The corruption of politics in New Zealand

Bryce Edwards has been compiling a daily political collation and aggregation of political and topical news stories in election year.

He adds an editorial component at the beginning and yesterday’s was a real doozy.

As I mentioned yesterday, allegations about political finance, corruption and scandal are now the key electoral weapon of modern New Zealand politics. The political rhetoric about corruption, political funding, misuse of taxpayer funds, and personal political behavior are now one of the most salient forms of electioneering in what is now a permanent campaign. As with rhetoric around more perennial issues such as law and order, parties and politicians now trade heavily on claims, accusations and complaints relating to these issues. Yet New Zealand politics has not traditionally been characterised by political finance, corruption and scandals. So why has this type of negative campaigning suddenly become so central to New Zealand politics? Quite simply, problematic issues of political finance and political corruption have actually existed for a long time in New Zealand politics but have only recently become visible due to a variety of factors relating to the shift to a proportion representation electoral system, the breakdown of the party system and ‘cartel’, and ideological convergence in the party system. Most significantly, the increasing visibility of apparent political finance and political corruption is due to the sudden propensity of political parties to use such allegations as a rhetorical weapon against opponents, creating an escalating battle over political integrity in which words such as ‘corrupt’ and ‘corruption’ are increasingly used. I’ll be explaining all of this in a paper I’m giving at the Political Rhetoric conference being held at Parliament over the next couple of days (and blogging it in the near future).

I wish I had known earlier about the Political Rhetoric conference as I would have loved to have gone to listen to Bryce talk about the growing political corruption we are seeing.

I disagree with Bryce that the allegations are rhetorical weapons. That would only be true of the allegations had no substance. These allegations however now have real substance with the Labour party in particular creating a legacy of regularly and willfully breaking electoral laws. Worse still though is Labour’s propensity to blame others, and when finally caught and embarrassed they resort to retrospective legislation to shamefully right that which was wrong.

No party is squeaky clean, but in the abscence of any action by the Police or the parliament to clean it up it has been left up to bloggers in the main to draw attention to the issues with the few tools available to them, the OIA, complaints to the Speaker and Electoral Commission.

Parliament and the vested interests have shown a distinct unwillingness to address the issues and until they do politicians and parties can suffer the ignominy of constantly being caught, outed and castigated as cheats, liars and corrupt. Labour are yet to show any contrition for their acts of willful disregard of the rules.

If parties and politicians cannot follow the laws that they write and pass then we really can’t trust them to reform anything. We have some serious constitutional issues before us with a referendum on the future of MMP and the politicians that say “trust us” to reform MMP are the very same politicians breaking electoral law.

It is high time for us to mimic Australia and establish a Independent Commission against Corruption so that the politicians, parties and bureaucrats can truly be held to account.


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • Ali

    Interesting post with food for thought, but Australia is disgustingly corrupt, incredibly so at the local body level where you get things like building contracts going to your cousin at a kickback rate etc. So the idea of a Australian styled commission in NZ is terrifying.

  • Cam, I think you’ve misread Bryce’s comment.
    He’s not, as you suggest, pointing to ACTUAL “grow­ing polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion we are seeing.”

    As I read him, Bryce highlighted the increased use of allegations of corruption in what passes for political debate, referring to the “the sud­den propen­sity of polit­i­cal par­ties to use such alle­ga­tions as a rhetor­i­cal weapon against oppo­nents, cre­at­ing an esca­lat­ing bat­tle over polit­i­cal integrity in which words such as ‘cor­rupt’ and ‘cor­rup­tion’ are increas­ingly used.”

    I agree with him. In my observation the rash of ‘corruption’ allegations appeared to enter NZ political currency during the National Party’s NINE desolate years in Opposition, in their increasingly desperate and fevered attempts to scratch and claw at the (oh dear, competent and popular for the most part) Helen Clark Labour government.

    It was the Nats who, having cosied up to Labour policy in the finest traditions of vacuous ‘Me-too’ (Labour-lite, remember?) also tried repeatedly to fling allegations of ‘sleaze’ at the government of the day. Desperate, craven tactics … but I’m not calling them corrupt.

