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NZ POLITICS DAILY: Is there ‘cash for access’ in NZ politics?

‘Do not go there’. That was the warning given by Prime Minister John Key to Labour MP Chris Hipkins in response to no fewer than four questions from the Opposition over allegations of impropriety in what is increasingly being dubbed ‘cash for access’. Andrea Vance summarises the claims and counter-claims, which involve the National, Labour and Green parties – see: 'Cash for access' claims fly

The latest MP to be the subject of allegations is Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse – watch the interview with him on TV1’s Breakfast programme – see: Immigration Minister discussed policy with Chinese businessman. The allegations are also summarised in Herald journalist Isaac Davison’s piece, MP confirms meeting with Donghua Liu

Patrick Gower looked at the evolving nature of the ‘cash for access’ claims today in his Week in Politics discussion on TV3’s Firstline programme. It is also worth watching the video of Hipkins’ question to Key from Parliament TV or reading the Hansard transcript of the exchange in Questions for oral answer:  compliance with Cabinet Manual

Key was responding to the ‘Cabinet Club’ allegations that access to ministers is being purchased by wealthy party supporters. Key’s response was effectively a classic Realpolitik rejoinder – ‘you do it too’. It’s worth quoting him at length on this: ‘Political parties right across Parliament attend events that are fund-raising events. People always have interests—of course they do; that is the real world. In the same way, the Labour Party accepted $60,000 from Phillip Mills—Labour and the Greens accepted $60,000 and $65,000 respectively—and very soon afterwards the Labour Party started promoting green growth. We know that Shane Jones, for instance, had his leadership bid funded in part by the oil and gas sector and, again, very soon came out and started talking about that. I have quite a long list. If Labour members really want to invite me to table all of those, they are welcome to do that, but I just make one little warning to them: do not go there. But if you want me to, I am more than happy to’.

The defence that all parties are guilty of dodgy practices, at a minimum, is forcefully rejected by leftwing blogger No Right Turn: ‘if other parties have similar arrangements, then they're guilty as well, and we need to get rid of them too. There is no place in our democracy for politicians who corruptly sell access. It is that simple’ – see: Government for sale. No Right Turn believes the ‘solution is greater transparency: make [them] disclose every meeting and every dollar, and make it a crime punishable by jail time to keep it secret’. Meanwhile, new ‘fact-check’ blog NZfactcheck attempts to answer the question Do National Ministers Attend Cabinet Club Meetings in their Ministerial Capacity? and comes to the conclusion ‘maybe’. For a partisan view of the widening allegations, see Labour MP Louisa Wall’s blog post, When does corruption start damaging National?

How are other political parties handling money? The newest political party, Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party – which polled 1.5% in Wednesday’s Roy Morgan poll – is in the news after placing a newspaper advertisement looking for candidates who ‘will put the welfare of New Zealanders before corporate interests, foreign powers or former school chums’ – see Felix Marwick’s ‘Prime Minister Wanted’. Dotcom is promising to pay candidates a full MP’s salary just for standing – something which National supporter and Kiwiblog author David Farrar is strongly against: ‘This will be a first. It seems every single person involved in the Internet Party is being paid to be involved. Candidates will be effectively personally paid by Kim Dotcom. That means they must of course do whatever he says. This is not a genuine political party. It is a wholly owned company’ – see: Even the candidates are on the payroll.

Meanwhile, New Zealand First is asking its election candidates to sign a contract forcing them to pay the party $300,000 in damages if they leave the party once in parliament but stay on as MPs, in light of the Brendan Horan situation. Radio New Zealand’s Demelza Leslie reports that law professor Andrew Geddis believes ‘the courts would throw the contract out on public policy grounds because it effectively amounts to New Zealand First twisting a member's arm to quit Parliament’ – see: NZ First radically changes its rules and Michael Fox’s NZ First penalty said to be unenforceable. See also Andrew Geddis’ blog post, I'm right, Winston's not, so there and Gordon Campbell’s On New Zealand First’s loyalty pledge

New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin is also in the news after receiving a $35,000 annual salary from 2011-2013 as a local council board member – see National supporter David Farrar’s A bit misleading.

What has been the fallout from the resignation of Maurice Williamson and the revival of the Oravida affair? The latest Roy Morgan poll came out on Wednesday, the results of which are summarised in the NBR’s Labour-Greens move ahead of National as scandal engulfs govt

Left-leaning commentator Selwyn Manning believes the poll is evidence that the Opposition has ‘sustained a turn around of fortunes after being seen as a credible government in waiting bloc’. He says: ‘In one month, since the Roy Morgan April 17 poll, National has seen its lion’s share of support collapse from what was then said to be National’s (then on 48.5%) biggest lead over Labour/ Greens (then on 40%) since July 2013’ – see: National’s Support Collapses Over Collins+Williamson Scandals – Roy Morgan Poll. 

