Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Battle for Labour Leadership

What's funny about Labour - a party of unionists and organized socialists, is struggling to figure out who should be leader. 

The battle for the loser party after it's biggest loss in nearly a century is amazingly fascinating. It's bizarre that people are so desperate to claim leadership where there is no cleanup from the last election campaign, nor is there a strategy to rebuild the party coming from the contenders. This is a crucial moment for Labour to rebuild and rebrand itself properly, in order to make a competent opposition until 2014 and give National a real run for it's money at the next election. They need a vision, a plan,and a leader.

The Outgoing - Phil Goff (with Annette King)

A real soldier in the party, he's been there through thick and thin for over 27 years, and now it seems his time is up. Despite his best efforts and strong qualities, he's gracious enough to pass on the leadership to the next man for the good of the party. This will allow the party to move on from past mistakes and bring a fresh new brand to the voters. 

Phil Goff isn't an inherently bad guy, nor did he make a lot of stuff ups. The problem with presidential-style elections (which we've had in the country for a while, admit it) is that the general public does not VOTE IN a new leader on policy or reputation, it generally VOTES OUT a leader it is fed up with and opts for the lesser of two possible evils. Goff went up against John Key, a dangerously popular leader who had less popular policies, but still got in. The next leader will need to be what John Key won't be in 2014, they'll need a leader that won't have any of the aspects of John Key that people will be sick of by then. They need to offer a refreshing change for the next election, while proving good opposition in the mean time.

The Contenders

David Cunliffe
One of the three Davids, this one has spent the last three years and the run-up to the election as the finance spokesperson and the party's number three. His claim to fame this election is being the front man on Labour's economic plans, being the arrogant presenter explaining Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on the Labour website. His big whoopsie in the last election was saying that if Judith 'Crusher' Collins was the last woman on Earth, he'd refuse to procreate with her and allow the human race to go extinct, getting a great deal of backlash from women and National supporters across the country.

In another presidential style election in 2014, he wouldn't be the best choice against John Key. Remembering people VOTE OUT leaders when they get tired of their quirks, John Key will likely get voted out because of his perceived smugness and arrogance; Labour fronting a candidate that offers the same annoying traits will just turn potential voters off.  

David Parker
The number four man on the Labour list, and biggest carpet bagger of the 2011 election for running in Epsom when his home is in Dunedin.  David Parker stayed relatively competent and well behaved over the election, though those of us who watched the Epsom race very closely will know that he can get flustered relatively easy, and can will appear hysterical and insane when debating issues. His performance as candidate for Epsom almost made him look weak and immature as he ripped on Banks and Brash with total lunacy, and at times, more smugness.  

Mr Parker would make a better leader than Cunliffe in my opinion, as long as he can learn to control his emotions and stay in character. At the beginning of the Epsom race, he did appear very claim, collected, and competent. He impressed people by saying that he is a capitalist at heart, and is purporting Labour's economic policies as a measure to alleviate the financial crisis and have an end goal of a competitive market economy. I do appreciate people who advocate social democracy as a means to a market economy, and at a time when economic stability is a key issue, he wil garner support for his realistic thinking. He also appears more youthful and promising, but has plenty of experience on his side, including a high degree of competency working in both government and opposition. His soundbite on TV One news "make Labour relevant to New Zealand for 2014" says he is ready to take on the job and follows my advice!

David Shearer
The lesser known of the three Davids; Shearer has been MP for Mount Albert in Auckland since 2009 after two unsuccessful electorate campaigns, though beating Melissa Lee for his current seat is a feat worth a mention. He has the least political experience in New Zealand, though he has done extensive work in the United Nations before returning to New Zealand. This experience may be a blessing and a curse of him, as it shows that he has a high degree of competency in many areas, but leadership of a party, an opposition, or a government may not be for him. He could certainly gain a cabinet position in a Labour government, but it's unlikely that he would ever lead Labour into government and would likely suffer the same fate as Phil Goff. 

As for his pitch against John Key, Shearer would likely appear boring and out of touch with many New Zealanders. Labour needs to swing voters from the center and wealthier demographics to gain a victory, Shearer would be unlikely to gain this from his experience, much of it due to his time spent outside of New Zealand, and his lack of experience in the private sector.

Grant Robertson
Labour's openly gay MP, his story is similar to Shearer's in that they share experience in the UN before joining Labour comparitively recently. He is currently Wellington Central MP and has risen through the party list from 46 to 14 in a few years. He appeals the urban liberal lefty hipster crowd that congregates in Wellington, but would have a hard time convincing swing voters in the heartland or the business tycoons in Auckland that he would be competent for the job. His youthfulness and defense of the public sector gives people the impression he's a young socialist, which is not vote-winning material in contemporary New Zealand. 