    Of course John Key’s inoffensive neighbour and blank slate persona was a factor too. He didn’t look like a politician. It worked for him. The country wanted a breath of fresh air, Labour was tired and out of ideas … etc… — OK, off topic.

    I know others will see it differently, and that’s to be expected.

    And sorry mate, but I laughed out loud at your comment:
    “in the abs­cence of any action by the Police or the par­lia­ment to clean it up it has been left up to blog­gers in the main to draw atten­tion to the issues”

    Left up to bloggers? You must be joking! They’re often on the lightest of hair triggers to without substance allege conflict of interest and ‘corruption!’ … thrashing about and foaming at the mouth … and the last to withdraw or correct their allegations.

    Your (forgive me) apparent fixation with what you see as the Labour Party’s ‘legacy of reg­u­larly and will­fully break­ing elec­toral laws’ looks a wittle bit one-eyed. Of course, the National Party would *never* do anything like that, eh, Cam? (How’s your membership application going, by the way?)

    Corruption, like the poor, will always be with us, and of course it deserves our contempt and sanction in every case. But there’s a ‘boy crying wolf’ element to the cynical smears and ad hominem attacks which have become, sadly, as Bryce points out, an increasing factor in political discourse.

    – Peter

    • Peter, there is corruption in New Zealand politics, we have even had one politician convicted of corruption, a Labour politician, Philip Field. Labour has repeatedly broken electoral alws, going back to 2005 when they stole $840,000 of taxpayers money funding their election campaign through parliamentary services. When caught the General Secretary of the party at the time, mike Smith, promised to account for it on their donation returns, then reneged, then lied about it. The Auditor-general then picked it up and ordered them to repay it. Then to spite us all labour retrospectively validated the legislation to make what they did legal.

      National aren’t squeaky either, they bollocksed up their GST returns. However Labour has repeatedly broken the law. A law, I might add that has been there since 1977. It costs nothing to ad an authorisation, why can’t the do it? Why can’t they have the authorisation on every single publication to make sure?

      I’ll tell you why because they are trying to re-do the $840,000 theft once again. they are trying to fund their election campaign out of parliamentary services and to have an authorisation on it shows quite clearly that the piece is election material rather than constituent material.

    • Kimbo

      “In my obser­va­tion the rash of ‘cor­rup­tion’ alle­ga­tions appeared to enter NZ polit­i­cal cur­rency dur­ing the National Party’s NINE des­o­late years in Oppo­si­tion, in their increas­ingly des­per­ate and fevered attempts to scratch and claw at the (oh dear, com­pe­tent and pop­u­lar for the most part) Helen Clark Labour government”.

      Then your observation is wrong. It actually began to increase in about the mid-1990s, when Helen Clark, assuming the mantle of “being above the political fray” started using Trevor Mallard as her hatchet man. Remember such notable highlights as whether Jenny Shipley did or didn’t have dinner with Saatchi & Saatchi boss Kevin Roberts in 1999, criticism of Denis Marshall’s honourable decision not to resign immediately over the Cave Creek disaster, and the general under-current that National’s continuation of market reforms were policies purchased by corporate concerns.

      National died the death of a thousand cuts in 1999, and Clark suffered a similar fate in 2008. Mind you, Field, Benson-Pope, and Chris Carter simply show the calibre of people attracted to Labour during the Clark-Mallard tenure. But Mallard, more than anyone else in modern New Zealand political history, is responsible for dragging our Parliament into the sewer.

      Even Labour’s supposed political martyr Colin Moyle was a casualty that arose as a direct result of Labour foolishly and falsely accused Muldoon of corruption in the House that fateful night in 1976. Face it, Peter, the entire left wing political framework (bosses exploiting workers) is a giant corruption conspiracy! Of course Labour revert to that message when the pressure is on, and they are desperate, and have no traction with their policies among the electorate.

      • Kimbo, you say (hyperbolically, in my view):
        But Mal­lard, more than any­one else in mod­ern New Zealand polit­i­cal his­tory, is respon­si­ble for drag­ging our Par­lia­ment into the sewer.

        With respect, I think you are giving Trevor Mallard FAR too much credit.

