Large lead for Labour candidate in Auckland Central

Auckland Central is the electorate where Nikki Kaye beat Jacinda Ardern twice after defeating Judith Tizzard in 2008.

Kaye is stepping down. A poll from Newshub/Reid Research Labour candidate Helen White, who lost to Kaye last election, well in front, with National’s late selection Emma Mellow 16% behind, closely followed by Green MP Chloe Swarbrick.

  • Helen White (LAB) 42.3%
  • Emma Mellow (NAT) 26.6%
  • Chloe Swarbrick (GRN) 24.2%
  • Jenny Marcroft (NZF) 2.2%
  • Tuariki Delamere (TOP) 1%
  • Felix Poole (ACT) 0.9%
  • David Seymour 1.9%
  • Other 0.9%

But: 20.7% of voters still undecided

That’s a different David Seymour.

Jenny Marcroft has effectively been dumped by NZ First, being dropped to 17 on their party list.

For the new poll, Reid Research interviewed 532 people in the Auckland Central electorate via landline, mobile, online and on the street in the first and second weeks of September. The results were weighted to match the electorate’s demographics. The margin of error is 4.2 percent.

That’s a small sample size.

And here are the single electorate party results:

Party votes for Auckland Central in the 2017 election:

  • National 39.15%
  • Labour 37.71%
  • Greens 13.87%
  • NZ First 3.87%
  • TOP: 3.14%
  • ACT 1.05%

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auckland_Central_(New_Zealand_electorate)

The current result looks roughly in line with recent poll trends based on the last election spread.

Newshub: Auckland Central poll puts Labour’s Helen White way out in front

Jacinda Ardern rules out electorate deals for NZ First, Greens

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has pretty much ruled out doing anything to help Shane Jones win Northland to save NZ First from being dumped (unless they can turn around slumping party support), and has also ruled out helping Green MP Chloe Swarbrick in the Auckland Central electorate.

A Colmar Brunton poll shows that Jones is a way off the pace in Northland, getting less than half the support of both the National and Labour candidates.

In 2015 Labour helped Winston Peters win Northland in a by election, but he lost it in the 2017 general election.

1 News: Jacinda Ardern shuts down idea of deal with NZ First for Northland seat

A deal between New Zealand First and Labour for the Northland seat is not “on the table”, says Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, despite Shane Jones’ poor poll results over the weekend.

“The suggestion that we do a deal implies there’s been a conversation … it’s just not something that’s on the table for either parties,” Ms Ardern told TVNZ 1’s Breakfast.

“At this point, and as I’ve said many times before, we’re campaigning for Labour in that seat.”

She says Ms Prime has “consistently” had her full support.

“Our view is that we need to keep working really hard on that seat.

That’s a clear public signal that Labour won’t help NZ First there.

In response to the poll, Mr Jones told TVNZ 1’s Q+A he needed to get the “political jackhammer” out, with his message to Northlanders that if they wanted to get NZ First back into Parliament they should vote for him or the party.

Jones seems to have accepted the poll result and concedes he has an uphill battle. He is regarded as a poor campaigner and has not won several attempts to win an electorate. He stood in Whangarei last election, coming a close third just behind the Labour candidate but both were 11,000 votes behind National’s Shane Reti.

So with no help from Labour, at this stage things are looking grim for NZ First.

And Greens are not getting any help in Auckland Central.

Stuff: Jacinda Ardern doesn’t think Chlöe Swarbrick will win Auckland Central from National

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern doesn’t think the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick will win the Auckland Central seat.

Ardern, who previously stood and lost twice in the seat against National’s Nikki Kaye, told RNZ this morning she thought a Swarbrick victory was unlikely.

“The idea that the candidate that would be polling third should suddenly catapult up I just don’t think is keeping in mind the voting habits of that particular seat,” Ardern said.

That suggests Labour have been polling there, I haven’t seen any public polling for Auckland Central.

With the Greens hovering around the 5 per cent threshold, there had been some speculation Labour would do a deal with the party to keep it in Parliament.

Swarbrick herself poured water on this, telling RNZ, “we haven’t sought out a deal”.

“If we’re going to win this we’re going to win it the old-fashioned way,” Swarbrick said.

Ardern reiterated there would be no deal.

