An incidence of friendly fire, an inadvertent firing toward one's own or otherwise friendly forces. Also, this song.

From today's Sunday Star-Times story on the events that precipitated Judith Collins' resignation:

Judith Collins says she has stepped down because of an email that says she did something that she never did. Should we believe her?

It's a pretty safe bet that when a certain blogger whom we don't name came up with his "trophy wall" of individuals that he had "harpooned" through his work, he didn't ever think that the biggest head mounted on it would be that of the National Party's Minister of Justice, his close friend Judith Collins.

If a political party doesn't want you, can you get a court to tell it that it has to have you?

So Andrew Williams has decided to do a Winston Peters and go off to Court to try and stop "his" party from excluding him as a candidate.

Ukraine accuses Russia of invasion; China meets senior Vietnamese envoy to talk about disputed islands; Indonesia and Australia end espionage row; ebola caseload in West Africa expected to reach 20,000; Indian PM launches plan to provide bank accounts to every household; and more

Top of the Agenda

Ukraine Accuses Russia of Invasion

Could this party herald a radical realignment on the left of New Zealand politics? And are we seeing echoes of the 2002 election?

Last week I asked, somewhat facetiously, whether this would be New Zealand's first policy-free election. Now obviously parties will release policies and they will provoke some debate, but it does seem that the personalities and the general perception of each party is going to matter more in this election than is traditionally so.

I’m not sure attempts to spin expectations around tonight’s leaders’ debate are credible.

Take the people saying  ‘all David Cunliffe has to do is draw’. Unfortunately, last year David Cunliffe’s supporters in the leadership contest argued he should lead the  party because of his superior debating skills.

The latest poll suggests trust issues are moving some voters, the risk of giving Peters what he wants and debate expectations...

If the 3News-Reid Research poll has captured a snap shot of the voters' mood, then it shows that the campaign at the moment is all about trust. It is of course only one poll, but it shows a flight from the major parties that must worry John Key and David Cunliffe as they head into tonight's first TV debate.

The Dirty Politics brushfire is starting to dampen down. Time to rake over the ashes and see what got left behind.

As I stated in my post on Dirty Politics, the most important question that it raises for me is what sort of politics and political behaviour are we prepared to accept in our country? That's a big issue.

National's campaign strategy is starting to look shakey, and it's as much to do with the economy and discipline as Dirty Politics

John Key has been relying more than usual on the scripted spin when it comes to defending his administration after the revelations in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics, one of his most popular being that Hager's claims were "dissolving before his eyes". But instead, the claims have stacked up and it's National's famed discipline that's fading.

The Conservative Party CEO and candidate says she'd want to get it in writing before trusting National

So I hosted an Epsom candidates' debate Thursday night; great turn out and lots of good questions from people in the audience of over 160. But there was a fascinating statement by Christine Rankin there that deserves a bit of news treatment.

New PM for Thailand; Indonesian court to rule on presidency; senior Hamas leaders killed in Israeli airstrike; Brazil's Socialist Party chooses new candidate; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Thai Junta Leader Appointed PM

#Team Key is channeling #Team New Zealand in their TV ads.  Space age boats, elite performers surging out ahead in an 8-1 lead - what could possibly go wrong?

The government is campaigning on the economy because surveys show people think the economy is going OK, even if they haven’t felt the benefits yet.

The so-called Islamic State is playing us with a sophisticated propaganda machine designed to terrify the West and recruit young Muslims from all around the globe. We don't need to see James Foley's actual execution to believe IS means business...so what next?  

The horrific beheading of American journalist James Foley, at the hands of a so-called Islamic State (IS) militant with a British accent, has caused an earthquake on the mainstream and social media platforms.

It was at once a video of a barbaric cold blooded murder, and also a masterful challenge to the United States’ bombing of IS forces in Iraq.

Is the Dirty Politics debate making a mockery of the manifestos? And should authors have the right to right to use material that's obtained by criminal means?

A couple of weeks ago I said that every election has its surprises. But I certainly didn't see Nicky Hager coming down the track, book in hand. Perhaps I should have, since both my 2002 and 2005 examples involved him.

Not all blogs are the same. Not all bloggers are bad. David Farrar hasn't done anything wrong.