        Mallard’s performance absolutely pales in comparison to Jim Bolger’s malevolent bagman/knee-capper Bill (now Sir William) Birch.
        To watch Birch in action (as I did) snarling across the House ‘You’re finished! You’ve lost! You’re history … ‘ with such manic intensity at members of the imploded 4th Labour government prior to the election that proved him right, was unsettling. It was a display of such finely-honed political malice and psychological warfare. Behind the scenes, he was equally brutal, perhaps worse. Personally, from my dealings with him as a press gallery journalist, I came to see Bill Birch as the Darth Vader of NZ politics. (Mallard is a pussycat, comparatively speaking.)

        Colin Moyle? Good heavens Kimbo, if you remember that, I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned the Marginal Lands Board loans affair …

        During the Muldoon era, the first political scandals of a financial nature also emerged. I remember the Fitzgerald Loans Affair back in 1980 where it was alleged that Lands Minister Duncan McIntyre and another Cabinet colleague Venn Young had applied undue pressure on the Marginal Lands Board to provide finance to McIntyre’s daughter and son-in-law Audrey and Jim Fitzgerald. The allegations of impropriety were dismissed by the ensuing Royal Commission but McIntyre’s and Young’s actions were deemed ‘unwise’. This scandal opened the way for all other political/financial scandals to come including the Maori Loans Board affair (raised by Winston Peters in 1986) and up to almost the present day when Peters himself was accused of not disclosing campaign funding from millionaire Owen Glenn.

        from Chris Ford’s‘A Brief History Of Political Scandal In New Zealand’

        You say: “Of course Labour revert to that mes­sage when the pres­sure is on, and they are des­per­ate, and have no trac­tion with their poli­cies among the electorate.

        Gee, to me that sounds just like the Nats when it was their turn in Opposition… or actually any Opposition party … until, you know, they unseat the government. It happens, eventually. Nothing surer.

        – Peter

        • Kimbo

          I’m unable to recall Birch making accusations of corruption against his opponents as a regular political MO (which I thought was your point), and as you have given no examples, I’d conclude your citing of him is irrelevant.

          Yes, I did consider mentioning the Marginal Lands Board loans affair, but as the matter happened when Labour was in opposition, I’m struggling to see how it proves your point.

          What was it again, Peter?! That accusations of corruption got worse courtesy of National since 1999? You’ve ignored the examples I gave, gave another (Birch) that is irrelevant, and distracted attention to the 1980s.

          Do you have any facts to support your assertion that, “In my obser­va­tion the rash of ‘cor­rup­tion’ alle­ga­tions appeared to enter NZ polit­i­cal cur­rency dur­ing the National Party’s NINE des­o­late years in Oppo­si­tion”. You’ve had four goes at posting so far, Peter, and I believe someone with your journalistic background knows the importance of leading front and centre with facts to support an assertion. Got any?!

  • Cam, I’m not questioning the existence of corruption in NZ Politics. (Er, I did say it “will always be with us.”)

    National and Labour both have a demonstrated track record of incidents of electoral malfeasance. Other parties too, yeah, sure.

    Unlike you and your Anti-MMP Vote for Change brethren (geddit?) harkening for the good old days of FPP, I remember the ‘corrupt’ old boys club/duopoly that was the Electoral Boundaries Commission … which saw obscene gerrymandering normalised — e.g. Bruce Beetham’s Marton (he had been Mayor) cut out of his Rangitikei electorate. Clever? Well, no, because such obvious ‘corruption’ strengthened the calls for proportional representation.

    Anti-democratic actions are the most corrupt in my opinion. Ask the Egyptians, Libyans and Syrians.

    “National aren’t squeaky [clean]”? Gee, you don’t say.
    Your selective ‘outrage’ about flyers without authorisation reminds me of the Brethren church’s, let’s face it, apparently ‘corruptly’ co-ordinated $1million ‘liaison’ with Don Brash’s National Party. Oops.

    Bryce’s article point (rightly) to the fact that “prob­lem­atic issues of polit­i­cal finance and polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion have actu­ally existed for a long time in New Zealand pol­i­tics but have only recently become vis­i­ble …”

    Visible? Or soup of the day? MPs and political parties (of every stripe) have always ‘abused’ taxpayer funded facilities to try to get re-elected. That’s not at issue. What’s happened is, as Bryce has said, the allegations of ‘corruption’ have increasingly become a weapon of choice.

