US struggles with influx of illegal Central American immigrants; Chinese hackers allegedly breaking into US government database; Bank of China accused of helping clients siphon money out of country; Israel to expand Gaza bombing campaign; suspected US drone kills militants in Pakistan; and more  

Top of the Agenda

Obama Seeks Republican Support on Migration Policies

Labour’s new election slogan is a challenge for the party to focus exclusively ‘on the positive things that matter to Kiwi families’, as the PR promises. 

That means rejecting the rhetoric that has New Zealand going to hell in a hand basket, and avoiding negative distractions that make Labour look like the party of dead trees, slow trucks and extinct birds.


I like Labour’s ‘Vote Positive’ more than I like National’s ‘Working for New Zealand’ (which begs the question, ‘who have you been working for until now?’)

Whether it will change anyones’ vote remains to be seen.

John Roughan's column on why paying "voluntary" school fees is a good thing confuses me. I think that's because it is very confusing.

Tim already has posted his response to John Roughan's column on Labour's policy to allow schools to replace "voluntary" school fees with a $100-per-student payment.

It feels good to pay for your child's education, says the columnist. Yes, and I already am, I reply

This morning John Roughan argued in the New Zealand Herald that Labour's policy to end voluntary school donations for most parents was "imaginative" but "a pity".

Mallard's moas and David Cunliffe's mangled apology are signs that Labour's still slipping off-message too often... and sometimes not even accidentally

Damage from within. David Cunliffe so close to getting it right, but still so wrong. And potentially strong and popular policy undermined by off-message gaffes...

People are starting to demand someone's - anyone's! - head over the Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail diplomatic immunity escapade. What's the rush?, I say.

Everyone just needs to calm down a bit about the whole Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail saga. Because some people who ought to know better, as well as some people who never will, are starting to make some pretty silly statements about the matter.

Jock Anderson still just can't get over the fact that "leftie protestors" are allowed to burn flags as a form of protest. And it's all because of those meddling judges ... .

Having arrived back in the country, I note there's been a fair bit going on while I was away that I could profitably comment on. Campaign funding matters seem to have become unnaturally prominent. MFAT officials are letting criminals flee back home without their Minister knowing anything about it.

If the murders of teenagers on both sides of the deadly dispute over Palestine doesn't spur the international community to force an end to the unlawful occupation, what on earth will?  

The justice that is sought following the abduction and murder of three teenage Israeli settlers will not be found in retribution.

The justice for the teenage Palestinian abducted and murdered in an apparent revenge attack will not be found in more abductions or murders.

As John Key re-writes the script for relations between New Zealand and the US, what are the implications for China and does this mean a return to automatic support for America?

There has been a fair bit of recent speculation about whether John Key's approach to foreign policy represents a departute from the consensus of the past two decades and if this, somewhat to everyone's surprise, will be a central part of his legacy. After all, Key is supposed to be all about the economy, in contrast to Helen Clark's focus on foreign relations.

My two cents on the sort of dramatic policy Labour will need to win over voters. Think interest-free student loans and go from there

Labour says tomorrow it'll be announcing a new education policy regarding schools. I have no idea what it is, but it's prompted me to quickly write this post that I've been meaning to write for months - what I'd announce if I was Labour looking for a circuit breaker.

The latest polls show that Colin Craig, Winston Peters and perhaps even the Maori Party have something in common... the need for Labour to do better

To rip off Jono and Ben, it sux to be David Cunliffe right now. He's got everything he fought so hard for in the leadership of the Labour Party, but has wasted the first phase of his time in charge. But he's not the only party leader on the 'sux to be' list right now. As we get closer to election day a whole lot of electoral ironies are appearing.

Where is the sense of urgency from a Labour party that doesn't seem terribly fussed about winning this election, or at least seems quite happy to leave it to potential coalition partners to get it over the line?

The biggest crime a Labour Party caucus, activist base and affiliated unions can commit is to not put their party in a position where it can realistically when an election. They can claim all they like to want to bring new talent into parliament through the list, but on current polling, it's rhetoric – no new faces will make it come September.

The outrageous sham that Egypt's President calls independent justice should stand as a warning not just to journalists working in the country, but to Egyptians themselves. If Sisi can stare down world-wide condemnation, think how little thought he will give to anyone who has no international voice.

Politicians can not function without media exposure - whether that be fair or propaganda.

Political journalists can not function without politicians - be they democratic, autocratic or anywhere in between.

