The rising violence between Israelis and Palestinians is extremely worrying, but it is not all one way, and its context cannot new conveniently ignored. 

Here’s a 22 point plan for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Entrench Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.

Never let a chance go by to duplicitously conflate Hamas and some in Fatah with the Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL so as to gild the imperiled-Israeli lilly.

Attack on synagogue in Jerusalem raises tensions; Japanese PM Shinzo Abe calls for early elections; Hong Kong police begin to clear protest sites; 40 mafia suspects arrested in Northern Italy; state of emergency called in Ferguson, Missouri; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Synagogue Attack Heightens Israel Tensions

Over the next year, John Key faces a choice between his – and New Zealand's – international reputation on one hand and National's support base on the other as he wrestles with reducing our carbon footprint

If you use the language of the Prime Minister's favourite past-time to describe his political style, you'd say he's got a great short game. Short-term, or at least term-to-term, he's proven himself a master reading the public's appetites and knowing his political limits.

How many times have we seen shots of Labour party leaders declaring unity while standing in front of caucus members, smiling the kind of smile you produce by sucking air through your teeth? 

Labour doesn't need more protests of unity. It needs more open debate.

People used to join the Labour party for the policy fights. A contest of ideas was how you sorted  good ideas from bad. Achievements like paid parental leave and the nuclear free policy were achieved only after advocates won the argument; Unity was earned by debate, not by shutting debate down and pretending there was no diversity of opinion on these issues.

The only thing worse than electing the wrong person as leader of Labour is electing him by the narrowest of margins, by virtue of the influence of a handful of individuals acting under instructions. 

Labour just made the wrong choice, in the worst possible way.

Little is the Labour leader despite weak support from his caucus. But they now have two choices: unify or die. And Little has the scope to rebuild from the ground up

So Andrew Little gets to lead the Labour Party, something that many wise heads only a year or two ago would never happen. The promise with which he'd entered parliament seemed to have withered on the New Plymouth vine.

Not any more. He's now Leader of the Opposition.

We should focus more on introducing and adapting the world’s innovations using a skilled workforce.

Our so called ‘innovation policy’, which is at the heart of the government’s growth strategy – insofar as it has one – seems to be fundamentally flawed.

Why the Waitangi Tribunal's report on the status and effect of the Treaty changes nothing - and potentially everything.

The Waitangi Tribunal's just released report He Whakaputanga me te Tiriti: The Declaration and the Treaty, representing its findings

The new Labour leader will be announced on Tuesday. But before choosing Labour members need to decide if they see the rebuild as a three or six year project

The four candidates who hope to lead the Labour Party into the 2017 election have stumped all their stump speeches and debated all their debate points. Now comes the voting. And the party members must be wishing they could vote for one of John Key's four or five headed hydras.

The case for raising the age of eligibility for NZS; and how we can do it. 

I support raising the age of eligibility for NZS but not, primarily, for reasons of fiscal sustainability. Rather it needs to be increased for equity reasons. Longevity is increasing. When the Old Aged Pension was introduced in 1898, life expectancy at the age of 65 was 13 years; today it is 20 years, and it will continue to rise.

University education is a privilege, not a right, and if we treated it that way we might just get better results

Great universities cost big bucks. Government funding, benefactor donations and student fees all add up to support excellence… The debate in New Zealand last month was all about the fees.

The regions are being chipped away at... so here's an idea for a serious shot in the arm

It seems our state-owned enterprises are letting us down somewhat these days. Last week it was Solid Energy dashing the hopes of the Pike River families, today it's Air New Zealand cutting flights to more regions. If we want more zombie towns, this is a pretty good way of going about it. Just cut 'em off.

Air New Zealand is shutting down these routes:

As times goes on the government will spend more on healthcare. That means higher taxes. Is there an alternative?

I was on the Treasury external panel which advised on its last Long Term Fiscal Projections. The great challenges arise from rising demand for government funded services and the aging population.

A revolt is in the air in Auckland, as ratepayers ask whether councillors are looking hard enough at the city budget and whether Len Brown needs his wings clipped

Len Brown is now one year into his second term and will be leading Auckland through until September 2016. But it's a very different political environment to election night 2013, when Len was clearly the popular choice as cheerleader of the city.