    Instead of partaking in a competition of ideas, people involved in political debate increasingly and lazily stoop to casting aspersions on their opponents’ character. (You do this every time you accuse someone with whom you disagree — or that you just oppose — of being a ‘liar’ or ‘idiot’ or ‘thief’.)


    – Peter

    • The difference between the Brethren flyers and labours is twofold. Firstly they had an authorisation on them, that is how everyone knew they were Brethren, They complied with the law. The second thing is that they used their own money for them, Labour instead uses our money.

      The Brethren did nothing wrong, illegal or even immoral. Labour stole $840,000 then they passed retrospective legislation to prevent a High Court challenge to their theft (Darnton v. Clark) and then set about doing it all over again.

      Yes it has become more visibile. You see the Gallery too has a vested interest. They can’t and won’t pursue politicians because they go hand in glove with them. It is a symbiotic relationship of vested interests. If you don;t think that then have a good look at the nice cosy rules surrounding the Gallery, who can join, who has access and what they can and can’t report.

      It has become more visible because there are mavericks outside of the accepted boundaries, the beltway if you will, who refuse to bow before the rules the vested interests have placed on them.

    • Oops. Sloppy of me. Bruce Beetham was a former Mayor of Hamilton, not Marton. He was a resident (and ‘something of a hero’) of Marton, according to Margaret Hayward writing in New Zealand votes: the general election of 2002 [Link] It was his political base.
      – Peter

  • Cam, you say:
    “You see the Gallery too has a vested inter­est. They can’t and won’t pur­sue politi­cians because they go hand in glove with them. It is a sym­bi­otic rela­tion­ship of vested inter­ests. If you don;t think that then have a good look at the nice cosy rules sur­round­ing the Gallery, who can join, who has access and what they can and can’t report.

    How curious.
    I never felt constrained by any such imaginary ‘nice cosy rules’ when I worked in the Parliamentary press gallery. To what ‘rules’ are you referring …?
    Oh, no! Cam. Is that another ‘club’ that won’t let you in? Do you think your (cough) ‘maverick’ blog makes you a news media organisation?

    My dear boy, your railing against ‘vested interests’ … while acting as a mouthpiece/toady/apologist/rottweiler for the Nats doesn’t exactly mesh. I recall you recently basking in the warm glow of praise for ‘doing God’s work’ at the Party conference last weekend … Oh yes, here it is:

    ▪ There will be a lot of gloat­ing at how inept Labour are, and what a dick­head their cam­paign man­ager is, and how Phil Goff is use­less, with­out acknowl­edg­ing who it was that made them look inept, a dick­head and use­less. [0.5 points]

    Cor­rect, though there were a few pri­vate chats that took place and one sur­pris­ing com­ments about “doing God’s work” from an unlikely cab­i­net min­is­ter, who on reflec­tion is still lead­ing my politi­cian of the week tally.

    Well, how sweet is that? (But still not accepted as a member of the Party? Hmmm. What’s wrong with this picture?):

    As for gallery journalists not ‘pursuing politicians’ on such issues, what are you talking about? Of course they do.
    Without even thinking about it hard I remember breaking a news story based on my interview with Roger Douglas in which he admitted that corporate donors had given money directly to him … to distribute ‘as he saw fit’ to help supportive Labour MPs get re-elected in 1987 (rather than donating these funds to the Party).

    As I recall, Douglas saw nothing wrong with that ‘questionable’ arrangement. I sure as hell did. My job (as a political reporter) was to ask him questions about that — keeping a straight face and the tape recorder running through our one-to-one interview — then write a ‘hellfire and damnation’ story for Morning Report … which was then picked up by other media … and Douglas and Labour were ‘pursued’ by the Gallery alright, don’t you worry.

    Sure, I sympathise with your impotent feelings about being ‘outside the beltway’, but, Cam, seriously, if you want to be a member of the Press Gallery, the pathway is to get some journalism training, then get a job with a news media organisation, and get an assignment to their Parliamentary bureau … donchathink?
    It’s a fun place to work.

