Polity picks Osborne in Northland

Rob Salmond, a Labour pollster, has picked Mark Osborne to win the Northland by-election based on National having a well organised machine in action versus Winston Peters with little established electorate organisation and Labour giving up trying.

Note that this was posted before yesterdays 3 News poll:

  • Winston Peters (NZ First) 54%
  • Mark Osborne (National) 34%
  • Willow-Jean Prime (Labour) 10%
  • Other 2%

But Salmond’s point still stands. There’s a difference between sticking one up National when someone rings and asks for your off-the cuff opinion and getting out and voting.

In Northland, the National supporters are organised by the National Party nationwide machine. Winston Peters’ supporters, by contrast, aren’t that well organised. That’s why they’ll likely lose.

And he details the reasons.

But this this by-election the turnout is enormously higher than in the most recent general election. It is *up* around 70%, compared to the general election just six months ago. Normally, it would be down 50%.

… where is it coming from?

  • Labour’s machine? Categorically nope.
  • New Zealand First’s machine? Nope. They don’t have much of a turnout machine.
  • Sudden discovery of advance voting by Northlanders over the past six months? A stretch.
  • Northlanders care much more about the by-election issues (bridges, arts centre accounting, ferry ride discounts) than the general election issues? Another stretch.
  • National’s machine? Yes. That is the cause.

So, my prediction remains a solid National win, not borne of popularity, but borne of organisation.

This is supported by a comment by a Labour campaigner:

Speaking to Willow Jean earlier today she says the Nat’s have a huge on the ground team, where as Peters has very few.

I don’t know if Rob’s prediction still stands but the result could be much closer than the poll suggests due to it being much less effort answering a question on the phone than going out and voting.

Polity: Northland: Countdown-to-letdown

Northland Poll: Peters 54%, Osborne 34%

3 News have just announced a new poll for the Northland by-election (although some of the numbers don’t add up).

  • Winston Peters (NZ First) 54%
  • Mark Osborne (National) 34%
  • Willow-Jean Prime (Labour) 10%
  • Other 2%

That’s a significant lead. But some of the numbers are a bit weird.

Can you trust Winston Peters?

  • Yes 43%
  • No 48%
  • Don’t know 9%

So 11% more say they will vote for Peters than trust him. It’s possible that voters on the left don’t trust him but put more priority on scoring a hit on National.

But more curious is the number who say which party they have switched from to support Peters:

  • 75% of Labour voters
  • 25% of National voters

In last year’s election:

  • National got 49% – 25% of that is about 12%.
  • Labour got about 17% – 75% of that is 13%.
  • NZ First got 13%.

That adds up to 38%, well short of 54%. Greens got about 11% and Conservatives got 6% which if all voted for Winston gets up to his poll support.

And if you take 25% off National’s 49% you get about 37%, a bit above 34%. This suggests that the poll isn’t particularly accurate.

500 Northland voters were polled.

The margin of error on a poll that size:

  • 40%-60% ±4.5
  • 25% or 75% ±3.9
  • 10% or 90% ±2.7

That allows for quite a bit of variation.

Regardless, Peters is well out in front. National will have much more organisation and help to get their supporters out the vote than NZ First who haven’t stood a candidate in Northland for about a decade, but it still looks ominous for National.

There has already been a much higher than normal number of people who have early voted.

Other poll results:

Are the bridge upgrades a bribe?

  • Yes 74 – percent
  • No 22 – percent
  • Don’t know – 4 percent

Do you agree with the bridge upgrades?

  • Yes – 58 percent
  • No – 39 percent
  • Don’t know – 3 percent

Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/northland-by-election-peters-way-out-in-front-2015032518#ixzz3VNMuoXs7

Three futile Members’ Bills drawn

There was a Members’ bill draw today, with 68 competing in the ballot.

Convention Centre Act Repeal Bill – Tracey Martin (NZ First) – would repeal the Sky City legislation.

Environmental Protection Authority (Protection of Environment) Amendment Bill  – Meka Whaitiri (Labour) –

Whaitiri said the current law had a “glaring omission” in that it didn’t actually make protecting the environment a goal of the Authority.

Her bill would amend the Environmental Protection Authority Act to add an additional  objective that the organisation must aim to protect, maintain, and enhance New Zealand’s environment.

