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Yesterdaze: Great tensions and furious anger

Donation legislation, the infinite monkey theory and the angriest man in NZ politics. Not to mention Paula Bennett's black-market oregano. James Elliott's news of the week. 

This week the Government carried on with the discount frenzy from last week’s Black Friday, introducing legislation to discount the ceiling on political donations by overseas persons by a whopping 97.7 percent, from $15,000 to just $50. Justice Minister Andrew Little explained that the new law was intended to curb foreign influence in our elections, but the $50 threshold was kept to enable small-scale fundraising activities like bucket donations and whip-rounds.

It’s not clear how a New Zealand political party might carry out a whip-round for donations from overseas persons, but if you see Clarke Gayford lugging a chilly bin around the next time he accompanies Jacinda Ardern on an overseas trip now you’ll know why. Only it’s not quite as simple as that. Anonymous donations are still allowed up to $1500 so an unidentified cash donation in a single-use brown paper bag seems like a simple work-around for an overseas donor. And that’s before you get to the challenge of working out whether or not the donor is an overseas person. This is particularly difficult when the donor is a New Zealand company that might be foreign-owned, so keep an eye for suspicious new company names like “Definitely Not Johnny Foreigner Ltd”. It’s clear that enforcing the new legislation, which is more loophole than law, is going to be a tough assignment. At least Andrew Little can start the donor identification process with that list of Chinese-sounding names he used a few years ago to try and show who was buying what in the Auckland housing market. So in summary, well-intentioned but largely ineffective – and the new political donations law isn’t much better.  

We should never underestimate NZ First, particularly the ability to shoot itself in one foot while the other foot is in its mouth.

The Labour Party itself picked up on the discount vibe this week with its poll rating falling to 39 percent in the latest Colmar Brunton poll. That’s Labour’s worst result in two years, leaving it well behind National on 46 percent. And with NZ First polling under 5 percent, if an election were held today, National and Act could form a government with 61 seats. That’s because Act is polling at 2 percent, meaning that he’d get to bring a friend to work. But before 2 percent of you get over-excited - or 98 percent of you become dismayed - at the prospect of two Act MPs in Parliament he’s polling at 2 percent support in a poll that has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.   

Also, the poll was taken before Labour announced a $400m cash-injection package for capital expenditure on most but not all New Zealand schools, with each recipient school receiving at least $50k. That announcement would undoubtedly have given Labour a boost in its polling - an even larger boost when we learned that Destiny School was not one of the recipient schools getting a cash handout. Destiny’s Brian Tamaki was furious in a way that only a man whose lifestyle is funded by getting cash handouts can be.

As angry as Brian Tamaki was, he wasn’t the angriest man in New Zealand politics this week. That was Winston. Again. NZ First was polling under 4 percent, but that wasn’t what was making Winston angry. NZ First always polls just under the 5 percent MMP threshold until just before the election. Jacinda Ardern said she wasn’t concerned about the polls and counselled that we should “never underestimate NZ First”. And she’s right. We should never underestimate NZ First, particularly the ability to shoot itself in one foot while the other foot is in its mouth. The brouhaha over the NZ First Foundation and the funding of NZ First itself rumbled on this week with the usual Winston memes, “Winston lashes out at ...” and “Winston comes out swinging at ...”.

I’m assuming Paula supports the regulated sale of cannabis so that she doesn’t get ripped off buying a baggie of oregano again.      

To be fair, Winston tends to trot out repetitive catchphrases too. “Gall and audacity”, “innuendo and slight” and “biased media” were all in the mix this week as he lashed and swung both in and outside the debating chamber. At one point he even told Deputy Speaker Anne Tolley to “just follow the script”. I wasn’t aware that Parliamentary debates were scripted but if they are then they disprove the infinite monkey theory that a monkey hitting keys on a typewriter for an infinite number of times will eventually type any given text such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. I’m confident in theorising that a monkey would not need anywhere near an infinite amount of time to type the Hansard from this, or indeed any, week’s Parliamentary debates.

And, query whether Paula Bennett was following the script when she held up a 14g “baggie of weed” during the debate on the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill. As Newshub soberly reported, “the substance that looked like cannabis was in fact just oregano”. I didn’t follow the debate too closely but I’m assuming Paula supports the regulated sale of cannabis so that she doesn’t get ripped off buying a baggie of oregano again.      

Have a peaceful weekend.

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