    – Peter

  • Rufus

    I call Peter a troll.

    • I don’t

    • Charming, Rufus. That’s not exactly a withering argument.
      Are my comments really that off-topic or inflammatory?

      As Kim Hill said: ‘Which is it? Do you say I’m wrong? Or just that you don’t like me saying it?’


      PS My mum always told me to be nice to the neighbours.

  • kevin

    I think it best to keep political history critical comment at least in this decade. It was another world back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s even. Almost not relevant. I mean, ‘the Muldoon era’… ;-O

  • I’m jus’ shootin’ the breeze Kimbo … not really trying to ‘prove points’ — and, with respect, certainly not the ones you attempt to put in my mouth. (‘… four goes at posting so far…’ ? Oh, you sweet thing.)

    Rather than alleging ‘corruption allegations’ (sigh), I mentioned my personal recollections of Bill Birch’s somewhat reptilian influence (and the disturbance he caused in The Force) purely in response to your own fact-free assertion: “Mallard, more than anyone else in modern New Zealand political history, is responsible for dragging our Parliament into the sewer.”

    Meh. That ‘singled-handed’ claim was just too broad and preposterous to ignore, in my view. As I said, you give him far too much credit.

    I wanted to (conversationally) demonstrate things could perhaps be said to be at a fairly low ebb well before Trevor’s, er… ascendancy. Remember Murray McCully resigning as Tourism minister in early 1999 over what the Auditor-General described as $340,000 in ‘unlawful’ payments to Messrs. Mogridge and Wall? Some observers might say THAT was a corrupt act of a dying government. (Perhaps Trevor even described it as such?) Perhaps he was right. Jenny Shipley certainly wasn’t amused … yet here we are.

    We can disagree, you and I, about when “allegations of corruption” became more commonplace — whatever that really means. (You say tomato, and I say …)

    Bryce’s thesis, which Cameron bounced off, relates am increase to the introduction of MMP, if I read him correctly. That was 1996, but debate, controversy, fear-mongering and rat-swallowing machinations had revolved since the early-mid 1980s.

    Kevin, bless him, seems to think such backward glances don’t offer us much value. “It was another world back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s even. Almost not relevant…”

    Perhaps he’s right. (Your mention of Colin Moyle did surprise me.) Good times.

    But again, I think among the most dangerous words in the English language are:

    “It’s different this time…”

    – Peter

    • Kimbo

      Oh. OK. You are a time waster, who comes waltzing in picking an argument: – “Cam, I think you’ve mis­read Bryce’s com­ment. He’s not, as you sug­gest, point­ing to ACTUAL “grow­ing polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion we are seeing.” As I read him, Bryce high­lighted the increased use of alle­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion…”

      spiced with a provocation: – “In my obser­va­tion the rash of ‘cor­rup­tion’ alle­ga­tions appeared to enter NZ polit­i­cal cur­rency dur­ing the National Party’s NINE des­o­late years in Oppo­si­tion”

      Who then moves goal posts: – “Rather than alleg­ing ‘cor­rup­tion alle­ga­tions’ (sigh), I men­tioned my per­sonal rec­ol­lec­tions of Bill Birch’s some­what rep­til­ian influ­ence”

      Ignoring the fact that my comments re Mallard specifically related to his propensity to use allegations of corruption as a primary MO.

      Who, when taken to task, resorts to false piety: -“Sure, I sym­pa­thise with your impo­tent feel­ings about being ‘out­side the belt­way’”

      and false bonhomie: – “And sorry mate”, “My dear boy”, and “Oh, you sweet thing”

      and then obfuscates when asked to stump up with some facts, by saying that the issue with which you picked a debate is a matter over which “We can dis­agree, you and I, about when “alle­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion” became more com­mon­place — what­ever that really means. (You say tomato, and I say …)”. Yeah, already knew that. so you’ve added nothing.

      All rather disappointing as I was hoping for a bit more intellectual stimulation. Still, that pretty much makes you a typical leftie shit-stirrer bringing a tooth pick to a gun fight.