Every year around 600 New Zealanders are born with a horrible condition because their mothers drank while they were pregnant. 

The terms Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and its more extreme form Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) have appeared recently in two news items. In a hearing in front of London’s Privy Council the lawyers for Teina Pora and the Crown agreed that Pora suffers from FASD.

The Iran nuclear deal is within grasp but those tasked with finalizing it better hurry in order to avoid its unravelling at the trigger happy hands within the victorious Republican party which now holds both houses of Congress.   

 The Republican routing of the Democrats in the US mid-terms has made one thing very clear. Iran had better be serious and transparent about getting a deal on its nuclear ambitions within the next three weeks.

National's decision to stand alongside our allies but not to 'go to war' strengthens our narrative as a small country with its own mind, but beware mission creep

It is any Prime Minister's toughest decision: whether or not to ask young men to fight and perhaps die in foreign fields. While no western country has sent combat troops into battle against Islamic State, military action is underway and the rhetoric from John Key in recent weeks suggested we might be going along for the ride.

With world leaders failing and New Zealand ranked in the bottom five of the world's worst emitters for climate policy response, conservation campaigners have to think differently about ways to help nature weather the coming storm

The IPCC synthesis report is in and, hopes Bill McKibben:

The Left rejects it’s historic commitment to international solidarity and protecting the innocent when it embraces a growing neo-isolationism. It’s all very well to say ‘not our fight’ in the face of ISIS terror, but the opposite on intervention isn’t peace. 

Stare at that for a moment.

 

The international community didn’t intervene to stop Bashar-al Assad dropping chemical bombs on civilians in Syria. I argued they should.

I think we've found the way to make electoral law interesting to people. Get some sports stars to break it.

News that the Electoral Commission has reported some of NZ's sports royalty to the police for sending out election day tweets encouraging their followers to support John Key's reelection has gripped

National is trying to the 'nothing to see here' line when it comes to its social housing policy, but the truth is it's in a tangle and has no mandate for sale

When Genesis was sold earlier this year, John Key repeatedly said it would be the last asset his government would put on the block, be it in that term or the next. He said he wanted to be very clear about that, lest those tricky opposition parties try to say otherwise. So how come his ministers didn't get the memo?

Sloppy analysis is dividing us into the deserving and undeserving

Being no expert on domestic violence, I looked at the Glenn inquiry’s The People’s Report to see what it had to say about causes. I had expected a summary of the research literature but there was none. All the report did was tell of people’s (often moving) experiences and what they thought should be done.

The labour reforms this week reveal a government that has given up on any hope for a competitive economy and is willing to engage in class warfare on behalf of its 'Judith Collins wing'

Last week, evidence was again made plain of a shocking, unacceptable safety record in ports and forests. The Government responded by passing a new law to remove the right to a tea break.

I'm not saying that John Key is an incurable gossip ... but he sure seems to get told a lot of stuff by random people.

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

John Key has learned the identity of the entertainer guilty of an indecency charge through the grapevine of people circumventing the suppression order.

The Environmental Protection Agency hearing into seabed mining for phosphate on the Chatham Rise is exposing questions about uncertainty - many big unknowns, including whether the applicant has done its job. If environment groups win this battle, what does it mean for the wider war?

Out on the Chatham Rise, the ridge jutting into the waters off Christchurch and extending out beyond the Chathams, Chatham Rock Phosphate has a mining permit and is now seeking EPA approval for its project to mine phosphate for fertiliser, at depths untried anywhere else in the world.

Thomas Piketty says economic inequality has been getting greater in the world, and will get greater. What about New Zealand?

Paul Krugman has said "Thomas Piketty has transformed our economic discourse; we’ll never talk about wealth and inequality the same way we used to". Many other eminent economists have said much the same thing.

The Fonterra boss backs continued dairy growth but can see a day when we might cap cow numbers... and could China steal the milk right from under our noses?

How much is enough? Or even too much? It's a fundamental question for any business or economy when you're dealing with supply and demand. And it's a crucial question when it comes to New Zealand's dependence on the dairy industry. So when do we reach 'peak cow'?

Greg O'Connor thinks the shootings in Ottawa, and the way this was ended, demonstrates the need to routinely arm New Zealand's Police. He's completely wrong about that.

