Friday, November 28, 2008

Vale Mike Minogue

Mike Minogue has died at age 85.

As I understand it, he was one of the two National MPs that threatened to cross the floor to support Prebble's anti-nuclear Members Bill Mr Minogue was a regular and vocal critic of Muldoon whose persistent dissent thus precipitating no doubt contributed to the calling of the '84 snap election. I know little about Minogue but I have read All Honourable Men: Inside The Muldoon Cabinet 1975-84 in which Hugh Templeton tells of the near total control exercised by the then PM (this google extract includes discussion of Minogue's role). It would have been tough being a Liberal in that caustic environment.

History rightly records Marilyn Waring's role as the critical vote in Caucus, with Mr Minogue's passing he is being appropriately recognised too.

Update: I've been a little frustrated at being unable to verify whether or not Mike Minogue crossed the floor to support Prebble's anti-nuclear bill in 1983. NZ's online Hansard records don't go back beyond 2000.

I've checked the half dozen books I have on this period in NZ's political history (sadly I don't have Gustafson's various publications) but haven't found anything definitive and have had to resort to Google. Fortunately, Google turned up this source (Masters thesis from Otago University Doctoral student, Andreas Rietzig) which includes the following paragraph confirming that Minogue did in fact cross the floor (thanks also to Poneke for his piece on Minogue which also said he'd crossed the floor).
The following year, Richard Prebble launched his third attempt to make New Zealand nuclear-free. On 12 June 1984, Prebble introduced the Nuclear Free New Zealand Bill. This time, also Prebble’s bill called for the exclusion of nuclear-powered ships from New Zealand. As Prebble explained, the bill ‘prohibits the entry of nuclear powered ships and nuclear weapons into New Zealand and further prohibits the building of nuclear reactors within New Zealand.’ Prebble almost succeeded to introduce this bill because National Party MP Marilyn Waring threatened Prime Minister Muldoon to cross the floor and vote for Prebble’s bill against her own party caucus.

As a result, National Party MPs prevented Waring from speaking in Parliament that day by raising numerous points of order until Waring’s time to speak had expired. On the following day, Prebble’s bill was defeated by 40 to 39 votes just like Beetham’s bill one year earlier. Nevertheless, Waring did vote for the bill together with her colleague Mike Minogue. Prebble’s bill was only defeated because two alienated Labour MPs had voted with the government. Since National had a majority of only one person in Parliament, Waring’s decision seriously called Muldoon’s leadership into question. Consequently, Muldoon announced on 14 June 1984 that he would call a snap election because he could no longer rely on Marilyn Waring’s support and could not govern effectively anymore.
[emphasis added]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Memey memey meme-meme

Bloody economists.

Seven totally trivial facts, in no particular order.
  1. I did a Christian TV show when I was at school, Wavelength it was called. I was a regular. It made me real popular with the Novices and got me into all the best prayer-groups.

  2. I really regret not going to see The The in 1989 'cause I thought I had a chance with a girl I can no longer recall.

  3. In 1986, I was stoned for the first time ever on the very day that the nice people from the Government visited to audit my personal Census return - I'd mucked something up, I don't know that I was capable of unmucking it.

  4. I once gave a presentation to a visiting Botswanan delegation that focused largely on training in the seafood industry (I've not travelled much).

  5. Don McGlashan briefly taught me trumpet while I was at secondary school.

  6. David Lange beat my grandfather for the Labour nomination in the 1977 Mangere by-election (he never made the most of it but).

  7. The first gig I ever went to was the second-last Enz with a Bang gig at the Logan Campbell Centre in 1984.

Tagging poneke, jafapete, Trotter, ex-expat and the browncardigan crew.

Luhrmann gets political

Baz Luhrmann, director of Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet, has used the promotion platform of his latest movie, Australia, to comment on Australian race relations, or at least the history of race relations.

Luhrmann noted that had Barack Obama been born in Australia, he'd not likely have achieved anything like he has in the US.

To give context, the President-elect of the United States is 47. If he Was living in Australia, it is absolutely credible that the government, because he had one white parent and one black parent, could have taken him forcibly from his family.

They would have put him in an institution, probably lied to him that his parents were dead, changed his name and reprogrammed him to be European, so he could have some sort of function doing something of service in white society. That would possibly have been Obama's journey.
Sound far fetched, it's not. Note the following from the wikipedia entry on the stolen generation:

In the 1930s, the Northern Territory Protector of Natives, Dr. Cecil Cook, perceived the continuing rise in numbers of "half-caste" children as a problem. His proposed solution was:

Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian Aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the black race, and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white.
Or more recently, from the 1997 Australian national review, Bring them Home (chapter two history of the practice of forced separation):

Dr Max Kamien surveyed 320 adults in Bourke NSW in the 1970s. One in every three reported having been separated from their families in childhood for five or more years.
Luhrmann's comments are no revealation, however, his movie is a partnership with Tourism Australia and intended to boost tourist numbers. I wonder how his government partners feel about his forthright comments?

