Advance NZ failing to advance

Advance NZ, the umbrella party set up by independent MP Jami-Lee Ross to try to benefit from social media popularity of Billy Te Kahika, looks like it has fizzled well short of the 5% threshold, and Te Kahika looks to be a long way from challenging in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate.

The party has only featured in three party poll results – 0.8, 0.6 and 1 (rounded). If they won an electorate at those levels they would get no more seats off the list, but there chances of winning an electorate look very slim.

Māori News: A third of the North undecided – Te Tai Tokerau poll results

Following the pattern of the other Māori electorate polls so far, the incumbent is leading as the preferred candidate for Te Tai Tokerau electorate.

Curia Market Research polled 500 people…

  • Kelvin Davis (Labour) 36%
  • Mariameno KapaKingi (Māori Party) 18%
  • Undecided 32%
  • Other 7%
  • Billy Te Kahika 1%

As is common Advance NZ are banking on all undecideds voting for them, but this rarely happens. The voter turnout in 2017 was 69.4%, so about 30% didn’t decide then.

Ross chose to not stand in Botany where he is the current MP (he was elected as a National candidate), so Te Tai Tokerau and the threshold are the only chances for Advance NZ, but they look a long way from either.

Te Kahika has excited a few thousand enthusiastic supporters but it takes at least 130,000 to make the 5% threshold and they look nowhere near that level of support.

Ross not standing in Botany

Jami-Lee Ross has said he will not stand in the Botany election, saying he is confident of Advance NZ co-leader Billy Te Kahika winning the Te Tai Tokerau electorate (off Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis) and also confident of making the 5% threshold.

Davis (12,673 votes) beat Hone Harawira (7,866 votes) in Te Tai Tokerau in the 2017 election. While Te Kahika has built a significant following with thousands attending a protest he fronted in the weekend that is a long way from a majority in one electorate.

The composite party would probably need to get 140,000+ votes to make the 5% threshold, which is a very high hurdle for any small party let alone one with no history.

Times Online: Jami-Lee Ross not contesting Botany seat

Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross is not contesting the Botany seat in the General Election in October.

The former National front bencher who fell out spectacularly with his party and the former National Party leader Simon Bridges and is also facing Serious Fraud Office charges, told the Times he will go on Advance NZ’s party list. He is also confident Advance NZ co-leader Billy Te Kahika will win the Maori seat which would ensure they get into parliament.

Advance NZ has merged with several smaller parties which Ross likened to the successful approach adopted by Jim Anderton.

“We’re modelling it off the Alliance Party of the 1990s …several smaller parties came together as one bigger party so that they had more of an opportunity to campaign and reach parliament and they did ultimately reach parliament so that’s the model that we’re working on,” Ross said.

“It became pretty apparent that I had to make a decision – do I run a nationwide campaign? I’m effectively doing that, I’m running a campaign, I’m assisting in training and selecting and recruiting candidates.

“I’m working very closely with Billy Te Kahika (leader of the NZ Public Party, Advance NZ co-leader with Ross and Te Tai Tokerau candidate) who is a political novice but is making big inroads into things and I wouldn’t be able to do that and also give the required time necessary to run for election properly here in Botany.”

Ross said feedback he was getting suggested it would be three-way race for the Botany seat “because National’s considerably lower, Labour’s considerably higher, I’ve got a profile in Botany too so it wasn’t a foregone conclusion for anyone”.

I think if Ross actually thought he had a chance of winning Botany he wouldn’t pull out. This looks like him conceding he has no show.

“I had to make a call as to whether I could dedicate the time required to run for election in Botany properly. My strength of campaigning is also door-knocking face-to-face but you can’t do that during Covid so that’s been an interruption.”

He has been successful as a National candidate, but that was in a safe national electorate. His weakness now of face to face campaigning this election is that he has disgraced himself politically and personally.

“But in terms of contribution towards the country and the political party, I came to the view that my skills in terms of politics and campaigning were best suited to getting a new vehicle into parliament and working hard to ensure that a new political party (could get) a foothold and building off the profile and building off the following that the NZ Public Party and Advance NZ are starting to see now.”

Ross was getting nowhere with his own party so is tagging on to the cult-like popularity of Te Kahika.

Ross’ organising experience he gained when with National will help, but he is unlikely to attract many votes himself. He is really trying to enable Te Kahika.

“I know that many in the media, certainly down in parliament, write us off but on the ground, I’ve never seen a political party grow as fast as it has,” he said.

The party/parties have grown out of nothing very quickly, but that’s a long way from winning a seat or making the threshold.

