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NZ POLITICS DAILY: Is the National Government unravelling?

If Judith Collins is any indication of the health of the Government, it is in serious trouble. Her bizarre actions at the weekend made her appear arrogant and out of control and suggest the pressure is taking its toll. So is this an aberration, or does it indicate a government that is unravelling? Certainly John Key’s Government has faced challenges, scandals, and negative media coverage before and survived. Its poll ratings have remained incredibly high for six years so it would be premature to write off this Government based on one bad week. However the Government is certainly fraying at more than the edges. The continuing coverage of the Maurice Williamson scandal is surely hurting National, suggesting all sorts of ethical problems regarding ministers. But it is Collins’ ongoing inability to put the Oravida scandal to bed and her increasingly eccentric behaviour that prevents the public and the media from being able to ‘move on’. 

Judith Collins vs the media
Judith Collins’ latest bizarre antics are reported best in Brook Sabin’s 4-minute TV3 6pm news item Judith Collins takes swing at Press Gallery journalist. You can watch the 10-minute video here: Judith Collins attacks media – full interview. See also, the 5-minute Breakfast TV item that includes an interview with John Key: PM facing more questions over Judith Collins' outburst

The bulk of Collins’ attack has been carried out on Twitter. For a full survey of what the Minister has been tweeting, and for an interesting analysis of it all, see Matthew Beveridge’s Judith Collins, Katie Bradford and the long term effects. And to read the most interesting and insightful Twitter responses to Collins from everyone else, see my blog post Top tweets about Judith Collins. The NBR’s Chris Keall laments how this Twitter-based controversy is likely to lead to a reduction in the authenticity and colourfulness of politicians on social media – see: PM warns about 'dangerous' Twitter

Judith Collins has ‘lost the plot’ according to Russell Brown, and he puts her allegations in the context of other government-related clampdowns on the freedom of the media. He argues that ‘the lashing out at those who don’t dwell in the sphere of influence is becoming creepy and alarming’ – see: The sphere of influence.

Labour blogger Rob Salmond has some interesting things to say about this as well: ‘To make it worse, my information is the Gallery's phones are running hot with National insiders spilling their guts about how Collins has embarrassed them. When the Press Gallery is angry with you, the last thing you need is your own team supplying more ammo’ – see: Implosion. Also see Salmond’s post, Even more new, damning evidence on Collins. No Right Turn labels this The smoking gun.

Collins ‘needs protection from herself’ according to John Armstrong – see: Can Collins survive as a minister? He seems to think that the Minister’s future is in the balance and that Key is close to sacking her. Armstrong suggests that her leadership aspirations are in tatters, and she has herself to blame for keeping the Oravida scandal alive: ‘There is obviously a massive battle of wills going on in her brain between what is the logical thing to do – keeping her head down and her tongue on a very tight leash - and what is her innate preference for the pugilist approach to politics which helped get to where she is today’.

The media is clearly striking back at Collins now – see Patrick Gower’s Collins' gutter politics a liability for Key. Not only does Gower accuse Collins of ‘gutter politics’ but also displaying ‘arrogance and contempt’. He defends the media’s coverage of the Williamson scandal, and puts the case for why Collins is now ‘a political liability for John Key’ and ‘damaging the National Government’.

Law professor Andrew Geddis also challenges the logic of Collins’ recent attacks, saying ‘it looks like Collins sought to declare war by firing a load of blanks’ – see: It is the evil things that we shall be fighting against ... and against them I am certain that the right will prevail

For the latest update on ‘Collins vs the media’, see TVNZ’s Judith Collins: I lashed out

Is National melting down?
Most of the scandals and controversies National has dealt with over the last six years have been astutely handled, helping prevent them from resonating widely with the voting public. Even the latest scandals may be considered ‘beltway’, but some are arguing that there is a risk recent controversies will combine to produce an electoral ‘critical mass’ that could seriously tarnish the Naitonal Party. 

