Shane Taurima

Labour finally chooses a Tamaki Makaurau candidate

After much messing about (see here, and here, and here, and here), Labour has finally got around to selecting a candidate for the Tamaki Makaurau seat. It’s Peeni Henare, an MSD business advisor and former sports commentator for Maori Television. (Given the history of Labour’s selection process this year, it was perhaps inevitable that the chosen candidate would have some sort of prior attachment to Maori programming…)

Labour party president, Moira Coatsworth, has described Mr Henare as an “impressive” candidate, but I guess she would say that. However, as an independent observer, it’s a little difficult to get excited about the eventual selection of Labour’s third-string candidate. Candidate #1, Shane Taurima, imploded after the critical TVNZ report into his Machiavellian escapades at the state broadcaster; candidate #2, Julian Wilcox, decided to pass on the position, presumably after watching the local electorate committee turn feral against the national committee; and now, on the third attempt, Labour finally has a candidate who isn’t Will Flavell.

Regardless of Labour’s apparent desire to lose the seat, it seems likely to return to Labour. The Maori Party candidate, Rangi McLean, despite having had a head start of almost a month, doesn’t appear to have been making many waves; while the Green Party candidate, Marama Davidson, has confirmed that she’ll be seeking only the party vote, despite initially hinting that she might mount a tilt for the electorate vote.

Julian Wilcox says no to Labour

I’ve previously said that, with regard to Labour’s candidate for the seat of Tamaki Makaurau, that:

I think it’s safe to say that, regardless of whether Labour reopen the selection process or not, Will Flavell won’t be getting the nomination…”

Turns out Will Flavell might just be in with a chance after all! Following the scratching by Labour of Shane Taurima’s nomination, Julian Wilcox has now bowed out too. Maori Television have issued the following statement today, confirming that Mr Wilcox is going nowhere:

“To clarify his position Julian Wilcox has made an unequivocal statement to Maori Television that he is not seeking political office for any political party in the forthcoming elections and remains committed to his job as GM of news and current affairs at Maori Television.”

Labour Tamaki Makaurau electorate committee had previously requested a review of the national council’s decision not to provide Mr Taurima with a waiver. Perhaps Mr Wilcox thought the idea of running in an electorate where the party’s committee didn’t want you might be a touch unpalatable…

It remains to be seen whether any other big names in Maoridom come out of the woodwork and approach Labour, now that both Taurima and Wilcox aren’t in the running. After all, Tamaki Makaurau is likely to fall to Labour, no matter who the candidate, so a fairly safe political future beckons whoever it is that gets the nomination.

Currently, the situation is that nominations have closed, with Mr Flavell being the sole candidate in the running. If Labour reopens nominations, despite knowing Mr Wilcox won’t stand, then Flavell can definitely kiss goodbye to any hope of success – if Labour really wants him, they certainly won’t be calling for any more names to come forward.

Labour’s issue is that although Mr Flavell seems unlikely to set the world on fire, the longer they wait around, the harder it is for their candidate to hit the electorate and make themselves know. The Maori Party candidate, Rangi McLean, already has a two week head start. If nominations are reopened, that head start will likely be a month. Labour’s Tamaki Makaurau electorate committee have already publicly aired their concerns about the length of time the process has taken to date. Labour doesn’t want to annoy the activists any more than they already have…

UPDATE (20/05/14):

Further to the issue of Labour upsetting the activists, here’s a quote from Tamaki Makaurau electorate committee member Shane Te Pou, as reported in the NZ Herald this morning:

“Head office has got a lot to answer for here. This whole process has been politically mismanaged. We are now about 100 days away from an election and we don’t have a candidate in … one of the most, if not the most crucial seat in the country.”

He’s also stated that the selection process was not open enough and was too dependent on “shoulder-tapping”.

UPDATE 2 (20/05/14):

And the public attacks on the Labour Party by Shane Te Pou continue:

Mike King tweet

Shane Taurima – too many “serious issues”

The endless wait for TVNZs report into Shane Taurima’s activities there is over. It was released at 2.30pm yesterday (copy attached here) and by the end of the evening had resulted in Mr Taurima’s political ambition being kicked for touch for another three years.

Unsurprisingly, it concludes that there was no bias in Mr Taurima’s interviewing or editorial decisions. The accusations of bias from various National Party Ministers were weak to begin with, designed more to embarrass Labour and damage Taurima’s chances of selection than to offer anything substantive.

The kicker for Mr Taurima was the issue of resource use – use of the TVNZ meeting room to host a Labour Party branch meeting, email, telephone, staff time, photocopying and dodgy expense claims – the steps he took while at TVNZ that were designed to help him win the Tamaki Makaurau nomination, and his attempts to keep his activities hidden from TVNZ.

