Margaret Wilson

Farrar busts Labour meddling in appointments process

David Farrar has filed an OIA and blogged the results that show Labour ministers actively sat on selection panels for the hiring of senior civil servants.

Well what a shock…Labour Government Ministers sat on the interview panels of State Sector appointments…who would ever have guessed with their outrage over John Key phoning someone to apply for a job that they had meddled so closely in the actual appointment process.

Remember too that they Grant Robertson just yesterday was questioning the appointment process of Jackie Blue, yet Judith Collins never sat on the selection panel, unlike four Labour party ministers.

It’s one thing to have the Minister sign off on an appointment, but do you want Ministers actually sitting on CEO interview panels? Wouldn’t that be far worse than merely making a phone call.

So I asked the State Services Commission if any Ministers in the last 14 years have sat on interview panels for state sector chief executives. They replied that this has happened on four occasions – in 2000, 2004, 2007 and 2008.  Read more »

Sad but true

At first reading I thought I was looking at a transcript of parliament yesterday, and then I realised that Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish had actually written a parody.

David Shearer: Thank you Mr Speaker, my question now to the Minister of State Owned Enterprises: Has the Government met the five criteria the Prime Minister laid out for proceeding with asset sales?

Tony Ryall: Blue cheese.

Shearer: Point of order, Mr Speaker. What kind of answer was that?

Mr Speaker: The minister answered the question. He may not have given the answer you wanted, but he nevertheless gave an answer. Do you have any supplementary questions?

Shearer: When the Prime Minister said that the third criterion would be that companies would need to present good investment opportunities for investors, with which international investors had the Prime Minister had discussions that have yet to be made public?

Ryall: The capital of Hungary is Budapest. The capital of Romania is Bucharest.

Shearer: Point of order! Mr Speaker, shouldn’t the minister at least make some effort to answer the question? My question was not directed to European capitals.

Mr Speaker: The member well knows that matters of geography are directly relevant to the question. The member has asked questions about international investors, and some of those investors may well be from Hungary or Romania.

Shearer: But Mr Speaker—

Mr Speaker: I have ruled on the matter. Does the member have any supplementary questions?

The sad thing though about David Carter’s inept speakership is that he is still better than Margaret Wilson ever was. The only funny party about the travesty the speakership now resembles is the wailing from the left that the Speaker is no longer fair and impartial…two words: Margaret Wilson. Though it would be tempting to tell the left to suck it up, I don’t think a useless speaker does anyone any favours in the long run.

I don’t think that Carter is helping things. Scott kind of nails it with this…probably more true than parody:

Read more »

Just Dreadful – A lesson in how to win in Parliament

I have written an opinion piece at Truth about the debacle that is currently unfolding in parliament under the Speakership of David Carter. It goes some way to answers the calls by some commenters here yesterday for Carter to be even more biased than he is currently exhibiting and offers a contrarian view of what is unfolding.

Lockwood Smith, though pompous, was at least consistent and after a legacy of poor Speakers from Jonathan Hunt to Margaret Wilson was a breath of fresh air.

David Carter is woefully ill-equipped for the role of Speaker and the Labour party knows it.

In one series of questions from Chris Hipkins you can see the demoralising effect of an inept Speaker attempting to protect an inept minister whose answers are filled with hubris. Read more »

Chris Trotter on Pike River

Chris Trotter is holding Labour accountable for Pike River, much more so than National:

[T]his column is written from the Left, so my focus will be on the party of the workers; the party whose founders came from the West Coast pits around Blackball; the party of the coalminers’ trade unions; the party which for nine long years did nothing to prevent the tragedy which, in such a criminally deregulated environment, was only ever a matter of time.

Labour took control of New Zealand’s state apparatus on November 27, 1999, and relinquished it on November 8, 2008.

During that time three Labour MPs held the labour portfolio: Margaret Wilson (1999-2004), Ruth Dyson (2005-07) and Trevor Mallard (2007-08).

All three of these politicians came into Parliament with strong Left-wing credentials.

And all of them, I’m sure, wanted to do only good things for the people they represented.