Of course, it is worth being wary of taking a single poll too seriously, as Labour advisers Rob Salmond in The Morgan poll, today and later, and Greg Presland in Latest Roy Morgan are at pains to point out.  Both Salmond and the NBR point to next week’s Budget as the next key event, with the NBR saying that the government will be hoping it ‘will act as a circuit-breaker’ after the news of the last fortnight.

Finally, for some social media reaction to allegations of ‘cash for access’ in the National Party, see my blog post Top tweets about National’s Cabinet Club and other political fundraising issues.

Today’s content

Judith Collins

Vernon Small (Stuff): A crushing time for Collins

Jane Clifton (Stuff): Collins show exposes selective hearing

Mamari Stephens (Sparrowhawk): A connection between Konrad, Judith & Maurice? You betcha.

Tim Watkin (Pundit): Why the Collins case is about then, not now

John Armstrong (Herald): Survival of the walking dead

Fran O'Sullivan (Herald): Key pulls chain on Crusher Collins

Vernon Small (Stuff): Ambassador noted limited Oravida contact

Simon Wong (TV3): Collins confirms health scare

Laura McQUillan (Newstalk ZB): Collins blunts health scare questions

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Mallard and Collins at loggerheads

The Standard: Culture of Impunity

Matthew Beveridge:Is it any wonder?

Rob Salmond (Polity): Collins' timeline of meddling

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Robertson wrong

Greg Presland (The Standard): Judith Collins the walking dead

Rob Salmond (Polity): Trevor


Latest polls

Vernon Small and Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Poll puts Labour-Greens alliance in front

Rob Salmond (Polity): The Morgan poll, today and later

NBR Staff (NBR): Labour-Greens move ahead of National as scandal engulfs govt

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): What the latest Roy Morgan Poll means – Could MANA/Internet Party be the difference?

Louisa Wall (Daily Blog): When does corruption start damaging National?

Newswire: National support drops in poll

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): National drops in latest poll

Audrey Young (Herald): National takes 6 point dive

Vernon Small (Stuff): National slumps in Roy Morgan poll

Greg Presland (The Standard): Latest Roy Morgan

Pete George (Your NZ): Poll bad for National, still not flash for Labour

Selwyn Manning (Daily Blog): National’s Support Collapses Over Collins+Williamson Scandals – Roy Morgan Poll


Maurice Williamson

TVNZ: Immigration Minister discussed policy with Chinese businessman

Steve Braunias (Stuff): What's the harm in a phone call?

Karl du Fresne (Stuff): Williamson part of a pattern

Isaac Davison (Herald): MP confirms meeting with Donghua Liu

Michael Fox (Stuff): Liu gave immigration views to Govt

Patrick Gower (TV3): Woodhouse discussed immigration with Liu

Simon Wong (TV3): Possible conflict in minister's meeting – Cunliffe


Legal highs

Taylor Sincock (TV3): Legal highs banned from shelves

Ben Heather (Stuff): Legal high industry's massive profits

Isaac Davison (Herald): Illegal-high users fair game: Ryall

TV3: Calls for legal high 'grace period'

Brian Rudman (Herald): Hard line on animal tests paints Key into corner

Duncan Garner (RadioLIVE): Let the ‘Synthetic High’ black market begin

Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the synthetic drugs ban

Russell Brown (Hard News): A law gone awry

David Kennedy (Local Bodies):Illegal Highs, Knee-Jerks and the Greens

Mike Wesley-Smith (TV3): Synthetic high users stockpile before ban

The Guardian: New Zealand in U-turn on designer drugs

Marama Davison (Daily Blog): What are the risks if we ban legal highs?


Cabinet Club

Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): The Soap Box: It does sound a bit dodgy...

Andrea Vance (Stuff): PM plays hypocrisy card in cash row

Radio NZ: Key a regular at Cabinet Clubs

Tova O’Brien (TV3): Key: 'Nothing wrong' with Cabinet Club donations

Andrea Vance (Stuff): 'Cash for access' claims fly

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Shock horror – electorates used MPs for fundraisers

NZfactcheck: Do National Ministers Attend Cabinet Club Meetings in their Ministerial Capacity?

No Right Turn: Government for sale

Keeping Stock: How would you feel...?


Welfare reform

Herald: Editorial: Incentive for beneficiaries a life-changer

Dan Satherley (TV3): People will 'adapt' to Christchurch – Bennett

Rachel Smalley (Newstalk ZB): Classic election-year policy

Stuff: All the right credentials to make the move

Jan Logie (Frogblog): Giving money to beneficiaries – if only.