“Our view of course is we take the running in seats very seriously, we want to make sure we give our Labour voters and supporters the choice to vote for their Labour candidate on the ground.”

So Labour are doing what makes sense, going all out for as many seats and as many party votes as they can get.

There’s a real chance they will be the first party under MMP to get a majority on their own.

If Greens survive I think Labour would still include them in Government but if Labour has a majority Greens would be weak and used by Labour.

So the election is shaping up to be Labour or Labour + Greens versus National + ACT.

Green flip-flop on waka jumping riles NZ First

There may be a bit of payback with the Green party support of a National MP bill repealing the waka jumping bill that they supported in 2018 due to ‘honouring the coalition agreement’.

NZ First aren’t happy, saying the Greens can’t be trusted, but there’s a large dollop of pot calling kettle black there.

NZ First and Labour made a commitment in their coalition agreement:

Introduce and pass a ‘Waka Jumping’ Bill.

From the Labour-Green agreement:

Both parties to this agreement recognise that Labour will be working with other parties both in terms of coalitions and confidence and supply arrangements.

Labour agrees that it will not enter into any other relationship agreement which is inconsistent with this agreement and the Green Party and Labour agree that they will each act in good faith to allow all such agreements to be complied with.

Because of this Greens voted for the bill in 2018 despite opposing it. But they are now supporting a repeal of the members’ bill currently before Parliament – ELECTORAL (INTEGRITY REPEAL) AMENDMENT BILL

Rt Hon DAVID CARTER (National):

I haven’t canvassed other political parties, and I acknowledge that Labour advanced the legislation I’m attempting to repeal early in 2018, but I’m certainly hoping all members will give careful consideration to this bill, because this bill attempts to actually put integrity back into our electoral system. It’s about improving the integrity of our system.

To become a member of Parliament isn’t easy, and having got here, whether you come as an Independent—which is a very fraught way—or you come as a member of Parliament, you come with a conscience. You come with a responsibility to form an opinion on issues and to speak with your conscience, if you’re a list MP, or, if you’re an electorate MP, to speak with a conscience that represents the people that elected you to this House. Though this bill is about allowing MPs to exercise that conscience, it’s about not coming to this Parliament to simply be—as some members of Parliament have described in the past—cannon fodder, or a puppet to a political party.

Now, we all know the history of this legislation that I’m attempting to change today. It was the price of the current Government—the Labour – New Zealand First – Green Government—doing a deal with New Zealand First, and I know why he needs that sort of control. History tells us.

I want to just, in conclusion, in my last couple of minutes, note for the House the number of times dissension has actually been significant and relevant to the New Zealand parliamentary process. I can think myself, long before I was here, of Marilyn Waring, in 1984. She threatened to cross the floor, and caused the well-known snap election that caused the end of the Muldoon era. Jim Anderton, a loyal member of the Labour Party, until he argued that the Labour Party had left him and his principles, so he set up The Alliance party. Dame Tariana Turia, one of the most respected members of Parliament I’ve had the privilege of working with, didn’t agree with the Labour Party. She said so, walked out, and started her own party—the Māori Party—which made a significant contribution to New Zealand’s democracy.

And Mr Peters himself, a member of the National caucus, disagreed with National, walked out, formed his own party, and no one can argue that it hasn’t been a significant contributor to New Zealand politics over that time.

So there will be robust debate around this bill. I certainly hope the Green Party will be careful with its contribution and will deliberate carefully, because I note as I read their contributions last time that they were never comfortable with being forced into the position of supporting this legislation.

Greg O’Connor and Peeni Henare both spoke, saying the Labour would oppose the bill.

Then Tracey Martin from NZ First spoke:

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First): Kia ora, Madam Speaker. I rise on behalf of New Zealand First to oppose the bill. What we are seeing, and the New Zealand public needs to understand, is this is a personal vendetta by two members who feel that they have been personally slighted some 20-odd years ago. That is what this is about. And the member’s bill ballot has finally provided them with an opportunity to take a dig.

The New Zealand First Party does not believe that this is how this House should be used, for personal vendettas. The purpose of the original bill—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: And what you hear, ladies and gentlemen, is the sense of entitlement that wafts away from Mr Carter and Mr Smith. They believe that they are elected and once they are elected, even if they choose to deny the platform upon which they were elected, that you must suffer them.