How, then, are we to explain their inaction? Their failure to impose a state-of-the-art health and safety regime on New Zealand’s coalmining industry?

Trevor Mallard isn’t too happy about that either…but Trotter goes on.

Throughout the 19th century, the dangers facing workers underground and the disasters which so regularly took their lives provided a powerful moral impetus for labour movements all over the world – including New Zealand’s.

In 2007, workers’ safety campaigner Hazel Armstrong wrote: “The 1890s’ West Coast coalfields have been evocatively described as a ‘slough of despond’.

“They were notoriously hazardous working environments: ‘There’s always blood on the coal’, miners said.”

It’s why the story of Paddy Webb’s 1908 fight for the Blackball miners’ rights became as ingrained as coal-dust in the political memory of Labour Party people.

How could three successive Labour ministers have forgotten so much?

Two of them are still in parliament, perhaps they might to atone by resigning?

There was no appetite in the Clark-led Labour Government for a return to the “heavy-handed” regulations of the past. As the source of rational behaviour, the market was still considered uniquely capable of regulating itself.

Tragically, it has taken the Pike River disaster to expose the fatal falsity of that belief.

Following the royal commission report’s release, Labour leader David Shearer was asked if he thought the deregulatory pendulum had swung too far. He responded by saying that, “the Government needs to be much more hands-on than it has been”.

It is to be hoped that these words reflect a genuine change of heart on Labour’s part, and that the next time they’re in office, Labour politicians will not hesitate to prevent the private sector’s “drive for production” (and profits) from pushing workers’ rights to effective workplace protection off the agenda.

Because if there’s “blood on the coal” at Pike River, Labour helped to put it there.

If anyone is responsible then it falls to Helen Clark and her ministers, from the Labour ministers listed above to the Conservation minister who cared more about two Blue Ducks than 29 miners lives.

Should More Heads Roll?

I’ve spent some time yesterday, in between editing pages for my first issue of Truth, reading though the report on Pike River.

It’s not pretty reading for anyone. Unsurprisingly Kate Wilkinson fell on her sword…the accident happened on her watch.

However I’m really surprised by the void that appears to exist between consent (1997) and then its opening in November 2008.

There’s lots about the greenie protests and the agreements with DOC, including the award and praise given by Chris Carter.

But what was the Labour Department doing between 1999 and 2008 and who was the Minister?

Margaret Wilson 1999 – 2004

Ruth Dyson 2005 -07

Trevor Mallard 2007 – 08

And now I see Labour accepting some blame? Hannah Lynch from Newsroom reports:

Labour leader David Shearer says his party is prepared to share the blame for the Pike River coal mining disaster after the Royal Commission of Inquiry found the mining company put production before safety and the former Department of Labour should have shut the mine down.
The commission’s report was released to the public this afternoon after being presented to the families of the 29 miners killed following a series of explosions in November 2010. Their bodies remain trapped in the mine.
“If there is any portion of blame towards us during our term in office we have to accept that,” Mr Shearer told reporters.
“We stand by the fact that if there was any fault during our term of office we would also have to acknowledge that as well.”

Will Trevor and Ruth resign too? Have they the courage that Kate Wilkinson and National have shown?

Some how I doubt it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Hacks Hired to Help

Labour is looking to the past in their review for the future:

The Labour Party has called on several friendly external advisers to help with a major review of its organisation, including US-based academic Rob Salmond and technology businessman Selwyn Pellett.

Labour leader David Shearer and President Moira Coatsworth set out the scope of a review of the party organisation and its processes yesterday – including its membership structure, list ranking process and party involvement in policy formulation.

Mr Salmond and Mr Pellett are both on an advisory group, called “critical friends,” which Ms Coatsworth said would provide critical advice and input to the review.

Mr Pellett, chief executive of Imarda and co-founder of Endace, has spoken at Labour conferences about economic reform and supported the party. However, he was critical of Labour before the 2008 election, saying then leader Phil Goff should step down.

