Recycled campaigning

Party campaign strategies seem to be trying to put as much out as often as possible. They risk driving people away from the election through overkill.

And to fill their sound bite targets parties are resorting to recycling old stuff.

Yesterday the Greens launched their new campaign without Metiria Turei – by ditching their new slogan and going back to their 2014 election slogan.

Today Labour announced a School Leavers’ Toolkit to equip young people for adult life – which was largely a rehash of policy announced in 2015 with a bit of detail added.

Also today National announced details of a $100m social investment mental health package – which had already been announced in the budget in May. They have just added some details.

David Seymour kept banging on about how different Act are to National – Forget boot camp, fix failing schools – and also attacked Labour – Labour’s civics classes: dodgy dodgy dodgy – and NZ First – Winston’s Racist Attack against Sikh’s Freedom of Religion.

The only original announcement was from peter Dunne, but this was not party news, it was as Minister of Internal Affairs –  NZ govt says Australia’s Joyce is NZ citizen.

So far this week the Aussies are beating us hands down for interesting political news.

Reassessing election prospects

Last week changed the political landscape significantly, with saturation coverage of one candidate, the political demise of one leader and the lame ducking of another.

Election prospects have changed, but at this stage it is difficult to predict by how much. I’l have a go at assessing how things look now.

National 38-48%

They were always going to struggle to maintain last elections 47% with John Key retiring last year and switching to a solid but uninspiring Bill English and a so far uninspiring campaign.

If Labour retains their resurgence the question shifts from where in the forties National will end up to whether they stay in the forties. They are still probably good for low to mid forties but if the stuff something up badly could easily slip.

Labour 29-40%

There is no doubt that Jacinda Ardern has made a big difference to Labour’s prospects. They looked like they were heading to 20 or less under Andrew Little, but now a return to the 30s looks likely.

Labour now look able to pull votes back from the Greens and NZ First, finally compete seriously with National for the floaters, and the effect of the lift in excitement on turning out younger voters shouldn’t be underestimated.

And don’t underestimate the Kelvin Davis effect – his elevation makes Labour more competitive against the Maori Party and NZ First.

I think the only question is how far into the thirties they can climb – as long as Ardern doesn’t trip up significantly. On the other hand, given the volatility of modern elections I wouldn’t rule out Labour sneaking into the forties.

Greens 8-12%

As dramatically as Labour’s fortunes have turned for the better, Green prospects have probably dived from record highs in the polls.

Metiria Turei’s beneficiary gamble looked like it was a winner but has turned to custard. James Shaw looks worn and weak. Turei and the Greens still have some staunch support, but the icing looks like it has disappeared of their cake.

Of course this could change if Turei bows to pressure and steps down as co-leader, but a lot would then depend on who replaced her. Marama Davidson would probably only appeal to the dedicated Greenies and lefties, but Julie Anne Genter would have wider appeal.

NZ First 6-16%

A week or two ago Winston Peters was confidently counting his electoral chickens. He disappeared last week, with the media preferring to pander to someone young enough to be his granddaughter.

Winston versus English and Little looked competitive, to media and to a growing number of voters.

Winston versus Ardern is a completely different look. The stuffing seems to be knocked out of the old codger. He’s a determined campaigner, but can he revitalise himself for another shot at glory?

Another factor is the Shane Jones card – he is now going to have to compete with Kelvin Davis for attention and may be exposed. The direct speaking Davis will give Jones some real competition up north.

Maori Party 1-3%

I think that Te Ururoa Flavell still has a good chance of retaining his electorate, Maori have been good tactical voters and returning Flavell and party voting Labour makes more sense than throwing the Maori Party out.

But winning more Maori seats, and getting enough party vote to retain Marama Fox, has probably got harder.

ACT Party 0.5-2%

David Seymour has been trying hard to attract attention and voters but doesn’t seem to be getting any traction. He should be good to retain his Epsom electorate, but ACT’s lack of known candidates other than Seymour doesn’t help their chances.

The media doesn’t usually care about new candidates, unless it’s plucking someone like Chlöe Swarbrick out of nowhere to try to inject some interest into a boring mayoral campaign. And the media seems to not fancy ACT unless it’s negative news. Seymour is likely to remain alone.