His mention in this post is because he may not be Labour leader in 2014 and have a shot at being prime minister, but he may be deputy leader and would need to complement and support the next leader. He may end up making Cunliffe look more abrasive and further turn off centrist voters, would risk contradicting Parker and give the impression of a factionalized Labour, and complement Shearer by adding youthfulness but would not add any economic credibility to Labour and risk looking socialist.

Nanaia Mahuta 
She may be a name most don't know, but her presence in parliament goes back to 1996 where she has been wining electorates and gaining support right through her parliamentary career. She is a strong advocate of Māori rights and development, and principled where she stuck with the Labour Party when her colleague Tariana Turia split to lead the Māori Party. Her reputation may be little known, but her record shows competency and a team player within the party. She has been quietly promoted to the front bench of the Labour Party and has gained support from within the party.

Her role may also be to support one of the contestants for leader and become a deputy. Her role would fill in Annette King's position as the alpha female of the party, and would do well to earn back Māori and Pacific Islander votes from Mana and Māori parties. It has been said that Labour needs to reconnect to their Māori support base, and her position would do just the trick. She would also be useful in softening the image of any of the Davids, so long as she can maintain a high public profile too. Her position on Māori development could create balance to Parker as long as they do not contradict, and a very high public profile would prevent leadership from going to Cunliffe's head. 

The "door is closing on [Phil Goff's] political career"

Soon, the torch will be passed on to the next generation. Goff's 27 years as an Auckland MP could make him a career politician, especially as we've watched his political views change from being a vocal Rogernome to the "Stop Asset Sales Guy" over that time. The next generation needs to be a team that can front up to National's powerful front bench and popular leader; someone that has had real experience living and working alongside all sorts of New Zealanders, with some private sector experience to show that they can represent the average worker and still have respect for the businesses that employ them.

To counter John Key's government, they need to prove themselves as a worthy opposition, and really highlight flaws in the National government where they can show that Labour is working for the people better as an opposition than National is as a government. They will need to stay principled, and a major party must be a broad church, uniting factions and ensure they are all consistent in working towards a common goal. 

Thier leader will need to be charismatic and command a great deal of media interest, for all the right reasons, of course. The run up to the 2014 election will have to prove this leader is a refreshing and interesting change from John Key, firstly by exhibiting none of the negative aspects Key has (such as his perceived smugness, which is already starting to turn voters off him), and then by providing an exciting point of difference that appeals to a large majority of New Zealanders.

Labour needs a big shake up to get voters back on their side. If they don't take drastic action now, they could end up losing the left vote to the Greens, or give National many more terms and run unopposed. An ACT supporter just gave them a recovery blueprint, they'd be wise to use it. 

News links

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Election Over

Well, that was weird.

People that know me on Facebook already know I was a mess on election night at the ACT Party Party in Parnell, and my media appearances have been awful. My interview on Close Up on Monday 28th was like a Muldoon moment. That aside, elections are bizarre times where all sorts of crazy shit happens in the name of democracy. So how did everyone do?

1st - National
- Didn't get into much trouble
- Good policies
- Last 3 years have been good, stable incumbents 

- Tea pot tapes
- John Key refused to debate Phil Goff all the time
- Asset sales aren't popular, but it's OK, John Key is

As the winners of the last election, they've gained a few extra seats to strengthen their caucus (with the need of an additional whip) and continue the good progress they've made so far. They appear as the cool, calm, and confident leaders that can get through a financial mess and ensure the peace of mind of New Zealanders - brilliant. The 'Tea Pot Tapes' were a slight bit of damage,with Key storming out of a press conference and continuing to refuse to comment on them. The lesson John Key teaches us is that sometimes the less that is said, the better; leaving no room for questioning and uncertainty, delivering a strong message and a positive image. Yeah, he basically walked into parliament this time.

2nd - Labour
- Powerful advertising and branding
- Thirst for debate and discussion on policy
- Kept Trevor Mallard on a leash

- They lost, BADLY
- Goff appeared bland and incompetent, clear loser in a presidential-style election
- No clear leaders or any future in current caucus
- They lost seats!!
- Announcing raising the retirement age to 67 was a gamble that was probably responsible for bring Winston back from the dead
- Trevor Mallard
- All their economic plans seemed to come out wrong, as if they couldn't count or something
- Appeared comparatively outdated and irrelevant against the Greens

Their worst result in a long time, mirroring National's 2002 campaign under Bill English. They lost seats, lost support, had their votes split by other parties, and appeared to be outdated and irrelevant against their coalition partner, the Greens. Their economic boldness backfired over bad costings and analysis, and they were torn apart over the extra borrowing, despite few good suggestions such as the $5k tax free threshold. Phil Goff just lacked the media coverage and interest that John Key had, and appears to be on the way out, the problem is, there doesn't seem to be a competent leader in the current caucus. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any future talent or potential in the party. They'll need a big overhaul before 2014.