Other “critical friends” included current MP Parekura Horomia, former MPs Margaret Wilson and Tim Barnett and former British Labour MP Bryan Gould.

Ahhh a corporate beneficiary, failed MPs, two academics, a pie eater….the prospects of any dynamic suggestions seems dim.

Ms Coatsworth said Labour’s membership was currently in the mid 50,000s but much of that was made up of affiliated union membership.

The review will be led by another team, who will consult and meet with members. That group includes current MP Nanaia Mahuta, former MP Rick Barker, Ruth Chapman and Mark Hutchinson.

Mr Horomia and Ms Mahuta are the only current caucus members with formal roles in the review.

Labour has nowhere near 50,000 members. I’d like to see the membership forms from them. This is nothing less than a fraud by counting affiliate memberships. Labour should move to get rid of affiliates, if they don;t then the government should as part of the electoral law review that always follows elections look at restricting donations and membership of politicals parties to natural persons only.

I just hope that Labour has put aside plenty of funds to fund Parekura Horomia and Nanaia Mahuta’s penchant for pies.

The party of ideas?

David Shearer has made his first speech.

In that speech he said he wants Labour to be a “party of ideas”.

Shearer said he was “humbled to be leader”, and wants Labour to be know as “a party of ideas”.

“I am a fresh face for Labour and I represent a fresh start for New Zealand,” he said.

Isn’t that what Simon Power said?

“Ideas matter. In politics ideas matter more than the political players, because those people will come and go but ideas endure.”

And ACT of course use the “party of ideas” line too.

More proof of the VRWC behind him? Perhaps Hooton wrote the speech too.

Then again it may just be more of the same old Clark style of politics because Margaret Wilson also wanted Labour to be the “party of ideas”.

Within the New Zealand political context, the Labour Party’s historic role has been to produce what is now fashionably called ‘conviction’ politics and politicians. It is the Party the people elect in times of crisis. It is the Party of ideas, of reform, and the Party that does not shirk the hard decisions. As such the Party attracts people of strong will, with definite ideas, and a determination to make a difference.

Ahhh, David Shearer, same old, same old.

Or did he nick the idea from the ALP and Kevin Rudd?

If in 10 years’ time we have not renewed our purpose and our compact with our membership, then we will have failed to maintain our place as the true party of ideas.

Silly me thinking that David Shearer was going to be a fresh face. Instead what we have is re-hashed talking points from old Labour, the ALP, Simon Power and the ACT party.

The Herald gets its wrong on Finlayson

It is not just cub reporters that make factual errors. Todays Herald Editorial has a shocker, and someone should have their feet held against a naked flame for having a go at Chris Finlayson. Either that or they should publish an apology.

The main value of leaving list selections completely to party insiders is that they may entice some people into Parliament who were not willing to face personal electorate contests. Attorney General Chris Finlayson springs to mind, as does Margaret Wilson in the previous government. Labour’s latest list shows no new name of that sort.

Chris is a good party man and has been for many years, probably exceeding 40 as he was a young nat in the seventies. Being such a good party man he took one for the team in both 2005 and 2008.

In 2005 he ran in Mana when it was still a safe Labour seat, and one of his fellow candidates had to jump in to stop some moron from the Labour side of the spectrum from hitting Chris. This would have been most distressing for a man who is a gentleman and is hard to image ever raising his fist in anger.

Chris then took another one for the team in 2008, when he ceded the Mana seat to the very electable Hekia Parata. Rather than dodging the campaign he moved to Rongatai, another unwinnable seat, where he ran against Annette King. At least in Rongatai no one tried to thump him.

Chris has shown his willingness to face another personal electorate contest in 2011, running again in Rongatai. His politics may not be this blogs politics, but that doesn’t mean this country’s biggest papers should be allowed a free hit on Chris when they are wrong.

Could it be 7 by-elections?

Matthew Hooton wrote in the NBR today (I had to creep up to the dairy at Bucklands Beach and bag a copy of NBR since my impoverishment at the hand of Fidelity Life) about the possibility of no less than six by-elections but he missed out Christchurch East, where it is widely thought that “Patsy” Dalziel is off overseas shortly.