My last post was a bit of a heartfelt reaction to what I saw in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics book. In it, I gave examples of what I regarded to be quite reprehensible statements by a number of the individuals discussed in the text. One individual notable by his absence was David Farrar.

For me, it comes down to the downloading and whether a refusal to even ask the question is good enough for someone sworn to protect and serve the public good

At last, this morning, Prime Minister John Key had to face a focused, serious one-on-one interview – on Morning Report with Guyon Espiner. And beyond the spin and counter-arguments this far, we got a look at how National will respond to the susbstantive issues raised.

It's the kind of poll that says what they want it to say. But it's only one poll.

Today's 3News-Reid Research poll is one that will put a smile on the face of all the bigger party leaders, or at least is has a silver lining for them all.

The point of Dirty Politics isn't (just) about what happens in September. Or, what Danyl Mclauchlan said, with more quotes.

I've made my way through Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics over the weekend. Danyl Mclauchlan's already pretty much expressed what it made me feel:

There's lots of stuff we know and lots we don't know following the latest round of Dirty Politics interviews... Here's my take on what we know so far and what it means

It's a matter, ultimately, for the courts. And voters. But the debate over Cameron Slater's accessing of the Labour Party website in 2011 has become a war of metaphors.

The specifics in the Hagar book are devastating. To focus on them, the left should take Nicky Hager’s advice and avoid the politics of vilification.

Over the summer holidays I wrote a post calling on the left to repudiate the politics of vilification.

Dirty Politics could have the unintended consequence of harming all New Zealand politicians... and the Prime Minister's terrible stand-up

It's been a high stakes day in New Zealand politics. Nicky Hager, an occassional contributor to this site, has put his reputation on the line by choosing to use hacked emails to write Dirty Politics and John Key has matched him as he stood by his controversial staffer and denied some of the seemingly well-made claims in the book.

If the NZ Herald wants its editorials to be taken seriously, it should stop using them to mislead its readers.

While I'm waiting on my copy of Nicky Hager's Dirty Tricks to arrive so that I can join the interweb's great topic de jour, a quick cut-and-paste response to today's NZ Herald's editorial.

The Electoral Commission is right to say the Planet Key song can't be played on the radio. That's because we have a stupid and outdated law in place.

By now I'm sure you've all been online and had a look at the very well put together song and accompanying video, "Planet Key". If you haven't, you really should ... it's quite clever (even David Farrar says so!).

Changing your business name and branding is a risky proposition. Has Telecom, now known as Spark, made the right choice?

Alas, poor Telecom… it is no more.
The new Spark has risen from the ashes and time will tell whether the branding revamp has had a phoenix effect.

Labour’s campaign launch was a hit yesterday for one reason; Labour does best when it talks about making ordinary people better off.

Appealing to people who visit Mitre 10 at the weekend and want to earn enough to own their own home, do it up and get ahead in life is exactly what the Labour party should be doing. Free GP visits for 1.7 million New Zealanders does just that.

Can TV3 keep Colin Craig out of its debates? Maybe, or maybe not.

From TV3's website:

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is threatening legal action against TV3 after he was left out of a minor party leaders debate on the channel’s public affairs programme The Nation.

Jamie Whyte thinks Sweden's example of how to approach indigenous peoples is a good one to follow here. That means he supports a separate Maori Parliament for New Zealand.

Jamie Whyte obviously has decided to double-down on his whole "Maori are the noblesse de race of New Zealand" schtick, because if nothing else it's gotten people to pay him some attention. And he's also obviously decided that (as many a blogger also has realised) there's a lot more traction to be gained from generating a feud with someone else (damn you Scott Yorke!

Reports of Labour's Kelvin Davis 'going rogue' have been exaggerated

Leaked revelations of a dispute between Labour’s Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis and the party’s Head Office over a proposed negative campaign against Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom have been used as evidence of Davis going rogue.  In truth, the documents show a candidate engaged in nothing more sinister than garden variety electioneering; of trying to win a tough political fight.

If the Taxpayers' Union really want to be taken seriously, they really shouldn't put out press releases that lie to the media. 

I haven't had the chance to have a good grump at anyone for a week or so (and, again, sorry to my Public Law students for the last one!), so it was with the greatest of pleasure that I came across this press release from everyone's favourite astroturfing right-wing pressure "group", the

Is the Lochinver Station sale John Key's 'Corngate'? Voters may surprise us.