United Future 0.1-0.3%

It’s hard to see United Future attracting any more party votes. The media gave up on there being a party behind Peter Dunne terms ago, nothing there for headlines. The party has continued to wither.

Dunne already had a major challenge in trying to retain his Ohariu electorate. Labour have recruited a known candidate, Greg O’Connor. Greens are helping Labour by not standing a candidate.

National have made it clearer than ever that they want National voters to support Dunne.

But what looked like 50/50 prospects for Dunne may have turned against him with Labour’s resurgence. Ardern has not only revitalised Labour campaigners, she may encourage reluctant voters to turn out. This will work against Dunne.

Mana Party 0.1-0.5%

The Mana party is a one man band this election, without the money or distraction of Kim Dotcom. The party vote looks irrelevant.

Hone Harawira was always a chance of winning back Te Tai Tokerau, but with Davis’ elevation that probably got a lot harder.

There looks to be an outside chance only of Harawira getting back into Parliament, and even more of an outside chance that Harawira could make or break a Labour led coalition, but it shouldn’t be discounted entirely.

The Opportunities Party 1-4%

Gareth Morgan had a chance of picking up votes from those who wanted something different and not Winston, someone to ‘keep the big parties honest’. And picking up disheartened Labour voters. Until last week.

If Labour jumps back into contention then TOP will find it really difficult to attract enough media attention, and they will find it really difficult to get the polls up enough to encourage enough voters to get them over the 5% threshold.

The Rest

The nature of New Zealand politics and the reluctance of media to give any credibility to new parties and outsider candidates means that no other parties will have a chance of getting more than crumbs.

But…

There could be another shock wave.

It’s hard to see any other positive leadership change, unless Genter adds some solidity to the Greens.

Who knows what Winston will try to have probably his last shot at the big prize?

Ardern may keep Labour’s resurgence going, or she could trip up. Kelvin Davis could stuff things up, his agttack on English and other National ministers on Q+A yesterday looked ugly and counter productive to Ardern’s clain of positivity.

National still have the benefit of incumbency plus very good economic conditions, relatively low unemployment, and a record of steady management – but may have trouble attracting media attention.

National also have the advantage of being by far the biggest party, and they will probably only need one other party, or a repeat of the current handful of insignificant parties, to get over the line.

But housing. Auckland is shaping up as a big influence on the election.

And National has to find an effective way of countering ‘the Jacinda effect’ and the current media obsession with her.

The elephant in Labour’s room

Ardern has eliminated Labour’s biggest millstone, Andrew Little. Labour look to be on the rise.

But they have a major challenge too – Labour + Greens + NZ First

I think that many voters have real concerns about how this triumverate could possible work in a coalition.

Unless Labour can rise enough in polls to look like they might only need one of NZ First or the Greens then this remains an issue.

There could even be a voter resistance to Labour + Greens – many like a Green influence but have strong reservations about Greens calling the shots too much.

In any case for Labour to get close to 40% it’s hard to see Greens also keeping their current share.

The NZ First factor

Whether Winston finds a way to dig up something that gives him a last burst of hope or not, voters have to consider and compare National + NZ First versus Labour + NZ First as likely alternatives.

Both National and Labour can’t ignore this – the one of them that does best at convincing voters they can work with Winston but resist baubling him may succeed.

Here it is advantage to National.

National 45% + NZ First 6% looks quite different to Labour 35% + NZ First 15%.

But of course this balance of probabilities could change over the next few weeks.

ACT claim ‘minimum 600,000 new homes’

ACT claim that bu cutting ‘red tape’ and allowing subdivisions anywhere around Auckland that it would “allow, at a minimum, 600,000 new homes in areas like Waitakere, Karaka, and Clevedon”.

ACT reveals massive housing negligence

ACT Leader David Seymour has revealed the massive scale of potential home-building that has been blocked on the edges of Auckland.

ACT WOULD CUT RED TAPE TO ALLOW, AT A MINIMUM, 600,000 NEW HOMES in areas like Waitakere, Karaka, and Clevedon,” says Mr Seymour.

The figures were presented at the launch of Mr Seymour’s new book, Own Your Future, which opens with a story about a Waitakere family denied the freedom to subdivide their land and provide housing for their daughter and others, because their property lies just outside the Rural-Urban Boundary.

“By failing to open up this land like this for housing, successive Governments are guilty of gross negligence.

