Few things are more infuriating than that most rampant of political scourges, a journalist with a ravening revenge complex.
Facts are distorted. Lies broadcast. And some seriously twisty turpentine interpretations are allowed to advance in legion formation from conjecture to catechism by a so-called and supposed guardian of the truth from our Fourth Estate.
On a bad day, that’s what some people think I do. On a good day, it’s what Cameron Slater does. And on most days, when it comes to New Zealand First, there’s at least one journo with an axe to grind meting out *exactly* this to my own beloved Party.
Often, it’s Andrea Vance.
We saw this earlier on in the year, when Vance took to task NZ First MPs for the princely crime of having the gumption and the gunnery to actually continue to issue press releases and comment on the pressing issues of the day, over the summer holidays.
Somebody ACTUALLY decided to raise protest about our MPs doing the job they are paid to do, simply because the spectacle of a properly-performing politician is something Vance took exception to. Why? Maybe it’s due to the fact they were NZF MPs doing the job journalists SHOULD have been doing of holding the powerful to account over that time. Or perhaps, in her view, the political year stops in early December and nothing perfidious ever happens on the political ramparts between then and late February. I don’t know.
It’s probably motivated by a punitive desire to retaliate against NZ First for Winston’s role in exposing Vance’s informational gold-card-mine during the GCSB scandal, in the form of Peter Dunne.
If so, impeding the informational flows about important goings-on in our democracy purely out of vexatious spite for somebody performing a public service in excoriating a fundamentally defective Minister … is tantamount to a dereliction of journalistic duty.
But anyway, I digress.
The reason why I am writing this piece, is I wish to respond to something Vance put out earlier in the week alleging Barbara Stewart was engaged in the act of “[defying] the Party and her colleagues” via the introduction of a new Private Member’s Bill last week.
That’s an absolute and outright lie.
What actually happened is, on Thursday last week Barbara Stewart introduced a piece of draft legislation into Parliament via the Member’s Bill ballot process (and, might I add, with Caucus approval to do so) which sought to do a number of things.
Part 1 of the Bill mandates that migrants to New Zealand entering our country under the parental reunification category of residency would be required to take out ten years of health insurance, specifically covering elective surgery.
Parts 2 and 3 of the Bill (which are, to my mind, vastly more important anyway) make it easier for New Zealanders to get access to health insurance. In specia, Part 2 removes taxation disincentives toward Kiwis purchasing health insurance (or, in the case of Part 2, section 8 … their employers providing it for them as a fringe benefit); while Part 3 provides for a rebate of up to 25% of their health insurance premiums if they’re a Super Gold Card holder.
So while I have some issues with Part 1 of the Bill, which we’ll go into later … fundamentally and all up, I think it’s a pretty sound piece of legislation – both in intent and in application.
Unfortunately for those out there wishing to get an accurate picture of what our representatives get up to in Parliament in our name and on our behalf … sensible insurance/taxation policy and looking after the elderly isn’t something that’s traditionally regarded as sexy reading. Internal party splits and MPs allegedly behaving badly, by contrast, is. (And in order to pre-empt some of the baying voices down in the peanut gallery … I fully admit and acknowledge that I’m occasionally guilty of picking salacious topics to write about, too)
So you can see why Vance has chosen to cover this aspect and this alone of the draft legislation – rather than focusing on the actual positives and core benefits which Barbara’s sought to enact via this piece of legislation.
But before we get into the nitty-gritty of the debate on the merits of Part 1 of the Bill, I’d like to set the record straight about some things.
Yes, yes there was some rather vocal dissent from the Floor of our Convention down in Rotorua about a vaguely related remit, I believe from the Rodney electorate, which sought to mandate that *all* migrants had to have 10 years of health insurance to their name before settling here. Yes, yes this did feature at least two NZ First MPs rising to address serious philosophical issues and concerns connected to the proposal. And yes, yes I am given to understand that the Remit failed to gain majority support from those on the Floor in the subsequent and ensuing vote. (Although for what it’s worth, I don’t agree that the policy-as-proposed would have breached the Bill of Rights Act as Denis O’Rourke seems to have claimed … and am much more on-side with what Mahesh Bindra supposedly advocated, but more on that later)
Now, at this point, I do have to issue my own point of personal clarification. For various reasons I won’t go into, I wasn’t allowed in to Sunday morning’s Policy Remit session at NZF’s Convention. I am therefore reporting much of the above very much second-hand and as the result of triangulating information from a reasonable number of eye-witnesses. But hey, unlike Vance I’m at least able to acknowledge my own gripping perspective bias.
Anyway. Straightaway an immediate contradiction between what Vance has written and abject reality ought to become plainly apparent. The policy-remit that was voted down was a proposal for *all* migrants to take out 10 years worth of health insurance before settling here. The draft-legislation that Barbara has put forward is a proposal to make health insurance cheaper and more accessible for all New Zealanders (and Gold Card holders specifically), which also militates that *one highly specific category* of migrant take out health insurance which covers elective surgery before settling here.