“I’ve never seen the reach on social media like we’ve got in the last month. We reached 2 million people. In the last week we reached 1m people. Of course that’s not going to turn into votes entirely but that suggests to you the public are opening their eyes up to something new and something different.”

I don’t know where he gets those numbers from, but on their own they don’t mean much. I’ve been ‘reached’ on social media by several parties (not Advance NZ) but won’t be voting for more than one of them, and maybe none of them.

Ross also reckons Te Kahika could roll Kelvin Davis, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, out of the Te Tai Tokerau seat in October.

“He’s (Te Kahika) has a very good shot at winning that seat, taking it off Kelvin Davis who hasn’t really delivered anything for that area.”

It would be unprecedented in modern new politics if Te Kahika won an electorate. It’s possible, bu I think highly improbable.

It’s normal for politicians to talk up their chances to try to generate support. Many don’t come close to matching their claims.

Advance NZ – and its alliance comprising NZ Public Party, the Direct Democracy Party, the NZ People’s Party and a party called Reset New Zealand – will deliver an offering Kiwis want, said Ross.

“This movement and this party is growing so fast that I wouldn’t be surprised if we got to 5 per cent in any case. There’s a gap in the market where New Zealanders are looking for an alternative strategy to Covid-19.

Most people support what the Government has done on Covid. Some don’t, but they won’t all support a party promoting a range of conspiracy theories.

“The virus isn’t killing anywhere near as many people as we were told it would right at the start. That’s the case around the world.

That’s a nonsense claim. Models suggested possible death levels if nothing was done to restrict Covid, but I don’t know of any country did nothing. And all models I have seen show ranges of possibilities.

If New Zealand hadn’t locked down we would certainly have had far more deaths, as would have happened in many other countries.

As a country we need to learn to live with the virus. No other political party is offering a more risk-based balanced approach and so I think there’s New Zealanders opening their eyes up to that idea and that strategy so that’s where the party offers a point of difference.”

It’s ridiculous claiming Te Kahika represents “a more risk-based balanced approach”.

“We’re going to go to the election with 60 candidates, 7000 members which I’d argue is going to be bigger than other parties except maybe Labour and National.

“We’ve got tens of thousands of people who we’re reaching on social media who are volunteering as well and Billy Te Kahika is a unique phenomenon in politics and inspiring so many people. Sure, his opponents are writing him off calling him all sorts of names but what you’re seeing is someone who’s tapping into dissatisfaction with a large range of voters.”

If correct those are impressive numbers for a new party, but they are a long way from election success.

“Organisations like the World Health Organization are now telling us we need to learn to live with the virus. It’s time to be heard on a new strategy.”

It is blatant bullshit to imply that the Advance NZ approach to dealing with Covid aligns with WHO advice.

WHO have advice that is applicable to Te Kahika and Advance NZ – Mythbusters, which includes 5G Mobile networks.

Even if Advance NZ perform an electoral miracle and make it into Parliament I’m fairly sure Labour will have nothing to do with their nuttery in Government.


UPDATE: David Farrar comments on the Ross claim that Botany was a a three way race:

In no way was it a three way race. In a poll done by Curia in August 2020, Jami-Lee Ross was at 1.8%. And no that is not a typo – 1.8% not 18%.

Advance party to where?

The Advance Party may be the opposite of an advance in New Zealand politics. Their main aim seems to be to advance as many crazy conspiracy theories as possible.

But they have attracted thousands of followers, as evidenced by an anti-Covid rally in Auckland yesterday, which defied the level 2.5 restrictions currently in place in Auckland.

RNZ: Advance Party and crowd rallies against Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns

A crowd of a few thousand packed in Auckland’s Aotea Square this afternoon, at the “National Rally for Freedom”, organised by Advance Party co-leaders, Jami Lee Ross and Billy Te Kahika.

There was little social distancing and few people in the crowd wearing masks.

When the rally was finished, the large group continued its protest down Auckland’s Queen Street before returning to Aotea Square.

There were a number of police present at the rally; they refused to comment when approached by RNZ and asked whether there were any concerns about social distancing given the size of the crowd.

In a statement to RNZ later, police said with today’s event it was “possible that attempts to enforce Alert Level restrictions would have caused tension in an otherwise peaceful protest, without being effective in managing physical distancing of participants”.

That pretty much gives any protesters a green light to do what they like regardless of lockdown laws and rules.

It is disgraceful that a current Member of Parliament be blatantly behind breaking the law, but Ross has disgraced himself a number of times already so this is just another step downwards for him. His chances of being re-elected in Botany are miniscule so he seems to be hoping Te Kahika’s popularity will get him back into Parliament.