I'd not really intended to see the movie, though I am a fan of Luhrmann's work, it didn't particularly appeal. Perhaps I now will.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Forever late to the party: Bronagh Key

I despise the Herald, the Herald on Sunday particularly. Sunday papers are almost always rubbish in New Zealand and in Australia. And so rather than explore any number of meaningful and interesting lines of analysis on the new PM, the HoS has instead examined Bronagh Key's dress sense. What this says about their editorial capacity or readership is up to you but I'm with NRT, the handmirror and even DPF in calling bullshit.

Friday, November 21, 2008

David Hicks finally free

When David Hicks pled guilty to terrorism charges in a US military court, he knew that he'd be released to Australia. This was probably the only thing about which he could have been certain. Though freed from inhumane treatment at Guantanamo, he nevertheless had to serve out his sentence. Immediately on arrival in South Australia, he was placed in solitary detention in a maximum security prison. Later, he was released from prison though subject to a control order. In Hicks case, the control order limited where he lived, who he associated with, the phone he used and the hours he was allowed out - restraints that surely represented significantly more freedom than his last six/seven years but which nevertheless still offended some jurists.

Yesterday, Hicks appeared to the public for the first time. He thanked members of GetUp for their support. Though not yet ready to say more about his experience, he asked them to continue supporting him including by opposing any extention of his control order. Whether this, or just the political need to move on, was the cause Hicks got his wish. As of 21 December 2008, the control order expires and will not be renewed.

It's not clear what, if any, restrictions will be placed on Hicks in addition to those that would apply to anyone convicted of a serious offence. His situation is unique. Whether he should ever have been tried will be the subject of debate for many years. I'm inclined to think he shouldn't have been for many of the reasons noted here and here. As I've said previously, Hicks was clearly a foolish and dangerous man. A man who was certain to find himself at war, in prison or dead had he not been detained. However, what Hicks might have done, how he might have breached then non-existent laws, how he might have taken up arms against his own citizens - these unrealised offences don't come near to justifying his treatment.

Lots of people and organisations can be proud of their efforts and support for Hicks. It mightn't have been popular, easy or clear-cut, but for all of Hicks' failings, the defence of him was a defence of us all. Perhaps David Hicks' military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, said it best in his interview with Andrew Denton:
With David Hicks, no-one is saying David actually did anything wrong or hurt anybody, just he was on the wrong side. When you say he's accused of being on the other side, so because he was on the other side we can go ahead and take away those fundamental rights and protections that we give to our murderers and our child molesters and our rapists, and to our corrupt politicians. They get it. Why doesn't David Hicks rate the basic fundamental human values that we give everyone? If he's violated the law and you try him in a fair system, fine. They don't want to give him that fair shake, unfortunately because I think his case has become political and the politics of it don't want to - the first Military ommissions can't be acquittals. They couldn't afford that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

7 for 152

With the first Test underway, 7 for 152 is a score that would ordinarily terrify a kiwi; except we're bowling! It's a short tour but tonight, and possibly only tonight, I'll not be paid-out by my Australian mates.

More self congratulatory clap-trap

The Hive's back, well only to indulge in a bit of frankly, wanky, self-congratulation.

Expect more of this kind of told-you-so stuff from elements of the blogosphere. These authors cling to historical grievances in a way that reminds me of petty teenage rivalries.

What's odd about this piece however, is that it's not about trade, a subject on which the Hive's principal author is clearly expert, but rather on political prognostications - a subject the Hive's principal author ought to know to avoid.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Missed the last Labour PM

By the time I got to Wellington, Labour PMs simply weren't about (and it's not like they were in short supply in the '90s). They'd in fact been gone a few years, some rather begrudgingly so, meaning I had to content myself with seeing them in Opposition only. Fortunately, and despite their defeat, some of senior members of the 4th Labour government remained remarkably effective.

I have a clear recollection of Lange interjecting on a question to the Minister for Police. The Minister was rattled but coped, several of his colleagues however, were clearly disturbed. It wasn't a portfolio-related fear. It was simply the prospect that, were it them taking a question, they knew no possible preparation could fully offset the risk of Lange coming in over the walls. Forgive me the machismo, but I think this is a part of Parliamentary discourse too much undervalued.

It's a dimension of politics that'll challenge Key. He's simply not a great performer in Parliament. He's far from hopeless, but his best performances are very much set pieces. This is fine when you're challenging a government (and can reherse your attack in advance), but the dynamic of being a government is an entirely different proposition. Thinking on your feet, reconciling the days events back to policy statements, knowing when a Minister is at risk and when to simply divert attention - these are skills only really learnt after many years in Parliament. The times ahead are tough and Phil Goff, one of the most experienced members in the House, will combine the necessary scrutiny of Key's government with the need to differentiate himself from elements of Clark's.