Elections always produce their surprises. Many of them have no impact on voters' intentions. But some do, since they either go to the credibility of political parties, or they relate to a policy issue that actually matters to voters. So, for instance, the GE 'Corngate' issue hurt Helen Clark in 2002, and the Exclusive Brethren fiasco hurt National in 2005.

As of writing the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas holds. It is now up to the negotiations in Cairo to produce something that allows both sides to save face by going home with 'Wins'. Possible? Sure. Likely? Worth holding your breath for. 

The Obama Administration is reportedly seething at the snook Israel is currently cocking its way.

Already Secretary of State John Kerry has been openly ridiculed by senior members of Benjamin Netanyahu's right wing coalition cabinet.

How far may the Police go in tricking someone to "confess" to murder? Well, I can talk about what happens in Canada ... .

 In the early 1990s, Police in British Columbia came up with a pretty novel way of trying to get information out of suspects who had refused to tell them the "truth" in formal interviews. It's since become known over there as the "Mr Big" technique. The CBC's website describes it as follows:

Here's how Mr Big works:

It is now incumbent on the world outside the horror of Gaza to prevent the status quo ante from being reinstated once Israel determines that it has bombed enough tunnels....let alone actual people who have nothing to do with its military ambitions.

When Palestinina parents ask of their flayed, dismembered, burned, shrapnel riddled babies, toddlers or adolescents "are these the children of the resistance?"...and plead for "peace or you will make terrorists of all our children", you would have to be extremely callous or an idiot to dismiss them.

We all know New Zealand First takes a hard line on foreign ownership. But with the Lochinver sale that line just got a little bit harder

This is why John Key has been saying to anyone who'll listen that you can take nothing for granted when it comes to this year's election. Out of left field... or at least a field near Taupo... can some an issue that blindsides you. This weekend it's Shanghai Pengxin's purchase of Lochniver Station and foreign ownership in general.

John Banks is now a convicted criminal. Which is a good thing, but maybe not for the reason you think.

So the first line of John Banks' future obituary has now been written: "John Banks, former mayor of Auckland and a long serving MP and Minister for the National and Act Parties who was convicted of falsely reporting contributions to one of his campaigns, has died."

Chris Trotter has missed my point. It's not a factional coup d'etat Labour needs but a coup d'élan to jolt the party onto success

A recent column I wrote in the NZ Herald earned a

The Gaza conflict requires a more creative solution than is on offer 

The world witnesses yet another tragic spectacle of the perennial Israel /Palestine war over Gaza. There are the appalling pictures of dead and injured children in schools and hospitals. Enormous explosions are seen on our screens where multi-story buildings are reduced to rubble in an instant. What happens to their inhabitants?

Colin Craig is making up the law. And Jamie Whyte doesn't think rural people should have access to doctors. Or something like that.

A quick couple of points about some typically nutty stories provided by everyone's favourite comic puchlines - the Conservative and Act Parties.

Jamie Whyte's speech insisting "race has no place in the law" ignores the fact that the law has never been blind to race, let alone wealth, history and any number of other things

US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts likes to say that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race", a sentiment ACT leader Jamie Whyte would applaud going by his Waikato conference speech this past weekend.

Deals on the left... Candidates dipping into their own pockets... culture versus class... there are high stakes at play in the Maori electorates this year 

We all know it could be a fight to the death in the Maori seats this election, but it's startling to think that some candidates are borrowing money off their mortgages just to be able to stand at this election.

It seems the appeal of public service may not be dead after all.

Labour's public upset over the TVNZ debate moderator is a sign of more ill-discipline and prompts the question if it's time for a rejig in David Cunliffe's office

Labour has been bleating about Mike Hosking being used as moderator in a TVNZ election debate. There is even the unconvincing talk that Labour may boycott the debate if Hosking takes that role.

Sanctions are an easy option when it comes to the West's anger against Russia's actions in Ukraine, but the lessons of our past suggest another course

For the past year I have been on the World War I Commemoration Panel. The members include people as diverse as Sir Peter Jackson, Dame Anne Salmond, and Sir Bob Harvey. One of the most interesting things I have done as a member of the panel is read up on the politics and intrigue that precipitated the war.

New Zealand makes no economic sense in a global market place. 


If you follow the logic of some economists this week who tell us to ‘red-zone’ small towns in New Zealand, then presumably the same logic should apply globally. New Zealand is too small, too far away, with too many old people.

