Opinion: Bill English didn't cover himself in glory in Todd Barclay saga

Apart from the odd blemish, such as Gerry Brownlee’s notoriously short temper, the National-led minority Government has largely been free of the flaws which sooner or later afflict and then cripple and then destroy third-term governments.

The news comes as opposition parties seized on new allegations about the contents of the alleged recordings. Source: 1 NEWS

Those flaws include ill-discipline, arrogance, complacency and indifference to those who have kept the party in power over a long period.

Such failings can infiltrate the slickest of political machines — sometimes all at once.

Nevertheless, with just three months to go, National could have been excused thinking it would not fall victim to such faults this side of Election Day.

Source: 1 NEWS

It has instead fallen victim to something which it could never have predicted—the rampant ego of a nobody backbencher whose sole reason for being noticed is the very telling fact that he is the youngest MP in the current, but soon-to-be dissolved Parliament.

Enter Todd Barclay. The Clutha-Southland MP — though not for much longer — will struggle to be even a footnote to history.

The collateral damage from his self-destructive behaviour serves as a reminder of three things:
-no MP can be allowed to be under the misapprehension that they are bigger than the party they serve
-that the threats to the smooth running of a political party can come from within as much as from without
- and that failure by the party’s leadership to confront and deal with those two preceding factors in the short term risks the party having to pay a far bigger price in the long term

As prime minister for much of the time that Barclay was allowed to run amuck, the now-Sir John Key is guilty of what might be described as political negligence.

The same charge applies to Bill English, who has clearly struggled to separate his loyalties to the electorate he represented for 24 years as a constituency MP from the role of party leader.

It was easier to sweep the whole sorry mess under the Beehive carpet than risk turning Barclay into a rogue MP and what that might have meant for the preservation of National’s slim majority in Parliament.

The subsequent exposure of the ructions flowing from Barclay’s alleged recording of the conversations of an electorate office staff member left National dazed.

English has sought to play down the whole episode as nothing more than a run-of-the-mill employment dispute.

1 NEWS political editor Corin Dann grills the Prime Minister on the scandal that rocked the National Party this week. Source: Q+A

The Opposition parties have painted a far more sinister picture: that Barclay informed English of the recordings and that, rather than alert police to illegal activity, National’s hierarchy engaged in a cover-up that saw “hush money” from the taxpayer-funded leader’s allowance used to facilitate an out-of-court settlement in order to keep the affair out of public view.

In trying to catch English out on the detail, the Opposition parties failed to present the big picture, however.

The feeding frenzy within the Wellington Beltway has been met with indifference outside those confines.

Sure, the re-opening of the police investigation into the taping allegations will hover over National during the four-week official election campaign.

On past record, however, the police are most unlikely to have completed their work and made decisions on laying charges prior to Election Day.

In the interim, English is citing the investigation as a valid reason to refrain from all comment on anything remotely connected to Barclay.

That does not mean English is necessarily off the hook. There will be much muttering about taxpayer money being used to pull National out of a political pickle.

English will have incurred damage. But that will be the result not so much of what he has said but his demeanour while saying it. 

National’s annual conference last weekend was supposed to have been a platform for promoting the Brave New World of Bill English Future.

The assembled delegates were instead gathered together in front of a backdrop of a journey back to the Dark Ages of Bill English Past.

Those in National's ranks who were around in 2002 when English led the party to its worst defeat in its history will have experienced disturbing flashbacks.

English turned in less than convincing performances in television interviews filmed prior to last weekend’s gathering of the party faithful.

As one observer aptly noted, the Prime Minister wore the look of a prisoner in the dock.

He was defensive, hesitant, uncertain and evasive — all the characteristics he displayed in the lead-up to the 2002 debacle.

In almost every respect, the circumstances of 2002 and 2017 are entirely different. National’s worry, however, is that the mauling its leader has received from all and sundry over his mishandling of the Barclay affair will dent his confidence and stunt what has otherwise been an almost faultless transition into the country’s top job.

The fear will be that if National strikes strife during this year’s election campaign, the image English projects will turn into something uncomfortably close to the image he has projected over the past week or so.

The bottom-line for English — one his advisors will be urging he must heed — is that he not appear weak.

It could be argued that in fronting up for what he knew would be very uncomfortable television interviews, English was displaying real leadership.

He had little choice, however. It is unheard of for a party leader to duck the media at his or her party’s annual get together.

English’s other apparent act of strength since taking over from Sir John Key has been the turfing of Barclay off National’s ticket.

That was similarly not so much an act of strength as an act of necessity.

Andrew Little on the Todd Barclay scandal and his own intern headache. Source: Q+A

The opportunity for English to have displayed real leadership was back in March when it was confirmed that Barclay had refused to co-operate with the police in their investigation into the alleged illegal recording.

That admission instantly disqualified Barclay from continuing to be an MP. He should have been ejected from National’s caucus and procedures set in place to throw him out of the party.

That, of course, might have resulted in much of what National had been hiding flooding into the political domain.

At least, however, English would have been on the front foot, rather than hostage to the mixture of disturbing and embarrassing revelations leaking out of the party and onto the online news site Newsroom.

The absence of indignation both inside and outside Parliament following Barclay’s admission was a further incentive to do nothing.

It all makes something of a mockery of National’s claim to be the party of law and order.

