Thursday, 22 March 2012

Bryan Gould: Tougher approach hints this term is Key's last
From the NZ Herald 22 March 201235
As a former politician, I have often lamented the journalistic tendency to treat politics as a matter of personalities rather than policies. But there are times when political personalities - and their interaction - can provide an insight into what is really happening.
Just four months into his second term, it is already apparent that the Prime Minister is a very different John Key from the one we learned to know and (at least for some) love in his first term. The relaxed and amiable friend to everyone has - as John Armstrong has pointed out - somehow transmogrified into a tougher and much less accommodating political leader. The whole tone of the Government's approach is now very different.
The John Key of the first term showed a remarkably accurate sensitivity to popular opinion. He avoided controversy wherever possible and built an enviable popularity by unerringly identifying where the political centre of gravity on any given issue could be located.
Today, however, we see a different attitude from the Prime Minister. He is obviously now committed to an agenda that is increasingly likely to encounter opposition and controversy.
He seems determined to pursue that agenda - for example, on asset sales - whatever public opinion may have to say.
If the prime ministerial smile was the defining image of his first term, the second seems destined to be characterised by the prime ministerial shrug - a shrug that seems to say that he is determined to do what he wants, whether popular or not.
What explains this sudden and apparently inexplicable change?
What is now clear is that the goal of the first term was simply to win the 2011 election. The key to achieving that goal was to be the Prime Minister's personal popularity - particularly with the politically uncommitted.
That goal having been achieved, a quite different goal has now been identified. A Prime Minister who was criticised in his first term for being lightweight and not making a difference seems now to have set himself the task of making his mark and leaving a political legacy.
The second term, it seems, will be used to push through an agenda of change which may commend itself less - or not at all - to the uncommitted, but which will deliver to the Prime Minister's own closest supporters much of what they elected him to do.
It is, in its own way, quite refreshing to see a politician who sees the exercise of power, not as an end in itself, but as the means by which real change is to be brought about.
But the Prime Minister's change of focus warrants scrutiny on other grounds as well.
If his goal is to use power now rather than merely prolong it, that inevitably suggests that he does not see his premiership extending beyond the next election. He has given hints in the past that he does not see himself devoting the rest of his life to politics; his apparent determination to go for broke now is the best evidence we have that he sees two terms as Prime Minister as being quite enough.
That, in turn, means that picking up the pieces after the next election - whatever the outcome - is likely to be the responsibility of someone else.
And that brings into focus the second major piece of evidence to support the proposition that we might be looking, in 2014, at a post-Key era - the likelihood that a similar thought seems to have occurred to some of those who might see themselves as being in with a chance of succeeding John Key, when the time comes, as party leader.
The most obvious contender might seem to be Bill English - the Deputy Leader, and of course supported by a significant group of MPs who have already had success in projecting him into the leadership on a previous occasion. But there are growing signs of tension in the relationship between Key and English. There have been several recent instances when the two men have said - it seems quite deliberately - quite different things, to the point of embarrassing or directly contradicting the other.
Take, for instance, Bill English's startling admission that the estimate of the proceeds from asset sales was "just a guess" - something that no politician of his experience would have allowed himself to say by accident, and certainly not what John Key would have expected from a loyal deputy committed to this central element in Government policy. And look at the direct disagreement this week between Key and English on the issue of whether a renewed boom in house prices is getting under way.
These tensions do not arise by accident. The signs are that Bill English may know, or think he knows, about John Key's plans for 2014, and may be distancing himself from his leader so as to offer a fresh start when the time comes.
Or, he may sense that there are other plans afoot. He will have noticed with apprehension the rise of Steven Joyce, and the new Minister for Everything's closeness to the leader. There is nothing more guaranteed to engender a sense of angst than the sight of a rival being promoted. Watch this space!

Peter’s Comment

Bryan Gould’s opinion above is spot-on on many points but he has overlooked several pertinent facts of political life in New Zealand.
The apparent change in style displayed by John Key during this second term may be nothing more than political wear and tear rather than deliberate strategy. Politics is a hard game and nowhere is it harder than in the Prime Minister’s office. I can’t think of a single Prime Minister who entered his or her second term looking and acting as fresh as the first term.  And I can’t think of any other Prime Minister since the 1930s who had to deal so many disasters, natural and economic.

The slow pace for asset sales is simply good business for the government. The 2011-14 term was always going to be a better time than 2008-11 for selling down the government stake in Air New Zealand. The share market is finally on the rise again and the government stands to reap a bigger profit from the sale by being patient. The same must apply to initial public offerings of SOEs.

Gould could well be correct (but possibly for the wrong reason) when he says that John Key may step down after his second term. That is simply just a safe bet. With the exception of Helen Clark and Rob Muldoon the life of all parties in government since Walter Nash, 1957-60, have been led by more than one Prime Minister. Nash was followed by Holyoake and Marshall (National) who in turn were followed by Kirk and Rowling (Labour) before losing to National again in 1975. After Muldoon in 1984 Labour was led by Lange, Palmer and Moore. They were followed by National’s Bolger and Shipley until ousted by Clark. The point here is that the leader generally wears out before the party. So it’s a good bet that Key may not stay in power as long as his party.

So who will replace John Key as PM, or Leader of the Opposition? Bryan Gould picks Bill English but English has already had his crack at the leadership and history suggests that he is unlikely to get a second swing at it. I can’t think of a single leader who, having been dumped, came back to lead a party to victory except Sir Joseph Ward in 1928 and Sir Keith Holyoake in 1960. But both of those had the benefit of previous exposure as PM. Bill English at best can claim experience as acting PM.