I watched Clark leaving Parliament and thought her send-off entirely appropriate. I note others thought it OTT. I simply disagree and I'd've been there if I was able (and can always be expected to spring the water-works). I quite like and respect Craig Ranapia, he's a fantastic writer. It's also good for the blogosphere that a clearly bright and considered commentator exists on the right of the political spectrum - there's not many - but Craig's got this one completely wrong. For all the fawning editorials of Key and the realisation of his boyhood ambitions, Clark just achieved what few NZ PMs have - a stable and successful government for nine years - that's entirely worthy of recognition.

At the risk...

...of being too regularly critical of Feminists, what the hell is Greer thinking? Curmodgeon.

I've not so far cared what Michele Obama wore. Firstly, she wasn't elected. Secondly, I'm not Tim Gunn. But regardless. who the f**k cares? Michele Obama's clearly a remarkably intelligent person, what the hell does Ms Greer hope to achieve in her fashion critique?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Swam over

QueenBee has announced the demise of the Hive. Like others, I'm sorry it's gone. I enjoyed the insights on trade and related matters, presumably authored by the principal writer.

I'd previously criticised QueenBee, however, for a growing inconsistency evident in many of the posts. While claiming to be bipartisan, QueenBee was too often in the company of hacks like Hooton and Whaleoil to be credible. Moreover, QueenBee seemed deaf to her own admonitions of kiwiblogblog.

QueenBee claims the Hive was established in opposition to the Electoral Finance Act and signs off by saying:

In sum there has, we believe, been a fundamental shift in New Zealand politics. The Hive, we believe, played a roll in achieving this shift.

I wonder then, will QueenBee now reveal her identity or is her bold opposition to the Electoral Finance Act limited to anonymous criticisms?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More taxes than wombats

... so says Ken Henry, federal Treasury Secretary.

In today Australian Financial Review, offline, Henry notes that there's 125 different taxes, more than the paltry number of protected northern hairy-nosed wombats, 115.

Too often NZ commentators elide over the complexities of federalism in preference for trite statements claiming Australian's have higher wages (true at least at the upper-end, but probably not in the middle) and lower taxes (next to impossible to know).

Typically, these commentaries focus only on direct income taxes to make out the advantages of working in Australia compared with New Zealand. This obscures, however, the myriad of taxes that occur outside of your pay-packet (as well as some, such as compulsory superannuation and the income-contingent health levy, that are additional to Pay As You Go). For instance, stamp duties and land taxes are major contributors to states' revenue and a significant impost on individuals in addition to income tax.

Henry observes:
An excessive level of complexity wastes resources. It diverts resources from
more valuable uses; many high-achieving tax agents could be school teachers.
The fact is that the Australian tax system is incomparably more complex than New Zealand's. Consider for instance that most salary and wage earners in New Zealand need not even file a tax return, no such exemption exists in Australia (most people have tax agents to do the work for them). Add to this the inummerable GST exemptions and it's impossible to know just how much tax any one individual pays. Makes you wonder about the $6.2 billion bailout to the car industry.


I first remember Rosemary McLeod from my youth. She was a cartoonist and columnist for the Listener. My mother, a nascent femisist, also had a book of her collected writings. She was clearly a significant thinker, commentor and agitator for women's rights. She seemed to be able to address serious matters frankly and with humour.

Later, McLeod became a more angry voice, primarily for the Dominion. In my student politics days, she wrote a very critical piece on comments I'd made about marriages of convenience. Shortland St stars Nick and Rachel entered a marriage of convenience to obtain student allowances and I'd commented that these marriages (they did in fact exist) were "a rational response to an irrational situation". McLeod was incensed. I was selfish, naive, a thief etc etc etc. It was a slightly unhinged response.

Today McLeod gives us her judgment on Helen Clark. There's some direct praise, but it is overshadowed by comments about her marriage, her dress-sense, her academic career and her failure to have kids. It's a good piece of writing however, because it almost obscures McLeod's envy. Clark, unlike McLeod, was in the game, not sitting on the sidelines barking disapproval.

This has been what I've realised about McLeod. She disapproves. Disapproves of sexism, of course, but disapproves also of a woman who's succeeded in politics. Rather than celebrating the achievements of Clark's government, McLeod concentrates her attention on developing a catalogue of her disapprovals. This list includes a disapproval of the newly elected Member for Wellington Central because he's gay and had the audacity to pinch his partner's backside. Grant Robertson's is at the beginning of what will certainly be a successful and influential career. He'll face far sterner criticism that McLeod's. I doubt for a minute he'll be distracted by her latest gripe.