What happened at Canada's war memorial and parliamentary buildings is a pretty Bad Thing. It should, however, be kept in some sort of perspective. 

Chris Trotter wants a Labour purge. Again. 

It’s not often you see a New Zealand political figure compared favourably to Stalin, but this is what Chris Trotter has done to that decidedly non-genocidal non-lunatic Grant Robertson.  

Panic has gone viral quicker than the Ebola virus, thanks to social media.

Not that there isn't something to worry about. Part of an entire continent is presently at risk - that's Africa not America.

It's not just that Ebola sounds like a modern day black plague and probably originated from blood sucking bats living in dark caves - reason enough for people here in the United States to react like there's a Zombie-Vampire apocalypse on its way.

In which I reply to Andrew's post in reply to Phil's post about Grant Robertson... I wrote this at the start of the week but have discovered a glitch that mean it never published!

I think I'll start at the end. Andrew ended his recent post like this:

Labour needs to work out whether they go for the "missing million" or the middle voters. And if they get it wrong they could be looking at another 6 years in opposition

When Labour decides who will be the next leader, it is of interest to all of us involved in politics. After all the person chosen could be New Zealand's next Prime Minister. So the debate on the nature of the choice is not one that is the sole preserve of those who actually get to vote in this contest.

Labour's best chance for returning to government is to form a coalition and campaign jointly with the Greens

Much has been written about where Labour needs to go from here. One issue which doesn’t seem to have generated much interest is what do they do with the Greens?

Grant Robertson is gay. And he likes rugby. And he drinks beer. All of these things are true - so can we now get on with it?

Phil Quin put a post up yesterday chiding Grant Robertson for what he sees as an overly cautious approach to political messaging and urging him to be more warlike in his phraseology because New Zealanders clearly have a deep, deep aversion to politicians who present as pleasant

The EU approach in trade deals is likely to protect the right of states to make public policy

How can foreign investors in New Zealand be sure that we will treat them fairly? If they are not sure perhaps they will not invest here, even though their investment may be valuable to us. (I do not believe all foreign investment is worthwhile, but much is.)

It's impossible to disagree with anything Grant Robertson says.  That's a problem. 

When Grant Robertson tweets that he wants the government to "get alongside communities", I am not at all sure what he means.

Why typical Gen Y's are rife with feelings of entitlement and overconfidence, yet quick to play the victim and often miserable

The United States Declaration of Independence 1776 states: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’

There's a lot of smart money going on Andrew Little's bid to lead the Labour Party, but the numbers in New Plymouth don't lie. So what are they saying?

There's a lot of talk about "listening" in Labour circles these days. Announcing his bid for the party leadership, list MP Andrew Little named as his top priority "getting the process underway to listen to the voters who have abandoned us". Grant Robertson agrees, telling reporters last week "as we emerge from our heavy election defeat, we must now take the opportunity to listen".

The election demonstrated deep divisions. Will the next three years make them worse or help heal the rift? And where will the pressure points be?

Will we see New Zealanders marching in the streets during the next three years? I don't mean protests in which the police, while behaving perfectly professionally, are smiling benignly in a sort of agreement. I'm wondering whether we'll see civil disturbances. And I'm not the only person pondering such things – probably even John Key is.

The trouble with not being troubled by the mood of New Zealand as a whole, is that the party hands Labour a political dog

Labour has done a fine job of selling the democratic virtues of their new way electing a leader; it rolls off the tongue to say that 40 percent of the outcome is determined by rank and file members. But whose democratic interests does it really serve?

We're already stopping people from using NZ passports to go and fight in the Middle East. So why do we now urgently need to change the law to do this?

Back in February, I wrote this about the legal basis for refusing to grant passports to/revoking passports from those individuals who felt the call to take up armed struggle in groups using terrorist tactics in places like Syria and now Iraq.

John Key has dug his toes in as he refuses to listen to some of the expert advice on poverty reduction, but more interesting is where he's indicating he will move

You'd hardly call it skin on the skeleton, but John Key's comments today about his plans to tackle child poverty and sell-off state housing at least put some sinew and muscle on the bare bone rhetoric he has been using since his win in last month's election.