Tim Watkin puts this best in his blog post, Are we approaching a political tipping point? He comments on the growing number of ‘crony capitalism’ sagas: ‘Key, apart from arguably too many golf games and a tendency for him to use his popularity to become 'Fundraiser in Chief', remains clear of any taint, but his government is starting to look questionable beyond the beltway. The complaints of "crony capitalism" and too much help for "the big end of town" that used to bounce off the Key-led government are now striking the odd hit.  We're not at tipping point yet, but this past week suggests to me a change in the wind.  The golf games, dinners at Antoines and offers of face time to raise money for the Maori Party all looked a little dubious, but nothing a busy electorate would care too much about. Hey, powerful people do posh things, right? And isn't the economy recovering? The Oravida case was a big dodgy, but really it was too complicated and nuanced for most people to understand.  Maurice Williamson and his phone call to the cops on behalf of a multi-millionaire Chinese businessman though, that people can understand. He rang the top cop in his district and, if the police are to be believed, prompted a review of the investigation into that businessman. It's dirty. They might not see it as a hanging offence on its own, but suddenly it puts all the other dealings in a different light’.

See also Watkin’s other interesting and insightful blog post, Williamson questions remain, especially for police.

Similarly, Mike Hosking says today that ‘What's still open to debate at this point is whether this is a beltway story...or whether it's broken out of Wellington and seeped into the National consciousness. If it's the latter, that's where your trouble is. Things that bring Governments down are: A bad economy; Staleness; Corruption. The first two they're okay on. But if three starts to become part of the National conversation in election year, then the other two won't save them’ – see: Things that bring Governments down

Hosking also argues that the ethnicity aspect feeds that narrative: ‘National's problem now is not looking to explain away the individual cases or circumstances. Because they can probably still do that. But it's taken on a broader look...the story has got a theme. And the theme is rich Asians can buy influence with a National Government.  And that's a theme that if allowed to fester and grow can bring you down’. And for more on the ethnic aspect, see Andrea Vance’s We must talk about China

Rightwing commentator Matthew Hooton argues today that ‘If National loses September’s election, the origins of its defeat will be traced to last week’ – see his NBR column Collins, Williamson put National's lead in peril (paywalled). Hooton says that the recent controversies are particularly dangerous for National because they distract from ‘what John Key calls “the things that matter”: jobs, wages, health, education and law and order’ and instead grow the narrative of ‘a government that is concerned with delivering benefits to a chosen few and not communities and businesses generally’. 

Hooton sees the current problems in National as relating to the various factions inside the party, and the leadership succession issue. It's the (Auckland) rightwing faction of the party – which Collins and Williamson lead – who are out of sync with the needs of National according to Hooton. But because Key is essentially hostage to them, he can’t sack Collins: ‘Mr Key, as he seeks today to re-discipline and refocus his government, is not that the conspiracy theory could be true but that supporters of Mrs Collins and Mr Williamson believe it might be’.

Martyn Bradbury argues that there is serious infighting between ‘the Whaleoil-Collins faction, the Matthew Hooton-Bridges faction and the Joyce-Kiwiblog faction’ – see: Why Key can’t punish Judith Collins till after the election and the new factional war inside National

Not everyone thinks these controversies will damage the Government. Rightwing commentator Liam Hehir argues ‘Voters realise that politics isn't a contest between one set of degenerates and another set of moral paragons. They know they are choosing between different sets each with their own assortment of saints and sinners.  Some scandals and sackings are to be expected and are tolerated accordingly.  What voters are looking for is competence and, above all, credibility on the economy’ – see: Williamson's 'Yes Minister'.

