NZ POLITICS DAILY: No frills or thrills in Labour at the moment

Andrew Little is the “no frills” party leader according to his deputy, Annette King. It's the same for the whole party.

Labour’s annual conference in the weekend was the most boring in living memory. But maybe that’s their new winning formula.

Andrew Little is the “no frills” party leader according to his deputy, Annette King. It’s a rather honest and accurate assessment. What you see is what you get with him. It might be boring, but he seems to be hoping that this will come across as “solid and dependable” rather than uninspiring and tired. 

It’s the same for the whole party, which in the weekend was looking fairly earnest and drab, yet more competent and united than in recent times. The reality is that this could be the necessary formula for having a chance of winning next year. 

A bland but successful conference

Andrew Little declared "I'm no show pony" at the conference. And certainly there were few reports of wild enthusiasm or dynamism being on display. They’re biding their time, playing a relatively cautious game. 

This seems to be the authentic and honest Labour of 2016. And it’s reflected in much of the media coverage. For example, in summing up the leader’s conference speech, Toby Manhire says: “I thought it was a solid speech. There were no wild rhetorical flourishes, but Little recognises that’s not his metier” – see: Andrew Little rolls out the rug for a Labour tilt at power in 2017. Reflecting the low-key nature of the conference and party, Manhire also points out that the media coverage of the conference was rather low key – all the reports have been downgraded on the newspaper websites or pushed down the 6pm news agenda. 

Overall, Manhire says there was a safe but solid feel to the conference: “The room didn’t feel to me especially as though it was, to borrow a Keyism, on the cusp of something special. But… they are at least rowing in the same direction.”

Similar observations were made by Vernon Small, who seems to have witnessed a successful and serene party, albeit not a “particularly exciting” one – see: Labour puts storms behind it as Little navigates into calmer waters

Small says: “There was a strange sense of calm over Labour's centenary conference in Auckland over the weekend.  Strange, as in unusual ... because in recent history they've been anything but.  From leadership white-anting to passive-aggressive clashes over policy positions on superannuation, man bans or trade, conferences in the recent past have been a seething mess… This year, though, Little deserves some of the credit for the preternatural sense of order and relative serenity.”

Ready to work – “Work for the dole”?

Labour’s most interesting announcement of the weekend was its “Ready to Work” policy of giving long-term unemployed young people the chance of six months’ work. It’s been relatively well received, but vagueness from Labour about important details and costings has marred the policy announcement’s success – see, for example, Newshub’s Has Labour got its youth work scheme numbers right?

One question has arisen about whether it amounts to a more leftwing version of “Work for the dole” type schemes. Certainly Labour have been unclear about the degree to which the scheme would be compulsory, and whether Labour essentially is shifting to support National’s sanctions against those not looking for work. 

RNZ’s Jane Patterson explains: “that's where the policy could get tricky for Labour as Mr Little said there were already sanctions in place for those on the Jobseeker benefit who did not fulfil their obligations; sanctions Labour has previously described as punitive. When Mr Little was asked about how young people would be made to do the paid work if they flat out refused, he referred to the sanctions, and in the next breath reverted to the criticism of them as punitive.  Then he settled on young people being "actively managed" after their six months on a benefit, which left reporters none the wiser about whether those young people would have a choice about whether they would take up the six months work, or how much pressure they would come under to do so” – see: Does Labour truly believe it can beat Key?

Researcher Max Rashbrooke also questions the possible “work for the dole” elements of the policy, but is otherwise enthusiastic – see: Labour’s Ready to Work plan: Good idea, not sure about the details

The costings are also being challenged by Labour’s opponents – David Farrar, for example, says, “At $15,860 per person and 10,000 participants that would be $158 million not $60 million” – see: Dodgy sums from Labour

Labour’s training/immigration levy

Labour’s second most interesting new policy announcement was that it might impose a new levy on some businesses for training workers – see Claire Trevett’s Labour considers levy on businesses hiring migrant workers

Reporters and the party then argued about whether this was an anti-immigrant bid by Labour. Jane Patterson commented: “In his speech, Mr Robertson talked about local firms not relying too heavily on migrant workers.  Despite the party having run hard on the issue of immigration, the high numbers of temporary work visas and the impact on the job market, Mr Robertson was decidedly reluctant to link the levy proposal to immigration” – see: Does Labour truly believe it can beat Key? 