Mana MP Winnie Laban’s Labour colleagues owe her a big bouquet of teuila, heilala and tagimoucia – first to congratulate her for being appointed assistant vice-chancellor (Pasifika) at Victoria University but second because of the opportunity she’s created to take the fight to National on strong Labour ground.

Labour’s top strategists understand that byelections on home turf can only help improve the party’s odds of success for 2011, which have slowly been creeping upward since Phil Goff finally manned up to deal to Chris Carter.

Yes, byelections can be unpredictable – but if you’re an opposition, struggling against a popular incumbent, unpredictability is a godsend.

Nothing else gives an opposition such profile to highlight a government’s faults, discover a few more, and urge voters to send a message to Wellington – all without anyone worrying their votes might actually change the government.

Right now Matthew Hooton is spot on. Multiple by-elections give Phil Goff the much needed bolster with which to secure a breach in the government’s defences and at the same time strengthen caucus into a true Phil Goff led labour Party rather than him having to put up with the cast offs of Helen Clark.

Ironically Phil Goff paved the way with his inspired rigging of the selection in Mt Albert and parachuting in David Shearer. It worked then and it should work now as Labour looks to expend $500k per by-election of public monies in order to rejuvenate caucus before the election.

Matthew Hooton’s suggested by-elections now include Manukau East where good mate of George Hawkins is past his use-by date.

Labour has an even broader opportunity. In Andrew Little – also boss of the powerful Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, the country’s largest – Labour has as its president The Great Negotiator.

If Mr Little puts Labour’s 2011 effort ahead of his own post-election leadership ambitions, it is not beyond him to engineer at least three other byelections, all in safe Labour seats, for the same day as Mana.

It’s an opportunity for national publicity – all on Labour themes – that it simply can’t afford to forgo.

In West Auckland, Mr Little could arrange for Mr Carter’s disciplinary action to be dropped in exchange for him resigning as MP for Te Atatu.

In Christchurch, Jim Anderton could be asked to step aside from Wigram, ahead of his election as mayor of Christchurch.

Likewise, in South Auckland, George Hawkins could leave early from Manurewa to concentrate on local politics.

Ditto perhaps Ross Robertson in Manukau East.

Or Pete Hodgson in Dunedin North.

Pete Hodgson is way past sensible to stay on, he is still suffering from Key Derangement Syndrome and has taken to posting outrageous lies on Red Alert or silly polls. He clearly is no longer the great and trusted strategist and he has also stated that he won’t be returning next election. Phil Goff may as well ask the old duffer to shuffle off too.

Coincidentally today I banged in to old Labour stalwart and historian Dr. Michael Bassett and so I took the opportunity to grab his take on the Labour Party today. He provided me with an insight that I had previously not noticed, that of the influence of the “Ex-Presidents Club”that loyally got Helen Clark to the position she held. The “Ex-Presidents Club” is still largely intact, now only missing Margaret Wilson. Jim Anderton, Maryan Street and Ruth Dyson are all in parliament and all in the past were heavily involved in stacking LECs and floor votes in favour of Clarkists. It was Bassett’s contention that little has changed amongst this group especially Street and Dyson, indeed there are very strong ru8mour that Street and Dyson see them selves as the “dream team” leadership option within Labour and that they are sitting there actively tripping up Phil Goff as he seeks to distance his party from the apparatchiks of the Clark years. Dyson was involved in a failed attempt to get Chris Carter selected when the vote was 4 v 3 against selecting him. It was Michael Bassett that nixed her schemes to amend the Labour Party constitution in order to get Carter in earlier.

Phil Goff must grasp the nettle and use this opportunity to remake the Labour Party and to refresh caucus and take the fight to National in ways that they have not even contemplated in the master plan of trying to secure a second term.

It is game on for next year for sure.

The links to Helen getting stronger

It has always been thought that the architect behind the destablisation of Phil Goff by Chris Carter has been Helen Clark. It should surprise no-one that Clark is back in New Zealand this week.

