Member log in

NZ POLITICS DAILY: Pokies + Crafar Farms = govt losing control?

The Government is going to need all of its political management skills over the next week as it looks likely to have to defend two very unpopular decisions: the pokies deal with SkyCity and the Crafar Farms sale.

John Armstrong thinks that Cabinet ministers, except for John Key, Bill English and Steven Joyce, aren’t doing the hard yards promoting the Government’s lines to lobby groups and the public.
 
He argues that National’s relatively easy ride in its first term has led them to think they can just ‘tough it out’ but that, in fact, they have ‘lost control of issues such as the Crafar farms, part-sale of state assets and extending paid parental leave, to name a few’ – see: Mismanagement makes easy work for Opposition.
 
With Mr Key out of the country it certainly seems National is struggling to sell the SkyCity deal, as further evidence of the casino’s cosy relationship with the Government comes to light.
 
David Fisher and Isaac Davison report that the SkyCity chairman Rob McGeoch apparently boasted to shareholders about company’s close ties to ‘high ranking’ Cabinet ministers in the days leading up to Key’s invitation for the casino to put in a bid – see: SkyCity chairman reveals close links days before Key invitation.
 
SkyCity’s interactions with the National – and all political parties – are under increased scrutiny – see: Adam Bennett and Isaac Davison’s PM grilled on SkyCity connections. Duncan Garner highlights the particularly close relationship between Key’s Chief of Staff Wayne Eagleson and casino lobbyist Mark Unsworth, who took a joint holiday in 2010 to – of all places – Las Vegas. Watch Garner’s report on Frontline here, and see the original Matt Nipert report on the Vegas trip here: PM's adviser living it up in Sin City
 
While Labour has ramped up its attack on the Government with a dedicated webpage (Show us your cards, John), criticism of the deal is still coming from non-politicians, with gambling experts rubbishing the casino’s claim that Lotto is more harmful than pokies – see: Isaac Davison’s Experts trash 'Lotto danger' claim. Former Gambling Commissioner Peter Chin says it’s time to look at the role of pokies in the community: ‘It is not only problem gamblers who are addicted to gambling – it is government and local communities’ – see: David Fisher’s Former gambling boss has concerns
 
The deal is finally getting some support, though, with Heart of the City Chief Executive Alex Swney, the Tourism Industry Association and BusinessNZ Chief Exectuive Phil O’Reilly all arguing that New Zealand is missing out on large conventions and that the economic benefits far outweigh the downside – see: PM backed over Sky City pokies deal and Business backs Sky City convention centre deal. But University of Canterbury economist Eric Crampton is not so enamoured with the deal
 
Responses to the new Christchurch Central Development Unit have been mostly positive, particularly from business leaders who are welcoming the emphasis on ‘market forces’. The Press has a comprehensive report – see: Christchurch rebuild to be led by Govt. Mayor Bob Parker and most of the council have welcomed the new structure as a means of quickly implementing the council’s draft central city plan.
 
Both the Press editorial (New unit for Christchurch must deliver) and Vernon Small (Too much peace and not enough progress) highlight the desire for speed. Small points out that the impact of the earthquake on the national economy means the Government has as much to gain from the benefits of the reconstruction as Christchurch does: ‘though the Christchurch rebuild is a clear case of the Government coming to the help of the city, it has also become a time for the rebuild to come to the party for the Government’.
 
There does seem to be a consensus that the Council has been given a back seat in the rebuild, but as the Council hasn’t been that popular, and there was significant business opposition to Part 2 of the draft council plan (which has effectively been set aside by yesterday’s decisions) there are differing opinions on whether this is a good thing. Labour’s Lianne Dalziel claims that Government’s decision is ‘undermining the last remaining democratic institution in Christchurch - our city council’. The Political Scientist predicts that the new blueprint to be produced in 100 days will be missing significant parts of the existing draft plan:  ‘Good luck with that “low rise”, “green”, “safe”, “sustainable” city Christchurch. It’s now only going to happen to the extent that “market forces” – heavily backed by a no-opposition-brooked, central government bulldozer – determine it will’ – see: Devils, details, dark arts and Trojan horses.
 
Of course making everyone happy in such a major project is impossible but it seems that making it happen ‘as quickly as possible’ has become the priority, and that means a trade-off with further time for public consultation and input.
 
Other important or interesting political items today include:
 
What should be a good news story about Australian companies shifting jobs to New Zealand has turned into an argument as to whether New Zealand is becoming a low-skill, low-wage economy – see: TVNZ’s NZ becoming 'Australia's Mexico' for jobs - Labour and John Hartevelt’s Shearer, English at odds on Aussies
 
A new Otago University/Health Ministry report show that your chances of surviving cancer are improving – unless you are poor or Maori. While survival rates for cancer have improved 32 per cent between 1991 to 2004, the mortality rate for Maori remains 29 per cent higher, and 12 per cent higher for those with the lowest third of household incomes – see: Nicole Brennan-Tupara’s Cancer rates 'institutionalised racism'
 
Alison McCulloch has an in-depth analysis of the ‘Tauranga Model’ of waterside work, which relies heavily on a casualised workforce – see: On the Tauranga Waterfront: Unpacking the casualising of how and when you work. McCulloch uses the analysis of Professor James Reveley, of the School of Management and Marketing at the University of Wollongong, who has been researching and writing about New Zealand port labour relations since 1990.
 