Claire Trevett details how Labour then had to try to rein back in the idea that it was focusing on immigration: “Grant Robertson was indeed in a form of hell as he tortuously tried to explain how a policy which looked, smelt and quacked like an attempt to penalise companies for hiring migrant workers was not that at all” – see: Devilish detail puts Grant Robertson in a fresh hell

Trevett explained that Labour was using “dog whistle” politics, and the media was right to report the immigration element: “So it was a fair assumption the levy was aimed at promoting local workers over migrant workers. But no. Asked if it was a crack down on migrant workers, Robertson said companies would not have to pay the levy if the workers they were training were migrants either… Labour must have known the proposal would get some attention. It had not spoken simply of training young workers, but had thrown the concepts of migrant labour versus 'New Zealand workers' into the mix.”

Labour is particular sensitive to allegations of immigrant-bashing, giving that it is currently fighting a by-election in which, according to Trevett, “half of Mt Roskill voters were born outside New Zealand and 40 per cent are Asian”. She says “So the less said the better about immigration on the streets of Mt Roskill. Instead, [Michael] Wood's campaign material talks about everything except immigration” – see: Labour and how to win Auckland in 50 minutes

Then today, Phil Twyford (who is now chair of Labour’s 2017 election campaign committee), lashed out at TVNZ’s Andrea Vance for her coverage of the conference and policy, tweeting: “Appalled by your biased story on @1NewsNZ last night. You were fully briefed on numbers but you chose to run Nat attack line”, “Andrea's piece a lapse of professnl stds”, and “Public deserves better than bias and hatchet jobs as we enter election year.” You can see a screenshot of the exchange, with journalists’ replies in my blog post: Politician Vs parliamentary press gallery journalists

Departure of Labour’s bolder ex-leader 

Andrew Little’s cautious and conservative approach is in strong contrast to his predecessor, David Cunliffe, who was rather more flamboyant when leading the party. Cunliffe’s departure announcement last week was apt at a time when the party is now clearly going for a very different vibe. 

For a re-cap on what made Cunliffe so colourful, see Toby Manhire’s David Cunliffe is quitting politics.These are his Kodak moments, and Jenna Lynch and Isobel Ewing’s The highlights and lowlights of David Cunliffe's political career.

The various political obituaries were widely varying in their sympathy or condemnation of Cunliffe’s time in politics. The most positive was Chris Trotter’s blog post, Radicalising, Renewing & Repositioning Labour: David Cunliffe’s Impossible Mission

Trotter says he isn’t surprised that Cunliffe has opted to leave: “The toxic, soul-rotting environment of the Labour caucus is no place for a rational human-being. In fact, what really surprised me about Cunliffe was how long he managed to endure the company of those “colleagues” whose petty jealousies and unreasoning hatreds inflicted so much damage – both to him and the Labour Party he tried to lead.”

Trotter paints a picture of Cunliffe as a radical politician of the left trying to reinvent a way forward for his party, but ultimately failing, and then having illusions that Andrew Little might be able to carry out the necessary task. And now, with Cunliffe’s departure, and with the recent death of Helen Kelly, Trotter sees the Labour Party as having little hope for moving beyond cautious politics. He says that he normally goes along to Labour’s annual conference to see signs of a bright future, but this year, “Labour’s bright sunlit morning had turned into a grey rainy day” – see: Why I Won’t Be At The Labour Conference This Weekend.