3rd - Greens
- More powerful advertising, following last election's memorable branding
- Appeared very relevant, conscious, and competent (at least in comparison to what they were before)
- Appealed to a bigger audience, and won more votes and seats than ever before
- Split the left vote, took many votes from the more intelligent left and center and weakened Labour significantly

- Some of their economic plans were shot down for being inaccurate, ACT found huge flaws in it
- People scoffed at 'Green Jobs' and 'Green Economy' as not practical enough to get out of the economic mess
- Their stupid cringe-worthy mass vandalization of National's billboards!!!! Political suicide much!!
- Denise Roche and Catherine Delahunty
- Robyn Malcolm, like WTF?!?!

Their best ever result, thanks largely to Meitiria Turei and Russell Norman's tinkering of the Green brand to downplay the hippy-feminazi-treehugging-communist-dropkick image and create a more middle class and mainstream brand. The growth in votes and seats was huge, playing mostly on three policies; improving living standards for 100000 children, green economic policies, and cleaning up rivers. They sound a bit wishy-washy, but they did strike a chord with many Kiwis who do care about children and the environment. The rumors of a partnership with National excited and disgusted many simultaneously, with each party's most faithful warning against it. Many people would like to see it happen, but I personally don't see much good coming from such an agreement.

4th - New Zealand First
- Winston First
- Tea Pot Tapes exploitation
- Tracey Martin
- The Clown of Campbell's Bay
- Brendan 'Failed Weatherman' Horan (who sets "feminine hearts aflutter" apparently...)
- Curwen Fuckin' Rolinson
- Still hasn't paid back that $158k, still waiting Winnie…

Probably at the expense of Labour, a strange and unexpected resurgence of New Zealand First, who just got over the 5% threshold and stole 8 seats in Parliament. The catalyst was probably the proposal of raising the retirement age by Labour that got them attention, then stirring shit over the Tea Pot Tapes which created the controversy and the popularity. The problem is, he's been vindicated by winning, where the media have dismissed and outcast him completely, and he's complained about being left out. The media should have let him join in debates and discussions, so that people could see how much of a fool he is before they got for him, and not after.

5th - Māori Party


The party that had the least say, the least advertising, the least input, and some of the fewest party votes. The Māori Party held onto their Māori electorate seats again, with the exception of course, being Te Tai Tokerau. Dr Pita Sharples comfortably held onto Tāmaki Makaurau despite the opposition from Shane Jones. National wants their support, as they got it in the last parliament, and all the Māori Party seem to want is for iwi to have a say in asset sales. Exciting…

6th - ACT
- Dr Brash had fantastic economic policies with recommendations from top economists, if only anyone else could understand these policies…
- Plenty of talent and potential down the party list, David Seymour and Stephen Whittington making a great start
- John Banks won Epsom, despite the polls

- Total turnover of MPs
- Brash rolled Rodney, promised us 15% of party votes but only got 1%
- Lowest presence in parliament ever
- Tea Pot Tapes
- Brash4Hash

Don Brash and John Banks have accused the media and the pollsters for deterring people away from ACT with what proved to be inaccurate polls and news about gaffes and not policy. People back winners, and ACT was pitched to be losers from day one. Having said that, the ongoing hiccups that seemed to occur in the party didn't help one bit, with Don Brash announcing a cannabis reform as an unofficial policy without telling Banks who is vehemently opposed to such. Dr Brash has already resigned from the party and takes responsibility, the tricky part is working out which direction the party will take for 2014, with the media still interested in the divisions and setbacks in the party, even after the election.

7th - Mana
- ?
- ?
- ?

- Hone Heke tax
- "Feed the kids"
- Sue Bradford, John Minto, Pat O'Dea

Apart from in Māori communities, electorates, and in poor neighborhoods; Hone Harawira's presence was almost non existent. In the Epsom electorate on the streets of Newmarket, his name was only a rumor from far away. His policies grabbed some support from the lowest income earners, as he positioned the party away from being concerned exclusively with Māori, to being a champion of the poor. Scrapping GST and creating a tax-free threshold was one thing, but it was supported by a 'Hone Heke' tax, which was a financial tax on all transactions. Lovely. Pat O'Dea made a dick of himself in Epsom by having a campaign concerned exclusively with trashing the ACT party and maintaing a conspiracy theory behind bankers and speculators. Crazy talk, mostly.

