Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: Political and corporate governance under scrutiny

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Patrick Gower reports the allegation that Don Elder (pictured) might get a further pay-out of $1.5 million. Photo / NZ Herald
Patrick Gower reports the allegation that Don Elder (pictured) might get a further pay-out of $1.5 million. Photo / NZ Herald

When it comes to taxpayer handouts, this Government is up there with best.

$1.6 billion for South Canterbury Finance investors tops the list. But also, elite private schools get bailed out when there are empty public school classrooms nearby, and Warner Brothers pocketed a cool $67 million to solve a problem that, it now appears, had already been solved.

The latest taxpayer handout involves drought relief for farmers, not normally politically controversial, but in the context of repeated crackdowns on welfare some are questioning if suddenly different standards are being applied.

CTU President Helen Kelly supports the farmers getting support in their time of need, but she questions the double standard compared to beneficiaries in her blogpost, We're all beneficiaries now.

More humourously, Scott Yorke anticipates a government push to break farmer dependency in Bennett announces drought relief get-tough measures. A slightly surprised Cathy Odgers finds herself agreeing with Kelly about the double standard but from a very different perspective: 'it makes it pretty hard to argue for those of us on the right about the reduction of the welfare state when this sort of nonsense is supported' - see: Oh Dear - Helen Kelly Makes Sense.

The taxpayer-funded generosity causing most heat at the moment is Solid Energy ex-CEO Don Elder's 'gardening leave'. No doubt Mr Elder's garden is needing some serious watering like everyone else's, but as Labour's Clayton Cosgrove noted, with an on-going salary of $1.3 million that's 'a very expensive garden' - see: Elder retained on pay for transition. And Patrick Gower reports the allegation that Elder might get a further pay-out of $1.5 million - see: Ex-Solid Energy chief still on full pay.

The inability of the current Solid Energy Chair, Mark Ford, to answer questions about how his company lost the taxpayers $389 million is infuriating opposition MPs on the commerce select committee. With Elder's claim that he was banned from speaking to the media contradicted by Ford, pressure is mounting for Elder front - see: Former Solid Energy boss could be forced to speak. Blogger David Kennedy says that there's some interesting comparisons to be drawn between how we treat beneficiaries, businesspeople and politicians - see: Dirty Don and Double Standards.

Some politicians are also upset with SOE bosses accountability to select committees - see Hamish Rutherford two very good items, Mighty River answers were 'disdainful', and Shipley ducks Mainzeal questions. And then there's the case this week of ex- Education head Lesley Longstone getting a $425,000 payout for falling out with Hekia Parata. By far the best commentary on this comes from Vernon Small, who says, It's time to end big severance deals.

Tying many of these stories together - and more - Tim Watkin says that 'people with significant power are failing to realise the obligations that come with such power -- in a word, accountability' - see: The minister, CEO and top cop: We expect accountability.

But the best political article of the week on this topic of political and corporate governance is Karl du Fresne's latest Listener story, The trophy director. Normally such stories are behind the paywall on the Listener site, but it's been unlocked for non-subscribers until the end of today. du Fresne impressively catalogues examples of ex-MPs and Cabinet ministers that have gone on to become company directors. He explores why politicians are so inclined to end up as board directors, and whether they do a good job or not.

Other recent important or interesting items include the following:

Why is the Government's polling holding up so well this year? Patrick Gower has a list of possible reasons in The Left's 'Nightmare on Key Street'. Martyn Bradbury attempts to refute this analysis - see: The leaps and bounds of Patrick Gower - how the spin is spun.

As Auckland's on-going housing crunch is debated, one solution is to encourage migrants to 'head south' says Massey University's Paul Spoonley - see: Calls for immigrants to move to rural NZ.

Tim Wilson has come up with one of the best headlines this year: Key likely 'comfortable' over over-use of 'comfortable'.

The Defence Force admits to having purchased too many LAVs - and is now looking at turning 20 of them into scrap metal or selling them to countries like Colombia - see TVNZ's Arms deal on the table during PM's Colombia trip.

Personal principles versus accountability: the Conservative Party leader ponders what he would do if elected as an electorate MP - see his Kiwiblog Guest Post: Colin Craig on whether he would vote for "Abortion on Demand"?. Spoiler alert: the short answer is 'No'.

With power prices going up again, Bryan Leyland has a clear and concise explanation for Why electricity prices are too high. Also in this regard, David Farrar points out some relevant news: Bradford voted best Energy Minister.

New current affairs shows are being rolled out on both networks, and a real ratings battle is going on at 7pm. This is putting TV politics under the spotlight. Colin Espiner thinks TVNZ is getting the 3rd Degree, but that was before 3rd Degree actually went to air. The initial reviews are mixed for Guyon Espiner and Duncan Garner, but the view that Anna Guy does not have a bright future on TV appears to be unanimous - see: Colin Hogg's 3rd Degree burns bright in spots - but spare us Guy, Danyl McLaughlan's First thoughts on 3rd Degree, the Fourth Estate's second new current affairs show, and John Drinnan's City fumes at 3rd Degree.

Should political parties be allowed to hold campaign stunts in Christchurch's red zone? CERA says 'no' - see Charlie Gates' Political events banned from red zone. According to Andrew Geddis, this is an inconsistent decision and a breach of freedom of speech - see his blogpost, Does Roger Sutton really own central Christchurch?.

Campaigning journalism together with academics can produce real change, even potentially abolishing forms of 'slavery' in New Zealand - see Michael Field's Ex-Soviet trawler flies NZ flag. However, RadioLive reports that it's not clear that the issue is fully resolved - see: Ship reflagging change still leaves questions.

The Opposition parties are celebrating the fact that they have pushed the Government to hold a referendum on asset sales. But Pete George questions whether this is Smart, green economics?.

The Hamilton City Council should appoint Maori representatives, with full voting rights, to all of its decision-making committees. That's the recommendation of PricewaterhouseCoopers - see the Waikato Times' Maori on local bodies.

Finally, how would you like to see statues of Helen Clark and Rob Muldoon in front of the Beehive? David Farrar suggests that all prime ministers that serve three terms should get a place, and laments that a statue of Keith Holyoake has been mistakenly sold by the Government and languishes down the road from Parliament - see his blogpost, Sir Keith should be in Parliament.

- NZ Herald

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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