired by measures undertaken in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's visionary response to the Great Depression.

And there's a very good reason for that.

We genuinely believe that thanks to thirty years of pernicious economic mismanagement, our society and our economy are hitting a crisis point. Particularly out in the Regions.

Instead of just blindly pretending that there isn't a problem, and that the manipulation of employment figures by National represents a worthwhile substitute for job growth ... we've chosen to do something different.

We're proposing a series of serious structural economic reforms that will fundamentally change the shape of our economy and nation.

These include Reserve Bank reform, to help out our exporters; an overhaul of the tax system, to make it fairer; and most interestingly, an entirely new approach to making use of the surplus labour in our economy, rather than letting it lie fallow.

At the moment, you're paid an unemployment benefit for the specific purpose of finding work. That all sounds well and good in theory, but the slight issue is there aren't enough jobs to go round - meaning we force beneficiaries to jump through endless rounds of WINZ-directed hoops in order to prove they're doing everything in their power to seek regular, paid employment.

The waste in this process is twofold:

First up, of human resources. Beneficiaries with useful skills, talents, and if nothing else their bodies and minds themselves, are left to languish hunting for jobs that simply don't exist - instead of being able to make a contribution to our economy.

The state, meanwhile, subsidizes their poverty and economic idleness as the apparently acceptable sunk cost of a market approach to employment. And it's all justified by Treasury on the basis that at least it keeps down inflation.

Instead of continuing this cycle of waste and inactivity, wouldn't it be MUCH better if the state paid long-term unemployed New Zealanders a FAIR wage to work to improve their communities?

This is in the best traditions of the Post-War Economic Consensus as it uses the power of the state to unlock and empower the vast and untapped pool of labour and talent which exists out there in our economy amidst the human casualties of neoliberalism. And it's something that would NEVER happen if simply left to the market - or, for that matter, if we just left unemployment to the "investment model" John Armstrong apparently favours instead.

This stubborn unwillingless to see ordinary New Zealanders suffer due to governmental apathy and a hidebound more-market ideology is pretty much the reason why I joined up with New Zealand First in the first place, and I'm exceptionally glad that we're metaphorically rolling up the sleeves of state in order to make a difference - rather than blithely assuming that we can just continue to let ordinary Kiwis and our communities continue to fall through the cracks.

And despite sharing the name with a scheme from the late 1990s, this iteration of the Community Wage policy looks set to be far broader in scope and different in ambit than a mere "work for the dole" set-up.

From my many conversations with Social Development spokesperson Darroch Ball over the years, I feel highly confident that he wouldn't settle for a mere re-hash, and will be working to craft a worthwhile and valuable instrument with which to protect and serve our nation while helping our unemployed to build their skills and make a contribution to their communities.

It represents an improvement in how we do both unemployment and what I'm going to call "societal development" (rather than social development - because that's the other output of all this).

Because the alternative - what we're doing right now - is *quite literally* not working.

I look forward to seeing this policy fleshed out in public with great interest and enthusiasm.

I can but hope John Armstrong's doing the same.

New Zealand First Is A Party Of The Glorious Future - Not Just The Past

I woke up yesterday morning to yet another NZ Herald piece castigating NZ First as a warmed-over party of the past with nothing new nor worthwile to say.

This is, to my mind, considerably ironic - as that's pretty much *exactly* how you'd have to describe a print-media publication running tired attack lines from ten years ago on repeat like anyone cares.

Although I'm not sure I'd *quite* stoop to calling anyone who takes Armstrong's latest column seriously "the politically dazed and confused". Even if Armstrong himself demonstrably fits that category.

As far as I can make out. Armstrong's "critiques" boil down to three key points:

- that NZ First doesn't have a Post-Winston succession plan, and therefore will struggle to attract new members;
- that NZ First's core narrative that life was BETTER under something other than Neoliberalism is somehow flawed;
- and flowing on from this, that NZ First's policy-development is rooted in the past, with a "back to the future" feel to it.