8th - United Future
- ????

- Again, one seat
- Again, Peter Dunne
- Again, Peter Dunne's hair

Nothing happened. With Peter Dunne in charge of United Future, all that will ever happen is nothing. They need a huge makeover, starting with Peter Dunne's hair.

Conclusions and reactions to all of this are more complicated, and will require another post. But campaigning for 2014 should be starting now if parties should seek re-election. The result so far is the guarantee of a good night's sleep with a strong, stable, center-right, John Key led National government. Winston First and his cronies will provide plenty of entertainment at the expense of the taxpayer's money and patience. Every party except the Greens and National will need severe rebranding, hopefully the conference calls and strategy plans are being worked out now.

Monday, November 21, 2011

MMP or Vote for Change: Who Gives A Shit?

After being asked a few times about whether I prefer MMP or FPP or the alternative systems. To be succinct and direct about it, I don't really care. I do like systems that encourage smaller parties and independents, but my cynicism tells me that all systems can be manipulated, abused, and criticized.

While Labour actively supports MMP, they get awfully upset when it works to the benefit of the right-wing parties. John Key prefers SM but also doesn't really give a shit.

It's up to New Zealanders to decide. Being such a small issue and one with little interest, the referendum would be best voluntary. That way, only tubthumping people who do give a shit, will have their say.

For the record: My vote will be to change the system (knowing MMP will win), and choose STV as the alternative.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Epsom Circus

Democracy at it's saddest. The prestigious Auckland seat that I call home is now being turned into a circus. I attended a debate in Epsom for my home electorate of Epsom. Candidates including 
David Parker (Lab-4, Epsom), 
Paul Goldsmith (Nat-39, Epsom),
 John Banks (ACT-4, Epsom), 
David Hay (Greens-16, Epsom), and 
Pat O'Dey (Mana-15, Epsom) turned up at Epsom Baptist Church for the debate, with media vultures such aas Patrick Gower turning up. Knowing the cameras were there, the debate very quickly turned into a complete and total circus. 

Parachuted Parker - Mr Policy

I've seen Parker at many Epsom debates now, and he's a reasonably dignified and intelligent man - until Thursday. This debate opened up a new side of him. He claimed to care more about policy and democracy, but saw the camera and the situation as an opportunity to exploit the populatist ideal of slamming John Banks and the ACT party. The crowd was fed up with this and chanted "Policy! Policy! Policy!" during his speech, after opening his speech with the intent on discussing policy. He appeared hysterical, outrageous, and media opportunist during his speech, capitalizing on the privileged nature of the Epsom seat and the high profile media coverage. His trucked in Labour supporters cheered him on, but the majority of sensible Epsom voters weren't happy with his carpet bagging, continually reminding him that he was running for an electorate furthest from his home than any other politician in New Zealand - with Epsom and Dunedin literally being on other ends of the country.   

Parker went on to explain his decision to run for Epsom was to give Banks a good run, and had little intention of reperesnting the good people of Epsom, which was furthers by the lack of understanding of the audience. He was caught out by his admission of the increase in types an takes of taxes in the affluent constituency, one that supported Rodney Hide on his championing of limited taxation. 

David Hay

The man who began the race for Epsom with a hateful and negative campaign against Banks appeared much more respectable by discussing Green party policy and alluding to his Epsom background during his speech. He may have gained the intelligent left wingers' vote by doing so; sticking to the issues rather than being subdued to the low games of the populists in the candidacy. 

Paul "took down his own signs" Goldsmith

Credit where credit is due; the left have been actively seeking Goldsmith to take the strategic vote, in order to weaken the National government's coalition partner, ACT.  Labour and the Greens have been accused of posting fake Goldsmith billboards to promote him as the Epsom representative, knowing the closest contender is Banks. Goldsmith has been responsible in taking these down, due to their illegality and conflict of interest, as Goldsmith has been campaigning for National's party vote only. His position had remained sting and consistent throughout the campaign, telling voters that the National party has had no interest in the seat since 2005 in terms of electorate vote.


John Banks said this election was his 14th public office race, and he showed this by bing a very professional politician. He told people exactly what they wanted to hear in a style of speaking that is highly skilled, and clearly gained from a lifetime of experience. His emotive tone and serious topic grabbed the audience and set the mood for a much heavier debate than the candidates may have intended.

