Interesting lead on TV3 tonight. D Garner has NZ on Air document which he suggests shows Melissa Lee is still being questioned about her returns for her Asia Down Under programmes. The issue of whether she used NZ on Air money to make ads for the National Party in 2008 came up during the Mt Albert by-election. Lee was given the all-clear the day before the Mt Albert by-election. Now it is suggested NZ on Air is still after explanations why money was for unmade programmes was not returned. Broadcasting Minister Jonathan “Maestro” Coleman reportedly knew about the issue in August but has said nothing. Should add a dimension to questions on broadcasting in the House this week.
Posts Tagged ‘mt albert’
I was impressed to see that Melissa Lee did the gracious thing last night and went to the Labour Party’s temporary HQ in Mt Albert to congratulate David Shearer on his win. It was clearly a tough night for her but she handled herself with humility. The past few weeks can’t have been easy, given that the National Party seemed to effectively cut her adrift when things started to go wrong. It was telling that the only Minister present with her last night was Jonathan Coleman, who several TV commentators remarked “nobody has ever heard of”.
Where was John Key? He picked the date for the by-election, he picked National’s candidate and yet as the results came in, he was nowhere to be seen. Could it be that our PM only likes to be associated with things that are happy, shiny and new? There seems to be a clear trend emerging that when something gets tough, John Key just walks away and washes his hands of it.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I tend to admire people who front up and show some humility in the face of defeat. Key is the National Party Leader – he should have stood beside his candidate and accepted his share of the blame. I think Melissa Lee would be right to feel she was hung out to dry last night.
I actually feel kind off sorry for Melissa Lee. Her tongue-tied memory loss on TV3 last night has probably happened to every MP – it has certainly happened to me and everyone I’ve spoken to about it.
Yes Melissa has repeatedly buckled under pressure but my question is where is her support? On the item last night we saw John Carter walking across the road with her but during her painful interview he could be seen way off on the other side of the street yakking with, I think, Jacqui Dean. Jonathan Coleman is supposed to be her minder but where was he and how much effort is he putting in to making sure Melissa is well briefed?
No doubt senior National MPs will distance themselves from Melissa but they really have to blame themselves for her inadequacies as well.
I am just home from a successful launch of the David Shearer for Mt Albert byelection campaign. It started with an outdoor rally at the Rocket Park. It was great: funny hats, balloons, and all the fun of the fair. Good rousing speeches from David, and Phil Goff. I thought for a minute David had brought back from Baghdad the endearing Middle Eastern habit of firing guns into the air at these kinds of events, but then realised people were letting off party crackers.
The whole mob then piled into a noisy red motorcade and tootled off around the electorate stopping at high traffics spots like Kingsland and the PaknSave to wave placards and hoot and holler. One of the highlights was when Melissa Lee pulled up to the Pt Chev lights in her fancy Melissa Lee-branded campaign car and found herself surrounded by dozens of placard waving jubilant Labour campaigners chanting “”Bring back Ravi!”
Canvassing in Waterview on the day the Waterview motorway decision was announced was instructive. Anger. Resignation. Bewilderment. More anger. All the emotions were at play. A couple of doomed dwellings were in the process of being extended on Wednesday morning. Whether the builders downed tools in the afternoon, I didn’t see.
The tunnel option was of course favoured by the locals. No surprises there. But the announced option raised more questions than answers, because the parts that would be ‘cut and covered’ weren’t spelt out in the carefully crafted letters and maps kindly hand delivered to affected residents in the hours leading up to the 3pm announcement.
Nor was much else. Like how to get in and out of Waterview during the bulldozer onslaught. Like just which houses along Great North Road are going to be in their path. And which others will just miss, but face a future of being over a motorway’s fence.
Further unpleasantry is anticipated.
We’ve now been debating the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) Bill since about 4pm on Wednesday. Interesting to note that none of the wannabe Mt Albert MPs have had anything to say on the Bill. I’ve sat through most of the debate and haven’t heard a peep from Melissa Lee, John Boscawen or Russell Norman. These guys are already MPs, so they have the right to speak and vote on these proposals which will have a significant impact on the electorate that they want to represent. Why should the voters of Mt Albert elect an MP who isn’t interested in defending their interests?
“If Melissa Lee keeps digging the tunnel will be finished soon.”
(Hat Tip: John Pagani)
Yesterday the government announced the preferred route for the completion of the Western Ring Route, most commonly known as the Waterview connection. This is a very significant decision that involves billions of dollars of taxpayer money and will have a significant impact on the Waterview community, which also happens to be in the Mt Albert electorate.
Labour sought to debate the announcement using a provision of the Standing Orders that allows for an Urgent Debate on a matter of public importance. Applications for an Urgent Debate have to be lodged with the Speaker by 2pm. The Speaker rules on the application following Question Time.
Labour lodged an application knowing that the government was due to make the announcement that afternoon. The Speaker ruled the request out on the basis that no announcement had been made by the end of Question Time. As soon as he resumed his seat, the government released the announcement.
This is a cynical manipulation of the parliamentary process to avoid scrutiny and debate. One can only conclude that the government wanted to avoid the debate for two reasons. First, they know that the decision to build the motorway overland rather than through a tunnel will be very unpopular in Mt Albert. Second, they want to ram through their Auckland Super City plans under Urgency so didn’t want anything to delay that. Yesterday was a sad day for democracy.
For those who haven’t seen it this is the advertisement that Melissa Lee made and the National Party has not declared.
Campbell Live did a great exposé on Melissa Lee last night (embedded video below). Her company got a $1.2million NZ on Air grant which was used, inter alia, for an election special. The decision to grant was made after she became a National Party list candidate. She made a video using the company resources to appeal to Asian voters. It was not declared either as a donation to the National Party or one of their expenses. She was given an opportunity to clear her name last night but turned it down.
Campbell Live and NBR have reported that Ms Lee said National leader John Key knew about her involvement with the company and did not have a problem with it.
John Key claims to have high ethical standards – this is going to be a real test for him and Bill English will have the task of defending Key and Lee in the house during question time today.
UPDATE: I have just checked the timing for Mt Albert nominations. They don’t close until next week. The test for Key is whether he has the balls to tell Lee that she can’t stand.
Parties don’t share their polling but David Farrar has done a useful post on how he sees it. His analysis might have informed the ipredict shift to Labour since just before the selections. Currently predicting Labour 43% and Nat 34%.
It occurred to me, while watching Q+A, that by-elections are relatively rare events. Or at least they seem that way to a child of the ’80s.
There have been nine by-elections in my lifetime (the UK had eight in the few years I lived there) but the last one I remember well in New Zealand was Taranaki-King Country. That by-election was won by my distant and by marriage cousin, Shane Ardern.
Most of the by-elections over the past thirty years or so have been triggered by either retirement, or resignation. All but one in fact. But it’s a very different picture if you go back another thirty years again. In fact, from 1950 through to when I was born, there were 30 by-elections in New Zealand, and only five of them were triggered by resignation. The rest were triggered by… well there’s no polite way to say it, death.
A piece of trivia to ponder on while you travel home on a Monday night, but they’re figures that remind you how much politics has changed over the years as a career, and how much public expectations have changed too.
And for those of you who wish to contemplate the by-election at hand, you can watch Melissa Lee and David Shearer in their first televised debate with Paul Homes here.