27 Jun 2014

The Herald and Key duck, scuttle and run as Donghua Liu story loses credibility

The anatomy of Dirty Tricks.

It looks like the powers that be on the Herald's editorial board are starting to realise that being a paid shill for the Key owned National Party is not as wise a move as they thought. Particularly as the realisation that the allegations fed from John Key and  those around Donghua Liu are proving to be a quicksand that is sucking the already doubtful credibility of the paper as a crusading, principled record of fact away from it.

The self parodying editorial (27.6.14) was the beginning of the duck strategy and, today, the normally rabid Key adoration puffer, Fran O'Sullivan, began to drop the blame for the fiasco on Key's desire to extract utu on Cunliffe for daring to reveal the extent to which National Party cabinet ministers have been prepared to go in the quest for largesse from foreign property speculators and "investor immigrants". Her comments that:

It was lack of discipline when he recently fuelled the journalistic flames on the so-called Donghua Liu donations scandal from the comfortable distance of the US.
He appeared to have forgotten a basic rule of politics — don't fan the flames of scandal unless you are sure where it will finish up. It's understandable that Key was tempted to indulge in some gotcha politics himself after a torrid month where he had to put Judith Collins on Cabinet leave after the Oravida affair and ask for Maurice Williamson's ministerial resignation after he intervened in a police matter involving the Chinese business investor.
It must have been pure utu to watch while the proverbial was thrown back all over Labour after Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse informed Key there was an 11-year-old pro forma letter in the files that showed Cunliffe wrote to authorities on Liu's behalf over his residency application.
The Prime Minister wasn't the direct source of the Liu "revelations" (I use that word advisedly as many of the more hyperbolic Liu claims have since proved to be a mirage).
Herald investigative journalist Jared Savage, who broke the story which led to Williamson's resignation, had already sought Liu's immigration file under the Official Information Act. But it is instructive in that it was sources close to National who shopped the story of Liu's anonymous donations to Labour elsewhere after Woodhouse had accessed the file.
National has not played a straight bat on this story.
Woodhouse has yet to explain why he initially told porkies by denying he had informed Key about the Cunliffe letter — something that may have been literally true but skated over the fact he had told the prime minister's staff about the letter (and one from former Labour MP Chris Carter) and his office had provided both letters to Key's office.
While Cunliffe was obviously stitched up over the Liu letter, the political donor's subsequent "misstatements" have left thoughtful people wondering whether it was indeed Labour that had proven tricky — as National's meme invites us to believe — or the governing party.

reveal some deep disquiet emerging within the party political PR machine behind Key and the National Party.

"Smile, Wave, brain-fade, scuttle and run" The stategists in confrence?

The history of the Donghua Liu scandal is revealing, as commented on in earlier postings and by other commentators, because of its obvious links to the scandal spreading blog sites closely connected to the Ninth Floor of the Beehive and the readiness of The Herald to swallow without due diligence the statement given it by, to quote Fran O'Sullivan, those close to National ... after Woodhousehad accessed the file. 

And, now, as the allegations begin to unravel and there is colder, closer and more focused examination of the apparent deliberate anti-Labour campaign being waged by the opinionista in The Herald the classic Key strategy of "smile, wave, brain fade, scuttle and run" is being followed in an attempt to extricate the news-sheet from the  mess it helped create.

24 Jun 2014

The Ground gets boggier under Key's shifting feet

The Donghua Liu saga has just got even more dangerous for the  John "drop the insinuation then duck" Key as The Herald is forced to publish an altered statement from Mr Liu that changes much of his original statement.

It now appears that Mr Liu is claiming to have donated $2000.00 to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club Branch of the NZ Labour Party and $60,000+ to The Yangzte Concrete Factory Branch of the NZ Labour Party to give the "honorable members a luxury cruise as a reward for their hard work making concrete for honorable building projects."

The claim that he purchased a bottle or bottles of wine  at a Labour Party Auction on June 3 2007 has also been shot down in flames as searchers have now identified the auction being one run by The Midland's Hawkes Bay Wine Charity at which no wine was sold at the inflated price Mr Liu claims to have bid. The Herald's new story now has Rick Barker receiving the bottle of wine from Mrs Liu rather than, as was originally alleged "giving it to her." The Herald is certainly back tracking all over the place on this story.
I look forward to the front Page apology to David Cunliffe, the NZ Labour Party and the long suffering NZ public who have had to put up with irresponsible reporting from the paper for far too long.

