Political reporter Jason Walls has always kept an unofficial list of his favourite political moments/events in the back of his head and has now laid them out for all to see

Political reporter Jason Walls has always kept an unofficial list of his favourite political moments/events in the back of his head and has now laid them out for all to see

Today's Top 10 is from our own Jason Walls, who reflects on some of the most fun moments in Parliament so far this year.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to david.chaston@interest.co.nz.

We are keen to find some new Top 10 contributors so if you're interested in contributing, contact gareth.vaughan@interest.co.nz.

Politics is often synonymous with entertainment – at least for those paying close attention. I am very much one of these people and find great delight in being entertained by what happens in the Beehive.

Maybe you are, and maybe you aren’t – either way, that’s fine. I have spent the better part of the last nine months paying very close attention to the action. Being a press gallery reporter means you eat, sleep and dream politics.

As such, I have always kept an unofficial list in the back of my head detailing my favourite moments, sagas and events of the year so far.

Today is my last day with Interest and thus I thought I would share with you, the readers, my official top 10 political events of the year… so far.

10: The Teachers’ strike

It was the biggest demonstration outside Parliament this year so far. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, showed up outside the Beehive to demonstrate. They were after more pay and more resources and were not shy about letting their demands be heard.

Picket signs, songs, speeches, costumes, kids, adults, students, teachers. It really had it all.

I was blown away by the scale of the crowd but was even more blown away that the Prime Minister came down to talk to them.

Flanked by her Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, Jacinda Ardern addressed the protesters – “I wasn’t scheduled to be here. But I was sitting up in that office in a meeting and I could see you streaming to Parliament and I thought ‘I cannot, not be here."

She talked about how the Government needed time to address the needs of teachers; her speech, although short, was laced with Ministerial political talk.

But the crowd lapped it up – cheering before and after she made her speech. It was almost like they had forgotten they were there asking the Government for more money and that same Government had turned down their request.

It was a bit surreal – was this the “Stardust” that Bill English liked to talk about?

9: English’s resignation

Speaking of Bill, he comes in at number nine on my list – or rather, his resignation does.

After a week of stories about a potential leadership spill within National, Opposition MPs were on edge and reporters were buzzing.

On his way to National’s weekly caucus meeting, English was again asked about the rumors. Instead of denying them, he said he was not going to talk about that “right now.”

This was slightly more specific than the words he had used before, as there was an implication he might have something to say a bit later.

He did.

And within hours, he had resigned as National’s Leader. It was an emotional press conference. He had given so much of his life to politics and was now bowing out. He teared up as he talked about his kids.

His valedictory speech was impeccable. Funny, emotional, charming, smart – it ticked all the boxes.

8: The curious case of business confidence

It’s an issue that has plagued this Government since its inception and will continue to be a thorn in its side well into the rest of its term.

No matter what Ardern and her Ministers do, it has no impact on the numbers. And to make things worse, it’s a measure that comes out every month so there are plenty of opportunities to ask about it.

Which I do – a lot. In fact, often other gallery reporters will mock me for it. “Got a question about business confidence, today?” they ask me before a stand up with nothing to do with businesses confidence in the slightest.

Ardern keeps bringing it up; three times this year she has spoken directly to business audiences about it being the “elephant in the room.” But yet, it keeps falling.

How this continues to unfold will be one to watch for sure.  

7: Shane Jones takes on corporate New Zealand

As press gallery reporters, I feel like sometimes we don’t appreciate the value of Shane ‘the Provincial Champion’ Jones. I’m not talking about his effectiveness as a Minister or as an MP. No, I’m talking about the sheer entertainment value of the guy.

His colourful language and eccentric personality plays so well into the media’s hands. I’ve lost count of how many perfect sound bites he has thrown up that we, the fourth estate, have lapped up.

But the man is smart and always knows what he is doing.

Case-in-point, his attacks on Fonterra, Air NZ and The Warehouse. As far as New Zealand companies go, you would be hard-pressed to find another threesome as Kiwi as that.

He used that to his advantage, slamming them for turning their back on the provinces and in doing so, made it clear that he was there to hold them to account for all Kiwis.

A great NZ First vote winner.

6: The Prime Minister is pregnant

This one happened before I started at Interest but I remember it pretty clearly.

I had left the room for about 10 minutes and when I came back in, my phone had just about exploded due to all the news notifications.

Ardern announced on Instagram she was having a baby and the media went into meltdown mode.

It will be the biggest story of this year, I’m sure. But for me, it comes in at number six on my list.

5: Bridges’ first press conference as National Leader

I know, I know. “You’re putting Simon Bridges’ first press conference as leader above the PM announcing her pregnancy?!” I hear you cry from behind your keyboard.