At last some high level acknowledgement that a ceasfire between Israel and Hamas has to be more than a return to the status quo...but don't hold your breath. 

The mounting death toll in Gaza has spurred an intensified flurry of diplomacy (again), and finally a stated acknowledgement that this time the terms of any ceasefire (which will eventually come) need to differ from those of the past three Israeli-Hamas wars.

First, stop blaming the media. 

The problem isn't 'right wing framing'. There isn’t a media conspiracy to get a third term National government. When you fall behind everyone airs their favourite explanation and negatives get repeated and amplified. It's the job of politicians, not media, to inspire a change in the story. 

It seems the latest trend in minor party politics is political nudity, draped in just the merest hint of government

When MMP was young and new, coalition governments were the bright new thing that everyone wanted. Famously the 1996 agreement between National and New Zealand First was long and detailed.

Winston Peters has just moved his King to East Coast Bays and put Labour and the Greens' capital gains tax pawns under threat...proof that New Zealand First is still a player

With holidays over, party conferences held, and the final two weeks of this term's parliament commencing, the parties have just about all laid out their pieces for the campaign chess game ahead.

More than 400 lives for 14 tunnels. It is not worth it. As the world watches in horror at the slaughter of Palestinians trapped in Gaza, it becomes even more evident that lopsided as they are, military assaults from Hamas or Israeli will never bring peace to either the occupied or the occupier.   

Yet another bloody day in Gaza.

Yet another day of occupation.

Yet another scripted justification from Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu...although perhaps a slight shift ...”as I said when this action began there is no guarantee of success, but results have so far exceeded expectation”.

Rodney Hide thinks some MP should bravely do a pointless thing that he himself is not quite courageous enough to try.

In today's Herald on Sunday, Rodney Hide repeats his call for some MP to use parliamentary privilege to reveal the identity of a "prominent" New Zealander granted name sup

Colin Craig has just one thing he wants from National in any post-election deal. Unfortunately, it's something that National isn't able to give him.

A while back, I confidently predicted the following in the wake of the announcement that Laila Harre would lead the Internet Party:

Did you know that if you don't know you are breaking a law, this means that you're allowed to break it without criminal consequences following? At least, you can if you're a New Zealand spy agency.

Completely unsurprisingly, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has rejected Russel Norman's complaint about the way the Police investigated the GCSB's involvement in spying on Kim Dotcom (and other matters). Norman had complained about three aspects of the Police's investigation:

Is spending money on trying to affect how people vote a bad thing ... unless it's you who is doing the spending?

On my sabbatical year in Canada in 2006, I was introduced to a couple of truly great new (to me) things. One was chocolate porter as the ideal mid-winter tipple in a land of ice and snow. The second was Arrested Development, watched as a DVD box set in evening-long binge sessions. For those who've done likewise, you'll understand the reference made in this post's title.

The inequality debate reaches beyond individuals to towns and regions, so what can we do when an entire town is in the doldrums?

One of the main topics on The Nation this past weekend was inequality, with Paula Bennett being the main guest, supplemented by a very interesting interview with Shamubeel Eaqub, NZEIR's principal econ

There is a lot of lip service paid to employees being an organisation's greatest asset, but the reality is rather different

'People are our greatest asset'.

Put it in to Google, with New Zealand as the specific country, and the range of companies that appear with the strap line is remarkable. From accounting firms through science to media and volunteer organisations. The employees of some of the companies might, however, give the Tui billboard response… Yeah, right.

The High Court just cracked open the door to expressly telling Parliament that it has made laws that unacceptably breach human rights. But it also said that it really, really, really doesn't want to walk into that strange room.

Regular readers will know that the issue of prisoner voting - or, more accurately, the decision of the National and Act Parties to take away the right of prisoners to vote - is something that I've had cause to post on in the past.

Israel's massive bombardment of Gaza and Hamas firing rockets into Israel will never solve the political disaster that is the continued illegal occupation of Palestine. Indeed as the Palestinian death toll mounts, resistance to occupation will only become more entrenched and that means peace for neither side.  

Repeating an action or a behaviour over and over and expecting a different outcome is supposed to be the definition of madness.

Applied to the current disaster in the Middle East - the Palestinian/Israeli part of that troubled arena - madness is fast becoming the dominant theme.