“Land use restrictions are now responsible for 56 per cent of the average Auckland house price, according to one of the Government’s own reports released last month.

“This cost is THE SINGLE LARGEST CAUSE OF POVERTY, INEQUALITY, AND SICKNESS IN AUCKLAND AND BEYOND.

“The poorest 20 per cent of households now spend 54 per cent of their income on housing. When the RMA was passed in 1991 it was only 27 per cent. That’s why we see kids living in cars and garages, going without.

“ACT says IT’S CRAZY TO BAN PEOPLE FROM BUILDING HOMES DURING A CHRONIC HOUSING SHORTAGE.

“National say they’ll build 34,000 houses in Auckland over the next decade, Labour says 50,000. ACT will rezone land for hundreds of thousands.

Here is how many homes could be built if just two restricted zones were reclassified as residential:

  • Countryside Living zone – 223,560 homes
  • Mixed Rural Zone – 403,965 homes
  • TOTAL: 627,525 HOMES

These house numbers are estimated on the basis of 27 homes per hectare (the same density as the Hobsonville Point development) on just one third of each zone’s land area.

WHERE WE COULD BUILD

Blue: Current residential, bordered by Rural-Urban Boundary
Yellow: Where ACT would allow homebuilding (Mixed Rural, Countryside Living)

They give a number of examples.

Freeing up enough land for 600,000 plus houses does not mean anywhere that number would be built.

The Jacinda effect on other parties

The change of Labour leadership to Jacinda Ardern could have quite an effect on how the other parties campaign, and how the fare in the election.

National already had a battle to avoid needing NZ First, that doesn’t change but how they campaign will need a major rethink.

The Greens seem generally happy. It means a rethink of their ‘go for broke’ approach, because a recovering Labour improves their chances of getting into government. albeit with a smaller share of the vote than they were hoping for last week.

The biggest impact may be on NZ First, which could be why Winston’s response to the leadership change yesterday was gruff dismissal. If Labour come back into the reckoning that could significantly reduce NZ First’s opportunities and influence. Peters could easily attarct media attention from Little, but that will be much harder with Ardern.

Peters versus Ardern is a very different contest to Peters versus Little, and swings the pendulum significantly.

The smaller parties are at risk of being ignored even more.

It reduces TOP’s chances of picking up disgruntled voters.

Kelvin Davis’ elevation to deputy makes the Maori party’s battle with Labour quite a bit harder.

Davis must be a hot favourite now to beat Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau and keep Mana out.

ACT have struggled for relevancy and support and that won’t get any easier.

Peter Dunne already had a major challenge in Ohariu and this probably makes things harder for him.

One thing is certain – the whole complexion of this campaign has dramatically changed, and it affects all parties in major ways.

And one aspect of change is probably bigger than Jacinda herself – the media. They had given up on Little long ago and dreaded a boring election campaign. They have promoted Ardern all year, helping get her promoted to deputy, and now to leader.

The media have played a major part in changes to date, and may be the deciding factor inb this election.

ACT on ‘Labour-lite’ housing policy

Yesterday the Government announced plans to build about 25,000 extra houses in Auckland over the next ten years – see National’s Auckland housing policy.

This looked a lot like a partial Labour ‘Kiwibuild’ policy. Despite this Labour MPs slammed it.

Andrew Little belittled the policy:

Breaking news – National admits there’s a housing crisis

National finally admits there’s a housing crisis, but today’s belated announcement is simply not a credible response to the problem it’s been in denial about for so long, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.

“National can’t now credibly claim to be tackling the housing crisis four months out from the election when, for nine years, they’ve ignored the plight of first home buyers and families in need.

“This Government has long rubbished the idea of building houses. Time and again it’s failed to deliver any significant increase in housing supply.

“National cannot be trusted to do anything meaningful for the thousands of first home buyers in Auckland who have been denied their shot at the Kiwi dream.

“Amy Adams has fudged the figures. How many of these houses will actually be affordable? What does ‘affordable’ mean? How will that give hope to first home buyers when speculators can buy these houses too?

“It’s just more smoke and mirrors from a Government that’s failed miserably. It’s a mish-mash of old and new housing programmes. Many of these houses have already been announced.

“Auckland currently has a shortfall of 40,000 houses and growing. This plan won’t address the shortfall, let alone build the extra houses needed to keep up with demand.

