NEW ZEALAND by Bernard MoranNews Weekly
Roller-coaster election ends with conservative win
, October 11, 2014
New Zealanders have just experienced the most fascinating, roller-coaster national election for decades. It was one drama after another, ending with a National Party victory for a third term in power — an unprecedented landslide.
New Zealand Prime Minister
To appreciate the magnitude of the landslide, News Weekly readers should bear in mind that New Zealand’s voting system is designed to prevent a single party ruling alone without coalition partners.
Since 1996, New Zealand has used the German voting model, which is called mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation. It combines electorate representation with a proportionally-elected parliament. Citizens get two votes: one for the party and the other for a local candidate.
Provided your party gains 5 per cent of the “party” vote, you are represented in parliament. Unless the winning party has a clear majority to govern alone, it has to negotiate with other parties for their support.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister John Key announced that the New Zealand elections would be held on Saturday, September 20. His personal ratings were high, the economy had been safely steered through the global financial crisis (GFC), and a third term seemed assured.
Then suddenly wham, bam, whamo! On August 13, Nicky Hager, a left-wing investigative writer, launched his book, Dirty Politics: How Attack Politics is Poisoning New Zealand’s Political Environment (Nelson, NZ: Craig Potton Publishing, 2014), a compendium of leaked or stolen emails that had circulated among several National government aides, a right-wing blogger Cameron Slater (“Whale Oil”) and Judith Collins, the Minister of Justice.
The emails attracted saturation media attention, and, as Hager intended, had the potential to seriously derail National Party’s cruise to victory. This was a new phenomenon in New Zealand politics, the U.S.-style deliberate search for “dirt” in order to smear and undermine those targeted, be they in business, the civil service or other political parties.
What was genuinely shocking was the vicious tone of Whale Oil’s emails and the revelation that the National aides were operating down the corridor from John Key’s office. He denied all knowledge of these political “black ops”, but the mud was sticking.
Judith Collins was in big trouble. An exchange of emails between herself and Whale Oil revealed that she was “gunning” for the then Serious Fraud Office (SFO) chief executive Adam Feeley. His office was investigating a case involving a major property developer who had allegedly engaged Whale Oil to run a smear campaign.
Slater later argued that the word “gunning” had been his, but the damage was done. Judith Collins realised her position as Minister of Justice was untenable and she resigned. She is now a humble backbencher. A top-level inquiry into the allegations has been commissioned.
Meanwhile, another threat was gathering momentum in the bulky shape of a German immigrant on the run from the American FBI. His real name is Kim Schmitz, but Kiwis know him as Kim Dotcom; and his mission was to get even with Prime Minister John Key.
Dotcom made his many millions from creating the Internet file-sharing service, Megaupload. He is loathed in Hollywood for making his fortune out of alleged copyright piracy. Eventually, the FBI became involved and sought to have him extradited back to the United States.
Believing he was safe in his rented rural mansion outside Auckland, Dotcom was awaked by a dawn raid in January 2012. A posse of 70 police officers, including a Kiwi version of a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, converged on his property in police cars and two helicopters. He was incarcerated in Mount Eden prison.
Dotcom’s lawyers defeated every effort of the government to hand him over to the Americans. His succession of court victories made him a sort of folk hero.
However, Dotcom burned with resentment against John Key, blaming him for arranging surveillance on behalf of the FBI. He saw the coming election as an opportunity to wage a vendetta. He founded the Internet Party and bankrolled it to the tune of NZ$3.5 million.
The Internet Party was bonded with the Mana Party led by Maori firebrand Hone Hawariwa, a sitting three-term electorate MP. Here was Dotcom the rich capitalist in bed with a band of veteran hard-left activists, expecting to piggyback into Parliament on the back of the Mana Party.
The strategy backfired on Hone Hawariwa, when his former supporters in the northern Maori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau, transferred their votes to the Labour candidate, Kelvin Davis. On election night, Hawariwa was visibly shattered and in tears.
Just weeks out from election day, Dotcom announced the imminent demise of John Key in what he billed as the Moment of Truth. He booked the spacious Auckland Town Hall for a public meeting, which would be addressed by Glenn Greenwald, an American investigative reporter into mass surveillance by NASA.
Edward Snowden would address the meeting by satellite from Moscow, as would Julian Assange live from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
There was more. Kim Dotcom was in possession of an email that would blow John Key out of the water, and it would be revealed on the night.
In the days before the town hall meeting Glenn Greenwald received maximum media coverage. He claimed that NASA maintained a secret office in the north of NZ and collaborated with Kiwi intelligence agencies to carry out mass surveillance on NZ citizens.
Greenwald said that Snowden himself had witnessed this surveillance when working for NASA.
When he was in Auckland, the Daily Telegraph (UK) reported that Greenwald’s 28-year-old Brazilian partner David Miranda had been arrested at Heathrow airport allegedly in possession of secret passwords from documents held by the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), an intelligence and security agency responsible for providing signals intelligence and other information to the British government and armed forces.
John Key came under close media questioning. He admitted that NASA had proposed a mass surveillance plan, but that had been rejected and was never implemented. The intelligence chiefs went public and backed Key’s statements.
The Greens called for the intelligence agencies to be disbanded and new safer structures established.
The Auckland Town Hall was packed for the public meeting, with hundreds outside having to watch on screens. Earlier, Dotcom had revealed his Moment of Truth email, an email from a Hollywood studio head congratulating Key for cooperating with their plans to get Dotcom extradited back to the States.
The Hollywood studio head said the email was a fake. After the public meeting, Dotcom faced the media and refused to answer any questions about the email. The Moment of Truth was labelled a “fizzer”.
There was more luck for John Key, following considerable public concern about whether there was mass surveillance going on or not. The television news reported the horrifying plot to carry out a random beheading in Sydney and Brisbane, and that the Australian Federal Police had intercepted a single phone call.
Those raids brought home the dangers and the need for intelligence surveillance.
Political commentators describe the Left as being “slaughtered” on election day. National with its allies can count on 65 seats in the 121-seat Parliament. The Greens, Labour and the centrist NZ First Party muster 56.
The defeat of the Left is good news for New Zealand pro-lifers, as Mana, Labour and the Greens wanted a review of the abortion laws, planning for a local version of the Victoria’s notorious Abortion Law Reform Act 2008, which allows an unborn baby to be aborted up to the end of the ninth month of pregnancy. The National Party is committed to maintaining the status quo.
Maryan Street, the ultimate Labour Party insider and promoter of the End of Life Choice (i.e., assisted suicide) Bill, is now out of Parliament.
The last word goes to the veteran leader of the NZ First Party, 69-year-old Winston Peters. When the mass surveillance revelations were at maximum intensity, he told reporters that he knew where the secret NASA office was in Northland.
They asked him to reveal its whereabouts.
“I can’t tell you. That would undermine the integrity of our security agencies.”
Bernard Moran is a New Zealand journalist with an interest in defence matters, and national president of Voice for Life, New Zealand’s oldest and largest pro-life advocacy group.