As far as Collins’ attacks on the media go, today’s Manawatu Standard newspaper editorial by Mathew Grocott argues they won’t hurt National: ‘The Collins-Bradford issue is likely to remain a beltway one, an issue that the general voter largely ignores when it comes to their party preference’ – see: Sunday scrambles ominous for Nats

National’s reputation under pressure
There are plenty of other issues currently challenging National’s reputation. From its inclination to recruit tobacco lobbyists as candidates – see, for example, Tobacco stain on would-be MP – through to the Canterbury rebuild – see, for example, Steven Cowan’s The Crumbling plans of Gerry Brownlee – there are some major potential threats to the Government. 

Another problem that the National Government will possibly have to face is the Edward Snowden leaks about New Zealand’s international spying activities. Today security analyst Paul Buchanan is reported in the NBR to believe that an investigative journalist in New Zealand – surely Nicky Hager – has the Snowden information already and will drop the bombshell in the lead up to the election. In terms of content, Buchanan says ‘It will probably involve New Zealand espionage, not so much on adversaries, but against allies particularly trading partners. Releasing those documents is going to be designed to hurt our reputation’ – see Nathan Smith’s Bombshell leaks may wreck NZ election, security analyst (paywalled). In terms of timing, Buchanan says ‘the question is whether you dump it out there now and hope that the damage sticks through September or you dump it in July or August and force them to while they’re trying to campaign.  I tend to think they will wait until the last six weeks before the election. It would be very hard at that point for the government to conduct a proper election campaign when they’re doing the diplomatic crisis-management’.

For the best weekend coverage of the Maurice Williamson scandal, see Audrey Young’s Clouds darken over National as Labour shines, Fran O'Sullivan’s There's no dots to join up, just a lot of naivety, Kerre McIvor’s Citizenship is not for sale and Cherie Howie’s Inquiries to police aren't rare, says Judith Collins

Finally, for humour on the state of the National Party and its controversies, see Steve Braunias’ Secret diary of Donghua Liu, Scott Yorke’s parody blog posts, Bill English’s secret speech and A statement from John Key, and my blog post aggregating recent cartoons: Images of the Judith Collins and Maurice Williamson National Government scandals

Today’s links

Judith Collins 

NBR Staff (NBR): Collins raises question about TVNZ reporter's ethics, then apologises

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Lashing out at a Journalist and raising personal issues doing so is Judith Collins on probation is it??? How many last chances does she get?

Brook Sabin (TV3): Judith Collins takes swing at Press Gallery journalist

Danyl McLauchlan (Dim-Post): Politics as bloodsport

TVNZ: PM facing more questions over Judith Collins' outburst

Stuff: Pressure on Collins following outburst

RadioLIVE: Key faces more pressure over Collins

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Collins accusations turn against her

Audrey Young (Herald): Judith Collins lashes out at political reporter

TVNZ: Collins says sorry to TVNZ reporter after allegation

Radio NZ: Collins apologises after pointing to reporter

Radio NZ: Collins initially sought official briefing

Radio NZ: Peters wants Collins sacked

Simon Wong (TV3): Oravida makes $30k donation to National

Tova O’Brien (TV3): Donation raises more questions for National

NBR Staff (NBR): Oravida’s pre-Xmas donation

Adam Bennett (Herald): Oravida gave another $30,000 to National

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Oravida's $30,000 donation to National

TVNZ: More heat on Judith Collins as dinner documents are released

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Friday afternoon OIA dump by Judith Collins shows she asked for Mfat briefing for a supposedly private dinner

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): 2013 Donation Returns

Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): A statement from John Key

Andrew Geddes (Pundit): It is the evil things that we shall be fighting against ... and against them I am certain that the right will prevail

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Why Key can’t punish Judith Collins till after the election and the new factional war inside National

Greg Presland (The Standard): Collins is out of control


Maurice Williamson

Andrea Vance (Stuff): We must talk about China

Chris Trotter (Daily Blog): A World Of Strange Design: What Williamson’s phone call tells us about New Zealand’s political class