“This last minute announcement just won’t do enough. National has had its chance. It’s time for a fresh approach.

“Labour will build 50,000 houses in Auckland people can afford to buy and we’ll increase the supply of state houses; we’ll crack down on speculators; and we’ll invest in warm, dry homes.

“National hasn’t a shred of credibility left. The evidence keeps mounting:

• It promised a big increase in emergency housing beds in the last six months, and hasn’t delivered.
• It’s Special Housing Areas promised an extra 39,000 homes, fewer than 2,000 have been built.
• Housing New Zealand has failed meet its building targets and reduced the number of state houses by 2,500.

“This cynical announcement by National should be seen for what it is – an election year fudge to paper over the cracks of its failure in housing. It’s time for Labour’s plan,” says Andrew Little.

However it was ACT’s David Seymour who went into detail with his criticism.

National need to think bigger than Labour-lite

National needs to do more than just adopt tunnel-vision Labour policies, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“If the goal is to close the housing shortfall, this is a step in the right direction, but it won’t be enough. The proposal will add 25,000 homes when what we need is another 500,000.

“We can only achieve this by fixing the underlying problem: that regulations and infrastructure pressures prevent private developers from building homes.

“The Government will have to loosen up land use rules if it wants to get 34,000 homes built on a few scraps of Crown land. Why not just follow ACT’s plan to replace the Resource Management Act for the whole city, letting private developers do the building for us?

“The Government will also struggle to build houses at an affordable cost under current construction regulations. ACT has a policy for this: we’d replace construction red tape with an insurance requirement, letting developers cut costs in risk-free ways.

“The other problem the Government will face is pressure on infrastructure. Fortunately, ACT has a plan for this too. ACT will allow Councils to use half of the GST from construction projects to fund local infrastructure.

“The Government is right to say we need more homes. But if we want to see these homes built on anywhere near the scale required, we’ll need a stronger ACT to make the government enact substantial reform, instead of Labour-lite tinkering.”

National has failed in it’s attempt to substantially reform the RMA this term and even if they get the chance and try again next term that would talk some time, they would probably need the support of NZ First or Labour, and in the meantime Auckland’s (and New Zealand’s) housing shortage will get worse unless a lot more houses and flats are built.

Time for a meaningful discussion about Super?

A meaningful discussion about the future of universal superannuation in New Zealand is long overdue, but the National Party is adamant that kicking the Super can down the road is the best way of avoiding it.

Stuff: David v Jacinda: Super changes a poison pill that must be swallowed

David Seymour:

“A political hot potato that no party wants to handle.” That’s how The Nation’s Lisa Owen last week described rising superannuation costs, and she’s almost right. Since Andrew Little last year abandoned Labour’s policy of raising the age of eligibility, ACT is the one party campaigning on sustainable super.

Now perhaps that may be sort of correct. In past terms of the current Government Peter Dunne campaigned for changes to Super, promoting ‘flex-super’ which is still a United Future policy.

Politicians across the spectrum, including the Prime Minister, treat changes to super like a poison pill for how it polls with older voters. But if this Government doesn’t make changes, a future one will. By denying this, politicians deny younger Kiwis the chance to even discuss the issue. They are showing contempt for younger voters.

It is often framed as an ‘appeasing older voters’ versus addressing issues that younger peeople will face in the future.

No-one wants to punish today’s retirees or near-retirees. The question is how super should work in the decades ahead. In the long term, policy change appears inevitable – we’re healthier, working and living longer, resulting in a rapidly aging population. This trend won’t stop – half of babies born today are expected to live until the age of 100, and in my lifetime we’ll go from five taxpayers per superannuitant to two taxpayers per superannuitant.

The effects of this huge demographic shift can’t be overstated, with its effect on super alone costing an extra billion dollars each year. It’s reasonable to assume taxpayers won’t tolerate this forever, and fair enough.

When asked about the problem, politicians gloss over the real scale of the cost and instead pivot onto smaller issues. A typical tactic is to focus on immigrants, who can receive the pension after just 10 years of residency. This period should be extended, but that would be just a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of super for the existing ageing population.

Another idea mentioned is flexi-super – letting some people take it earlier at a lower rate, or later at a higher rate. It’s a good idea, but ultimately doesn’t affect the policy’s cost. It needs to come with more substantial reform.