Finally, for a satirical take on the state of Labour, see my blog post of Cartoons about the Labour Party in 2016

Today’s content

Labour Party conference

Claire Trevett (Herald): Andrew Little: No frills, but not budget brand

Claire Trevett (Herald): Look who's back: Sir Michael Cullen returns to duty with a warning for Grant Robertson

Claire Trevett (Herald): Andrew Little revs up party faithful: 'It's neck and neck'

Richard Harman (Politik): Inside Labour's conference

Jane Patterson (RNZ): Does Labour truly believe it can beat Key?

Toby Manhire (The Spinoff): Andrew Little rolls out the rug for a Labour tilt at power in 2017

Vernon Small (Stuff): Labour puts storms behind it as Little navigates into calmer waters

Herald: Editorial: Labour needs to look more like Auckland

Claire Trevett (Herald): Labour and how to win Auckland in 50 minutes

Newshub:Labour compulsory voting policy just a quick fix - expert 

Adriana Weber (RNZ): Business critical of Labour's proposed no training tax

Alex Mason (Newstalk ZB): Labour's job policy "wrong policy at the wrong time" - Joyce

Jenna Lynch (Newshub): Did Labour plagiarise Newshub? 

Claire Trevett (Herald): Devilish detail puts Grant Robertson in a fresh hell

Newshub: Has Labour got its youth work scheme numbers right?

Andrea Vance (TVNZ): Labour proposing new tax targeting business employing foreign workers

TVNZ: Labour keen to embrace Greens under MMP

Claire Trevett (Herald): Grant Robertson: training levy not part of crackdown on migrant labour

Vernon Small (Stuff): Labour offers six months paid work to young long-term unemployed

Claire Trevett (Herald): Labour's $60m plan for 6 months' paid work for youth on dole

Newswire:Annette King: Andrew Little a 'no frills' leader 

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Dodgy sums from Labour

Chris Trotter (Daily Blog): Why I Won’t Be At The Labour Conference This Weekend

Claire Trevett (Herald): Labour renews 'baby bonus' policy for Election 2017

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Labour’s got 63 solutions but brevity ain’t one

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Labour wants to remove work testing for beneficiaries if they volunteer

NBR: Labour considers tax on those who hire offshore to fill skilled positions

Greg Presland (The Standard): The Future of Work Commission report

RNZ: Labour's tax plan 'would fall on its face'

Claire Trevett (Herald): Greens on the menu at Labour Party conference

Claire Trevett (Herald): Labour to promise free retraining to workers who lose jobs to technology

Claire Trevett (Herald): Labour to business: train New Zealand workers or pay a tax

Claire Trevett (Herald): Labour considers levy on businesses hiring migrant workers

Dan Satherley (Newshub): Labour to businesses: Upskill your workers, or pay up 

Rob Hosking (NBR): Saggy centrism and an election to win (paywalled)

Vernon Small (Stuff): Green co-leaders Shaw and Turei seated on stage at Labour conference opening

RNZ: Labour would tax skill-short industries

Jacinda Ardern, David Seymour (Stuff): Jacinda v David: Time to turn alarm bells into opportunities

Greg Presland (The Standard): Go home Roy Morgan, you’re drunk

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Shaw a hit at Labour conference

Eva Hartshorn-Sanders (The Standard):For Senior Vice President

Tane Phillips (The Standard): For Māori Vice President

Beth Houston (The Standard): For Senior Vice President

Gareth Morgan’s TOP

Liam Hehir (Stuff): Move from critic to 'arena' a daunting challenge for Gareth Morgan

The Press: Editorial: the more political parties, the merrier

Dominion Post: Editorial: Gareth Morgan's party of ideas faces big obstacles

Jane Bowron (Stuff): Cat man's claws out for main political parties

Chris Keall (NBR): Rich blokes (and Winston) creating their own parties: a brief history

Chris Bramwell (RNZ): Who's left when Morgan's on TOP?