And I say to the Green Party: there is a time and a place to stand up and keep one’s word. There is a time and a place to acknowledge commitments made and stick with them, and I’ll be interested to see later tonight whether the Green Party has the integrity to vote their word, as opposed to deciding in the final days of a Parliament that they don’t need a relationship any more, going forward, that they don’t need to keep an agreement or a word given, and we will see what the Green Party does with regard to their integrity. We do not support the bill.

Chloe Swarbrick spoke for the Greens:

Everybody has stood up tonight and given pretty high and mighty speeches. There’s been a lot of talk about principle, but the fact of the matter is, is not all too many people have actually acknowledged the machinations behind the scenes here tonight, and that is politics. The Parliament of Aotearoa New Zealand is, as I think most in this House would be aware, one of the most whipped in the world. What that means is that even though we have heard some speeches from members of the Opposition about the importance of things like freedom of speech, you’ve still had a speech from one of your departing members today who spoke to the fact that they had to vote against what they felt was their conscience in coming forward with a caucus position.

There’s also the case, as was noted by members on this side of the House, the fact of the matter that we have a very tribalist system. I think all of us have seen just how ugly that can get. That adversarial system has produced some of the worst behaviour in this place. But on top of that it has resulted in some very archaic first past the post thinking, particularly in what the major parties see and characterise as safe seats. I think that’s a great example, actually, of the flaws of our present adversarial system.

There’s been a lot of talk about the Greens from speeches of both the Opposition and governing parties tonight. I think that it’s really important that we are deeply clear…

And that the Opposition doesn’t heckle me right now, because the Greens will honour our 20 year position on voting on this legislation tonight in much the same way that we honoured the coalition agreements and voting for the legislation that originally put it into place…

So, maybe politics would be a whole lot better if politicians stop talking about themselves as we are tonight. If politicians want a code of conduct, as we’re talking about, and how we treat each other, particularly within our parties, then perhaps we could best start by all signing up to the recommendations of the Francis review. The Greens commend this bill to the House.

A party vote was called for on the question,That the Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill be read a first time.

Ayes 64

New Zealand National 54; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8; ACT New Zealand 1; Ross.

Noes 55

New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9.

Bill read a first time.

Outside of Parliament it was leaders James Shaw and Winston Peters clashing.

Just over two years ago Parliament passed the controversial waka-jumping legislation after the Green Party voted in favour of something they’d spent decades opposing.

RNZ: James Shaw and Winston Peters go head to head over waka-jumping

The Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill was born out of the Labour-New Zealand First coalition deal.

It requires MPs who quit, or are expelled from a political party, to leave Parliament then and there.

The Greens hate the bill and think it is anti-democratic and draconian but co-leader James Shaw begrudgingly gave his party’s support to it in 2018.

In a complete reversal, the Greens last night threw their support behind a bill to repeal it, enraging New Zealand First.

There may be some utu in this as well as the greens going back to their principles – NZ First have not honoured their coalition agreement in opposing Green policies.

New Zealand First has a track record of pulling support for Labour-Green policies at the eleventh hour.

There’s been the capital gains tax, cameras on fishing boats, and more recently light rail from Auckland city to the airport.

Peters said comparisons can’t be drawn between light rail and waka-jumping.

“We did the work on light rail, the costings and the analysis did not back it up.”

He said the Greens’ were breaking their end of the deal.

“They’re signed up to the coalition agreement on this matter for three years and that term does not end until the 19th of September.”

Peters said the Greens can’t be trusted and voters should remember that on election day.

Polls suggest voters trust NZ First (and Peters in particular) less than the Greens.

Shaw rejected that criticism.

“I think it’s a bit rich for Winston to suggest that we’re not trustworthy when in fact they’re the ones who have been entirely slippery with the interpretation of our confidence and supply agreement.”

Shaw said his party is fed up with New Zealand First not sticking to the spirit of an agreement.

“I would say that in recent times we have learned that it’s the letter of the agreement, rather than the spirit of the agreement, that’s what counts when it comes to New Zealand First.

“So when it comes to the repeal of the party-hopping bill I would say that we have observed exactly the letter of our agreement.”

So is he just playing the same political games as Peters?

“Well I learn from the master,” Shaw fired back.