Some suggest means-testing – taking super away from retirees with high earnings. But it’s surely both unwise and unfair to punish those who choose to continue working and pay taxes.

So that brings us back to raising the age.

That’s something that National won’t consider, and I presume NZ First won’t either.

Jacinda Ardern:

I agree with you David, on most counts.

Where I disagree is with David’s interpretation of other parties position on this question – namely ours. Labour knows we have a problem and we knew it when Michael Cullen set up the Super fund. We knew it when we campaigned to raise the age of superannuation, not just one election, but two. That may have been rejected by voters, but we can’t give up on the conversation on how to guarantee universal super for everyone. That has to be our bottom line.

So yes, you’re right. The National Government has rejected taking action in this area, and they are wrong.

But Seymour points out:

The Prime Minister promised in 2008 not to make changes under his leadership.

Not only that, Key and Bill English refuse to consider planning for the future affordability of Super.

If they get back in for another term that’s another three years of inaction, unless ACT and/or Dunne hold the deciding votes and force National to do something.

If NZ First hold the balance of power then no change will be locked in, whether Labour or National lead the next government.

Ardern:

Perhaps the courage we are now asking for needs to come from us, but also from voters – we need them to start banging down a few doors too.

It doesn’t seem to be an issue that voters will decide elections on.

A meaningful discussion about the future of universal superannuation is needed but is unlikely to happen in this decade.

Greens would stand aside for Labour in Mt Roskill

Greens have announced they won’t stand a candidate in the Mt Roskill by-election, should Phil Goff win the Auckland mayoralty and resign from Parliament.

Stuff: Greens won’t stand candidate in any Mt Roskill by-election

The Greens will not stand a candidate in a Mt Roskill by-election if Labour incumbent Phil Goff wins the Auckland mayoralty and vacates the seat, the party has announced.

The deal is part of a memorandum of understanding the two left-wing parties signed earlier this year – but the Greens say the move has “no bearing” on its plans for the 2017 election.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the party had decided not to stand a candidate in the seat “after several weeks of internal discussions”.

“The Mt Roskill by-election will be closely contested, and we don’t want to play any role in National winning the seat.” 

Turei said the decision showed the success of the memorandum of understanding between the two parties, which includes an agreement to co-operate in Parliament and investigate a joint policy and/or campaign.

The party was making the announcement now to be clear with its supporters and the public, given the “considerable interest” in a likely Mt Roskill by-election.

I think the timing of this announcement is odd, before the results of the local body election are known.

The Greens risk a backlash over this – perhaps this is a deliberate test of what the reaction might be in advance of next year’s general election.

Last election Barry Coates stood for the Greens in Mt Roskill. He will soon replace Kevin Hague as next Green off the list in Parliament. A by-election would have given him a chance to raise his profile but he has to defer to a party decision to stay away.

The Greens may think that not standing in order to help Labour candidate Michael Wood will give them and their MoU with Labour good publicity, but it could just as easily backfire. I guess it’s best to test this now before taking a bigger risk in next year’s election.

ACT’s David Seymour is highlighting the change of attitude to electorate jack-ups by both Greens and Labour.

Mt Roskill arrangement shows hypocrisy of opposition

The Opposition’s hypocrisy over ‘dirty deals’ is brazen, says ACT Leader David Seymour as the Green Party confirms that they won’t stand a candidate in Mt Roskill as part of an arrangement with Labour.

“Michael Wood’s campaign in Mt Roskill is set to be a brazen display of hypocrisy,” says Mr Seymour. “Two years ago he was bemoaning John Key’s endorsement of a vote for me in Epsom as a ‘dodgy deal’. Now look at him.

“The Greens ought to be just as embarrassed, with Julie-Anne Genter having called John Key’s Epsom endorsement ‘undemocratic’. Clearly, this was nothing more than faux-outrage.

“Strategic voting is a reality of MMP, but hypocrisy is optional. Labour and the Greens have shown how cheap their words are by participating in a deal that far eclipses the electoral arrangements they criticise every election.”

Wood stood for Labour in Epsom last general election and has been selected as Labour’s candidate in Mt Roskill should Goff resign.