      That’s a cue for you, Peter, to run either the “offended play” , eg., “Charm­ing, Rufus. That’s not exactly a with­er­ing argu­ment. Are my com­ments really that off-topic or inflammatory?”,

      or the devil-may-care insouciance card, “I’m jus’ shootin’ the breeze”,

      or the dispenser of wisdom to us plebs who chose to take you to task, e.g., “PS My mum always told me to be nice to the neighbours”.

      You get your thrills and satisfy your OCD proclivities out of posting your way, Peter, and I get mine. Been a pleasure slicing and dicing.

  • Wow, Kimbo. A whole post about … my style of posting (groan). That’s boring.

    “OCD proclivities”? Gee, jump to conclusions much?

    Actually, I didn’t think I was ‘picking an argument’ with Cam at all — just part of a discussion, sharing my differing views and thoughts around the topic. I don’t imagine he’s offended, so … What? Too much dissent for *your* sensitivities?

    You say: “Ignoring the fact that my comments re Mallard specifically related to his propensity to use allegations of corruption as a primary MO.”

    Oh really? No, I did not get that from your (exaggerated, extreme, almost hysterical — but I’m sure, sincerely-spoken) demonisation of Trevor Mallard as “more than any one else in modern New Zealand political history […] responsible for dragging our Parliament into the sewer.”

    Kimbo, can you hear yourself? Hello?

    And his “primary MO”? … What are you? A special prosecutor with the DA’s office?

    Cue the “offended play”? Who, me? Pfah! (What does that even mean?)

    Thanks for the free psycho-analysis. Insult me some more, if it makes you feel more certain of yourself.

    – Peter

    PS Are you in Auckland? I’m happy to meet for coffee and chat.

  • Kimbo

    “PS Are you in Auck­land? I’m happy to meet for cof­fee and chat”.

    Yep. but to discourse with you the price is beers, and lots of ’em, and you’re paying!

  • Just very briefly: My argument is not dealing so much with the question of whether politics and politicians have become more corrupt and inclined to break electoral rules (although I do tend to think this is indeed the case), it’s more about the fact that the politicians spend a lot more time making allegations about each other. Essentially this is a modern part of party political competition. Prior to the late 1990s, MPs and parties didn’t tend to make these allegations against each other. There was in effect a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between Labour and National not to use the rhetoric of corruption etc or else a dangerous war would begin in which all MPs would lose. In my opinion, Labour “pushed the nuclear button” in 1999 when it campaigned against the National Government’s sleaze and public sector corruption. From this point onwards, all bets were off and all parties started trading allegations of impropriety, escalating to the point of the 2005 general election in which the scandals of the Exclusive Brethren and Labour’s taxpayer-funded ‘credit card’ advertising became the subject of many accusations, leading to the Electoral Finance Act etc. So now that the war of words has started, and the intense focus on the finances and rule following of opponents is constant, it’s not about to finish. This could be a good or bad thing depending on your point of view.

    • Hello Bryce. Thanks for your input.

      Yeah, if I can say this without sounding like a prat, that’s how I read your original piece, as noted in my first comment … viz:

      Cam, I think you’ve mis­read Bryce’s com­ment. He’s not, as you sug­gest, point­ing to ACTUAL “grow­ing polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion we are seeing.” As I read him, Bryce high­lighted the increased use of alle­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion …

      Likewise, your (somewhat fanciful) suggestion that “Labour pushed the nuclear button in 1999” coincides neatly [doesn’t it, Kimbo?] with the start of the Labour-led government 1999-2008 … and nine years of (increasingly frantic) National Opposition to which I referred…

      … In my obser­va­tion the rash of ‘cor­rup­tion’ alle­ga­tions appeared to enter NZ polit­i­cal cur­rency dur­ing the National Party’s NINE des­o­late years in Oppo­si­tion…

      So we agree, sort of, on timing too. (Not that I’m trying to ‘prove a point’. Ahem.)

      Q: Was the Shipley government “cor­rupt, […] feath­er­ing their own nest, or that of their mates for pri­vate gain”…. as Kimbo suggests was the narrative?