For more on Gordon McLauchlan’s new book on New Zealand society and politics, you can listen to his interview on Radio New Zealand here: The Passionless People Revisited
 
iPredict is currently trading two interesting and relevant political stocks: Deeply unpopular SKYCITY deal may involve 425 new pokies and Sale of Crafar Farms to Pengxin to be wrapped up next week. iPredict has also just launched stock on who will be the new Labour Party Chief of Staff (to replace departing Stuart Nash). Currently, the market says that the main possible contenders are: Alastair Cameron (15%), Marcus Ganley (12%), Jon Johansson (10%), Conor Roberts (5%), James Bews-Hair (5%), John Tamihere (4%), Gordon Jon Thompson (4%), and John Pagani (3%). 
 
Finally there are a number of upcoming political events: The Electoral Commission is holding hearings for its review of MMP – see its Schedule of Hearings; The Writers Festival presents Tweeting the revolution, with Toby Manhire, Russell Brown and Vaughn Davis in Auckland; there’s a Media regulation seminar in Auckland organised by the Legal Research Foundation; and Phil Goff presents a seminar on Policy and practice in opposition at the University of Auckland in which ‘he will look back on his time as Leader of the Opposition, contrasting the roles of politicians on and off the Treasury benches’. 
 
Bryce Edwards

 
Today’s content
 
All items are contained in the attached PDF. Below are the links to the items online.
 
SkyCity deal
David Fisher and Isaac Davison (Herald): SkyCity chairman reveals close links days before Key invitation
Adam Bennett and Isaac Davison (Herald): PM grilled on SkyCity connections
David Fisher (Herald): Former gambling boss has concerns
Isaac Davison (Herald): Experts trash 'Lotto danger' claim
Michael Daly, Tracy Watkins and Danya Levy (Stuff): Business backs Sky City convention centre deal
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Will Labour hand back their dirty money?
Eric Crampton (Offsetting behaviour): SkyCity
No Right Turn: Key's casino
Trevor Mallard (Red Alert): Show us your cards, John
Ben Clark (Standard): Show us you cards, John
 
Christchurch rebuild
Charlie Gates, Sam Sachdeva, Marta Steeman and Liz McDonald (Press): Christchurch rebuild to be led by Govt
Amelia Romanos (Herald): Quake rebuild unit a 'stalling tactic'
Warwick Rasmussen (Manawatu Standard): Brownlee takes over as driver
Steven Cowan (Against the current): Business Blueprint
Eric Crampton (Offsetting Behaviour): Take-over
 
New Zealand-Australia Labour Market
John Hartevelt (Stuff): Shearer, English at odds on Aussies
Danya Levy (Stuff): Key wants a high-wage NZ
Darien Fenton (Red Alert): NZ – the new low wage frontier?
Robert Winter (Idle Thoughts): The Race that Mr Key can win: to the bottom
 
Industrial disputes
 
ACC
Claire Trevett (Herald): Collins 'not satisfied' with ACC
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Need to rebuild confidence in ACC
 
Housing
 
International relations and trade
Adam Bennett (Herald): 'NZ lagging' says Indonesian media
 
Upcoming political events
Writers Festival: Tweeting the revolution
University of Auckland: Policy and practice in opposition
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): MMP Review Hearings
Electoral Commission: Schedule of hearings
Steven Price (Media law journal): Media regulation seminar
 
Other
Philip Burdon (Dom Post): Prejudices over Asian people linger
Lyndon Hood (Werewolf): Whereabouts is the nowhere man?
Bryan Gould (Herald): Free-market ideology wrong
Claire Trevett (Herald): MPs' travel transparency overboard
Nicole Brennan-Tupara (Stuff): Cancer rates 'institutionalised racism'
John Anthony (Stuff): Call for apology over iwi failure
Dean Knight (Laws 179 Elephants and the Law): Roy Morgan poll – some odd narrative
Fiona Rotherham (Stuff): Wanted: wealthy Chinese tourists
Morgan Godfery (Maui Street): Parata should think of her mana
Hayden Donnell (Herald): 'Inexcusable' dementia unit failings
No Right Turn: Unlawful detention
Keeping Stock: A Clayton's condemnation
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): A Green MP on the GE attack
Leighton Keith (Stuff): Lawless, Greenpeace activists remanded
Emma Beer (Wellingtonian): Council officials cash in

 

 

 

 

 

 

More by Bryce Edwards

Comments and questions
3

Re the 'National Convention Centre'

(1) why do we need it?
(2) why should the taxpayer pay for it?
(3) if we do need it why isn't it an excellent idea that someone else is paying for it ?
AND most importantly (4) who the hell cares?

It is clearly going to be a private business venture for Sky City and if they make a quid good on them.

Most of us have better things to do with our lives and more important things to worry about than this tripe story.

I thought that hand wringing NIMBYism and angst driven fear of anything with a slight commercial 'tinge' had disappeared from New Zealand as part of a growing maturity and internationalisation. I also believed that fact and information would override spurious innuendo and automatic assumptions when it came to people in power 'sitting down' (should they be standing up) to investigate common ground and objectives in the form of creating a 'win:win' opportunity for a national convention centre. Problem gambling is a problem in New Zealand but that doesn't mean that instant addiction will come to anyone who happens to come into contact with pokie machines. There is a 'cost' for doing business and to my mind what Sky City is asking versus offering tips well in favour of Auckland and New Zealand. Finger pointing at John Key to say that he is running the country as a business should be applauded and the fact that talk happens behind closed doors doesn't by default suggest anything untoward is happening. Grow up New Zealand and put energy into arguments and issues that really matter.

As a National Voter they will not get another vote from me if this goes ahead ... certainly not well thought out!! Just look at AKL the super city there's a muppet trying to create an entire Car leasing management system within hardly what my rates should be used for!!