Herald: Williamson denies allegations of cronyism

Natalie Akoorie (Herald): Fallen MP key in Liu house deal

Audrey Young (Herald): Clouds darken over National as Labour shines

Fran O'Sullivan (Herald): There's no dots to join up, just a lot of naivety

Steve Braunias (Stuff): The secret diary of . . . Donghua Liu

Kerre McIvor (Herald): Citizenship is not for sale

Cherie Howie (Herald): Inquiries to police aren't rare, says Judith Collins

Greg Presland (The Standard): Spin Slater Spin

Radio NZ: Cunliffe to press Key over ministers

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): National still dazed after party's week of horror

Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): The Soap Box: Thunder-stealing week of politics ahead

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Key weighs in on Williamson return

Alan Papprill (The Irascible Curmudgeon): The scandals that hang around John Key's neck

TVNZ: Maurice Williamson not ruling out a comeback

TVNZ: Maurice Williamson a no show at National conference

ODT: Great week for Labour as National's dirty washing aired

Adam Bennett (Herald): Minister's stance 'hands-off' – Labour

Jared Savage (Herald): Police defend review of criminal case after request by Williamson

Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): Political stolen thunders

Natalie Akoorie (Herald): Fallen MP key in Liu house deal

NBR Staff (NBR): Maurice Williamson: why I made call to police

Audrey Young (Herald): No evidence to support O'Connor – Key

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Maurice Williamson can stand as an MP, Key says

RadioLIVE: Williamson: Donations did not influence call

Frances Cook (Newstalk ZB): Robertson mystified over Maurice Williamson affair

Jane Luscombe (TV3): Key puts Williamson saga behind him

Stephanie Rodgers (The Standard): What Maurice Williamson’s shock tells us about domestic violence

Peter Aranyi (The Paepae): Maurice Williamson. ‘Blood on the floor’ … and now maybe in the water?

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): The Nation Review

Pete George (Your NZ): Williamson on helping Liu because of money

Adam Bennett (Herald): Anne Tolley stands her ground over knowledge of Maurice Williamson call to police

Vernon Small (Stuff): Mfat briefing requested before Oravida dinner

Dene Mackenzie (ODT): Resignation could open door for Craig

Newswire: Pakuranga an opportunity for Craig

TVNZ: Minister: MPs often try to interfere in police operations

Nathan Smith (NBR): Williamson resignation the 'right thing', Collins

Nelson Mail: Editorial: Williamson's star already on the wane

The Press: Editorial: Maurice Williamson had to resign

Stuff: Williamson looked at Liu blueprints

Radio NZ: MP police checks need care - Collins

Peter Wilson (Newswire): Opposition handed a loaded gun

Laura McQuillan, Alex Mason, and Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Williamson only in trouble due to exposure - Labour

Isaac Davison (Herald): Colin Craig's Conservative Party eyes Williamson's seat

Law Fuel: Chinese Business and Kiwi Politicians Just Don't Mix Well

NBR: Frontrunners to replace Williamson emerge

No Right Turn: Judith Collins lied to Parliament

Carrie Smith-Stoddart (Ellipsister): Williamson should not stand for re-election in Pakuranga or elsewhere

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): The problem for National over Maurice and is it time to look at publicly funded political parties?

Dan Satherley (TV3): Russel Norman: Williamson has to go

The Standard: Corrosive, anti-democratic power of big money

Greg Presland (The Standard): Collins is in even more trouble

Simon Wong (TV3): Collins requested MFAT briefing ahead of Oravida dinner

Socialist Aotearoa: National, Rotten to the core.