      I don’t think it was unusually so. Corruption and sleaze (jobs for the boys) has always been with us. The Murray McCully Tourism Board $340k ‘unlawful’ pay-off scandal of early 1999 which I cited, MIGHT be seen as a canary-like indicator of what Bryce called ‘the National Government’s sleaze and pub­lic sec­tor cor­rup­tion’. Kimbo is dead right about the narrative, IMO, but not necessarily its source.

      What should the Labour Opposition have done in response to the perception of sleaze? Ignore it? Stick to the [alleged] ‘gentlemen’s agreement’? … Hmmm. Nope.

      Labour, wanting to win, HAD to campaign using cards they’d been dealt.

      Later, the National Opposition’s Empire Strikes Back play {snort} was … paintergate (!) and an unceasing nasty smear campaign against Helen Clark, the person. Unimpressive. Result: Nine years in Opposition.

      They say Oppositions don’t win, Governments lose. Yep. All administrations reach their use by date.

      I hope no-one thinks I am suggesting sleaze and corruption are purely Tory phenomena. I have great sympathy with Kimbo’s even-handed comment “Has been down­hill ever since – cour­tesy of both Labour and National” … when applied to the political rhetoric.

      Politics, sadly, has always been a venal business.


      • Kimbo

        “What should the Labour Oppo­si­tion have done in response to the per­cep­tion of sleaze?”

        You write as if they were passive in the matter. The reality is they were the ones, particularly Mallard, primarily formenting the perception. IMHO.

  • Kimbo

    “In my opin­ion, Labour “pushed the nuclear but­ton” in 1999 when it cam­paigned against the National Government’s sleaze and pub­lic sec­tor cor­rup­tion. From this point onwards, all bets were off…”

    Thanks, Bryce. Yep, that is definitely how I remember it. Before then allegations of corruption were mainly confined to the sideshow of Winston Peters.

    However, in 1999 lots of stuff was swirling around in the lead up to that election courtesy of Labour – “excessive” salaries for CEO of SOEs, John Hawkesby’s severance pay out, etc, with the underlying narrative that the Shipley government was corrupt, and they are feathering their own nest, or that of their mates for private gain.

    Clark had by that stage seen off the remnants of the Douglas/Prebble/Bassett faction, and was intent on re-branding Labour as having recanted the false doctrines of Rogernomics.

    Has been downhill ever since – courtesy of both Labour and National.

  • Rufus

    “withering argument” – what, unlike yours? XD

    We’re just “shooting the breeze”, right?

    OK. Fair enough. You’re not a troll.

    Kimbo’s post re: “timewaster” sums my thoughts up nicely though, darling.

    But each to their own, I guess. And since this is Whale’s cave, and he obviously doesn’t mind you, I’ll acquiesce.

    Still – your comparing Labour’s THEFT with the Brethren’s actions, which were perfectly withing the legal framework, is devious and unfair.


  • @Kimbo: Labour “passive in the matter“? No, that’s not my intended meaning …

    As I remember it, Labour was *fiercely hungry* to win in 1999 (as Opposition parties often are) and energetically latched onto National’s sleaze ‘perception’ problems as part of its campaign. It seems to me that we and Bryce agree those issues formed part of the zeitgeist.

    … And there was evidence. Crikey, in the McCully case, the Auditor General lobbed a grenade into the pre-election mix, calling McCully’s $340,000 pay-off to Bolger’s ex spin doctor Michael Wall and colleague Bryan Mogridge ‘unlawful’.

    But that’s not to say allegations of sleaze made up the whole of Labour’s election campaign in 1999. (You’re not suggesting that are you? That seems untenable.)
    Didn’t Labour present a picture to the electorate of a viable, more socially compassionate ‘alternative government’, appealing to a broad (centrist) constituency?

    There was an election, people voted. The National Party lost. (Arithmetic can be a real bitch, sometimes.) Nine years in Opposition.

    As I said, personally I didn’t regard the Shipley govt as particularly more craven or corrupt than average. Likewise, I don’t think Trevor Mallard is the devil incarnate. Does that make my comments unwelcome here?

    – Peter

  • Pingback: Just the sort of endorsement a political journalist doesn’t need | The Paepae()