It will be interesting to see if ACT stand a candidate in Mt Roskill. That would give them more opportunity to bash Greens and Labour with a hypocrisy hammer – but it could also jeopardise the National candidate’s chances.

ACT didn’t stand a candidate in Mt Roskill in 2014.

3 strikes, 3 years for burglary?

Burglaries are a growing concern. yesterday Duncan Garner tweeted:

Clarification; on Saturday in I said burglaries were up almost 12% in one year. I was wrong. Stats NZ just told me it was 14%

Yesterday the Dominion Post editorial: No easy answer for burglaries

The police brass estimates that they currently get an officer to 70 per cent of burglaries. Unfortunately, they solve many fewer than that – about 9 per cent of those recorded.

On the face of it, a guarantee of attendance by the police seems an obvious response. Yet criminologists and those who represent police officers agree that simply attending burglaries does not offer a sure bet of improvement.

There are no witnesses to most burglaries, so catching the offenders is difficult. A low resolution rate is not unique to this moment, nor to New Zealand; it is, to some extent, just the nature of burglaries.

On the other hand, as criminologist Greg Newbold points out, sending officers to follow up on what most people regard as an invasive crime can be reassuring to victims. Failing to send them, meanwhile, can breed cynicism – among those affected, their neighbours, and perhaps even those committing the crimes.

It may not be as bad as it sounds.

Still, as Collins was at pains to point out a couple of days after her announcement, burglary numbers over the past year have defied the trend and leapt upwards – by about 12 per cent nationally.

Some of this increase appears to be down to a methodological change in how burglaries are counted. Some may be due to more scrupulous counting by the police in the wake of the scandal over doctored burglary counts in Counties-Manukau in 2014. Certainly other police statistics suggest that recent burglary numbers remain far lower than they were in the mid-1990s, despite a much larger population.

But we still have a significant problem.

The Police Association says it reflects deeper currents of drug and gang crime. Whatever the cause, and however hard the solutions, burglary is certainly a crime that causes public anxiety – and thus political peril. Collins’ populist intervention – and her decision to draw attention to a rising category of crime happening on her watch –  is a clear signal she is aware of that.

Collins should also be aware of a proposal from ACT’s David Seymour – 3 strikes for burglary. This is outlined in the latest ACT Free Press.

Burglary Up
Burglary is up and even National MPs’ electorate offices are now being burgled. The police minister says that the police will now attend every burglary, but what will that mean?  Police generally know what is happening on their patch and prioritise accordingly.  We doubt that attending every burglary will increase the resolution rate because most burglaries are carried out by professionals too smart to leave traces.  We wonder what other crimes police will now not attend to.

Unless the number of front line police officers is increased more time spent on burglaries will mean less time spent on other crime.

Three Strikes for Burglary
Earlier in the year ACT tabled its Three Strikes for Burglary bill, but other MPs objected to it being debated.  The policy is very simple: with resolution rates as low as they are, you have to commit a lot of burglaries to be convicted three times, so you should be sentenced to three years.  ACT’s Three Strikes for violent and sexual offences has been a success at reducing reoffending for those crimes.  ACT will continue campaigning for a Three Strikes rule for burglary.

Is 3 strikes, 3 years for burglary worth considering? Should we keep recidivist burglars off the street and out of our homes for longer?

Reactions to predator free target

Some reactions to Government sets target to make New Zealand ‘predator-free’ by 2050

@rodemmerson:

Green Party conservation spokesman Kevin Hague…

…said welcomed the target, but said research showed it would cost $9b to make New Zealand predator-free. 

“The Government seems happy to once again put out the begging bowl to the private sector to fund what should be taken care of by the Government.

“We have real concerns over what will happen to this predator-free dream if the Government can’t attract private funding, or if that private funding dries up.”

The Greens are usually quick off the mark on policy issues but no media releases from them yet and nothing on their Facebook or Twitter.

ACT Leader David Seymour…

…has welcomed the announcement and said it echoed his own policy to sell off Landcorp and place the money it gains into a trust, so community groups and private enterprises can apply to operate inland wildlife sanctuaries.

“We’re interested in seeing how the Prime Minister plans to skip inland islands and eradicate pests from the nation wholesale.  It’s a laudable and ambitious goal, we look forward to seeing the detail.

A lot will depend on the detail.

Labour…

…is questioning the Government’s level of commitment. 