Unusually for small, advanced countries New Zealand remains heavily reliant on agricultural for its living. So is it time to take a bigger punt on technology?

My last item sparked an email from Mike Smith to discuss economic resilience with Brian Easton at a Fabian Society meeting in Wellington on Monday November 10. I made the point to Mike that I don't see the topic as a left/right issue, but have agreed to the discussion.

As if banning same-sex marriage isn't enough, the Presbyterian Church has gone a step further and removed the clergy's liberty of conscience on the issue

As point scoring goes, this really taks the cake. Literally, a new vote by the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand takes the wedding cake away from any gay person who wants to get married in a Presbyterian Church, because conducting such a service is now banned. But that's only the start.

Some muted thoughts on the legal issues involved in the search of Nicky Hager's house, with only limited added outrage. That may come later.

First of all, the Police are investigating a real crime here. Even certain bloggers whom we do not name have a right to keep others out of their computer systems, and this right is protected by criminal sanction.

Hone Harawira is seeking judicial recount of votes that he doesn't think will change the result in Te Tai Tokerau, and which won't be able to look at the problems he claims existed with voting in that seat. This seems ... misguided.

There's one thing that even Hone Harawira agrees will not change following his sought after judicial recount of the vote in Te Tai Tokerau - the outcome of the election in that seat.

If National can adapt to change, why can't Labour? 

Once upon a time National was a party dominated by farmers and their rural base. Its first townie leader, Sid Holland, had to have a farm bought for him in the 1940s, to maintain his status in the party. It was such a country party that there was a view in the 1960s that as New Zealand urbanised National would lose voter share because Labour was so much stronger in the cities.

The final count of the votes, including special votes, has saved us from having to revisit  our ideas about majority governments under MMP. Oh - and I (sort of) told you so.

As I said here on the eve of polling day (and intimated again here the day after), the 2014 election wasn't over until Saturday, October 4*:

A glimpse behind the door of supply and confidence negotiations reveals the dominant political fact this term - Key is King

What's clear from talking on The Nation this morning to the leaders of the minor parties supporting National, is quite how minor they now are.

Rather than trying to rein in dissent, the Labour Party should be encouraging a full and frank debate on not just its leadership, but its deep-seated structural problems. Attempts to chill open criticism are misguided

Morgan Godfrey, one of the New Zealand internet scene's most prolific opinion generators, derided my use of the term 'Orwellian' to describe Labour's new anti-sledging rules. He was right to do so.

I've made fun of people on exactly the same grounds, pointing out that, as Gordfrey did, that most people who invoke Orwell haven't read him.

Brian Easton's post this week raise questions about the serious and long-term issues facing not only this new government, but several to come. Can a consensus be achieved?

Brian Easton's post on a sustainable New Zealand should invite lots of thought and discussion, but it seems many of the political class are absorbed by the Labour Party's leadership battles. It does look awfully messy at the moment, but maybe all will be forgotten if the new leader can unify the party and get momentum against the government given the challenges it faces...

David Mitchell's latest work, The Bone Clocks, is a great read. I'm just not sure it's a very good book.

Having binged on politics up to and including the day after election night, I'm going through a bit of a purge at the moment. So I've pretty much tried to ignore Labour's travails over the last couple of weeks (oh, OK - I've been reading all about them, but am determinedly attempting not to comment on any of it).

Who will determine Labour's future – the MPs, the members, the unions? The fact is that after a 24 percent election result they are the wrong people to listen to and the truth may be every hard to hear

As he pops back and forth between New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, Shane Jones must look on himself as the luckiest of the three men who took part in the Labour leadership race just a scant 12 months ago.

One of the biggest issues missed during the election campaign was the sustainability of National's economic, environmental and even social policies. So what do you do if the government's not thinking long-term?

Behavioural economics is not a complete theory but it demonstrates that we are not the economic rational being usually assumed in economics theory. One of the most troubling divergences is that we make time-inconsistent decisions so our short run choices do not cohere over the longer term.

I know this will make me even more unpopular on The Standard and The Daily Blog. Being Catholic will probably be seen as another reason to question my right to represent the Left; which is odd, given that there is a proud tradition of social justice in the Catholic church.