Both parties are fighting for their political lives. Greens are polling just over the threshold, NZ First well under. Having spats like this may raise their profiles but it probably won’t raise their chances of surviving the election.

Labour won’t do a deal with ‘celebrity’ Green

Labour refusing to help Green candidate Chloe Swarbrick in Auckland Central could be grim for NZ First, who need to have a deal to have any chance in Northland.

Now Niki Kaye has withdrawn from contention in the Auckland Central electorate it is up for grabs. National haven’t named a replacement candidate yet, but leaving the seat open to discussion about whether Labour and Greens will do some sort of a deal. If Swarbrick wins the seat her party won’t have to make the 5% threshold to get back into Parliament, but Labour are openly unwilling to help.

RNZ: Labour rules out deal with Greens in Nikki Kaye’s seat

Labour is adamant it won’t be doing a deal with the Greens in the Auckland Central electorate.

Labour Party’s candidate Helen White will be going up against Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick, who is campaigning for both the party and electorate vote.

White said National won the seat in 2017 by just 1500 votes over Labour.

“The vote was so close for Labour, it just isn’t in the same league with regard to the gap that the Greens would have to move,” she said.

Given that, White said she was sizing up National as her main opponent in the seat.

The Greens are polling at about five or six percent, right on the threshold for getting back into parliament.

But regardless of that, White said she wouldn’t be making way for Swarbrick in Auckland Central.

“I actually think the Greens will be fine, they’ve got a solid base and obviously Chlöe is way up on that list, so people will firmly expect to see Chlöe in parliament.”

Asked what she would say to people who pointed out Swarbrick’s higher profile and name recognition, White said: “I’d ask them whether they’re looking for a celebrity or someone to do this job very seriously.”

At a campaign event in Auckland last night, Labour’s national campaign manager Hayden Munro told the crowd the party could not afford to split the progressive vote in the seat.

But if Labour aren’t going to help Swarbrick, or vice versa as some arrogant Labour supporters have insisted should happen, the left wing vote will be split between White and Swarbrick.

Labour will be very keen to take Auckland Central back now Kaye is out of the picture, but as long as the Greens get 5% or more (as I think is likely) then who wins Auckland Central won’t matter, as the party vote is what matters.

Labour refusing to do a deal in Auckland Central has greater implications for NZ First, who are polling well under the threshold.

If Labour don’t do a deal to help Swarbrick then they can’t credibly do a deal to help Shane Jones in Northland. And if Jones loses there (he has never won an electorate), and if NZ First fail to make 5%, they are out of Parliament.

And the old dog Winston Peters seems to have lost his political teeth.

Stuff – Winston Peters: old dog, same tricks but no bite

The NZ First leader is fighting for survival, afraid that he’s about to be tossed out of the toxic swamp of Parliament.

And as his time in the Beehive peters out, he shows no sign of changing. But the old dog’s teeth are no longer sharp.

As he awaits the outcome of a Serious Fraud Office investigation following revelations about the secretive NZ First Foundation, Peters has watched his party’s polling dwindle to around 2 per cent.

He’s been here before. But while pundits were previously reluctant to write off Peters, his tricks just now seem as old and tired as Lazarus himself.

His campaign launch last weekend failed to showcase any new ideas.

No-one buys the schtick of baiting his Government partners any more. In a sense, he’s the victim of his own chaotic tactics. Self-preservation kept him in the Labour-NZF-Greens alliance – destabilising a leader as popular as Ardern would almost certainly have finished him.

But having gone the distance with the Greens, attacking them to kick off a campaign is just meaningless political rhetoric.

His other stock tactic of distraction also failed him last week.

Facing scrutiny about a taxpayer-funded trip to Antarctica for two wealthy mates, Peters cooked up a story about who’d leaked his private pension details.

It was the latest half-cocked claim in a saga that has already cost him $320,000 in High Court costs. He’s got a long history of making unproven allegations under the shelter of parliamentary privilege, while those he accused have no way to defend themselves.

Peters can only win if voters see only his crafted image and ignore the reality of who he really is.

But once the tricks become obvious – when the threadbare curtain concealing him is pulled back – the show man can no longer pass himself off as the Wizard of Oz.

Peters is looking jaded and out of ideas.

His stymieing of a $100m rescue package for Southland, as the region reels from the likely closure of the Tiwai smelter, was cruelly cynical.