It’s far to soon to seriously question commitment. The target has only just been announced.

Predator Free New Zealand is a laudable idea but the Government has not committed any real money into killing New Zealand’s pests, says Labour’s Conservation spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta.

“The only promise is that the Government will ‘look’ to contribute one dollar for every two dollars from councils and the private sector.

“This lack of long term funding to kill our millions of pests has to be considered alongside years of funding cuts that have blunted the work of the Department of Conservation.”

Whether it’s feasible to become anywhere near predator free is being questioned.

While some think that it really is possible others have serious doubts.

But even managing to reduce rat, stoat and possum numbers by 50%, 0r 75%, would be a significant achievement – as  long as the reduced numbers were maintained.

Without continuous containment the numbers would increase again, as they have done when the predators were first introduced or introduced themselves.

Government details: Predator free by 2050

Pragmatism versus ideology

In Political Week Stuff looks at the trend towards political pragmatism and away from ideology.

This was prompted by a week of political liaisons that bridge supposed ideologies.

Winston Peters and Don Brash had a get together:

When it comes to political odd couples they don’t get much more unlikely than Don Brash and Winston Peters. So any passers-by witnessing them sharing lunch at Wellington’s Old Bailey on Thursday would have done a double take.

Peters used to harbour a special sort of loathing for Brash, whose dry stewardship of the Reserve Bank epitomised everything that was wrong about monetary policy in Peters’ eyes.

As someone who was regularly lampooned by Peters’, meanwhile, Brash was understandably distrustful of his NZ First opponent and appalled by his Muldoonist-style economic policies.

Also during the week Michael Cullen offered a fix for NZ Post with a proposed part sale of Kiwibank to the Super and ACC investment funds.

And John Key offered his and the Government’s support for Helen Clark’s bid for UN Secretary General.

Labour supported both the Kiwibank rearrangement (as did Jim Anderton) and Clark’s bid.

And what’s been National’s biggest noise in welfare lately? Raising benefits, something it might have nicked from Labour’s manifesto.

So what happened?

Pragmatism has trumped ideology. It doesn’t polarise the electorate the way ideology does, and it blunts the mood for change. Pragmatism shows politicians are listening. Pursuing ideology at all costs shows they’ve stopped listening.

There are still ideological lines drawn between National and Labour, of course, but they are well scuffed compared to the bright lines drawn by the likes of the Greens and ACT.

ACT’s David Seymour opposed the Kiwibank move, he wants full privatisation, and Greens opposed it because they feared it was a move in the direction of privatisation, but from either side of the political spectrum they can afford to promote ideological positions.

It helps, of course, that Key and Clark seem to have struck up a cordial relationship over the years, maintained by text and a personal visit whenever either of them is in each other’s town. But even if there had been any personal enmity, they would have put that aside for the greater cause in this case.

As for the Brash-Peters love-in, that one may yet have more to play out. As a staunch proponent of RMA reform, Brash will see in Peters a potential friend and ally if he is a means to achieving that end.

But Key may be harder to convincedthat the olive branch extended by Peters over RMA reforms doesn’t come with too high a price tag, namely doing over the Maori Party in Peters’ favour.

Nor will Key be convinced that once Peters’ achieves that aim he won’t use it to hold Key over a barrel.

That’s not about ideology; it’s self preservation.

Self preservation in politics often requires pragmatism. This has become easier with a significant shift in power seeking political focus.

Last century politics was more of a left versus right battle with ideology far more prominent.

Now the big battle is over the centre, where ideologies and pragmatism intermingle more and more.

It’s very hard to see what ideologies either National or Labour see as important, less so what they see as non-negotiable.

Clark’s Labour government won and held the centre vote.

Key’s National government now rules the centre, with Labour wavering between centre and left, wavering between leaders and wavering in the polls.

The ideological fights are confined more to the fringe fanatics in comments at blogs like Whale Oil and Kiwiblog on the right and at The Standard and The Daily Blog on the left.

Of the blog authors David Farrar is still closely involved with National’s ongoing success but due to major failures at the extremes Cameron Slater and Martyn Bradbury are increasingly impotent, and the Standard authors struggle to unite the left and they damage more than enhance Labour’s chances.

Their ideologies have been overtaken by political pragmatism and they seem unable to catch up.