Papakura Pat

Believe it or not, the Mana party ran a candidate for Epsom, a fellow called Pat O'Dey from Papakura at the very South of Auckland. He turned the debate into a real sideshow, bring signs and posters ripping on Don Brash and John Banks, criticizing every move they've made in their political careers, and adding to the emotive tone where he was extremely angry and appeared hateful of the ACT presence. He blamed the economics of the 1980s on Brash, criticized his role as reserve bank governor, criticized Banks for standing in Epsom instead of Brash, who is party leader and the one who is actually seeking parliament. His sharp and stinging attacks held little water with Epsom voters, who heckled him to the point of severe frustration. The attacks and accusations were vile, hateful, and even misinformed - confusing the treasury with the Reserve Bank. 


The news story spread, due to coverage from several media outlets, including the New Zealand Herald, and a story by Patrick Gower, who is well known to the ACT party for creating all sorts of stories with his own agenda.

The debate was a sham, a stab at democracy, and an insult to the people of Epsom. Anyone that wasn't in support of John Key for prime minister was engaged in attacks on the ACT Party, leaving little room for any debate over policy. People have criticized the media coverage this election, and the media has blamed the lack of policy released by parties. The fact is, this has beome very much a presidential style debate, and the media themselves are unwilling to broadcast policy, instead focusing on side stories and gimmicks. The ACT party has invited the media to many policy releases and appearances over the campaign, only to focus on the 'tea pot tapes' and poll results instead of the policies. John Banks has said that "all eyes will turn to Epsom on election night," and this has meant all eyes are on the race for Epsom now. The media wants a circus to show the audience, while the candidates seem very willing to make one. Some democracy... 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday 10th - Campaign for Better Transport Debate

This evening, I attended a debate hosted in central Auckland by the Campaign for Better Transport. It wasn't the sort of people who worked for the council and were demanding accountability and economic programs for transport infrastructure; this was one of those 'we want everyone to bike and train everywhere' groups. I have had a lot of experience with these sorts of groups working with the Hastings District Council and studying urban planning. They genuinely believe their way is 100% right and are extremely demanding of expensive infrastructure, often with supporting research from respected academics who have shown it working in Northern Europe and Canada, and think it will work elsewhere. These are the sort of people that already vote Green, and the Green candidate representing the party was Gareth Hughes, who had them all eating out of the palm of his hand.

The Candidates

Shane Jones (Lab-16, Tāmaki Makaurau) + Phil Twyford (Lab-33, Te Atatu)
Colin Craig (Cons-1, Rodney) + Stephen Greenfield (Cons, Auckland Central)
Dr Don Brash (ACT-1, North Shore)
Gareth Hughes (Green-7, Ōhariu)
David Bennett (Nat-48, Hamilton East)

A Bit of Background

The transport debate in Auckland has been contentious for over a century. The left vs right debate rages, the pro-car is still at war the pro-public-transport, and each are symbolized with the Puhoi-Wellsford Motorway on one hand and the CBD Rail Link with the other.


The debate was mostly the candidates each  making a speech based on the topics given to them by the CBT. Dr Don Brash was the first to start, where he said the problem was on the government for subsidizing various uses of transport and not providing direct accountability to what mode is getting what funds. His argument was reasonably powerful on this basis, saying that government is heavily subsidizing road users, which went down well with the crowd. Like a good economist, he advocated a user pays approach to transport, not condemning any transport projects on either side, but advocated a more user-pays system, and responded to criticism by asking why trains are not so blatantly obvious transport choices for their supposed efficiency. Luckily, his position on the rail link was only to review it further, rather than outright go against it.

Gareth Hughes played the game well, brought a very supportive message to the CBT audience and even me, with a very balanced sounding approach with some economic costings to go with. Though his figures were questioned by Dr Brash on where the ratios were determined, though he did explain that the numbers were more political than economic. Would be booed off stage by a right wing crowd, but was applauded by the left-wing audience. The mention he made was that the Greens' yet-to-be-released transport policy will say they'll fund the CBD rail link 60% by government, as opposed to the 50% which Labour has pledged. 

Colin Craig was totally full of himself. He was extremely overconfident about winning Rodney that he mentioned it all the time. He talked mostly about his electorate wanting the Puhoi-Wellsford and defended people who loved their cars too much. Also mentioned bizarre inquiry public transport options, saying we need to be "innovative" and "inventive, came across like a lame teacher trying to get students interested in politics. His far more competent friend, Stephen Greenfield, sat in the back row for support.

Shane Jones represented Labour and brought his dropkick friend Phil Twyford along to watch. He was funny and intelligent as usual, but had little to add on top of other candidates. Given that he supported the rail link, and agreed with the idea of social importance;  he came across less economically focussed, and repeating flash sounding words that held little water with those of us that understand them.

