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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: October 23

Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Dean Purcell.

The Labour Party can be just as inclined to descend into populist dog whistle politics as National. And if National has welfare bludgers, boy racers and theoretical boat people to blow their dog whistle about, then Labour's high-pitched equivalents are typically foreign investors and foreign workers (and lately welfare bludgers too). It's the foreign worker that Labour currently has in its nationalist sights. The recent release of Labour's jobs policy, which included proposals to limit the number of migrant workers, has provoked criticism both of the politics and the effectiveness of such moves. Chris Trotter has put forward a stinging criticism today in his column Without immigrants economy would stall. Trotter says that although Labour leader David Shearer correctly identifies the problem - the loss of skilled labour to Australia that has to be replaced by migrants - Shearer has not addressed the actual cause of the problem: 'A careful reading of his speech reveals that increased incomes have been relegated to mere aspirations: something Labour would like to see; expects to see; but will do nothing beyond a modest increase in the minimum wage to achieve'.

Xenophobia is the basis of Labour's anti-immigrant policy according to the Herald editorial Patriot drum rolls up dire work policy, and it will cost the economy dearly. Political journalist Andrea Vance makes the same points, but as a recent migrant herself (originally of Ireland), she takes the issue more personally: 'Under a Labour government you'd be made to feel as welcome as that other infamous interloper Kim Dotcom' - see: Migrants worthy of New Zealand. In defence of Labour's policy, blogger Robert Winter argues that it is legitimate in any nation to debate the level of immigration. He thinks the attacks are more about de-stabilising Shearer's leadership, something Shearer himself may be contributing to: 'He's taken to making these speeches with little regard for Labour's internal debate, creating not a little friction' - see: More dog-whistle.

David Shearer's other major attack of late - about the alleged existence of a GCSB videotape - has been widely panned for lacking substance, but Danyl Mclauchlan thinks the substance was there for a successful attack: 'It worked out badly for Shearer because he's a bad politician, but it was tactically sound' - see: GCSB tape revisionism. Shearer would have done better to move onto the WINZ security scandal last week advises Claire Trevett in Lesson for Sheriff Shearer: make sure gun loaded. She says that at the parliamentary showdown 'When he pulled the trigger, all that came out was a little cartoon-style flag with "bang" on it'. Trevett thinks that the slogan of 'show me the tape' might become as damaging for this Labour leader as 'show me the money' was for his predecessor.

Other recent important or interesting political items include:
* National might have found its best defender of its approach towards iwi claims over water: Ngai Tahu and its chairman Mark Solomon, who appeared on TVNZ's Q+A in the weekend to say that his tribe couldn't support the Maori Council's attempt to win rights and interests 'by advocating the taking away of rights and interests of other people'. Solomon seems to be advocating that National's approach will lead to a 'win-win' model for all - see TVNZ's Tribe's investment in assets depends on returns - Solomon. And certainly Ngai Tahu are being very careful not to rule out any options when it comes to share offers or other solutions. Tahu Potiki put their approach succinctly in his Press column, Maori want fair discussion over asset sale. In contrast, the Dominion Post editorial thinks some iwi have been unwilling to genuinely engage with the Government to find a solution outside of a courtroom - see: Negotiation a two-way street.

* Iwi should be wary of the latest shares proposal from the Government says Maori politics blogger Morgan Godfery: 'Shares-on-credit are an attempt to co-opt pre-settlement iwi and mitigate the government's legal risk' - see: Missing the point on water rights. The pitfalls are dealt with in more detail by Tim Selwyn in Maori aren't New Zealanders: the Government's "shares minus" scheme explained. But the assumption that SOE shares will be money trees for qualifying iwi is challenged by Stephen Franks in Who will Maori blame for taking dud SOE shares?.

* What are iwi-owned business entities for? To make profits, foster Maori businesspeople, or remedy social ills? And should they invest in the National Government's partially privatised energy assets? These are some of the issues dealt with in Tim Watkin's thoughtful blogpost, Should iwi become the 'brown welfare'?. Watkin looks at the differing expectations and realities about what treaty settlements can or should achieve.

* Getting arrested seems to have done Hone Harawira's public image no harm at all as Dave Armstrong favourably compares him with other high profile Maori politicians - see: Hone keeps the flame burning, but the rest? Harawira also appeared in the weekend in an interesting 14-minute interview with Rachel Smalley on TV3's The Nation. This particular piece of television earned glowing praise from Brian Edwards, who also described Rachel Smalley as 'up there with some of the finest television interrogators in Australia (not difficult), the United States (quite difficult) and the UK (very difficult) - see: When Hone met Rachel - Now that was a surprise!.

* Labour Day is over for another year, but the each year New Zealanders seem to be working even harder - see: No rest for the wicked.

* New research reveals tax dodgers are ripping off the country at up to 150 times the rate of welfare fraudsters, but are being jailed much less often - see Susie Nordqvist's Courts tougher on benefit fraud than tax dodging - study.

* When John Banks' lawyer attempted to convince the police not to release the file on their investigations, he used some pretty odd arguments - see Steven Price's Breaking the Banks.

* Shane Jones continues to march to his own drum beat, especially when it comes to the fishing industry - see: TVNZ: Q+A: Shane Jones and Gareth Hughes interview. That Labour hasn't actually decided its policy yet doesn't appear to worry Jones but it should worry David Shearer says Scott Yorke in Discipline.

* While the government is not conceding any changes over monetary policy and the exchange rate to opposition parties, the debate itself is significant writes John Armstrong: 'For perhaps the first time in this Administration, the walls of National's economic fortress have been breached' - see: Labour sensing blood over exchange rate. The 'fatalism' with which the government accepts nothing can be done about the issue is at odds with the 'crash-through can-do' image it is trying to project says Jane Clifton in The NZ Government: 'Crisis? What crisis?'.

* Deputy Prime Minister and Southland MP Bill English is staying silent as others condemn threats made against staff at Invercargill's newly established abortion clinic. The Abortion Law Reform Association received an email on Wednesday saying: 'People who work at the clinic are legitimate targets and so are you. You'll be hearing from me again, that is if your computer, or in fact your premises, are in one piece," - see Marika Hill's Threats aimed at abortion clinic.

*The raid on the Dotcom mansion might not be the only high profile controversy this year for the policeman who led the operation - see: Dotcom raid officer headed bike gang probe

* If having your entire corporate network accessible by public computer kiosk is a bad idea, what about printing the PIN numbers on the front of debit cards? - see: Kate Chapman's Benefit cards showing Pins stir security fears

* Is the national database of vulnerable children an 'experiment'? Starship hospital child protection team leader Dr Patrick Kelly thinks so - see Simon Collins' Predicting trouble: Child abuse database raises eyebrows. Collins goes into detail about the pros and cons of the policy.

* Green MP Holly Walker responds to Mai Chen's claims that lobbying legislation is not needed, using testimonials from Chen Palmers' own website to back her arguments - see: Why we need lobbying transparency and listen to RNZ's Law with Mai Chen.

* Finally, for the best of recent political satire, see Danyl Mclauchlan's PM shrugs off brain fade accusations and Scott Yorke's A Diabolically Clever Plan.

- NZ Herald

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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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