Fighting Foreign Corporate Control Bill – Fletcher Tabuteau (NZ First)

…would affect the TPPA – it would prohibit New Zealand from entering international agreements that include provision for investor-state dispute resolution.

Source: Aimmee Gulliver at the very useful Beehive Live.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog isn’t impressed – Three silly bills.

Some members bills are very good. But none of them got drawn from the ballot today.

These are all rather silly backwards looking bills.

I predict all three bills will fail to get past first reading.

They probably will fail at the first reading.

Sky City repeal bill: NZ First want to have a second vote on a law that has already been passed. Considering that we have avoided any injection of taxpayer funds into the convention centre, their timing is pretty bad for them.

The (second one) complains that the Environment Protection Authority is not required to protect the environment. This flies in the face of the reality that the EPA has declined almost all the major off shore projects before it on environmental grounds. This is a bill to fix a problem that does not exist.

And the third bill is the most stupid. It would, if retrospective, force NZ to withdraw from basically every international trade agreement we have ever signed, pull out of the WTO, and never take part in any future trade deals. And NZ First claims to be pro-exporters!

They look like politicking bills rather than being aimed at having any chance of success.

What does Labour have to do from here?

Since their election failure Labour under Andrew Little’s leadership have recovered in the polls a bit but have a long way to go to be able to compete head to head with National without being seen as a Labour+Green or Labour+NZ First package

Last year they were seen as needing to be a Labour+Green+NZ First+Internet Mana package which wasn’t popular with voters.

Rolling over to Winston Peters as soon as he stepped up in Northland and (unless the voters revolt) coming a distant third in the by-election won’t help their recovery.

Colin James in his weekly column yesterday:

Labour’s course over the past 50 years has been down off a big vote based on unions and the working class to a party with no solid voting base and an unconvincing policy pitch. A distant third in the Northland by-election on Saturday week won’t help.

Commonsense suggests a searching, brutal rethink.

That in effect will be former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen’s message to a Christchurch Labour meeting on Thursday. Otherwise, he will warn, Labour might wither into minor-party status — not a place in which to celebrate the party’s centenary in 2018.

That is the context for Andrew Little’s drive to reconnect with middle New Zealand and wage workers in the suburbs and provinces and Robertson’s reapplication of century-old principles (as the “party of work and of the workers”) to modern realities in which work and workers aren’t what they used to be.

Little, from some accounts, is prompting some “selfies”. His down-to-earth manner connects much better than did his two predecessors’ personalities. That doesn’t put him in Key’s league but it holds some promise of repair.

And there is a wisp of poll evidence: from a 24 per cent average in November to 30 per cent in February.

That is a minimum of 8 points short of where Labour needs to be to form a credible, stable government in 2017 (Helen Clark got 38 per cent in her first win in 1999). But the trend (so far) has been up.

What does Labour have to do from here?

Good question. What should Labour do from here to become a major party player again? Or is that status history?

Listen: Hager revelations and elections

Nicky Hager has a history of launching anti-Government revelations that happen to coincide with elections. Last year he claimed the timing of “Dirty Politics” had nothing to do with the general election but that was as credible as much of his unbalanced assumptions’ based on cherry picked illegally obtained data.

Important messages were largely ignored by voters, or reacted against, amongst a fog of war words.

Undeterred Hager is driving another series of revelations, this time on the GCSB and spying, that happen to coincide with a by-election.

There’s other significant factors in the by-election – the ex-Sabin effect, the Winston effect, the “I’ve got ten bridges to sell you” effect, the large Little Labour capitulation effect, and the Osborne-possum-in-headlights effect.

So it’s going to be difficult to determine whether Hager manages this time to undermine the National led Government or if he again helps motivate voters to react against his aims.

Last week’s Listener editorial covered this well.

I Spy a By-Election

The Pavlovian response can work in reverse, as peace researcher Nicky Hager demonstrates, again seizing on an election campaign to prosecute his latest accusations against a government.

Voters’ clear message when he attempted this in last year’s general election was “Don’t try to railroad us”. His Dirty Politics allegations not only failed to dent the Government’s re-election chances, but may have backhandedly assisted them. Yet Hager has chosen the heightened atmosphere of the Northland by-election to drip-feed more leaked information purporting state malfeasance.

He has taken a different approach this time, drip feeding his claims week by week. Last election he tried one big hit with his book dump of selected data.

