Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Dunne's GCSB flip-flops under scrutiny

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Peter Dunne. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Peter Dunne. Photo / Mark Mitchell

First Peter Dunne flipped and this week he flopped. Dunne appears to have changed his mind twice now on the controversial GCSB reforms. And there's a fair amount of condemnation over these U-turns, and speculation about what motivations lie behind it all.

Fascinatingly, it's political journalist Andrea Vance who has penned the most hard-hitting analysis of Dunne's latest change of heart- see: Dunne GCSB u-turn no surprise. Not only does Vance point out just how little Dunne has won in his negotiations over the GCSB legislation, but she calls into question Dunne's principles and motives, saying that Dunne's original flip-flop - when he withdrew support for the GCSB changes - might in retrospect be seen as merely a cynical attempt to 'rehabilitate his public image'. The latest U-turn, will, according to Vance, 'cement the view that he is prepared to trade principles for pragmatics to secure his political future. With that in mind, pundits will watch keenly for any signals of electoral accommodations by National in Dunne's Ohariu electorate next year'.

Vance is not the only one unimpressed with both the GCSB reforms and Peter Dunne. Gordon Campbell says that 'Dunne has re-assumed his usual posture as the government's reliable footstool' and the 'changes that Dunne has won as a pre-condition of his support could hardly be more token'.

As for the state of the legislation, Campbell says 'For a government elected partly on campaigning against Nanny State intrusions, the GCSB Bill is indefensible, in its current form' - see: On Peter Dunne's illusory gains on the GCSB Bill.

So what has Dunne really got out of his capitulation on the GCSB reforms? Watch Rebecca Wright's entertaining 5-minute Campbell Live item, In return for Dunne's GCSB vote. She explains the concessions that Dunne achieved, but also lampoons his U-turn.

The NBR also speculates that the MP has done a deal to ensure his 'email exchange with reporter Andrea Vance is now less likely to see the light of day' - see: Swing vote Dunne supports GCSB Bill after changing tune on domestic spying. It is also suggested, however, that Dunne won't be able to get a 'cup of tea' deal with John Key for Ohariu, with 'a Beehive insider quoted as saying 'he's already gone to the well once too often'. The NBR article also includes a critique of Dunne's changes from Tech Liberty's Thomas Beagle. For further condemnation of both the latest reform changes and of Dunne's maneuvering, see No Right Turn's Dunne sells us out.

Dunne has clearly disappointed those in opposition to the Government's GCSB reforms - which is well conveyed in a heart-felt post on the Daily Blog: Peter Dunne, for a second there, we totally thought you were for real. The writer says that 'Everybody was getting a soft spot for Peter Dunne. Weren't we? We were beginning to love him a little. A little bit, right? Admit it.... But this bow-tie of a man has turned out to be ornamental after all. He has confirmed that he is what he always was, and it makes me want to cry'. But is such criticism really fair? United Future blogger Pete George obviously doesn't think so, and outlines his defence of the MP in Dunne done over while parties piss and pose.

For more on the changes to the proposed reforms, and on why Rodney Harrison of the Law Society says it is still 'rushed, ill-conceived and downright dangerous legislation' see Audrey Young's GCSB changes 'do not address flaws' - QC.

Finally, back in April I offered a visual and satirical take on the GCSB issues, in my blogpost, Images of the GCSB scandal, and I've put together an additional 40 cartoons in my blogpost, The Latest GCSB cartoons.

Other recent important or interesting items include the following:

The National Government has been appointing National Party stalwarts to a variety of quangos lately, drawing numerous allegations of 'cronyism' - see Isaac Davison's It's jobs for the mates - Labour slams Nats. Blogger No Right Turn responds to the latest appointment in his post, More cronyism from National.

Interestingly, the Green Party's chief spin-doctor, Andrew Campbell also took to Twitter to say, 'Another @NZNationalParty insider gets plumb Govt appointment. Glenda Hughes to head racing board'. But Campbell was then challenged by others on Twitter. First, TV3's Julian Lee replied, saying 'very interesting...could you elaborate Mr Campbell? I can't find the connection yet'. And then a leftwing activist 'Dirtycoffeemug' asked, 'Are you saying the Green Party, if part of a govt, won't appoint its friends to positions?' As yet, Andrew Campbell hasn't responded.