I tell my youngest to be wary of the disapprovalists. The usually insecure, rigid thinkers who need everyone to follow simple stereotypes to make themselves feel good. Fortunately for now, they are kids who are seduced by appeal of conformity, but McLeod proves they can and do grow into adults.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Contact details

I've corrected my contact email address - thanks to the person who pointed out that it was incorrect.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Goff assumes the leadership

I've not had a lot to do with Phil Goff though I've long admired him as a political operator. He was opposition justice spokesman when I was at the Ministry of Justice; he caused us a lot of grief. He was consistent and focused. Our Minister, the sauve and confident Doug Graham, was wary; Goff clearly had both a strategy and the ability to effectively implement it.

Earlier still Goff was the target of my frustration at the prospect of paying what now seem entirely reasonable student fees. That said, as soon as I saw Phil up close, I developed a respect for his thoroughness, his focus, his passion and his damn good humour.

When Goff was moved back to Justice and Corrections a year or so back, I thought it was a good move; a move designed to neuter Power. Combined with King's move to Police, I hoped it would stiffle the inevitable law and order beat-up. Initially it did. In fact, even as Parliament drew to a close, Goff was easily dismissing Power's attempts to paint the government as weak. They're not. Phil Goff has run law and order throughout Labour's three terms in government. As others have frequently pointed out, the rate of offending has not skyrocketed, escapees are not swanning about the local shops and Police numbers have expanded. Still, the ravings of the Sensible Sentencing Trust have seen the revival of the crazy policies like ACTs three strikes and your out. Presumably they'd object if the three convictions were against section 59 of the Crimes Act?

QueenBee will have you believe that Goff's ascendency is a repudiation of Clark's leadership and of the left more generally. But this is based on at least two significant (and convenient) misunderstandings. First, it's a misunderstanding of Labour's policy orientation which is significantly broader than the Queen cares to recall. Secondly, it misunderstands the legacy of discipline Labour has embraced since 1996.

It's far more likely that Key should be wary of English than Goff should be wary of any other aspirant. Whereas Key can claim he delivered National government, he will have to prove he's capable of running one. Goff has no such worries.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

High expectations

Key's set himself challenging goals. And, having largely got the result he wanted, it's reasonable to expect he'll deliver on them. His colleagues owe him. Unelectable for almost a decade, Key's remade National. They resemble a coherent team. Moderate. Ruling out Douglas ensures he has some wiggle room. In a few days, they'll stitch up a deal with ACT and United, they'll get warrants and announce priorities. Tax cuts, repealing the Electoral Finance Act and "renewing" various Boards appointments.

Labour will quickly select a new leadership team. With 12 (?) new members, many young, and a brief re-examination of focus, Labour will be a strong opposition. Two new members I've known for a while - Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins - their wins are bitter-sweet.

I will return to Sydney. I would rather stay and support the party as it rebuilds but family and work will not permit it. I'm no less likely to return to NZ than I was. I find the tendency for people to declare they're staying or leaving based on an election result ridiculous. National conscription, that'd make me reconsider my commitment to a country, but not tax rates.

I'm one of the 380k+ who're in Australia. I left under Labour but not for any of the reasons Farrar and his mates bang on about. I left 'cause I wanted a change for a little while and kinda didn't come back. By Key's reckoning then, so long my circumstances keep me in Australia, his goverment is failing. That's no more credible now than it was when Lockwood released National's immigration policy.

I was impressed by Clark's concession speech. Her's is a remarkable legacy. I take her lead in celebrating the last nine years and respecting the electorate's absolute right to determine government. Key deserves his chance to lead, I have my doubts but he's got a clear mandate.

See you 'round.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hot and hilly

Wellington remains my home. Although I left six years ago, I still feel immediately comfortable on arrival. The weather's fantastic, for the moment. I catch up with lots of friends, we go to fantastic cafes. New shops and galleries have opened. Posters for gigs are everywhere. Skin Tight is on. I saw it years ago. It was brilliant. I'll not see it this time but I'm keen to check out Fur Patrol. Julia Dean's saucy - I last them in Sydney when they opened for Pacifier... yes, then.

Out delivering leaflets for Grant Robertson, I get lost. I thought I knew Dixon St, but I'm confused and looking around Courtney Place. I recover my sense of geography but can't work out how to get into some of the flats. I push buttons and am eventually let in to deliver personalised letters.

The reaction Grant's getting is fantastic. He's the perfect candidate. Smart, connected and genuine. He's young, a new face. People clearly warm to him. I'm not surprised. I've known him for coming on 17 years. I'm happy to be helping him.

Tomorrow Rimutaka. Chris Hipkins is hosting Helen Clark.

Wellington and elections. Two of my favourite things.