There’s a lot wrong with the church, but the fundamental principles of inclusiveness and compassion make it not dissimilate to the principles that built the Labour party over a hundred years ago (apologies to National party Catholics, Bill English and Jim Bolger!)

Susan St John accuses me of “visionless pro-work rhetoric” for writing in my blog about Labour’s position on extending the Working For Families tax credit to families not in work.

I’m not sure if Susan St John thinks it would be more visionary to be ‘anti-work’. I’m proud to support the core Labour value of work. The best way out of poverty is a well-paid job. The Labour movement is founded on the entitlement of working people to dignity through work and security when we can’t.

Labour has to take the blame for creating a bizarre mystique around David Cunliffe's motivations, and his supposedly aloof nature. The problem is not really Cunliffe, it's PR

In Scarlett Johansson’s earlier career, she played characters that were praised for their transcendent beauty. In The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), she was the teen neighbor of Ed (Billy Bob Thornton), who made frequent visits to gaze at her playing the piano. Seduced by her siren-like mystique, Ed could not see that she had little talent, and instead tried to push her career.

Time to stop talking about the Opposition and focus on what will really effect us over the next three years: what will the National government do to protect Kiwis from another looming recession?

It is human nature to be more inter

Whether or not Labour changes its leader, the MPs gathered in Wellington today need to stop blaming everyone else and take a long, hard look at themselves

Labour MPs travelling to Wellington today for their first post-election caucus will have their heads crammed full of theories, accusations and advice from all and sundry. But here's the message for them to keep front and centre whichever direction they choose as a party: You've got to earn it.

If voters can see the commonality between Labour and the Greens, why can't political analysts?

Most political analysis in New Zealand seems trapped in the two-party winner-takes-all world, or perhaps they are numerically challenged by the number which comes after two. Whichever, to discuss the National-Labour divide without mentioning the Greens is almost pointless. (I’ll come to NZ First shortly.)

A softening of the housing market, falling dairy prices and potential weakening of the Chinese economy do not bode well for New Zealand

There were knowing smiles among economists when earlier this year John Key set the election date a couple of months early. He told us it was because there were various international gatherings that the prime minister had to attend. But it also seemed possible that economy growth would be weakening at the end of 2014.

In which your author admits to (at least) two big mistakes about the 2014 election, and then proceeds to risk making another one.

I got one thing right about this election. I managed not to do anything as misguided as publicly state a prediction that National would get anything like as low a vote total as 44% ... as for instance, did Bryce Edwards. Yep, I'd imagine he woke up this morning feeling pretty silly.

If just changing the leader was the solution, then Labour would have solved its problems long ago.

We've had three leaders since 2008.

 

Labour's problems can't just be fixed by a switch at the top. Change requires more than that. It must challenge the intellectual, organisational and cultural fundamentals of what it means to be Labour.

An emphatic win for National raises a whole series of questions, especially for a left-wing struggling to understand middle New Zealand... and then there's Dotcom

The coming days will see a welter of words on the reasons for the spectacular success of National and the failure of the broad left. As a 'pundit', I might as well add my views.

"At the end of the day", it's so close, this story won't be done until Saturday night

 

I think I'm going to skip the office sweepstake. I just don't know and I don't think anyone knows because undecideds, turnout and late movement could make a huge difference. This election campaign has simply been so volatile I think it's harder than ever to read the public mood; and hey, there are hours still to go.

And other assorted closing thoughts on this most unusual of election campaigns.

So, apparently there will be an election tomorrow. If you haven't yet voted, you should do so by 7pm tomorrow. Otherwise one of the Electoral Commission's kill squads will hunt you down and leave your body lying in the street for the vultures to feast on. This is an aspect of their role that does not get publicised nearly as much as it should.

On the eve of the election, let's not forget the influence of 'dollar-voters' on the outcome

A modern society uses two main ways for regulating its public life; politics and the market. In principle the political ideal is 'one person, one vote', whereas markets are driven by 'one dollar, one vote'.

New Zealand First is well placed to return to parliament next term and tomorrow night could end up holding the balance of power. So what might happen next?

What's going on in Winston Peters' head? That will be a question vexing several party leaders, thousands of voters and even some in his own party. Because whatever else the polls may or may not be telling us, the safest bet would be on New Zealand First making the five percent threshold and being needed to at least support the next government.