Following the release of the report, Mr Taurima’s view was that it had vindicated him, and that he would be turning his attention solely to seeking the Tamaki Makaurau nomination. It seems that he was hoping against hope that the focus of Labour and his opponents would solely be on the political bias aspect of the report, for which he was indeed vindicated. However, he must have known it was all over once David Cunliffe appeared on the evening news to declare not once, not twice, but three times that the report had highlighted “serious issues”. Labour’s New Zealand Council then met last night and made the decision not to grant him a waiver to stand.

Labour have made the right decision. There were too many cumulative embarrassments in the report to risk allowing Taurima to become the candidate. There was the $333.43 he was asked to repay, after flying up a TVNZ staff member from Gisborne to Auckland to attend a Labour Party meeting – both Labour and National have learned the hard way that the public doesn’t like dodgy expense claims. There was the overt secrecy of his actions, using phrases like “Secret Squirrel” and asking, “Did you change the name of the scan? They may notice it’s come from TVNZ”. And there were the doubt expressed by the report over Mr Taurima’s explanations for various events, indicating the Panel members didn’t find his explanations altogether believable.

The big question now for Labour is whether they reopen nominations. At present, the only viable nomination received is that of Will Flavell – the head of Maori Studies at Rutherford College. However, rumours have been circulating for weeks about the intentions of Maori TV’s Julian Wilcox, who was expected to stand if Taurima was vetoed. Labour Party President, Moira Coatesworth, has said that because the situation had changed, she would expect there would now be others interested in putting their names forward, which seems a fairly clear indication that nominations will indeed be reopened.

Of course, this all prolongs the length of time that Labour is candidate-free in Tamaki Makaurau, giving the Maori Party candidate a continued head start. However, it might not make much difference. Most pundits are predicting that the seat is Labour’s to lose, and one would have to assume that (regardless of any delay) a candidate like Julian Wilcox would be well-placed to take the seat back for Labour.

More on Labour’s Tamaki Makaurau selection process

Following on from yesterday’s post on Labour’s dogged determination to have Shane Taurima as their candidate for the Tamaki Makaurau seat, it seems that Labour have in fact now closed nominations. To a certain degree of closed…

Mr Taurima has indeed thrown his name into the ring, along with Auckland teacher Will Flavell. However, Taurima hasn’t been a Labour member for the requisite 12 months, and will require a waiver from Labour HQ in order to contest the nomination. Labour seem to be waiting on the contents of the TVNZ report in Taurima’s conduct there before they grant the waiver. Essentially, it gives them a handy veto if the report (which is expected out this week) turns up anything embarrassing.

Labour’s general secretary, Tim Barnett, has been reported as saying that if Taurima is refused the waiver, selection for the seat might then be reopened. This would allow Julian Wilcox of Maori TV to run (although he too would require a waiver).

I think it’s safe to say that, regardless of whether Labour reopen the selection process or not, Will Flavell won’t be getting the nomination…

Labour really, really, really wants Shane Taurima. Why?

Labour still hasn’t announced a candidate for Pita Sharples’ soon-to-be-vacant seat of Tamaki Makaurau. Candidates were to be announced this afternoon, after three previous delays, but instead the selection process continues to drift on.

The reason of course is Shane Taurima, who seemed to have been ordained to take the seat for Labour, right up until the point where he had to resign from TVNZ for using the broadcaster’s HQ as a Labour party meeting place. TVNZ launched an investigation into his activities and the investigation hasn’t yet been released.

This has left Labour between a rock and a hard place. The party obviously wants Mr Taurima as its Tamaki Makaurau candidate, but it doesn’t know whether the TVNZ report will contain information that might give other candidates ammunition to sink Taurima’s bid for the seat. Until the TVNZ report gets released, Labour doesn’t dare anoint Taurima as candidate.

Is Labour making the right decision though? Mr Taurima has a high profile and is articulate and intelligent. But Maori TV’s Julian Wilcox has also been linked to the seat as a possible candidate, and I would have thought Wilcox would rate just as highly in terms of profile, intelligence and public speaking ability.

The factor Labour should be concerned about is the head start their selection process is providing to the Maori party, who last night selected Rangi McLean as their candidate for the seat. McLean now gets a free run in the electorate, while Labour hasn’t yet closed of nominations, let alone selected their candidate.

It’s caused a member of Labor’s Tamaki Makaurau Electorate Committee, Shane Te Pou, to spit the dummy:

Mr Te Pou said it was “crazy” the process was taking so long and was dependent on what happened with one candidate.

“Nominations close tomorrow but we won’t have a candidate til mid May or the end of May. We’re not the incumbent party, we’re challenging for the seat and we won’t have a Shane Jones as the candidate and I think we’ve placed ourselves in an unnecessary tough position, I just don’t understand it at all.

“We shouldn’t have delayed things around a particular candidate we should have thought about the overall picture and that not having a candidate in mid May when we’ve got an election in September is not good.”

