John Armstrong: Jacinda Ardern has appeared flustered, even rattled, during the first crises to hit her Government

Jacinda Ardern sold herself to the voting public last year as a politician who was as fresh and pure as driven snow.

During the past couple of weeks, her prime ministership has looked about as fresh and pure as mud-caked slush.

She has been deluged with unwanted distractions which have dominated the headlines and made it commensurately difficult to talk about the things she would prefer to have highlighted by the media.

Dealing with such an unrelenting litany of political mishaps goes with the territory of prime minister, however.

Source: 1 NEWS

All of a sudden Wonder Woman is looking like just another struggling premier side-tracked by side shows.

Brand Jacinda would seem to be metamorphosing into Calamity Jacinda. 

For the first time since her seemingly effortless ascension to the country’s top job just five short months ago, she has appeared flustered, if not rattled.

1 NEWS political reporters Katie Bradford and Andrea Vance discuss the latest on the tiff. Source: 1 NEWS

Ardern’s difficulties have left many wondering whether they are a sign that the wheels are already falling off her Heath Robinson-like contraption of a government.

Her three-party combo is far more complex and potentially much more volatile than any other constructed since the introduction of MMP.

Labour needs no reminding of the Greens’ capacity to be thankless thorns in its side.  

Add the in-your-face bolshiness of New Zealand First to the mix and you have a recipe for mayhem.

With regard to the latter party, Ardern can expect more friction of the kind generated this week by Shane Jones in his full-on offensive against Air New Zealand.

In one stroke, he made it absolutely clear that such constitutional niceties as collective Cabinet responsibility, which constrains ministers from going solo in speaking out, now count for very little.

No politician lost votes pinging the national carrier. There are correspondingly no votes gained in defending the airline.

But the latter was the invidious position into which Ardern was thrust courtesy of the deliberately over-the-top call by the Minister for Regional Economic Development for heads to roll on the board of Air New Zealand.

Jones got the media attention he was seeking. But his undermining of Ardern did nothing for public confidence in the stability of the Government overall.

Well might she feel let down by Jones. Well may she feel let down by Jones’ leader who backed him to the hilt.

It is high time Winston Peters worked out that being Deputy Prime Minister —a post which enjoys a $37,000 margin on top of the standard $290,000 salary paid to Cabinet ministers — requires him to act in the Government’s wider interest rather than solely New Zealand First’s self-interest.

The list of those who have let Ardern down in past weeks is not confined to Peters’ party, however

Ardern was badly let down by Andrew Kirton, Labour’s general secretary, and Nigel Howarth, the party’s president, following the shocking revelations of under-age drinking and allegations of sexual assault at a Young Labour-organised summer camp.

In particular, Howarth took so long to front in public that you could be excused thinking he was auditioning for the role of the Invisible Man.

Well might Ardern wish that Peters was the Invisible Man.

He further badly let her down in his other role as Foreign Minister. 

She bent over backwards to stem the criticism rightly heaped upon him for his woeful handling of New Zealand’s response to the attempted murder of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

Peters veered close to provoking a foreign policy crisis through point-blank refusal to use the words “assassination”, “nerve agent”, “Russia” and “responsible” in the same sentence.

Q+A host Corin Dann seeks clarity on the government's stance on Russia in the wake of the nerve agent attack in the UK. Source: Q+A

The Prime Minister has also been badly let down by the Greens, who have instantly revived their flagging reputation for adopting the weird and the whacky by announcing they would be gifting their allotment of parliamentary questions to the Opposition.

James Shaw was the first to agree the idea sounded crazy. Not only does it sound crazy. It is crazy. It is also little short of treachery.

It seems to have escaped the Greens that their gesture —ostensibly made in the interests of improving ministerial accountability — is a breach of the spirit, if not the wording of their co-operation agreement with Labour.

If things are going to fall apart, however, it will likely be because of clashes over policy matters.

One such battle is already looming. The Greens’ parliamentary wing now looks likely to yield to pressure from the wider party membership to block legislation instigated by Peters which would see MPs indulging in party-hopping chucked out of Parliament.

Peters is obsessed with getting an anti-waka jumping law back on the statute books after a previous such measure expired more than a decade ago. There is little or no room for compromise.

We are thus entering unchartered waters. When it comes to steering into the rocks, there are going to be many false alarms, however.