The National Party are currently very deeply unpopular with transport and planning types, most of whom want Steven Joyce's (Nat-13) head! They were represented by David Bennett from Hamilton East, who is already deeply unpopular due to opposing a proposed Auckland-Hamilton commuter railway. He was extremely pressed to defend government policy with it's RONS (Roads of National Significance) and favoring road over railway transport, despite claims of low cost-benefit ratios and alleged links with trucking and roaring companies. He claimed that National was indeed funding more in public transport, many of the unpopular decisions have actually been made at a local level, and that many roads are of great economic benefit. But, this was the wrong crowd - there was literally nothing this guy could say that would please anyone there.

The overall result, Dr Brash didn't do too badly by advocating a user-pays approach to transport, though some claimed that there needed to be a puppet master somewhere with money to do it all. National fared terribly, Colin Craig made quite a dick of himself, and Labour brought very little to the table. The Greens won this without trying whatsoever, playing on home turf. Nothing new to report from the transport people I guess...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday 9th - Debate at Fale Pasifika

Hosted at Fale Pasifika at the University of Auckland, a candidates debate was hosted by the Salvation Army, Problem Gambling Foundation, ASH, and other charities to ask Auckland Central candidates what position their respective parties had on various issues.

The candidates were:
Labour - Jacinda Ardern
National - Nikki Kaye (incumbent)
Greens - Denise Roche
ACT - David Seymour
NZF - Allen Davies
Māori - Tina Porou
Conservatives - Stephen Greenfield

The Topics

1. Problem Gambling Foundation - On pokie machines and charity money from gambling
Most candidates were quick to point the finger at pokie machines being the lowest kind of gambling, and thus the most harmful and destructive. Porou noted that many charities were highly dependent on the money they raise (what Roche calls 'lazy fundraising') and that it was economically unfair that problem gamblers were depriving their families of food and and attention to fund sports club uniforms and other community benefits. Seymour noted that the money raised was making the best out of a bad situation. Greenfield and NZF were quick to jump to a 'sinking lid' policy on the proliferation of the machines, while Ardern was keen on community-based bans and objections on new or continuing machines.

2. Action on Smoking and Health - On tobacco controls
Māori Party have been active in seeking a tobacco ban in New Zealand by 2025, so Porou was quick in reminding the audience of this. Roche added the idea of following Australia in having plain packaging for tobacco products which was under consideration by the current government. Almost all candidates tried to put an emotive angle on the issue, where they all had either personal or family stories about heavy smoking, with Denise Roche talking about her own addiction and her own family member dying from smoking-related illness. There was little resistance from candidates in the name of personal choice and freedom, though Seymour and Greenfield mentioned this, with Seymour adding that a smoke free New Zealand was not a sensible goal, with prohibition creating far worse problems than keeping it legal.

3. The Salvation Army - On drinking culture
Even the NZF candidate admitted he did like a drink, and this issue was approached far more conservatively by candidates. Kaye was representing the government, and her usual style appeared where she listed all the moves the government were making to battle the issue of our drinking culture in New Zealand. The issue was approached in a nanny state style by other candidates, except of course, for David Seymour; who talked about his experience in Canada, where alcohol sales were heavily regulated by the government only to end up with the same drinking culture as New Zealand. He argued that this was a symptom, and not a problem in itself, the having a stronger and more opportunity-rich economy was essential in giving people a future and valuing their lives. Other candidates were more skeptical of this idea, and promoted a great degree of advertising regulation, price regulation, and types of drinks regulation. Seymour replied that this would impact on our alcohol industry, where product differentiation of beer and wine was necessary. Roche, who lives on Waiheke Island and is involved with winemaking, said that she could state a conflict of interest in this issue, though she was the only person to submit to the select committee on this issue that the industry would not self regulate.

Other questions from the floor

1. Differentiation on alcohol and tobacco controls
Since price control and advertising proposals on alcohol were similar to tobacco products, it only makes sense that someone would connect the two products. Seymour mentioned that people could enjoy alcohol in a far more moderate way and impose no costs on society, though he didn't mention that smokers can do the same. Other candidates, such as Porou, mentioned that both were harmful and impacted the poor the most, and both needed regulation regardless. 

2. Revenue gained from tobacco excise
One member of the audience mentioned different statistics to the ones Seymour presented from economist Eric Crampton on the monetary costs and benefits of tobacco use, only to be told by Seymour that his source was a far more reputable economist, and that Crampton's figures were the ones he would prefer to use. Having said that, he acknowledged the work the audience member did in charity, sympathizing due to Seymour's work with the Problem Gambling foundation, and that he would work with the member on other issues.