Peters was in Southland on Friday making ludicrous suggestions that management or employees buy the smelter, as there is not chance of a Government buyout he had previously suggested.

So Peters was pushing policy that he has no support for from other parties, so has no chance of succeeding with. Voters are likely to see through his promises, which are as lacking in credibility as his accusations in Parliament.

Jones also looks like he has lost already. He must have got the message from Labour that they aren’t going to help him in Northland.

Contrasting Green candidates, and Labour anxiety over Auckland Central

Labour seem to be on the back foot over Auckland Central, going by some of their reactions.

Different views from party activists at The Standard:

Weka: Chloe Swarbrick should stand strong in Auckland Central

Having two strong left wing women standing in an electorate is great for women, the left and New Zealand. It may also help us move away from macho politics towards both/and politics.

Te Reo Putake: Auckland Central; Should Chloe Swarbrick Stand Aside?

The Auckland Central electorate will elect a new MP in September. The Greens have a responsibility to make sure it’s the Labour candidate.

That’s typical Labour entitlement. It was a sullen post by TRP, and he reacted with threats and then attacks to being called on aspects of it. It started here, and then the inevitable.

[Piss off, Pete. You’ve used Cindy as a misogynist insult and I don’t recall you ever stopping commenters at your own blog, Yawn NZ, doing the same, nor, as far as I know do you correct them when they call Labour socialist or communist. No more comments from you until you grow up. TRP]

As regulars here will know that’s blatantly false. And he childishly and gutlessly stopped any right of response.

Looks like some in Labour under pressure. Election campaigns can bring out the worst in partisan hacks.

And a Green hack applauded TRP’s nonsense:

Thank you, TRP, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Have you followed his blog?

Not so much a chamber of echoes, more a ping-pong ball.

Believe it or not Robert is an elected Green politician.

Meanwhile in Dunedin where Greens used to be very well supported (due to Metiria Turei):

Media and Chloe Swarbrick versus Nikki Kaye

Chloe Swarbrick’s political fortunes have been helped a lot by media giving her a lot of free promotion, from when Swarbrick stood for the Auckland mayoralty.

Newshub seem to be doing her a favour here.

On top of the campaign boost this publicity gives Swarbrick, the choice of photos looks to favour Swarbrick over Kaye.

But beating Kaye in Auckland Central won’t be easy. Jacinda Ardern twice lost to Kaye there before switching to the safe for Labour ex-Helen Clark held Mt Albert electorate.

The seat has been held by National deputy leader Nikki Kaye since 2008, during which time she’s seen off challenges from future Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Greens’ own Denise Roche.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll had the Greens on 5.5 percent, in danger of falling below the 5 percent threshold required to get into Parliament without winning an electorate – which the Greens have only done once before, in 1999.

“The Greens have always been underdogs who defied the odds, fighting for every inch of political ground,” said Swarbrick, the youngest MP currently in the House and the party’s number three behind leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw.

“I’m bringing that fight to Auckland Central.”

The seat has been held by National deputy leader Nikki Kaye since 2008, during which time she’s seen off challenges from future Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Greens’ own Denise Roche.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll had the Greens on 5.5 percent, in danger of falling below the 5 percent threshold required to get into Parliament without winning an electorate – which the Greens have only done once before, in 1999.

“The Greens have always been underdogs who defied the odds, fighting for every inch of political ground,” said Swarbrick, the youngest MP currently in the House and the party’s number three behind leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw.

“I’m bringing that fight to Auckland Central.”

Labour is running Helen White, who only narrowly lost to Kaye in 2017. If she fails to win, it’s unlikely she’ll make it into Parliament, ranked just 50th on Labour’s list, so isn’t expected to roll over and let Swarbrick take the seat.

There is a risk Swarbrick’s push for electorate votes ends up splitting the left vote, allowing Kaye to come through the middle.

It will be interesting to see how Labour handles this.

The Spinoff: In it to win it: Chlöe Swarbrick’s run for Auckland Central

In the 2020 election, first term MP Chlöe Swarbrick will be one of just two Greens explicitly running to win an electorate.

That’s a very Swarbrick-centric article.

Kaye is likely to fight hard again, but she may have to contend with media promotion of Swarbrick this time.