However interesting and potentially concerning Hager’s information may be, his timing puts his work at an inevitable discount. Northland voters could be forgiven for feeling resentful, as the by-election should be a platform for their concerns, not to further an activist’s minority agenda. Also galling is the way Hager uses the tactic of rationing information, ensuring he and American whistle-blower Edward Snowden can frame discussion on their terms, rather than allowing all the facts and implications to be judged. Hager seems as oblivious to these concerns as he is to the double-standard of his using illicitly obtained data to accuse others of illicit data collection.

Not just Hager. His fan club is so devoted to eliminating spying and eliminating the Key Government they either willingly or blindly ignore the double standards.

What galls most, however, is his apparent lack of perspective. This tranche of evidence that the Government Communications Security Bureau routinely hoovers up information about Pacific neighbours, allies and New Zealand citizens alike in a blanket take-all trawl of data has so far failed to “shock” voters as he predicted. This is because the subsequent sieving of that information is precisely what most citizens want and expect security services to do, in order to protect them not just from terrorists, but from crime, epidemic, biosecurity threats, child sex rings, drugs and all manner of menace.

Hager, in contrast, appears to start from the position that all or most surveillance is unnecessary and predominantly a stalking-horse for malign political purposes. In this he is hardly alone, as regular, well-attended protest meetings attest. However, Hager’s is still the minority view.

That minority thinks either that all they need to do is reveal “truth to power” to win over majority support, or that the general population are too dumb to see what they can see.

It may very well be that the GCSB exceeds its legal bounds. It would be astonishing if it did not at times test the spirit of its governing legislation. This needs close watching and robust accountability, and the public questioning Hager engenders is healthy and valuable.

Sort of valuable. By over playing his hand Hager could as easily be as counter-productive to the cause of holding to account as he is saviour of the surveilled.

However, an enduring majority of voters see a reasonable amount of state surveillance as necessary. “Reasonable” is a hard balance to strike where incursion into civil liberties is an unavoidable means to the end. It can be a Hobbesian choice. But this week’s news of a threat to contaminate baby formula – a terror-grade response to the Government’s continued use of 1080 poison – surely underlined the need for continued targeted surveillance. It is unquestionably the role of security intelligence to protect people from vengeful zealots who might conceivably act on their agendas and harm others, either physically or by economically ruinous acts. Such vigilance scarcely makes the GCSB the tool of self-interested political forces.

So far the debate over Hager’s latest revelation has eddied around the distinction between wholesale blind collection of data, and that which is sifted from among that information to be physically inspected. The Government says the mass trawling is a merely mechanical first step in a carefully targeted intelligence-gathering system. Critics like Hager say the data collection is illegal, full stop. It’s not a debate on which either side will agree to differ anytime soon.

Glen Greenwald joined in the war of words regarding the definition of mass collection – see The Orwellian Re-Branding of “Mass Surveillance” as Merely “Bulk Collection” – and Orwellian interpretations are as prevalent in his arguments as those with differing views.

If, as he again hints he will, Hager can produce evidence our spies or their political masters are misusing data, then the whole country will listen with concern. Prime Minister John Key’s dismissive and at times high-handed responses to Hager’s allegations may yet set him up for resignation, if it is proved our spies have exceeded their bounds.

Key doesn’t help his own cause with his at times “dismissive and at times high-handed responses”.

However, the mere fact of our spying on our Pacific neighbours is hardly proof of that, as most of their leaders have acknowledged. Our close relationship with these much poorer nations means it is our role and responsibility to watch out on their behalf for terrorists or criminals trying to establish a new beachhead.

That’s something Hager fails to recognise or acknowledge – spying on the Pacific is probably more for their benefit that something for them to be concerned about.

In so consistently failing to persuade most New Zealanders to his perspective, Hager may conclude most people are complacent about their civil rights. He might more usefully conclude that most are simply less complacent than he is about genuine threats to the security of our sphere.

He and a few anti-spying idealists – like the four Green co-leader candidates who want to scrap the GCSB and withdraw from Five-Eyes. See Green leadership contenders on spying.

Hager, Greens and a few others think we will be able to rename New Zealand to New Nirvana if we drop most of our spying and security measures.

The Greens didn’t stand a candidate in Northland. Part of the reasoning for this may have been to avoid splitting the anti-Government vote. Labour has thrown their candidate under a bus in a much clumsier attempt to do likewise.

It would be interesting to know if the Greens were aware in advance of the Hager by-election campaign.