Labour’s monetary policy

Rob Stock (Stuff): Bank warning for Labour KiwiSaver plans

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): What's the cost of Labour's Kiwisaver plan: National

RadioLive: Migrants may look to NZ as Canada scraps policy

Chris Trotter (Stuff): Parker provides bones for Labour's newfound muscle

Greg Presland (The Standard): Media response to Labour’s Monetary Policy Upgrade

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): What the left miss in their criticism of Labour’s monetary policy

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Joyce bags Labour's KiwiSaver plan

Adam Bennett (Herald): Show us the numbers: Joyce on Labour KiwiSaver plan

Radio NZ: Cunliffe says policy will be peer-reviewed

Maria Slade (Stuff): Labour's imperfect policy

TVNZ: 'Some merit' in Labour's monetary policy - Don Brash

Josh White (Newstalk ZB): Labour's proposed Kiwisaver changes critiqued

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Pagani says Parker did not get nine things wrong

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Alexander on Labour’s monetary policy

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): What the left miss in their criticism of Labour’s monetary policy

Stephen Franks: Opposition’s fairies

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): How much will take home pay drop?



TVNZ: NZ isolated over superannuation stance – Act

Radio NZ: ACT wants to raise retirement age

RadioLIVE: Govt told to 'get real' over retirement age

RadioLIVE: Unions critical of retirement age rise idea

Radio NZ: Unions urge exemptions to higher retirement age

James Massola (Stuff): Australia retirement age upped to 70


Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party

TV3: Internet Party: Get NZ out of Five Eyes

No Right Turn: Pulling the plug on the spies

Tom Hunt (Stuff): Dotcom's Internet Party policies target GCSB

Ian Steward (Stuff): Banks seeks to discredit Dotcom testimony

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Could a MANA-Internet Party alliance rid NZ of America’s 5 eyes?

Byron Clark (Fightback): Why the Internet Party is resonating

Paul Buchanan (Kiwipolitico): Analysis Link: Democratic intelligence oversight.


Legal highs

Radio NZ: Legal high ban preferred to tests on animals

Tristram Clayton (TV3): Matt Bowden's solution for legal highs

Paul Thomas (Herald): National gives a win to scaremongers, placard wavers ... and drug dealers

Isaac Davison (Herald): Drug trials on animals necessary, says expert

John Sargeant (Stuff): Test drugs on dogs or teens?

Taranaki Daily News: Transparency needed in animal testing

Rodney Hide (Herald): Drug laws now in disarray

Will de Cleene (gonzo): Do Focus Groups Dream of Synthetic People?

Shomi Yoon (ISO): Synthetic Highs – is a ban the solution?

TVNZ: John Banks calls for ban on animal testing of legal highs



Neil Reid (Stuff): J-Day revellers spark up amidst controversy

RadioLIVE: Cannabis Party launches campaign for 'J-Day'

Michael Sergel (Newstalk ZB): Legalise Cannabis Party expects vote increase


Labour Party

Radio NZ: Labour selects Northland candidate

TVNZ: Labour MP Rajen Prasad to retire from Parliament

Newswire: Labour's Rajen Prasad calls it quits

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Labour loses their MVMP

Matthew Beveridge: Kelvin Davis and his crusade

James Griffin (Herald): Bad news for Cunliffe

Patrick Leyland (Progress Report): Looking forward

Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): The Soap Box: Political stolen thunders

TVNZ: Shane Jones replacement fronts sexual abuse campaign


National Party

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Barclay's the English protégé

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Could you answer these questions?

Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish):  Bill English’s secret speech

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Election will be close: English

Herald: Labour can still win, says English


Maori Party

Radio NZ: Maori Party no closer to naming female co-leader

Radio NZ: Sharples says McLean will retain seat

3 News Online Staff (TV3): Maori Party announces Hauraki-Waikato candidate


Election advertising

Stuff: Political billboard limitations proposed

Herald: New rules could put limits on election signs


Christchurch rebuild

Georgina Stylianou (Stuff): Can Christchurch be saved?

Steven Cowan (Against the Current): The Crumbling plans of Gerry Brownlee

Newswire: More NZers concerned about privacy


Maori politics

Wilma McCorkindale (Stuff): Pregnant Maori not getting support needed

Bruce Moon (Breaking Views): Finlayson's 'father' a tribesman!