Overall, though the audience turnout was small (less than 40), the issues raised were good ones that challenged candidates on their knowledge of policy. Nikki Kaye played well at being the incumbent MP, mentioning the work the government was already doing on the issues, showing that the government was already on topic and hinting that her re-election was essential at continuing them. Roche was good at focussing on harm minimization as opposed to tight controls, contrasting with Ardern who took the nanny-state style. Greenfield seemed to be split between personal choice and active measures, giving the impression he was more socially liberal than his party would prefer, and probably making him a good ACT or National candidate, though he did say he joined the conservatives in response to government inaction over many issues. Davies for NZF was near totally inept, keeping with the style he has shown in other debates. Seymour knew he'd be reasonably unpopular by championing economic stability as a solution to social problems and defending personal choice, though he appeared very principled and knowledgable in the effects and in effects of policy, warning where public policy does not achieve the goals it sets out.

Tonight I will be attending a debate on Auckland's transport and planning - two issues that I have deep interest in.  Seeing David Seymour's responses on Back Benches a week ago on the same topics worried me that these would be deeply unpopular, promoting urban sprawl and opposing the CBD rail link. More moderate answers I would purport are supporting the rail link in theory, but asking for better cost-benefit analyses and supporting a modified and more economical solution. Urban sprawl is one that I'm quite against, and the ACT party solution already comes from streamlining the Resource Management Act (1991) to allow more medium-to-high-density growth in the inner city. Relaxing constraints on brownfield development and redevelopment, along with unnecessary details such as building height controls, would make it far easier for developers to supply the demand on inner city sites that are highly sought-after and much more sustainable. Either way, will post about the outcomes later!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Looking Good, Greens!

I have to say, in the last few weeks I have been particularly impressed with the Green Party. Not to say I'm joining them, but I think this election year, they've proven themselves a professional and competent political party, and we can expect a great result from them this election.

The Greens before started as an environment based movement, they had nothing of interest to offer the general public, and they sat at the sidelines of politics wearing hippy tie-dye t-shirts. The next phase was what we call the Watermelon Greens - all green and nature focused on the outside, red as Stalin on the inside. They sided with Labour almost exclusively, campaigning for the government to look after poor people, the environment, and themselves in the name of shafting anyone making more than $60k per year.

A renewal of sorts has taken place for the Greens. This election year they appear more mainstream, friendly, pragmatic, and most of all - popular. They've kept a lot of the watermelon policy, but rebranded themselves in a far less arrogant way. Even if one member was absolutely bent on staying a watermelon and refusing to cooperate with National, the rest of the party is gaining immensely from appearing far more pragmatic and willing to work for people, not politics. Successful policies such as tax credits for insulating houses have shown they can work with whoever they need to get the job done, with policies and plans that can fit into a market economy and benefit everyone who needs the help. 

Even the Young Greens appear to take a more practical and friendly outlook. I spoke to one at Britomart Country Club for the Back Benches debate about the Auckland CBD  rail link. The project is near unanimously supported on the left, while the right is more skeptical, especially because of the use of government expenditure and ownership. The Young Green's member I spoke to said the problem with the rail link is that it is a natural monopoly that belongs in government ownership, but even she agreed it should be privately managed to get the most efficiency out of it.

It's this kind of pragmatism that's winning votes. New Zealanders by and large are concerned about the environment, concerned about how the lower classes are faring in the economy, and concerned about our country's future. Not to say that other parties don't do this, but especially from a leftist perspective; the Greens are offering a very realistic and yet optimistic approach to these issues, one that can work with other parties and can be more effective than the Labour Party's back-to-the-future union-serving policies. The VRWC has allowed the Greens to join in a VRWNLLC to quietly undermine Labour with better policy, better image, better people, and better solutions. No wonder Labour is losing badly, and the Greens are making a killing in the polls. They have far more relevance, enthusiasm, and energy; which their policies also reflect. The Greens are expected to get 8% of party votes, and some are predicting 10% and up. 

They appear more fiscally responsible than Labour too, with recent news saying they too have criticized Labour for their fiscal policy, which is a fantastic look from the perspective of centrist voters. Their green economy plan was proven by ACT to be miscalculated, but the idea was almost there, capitalizing on the need for New Zealand  to grow an export-led high-value technology sector, which I've argued for a long time.

I had huge respect for Rod Donald and Keith Locke before, and have been impressed with Metiria Turei (Green-1, Dunedin North) since I first met her in 2009. If they continue this trend for next election, the outdated Labour Party might lose ground to the Greens, who might lead the center left in 2014. Russell Norman (Green-2, Rongotai) is still boring, Catherine Delahunty (Greens-4, Coromandel) is a feminazi, and their policy is still too left for my taste. Nonetheless, things are looking good for the Greens.