This isn’t the way Vance has put across the story – instead, she’s deliberately sought to cloud the waters by hugely artificially conflating the two issues to the point that they’re supposed to be indistinguishable.
Why? Because she wants to make us look bad. Why *else* does anyone in the Press Gallery seemingly write anything these days.
To be fair, you could argue that there is some conceptual overlap between the Bill which has gone forward and the policy remit which got voted down two weeks ago, and you’d probably be right. But it’s a pretty long bow to draw to state that because we, as a Party, rejected the very very broad manifestation of a principle, that we also therefore axiomatically reject its highly specific application. That would be like suggesting that just because someone is against the carte-blanche legalization of cannabis, for instance, that they’re also thus completely against highly specific medicinal marijuana administration. And even Peter Dunne’s not *that* much of a puritan.
But it goes further.
Going off Vance’s article, you’d be forgiven for thinking this Bill had simply fallen out of the sky, fully formed, in the immediate wake of our Party Convention as a deliberate ‘screw you’ to the Party Faithful. In fact, the narrative Vance appears to be somewhat-more-than-implying here appears to be exactly that – that Barbara’s picked up a piece of legislation and decided to forcibly ram it through over the heads of the rest of our Caucus and Party Faithful in what can only be construed as a giant Ron Markian hand gesture.
Here’s a cached copy of the parliament.nz page for the bill as it was just before it was drawn from the ballot showing that it was introduced into the legislative process (i.e. the ballot) on the 18th of February 2015.
Needless to say, that’s SIX MONTHS AGO. And it rather strongly implies that instead of openly “defying” her Caucus and Party supporters, Stewart has simply done what most MPs in Parliamentary political parties do: had a bright idea, workshopped it about the place, run it by her Caucus for approval first, and then chucked it in the ballot. Before having a stroke of luck six months later and having the bill drawn out of the hat. (And it always gets me that there’s such an element of randomness in control of some of the most important parts of our legislative process and agenda)
Nothing wrong with that in the slightest.
Further, quoting the speech O’Rourke’s gave to our Convention in opposition to Rodney’s policy remit as if it were actually a statement of opposition to Barbara’s largely unrelated draft legislation … is absolutely scurrilous and represents an outright fabrication of an alternate reality. I can only profess myself somewhat aghast that the “journalist” in question’s perceptive powers are apparently unhampered by the stringent constraints of time, space, and causality which the rest of us here on this mortal plane are almost invariably subject to.
Vance should know better.
Anyway, before I round off … I’d like to get in a statement of principle.
I like this bill. I thoroughly endorse and enjoy what goes on in Part 2 and Part 3 of said bill. In fact, one of the reasons why I’ve waxed lyrical at such great length in writing this piece – and included a rundown of the bill’s contents, instead of just pointing out Vance’s shortcomings … is because I genuinely think that strong and creative legislative work such as this deserves greater exposure.
However, that being said – I’m not necessarily a huge fan of Part 1 of this legislation. In fact, I’m looking at it a bit sideways as we speak. (Although I have had a variety of explanations put forward by some within teh Party which make me rather less uncomfortable with it than I had been previously).
Put simply, one of the things I have *always* loved about New Zealand First is Winston’s frank and honest statement that what whether you’ve been here for five years or five hundred years – if you’re prepared to make New Zealand your genuine home and contribute in a worthwhile manner to the growth and wellbeing of our nation … then we owe you *exactly the same duties* of protection and safekeeping which we do for any other citizen. It’s as simple as that – in fact, it’s the very essence of the Civic Nationalism to which we all all theoretically adhere.
Now I do understand and appreciate the arguments advanced by Tracey (whose electorate the remit came from in the first place) concerning “putting into the tax bucket your fair share”. I also have some time for the proposition that skilled migrants in reasonably paying jobs who are bringing their elderly parents over here with them, will be able to afford health insurance premiums for the relevant members of their families.
But ultimately, I do resolutely believe in the idea that once you’re actually a citizen – which, let’s remember, is several years after you’ve entered the country – we do, very much, have a duty and responsibility to look after you, no matter which category of entrance you used to obtain your immigration pathway and eventual citizenship.
I’d therefore look at reducing the ten-year period, accordingly.
And what I’ve just don there … is I’ve disagreed (slightly, and in a reasonable way) about a detail of a policy with one of my Members of Parliament; while still overall backing the scheme and the bill.
According to Andrea Vance, that presumably means I’m in open and outright dissension from my Caucus and ought to be hung, drawn and quartered for treason accordingly.
That would be nonsense.
Much like the latest in Vance’s spin-cycle overdrive efforts at political “reporting”.
So let’s just be absolutely clear about this. When it comes to Andrea Vance’s writings about NZ First – she’s almost invariably attempting to pull a sheen of the finest-grade sheep-derived export-fabric-material over your eyes.
Take note, and disregard her accordingly.