The Judith Collins defamation action is starting to look like a cross between the Teapot tapes and the McLibel trial. The Minister has finally filed the legal proceedings against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little who, for their part, both seem determined to milk it for all it's worth see the two items by Danya Levy: MPs laugh off Collins' lawsuit and Little tells Collins to send in the 'thugs'. Clearly Little and Mallard sense that this legal action can only embarrass the Minister and her Government, and are set on turning the process into a circus with their hijinks, bluster, and jovial disregard for the matter.
Graeme Edgeler writes in his blogpost, Sanctuary!, that being 'served' your legal papers is a rather quaint, bizarre and 'fun' part of the whole procedure, so who can blame the Labour MPs for enjoying the theatrics. But he takes issue with the notion that MPs cannot be served defamation proceedings while in the Parliamentary complex due to parliamentary privilege.
Instead Edgeler suggests that 'unless they're planning on being unfindable for next couple of years, it might be better to get it over with. If the case is as likely as they claim to prove embarrassing for the Minister, one might wonder why they don't want to bring it on'. Furthermore, as Adam Bennett reports in Little out to embarrass Collins over court action, 'should the pair avoid being served in person several times, lawyers could apply for a court order allowing the papers to be simply taped to their front doors'.
So why are the Labour MPs so blasé about Collins' action and why is the Minister so determined to go down such a politically dangerous path? Andrew Little has explained that 'A defamation proceedings is about her reputation and about what Trevor and I have said, not about our reputation. She has more to lose than any of us if she goes to trial'. This is nicely expanded upon in a blogpost on the Standard: Pride cometh. The key point is this: 'She's waited until close to the Budget so that the story would be quickly overshadowed and then forgotten. You see, Collins had foolishly got herself between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, having promised to sue, she had to follow through or be taunted forever and be seen as conceding she leaked Pullar's name. On the other, there's no way she would win a suit and her leadership aspirations would take a big hit from losing, which would be seen as de facto proof she leaked Pullar's name'. Also on the issue, see Danyl Mclauchlan's satire: They write letters.
Other important or interesting political items today include:
* With the issue of gay marriage emerging onto the political arena in New Zealand (and globally), it's worth having a look at where MPs stand on the issue. When I interviewed politicians during last year's election campaign, I asked them about same-sex marriage and their responses can be viewed (with summaries) in the blogpost, NZ politicians on gay marriage (on the record).
* There's a fascinating court trial on at the moment that has the potential to seriously embarrass the Labour Party see: Michael Field's Tycoon boasted of his MP mates. The story has many parallels with the BanksDotcom scandal, and again raises significant questions about the relationship between politicians and the financial elite. Meanwhile, the latest chapter in the BanksDotcom saga is reported by Duncan Garner: Has Banks breached the cabinet manual?.
* Issues of immigration haven't been so politically charged in the last few years, but is this about to change? Certainly Winston Peters is back pushing the issue see Patrick Gower's Winston: take away Dom Rd's Asian takeaways and Claire Trevett's Peters: Signs show immigration rules useless. Coming after the Crafar farm controversy, John Moore ponders whether 'such views are currently being promoted by the left in alliance with Maori nationalists, rather than by a populist right' as part of a 'global rise of xenophobic, nativist and nationalistic responses to 'globalization' see his blog post: Language chauvinism, Maori nationalism and the demonisation of the 'other' in New Zealand.
* The Government's role in the provision of social housing deserves scrutiny and its decision to backtrack on it's Hobsonville Point development is gaining increasing attention see Kate Shuttleworth's Key backs cut-off for cheap homes plan, and Close Up's 10-minute item Government cancels low cost housing scheme. Phil Heatley has, however, announced 'An extra 153 affordable houses will be built in Auckland under a $25.3 million deal to provide homes for people with low incomes, disabilities or social needs' see: Newswire's $25.3 million deal for low income housing.
* After all is said and done, it seems that not much has really changed at Mfat, although certain reputations have been badly damaged see: Tracy Watkins' Allen wants to see through Mfat changes and Kate Chapman and Tracy Watkins' Mfat restructure causes 'irreparable damage'.
* The rebuild of Christchurch has the political potential to both boost or badly damage the National Government, and Vernon Small reports today that there are signs of growing dissatisfaction with the Government's handling of the situation see: Negativity on quake response grows.
* For a different angle on Colin Craig's Conservative Party, see Morgan Godfery's Colin Craig on Maori. Godfery delves into Craig's approach to Maori issues and is pleasantly surprised by his (somewhat contradictory) findings.
* The VUW Institute of Policy Studies has just published the latest issue of Policy Quarterly, which you can access online here. Of particular interest is an article by Prof Jack Nagel: Evaluating Democracy in New Zealand under MMP (PDF). The latest edition also includes academic analysis of issues such as the use of parliamentary urgency, local government reform, and the funding of tertiary education.
* The issue of David Shearer's performance and visibility as Labour leader is examined in an excellent item from last night's Campbell Live watch Whena Owen's An analysis of David Shearer video. Shearer has responded strongly today to criticism watch him on TV3's Firstline: Shearer responds to Labour criticism video.
* What's the connection between Justin Bieber and Winston Peters? It's not entirely clear but New Zealand First is strangely promoting the teenage popstar on it's website under construction, as reported by Toby Manhire.
* Finally, Gordon Campbell says that the 'striking similarities between the Helen Clark and John Key Governments continue to unfold' see: A case of history repeating itself?.