Left, Rick Barker receiving a bottle of wine from Donghua Liu's (top right) partner Juan Zhang. Photo / Supplied, NZ Herald

Left, Rick Barker receiving a bottle of wine from Donghua Liu's (top right) partner Juan Zhang. Photo / Supplied, NZ Herald

The questions need to be asked loudly, clearly and many, many times to John "Scuttle and Run" Key, Cameron Slater, Jami-Lee Ross and others close to Maurice Williamson and Donghua Liu "Who wrote the original statement for Mr Liu and who fed it to Key and Jared Savage?" and "Did Mr Liu really understand what he was signing  because, as Mr Williamson claims Mr Liu speaks and reads minimal English?"

POST SCRIPT: 1) The Fairfax stable is now asking questions about the Herald's reporting and the Key involvement in the Donghua Liu situation. About time the blow torch was applied to the links between The Herald and the Ninth Floor of the Beehive.
2) Radio New Zealand  Morning Report Political journalist declares that the Liu story doesn't stack up (27.6.14).
3) NZ Herald attempts to back off from its inept reporting by lampooning itself in an editorial claiming to be a crusading, reputable news-sheet and reducing the alleged "donations" from Liu to $38,000 in a series of anonymous donations over several years to different un-named MPs. 

22 Jun 2014

Murkier and murkier - What happened on Sunday June 3rd 2007?

The latest "revelation" dropped from the PR machine employed by the National Government is classic Bellmanism.
For those unaware of the Bellman's persuasive technique it can be summed up as: "I've told you three times so it must be true." And so it is with the National Party-Liu connections and the allegations that Liu was "generous" to the Labour Party one Sunday evening (3 June 2007). (Addendum: The Herald is now claiming the escape clause of an American date writing (appropriate since Key sold the country to the USA over the past week) so the fund raiser could have been held on Tuesday the 6th of March 2007. A date that would be as highly unlikely as the Sunday event as, in my experience, the major fund raisers are invariably Friday or Saturday events in order to maximise attendance. - Yet another example of slack investigation by the Herald hacks.)

The question that should be raised is: "What is the difference between a bid at an auction for an item and a donation / gift of money to the National Party?

The answer is that a bid at an auction is not a donation even though the bid price accepted may result in an artifically high price. A donation / gifting of cash is a transaction in which one party accepts a sum of money from another without ostensibly purchasing anything tangible.  On this basis a journalist would recognise the difference and realise that they're being spun a line and not reporting accurately.

But, No, the journalists accepted the story that, according to Mr Liu there was a large fundraising wine auction that Sunday at which he bid crazy money for a signed bottle of wine and a signed biography of Helen Clark.  Apart from the unlikelihood of a fund raising event being held on a Sunday the claims of crazy money bidding for a bottle of wine and a biography have a distinctly invented look to them.

Despite all enquiries and dredging the memories of any body involved with fund raising in 2007 no one has identified a fund raiser held in June 2007 that resulted in such a large sum of money. As Martyn Bradbury says if such an event with single bids like those alleged by Mr Liu then the story would have been member talk almost immediately and been common talk for months and months but he had never heard any amazed talk in all his involvement within the Party.

An alert reporter / editor would ask the question: "If Mr Liu claims he paid $100,000 for a bottle of wine at a Labour Fund Raiser in 2007 surely we would have heard about such ridiculous money being bid for abottle of wine because such a sum would have been buzzing around the newsrooms at the time. Didn't we write up a sensational headline back then about the Labour Party having money being rained upon it? We'd better search the morgue to find the story all the better to substantiate Mr Liu's allegation." Obviously there was no report or rumour on record within the Herald's story morgue or else they would have republished their sensational rumour of 2007.

Again, an alert Editor would have noted that Mr Liu also claimed that the staff function he invited Rick Barker to on his visit to China was to be seen as a "donation" to the Labour Party. Again, an alert and responsible editor would've recognised such a claim as being (a) an invention in order to create the illusion of an $150,000 "donation" and (b) a deliberate attempt to confuse a previously arranged staff function to which he invited Mr Barker into a luxury cruise perk to give the PR company a further spin point for the lazy MSM to fasten their word processors to.

There are so many inconsistencies in Mr Liu's statement that any reporter / journalist worth his or her salt would have checked, checked and checked again before accepting the rumours dropped from the lips of John Key while he was muppeteering in America as being gospel.

 The whole story stinks of Crosby-Textor dark ops aimed at distracting from an election fought on policies to one fought on innuendo.

19 Jun 2014

Thomas Piketty on why Austerity & wealth Inequality is bad for the economy.

 Here's a good thinking person's article to give further ammunition as to why a Labour vote is important this year.