Rachel MacGregor's resignation will raise doubts in the swing voters giving the Conservatives a hard look, but what about its top policies? Do its numbers add up?

Colin Craig has stolen the headlines at the business end of the campaign for all the wrong reasons; the mystery of the disappearing press secretary adds to the stress he must be under when he looks at the polls. While he's had momentum, it is yet to get him over five percent in a single poll. And then there are his fiscals.

Should people with intellectual disabilities be allowed to vote? What about those with dementia?

The Waikato Times has carried a couple of interesting stories in recent days about the issue of people with intellectual disabilities being entitled to vote.

Or, rather, some speculative ruminations on what will happen if Winston Peters holds the balance of power and won't commit to supporting either bloc in the House. 

Imagine, if you will, a scenario on September 21 where the provisional election results deliver a Parliament where National cannot form a majority even with ACT/United Future/Maori Party support, Labour cannot form a majority with Green/Mana-Internet Party support and Colin Craig's Conservatives fall short of the threshold.

Obama to expand efforts on ebola; China finds natural gas in South China Sea; Philippines government orders evcuation of volcano region; US steps up Iraq airstrikes; new tax breaks for Brazil; and more

Top of the Agenda

Obama to Expand Ebola Efforts

Was The Moment of Truth an election advertisement?

I gave the ODT my thoughts on "The Moment of Truth" event last night - the tl;dr of which is that there are some important questions about the issue of data collection and surveillance to be addressed, but that the involvement of Dotcom (in particular) in it was regrettable.

All sides in the current spying debate are choosing their words very carefully as the search for lies intensifies. But what do those words mean?

Words matter, never so much in New Zealand politics as they do right now. Remember Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass?

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

It'll take two posts to get through my observations of tonight's big reveal at the Auckland Town Hall. This one's on the timing and strategy around the revelations

Sitting in the Auckland Town Hall tonight – both in the hall meeting and the press conference after – two old sayings kept passing through my mind: "it's all about the timing" and "the devil's in the details". Both truisms couldn't be more true when it came to the Internet Party's Moment of Truth.

Dealing to dirty dairying is an issue that the three major parties fundamentally agree on. Is a parliamentary accord on protecting our waterways next?

I have said in the past that for the Green Party to broaden their appeal, they would need to engage with the real economy, including a better appreciation of the importance dairy farming to the New Zealand economy. With their recent announcements about protecting rivers and streams, it is clear that the Greens have done just that. I imagine the Greens plan has been sometime in the making.

The biggest problem muddying New Zealand's waterways is not farming, it's  misinformation

Following the success of the Dirty Dairying campaign, and the electioneering around the Dirty Politics book, it could be time for a Murky Water investigation – to shed some light, achieve some clarity and generally uncover some facts.

A personal rememberance of Peter Gutteridge, with no connection to politics or law whatsoever. Some things matter more than those diversions.

I didn't ever "know" Peter Gutteridge. 

Glenn Greenwald's claims starting on The Nation this weekend have unleashed a flood of news. Can we process it in time? And what will it mean to a very pragmatic people?

It's going to be difficult for all the claims made by Glenn Greenwald to be properly reported, checked and debated in just the five days before the election, but New Zealand journalists are having a pretty good crack at it. In just two 24 hour cycles Greenwald's main claims have been laid out, rejected by the Prime Minister, and challenged again by Greenwald.

Justice Ellis recounts "the numerous and weighty constitutional criticisms" of taking the vote from prisoners. But because Parliament (or, rather, the National and Act Parties) didn't care about these sorts of thing, they still can't vote.

Justice Ellis has told Arthur Taylor and other prisoners in New Zealand the only thing she really could say: you don't get to vote this election.

Want to know all the bottom lines Winston Peters has laid down this year?

Reports today talk about Winston Peters laying down "the ground rules" for coalition negotiations and setting out "priority areas he wants addressed". And it's interesting that the indications he's making now aren't exactly in line with what he's said previously.