But how popular? Several thousand at a rally is a significant number, and there will be more supporters around the country, but they would need somewhere around 150,000 votes to make the 5% threshold (last election ACT got 13,075 votes for just 0.5% and Greens got 162,443 votes for 6.27%).

Even if they made history and the threshold, their influence in Parliament would likely be small. Labour would be extremely unlikely to do a coalition or confidence and supply deal with Advance NZ, and Advance NZ would be hugely hypocritical to even attempt to work with Labour.

Somme of their prominent COVID-19 Response Policy but it is laced with highly questionable claims. Their opening paragraph:

The COVID-19 virus has led nations around the world to take radical action to prevent its spread. In New Zealand, the Labour government has adopted an approach of eradication at any cost. That strategy has failed.

They are basically saying that “nations around the world” are wrong and they are right with untested claims.

The approach here hasn’t been “at any cost”, and it has been relatively successful both health-wise and economically so far.

In the false hope of eradicating the virus, we now face Labour’s Second Wave of Lockdowns. There is no end in sight for the current lockdown or for ending COVID-19 restrictions at lower levels. Labour’s plan is for years of rolling lockdowns.

I haven’t seen Labour state anything like that. Most countries including New Zealand are hoping that a vaccine will be available in the next year or so.

As new information is learned about COVID-19, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the fatality rate of the virus is considerably lower than first predicted. In the early stages of COVID-19 entering New Zealand, fear spread with many believing mass deaths would take place.

First predictions were widely variable based on limited information and based on a range of approaches.

Predictions where that doing nothing to limit Covid, as Advance NZ seem to be promoting, would likely

Initial predictions of death have not materialised around the world, and COVID-19’s  case fatality rate is not unlike that of seasonal influenza. Flu or colds have never been eradicated, and attempts to do so have proved futile. The WHO and GAVI are predicting a similar situation for COVID-19, and it looks like we will have to learn to live with it and find ways to protect our most vulnerable without shutting down society.  (https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/could-covid-19-ever-be-eradicated)

That’s an odd claim considering what is prominent on the gavi.org home page:

#VaccinesWork

Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective health investments in history with wider benefits that accrue across a lifetime.

Keep informed about the latest topics in global health, including top stories related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Also from Gavi: How COVID–19 is leading to famine and a ‘hunger pandemic’

COVID-19 has infected more than 27 million people, killing nearly 900,000 of them. As well as this devastating impact on people’s lives and health, there has been significant collateral damage from the pandemic – especially hunger and malnutrition, putting the lives of millions more at risk.

10 September 2020

That seems to be the opposite of what Advance NZ claim and promote. They also claim:

The reasonable question to ask now is – what long -term economic, social, and health costs will New Zealanders face…

That is a reasonable question to ask….

…in a futile effort to eradicate COVID-19 – a virus we now know we can manage as a nation without losing considerable freedoms?

…but it is followed by a claim that they can’t know. They don’t cite any examples anywhere in the world where Covid has been managed without losing any freedoms.

From their Policy in Brief:

Implement a risk-based approach where vulnerable citizens are protected and supported, but all others are free to continue daily life.

By segregating ‘vulnerable citizens’ from ‘all others’? That doesn’t sound like freedom for either group.

Their website tries to sound reasonable and considered but is littered with highly questionable claims and has major flaws in thinking.

Advance NZ is unlikely to make the MMP cut, and even if they did they would unlikely have much if any influence on policy.

But by promoting defiance of lockdown rules they are actually putting the rest of us at risk of more spread of Covid, and more lockdowns.

The fringe popularity of Bill Te Kahika

It seemed a bit odd that when Jami-Lee Ross joined his party with a virtually unknown fringe party and conceded leadership to a dude called Bill Te Kahika, but it turns out that Te Kahika is a lot more popular than Ross (this shouldn’t really be a surprise given the place Ross is in).

The allied parties aren’t likely to get close to the 5% threshold (the threshold imposed by large parties is one of MP’s biggest flaws), and there seems to be close to no chance of Ross retaining the Botany electorate, but could Te Kahika shake up the Te Tai Tokerau electorate?

If he and maybe one or two others made it into Parliament I don’t think there’s any chance either Labour or National would do any sort of governing deal with them (which would allow them to hold the balance of power), but they would be an interesting addition to the mix in Parliament.

Charlie Mitchell (Stuff): The conspiracists’ election: How the farthest fringes of politics are making a play for the centre

Billy Te Kahika is nearly 40 minutes into a two-hour monologue, delivered like a sermon and streamed live on his personal Facebook page.

It is May 17, shortly after New Zealand entered alert level two restrictions. Te Kahika, a 47-year-old businessman and musician, is sitting at a table at his home in Northland, with a pile of hand-written notes scattered in front of him.