But will Auckland Central voters buy the Green approach with the significant economic impact of Covid hovering over the campaign?

 

Pervading judgment of same-sex affection

Sad that she feels judged for showing same-sex affection in public.

It’s a big thing for Chlöe to say this publicly. While much of the response was supportive, it was inevitable that some took swipes at her.

Ironically @RantySeniors describes themselves: “We love Sun Wine Food Politics and Interesting People”.

Unfortunately humans are often judgemental, and not just on same-sex issues.

This can be magnified for politicians who are in the public glare, especially when political intolerance is added to something like same-sex intolerance.

Chlöe Swarbrick on the cannabis referendum (Q&A)

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick was interviewed on Q&A last night on the cannabis referendum. (National’s Paula Bennett refused to take part alongside Swarbrick – see Bennett refuses to appear alongside Swarbrick in cannabis discussion).

Leaked Cabinet paper on cannabis referendum ‘out of date’

A Cabinet Paper detailing cannabis law reform referendum options has been leaked to the National Party (who insist on misnaming the drug) just before the issue will be considered by Cabinet, but Green MP Chloe Swarbrick says that it is out of date.

National: Cabinet Paper shows NZ not ready for (cannabis) referendum

A Cabinet Paper leaked to National which will be considered by the Government tomorrow shows New Zealand will head into the recreational marijuana referendum with many unanswered questions, National’s Drug Reform spokesperson Paula Bennett says.

“Cabinet will tomorrow consider four different options for the referendum but no matter which option it choses, there are huge holes.

“The Cabinet Paper is clear that smoking marijuana when you’re under the age of 25 is detrimental for development of the brain, and yet it recommends that the legal age should be 20. The legal age seems to have been plucked out of thin air.

“The paper acknowledges that regular marijuana use increases the risk of developing depression, psychosis and schizophrenia and is especially harmful to those under 25-years-old. It also acknowledges that there is a one in six chance of young people becoming dependent. This would result in further demand for mental health services.

“Only one of the options being considered will give New Zealanders some certainty about what they’re voting for – the other options will mean a huge lack of information.

“Every option takes us straight to legalisation instead of decriminalisation. Many other countries consider decriminalisation first before leaping straight to legalisation.

“National understands that as usual with this Government, the coalition has been unable to reach a consensus and the decision around which option they will choose has been holding up the process.

“The problem with that is there isn’t time for yet more coalition disagreements on an issue this important.”

The 2020 Cannabis Referendum proposals outline four options including;

  • A general question consistent with the undertaking in the Confidence and Supply agreement: “Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis?” This would not be accompanied by any legal framework or other policy decisions and it would be left to a subsequent Parliament to determine what to do in the event of a ‘yes’ vote.
  • A questions referring to a specific policy framework document setting out the basic principles of what legalisation for personal use of recreational cannabis in New Zealand would entail: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with [published policy document]?” A ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact law changes consistent with that policy document;
  • A question referring to draft legislation that outlines the regulatory model for cannabis: ‘Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis in accordance with [published draft legislation]?” Similar to option 2, a ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact the legislation.
  • A question referring to legislation already enacted but conditional on an affirmative vote on the referendum: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with the [Drug Reform] Act 20XX?” A ‘yes’ vote would trigger the legislation coming into effect.

A leak of a Cabinet paper is rare and serious, and national are playing it hard.

Paula Bennett has been invited a number of times to work together with Government parties on cannabis law reform, but National has chosen to try to spoil and disrupt the issue as much as possible, in this case aided by a leak.

It’s very disappointing if Cabinet are seriously considering any but the last of the above options.

It’s also disappointing to see National trying to make a mess of the issue. Paula Bennett has handled this appallingly, presumably with the approval of Simon Bridges.

Labour, NZ First and National are all at risk of letting the majority of New Zealanders who support cannabis law reform down by playing petty politics and possible trying to get out of fronting up properly on this issue.

If Labour yet again fails on a key policy due to not getting NZ First support, and if National mess things up by not working positively on this, then they will piss a lot of people off.

Bennett takes pot shots at cannabis debate

Paula Bennett has launched into her new role as National’s spokesperson on drug reform with a lot of gusto and questionable assertions – put another way, with bullshit bluster.