John Armstrong: Gareth Morgan’s Opportuniities knocks

Nicholas Jones (Herald): John Key on 'super controversial' Gareth Morgan

Nicholas Jones (Herald): Gareth Morgan launches new political party: Compares himself to Trump

Nicholas Jones (Herald): Gareth Morgan 'overwhelmed' at support for new party as hundreds sign up

Kim Dotcom (The Spinoff): ‘Change always requires pain’: Kim Dotcom’s advice to Gareth Morgan on starting a party

Jenna Lynch (Newshub): Andrew Little just doesn't want to talk about Gareth Morgan 

Stephen Keys (UnframedNZ): The Gareth Morgan show

Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog):Labour Conference eclipsed by Gareth Morgan and how Little resets

Lincoln Tan (Herald): John Key: Gareth Morgan 'very unlikely' to get into Parliament, unless Labour and Greens implode

TVNZ: Kiwis split on Gareth Morgan's tilt at Parliament

Kiwifirewalker: Thank you Gareth Morgan, thank you!

Shannon Redstall (Newshub):Key welcomes 'controversial' Gareth Morgan to the race 

RNZ: Labour on Morgan's new party: 'Great to see him in our corner'

Newshub: Gareth Morgan's Opportunities Party building steam

Saudi sheep deal

Fran O'Sullivan (Herald): Ministers were played over Saudi sheep

Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Rising corruption investigations are a symptom of growing mistrust

Andrea Vance (TVNZ): This is not how NZ does business

Benedict Collins (RNZ): Saudi deal a wolf in sheep's clothing

RNZ: PM defends Saudi sheep deal as good use of taxpayer money

Ben Thomas (NBR): The Last Great Escape (paywalled)

Rob Hosking (NBR): How do you solve a problem like Murray? (paywalled)


US election and NZ

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): No matter who wins, America will wake up divided on November 9

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Why the hate for Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton?

RNZ: PM sees 'negative and ugly' US election discourse

Jonathan Milne (Stuff): The American election is a slow-motion car crash

Patrick Gower (Newshub): With four days to go, US election at its most malevolent

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Trump victory could mark slide into isolation, damaging export hopes

Heather du Plessis-Allan (Herald): Rooting for Trump

Graeme Acton (RNZ): In Trump, we're crushed: Bleeder of the free world

Andrew Gunn (Stuff): A guide for undecided voters

Michael Wright (Stuff):Clinton v Trump: Two US expats in New Zealand argue for two different presidents


Shane Cowlishaw (Auckland Now): Serco staff left Mt Eden prisoner bleeding on floor

Newshub: Serco illegal mail opening not isolated incident - Kelvin Davis

RNZ: Dying prisoner's family: 'They want us to pipe down'

Dan Satherley (Newshub): Labour: Free Vicki Letele 'today'

Dominion Post Editorial: Sensible decision in the hard case of Losi Filipo


Herald Editorial: Seclusion ban a step toward managing difficult pupils

Newshub: Early childhood system 'in crisis' – union

Newshub: Government to review early childhood curriculum 

Herald: Education Minister Hekia Parata seeks public input on update to 20-year-old early childhood education curriculum, Te Whāriki

Deborah Hill Cone (Herald): Never mind seclusion rooms. let's get rid of schools

RNZ: Govt spends up for Christchurch schools


Dominion Post: National Portrait: Maryan Street, the campaigner

John Weekes (Stuff): Pleas for right to end life as euthanasia select committee hearings held in Wellington

Isaac Davison (Herald): Deputy Prime Minister Bill English's wife speaks out against euthanasia


Bernard Hickey (Herald): Get real! Work rate drives wages

Jordan Bond (Herald): Employment outpacing population growth

Matthew Hutching, Conor Whitten (Newshub): Make companies' gender pay gap public – Commissioner

The Nation: Transcript: Lisa Owen interviews Jackie Blue, Jan Logie, and Rachel Petero

Chloe Winter (Stuff): Law to force businesses to declare gender pay gaps: Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue

Claire Trevett (Herald): Labour: beneficiaries should be able to volunteer instead of taking jobs

Paul Henry controversy

David Cohen (NBR): Marvellyous ironies in publicity stunt (paywalled)

Lizzie Marvelly (Herald): No sir - we're not your honey now

Steve Braunias (Herald): Secret diary of the Paul Henry crisis

Herald: Paul Henry publicist accused of misconduct after star's 'perfect titties' comments

John Drinnan (ZagZigger): Celebrity Outrage: It’s Sad. So Sad

National Party

Audrey Young (Herald): McCully's value to Key set to increase after US elections

Herald: Former National Party president Michelle Boag adapts rap hit Gangs`ta's Paradise during debate at party fundraiser in Auckland

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Why isn’t National attracting more candidates in safe seats?