All together, he's basically trying to say that much like New Zealand's economic sovereignty under National ... we ain't got a future.

Well bollocks to that!

First up, NZ First quite clearly and demonstrably has a completely capable, competent and even charismatic future Leader in Ron Mark. I know I haven't gotten around to the much-awaited Part III of my Life After Winston series yet, but just check out my commentary on him from this weekend in the interim.

What's needed to turn NZ First into that genuine "mass-movement" Party that Winston was talking about on Saturday is a focused combination of inspiring motivation and guidance from on high, coupled with ability and know-how from the rank-and-file membership to bring in more people.

And from everything I saw over the weekend, New Zealand First is a Party that's undeniably got both in spades!

It's not my place to run around the country anointing MPs with future leadership positions, or predicting the timetable by which any succession plan may unfold. But to return to Armstrong's prognostications ... we aren't publicly indicating how we're going to sort the leadership-succession plan yet, because there is not yet any great need. As even some of our harshest critics in the media have been forced to concede, "Winston Peters is in the form of his life!"

So when it comes to the big question for the near future about how we boost up Party membership numbers by the thousands in order to counter Armstrong's supposition that our support base is "pass[ing] away", contrary to what Armstrong might think the answer is not rooted in who'll take over at some as-yet unspecified point in the future.

Instead, we need to work out how we can properly support Winston to the absolute BEST OF OUR ABILITY in continuing to attract new members, activists and voters.

Because quite frankly, ever since the last Election, the average age of our potential members and present-or-future supporters has been dropping rapidly. If John Armstrong had bothered to attend our Convention personally, he'd have seen that for himself with his own eyes.

We'll always be a Party that's resolutely and justifiably proud of backing our Gold Card holders and elderly New Zealanders - but more and more young people and 30-50 year olds are ALSO making the decision to Come Over To The Dark Side and support our politics.

Why, I think I've signed up at least half a dozen youth members myself in the last week alone.

More to the point, where Armstrong sees a "diminishing fanbase", I instead see a flourishing popular appeal - just look at our recent polling and the fact we managed the 'impossible' feat of capturing a theoretically safe National seat up in Northland!

The lesson from this is simple. Winston and Winston's politics continue to draw in the members - and average, ordinary New Zealanders (as well as the occasional eccentric mad genius type such as myself) are flocking to our banner in record numbers unseen and unheard of within our Party for at least a decade. Possibly two.

This is reflected in polling, wherein we're on pretty much double what we were ten years ago - while Winston enjoys more success in Preferred Prime Ministership rankings than the Labour Party's own somewhat lackluster leader.

So when it comes to Armstrong's tired attempt at caricaturing us as a Party exclusively of, by and for the can-remember-the-1950s brigade ... I find myself wondering whether it isn't him that's 'out of touch' with modern political reality. However you slice it, what he's said in his Herald column has very little relationship to either our Party's burgeoning membership, or its appeal to newer converts.

Instead of worrying about the pontifications of politically confused (and more than a little dazed) print-media publications, our efforts are focused on building up the requisite Party infrastructure to equip our members with the tools THEY need to match the Boss's efforts and bring more rank-and-file personnel into the fold. That's how we'll ensure our longevity as a Party - by maximizing our advantage right now and building productively and progressively towards the future.

Over the last few months, I've PERSONALLY witnessed this, with new electorates being set up, committees empowered - and yes, even campus presences across the country being (re)-established.

And let me tell you. All us mass of firebrand 18-30 year olds in the Party - particularly the recent surge of new members in this demographic - CERTAINLY aren't here because we can remember the 1950s!

Instead, we're here because we know that THIS party offers the best genuine alternative to another three decades of Neoliberalism.

In other words, contra to Armstrong's assertions it's the blatantly unfair economic system WE grew up with that motivates us to join, campaign for, and ultimately to vote for New Zealand First. Not the halcyon memories of our parents' generation about how much better things were in their youth.