If the Sabin stench wasn’t hovering over National in Northland and if National had chosen a strong candidate (there’s suspicions they selected Osborne on the basis he was least tainted by Sabin associations) then the Greens/Labour/Peters gambit alongside the latest Hager hit job might have been a revolution in vain, again.

But the Northland by-election result will be conflicted by the mess of National’s own making versus the combined anti-Key anti-spying informal coalition.

The voters of Northland are pawns in a much bigger game of political chess.

Northland: Willow-Jean Prime Q & A

From NZ Herald Northland by-election: Q+A with leading candidates the Labour candidate Willow-Jean Prime’s  responses.

What is the first thing you would do as Northland’s new MP?

Well, Kelvin [Davis] told me it won’t be a sleep-in. The first thing I would do is take that list of promises we’ve received and which we will hopefully continue to receive until the 28th of March and ensure it was implemented, along with my long list of requests from the community.

Will you stand in Northland again in 2017?

Yes.

What is your stance on the $1.75 billion Puhoi to Wellsford Highway?

The first stage [to Warkworth] is already committed. Beyond that I still have a question mark and want to see the business case for it, but my real issue is what about the rest of the state highway network and other rural roads? What about rail, and the link to the port? Bringing the motorway that far doesn’t actually address a lot of our issues further north. It’s a start, but what about the rest?

What is your stance on deep sea oil exploration and extraction off Northland’s coastline?

The issue is around extraction. I’m not convinced at this stage that it’s in our best interests in Northland. The community is really divided, the current regulatory framework is not strong enough for environmental protection and when they talk about the jobs it will create, our people don’t have the skills for the jobs. So will it be Northlanders who get the jobs and benefits from that, or will it simply attract other people from overseas or outside our region? There’s also a question mark around benefits to the region in terms of royalties. Any decision has to involve the community.

The Finance Minister has given you $200 million for the electorate. How would you spend it?

There’s the roading network – and I’m so pleased to see all these promises that the by-election has brought us. There are also sewerage and water schemes which used to be more subsidised by the Government than now. Another core piece of infrastructure that needs more investment is broadband and mobile coverage. In Dargaville, the cable is right next to them but they can’t hook in. Only the schools can. What’s that about? It makes it so difficult to do business from the North and it’s a lifestyle thing we like to have too, to connect us to the rest of the world at the same speeds everyone else has got. I can’t even use Skype in my home [near Moerewa].

Prime should be popular on the left and across to the centre and could have built her (and Labour’s) support if her party hadn’t decided to try and hand the election over to Peters. This looks lightweight and earnest – I think Prime comes across better in person.

Loony Labour line on flag questions

Labour is following a loony line on the flag referendum questions and have chosen to oppose the Flag Bill.

NZ Herald: Labour to oppose flag bill

Labour will oppose a bill setting up the two referendums deciding the fate of the flag because of a sticking point over the order of the questions.

The Flag Referendums Bill is expected to get its first reading in Parliament soon and has enough support to pass its first stage without Labour, although the Maori Party and the Greens have only committed to support it through to select committee so far.

The bill sets out the process and questions for the two referendums – expected to cost $26 million. The first will be later this year and ask voters to choose between four options for a new flag. The second will pit the most popular new flag design against the current flag and ask voters to pick one.

Labour’s Trevor Mallard said voters should be asked whether they wanted to change the flag in the first referendum. “There should be a yes/no vote at the beginning of the process so that if the majority of New Zealanders don’t want change we don’t spend a fortune on an unnecessary second referendum.”

That may just be a misguided approach, or it could be an attempt to diminish the debate.

From what I’ve seen online those who want a “do you want to change the flag?” question first are opposed to change so want to avoid a chosen alternative from competing against the current flag.

If the first referendum had two questions, a yes/no to change plus a choice of an alternative it is likely confuse people and to distort the result.

It would be odd voting against change and for an alternative at the same time.

If someone didn’t want change they would vote on that question but are likely to not care about the alternative choice.

Therefore if the yes to change vote won then the selection of an alternative would be at risk of being inaccurate.

And the yes/no vote would depend on which alternative was up against the current flag so the two questions can’t be asked at the same time.

Some people are likely to oppose changing to one alternative but may be happy to change to a different alternative.

The only way of dealing with this sensibly is to first select the most popular alternative, and then choose whether you want to change to that or stay with the current flag.