Should the governing arrangement collapse, the party deemed as responsible for bringing the House down can guarantee it will be punished heavily by voters. 

It could prove to be fatal. The Greens and New Zealand First are currently registering less than 7 per cent support in opinion polls. Neither party holds an electorate seat which would void the 5 per cent threshold.

The Greens are hogtied; New Zealand First slightly less so. Were the current Government to collapse, Peters could approach National and try to form an alternative administration.

He would have little bargaining power.

Moreover, National might prefer to take advantage of the chaos to try to convince voters that a stand-alone National majority government was the best option in ensuring the restoration of political stability.

These factors will likely make the current governing arrangement far more robust than might appear to be the case.

The podcast this week looks at the issue for Labour of Winston Peters' Russian stance Source: 1 NEWS

The danger lies in the parties accidentally ending up in circumstances which make it impossible for them to back down or back off over some issue where they are in serious disagreement.

Avoiding such a scenario requires discipline. That commodity would seem to be in increasingly short supply, however.

Ardern needs to read the Riot Act to Peters and Shaw. She also needs to take heed of it herself.

She let herself down while clearing up the mess created by Peters’ botched handling of the Russia problem. And badly so. 

Her claim this week that New Zealand had been ahead of the international pack in declaring Moscow was behind the attempted murder of Skripal was as outrageous as it was audacious as it was patently incorrect.

She made reference to a statement issued under Peters’ name which condemned the “totally repugnant” use of chemical weapons as a tool for assassination.

Peters’ statement, however, offered not a word on whether responsibility for the assassination attempt could or should be sheeted home to Moscow.

In marked contrast, Britain’s other allies showed no hesitation in laying the blame for the nerve agent attack squarely at Russia’s door.

It took a couple more days for New Zealand to fall into line and declare via a joint statement issued under Ardern’s and Peters’ names that “Russia has serious questions to answer”.

No-one who has kept tabs on how events unfolded will be fooled by the Prime Minister’s blatant and shameless attempt to rewrite history. 

She will get away with it on this occasion. The conduct of foreign policy is not something the public cares that much about.

Ardern would be well-advised not to make a habit of playing fast and loose with the facts, however. Her patter might be silky smooth. But she cannot expect to talk her way out of every predicament that she finds herself enmeshed in. 

Sooner than later, she will be caught out. 

Voters have invested much hope in her being a politician who can be trusted absolutely. To make fools of those who have shown such faith in her would be to invite a backlash truly terrible in its scale and vitriol.



Don Brash says Massey's Vice Chancellor should consider resigning after email dump

Former National Party leader Don Brash is calling for Massey University's vice-chancellor to consider her position, saying it's "almost untenable".

The university prevented Dr Brash from speaking at its Manawatū campus last month.

He was due to give a speech about his time in politics, but vice-chancellor Jan Thomas cancelled the talk for security reasons.

The university had cited a Facebook post on 3 August that linked to the event page and included the comment "take a gun".

But the former National Party leader is calling on the university's Vice Chancellor to resign. Source: 1 NEWS

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act contain correspondence to and from Ms Thomas in the run-up to the cancellation.

In one email, on 9 July, the vice-chancellor said she did not want a "te tiriti led university to be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours".

On 10 July, Ms Thomas emailed to say she would like to know the options for banning the politics club from holding events on campus.

She said the "racist behaviour of Dr Brash - given te reo is an official language of NZ and we are a tiriti-led university - can't be ignored".

Speaking from China, Dr Brash said he considered Ms Thomas' position almost untenable and told RNZ that he believes she was "totally misleading".

"Quite frankly, I don't know if she can stay in her position."

Dr Brash has previously said he believed it was his views, rather than safety concerns, that led to him being banned from the publicly-funded university.

The documents also contain many emails sent to the university objecting to its cancellation decision.

- By Amy Williams

rnz.co.nz

Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas and Don Brash Source: rnz.co.nz

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New Zealand's refugee quota jumps to 1500 per year from July 2020, Government announces

New Zealand’s refugee quota will be raised to 1500, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. 

It was previously 1000, after being increased by the National-led Government from 750 in 2016.

That's 500 extra people who'll be making New Zealand home annually. Source: 1 NEWS

"It is the right thing to do," said Ms Ardern. 