Steven Cowan (Against the Current): The New Swaggers

Lynn Prentice (The Standard): Handouts to make them go away



James Weir (Stuff): Governor warns of currency action

John Anthony (Stuff):Website offers 'highway to China'

Isaac Chotiner (New Statesman): “Marx? I never really managed to read it” – an interview with Thomas Piketty

James Weir (Stuff): Unemployment holds at 6 per cent

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Leeway possible over milk powder exports

Brian Fallow (Herald): Wheeler fires exchange rate warning shot

Paul McBeth (NBR): Jobs growth, high participation rate show migrants finding work

No Right Turn: Still 42,000 out of work under National

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Stagnant Unemployment rate suggests Rockstar economy out of drugs

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): More jobs


Internet Party

Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): 'Prime Minister Wanted'

Kurt Bayer (Herald): Dotcom's promises to prospective MPs

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Even the candidates are on the payroll



Danyl McLauchlan (Dim-Post): Suspicious

Radio NZ: Spy boss quiet on Snowden speculation

John Minto (Daily Blog): Hey Ian Fletcher – yes you, the head of the GCSB – haven’t you heard of Squeaky Dolphin? What about Dishfire? Muscular? Fairview? Blarney? Oakstar, Stormbrew?

Adam Bennett (Herald): GCSB head: 'We don't do that stuff'

Radio NZ: Spy boss denies mass surveillance

Shane Cowlishaw (Stuff): Spy boss won't say if Snowden has NZ files


Tobacco plain packaging

TVNZ: MPs reject tobacco company's plain packaging claims

Brendan Manning (Herald): Plain cigarette packs could reduce Maori health gap, committee told

Brendan Manning (Herald): Kids drawn to brightly-coloured cigarette packs, Committee told

Simon Day (Stuff): Plain pack smokes will 'harm brand'


Labour’s monetary policy

Audrey Young (Herald): Labour refuses to provide estimates on KiwiSaver plan

Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Unions want exemptions from higher retirement age

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Labour still refusing to calculate impact of VSR


Christchurch rebuild

3 News Online Staff (TV3): More cash for Canterbury support services

Radio NZ: State of council's books to be revealed

Lois Cairns (Stuff): Brownlee questions figures

Newswire: Labour tells Govt to check its rebuild figures

Lois Cairns (Stuff): Christchurch in financial strife


NZ First

Michael Fox (Stuff): NZ First penalty said to be unenforceable

Radio NZ: NZ First radically changes its rules

Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): NZ First MP's letter to police a mistake

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): A bit misleading


Maori politics

Radio NZ: Chancellor wants Maori tertiary reps

James Ireland (Stuff): I carry my history, culture with me: tattooed candidate

Radio NZ: Maori employment rates improve



Anne Gibson (Herald): Fast-track plan for 18,000 homes

Josh Fagan (Stuff): Auckland housing development fast-tracked

Chris Trotter (Daily Blog): A Different Address: Mai Chen assesses Auckland’s future.



Jody O’Callaghan (Stuff): Childhood centres in complaints to stay secret

Radio NZ: New body 'offensive' - teachers' union

Nicholas Jones (Herald): Ditch 'flawed' Pisa school tests, say academics



Stuff: Today in Politics: Thursday, May 8

Louise Berwick (Stuff): Peters launches into Nats' candidate choice

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Parliament gets ready for earthquakes

Pattrick Smellie (Stuff): English has a point, but can he make it?

Dave Burgess (Stuff): Unknowns of seabed mining test environmental staff

Stephen Franks: Badly needed common sense from Supreme Court on Lombard directors

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Fonterra botulism probe progresses

Sophie Rapson (Progress Report): The 38%

Rob Salmond (Polity): Kiwiblog on non-voters

Ben Clark (The Standard):Save Invermay

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): MPs’ Pecuniary Interests

Susan St John (Herald): Don't let glow vanish from golden years

Vaimoana Tapaleao (Herald): A good place to be a mum

Catriona MacLennan (Herald): Cap an easy way to protect vulnerable from loan sharks

No Right Turn: Member's Day

PMC: REGION: NZ media 'incapable of serving society', says author

Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish):Five!

Andrea Vance (Stuff): MP faces complaint over fake testimonial

Herald: Beehive in lock-down after gun scare

Muriel Newman (NZCPR): A Climate of Irrational Assumptions

NZFactCheck: Were the 2010 tax cuts fiscally neutral?

NZFactCheck: Is this site a rigorous fact-checking machine? A clarification post.

NZFactCheck: Does John Key donate his salary to charity?