Further, if the report does throw up anything embarrassing that results in Mr Taurima not standing, Labour will have ended up undermining Julian Wilcox. It’s being reported that Wilcox will only stand if Taurima isn’t – Wilcox is obviously well aware that he’s a second choice candidate; unfortunately for Wilcox, Labour’s messing about have made that fairly clear to the voters too.

Transparency and perception – four easy pieces

Political figures (and those in the public service who might wish to become political figures) appear to have a real problem with making judgement calls on how their actions will be perceived by the public. Let’s take a look at four recent examples – for no reason other than that we can!

Example the First: Shane Taurima

A good journalist should appear to be impartial. A good journalist employed by the state broadcaster, TVNZ, should be doubly so. That’s not to say that they can’t have their own political beliefs, but the public shouldn’t see those beliefs as colouring editorial decision or journalistic content.*

One may very well think that it would be obvious to a good journalist that if they held Labour party meetings on TVNZ property, and that if someone were to leak that information to a rival channel, that the public may very well hold the perception that there was and had been a left-wing bias to said journalist’s content and said TV station’s Maori-Pacifica unit.

Example the Second: Judith Collins

The Cabinet Office Manual is very specific about managing conflicts of interest and perceptions of conflicts of interest.

Thus, when one is a Minister of the Crown, and one’s husband is the director of a company that has given a lot of money to the National party to which one belongs, and one is very close friends with the company’s chairman, and one visits the company’s China office to have a glass of milk (I mean, seriously, who stops in for a glass of milk?) after having previously met the company’s chairman for dinner (at which was present a Chinese border control official), (pause for breath), SURELY one would consider that the public may very well perceive that one’s actions were intended to benefit the company and therefore indirectly benefit one’s husband and therefore oneself?

And would one not consider that initially hiding the fact that one had had dinner with the company’s chairman and a Chinese border control official might very well increase the perception that one’s actions had been designed to benefit the company, one’s husband and oneself?

But according to Ms Collins, that’s just rubbish. Self-awareness is not perhaps her strong suit.

Example the Third: Parmjeet Parmar

Stuff.co.nz reports that Parmjeet Parmar, a current commissioner with the Families Commission, was spotted at the Pasifika Festival sporting a blue National party rosette, campaigning with John Key.

If the allegation is correct (and Ms Parmar does not appear to have denied that she wore a blue rosette as a fashion accessory), one wonders how a supposedly politically-neutral state servant could possibly think that wearing a blue National party rosette and campaigning with the Prime Minister wouldn’t create the perception that the Families Commission was somewhat politicised…

And it really must said that the Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, really didn’t help matters when she stated:

“I have known Dr Parmar for several years and I am well aware of her political views – she brings extensive knowledge and professionalism to her role in the Families Commission.”

Yes, Minister, of course you will speak favourably of her if you’re well aware of her political views – and they are aligned with your own.

Example the Fourth: Maurice Williamson, John Banks and Donghua Liu

And another citizenship scandal breaks involving a Mr Liu, albeit a different Mr Liu on this occasion to Shane Jones’ favourite Mr Liu of Auditor-General investigations past.

In brief:

– Mr Liu applies for NZ citizenship, but the DIA recommends his application be declined on the grounds that he doesn’t spend enough time in NZ and he can’t speak English to the requisite level.
– Mr Liu’s business partners approach Maurice Williamson (Minister of Building and Construction) and John Banks (then-Mayor of Auckland City), who write to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Nathan Guy, recommending that Mr Liu be granted citizenship regardless.
– Mr Liu is granted citizenship in 2010.
– Two years later, Mr Liu’s company, Roncon Pacific Hotel Management, makes a $22,000 donation to the National party.

The Auditor-General’s report into the first Mr Liu stated:

“[i]t is clear that the apparent links between different applicants and their agents, or supporters, coupled with strong support from various MPs and subsequent questions from the minister or ministerial officials caused disquiet among some citizenship officers.”

And that, although there was nothing wrong or improper with MPs advocating on behalf of constituents in citizenship cases:

“However, advocacy of this kind, in particular where the advocate is a fellow MP or known to the minister, clearly presents risks to the integrity of the decision-making system and to the reputations of those involved.”

Yup, it looks bad when a rich property developer’s rich mates go to their friends in Government, and suddenly the DIA’s recommendation is overturned. What could Mr Williamson and Mr Banks have said to Mr Guy that could not have been said by Mr Liu’s friends as part of his application for citizenship? That the rules about time spent in NZ were outdated? That submission could surely have been made directly to Mr Guy? The use of MPs and Mayors as go-betweens to the Minister of Internal Affairs invites the perception that all was not above board.

And did it not occur to Mr Liu that to then make a significant donation to the National party (albeit two years later) invites the perception that a favour has been paid for?

* At the time that the Taurima scandal and resignation unfolded, a number of left wing commentators held up the example of Paul Henry as a defence. Many other commentators have pointed out just why that example was flawed. I’d just like to note that surely no one actually considers Paul Henry to be a “good journalist”?