"It puts New Zealand much more in line with the humanitarian policies of other developed countries."

Deputy PM Winston Peters said the increase was "about people, not about politics and controversy". 

The NZ First leader said the increase was “always on the cards”. Source: 1 NEWS

The new quota will take effect from July 2020. 

Major points

- There will be six new settlement locations, on top of re-establishing Christchurch as a settlement location.

- Expanding the public housing supply for 150 extra refugee families is expected to cost $32.5 million over three years. 

- Budget 2018 included money to build new accommodation blocks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre 

ONN 1 News at 6 promo image
For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

Background

Yesterday, Ms Ardern told media she wanted to see the current quota increased but a sticking point has been the vastly different policy positions of Labour's Government partners. 

Labour pledged to raise the quota to 1500 and the Green Party aimed for a quota of 5000.

Earlier this month NZ First's Winston Peters told media in Nauru that the focus needed to be on New Zealanders struggling at home.

"We have 50,000 people who are homeless back home and I can show you parts of Northland where people are living in degradation," Mr Peters said, while being questioned at the Pacific Islands' Forum.

National's Simon Bridges said yesterday if the refugee quota was lower than 1500 it would be a demonstration of "Winston Peters undermining the Prime Minister".

"If you look at the Prime Minister's rhetoric she's made great play about being a globalist, a progressive with soaring rhetoric on these issues.

"It's all very well to do the photo ops, the international pieces, but when you've got important questions like this back home that... [are] now are up in the air because of a lack of unanimity and cohesion."

PM Jacinda Ardern made the announcement today. Source: 1 NEWS

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Government moves to make pay equity claims easier - 'We must continue to close gap'

The Government want to make it easier for workers to lodge pay equity claims, introducing a proposed law on the 125th anniversary women first got the vote in New Zealand. 

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees Galloway said today he was proud to take "the next step to address historic inequities in pay for women". 

He said The Equal Pay Amendment Bill was intended to make the process of making pay equity claims simplified and more accessible.

Acting Women's Minister Eugenie Sage said the bill was "one piece of the puzzle" in striving to close the gender pay gap. 

"Discrimination has led to lower pay for many female-dominated industries, despite having similar working conditions and skill requirements to comparable male-dominated occupations."

Earlier this year, National MP Denise Lee's Members' Bill on pay equity was voted down.

It intended to "eliminate and prevent discrimination on the basis of sex" in employment pay, and to also "promote enduring settlement of claims relating to sex discrimination on pay equity grounds". 

Labour MP Megan Woods saying there were "some very simple mechanistic reasons contained within this legislation why that would not occur", and fellow MP Jan Tinetti saying "this bill does put things backwards for pay equity". Labour, National and NZ First voted against it. 

Shot of New Zealand twenty dollars.
New Zealand $20 notes (file picture). Source: istock.com


Watch: 'Cantankerous old' rescue dog's escape down Bay of Islands thoroughfare prompts laughter around the world

A rescue dog named Lily from the Bay of Islands has become an overnight internet sensation after her wily escape down Kawakawa’s main street – with a giant flag in tow — put smiles on tens of thousands of Facebook users' faces.

CCTV footage of the freedom-seeking furball's runner — accompanied by Yakety Sax, the song made famous by the Benny Hill Show — has been viewed more than 320,000 times in the first 16 hours since it was posted last night.

Lucie Green, a volunteer with Bay of Islands Animal Rescue, was taking the basset hound for a walk last week when she decided to stop at a local business to buy Lily a treat.

But the dog wasn't interested in waiting to see what surprise might be in store, instead bolting despite being tied to the large Coca-Cola flag.

"It wasn't until I saw the video that I realised I had charged into oncoming traffic, which is quite alarming, but I just wanted to get hold of her before someone hit her," Ms Green told the New Zealand Herald today, describing the nine-year-old as a "cantankerous old lady".

"After taking her home I realised I still had to return the flag and pay for my sausage," she added. "I couldn't believe it."

Ms Green changed her Facebook profile picture to show Lilly late last night as the video, posted by user James Mcdonald, quickly started to take on a life of its own.

Thousands of people have since commented on the video, with many of them admiring the dog’s spirit.

"I'm laughing my guts out it's so funny," wrote Facebook user Annie Hicks.

"Crack up go doggie," added user Katie Bennett.