Stuff: Study shows hospital bias

Pam Newlove (NBR): BUDGET 2014: Bandage won’t cure health issues

Otago University: Study provides new insights in to health system cost of living and dying in New Zealand



Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Hipkins renews free education message

Dianne Khan (Daily Blog): Education: a crisis real or imagined

Nicholas Jones (Herald): Report card: How schools are faring

Nicholas Jones (Herald): Report card for our schools – survey

Radio NZ: Teacher morale sliding - Govt blamed



Dominion Post: Editorial: Sex register must be kept private

Michael Cummings (Manawatu Standard): It's not OK to underfund services

Stuff: Fears urgent domestic violence report 'buried'

Mike Williams (Herald): Alcohol court a lifesaver

Herald: Herald on Sunday editorial: Justice must prevail



Matthew Theunissen (Herald): Council's divisive survey slammed

Steve Kilgallon (Stuff): Wealthy Chinese knock on NZ's door

Stephen Franks: Auckland sensitivity on ethnicity

Audrey Young (Herald): NZ's door open to foreigners - Key


Climate change

NBR Staff (NBR): Les Mills CEO and green growth advocate Phillip Mills hits out at govt

Dan Satherley (TV3): Govt's climate change efforts slammed



Matthew Hooton (NBR): Joyce blocks answers on corporate welfare

Phillipa Tolley (Radio NZ): Taxing digital deals a major challenge

Russell Blackstock (Herald): A tale of two strong cities

The Standard: The neoliberal power game: cities for sale

Herald: Editorial: CEO salaries ought to be reined in

No Right Turn: Who benefits from National's "rockstar economy"?

Radio NZ: Unemployment expected to fall



Herald: McCully to attend Pacific Plan meeting in Cook Islands

Latifa Daud (Daily Blog): Putting the shoe on the other foot for disability rights

Radio NZ: Online voting urged for local elections

Newswire: Australian politicians visit New Zealand

Matthew Beveridge: Twitter Stats: 2 May

Radio NZ: Blogger declared vexatious litigant

Newswire: Minister visits storm-damaged West Coast

Andrew Gourdie (TV3): Govt to crackdown on match-fixing

Dave Gooselink (TV3): Colin Craig eyes National deal

Stuff: Today in politics: Monday, May 5

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Conservative Party deals stall

Sparrowhawk: How to write a social security law textbook. Or not. Post Zero.

Beith Atkinson (Integrity Talking Points): Loss of public respect for politicians goes against trend for other occupations

Sophie Ryan (Herald): Who we trust - and don't - with our info

Salient: MP’s Questions

Phil Kitchin (Stuff): Mystery refugees a secret

Janet McAllister (Herald): A neo liberal businessman, and philanthropist

Eric Crampton (Offsetting Behaviour): Lock-in, path dependence, and government

Eric Crampton (Offsetting Behaviour): Democracy in Decline

Brian Rudman (Herald): New shelters fitted with old flaws

Radio NZ: Opposition power plan 'won't deliver'

Newswire: CPAG wants action on child poverty, health

Stuff: What NZ can teach the world...

Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): The Soap Box: Muldoon - the last of a generation

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Why we should all feel ashamed at Paula Bennett’s attack on Sarah Wilson

Matthew Beveridge: Could social media lead to a weaker whip in Parliament?

Matt Nolan (TVHE): Housing shortage: When is a shortage not a shortage

Moana Mackey (Daily Blog): Remembering Parekura and the East Coast he loved

Kathy Marks (Herald): 'Electoral suicide' and only a drop in the deficit bucket

Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On RIP for the TPP, and Lorde whingeing about journalism

Karl du Fresne: What else did Kirk's biographer get wrong?

Comments and questions

Labour are hardly paragons of virtue!

It is Winston the Nats will have to watch out for!

Not unraveling, but a bit tired and frayed around the edges. Use-by date coming up.

Please refer Betteridge's Law -'s_law_of_headlines

"Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no." can anything quoting wikipedia!