Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: March 9

Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett, has been placed into a difficult position regarding welfare policies, writes Jane Clifton. Photo / NZ Herald
Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett, has been placed into a difficult position regarding welfare policies, writes Jane Clifton. Photo / NZ Herald

Is the Government too cocky by half? The National Party had a great election result in 2011, but with a one seat majority to support its key policies, as well as a bumbling start to 2012, John Hartevelt asks if ministers are full of 'misguided bravado' - see: Opposition met by Government swagger. Hartevelt concludes that even if their confidence is misplaced it does enable them to keep moving forward with the reforms.

In Welfare carrots and sticks, Jane Clifton looks at the minefield politicians tread when they are seen to make judgements about mothers choosing or being forced to take up work when they have young children. She also looks at David Shearer's refusal to play politics, labeling it 'Oppositional Compliant Disorder' as opposed to the usual 'Oppositional Defiant Disorder'.

Ex-Labour minister Steve Maharey has some advice for the Government. Although he tries to stay clear of critiquing their welfare policy, he can't stop himself trumpeting the success the previous Labour government had in reducing the number of beneficiaries - see: Steve Maharey's Out with old and in with new not the best policy.

His questioning of why the policy needed to be changed at all ignores the obvious point that other critics of the welfare reforms have made, namely reducing welfare expenditure is easy when there are plenty of jobs but a lot harder when times are tough.

The Government's own job-shedding programme continues, although with the defence forces it seems they may have been too successful. Derek Cheng reports that defence bosses are calling a halt to the civilianization programme, as it has caused a record low in morale and prompted large numbers of staff to leave of their own accord - see: 'Change fatigue' floors Defence Force staff. There's a big difference of course between selecting staff you could do without and losing highly skilled and trained personnel. Cheng also reports that the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Rear Admiral Jack Steer, seems to have told a parliamentary select committee about halting the programme before he told Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman. The minister is reported as saying he thought the changes had 'gone through pretty smoothly overall' - see: TV3's Defence Force changes 'smooth' - government.

Meanwhile the internal battle at Mfat goes on, with the Government trying to stem the flow of leaks - see Vernon Small's Ambassadors told not to cable cutback criticisms - Goff. The level of resistance amongst staff is made starkly obvious when the cables sent by ambassadors to Wellington are no longer seen as secure.

Winston Peters is in classic form at the moment, making numerous claims of conspiracy and corruption - see for example, TVNZ's Yarrows demise caused by 'corporate thugs' - Peters, and Bernard Orsman's Boss denies US trip paid for by Deloitte. This prompts David Farrar - no fan of Peters - to look at the NZ First leader's use and abuse of the protection he has as an MP - see: The protection of parliamentary privilege.

David Slack has a particularly funny and illuminating parody of Peters in the March edition of Metro magazine. His fictional sketch ('New life in the old parrot') has Peters providing advice to the earnest newcomer David Shearer. When Shearer objects that his advice makes no sense, Peters replies, 'It doesn't have to. You just look fierce and say 'disastrous' and 'selling out' and 'traitors'. And if it doesn't work you threaten legal action'. Also in the latest Metro Martyn Bradbury has an open letter to the new Minister of Broadcasting with some relatively intelligent ideas for saving public broadcasting, Steve Braunias has a feature story on the 'strange, troubled life of former Act MP David Garrett' ('Mr Angry'), there's an 'exclusive' interview with @drbrash (the incredibly clever parody of Don Brash on Twitter), Simon Wilson writes a strong editorial on the Ports of Auckland dispute, and most promising of all, Metro has launched a new regular two-page feature called Power, which covers political ups and downs - in this issue it covers the Auckland Plan with specific reference to the port, the fall of Pita Sharples and rise of Hekia Parata.

News that green energy company Windflow has teamed up with an American company that also make nuclear submarines has prompted the Dominion Post to ask Wellington's Green mayor Celia Wade-brown about her ongoing personal ownership of shares in the company - see: Mayor unfazed by link to nuclear submarines. The Green mayor said that she would hold on to the shares as, regardless of what companies associated with Windflow produced, it was encouraging that they used renewable energy. David Farrar points that Windflow has been the 'darling' of the Greens for years and that in the past Green MPs and their superannuation fund may have owned shares - see: Windflow and nuclear. Despite Wade-brown's stance, the parliamentary Greens may have a more difficult position if they continue to own shares, as leader Russel Norman has regularly demanded the New Zealand Super Fund disinvest from companies on ethical grounds.

Leftwing councilor Mike Lee has finally spoken out on the Ports of Auckland dispute, but in doing so says the workers should never have gone on strike (see William Mace's Ex ARC chair 'sick' about port sackings), and David Farrar blogs about The Mayor for all of Auckland, explaining why Len Brown has done the right thing in ignoring calls by the left to side with the port workers. But the must-read item on the ports dispute today is Brian Rudman's Mayor's paralysis in port dispute leaves role of leader vacant.

Other articles worth a look today include Lockwood shows Mojo the money, John Key looks at things ... it's a thing, apparently, Knighthoods and crony capitalism, and Chris Trotter's When the Government is no longer afraid of its people. Finally, Gordon Campbell previews the task ahead of David Shearer as he prepares to make some major announcements. He says that Shearer will still have to confront the role of the state in the economy as, despite three decades of free market policy, the domestic economy has become dominated by former state-owned organisations or near monopolies - see: Shearer faces tricky balancing act.

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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