Yes, I am. Only because I was actually in the room for Bridges. It was a media conference that set the tone of his tenure as leader. A number of times, he reiterated his commitment to the Green economy, seemingly, to some, paving the way to a “teal deal” with the Green Party next election.

I was impressed, actually. I thought he did well and came off as a strong, smart choice who would be able to help the Nats navigate through their time in Opposition.

Yes, he has had his issues since then and the recent “whodunnit” leaks saga will be a black mark against his name.

But National is still polling highly as a party – if he was a particularly bad leader, the party numbers (not just the preferred Prime Minister ranking) would reflect that.

4: The PM and Labour’s youth camp saga

This was genuinely the only time I have seen the PM rattled. A Newsroom story which revealed someone at a Labour youth camp had sexually assaulted a number of other guests, caught Ardern off-guard.

She was asked about it at her weekly post-cabinet press conference and did not have a proper response. After leaving the podium, she did something I have never seen a Prime Minister do after post-cab – she addressed the journalist asking the question.

As she was walking out, she sought him out and had a short conversation. No one, aside from the PM and the journalist in question, could hear what was being said.

But the room was quiet; like at school when the teacher has walked back into the classroom after stepping out.

It was interesting to see Ardern’s veil of having full control of every situation slip, even if it was only slightly for less than a minute.

3: The Clare Curran saga

Picture this – it’s Friday on a recess week. The Aussies have just elected their 4th Prime Minister that month and everyone is gearing up for the final game of the Bledisloe cup the next day.

Nothing interesting politically is meant to happen, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong.

The Prime Minister removed Clare Curran from Cabinet and stripped her of some portfolios after she failed to disclose a meeting, again.

Where am I when this is going down? 35,000 feet above Lake Taupo on a flight from Wellington to Auckland. When I landed, my phone exploded with notifications.

This latest development came after Curran had been pinged for the EXACT SAME THING a few months earlier.

The cynics might say this issue is far from over – and how the PM handles any future indiscretions from her Ministers will be under the microscope like never before.

2: Adrian Orr’s first Monetary Policy Statement press conference

Okay, this one is not strictly politics, but I think it was very significant. There was a lot of hype around Adrian Orr, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, before he took the job.

His communication skills particularly were highly regarded and many were expecting him to inject a bit of colour into what can at times be pretty boring press conferences.

He didn’t disappoint – he was funny, clever and articulate in a way that was highly engaging. What’s more, he was appealing to more than just the economists.

“I think our challenge is to speak in plain English as opposed to a high-tech, scientific language around which only half a dozen people actually understand and even less are interested in,” Orr said in May.

His new style was very well received by critics.

1: Winston Peter’s tenure as Prime Minister

That was a fun six weeks, wasn’t it?

NZ First Leader, and Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters’ time in the top job was ALWAYS going to top this list. And the King of Kiwi politics didn’t disappoint – although it can be argued he was more statesman than scrapper.

In fact, it was a pretty uncontroversial affair. He had his tussles with journalists but that was nothing compared to some of his other skirmishes.

He held his own in the House as Prime Minister, mostly.  

But at the end of the day, Winston was Winston and that in and of its self, made for some fun reporting.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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#8 Biz Confidence is where it is because any half-way aware business keeps tabs on at least the following KPI's, typically generated within a day or so of month-end close, and, believe me, scrutinised very closely by the C-suite:

  • Days Sales Outstandng: current receivables expressed as a multiple of daily sales (however derived - this period last year, rolling year total/12, last month etc.)
  • Sales this month (gross, net of COGS (gross profit), net of all immediate expenses (EBITDA), and compared with last month, this month last year, rolling YTD/12 and other variations)
  • Expenses as percent of sales (with usual period comparisons)
  • Sales and expenses to budget, usually by region, sales territory, or other responsibility chain
  • Quick ratio (current liabilities/current assets or some variation)
  • Times Interest Cover (if there is debt): ratio of interest payments to some species of Sales/revenue
  • Orders pipeline compared to Sales - a sensitive indicator of future sales

These are all trended, graphed, etc - typically in one dashboard.

The point of all this is simple: business knows exactly what is happening, with a lag of perhaps 30-50 days max. Gubmints know less, less frequently, and with much. much longer lags. For a simple example, consider tax revenues. Even consumption taxes such as GST, which should give some notion of overall activity, have a lag time of at least a quarter. It's just the nature of the beasts.

Gubmint jawboning ain't gonna move the pointers on many of those dashboard widgets in any given business. That's why business confidence needs to be taken very seriously, because the C-suite is gonna look at the dials and make hiring, capex, direction and expansion/contraction decisions based more on them than anything else.

