By Bernard Hickey
With 60 days left until the September 20 election, here's my daily round-up of political news from in and around Wellington on Tuesday July 22, including Labour Leader David Cunliffe announcing after a crisis caucus meeting that he would change his campaigning approach and that, in hindsight given poor poll results, he would not have taken a three-day skiing holiday in Queenstown with his family last week.
He also said he knew who the Labour source behind a critical article published on Sunday was, but said the source was not a Labour MP. He would not say who it was.
"We're going to make a number of changes. We'll be changing some of our internal systems, focusing on a narrower range of topics and messages and making sure all of our people at all levels are on the same topic at the same time," Cunliffe told reporters after the meeting, where the Party's low poll ratings were low.
Cunliffe said he took responsibility for things he "could have done better." He said he would be moving into campaign mode and Deputy Leader David Parker would lead a central campaign office.
He said he did not resile from his comments about "being sorry about being a man," but that the way it was reported was not helpful. He said he would be more careful with his comments and about details such as wearing a red scarf in future.
He admitted he had gotten some things wrong. "I am, I am. I'm being straight up. Things I that could have done better. Things I will do better."
Labour would talk about a narrower range of issues for longer. "It's stick to the Labour knitting and make sure everybody hears the same stuff at the same time so there are no doubts about what we're on about," he said.
He said the narrower issuers would be "jobs, homes, families", while issues such as cosmetics was not Labour's knitting. Labour announced its policy last week on animal welfare, which would have affected the availability of cosmetics. Labour MP Trevor Mallard was also criticised for talking about genetically engineering moas.
National List MP Claudette Hauiti announced she will not stand again at the election.
Hauiti replaced disgraced National MP Aaron Gilmore last year and recently chose to return a Parliamentary expenses credit after incorrectly using it to buy personal flights to Australia. She is National's candidate in the safe Labour seat of Kelston and had been told she had been allocated a relatively low list position.
National Party President Peter Goodfellow said the Party would re-open nominations for Kelston on Wednesday and select a candidate in early August.
Speaking at his weekly post-cabinet news conference, Key declined to apologise to Tania Billingsley, the Wellington woman at the centre of the sex assault allegations against a Malaysian diplomat.
"I don't make apologies unless there's a serious reason for me to do that. As I said at the time, I relied on the advice that was given to me by MFAT," he said.
When asked about Billingsley's comments that he appeared bored and unsympathetic, he said: "I'm just not going to engage in that discussion."
Radio NZ reported that Key had previously said he would apologise once he knew her name, but that was before her critical comments about him.
Later, Key told reporters in Parliament the Government had apologised. "In the end actually, I think what is far more important is that there is an inquiry. That is what the victim in this circumstance deserves and that is what she is going to get."
Labour regional policy
Cunliffe announced in a speech to the annual Local Government New Zealand conference that a Labour Government would put at least NZ$200 million in a fund for projects in regional areas.
“The regions are the lifeblood of New Zealand and Labour understands their vital importance to growing New Zealand’s economy. Many regions have been hollowed out under National with young people leaving for the cities and overseas. Things have become so bad there is speculation of abandoning communities or ‘red-zoning’ regions," Cunliffe said.
“Labour will not let that happen. Labour will stand alongside regions and work with them to fulfil their ambitions and keep their young people at home," he said.
“We will work with local government, communities and businesses to develop tailored Regional Growth Plans that identify strengths and opportunities for each region, boost growth and create jobs. Labour will support the plans with a new $200 million Regional Development Fund that will co-invest in infrastructure and industry projects which would create an economic step-change for our regions."
Cunliffe said the sorts of projects to be considered included the Opotiki Harbour Development, Marsden Point rail line and the Gisborne-Napier Rail Link.
"The regions ultimately understand that most of Labour and the left policies are against the regions, so big carbon tax, big capital gains tax, water resources levies, anti-oil, anti-gas and anti-dairy are all very negative for the regions and they are supposed to be saying 'oh well, don't look at that, look over here at this $200 million slush fund'," he said.
(Updated with Labour regional development fund, Joyce reaction, Hauiti retirement, Kelston re-selection, Labour leadership reports, Cunliffe comments after crisis caucus meeting, Exchange in Parliamentary Question Time between David Cunliffe and John Key over regional development)
I'll keep updating this through the day.
See all my previous election diaries here.