The puzzle pieces are falling into place, one of which is the appointment by Chris Carter of Claudia Elliott to represent him.

Back in December 2004 NBR’s Jock Anderson wrote an article about Claudia Elliot.

Outgoing Attorney-General Margaret Wilson rewarded her Rotorua chum Jan Walker’s life-long Labour Party loyalty by making her a judge.Miss Walker 58, whose appointment some lawyers greeted with gasps of disbelief, will sit as a district and family court judge in Waitakere.

Despite her age, if she plays her cards right, she could join the Supreme Court.

Ms Wilson’s media statement on her appointment made no reference to Miss Walker’s life-long Labour commitment.

A Labour-appointed chairwoman of the former Casino Control Authority, Miss Walker shares a legal partnership with fellow party activist and feminist Claudia Elliott, chairwoman of the literature and film review board.

Apart from being outed in a recent Investigate magazine as a lesbian, the unmarried Miss Walker will be remembered as an unpopular candidate who in a 1985 by-election lost Labour’s 57-year domination of the Timaru seat to National.

Steeped in Labour party politics from her 1964 Canterbury university days Miss Walker is a staunch left-winger and hard-line party activist who has held influential party branch positions wherever she has worked, including Tauranga and Rotorua.

In Rotorua Miss Walker’s firm has strong links to Maori lawyer John Chadwick, whose Labour MP wife, Steve Chadwick, is heavily involved in women’s issues and is the stern political face of anti-smoking law.

Miss Walker is a former Rotorua city councillor and Maori affairs department solicitor and a member of the Rotorua legal aid committee, legal aid review authority and the legal aid review panel.

At a select committee hearing in 2000 as public-funded legal aid spiralled out of control, former National justice minister Tony Ryall dismissed claims by Miss Walker and Ms Elliott that National’s Legal Services Bill was “undemocratic and based on a right-wing ideology.”

Last year Miss Walker was at the centre of conflict of interest claims investigated by National’s Sandra Goudie on behalf of Whitianga man Martin Bowers, who was refused legal aid.

Miss Walker was a lawyer for one of the parties in Mr Bower’s case.

She was also part of a pool of specialised advisers who the Legal Services Agency used for advice on legal aid matters.

Justice Minister Phil Goff said Miss Walker did not advise on the Bower case; nor, as a member of the legal aid review panel, was she assigned to review Mr Bower’s legal aid application.

Mr Goff said it was unlikely Miss Walker had a conflict of interest.

The tentacles and machination of Clark and Wilson are very long indeed. She’s not just a friend, as Phil Goff claims, she’s one of the finest legal minds of the Clark-Wilson regime.

Stuff also had an article in February 2005.

A lawyer with aspirations of presiding on the bench would be well advised to firstly set up in legal practice on Pukaki Street.

Rotorua lawyer Jan Walker was recently sworn in as a family court judge becoming the third legal representative from the street in recent years to be elevated to judge’s chambers following the appointments of Louis Bidois and Denise Clark.

Attorney General Margaret Wilson and a coterie of judges from around the country were present at the Rotorua Courthouse for the swearing in which followed a wero and powhiri.

Judge Walker has the distinction of being the first woman to practice law in Palmerston North and also worked in both Tauranga and Wellington before moving to Rotorua in 1979. She initially worked as a staff solicitor for the Department of Maori Affairs and became a sole practitioner in 1986. Three years later she joined forces with Claudia Elliott though the partnership had an inauspicious beginning.

“We had a burglary two days after we opened the offices,” she recalled.

Judge Phil Cooper has no doubt that the country’s 41st and newest family court judge will adapt well to her new role.

“You have a reputation for legal acumen, hard work, common sense and a down to earth approach which will hold you in good stead.”

Judge Walker said she hoped her new position in Albany would not prevent her from following one general life-long principle.

“I try to learn something different and do something new every day,” she said.

All the favours are now being called in to make sure Phil Goff appears as inept as possible. So far none of what Chris Carter said in his ill-fated memo to repeaters has been wrong. Quite the contrary, it is becoming reality.