The symbiosis of these two spheres legitimizes the respective worlds of voters and audience/readers.

Sssh. Don't tell anyone, but Labour's actually building a coherent plan for running the country. Unfortunately for them, no-one can see past its repeated mis-steps

Pick your parable: from the Jews it's "Do not be wise in words — be wise in deeds". The Chinese say "talk doesn't cook rice".

Child poverty strikes a chord across the political spectrum, but the left will struggle to make inequality a major election issue because most New Zealanders are just getting on with it

What is the election going to be about? The froth and bubble of donations? Not very likely. The competence of the main players will undoubtedly feature. Or perhaps Bill Clinton's 1992 classic slogan "it's the economy stupid" will again prove true.

When it comes to signing trade deals there are two principles which should never be up for negotiation; the net benefit to your country has to outweigh any concessions, otherwise what’s the point? And you never trade away fundamentals, like the right to legislate to protect your environment, the health of your citizens, or your education system.


The National government hasn’t been able to reassure us that they really will protect these principles in their secret Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Donghua Liu's alleged donations to Labour need more scrutiny. But the Police won't be the ones to do it.

The Herald on Sunday's "big reveal" about Donghua Liu's claimed $100,000 purchase back in 2007 of a bottle of wine signed by Helen Clark is forcing me to interrupt a very pleasant stay in Newcastle to make some comments.

America and Iran appear poised to co-operate in order to stymie the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from taking over war torn Iraq and establishing a Sunni Caliphate which stretches across the border into Syria. It is a complicated mess. 

Is the enemy of my enemy my friend in 21st century war? 

Well possibly ‘frenemy’ would be more accurate, and yes, it does look as if the United States and Iran can talk Iraq alongside what is acceptable in terms of an Iranian nuclear programme.

Over the weekend an 8-page taxpayer-funded advertisement for the National party arrived in our letterbox (I've tweeted a picture). Page after page laid out in National's party colours and font, bursting with photos of the PM, and of MPs Hekia Parata and Chris Finlayson. Also someone called 'Paul Foster-Bell' is prominently pictured in it, but goodness only knows who he is.

Headlines claim "We're on the right track", "Keeping Kiwis safer...", "Health targets are delivering better results", and other imaginary facts that don't pass scrutiny.

A visitor from the Hawkes Bay, our very own Children's Commissioner, has just thrown a bomb into the middle of our debate on child poverty this election year... will anyone notice?

In case you missed it, the Children's Commissioner just got a little bit radical. No, go on then, quite a lot radical. The kind of radical that would have Paula Bennett spluttering into her weekend coffee.

Colin Craig has given up. Kind of. But by conceeding he can only win a seat with a deal, he's put the onus firmly on National and made John Key an offer the PM can hardly afford to refuse

Remember in the 2009 Mt Albert by-election when Melissa Lee said she was hoping to come second? She was roundly mocked and, presumably put straight by an advisor or senior colleague.

What shape is the Trans-Pacific Partnership taking on and what impact will the election result have on whether or not New Zealand signs up?

For decades now National and Labour have had a cosy little arrangement when it comes to free trade. Both parties could count on each other to provide a solid bloc of votes in parliament to pass any bill implementing free trade agreements.

There's plenty of evidence that more farm production could actually help, not harm, efforts to protect the environment

New Zealand's future depends on production and protection - but the latter is not necessarily the same as preservation. These 'P-words' are getting as muddled as the 'E-words' of expertise, experience and enthusiasm.

Economics and environment are also part of that picture.

Internet Mana gives National a cast of villians to parade before voters

The Internet Mana party does not, in any real sense, exist. Nor, while we're at it, does United Future; ACT once existed as a neo-liberal nostalgia project, but no more.

Yet whereas the latter pair are struggling to evade their past, it's possible that the Internet Mana party may still be willed into existence.

Having slept on the Banks decision, here's some slightly more ordered thoughts on the matter.

Before I run to catch a plane, I thought I'd post a few more reactions to Banks' trial and the outcome. Boy, did I pick a bad time to decide to fly!

If you'll excuse the paraphrasing of Billy Bragg, it seems appropriate as the left leave the moral high ground for a bit of electoral mud-wrestling and coat-tailing. But at what cost?

Call it genius or hypocrisy, but the Mana Internet alliance, Laila Harre's decision to lead the Internet Party into this year's election and Kim Dotcom's record $3 million donation creates all sort of problems on the left of New Zealand politics. It also, to me, feels like something worth grieving no matter how the cards fall on September 20.