Five minutes with Thomas Piketty: “We don’t need 19th century-style inequality to generate growth in the 21st century”

In an interview with EUROPP’s editor Stuart Brown and British Politics and Policy at LSE’s editor Joel Suss, Thomas Piketty discusses the rise in income and wealth inequality outlined in his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and what policies should be adopted to prevent us returning to the kind of extreme levels of inequality experienced in Europe prior to the First World War. Professor Piketty recently gave a lecture at the LSE, the video of which can be seen online here.
Your research has shown that inequality is rising and that without government action this trend is likely to continue. However, are we correct to assume that inequality is a fundamentally negative development in terms of its consequences on society?
There is no problem with inequality per se. In actual fact, up to a point inequality is fine and perhaps even useful with respect to innovation and growth. The problem is when inequality becomes so extreme that it no longer becomes useful for growth. When inequality reaches a certain point it often leads to the perpetuation of inequality over time across generations, as well as to a lack of mobility within society. Moreover, extreme inequality can be problematic for democratic institutions because it has the potential to lead to extremely unequal access to political power and the ability for citizens to make their voice heard.
There is no mathematical formula that tells you the point at which inequality becomes excessive. All we have is historical experience and all I have tried to do through my research is to put together a large body of historical experience from over twenty countries across two centuries. We can only take imperfect lessons from this work, but it’s the best that we have. One lesson, for instance, is that the kind of extreme concentration of wealth that we experienced in most European countries up until World War One was excessive in the sense that it was not useful for growth, and probably even reduced growth and mobility overall.
This situation was destroyed by World War One, the Great Depression, and World War Two, as well as by the welfare state and progressive taxation policies which came after these shocks. As a consequence, wealth concentration was much lower in the 1950s and 1960s than it was in 1910, but this did not prevent growth from happening. If anything, this probably contributed to the inclusion of new social groups into the economic process and therefore to higher growth. So one important historical lesson from the 20th century is that we don’t need 19th century-style inequality to generate growth in the 21st century, and we therefore don’t want to return to that level of inequality in Europe.
How would you respond to those who doubt whether there is sufficient evidence to draw this kind of conclusion?
This will always be an imperfect inference because we are in the social sciences and we should not have any illusions about what is possible. We can’t run a controlled experiment across the 20th century or replay the century as if World War One and progressive taxation never occurred. All we have is our common historical experience, but I think this is enough to reach a number of fairly strong conclusions.
The lesson we have already mentioned – that we don’t need the kind of extreme inequality of the 19th century in order to have economic growth – is simply one imperfect lesson, but there are other important lessons if you look at, for instance, the rise of inequality in the United States over the past 30 years. For example, is it useful to pay managers a ten million dollar salary rather than only one million dollars? You really don’t see this in the data: the extra performance and job creation in companies which pay managers ten million dollars rather than one. In the United States over the past 30 years almost 75 per cent of the aggregate primary income growth has gone to the top of the distribution. Given the relatively mediocre productivity performance and the per capita GDP growth rate of 1.5 per cent per year, having nearly three quarters of that going to the top isn’t a very good deal for the rest of the population.
This will always be a complicated and passionate debate. Social science research is not going to transform the political conflict over the issue of inequality with some kind of mathematical certainty, but at least we can have a more informed debate using this historical cross-country evidence. Ultimately that is all my research is aiming to do.
What specific policies can be used to prevent us returning to the kind of extreme levels of inequality you have discussed?
There are a large number of policies which can be used in combination to regulate inequality. Historically the main mechanism to reduce inequality has been the diffusion of knowledge, skills and education. This is the most powerful force to reduce inequality between countries: and this is what we have today, with emerging countries catching up in terms of productivity levels with richer countries. Sometimes this can also work within countries if we have sufficiently inclusive educational and social institutions which allow large segments of the population to access the right skills and the right jobs.
However while education is tremendously important, sometimes it’s not sufficient in isolation. In order to prevent the top income groups and top wealth groups from effectively seceding from the rest of the distribution and growing much faster than the rest of society, you also need progressive taxation of income and progressive taxation of wealth – both inherited and annual wealth. Otherwise there is no natural mechanism to prevent the kind of extreme concentration of income and wealth that we’ve seen in the past from happening again.
Most of all, what we need is financial transparency. We need to monitor the dynamics of all of the different income and wealth groups more effectively so that we can adapt our policies and tax rates in line with whatever we observe. The lack of transparency is actually the biggest threat – we may end up one day in a much more unequal society than we thought we were.
A video of Thomas Piketty’s recent LSE lecture is available here
Please read our comments policy before commenting.
Note: This article gives the views of the interviewee, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.
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18 Jun 2014

The murk around Donghua Lui grows each day.