Election 2011 Watch

With my exams finishing and the election drawing nearer, I have much more time on my hands to watch the political drama going on. I'll be meeting candidates, watching debates, following news, and helping ACT on the campaign trail. So, I'll be keeping the blog world posted on this as I attend them. The topics and issues I'll be looking out for are:

  • ACT Party
  • The race for Epsom
  • The battle for Auckland Central
  • Transport and planning in Auckland
  • Freedom and liberty
  • Pragmatic economic approaches
  • Labour Party
  • Youth issues
  • The war of the left and the right
  • What the Occupy protestors (don't) think
  • Anything else going on in the Auckland-Newmarket area!

I recently watched an Auckland Central debate in Freeman's Bay, appeared on Back Benches for the Battle for Auckland Central, watched a heated Epsom debate in Mount Eden, and will be watching another debate in West Auckland Tuesday. I've got plenty of other events on the calendar too, so will keep posting about them and reporting on the trends, developments, reactions, and predictions. Follow me on Twitter for live updates (@CamWBrowne) too.

Next event is Tuesday at Kelston Community Center near Glendene, West Auckland. Will updating live from 7pm and blog a summary here afterwards.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Harsh Herald

The New Zealand Herald's website today has been showing big headlines on how Labour is losing. Notice the pissed off looking Goff-face and the smug smiley Key-face. 

Anyone else thinks this is a little biased? As much as it works in my own favor, still looks a bit fishy. Plus, what people tend to forget is how polls often work compared to election results. The National Party often polls high before an election before dropping in results on the day. The Labour Party tends to do worse in the pre-election polls than in the election results. The ACT Party especially polls low before the day and gets nice numbers on election night. This is where I see a lot of smug punditry coming from the media about this sort of thing, the doom and gloom scaremongering that ACT is going to be history is a result of the low polling by idiots that have learned nothing from history! The ACT Party will still need Epsom to get a seat in the house, but the parading over ACT's defeat is awfully presumptuous, and potentially wrong. 

The article shown above features the line "Labour's fall of 1.2 points over the week may not be much of a fall but it will be a psychological blow for the party to fall below 30 per cent." I get the impression they're trying to execute that psychological blow. I have written before about how polls are a particularly shady business, where timing and results are designed to manipulate both the public and the candidates.

The Herald DigiPoll has shown some almost unrealistic results. Apparently the Green Party is over 10% of party votes, which looks awfully high, so too does the Māori Party on 1.9%. NZ First, ACT, United Future, and Mana all look very low, with 1.7%, 0.9%, 0.5%, and 0.1% respectively. They boast about Colin Craig's Conservative Party (CCCP for short) polling at 1.1%, ahead of more established parties. 

This doesn't worry me at all. This poll is ridiculous to take seriously, as it makes no mention of electorate votes, or the proportion that each would then get in parliament. Assuming John Banks takes Epsom and Peter Dunne gets Ōhariu, then ACT and United Future respectively are safe. Hone Harawira will likely take Te Tai Tokerau to stay in, while Colin Craig will likely lose in Rodney and stay out of parliament. 

Moral of the story: Don't believe anything you read, especially if it's in the Herald, and don't you dare read Stuff!

NO Winston!

Even though I support MMP over FPP, this article in the New Zealand Herald made my day. Anti-MMP campaigners have put up billboards showing New Zealand's favorite political cockroach with his infamous NO sign. The billboard is funny enough, the explanation behind it by Jordan Williams: 

Anti-MMP billboards go up
"We've used Mr Peters on our billboards as he represents everything wrong with the current system: disproportionate power, unaccountability and excused [sic] for broken promises

Unaccountability? Broken promises? Those are Winston's middle names! I spotted the old cockroach last night when I was at Britomart Country Club for the Backbenches debate on Auckland Central. Not only did us ACT kids have a laugh at how short he was, but some of his cronies turned up with Winston First placards to wave, despite having no candidate present. A few more beers and I would've asked if he had a policy to return the missing $150k he stole.

The problem with Winston is he is exactly like a cockroach; small, ugly, unpopular, thieving, disease-spreading, and most of all - keeps coming back no matter how much he gets squished. Despite being - quite rightfully - unpopular with politicians, the media, and the general public; he seems to have no idea when to quit.

Last election, ACT took 5 seats in parliament to make up for NZF getting no electorates and below the 5% threshold. They polled higher than ACT but didn't get anything for it. A vote for ACT is a blow for Winston!