But then the longer a party is in power, the more likely it is to become blinkered to such inconsistency and impervious to the criticism of those highlighting it.

Over 20 vehicles vandalised overnight in suburb on Auckland's North Shore

More than 20 vehicles have been damaged overnight in an area on Auckland's, North Shore.

Police say a number of vehicles' tyres have been vandalised in Birkdale's, Tiri Tiri Road and Woodhams Street area.

Anyone who has had their car damaged is urged to report it to police if they haven't already done so.

Police are making area enquiries and conducting scene and forensic examinations and are interested to hear from anyone who may have information.

John Healy says people drastically underestimate the risks of leaving kids or pets in their car.
Source: 1 NEWS

Vodafone's 'unlimited' mobile plan comes under Commerce Commission scrutiny

The Commerce Commission has started an investigation into Vodafone's "unlimited" mobile plan launched in July which has a number of restrictions listed on the plan's promo page.

The NZ Herald reports the question is whether the "limited" factors are sufficiently prominent. 

The news outlet's online report says the ComCom refused any comment while its investigation was open.

The restrictions are listed on Vodafone's Unlimited Mobile promo page, but only after you click a link labelled "Important things to know".

Vodafone's "Unlimited Mobile" plan is $79.99 a month and NZ Herald says like "unlimited" plans launched earlier by rivals Spark and 2degrees, it has a number of limits.

These include speed being reduced from 4G to 3G if a customer downloads more than 22GB of mobile data within a month, and streaming video restricted to standard definition.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said the company is "working through the details with the Commission and will co-operate fully with their investigation".

The regulator last month laid 10 charges against Vodafone under the Fair Trading Act for billing beyond the date of some customers' notice period.

In another legal action, the commission is targeting Vodafone's Fibre X marketing campaign.

More companies have gone into streamlining health and safety features such as picking up your arrival using  your phone and printing out your name tag ready to go when you arrive.
Source: 1 NEWS


Watch: 'We need to fix the bloody road' – MPs engage in heated exchange over deadly stretch of highway into Tauranga

A heated debate in Parliament over a stretch of road near Tauranga ended with the Transport Minister being asked to commit to driving the road himself. 

State Highway 2 between Katikati and Tauranga has seen numerous serious crashes and deaths.

In the last six years to March 2018, 21 people have been killed on the 37-kilometre stretch of road between Katikati and Tauranga.

In Question Time today, National MP Jami-Lee Ross asked Mr Twyford: "Why did he make the funding decision to reduce the State highway improvement budget... a project that would have saved lives on a stretch of road that has seen 86 serious and death crashes in the recent past years?"

Mr Twyford rejected that he made the decision, and said he agreed "with the people of Tauranga that we need to fix the bloody road, the number of crashes is unacceptable".

"We are investing $65 million right now on State Highway 2 between Waihī and Ōmokoroa to make this stretch of road safer."

Hundreds of campaigners marched across Wairoa Bridge today. Source: 1 NEWS

It comes after protesters blocked part of the road in Tauranga on the weekend, calling for major safety upgrades. 

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller asked the Minister to commit to driving from Ōmokoroa to Tauranga, "to experience first-hand that road, like my constituents do every day?"

"I can't commit to that," Mr Twyford said. "Because I am busy making sure that the Transport Agency... gets on with re-evaluating that project so that we can make the safety improvements on that highway that that Government failed to do over nine years and has spent the last nine months scaremongering about."

$100 million will be spent on safety between Waihi and Omokoroa, but protesters say a four-lane highway must be built.

The Transport Minister agreed it needs to be fixed, as National’s Todd Muller challenged the Minister "to experience the road first-hand". Source: 1 NEWS

'Some links to the Mongrel Mob' – seven charged after BOP police sting sees guns, Hilux vehicles, $21k cash, drugs seized

Police have arrested and charged seven people after executing a number of search warrants in the eastern Bay of Plenty as part of Operation Notus II.

Speaking to media today Senior Sergeant Richard Miller said the operation had "some links to the Mongrel Mob".

Operation Notus II is the second phase of a long-running investigation, led by the National Organised Crime Group, into organised crime and the supply and supplying of methamphetamine and cannabis in the eastern Bay of Plenty region.

Acting Eastern Bay of Plenty Area Commander, Senior Sergeant Richard Miller briefed media today. Source: 1 NEWS

Search warrants were conducted this morning in properties in Kawerau, Whakatāne and Te Teko.

The seven are facing a number of charges, including possession for supply, and supplying, methamphetamine and cannabis, as well as firearms-related offending.

They will appear in Whakatāne District Court this afternoon.

Along with methamphetamine and cannabis, 26 firearms and more than $21,000 in cash has been seized.

Three stolen Toyota Hilux utes were recovered from one address in Kawerau, along with a number of power tools.

A stolen Toyota Hilux Surf and trailer were recovered from another address.

Operation Notus, launched in October 2017, revealed the Kawerau Mongrel Mob's involvement in the commercial distribution of meth and cannabis to the community.

As a result of the investigation, 48 people were arrested and almost $3 million in assets were frozen in March 2018.

Acting Eastern Bay of Plenty Area Commander, Senior Sergeant Richard Miller, said, "This was a major disruption to organised crime and methamphetamine supply in EBOP".

Guns seized during Operation Notus II in the Eastern Bay of Plenty
Guns seized during Operation Notus II in the Eastern Bay of Plenty Source: NZ Police