Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: March 13

Wellington TPP Action Group protest outside the MFAT to join the international call for Governments to release the text of the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement. Photo / APN
Wellington TPP Action Group protest outside the MFAT to join the international call for Governments to release the text of the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement. Photo / APN

With many political scandals it's the cover up that does the real damage, and that may prove to be the case with what appears to be a massive privacy breach within ACC, including data from their most sensitive files - see Phil Kitchin's Privacy breach on 9000 ACC claims. The Herald online reports (ACC privacy breach to be investigated) that Minister of ACC Judith Collins has asked for an urgent report but this looks to be three months too late, as it appears the leak has been known about at a senior level within ACC since December. Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff is quoted as saying that the breach is 'likely to be one of New Zealand's most serious.'

John Key has admitted that the Government is on the back foot with its Mfat restructuring saying that the proposals were 'a bit aggressive', particularly the impact of cuts to pay and allowances on partners and children - see: Vernon Small's Nats pull back from MFAT cost-cutting.

Robert Winter views this as a blow to Murray McCully and says the 'small and grumpy one' will not be happy and will be looking to exact revenge in the future - see: Egg all over the place: MFAT cuts reduced.

The backtracking on Mfat reflects a need to not fight on too many fronts at the same time but, as with last term's back down over mining conservation land, the diplomats and their partners may have given other public servants hope that concerted and organised resistance to cuts is not futile.

Their test will come soon with the rumoured creation of a 'super ministry' under Steven Joyce and up to 2,500 further job cuts. John Key is clearly trying to play down the scale of the changes to be announced on Thursday and painting them as practical and considered rather than ideological - see: TV3's Key: We won't merge for the sake of merging and Adam Bennett's 'Super ministry' likely in portfolios merger.

RadioLive commentator (and ex-union organiser and ex-MP) Willie Jackson took the class war theme to another level yesterday as he advocated militant action by port workers against those crossing the picket line, including attacking their cars and occupying port management offices. Jackson later 'clarified' his statements saying he was referring to strong but non-violent action, comparing it to the actions of actor Lucy Lawless with Greenpeace - see the NBR's Jackson retreats from comments inciting wharfies to violence.

As the impact of the strike continues, retailers are warning that empty shelves and high prices may result as stock levels dwindle - see: RNZ's Ports dispute could mean higher prices for consumers. Auckland mayor Len Brown is praised in the Herald editorial today for not intervening in the dispute. It argues that this is the only way he can prove that public ownership is a commercially viable option for major assets. The origins of the 12% rate of return figure demanded by the council is examined in some detail in The Standard's Why I think that Auckland is getting scammed, particularly the role of the Hutchinson Port Holdings Trust which current ports chair Richard Pearson has worked for in the past. The blog post argues that the promoting of the 'particularly ambitious' rate of return is part of a push to justify privatisation in the long run.

In the ODT today Colin James compares the approach Labour and National have to employment issues, having to balance the view of workers as just another cost to be managed with their need to earn enough to sustain themselves and their families - see: Where to find the workplace discontent.

With David Shearer set for his first major positioning speech on Thursday, Gordon Campbell has a lengthy and interesting interview with the Labour leader - see: Waiting For The Man. Danyl Mclauchlan at The Dim-Post (see: Is vague better than glib?) points out Campbell had more to say than Shearer, who was obviously reluctant to give away too much before his speech.

Campbell pressed Shearer on the logic of Labour moving to the centre and allowing other natural coalition partners space on the left. Shearer seemed to both reject and endorse the idea in the interview. It's actually quite an obvious move, particularly to ensure future centre-left governments and would exploit the advantage the left has with a number of stable parties in parliament. The main obstacle to this is illustrated by Shearer in the interview - a psychological inability by Labour and its MPs to accept that the party is actually more centre than left. As a result it struggles to keep the votes of its traditional core while simultaneously fighting National for the votes of 'Waitakere Man'. Hopefully his speech on Thursday will have clearer thinking and be missing the sort of errors made in his Overseas Investment private members bill - see Alex Tarrants Dear Labour. Please revise and re-submit Shearer's desired Overseas Investment Act changes; Sunday's rush job doesn't look good.

In other articles of interest the Timaru Herald's editorial provides a concise and down-to-earth summary of a skeptics view of asset sales (see: Still not convinced). Such sentiments don't wash, however with Richard Long, who takes Grey Power to task for leading the CIR petition opposing asset sales - see: Grey Power activism forgets constituency. Dr Mike Beard issues a clear warning about the use of private investment to build and run public hospitals. He points to the UK where such a programme has been effectively canned after it failed to deliver savings, made long-term planning difficult and resulted in the public, one way or another, having to bail out the private investment companies in any case - see: Learning from Britain's mistakes. Finally Richard Swainson looks at how 'fat man syndrome' may have contributed to Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom's arrest and detention - see: FBI's hypocritical Dotcom fetish.

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.

Read more by Bryce Edwards

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 27 Dec 2014 17:39:03 Processing Time: 505ms