And yes, yes there are some obvious and important commonalities between New Zealand's previous economic system - and the one which I, and my younger comrades desperately yearn to see upheld across the land. That's just the nature of #Nationalist and anti-neoliberal politics. We'd be foolish indeed if we didn't take salient lessons from the past when it comes to our policy-making for the future.

I'm genuinely at a loss as to why Armstrong seems almost personally annoyed about the fact we have learned from history, and are absolutely determined to bring the best elements of the past into the present in order to avoid and undo the mistakes of previous governments.

Where I come from, that's just called sensible politics.

In any case, the clear and compelling vibe I got from reading Armstrong's piece was simple: this is a man who wasn't at our Convention, and is second-hand reporting from reading the media output of others who WERE there and were there with an agenda. (It's well-known and patently obvious that neither of Andrea Vance nor Brook Sabin particularly like us, for various reasons)

To add insult to injury, Armstrong appears to have decided to buy into the vested meta-narrative of some pundits which seems content to ENDLESSLY PREDICT the impending demise of New Zealand First.

As you may have noticed, my Party's about as good at Dying When Ordered as I am - and half the reason these pundits often seem to hate us to the point of willing us unto oblivion ... is quite simply because we keep showing up them and their predictions at every turn.

I've detailed my thoughts on the New Kiwi Deal elsewhere in another blog that should hopefully be up today; but suffice to say on that score, too, Armstrong's analysis fails dismally.

National's approach to job-creation and unemployment, much like the people it nominally purports to help, simply isn't working. And I genuinely can't work out why Armstrong seems so fundamentally wedded to defending it in the face of bold ideas from the likes of New Zealand First.

It's almost like he so doesn't want his delicate narrative of "tired old NZF doing the same old thing over and over" to be disrupted by a potentially game-changing economic policy suite that he's rejecting out of hand even the hint that we might bring about change.

That's unfortunate. But I guess he's just doing what he has to in order to maintain his *own* "diminishing fanbase".

Anyway.

When I was writing this piece, a quote from President Obama slipped into the forefront of my mind.

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends [...] these things are old, these things are true. They have been a quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded, then, is a return to these truths. A willingness to find meaning in something greater than ourselves."

To me, that sums up one of the core elements of New Zealand First's appeal - particularly to a younger generation of members, such as myself.

We know, respect and appreciate the fact that this Party of ours is, in many ways, founded on principles and personalities *far* older than ourselves. Indeed, that's what we signed up for.

But we also believe that these values and philosophical inclinations - about the role of the state and the importance of a "fair go" for all Kiwis - are so intrinsically worthwhile that it shouldn't matter they were first conceived in a different age.

What matters is that they're still relevant today - in fact, increasingly so given that we've lost our way as a society thanks to three decades of neoliberalism.

And what matters even more than that is that here stands a political party - fresh and vibrant in some areas (particularly our 2014 intake of MPs), yet veteran and battle-hardened in others - that coils poised and ready to fight to implement them once again.

Mark my words. With Winston Peters continuing to outright flummox the critics left, right and center - and Ron Mark ably backing him up and supporting him while "riding shotgun" ... John Armstrong's career as a journalist will be well and truly over LONG before either Winston's story or New Zealand First's is.

The vibe I got from this year's Convention was not that of a Party slipping into a slow decline, as Armstrong appears to believe.

But instead, quite the contrary.

As The Other Winston famously said:

"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Look forward to accompanying you every step of the way ;)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

On Sam Lotu-Iiga, Winston Peters Needs No Corrections


Another day, another somewhat less than ideally phrased Winston quotation that's been seized upon by the media.

This time, it's his assertion that Minister of Corrections Sam Lotu-Iiga has "got a slightly better understanding [of some of the issues in his portfolio] than many people think".

Due to his ethnic background.