The comment on The Standard tonight about the continuing connections between Donghua Lui are interesting especially the note that perhaps the journalists might like to chase the invisible Botany MP - Jami-Lee Ross who is only known to emerge from perpetual hibernation once every three years in order to play pass the microphone at hastily arranged public meetings designed to give the impression that he is doing something while leaving the attending public in a haze of wondering what it was Jami was offering as a solution to the mess that is East Auckland public transport.

From The Standard:
" First things first, this Donghua Liu thing is a set-piece smear from the National party, it could be nothing else.
The classic signs of National’s comms stick out like dogs balls….
  • timed the breaking of the story for when John Key is out of the country, keeps him clear of the dirt.
  • info was leaked to the tentacles of National’s comms (whaleoil, farrar) as was clearly hinted by barnsley bill (Cameron Slater’s right-hand man) who couldn’t keep his mouth shut on dimpost a couple of days ago.
  • the perfectly timed OIA release.
  • and the fact that Donghua Liu is still tight with National.
Reliable sources have also told me that Donghua is still donating cash to National too. (Any journos reading might like to ask Jamie-Lee Ross about this)
It’s no accident that this was released a couple of days before the 3 month interval that Claire Trevett covered in the herald. Interestingly Farrar made a big deal about this the other day."

Given that the sources noted in The Standard are reliable then questions should be asked:

"What are the connections between the East Auckland National Party and the disgraced Chinese businessman Donghua Liu?"

"How much money has flowed into electorate coffers from Mr Liu to support his campaign to gain citizenship and access to the Key led Cabinet members?"

Following on from the Standard sourced story one could be driven to ask: "has Mr Ross ever been involved in joining Maurice Williamson in lobbying for Mr Liu?"  Botany electors would certainly like to know.

The suspicion of murky and suspect dealings by the National Party in Botany haven't disappeared with the departure of Pansy Wong, whose use of the tax-payers' money to boost her husnband's business interests in China led to her resignation and the by-election that put the Slater supported Jami-Lee into Parliament.

10 Jun 2014


 Last night the Botany National MP played pass the mocrophone at a public meeting he'd organised to inform the residents of Botany about National's transport policies. Instead he simply played pass the microphone to his selected panel which included the ACT supporting councillor, Quax and others. Jami-Lee had no answers to any of the questions from the increasingly frustrated audience apart from coming up with a grandiose plan to build separate high speed motorways eclusively for heavy trucks to race up and down between Tauranga, Hamilton Auckland and Whangarei.

The reaction from the local Labour candidate is quite appropriate.


Hang in there is not a policy. It’s National Party economic suicide. Last night’s panel meeting with Jami-Lee Ross gave Botany residents little hope for the immediate future except to expect more heavy trucks on the roads.

Public transport has been totally ignored by the National government and never been effectively lobbied for by the present MP for the electorate says Tofik Mamedov, Labour Party candidate for Botany.

“Despite my opponent’s protestations at his recent meeting the poor planning and lack of investment in South East Auckland as it struggles to cope with 150,000 people moving into the area is an inditement on the National government and its local body allies who have always been in favour of promoting Heavy trucking, congestion, social isolation and transport induced poverty on Botany residents.”

Mamedov says that Botany residents waste hundreds of hours a year sitting in traffic struggling to get to work while stripping thousands of dollars from their household budgets in petrol and car maintenance a year because of National’s reluctance to foster efficient and effective co-ordinated public transport systems.

“Despite all of my opponent’s protestations and promises National has no policies, no plans and no inclination to lift Auckland’s public transport system into the 21st century. It is ridiculous to see  that the new Ormiston Town Centre has been designed without any real integration with rapid transit such as incorporating a busway.

Since National has been in office (5 and a half years), there have been no significant public transport infrastructure projects initiated by National – as all the  the electric trains, and rail upgrades were begun under the last Labour government.

Botany electors have a clear choice this year - a funded, planned and delivered public transport system under Labour or more muddle and confusion under the present government.” says Mamedov

Mamedov said that a Labour government is supportive of the Congestion Free Network’s proposals http://www.congestionfree.co.nz/  and will be pushing forward with the development of the Panmure-Botany Busway with a high frequency network of buses every 10 minutes seven days a week as soon as possible on taking over government in September this year to ensure that the people of Botany can enjoy efficient and planned public transport.