Tax has caused problems for both major parties at the sharp end of the election campaign, but the difference is that one party is using it to dominate the conversation with less than two weeks to go

Talking about tax has taken on a perculiarly risky air about it this past week or so. Tax is meant to be boring, the stuff of grey-suited accountants. But suddenly it's more like a political Red Arrow – something you only get into if you want to take your life in your own hands.

There's lots to celebrate in our schools, and even Maori achievement has more to say for it than often acknowledged, but questions remain

While there is much grumbling about New Zealand's education system, the evidence suggests it's doing very well. Every three years the OECD surveys a sample of 15 year-old students. The exercise, known as PISA: (Program for International Student Assessment) looks at three dimensions: reading, maths and science knowledge.

If National maintain current polling and both the Conservatives and New Zealand First get to five percent, Key will be in the catbird seat. But which might he choose and why?

With two weeks to go until election day, it looks highly likely that John Key will be Prime Minister until 2017. The idea that Labour on around 25% could lead a government is improbable. And it's now hard to imagine anything that Kim Dotcom could disclose that will change the voters' minds.

Ask and you will receive... Maybe. Eventually. In an election campaign getting a straight answer can be like pulling teeth

It's seldom the first time you ask the question that's telling. Sometimes it takes until the 4th or 5th ask before you see the truth peep its head out from behind the spin. There were three good examples of that on The Nation this morning.

Both National's and Labour's housing policies can begin to look like a house of cards when you get into the detail. But one seems more likely to give us more houses

Crisis, what crisis? That's been National's call when it comes to the rapidly rising price of houses in our main centres. The debate over what to do to address our runaway housing market, especially in Auckland, is one of the defining differences between the two parties, but both have problems with their policies.

The Conservatives have now found their turangawaewae - they're offering the same but different whereas Peters has to figure out how to sell his 'wait and see' approach to coalition

The shadow boxing between Winston Peters and Colin Craig is will be one of the most interesting bouts on display in the final weeks of the campaign. Just how these two spar - and triangulate with John Key - could be crucial to the shape of the next government.

Claims the Prime Minister must have known about dirty politics around him ignore the reality of his CEO style and the Law Commission has more work to do on new media

 

Two weeks ago I suggested this could turn into New Zealand's first policy-free election; my instinct seems to have been proven correct. While policy debates are still occuring around the fringes, there is no way now that with just two weeks to go that the Opposition parties are going to let the fallout from Dirty Politics go. And there is still the Dotcom revelation to come.

The Left views Third Way politics as a sell-out these days and Josie Pagani is damned as an adherent – but what's wrong with compromise and wanting to win elections?

During a visit he made to Melbourne in 2000, I joined some colleagues to sit down for a chat with Dick Morris, the self-proclaimed strategic mastermind who claimed to have single-handedly rescued Bill Clinton's flailing presidency and coined the term "triangulation" along the way.

With two Dirty Politics inspired inquiries on the go, where are they taking us? And will they make everything better?

So far, the Dirty Politics book has generated two inquiries. The first is into the release  of information from the SIS to a certain blogger whom we don't name. The second is into Judith Collins' alleged involvement with an alleged plot to allegedly have the head of the Serious Fraud Office allegedly removed from his office. Allegedly.

Some thoughts on both of these.

The University of Otago is going to debate Dirty Politics. We'd love for you to join in it.

Love it or loathe it, Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics and its aftermath has lit a fire under our perception of "politics as usual" in New Zealand. Exactly how all that plays out come September 20th is an as yet unknown cipher.

Beyond its effect on the upcoming election, however, the book raises a number of important questions across a range of different areas.

The pressure of good journalism by many over a period of weeks was at the heart of the weekend's major developments, and it means the next 20 days will be unlike any we've seen

Isn't it curious how often major scandals end in farce and how often it really is cock-up rather than conspiracy? Judith Collins' fate was decided in the end by friendly fire, an accident of one of her own. And it just goes to show that you really are defined by the people you surround yourself with. And that pressure and persistence counts.

Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics has provided the disinfectant of sunlight but the kinds of behaviours are long-standing. Take this example from 2005. Does it look familiar?

It dates back to 2005, another election year. And as one of those responsible for seminars for the School of Government and the Institute of Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington I assisted with the organisation of two pre-election forums focusing on substantive policy issues of interest at the time.

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.

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

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:

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

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.