Dita de Boni (TVNZ): Our Foreign Minister lives a charmed life

Mt Roskill by-election

Rodney Hide (Herald): No meat in this pork barrel

Jenna Lynch (Newshub): National starts by-election campaign

Auckland vs provinces political bias

RNZ: Peters derides Auckland-centric highway funding

Nicholas Jones (Herald):'Big city' politicians have eyes only for Auckland - Winston Peters

Jenna Lynch (Newshub): Winston Peters calls for transport spending to be matched in the provinces


Phil Duncan (Redline): An insight into how the state operates: police harass senior citizens after public meeting

Newshub: Christchurch Council upset by police alcohol dump

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Why not sell or auction it?


Herald: Generation blessed - housing crisis sparks return to inherited wealth and class

Susan Edmunds (Stuff): New Zealanders expecting house prices to soar could be caught out


Nicholas Jones (Herald): Handful of GPs charging fees for under 13s - with most in Auckland

RNZ: Housing crisis blamed for Auckland's rheumatic fever rates


Tao Lin (Stuff): 'Sickening' comments on dairy farming Facebook page

Herald: New Zealand Government spends $380k, hires United States lobbyists for Helen Clark's United Nations bid

Martin van Beynen (Stuff): Beggars just crying out to be locked up

Shamubeel Eaqub (Stuff): Banking sector needs reforming

RNZ: Racial discrimination often unreported – Commissioner

David Slack (Stuff): And Presidents might fly

KIwipolitico: What Domestic Terrorism Threat?

Deena Coster (Stuff): Funding shortfall for NZ's elder abuse sector putting people at risk

Craig Hoyle (Stuff): Youthline is preparing to slash staff numbers as it struggles to stay afloat in the face of funding cuts.

Martin Johnston (Herald): MP demands inquiry into artificial limb services for amputees

Mike Angove (Newshub): Opinion: Joseph Parker fight deserves public money 

Pattrick Smellie (BusinessDesk): RMA reform process in turmoil

Richard Swainson (Stuff): Comments cast doubt on Rowarth's suitability for the EPA position

Jo Moir (Stuff): Kiwi troops expanding their presence in Iraq after Government approves new base for training

RNZ: NZ military to train in third Iraq base

RNZ: Gender-balanced parliament would bring 'a great dynamic'

Jonathon Howe (Stuff): Old guard to make way for new blood at next year's general election

ODT: Meet New Zealand's youngest politician and high school drop-out

Rodney Hide (NBR): Policymaking shortcuts abandon principles (paywalled)

Sam Sachdeva (Stuff): Parliament considering whether Kiwi children be allowed to bike on the footpath

Russell Brown (Public Address): From Zero: New Zealand and drugs

Kyra Dawson (Rotorua Daily Post): Maori make a stand in a bid to help American indigenous people

Ellen Read (Stuff): Trans-Tasman co-operation needs more honesty

David Burroughs (Taranaki Daily News): Parihaka day looks to the future while remembering the past

RNZ: Green Party calls for National Parihaka Day

Stuff: US Secretary of State John Kerry to visit New Zealand next week

Brian Edwards: Hey, Max!

RNZ: NZers should not be bullied out of their homes - ACT Party

David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Boorman dies

Kim Mcbreen (Spinoff): Racial justice meets the child welfare system: why Hands Off Our Tamariki is a movement for change

Lee Suckling (Stuff): Kiwis' acceptance of minorities isn't there yet

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