And that’s the plan.

Act leader David Seymour said he would support it and could see the sense in deciding on what the alternative flag would be before deciding whether to vote for a change.

The Maori and Green parties have decided to vote for the Bill to get to the Select Committee stage. That allows it to be more fully discussed and considered.

Labour seem to be taking an opposing position just to oppose a Government proposal.  So they are against a sound democratic selection process.

Seems loony opposition to me.

Little confirms premature white flag

Andrew Little has just been interviewed on Firstline. He repeated his stance of all but urging voters to vote for Winston Peters.

He also admitted that after two early polls Labour decided their candidate had no chance of winning the by-election.

So they have chosen a distant third rather than a creditable third. Or second. Or first.

The way Northland has developed in a week and a half anything could happen.

Like voters could decide that Peters is too risky and is little more than a cynical opportunist grandstanding. It’s quite feasible his initial poll bubble could burst.

National are also very vulnerable. Their bridge bribe risks repelling voters. Their candidate Mark Osborne has been far from impressive. And they still could face a Sabin time bomb.

And Labour had a very credible candidate with previous Northland election experience, Willow-Jean Prime.

But Little rushed in and waved the white flag without even trying.

At the very least he should have waited a week or two to see how things went. He could have held back the “wink-wink-Winston” wank and at least had a go at getting some traction for Labour.

Prime could have easily contrasted with and showed up Winston’s age and ego.

She looks far better to me than Osborne.

And with the National versus Winston circus Labour could have looked like a serious and decent contender.

But Little rushed in with a white flag. His decision and the advice given to him looks suspect and could blow up in his face.

That looks like a very poor premature play to me, especially in the first election under Little’s leadership.

Democracy weeps as cynicism swamps Northland by-election

The Northland by-election began sort of normally. Labour’s candidate from the last election, Willow-Jean Prime, put up her hand to stand again soon after the by-election was announced. She and Labour then launched a normal looking campaign.

But then a week later King Cynical confirmed he would also stand, claiming Northland had been “forgotten”. Winston Peters hadn’t stood for a northern electorate since the 1970’s – before Prime was born and NZ First hadn’t stood a candidate for about a decade.

Some of the media jumped on the Winston bandwagon, becoming his willing orchestra “because Winston is fun” – and generates headlines. The free publicity given to one candidate is far more cynical than journalistic.

Next to join the cynical politics was Labour leader Andrew Little. He has all but strongly endorsed Peters, even repeating Winston’s main ‘send a message” message many times. And he has effectively dumped Prime under Winston’s bus.

Not to be outdone John Key and National have knocked things off the cynicism scale.

John Armstrong writes in National crosses into the cynical side of politics.

Brazen, shameless, cynical and more than a little desperate – yesterday’s contribution from National to the Northland byelection campaign was about as subtle as the concrete blocks which will go into the construction of the replacements for no less than 10 existing single-lane bridges in the electorate. Now we know why the Transport Minister goes under the name of Bridges.

The announcement heralded the return of pork-barrel politics – not so much with bells on as an orchestra at top volume, and with a lot more pork and precious little barrel.

Pork-barrelling has become less furtive under John Key’s prime ministership. The Future Investment Fund – which holds the billions of dollars from the sale of shares in the big state-owned electricity generators and Air New Zealand – has long been attacked by National’s opponents as the ultimate “slush fund” which the governing party uses to fund capital spending on major infrastructure items, such as new schools and hospitals.

Yesterday’s announcement is classic pork-barrelling. It indicates three things: that National is seriously worried that Winston Peters may well carry off what initially was seen as an unlikely victory; that such a victory will have serious implications for National’s legislative programme; and that National has few scruples about how it halts Peters’ momentum.

Prime has been muzzled, and Little may feel chastened with a strong negative reaction to him undoing his “cut the crap” persona by shitting on his own candidate while trying to maintain two contradictory messages.

But expect Winston to rise to the challenge and go toe to toe with National on cynical.

Big Time Wrestling has more credibility than the Northland campaign.

It’s a pity there’s no candidate standing for “Pox on All Parties” to really send a message to the campaigners on cynicism overload.

Meanwhile democracy weeps.

It pays to look behind you

Duncan Garner: “How’s this for awkward? From Winston Peters’ media stand-up in Whangarei today.”

Is that the Labour office in the background? It doesn’t look like Willow-Jean though.

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