Unless, and of course, their busines is firmly attached to the Gubmint teat. In which case the execs are not gonna watch the dials as much as schmooze pollies to ensure there are no blockages in the milk ducts......

"No matter what Ardern and her Ministers do, it has no impact on the numbers"

This couldn't be more wrong. It's precisely because Ardern and her Ministers do stupid stuff that the numbers are bad.

This is without adding in the effect of the things that her Ministers have been doing wrong that is not public information yet. People will ask how a new Government has been involved in so much wrong doing in such a short amount of time.

Sounds promising.

mlpc - can we raise it above the he-said/she-said level please?

So kind....

We are watching a planet over-full of one species, the activities of which are coming up hard against the Limits to Growth. It has been apparent since 1970 (if you had the right kind of eyes) more so since 1980 and bloody obvious since 2007-8. Business confidence is either a survey of ignorant lemmings near the cliff, or it is a refoection of the increasing difficulty that was always going to come on at this juncture.

Let's move the conversation along, eh? Actually, I'll go back one - Let's have a conversation (which is different to chanting self-advancing mantra.

Meh

What you forgot to mention in your zeal to save the planet is that Ardern's decision will not save the emission of a single molecule of greenhouse gases.

If anything, the outcome will be increased emissions.

Adrian Orr may be entertaining, but he is also a but worrying at the same time. Seems he will not hesitate to open the monetary spigots as soon as the real estate party looks a bit slow. After 25 years of easy credit that has created a house-price dependent economy it seems we can rely on Mr Orr to keep the credit flow pumping.
Not a good outlook for the NZ dollar, perhaps we should be getting our funds out of NZ while we can.

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Business confidence took its biggest hit when JK pointed out to them that the growth he presided over was smoke and mirrors. In saying that, I think he did them a favour in terms of that reality check, as they'll understand the need to focus on productivity gains.

..that the growth he presided over was smoke and mirrors...

Absolutely. All growth now is.

We can grow wiser.

Kate - are you saying our business leaders are ignorant?

If I were the Labour government I'd be fairly impartial about what our business leaders think (to the point of not giving a toss). They've had 9 years under the National government to feather their nests quite nicely....or were they just taking european holidays and buying Audis and not preparing them for the downturn that history says always comes..(business cycles aren't new right?) But now that things aren't completely in their favour they're throwing the toys.

And the bizarre thing is, given the way human psychology works, it will be they who cause the recession by influencing others - I mean they are the 'leaders' right? So they will be both the cause and effect they don't desire....totally shoot yourself in the foot type stuff but blame someone else for it!! Ridiculous...

I'd turn the question back to the business leaders - and say - 'what are you doing to improve business confidence, because you are the business leaders?' Or are you not leaders at all - just the takers of profits when things are going well?

There is no symmetry here.

The government can make an ill-advised decision that can destroy an industry. Through spending and regulation, it can also boost or even create industries. That is why it has such a great influence on confidence.

Businesses don't have the same power.

So National spent nothing on infrastructure but imported a lot of people and allowed a lot of credit to be created - but they're not responsible for the instability that has caused and now the sick feeling that's beginning to be felt by the leaders of our businesses? Where do we created the links between causes and effects, or do we just blame where is best suits our personal interest?

Sorry, but what has this to do with my comment?

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IO

There's an easy way to improve business confidence. Lie to them. Tell them you can have exponential growth forever on a finite planet.

I know, I know, but it's worked up until now.....

If politicians of any colour had half a clue on how to keep a small to medium sized business going well for 3 years or more, then they wouldn't be in parliament. Even big business big wigs, who think they know it all, but as we've seen recently, don't, would choose business every time.
The trouble (reality) is that very few people can actually make it happen, and if they could, where would they be, earning millions in business or earning hundreds of thousands in parliament?
Even me, who earns hundreds of thousands in business, not millions (by a long chalk sadly) would choose the business world every time.
Let's just be grateful our politicians are not blatantly ripping us off like most other countries on the planet do, and that at least (they believe) they have a good heart believing they're doing the right thing, even though they still don't have a clue.

Best wishes in the future, Jason!

I do wish him the best.

I am curious as to where he is going for the future.

A quick google results in the conclusion that he is headed to the Herald as a political reporter.

Interesting indeed!

Based on the writing leanings I thought it was another one off to Labour. Maybe that will come later.

I thought the complete opposite given the Herald's National Party leanings.

Congratulations Jason Walls. A well written article, no, blow that, a bloody fantastic article. I read the whole thing, every word with a smile.Leaves anything you will read on Herrible.co.nz or Stuff-all.co.nz for dead.
I look forward to your next offering.

It's exactly what govt does every month why business confidence is down. It's not a Labour, National thing as purported. Its idealogy based policies and identity politics that will end up with poor, poorer.