Naturally David Farrar has responded to the allegations against National - see his blogpost, Jobs for the mates indeed. He outlines a long list of political appointments from the last Labour government, and offers his own criteria for government appointments.

Labour's woes continue according to TV3's Patrick Gower, who reports on the latest survey results showing a considerable proportion of Labour voters want leader David Shearer to be replaced. Fortunately for Shearer, however, there's no clear alternative. Gower says, 'The most popular contender is actually "don't know/someone else" - 50 percent of people had no idea, and 42 percent of Labour voters couldn't choose either'.

Chris Trotter has no uncertainty about getting rid of the Labour leader, with a very forthright blogpost: Cuckoo in the Nest: In the name of God, David Shearer, go!. But Trotter's blog comrade, Martyn Bradbury is worried that if Shearer goes, he might be replaced by someone even worse - see: Labour down in latest Poll - why Shearer may be the best option.

David Shearer is now onto his third Chief of Staff, with the departure yesterday of Alastair Cameron - this is best reported and analysed by Claire Trevett in Shearer shifts gear with new chief of staff. The official line is that Cameron's 'voluntary' departure is about reorganising Shearer's office for election year, but cynics and critics will see this as either a further factional fight (as Cameron was politically aligned to Grant Robertson) or as a desperate attempt by Shearer to reshuffle the chairs on deck.

Labour 'staff morale is very low' according to a post by Danyl Mclauchlan, which also contains a polling chart which shows why this might be - see More noise.

What would Helen Clark do? An insight into the life and politics of the former Labour prime minister screens tonight on TV3 at 9:30pm. 'Road to Power' is the first of a two-part documentary on Clark - for further details see Kim Choe's Doco gives rare insight into Helen Clark.

The latest earthquakes in central New Zealand are reigniting various political issues. Some are asking whether EQC is financially prepared for another big quake - see The Standard's Key's multi-billion dollar earthquake bet and Peter Cresswell's So, is there any reason EQC shouldn't shut up shop?. And Cameron Slater questions whether politicians should be Politicising disaster?.

The Government's proposed industrial relations reforms are a big deal for the union movement. Top employment lawyer Peter Cullen explains why in Expect sparks as unions rally over proposals.

A capital gains tax is increasingly part of political discourse in New Zealand. Thomas Pippos has a good backgrounder on the issue in Capital gains tax an inevitable part of future landscape.

Utopian thinking is out of favour in 2013. Chris Trotter points out that in the 1970s, by contrast, 'progressivism and utopianism' were in the ascendancy, even leading to Prime Minister Norman Kirk introducing rural communes - see: Without our dreams, our utopias fade.

The Government got a bad deal on the SkyCity convention centre and shouldn't be trusted to negotiate with big business again says Gordon Campbell - see: SkyCity deal a political lemon.

Proposals for dealing with inequality from economist Geoff Bertram receive a lengthy and interesting critique from Canterbury University economist Eric Crampton - see: Can consequences this foreseeable really be unintended?.

First home house buyers look set to need a much higher deposit to get a bank loan, and John Key says this will help avoid the housing market bubble bursting - see: Patrick Gower's Govt hedges bets on helping first-home buyers.

Could the head office of DOC move to Nelson? What about a gas and oil government department for New Plymouth? John Key is considering such ideas, says Vernon Small in Government savings in the provinces.

John Key is on his way to Korea - New Zealand's fifth largest trading partner. Jessica Mutch provides some interesting facts about the relationship in Korea - lest we forget, and Adam Bennett has some further information about the trip, including Key's plans to eat spicy pickled cabbage and play golf with the head of Samsung - see: War commemorations mark start of PM's Korea visit.

Finally, for royalists who want to see which public buildings will be lit up in 'baby blue' - see Rebecca Quilliam's NZ landmarks to be illuminated. Royalists and republicans might also be interested in Tim Watkin's discussion of New Zealand's future - see: The princely question: Go republic? Or Keep Marm & Carry On?. But for the moment, New Zealand's head of state can't be a Catholic, even after new laws get passed - see Kate Shuttleworth's Prince beats succession law.

- 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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