Now before you all jump in and pour scorn upon Winston for what, on the surface, might seem to be a suggestion that there's an axiomatic correlation between being Polynesian and a criminal mindset ... consider this.

What if Winston had said he, himself, had a better understanding of some prisoners' mindsets by virtue of being Maori.

It's pretty much exactly the same claim. It's just that due to self-reference it does a bit of a better job conveying empathy rather than suggesting criminality.

And considering that one of the supremely important issues we grapple with in our Corrections system (and, for that matter, with the police) is the genuine and undeniable realities of structural racism ... I definitely feel that part of the response to this issue is empowering the perspectives of people from the demographics in question.

To put it in context: Sam Lotu-Iiga is a Minister of the Crown. He's got reasonably good name and facial recognition.

And yet, if we were to wind the clock back ten or twenty years while simultaneously downgrading his warderobe ... Sam could well have found himself in a situation wherein an employee of the state - or, heck, even a member of the general public - could have made unwarranted and unfounded assumptions about him and how he should be treated, based purely on his ethnicity.

Something rather unlikely to have happened to his predecessor in the role, Anne Tolley.

Or, phrased more simply: white people often have problems grasping the issues around structural racism. Which, when you're dealing with pretty much the archetypal exhibit-A of same within our society ... is probably not a huge plus.

What Winston was saying, in part, is that with Maori and Pasifika demographics *wildly* over-represented in our prison and criminal justice stats, having somebody FROM one of those ethnic backgrounds running the show might enable greater progress on FIXING those issues through possessing a greater understanding and empathy with those we're trying to help.

Now, to go even further ... we already recognize that a Maori perspective can be useful if not vital in the Corrections system, as represented by the Mauri Tu Pae rehabilitation program, for instance. This integration of tikanga Maori kaupapa has a proven track-record of reducing offending, and serves to demonstrate how useful incorporating such an ethnic consideration can be. Something similar exists for a more narrow range of Pasifika offenders with the Saili Matagi scheme, as well.

Indeed, it was launched by then-Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Sam Lotu-Iiga. So evidently, in that instance, he was able to use his background positively within the Corrections sphere.

In any case, while it might not have been the *greatest* choice of phrasing on Winston's part - it would nonetheless appear to be a reasonable and viable implication for him to draw.

Although personally, I would have been considerably less complimentary:

"Coming from a party of crooks, liars, thieves and fraudsters ... of COURSE Lotu-Iiga will have a greater degree of connection with the criminal mind. He's surrounded by 'em on a daily basis."

If that sounds harsh, it's because I disagree a little with my Chief about his take on this issue.

Yes, SERCO taking over Mt Eden Prison happened on somebody else's watch.

Yes, Anne Tolley deserves EVERY BIT OF POSSIBLE OPPROBRIUM heaped at her feet about how this has been done, the fact it was done in the first place, and how it seems set to continue to play out.

But as NZ First Corrections spokesperson Mahesh Bindra has pointed out, the bad decisions haven't exactly stopped under Sam, either.

Recently, it was announced that National would be adding an extra hundred beds to Mt Eden - continuing to fill to well over capacity an already hugely understaffed and outright dangerous prison. In addition to that, even after the Government takeover of Mt Eden, there has reportedly been no serious shakeup and improvement in staff-to-prisoner ratios - or an end to SERCO's fundamentally deficient management practices.

In other words, nothing's really changed except the name on the door - and the number of prisoners being negligently managed.

And that's not good enough.

I respect Winston for being up-front and principled enough to defend a man thrown in the utter deep-end of a mess not of his own making ... but I also feel most strongly that whomever's responsible - and that means both Tolley AND Lotu-Iiga - needs to be justifiably held to account.

Fortunately, as demonstrated by Darroch Ball in the House last week (and, obviously, by Mahesh throughout his Parliamentary career) - New Zealand First is doing EXACTLY that.

[my thanks to Andrew Paul Wood for his assistance with this piece]