There is a good reason why dumped leaders don’t come back in New Zealand and it may be less to do with ability and more to do with Kiwis liking a fresh face. The replacement for John Key is more than likely still a lesser known hard working individual who will burst onto the scene with style and promise, just as Key himself did not so long ago.

The name of the next National Party leader, at this point, is anyone’s guess.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Give Way Changes May Lead to Chaos
Newstalk ZBMarch 16, 2012, 1:30 pm

The new give way rules are being predicted to cause chaos on the roads.
From the 25th of March, a right turning vehicle will have to give way to a left turning vehicle coming from the other direction.
Editor of car review website Dog and Lemon, Clive Matthew-Wilson, says motorists aren't ready for the change.
"Given the poor level of understanding by many motorists, I predict there's going to be a great deal of confusion on the day. Possibly chaos, possibly quite a few accidents."
Clive Matthew-Wilson says the Government's spending $1.2 million on advertising the changes - and that's not enough.

Peter’s Comment
When the current rule arrived 35 years ago there was little confusion and there should be little when it changes back again on March 25. People quickly adapted the last time this rule changed and there was even a honeymoon period when everyone was extra careful and the accident rate actually decreased for a time.

Later, the accident rate at intersections increased because drivers became careless again, and, perhaps most important, the rule was flawed. It invited head-on collisions.
I think Clive Matthew-Wilson of Dog and Lemon fame may be overstating the likely situation.
We adopted the current give-way rule because it was already being used in the Australian state of Victoria and it was promoted as something that would become a world standard. But not one other country adopted the rule and Victoria quickly abandoned it. That left New Zealand as the only place in the world where such a rule existed.

Following Victoria was a mistake. Victoria at that time had a history of making road rules that resembled the rules for the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. When I first drove in Melbourne in 1963 the rule was that the first to the intersection proceeded first and that often meant that being first improved the likelihood of dying first.

Our government has belatedly admitted that our current give-way rule has been the cause of numerous fatalities each year. The actual number is pointless because it could never include the number of Kiwis killed while driving overseas with no understanding of local rules. That figure, if known, could be quite shocking.

A large proportion of Kiwis drive by habit rather than rule. And mostly they drive using the bad habits of others, including the amateurs (family or friends) who taught them to drive so badly. I’m convinced that more than ninety per cent of Kiwi drivers would fail a spontaneous driving test. But if surveyed, I’m equally convinced, that the same ninety per cent plus would claim to be above average drivers.

As a driver who was first licenced to drive in 1956 and has held (and used extensively) licence classes 1 to 6 since 1966, I expect that with a bit more practice and with so much more still to learn, I may live to be an average driver.

I welcome the new rule. As for the rule that is finally on the way out, I’m not sure if it’s been a dog or a lemon, but it was certainly created by an ass.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


Good Judges 'being hindered' by Court of Appeal
Sensible Sentencing Trust, Fuseworks March 1, 2012, 6:05 pm

Good Judges and good police officers may become a thing of the past if the Court of Appeal keeps undermining them according to the Sensible Sentencing Trust.
The Trust was commenting after the Court of Appeal halved 20 year old burglar Tutemapu Rota's jail sentence handed down by Judge Tony Adean.
Rota was one of four people who stole over $4000 of property from a house in Napier on February the 9th last year.
Judge Adean sentenced Rota to three years jail for the burglary, getting into a stolen van and breaching prison release conditions. The Court of Appeal effectively halved the sentence.
Continued below . . . 

The court said that Judge Adean had wrongly taken into account evidence he had heard in another case a week earlier in relation to a spate of burglaries committed in Hawkes Bay.
The court also criticized the increases Judge Adean had imposed for Rota having three times failed to report to his probation officer.
Sensible Sentencing Trust Spokesman Garth McVicar said if the Court of Appeal continued to undermine Judges there was a real and significant risk they would simply throw in the towel and leave the bench for good.
"Judge Adean has the support and backing of the community he represents and would be a sad loss if he decided to leave as a consequence of the demoralizing decision from the Court of Appeal."
Mr. McVicar said that the Police had suffered a similar attack in years gone by and it was not until Judith Collins became Minister that police confidence started to rebuild.
"Sadly many very senior, good police officers resigned as a result of this sustained attack on their credibility, once that experience and knowledge has gone it is gone for good to the detriment of community safety."
"It appears we are now starting to see a similar trend coming out of the Court of Appeal."
"Judge Adean has said that his first responsibility is to keep the community safe and I agree with him."
"I would have thought protection of the community would have been the overriding responsibility of the Court of Appeal also but this pedantic decision seems to be in complete contrast to that philosophy."
"In fact it seems to be a blatant attack on the integrity of a well respected Judge."
"It would be a very sad day for New Zealand if good Judges like Tony Adean decided to resign."

Peter’s Comment

The Senseless Sentencing Trust high priest is on his high horse again, this time to lambast the Court of Appeal for halving a sentence.

Garth McVicar has conveniently forgotten that the Court of Appeal has been known to increase sentences too and he overlooks the importance of this democratic cornerstone in our society. In our adversarial justice system the Court of Appeal has a vital role to play in ensuring that balance, reality and fair play will prevail after the cut and thrust and the hot air of courtroom debate (on both sides) has run its course.

This is a change in tactics for the one-eyed extremists of the Senseless Sentencing Trust. Usually they attack district courts, judges and defence lawyers. But the real truth is that the Trust would rather just return to the bad old days of lynchings and hangings without trial. They don’t believe in a balanced modern day justice system.

The Court of Appeal reference to evidence in another trial a week earlier seems fair and proper.

In the event that a Court of Appeal decision was responsible for a judge or policeman (or a defence lawyer for that matter) resigning in protest, then they probably should never have been in the job in the first place. Broader shoulders, no doubt including Judge Adean’s, would accept the apparent setback and continue to serve the community.