Over the course of the video, Te Kahika lays out a theory. It interweaves the Hegelian dialectic, the origins of communism and fascism, satanism, geoengineering, and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic into a sinister global plot to control the population.

To me some of their policies are crazy, but if they get enough votes they will have deserved representation.

Te Kahika is even-tempered and eloquent. He speaks calmly, sprinkling te reo into his speech. He often interrupts himself to say what he’s talking about is not a conspiracy, but a fact.

It came out of leftfield. Before the pandemic, Te Kahika’s Facebook page was free of politics. It primarily documented his career as a guitarist, following in the footsteps of his father, the pioneering musician Billy TK.

His posts started to become politically tinged in late March, in the early days of level four restrictions. Like everyone else, Te Kahika was in self-isolation with his family, which meant he had his days free to research issues online.

Much of this research veered towards fringe ideas, circulated on Facebook and YouTube. His political posts became regular, and increasingly incorporated information from the emerging ecosystem of conspiracy theories related to the pandemic, typically centring on unsubstantiated or outright false claims.

It culminated in his live broadcast, which merged these ideas into a unified theory: That the pandemic had been planned, and the New Zealand Government was at the forefront of a global push to enslave the population.

The video was intended for his Facebook friends, but it spread much wider. Within a week, it had been seen nearly 30,000 times. In the days afterward, Te Kahika continued his live broadcasts, which drew thousands of views each.

In modern politics you have to be outlandish to get noticed. Attempts at starting up moderate modest parties get ignored.

Three weeks after his first video, Te Kahika launched the New Zealand Public Party (NZPP) at Auckland’s Akarana Yacht Club. From there, he took his theory on the road – At an event in Christchurch on July 11, a month to the day after he announced the party, Te Kahika drew a raucous crowd of 500 in Christchurch. A few days earlier, he had spoken to a similarly-sized crowd in Tauranga.

He leveraged his growing influence in conspiracy theory circles internationally, with a long-form interview with Pete Evans, the Australian chef and conspiracy theorist. Perhaps the world’s most notorious conspiracy theorist, David Icke, has shared Te Kahika’s content on social media.

Just seven weeks after it started, the party launched its campaign at the Logan Campbell Centre in Auckland. Thousands of people cheered for Billy Te Kahika, and the hope that he represented. By merging with Advance NZ, the political vehicle for Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross, the NZPP could officially contest the upcoming election (the party had formed too late to officially register).

“The momentum that we’ve got now… New Zealand politics hasn’t seen anything like it, and that’s a fact,” Te Kahika told Stuff this week.

The party’s Facebook page, not yet two months old, already has 20,000 followers, more than the ACT party, which has been online for nine years. Content on the NZPP’s Facebook page is getting engagement levels similar to that of the National Party.

Like them or not they are likely to play a significant part in the election. At least they seem to have popular support that isn’t bought by big money backed parties such as the Colin Craig, Kim Dotcom and Gareth Morgan parties.

With the fading away of small parties in Parliament there was always going to be opportunities for someone with social media savvy to make a bit of a mark.

The stuff article has a detailed look at their policies and conspiracies and their chances.

Jami-Lee Ross – valedictory interview

Jami-Lee Ross gave what may have been effectively a valedictory interview with RNZ yesterday. He has effectively conceded his proposed Advance NZ party is struggling by joining with a conspiracy based party .

He very slim chances of being re-elected must now be even more unlikely.

Ross was selected as a candidate for the safe National electorate of Botany in 2011 and gradually rose through the ranks the become senior Whip in 2017, and was re-elected then with a majority of 12,839 votes.

But a year later, in October 2018 his political career crashed and burned. Ross turned on National and became an independent MP. Allegations were made by MP Sarah Dowie and by electorate staff that Ross had bullied them.

Last year the serious Fraud office announced that Ross was one of four people being investigated for donation fraud, and he was charged in January this year (the trial won’t be until next year).

There’s a summary here.

His problems have continued as an independent MP.

February 2020 (Newsroom): New allegations surround MP Jami-Lee Ross and Ross’ ‘toxic’ office problems raised in June

21 July 2020: ‘Go back into a room with a predator? No thank you’

Despite this Ross has been working towards trying to get re-elected – May 2020 (1 News): Jami-Lee Ross announces own political party for 2020 election

Mr Ross announced Advance NZ in a Facebook post last night, saying it’ll focus on the freedom and sovereignty of New Zealanders and creating a new economic plan to get Kiwis through a post Covid-19 world.