Claire Trevett (NZH): National’s Paula Bennett takes on Big Pot

Bennett’s job is to appease the conservative base in National while trying to look as if the party is being constructive about the issue of liberalising cannabis laws.

Bennett announced she was undecided on the matter and a realist rather than “a prude”.

She has not led a sheltered life and can not be dismissed as an arch-conservative on this issue, although her initial comments might look that way. There are political reasons for that.

The issue feeds in nicely to the law and order narrative National is pushing, and the hope voters will decide the Government is distracted by social reforms and punish Labour accordingly.

Judging from Bennett’s beginning, National is likely to continue to beat the drum against liberalisation.

It is ripe for a bit of scaremongering and Bennett was up for the job.

She said she had many questions and her own vote would depend on the regime wrapped around any reforms.

She had many answers too which indicated she may well not be undecided.

She warned of the downfall of decent society as we know it should marijuana be decriminalised. Not a crevice of New Zealand would be weed-free.

She predicted that in 30 years time, those who voted to decriminalise in 2020 would be apologising to their children.

Weed iceblocks would be there right in the supermarket chiller next to those delicious Kapiti plum ice creams. Children would be buying dollar mixes of electric puha lollies. Mr Whippy would become Mr Ganja.

Russell Brown, an authority on drug issues, took issue with Bennett.

I can’t help but note that both of the above claims are well-worn Bob McCoskrie talking points. Does National really want to go *there*?

Going by Bennett’s opening pot shots it appears that it is a deliberate strategy by her and National.

And finally for now: if you don’t want kiddy cannabis lollies, propose that we follow all the other jurisdictions that prohibit them. We’re not fucking helpless here. Parliament will define exactly how this works.

Chloe Swarbrick also takes issue with Bennett’s bullshit bluster. Stuff: Chloe Swarbrick accuses Paula Bennett of ‘cynical politics’ over drug debate

When asked by host Hayley Holt if the ‘War on Drugs’ was working, National’s deputy leader said it wasn’t.

“Oh goodness, it can’t be. We see too many people addicted, too many ruined lives, too much of it in our streets, from meth to synthetics and others.”

Bennett called herself “relatively open minded” to drug reform and potential marijuana legalisation, but said there were still many more questions to be answered.

If she is open minded it doesn’t show. It looks like she has a deliberate anti-reform agenda in mind.

“It scares me and it should. I’ve got kids I don’t want people dating people who are addicted.”

Bennett said she was concerned that legalisation would mean more companies marketing towards children in the same way that alcopops or RTDs appealed to younger drinkers.

“Where it has been legalised, there has been a huge increase in the number of people under the age of 18 who have taken marijuana and there is evidence that it can fry little brain cells when you’re younger. That is of concern to me.”

Swarbrick agreed that there were concerns that were being addressed, and they were being debated openly.

Swarbrick challenged Bennett, asking what evidence the National MP was referring to. Bennett said that the lack of evidence was part of the problem, because it had been on the market for such short time, but claimed that in Canada and the eight US states where cannabis has been legalised, there had been a six per cent increase in car crashes and “more young people showing up to emergency departments with drug issues.”

Swarbrick accused Bennett of relying on the “thoroughly debunked” Rocky Mountain report. She was referring to a 2017 report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a US government funded drug prohibition enforcement program in Colorado.

The report was widely criticised for inaccuracies and bias. Forbes labelled the report “dishonest.” In one instance, the report included a column chart showing a dramatic increase in “marijuana-related emergency department visits” between 2012 and 2013 when the legislation took effect, even though the report’s own footnotes noted that “2011 and 2012 emergency department data reflects [sic] incomplete reporting statewide. Inferences concerning trends, including 2011 and 2012, should not be made.”

Swarbrick said the use of that report “seems a lot like a bit of a cynical political move that belittles and degrades the tone of the debate”.

More than a bit of cynical politics from Bennett.

Bennett said Swarbrick was being “passive aggressive and “trying to put me down,” but said she’s “been in politics for far too long to jump at that one”.

That’s a ridiculous and worrying retort from Bennett. She wasn’t being put down, her bullshit and unreliable sources were challenged with facts.

As I have already said, this is a very disappointing move by Bridges, National and Bennett. They have cynically decided to disrupt the drug debate for political purposes – but I think they will lose support with this approach. I for one am moving further from voting National than I have been for a decade.