Labour’s new election slogan is a challenge for the party to focus exclusively ‘on the positive things that matter to Kiwi families’, as the PR promises. 

That means rejecting the rhetoric that has New Zealand going to hell in a hand basket, and avoiding negative distractions that make Labour look like the party of dead trees, slow trucks and extinct birds.


I like Labour’s ‘Vote Positive’ more than I like National’s ‘Working for New Zealand’ (which begs the question, ‘who have you been working for until now?’)

Whether it will change anyones’ vote remains to be seen.

John Roughan's column on why paying "voluntary" school fees is a good thing confuses me. I think that's because it is very confusing.

Tim already has posted his response to John Roughan's column on Labour's policy to allow schools to replace "voluntary" school fees with a $100-per-student payment.

It feels good to pay for your child's education, says the columnist. Yes, and I already am, I reply

This morning John Roughan argued in the New Zealand Herald that Labour's policy to end voluntary school donations for most parents was "imaginative" but "a pity".

Mallard's moas and David Cunliffe's mangled apology are signs that Labour's still slipping off-message too often... and sometimes not even accidentally

Damage from within. David Cunliffe so close to getting it right, but still so wrong. And potentially strong and popular policy undermined by off-message gaffes...

People are starting to demand someone's - anyone's! - head over the Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail diplomatic immunity escapade. What's the rush?, I say.

Everyone just needs to calm down a bit about the whole Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail saga. Because some people who ought to know better, as well as some people who never will, are starting to make some pretty silly statements about the matter.

Jock Anderson still just can't get over the fact that "leftie protestors" are allowed to burn flags as a form of protest. And it's all because of those meddling judges ... .

Having arrived back in the country, I note there's been a fair bit going on while I was away that I could profitably comment on. Campaign funding matters seem to have become unnaturally prominent. MFAT officials are letting criminals flee back home without their Minister knowing anything about it.

If the murders of teenagers on both sides of the deadly dispute over Palestine doesn't spur the international community to force an end to the unlawful occupation, what on earth will?  

The justice that is sought following the abduction and murder of three teenage Israeli settlers will not be found in retribution.

The justice for the teenage Palestinian abducted and murdered in an apparent revenge attack will not be found in more abductions or murders.

As John Key re-writes the script for relations between New Zealand and the US, what are the implications for China and does this mean a return to automatic support for America?

There has been a fair bit of recent speculation about whether John Key's approach to foreign policy represents a departute from the consensus of the past two decades and if this, somewhat to everyone's surprise, will be a central part of his legacy. After all, Key is supposed to be all about the economy, in contrast to Helen Clark's focus on foreign relations.

My two cents on the sort of dramatic policy Labour will need to win over voters. Think interest-free student loans and go from there

Labour says tomorrow it'll be announcing a new education policy regarding schools. I have no idea what it is, but it's prompted me to quickly write this post that I've been meaning to write for months - what I'd announce if I was Labour looking for a circuit breaker.

Where is the sense of urgency from a Labour party that doesn't seem terribly fussed about winning this election, or at least seems quite happy to leave it to potential coalition partners to get it over the line?

The biggest crime a Labour Party caucus, activist base and affiliated unions can commit is to not put their party in a position where it can realistically when an election. They can claim all they like to want to bring new talent into parliament through the list, but on current polling, it's rhetoric – no new faces will make it come September.

Sssh. Don't tell anyone, but Labour's actually building a coherent plan for running the country. Unfortunately for them, no-one can see past its repeated mis-steps

Pick your parable: from the Jews it's "Do not be wise in words — be wise in deeds". The Chinese say "talk doesn't cook rice".

Child poverty strikes a chord across the political spectrum, but the left will struggle to make inequality a major election issue because most New Zealanders are just getting on with it

What is the election going to be about? The froth and bubble of donations? Not very likely. The competence of the main players will undoubtedly feature. Or perhaps Bill Clinton's 1992 classic slogan "it's the economy stupid" will again prove true.

Internet Mana gives National a cast of villians to parade before voters

The Internet Mana party does not, in any real sense, exist. Nor, while we're at it, does United Future; ACT once existed as a neo-liberal nostalgia project, but no more.

Yet whereas the latter pair are struggling to evade their past, it's possible that the Internet Mana party may still be willed into existence.