Advance NZ wants to see a democratic country that has brave voices in the middle that speak truth to power. People that stand up for freedom, sovereignty and independence.”

26 July (The Spinoff): Jami-Lee Ross, Billy Te Kahika and the rebel alliance of Election 2020

Can the conspiracy theories of social media be coalesced into a party that makes parliament under MMP?

It hardly needs saying that the views of Te Kahika – and evidently shared by the crowd – go against official scientific advice. In fact, it might even be fair to say that they don’t believe official scientific advice precisely because of who the messengers are. They have no trust in the government, international institutions like the World Health Organisation or the United Nations, or billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates.

There were attacks on Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who had spent time at the WHO. “Anyone who does any length of time at an organisation like that is going to be fully indoctrinated.” There were enthusiastic boos for the “fully groomed globalist” Jacinda Ardern. “Her story speaks like the perfect history of a prime minister who will betray our people.”

It was Agenda 21. It was anti-vaxxing. It was 5G. It was people being forced out of the provinces to live in “technocratic high-rise cities”. It was all on the way, said Te Kahika, and he was the only one who could

…But for the people who turned out, it had been a thrilling day, and they left upbeat. They had come from all parts of the North Island. And over the next weeks, they’ll take that message out far and wide, and in the process probably reach people totally unreachable by other forms of politics and messaging. The results of that could be unlike anything New Zealand has ever seen before.

RNZ: Jami-Lee Ross launches Advance New Zealand party

Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross has merged his Advance New Zealand party with the Public Party, in the hope its leader will win the seat of Te Tai Tokerau.

That looks like Ross is conceding he has no hope of retaining his Botany seat, and probably also indicates he has been unable to get the 500 members required to register a party.

The Botany MP will co-lead the new party with Billy Te Kahika, who will stand in Te Tai Tokerau.

But there must be close to no chance of Te Kahika winning Te Tai Tokerau.

If he wins it, Ross would make it back into Parliament as a list MP under the coat-tail rule, even if he lost Botany.

Ross said Advance New Zealand would suspend the free trade agreement between New Zealand and China within its first three months and would support Hong Kong and Taiwan in seeking independence.

So a politically toxic MP facing SFO charges who has failed to get a credible party going has joined with a party with even less credibility, best known for it’s support of conspiracy theories, including that Covid-19 is a world order plot.

In what may be virtually a farewell interview yesterday Ross kept refusing to distance himself from the Covid conspiracy.

Ross: “I think there are New Zealanders out there who feel we have lost a lot of rights and freedoms to this Covid-19 issue and there’s questions that are being asked.”

Dann: “But do you believe that it is a bioweapon, man-made, being used against people?”

Ross: “Covid-19 is a real virus and it is impacting people around the world. We have in the situation in New Zealand that we no longer have that virus.”

Dann: “Is it a man-made virus that is being used as a bioweapon to undermine our democracy? I just want an answer on that question.”

Ross: “Covid-19 is a virus that has been in New Zealand and we have lost a lot of rights.”

Dann: “Sure, but why would you align your party with someone who believes in, frankly, ridiculous conspiracy theories which are an insult to those who are working on the front lines dealing with Covid-19, to the families who have people dying – why would you align yourself with that?”

Ross: “I think its insulting to say that New Zealanders who care about rights and freedoms shouldn’t be listened to or be taken seriously at all. There are people out there who believe that we have lost a lot of rights and freedoms, who believe that our sovereignty over many many years has been eroded.”

Dann: “You’re happy to lend your name – as someone who was the chief whip of National Party – to the Public Party and its policies, be it their scepticism around 5G, 1080, fluoridation, anti-vaxxers – you’re happy to lend your name to that?”

Ross: “When you have been involved in one of those big political parties you see how much of a cult they are and you see how much of a big problem just blindly following what the big political parties are. There’s an opportunity for small parties unite together and challenge the status quo. That’s what this alliance is about… I think there’s going to be some real momentum here.”

Full transcript and audio: Jami-Lee Ross faces Covid-19, China questions after new Advance NZ party alliance

But the chances of joining forces with other small parties doesn’t look great.

From The Spinoff Bulletin:

A quick point about the ‘alliance’ nature of the Advance NZ/NZ Public Party merger: On stage yesterday, Ross reeled off a long string of parties outside parliament, saying they’d still be welcome to join up.

Since then, people in the leadership teams of the Opportunities Party, Outdoors Party, New Conservative and Social Credit (the largest four parties listed by Ross) have all confirmed to me that they’ll be doing nothing of the sort.

Ross and his new party alliance may get a few supporters online but they are likely to need a lot more than that to come anywhere near close to getting into Parliament.