Morgan/TOP touring the south

Gareth Morgan has begun his second tour of the country in his campaign for The Opportunities Party, starting in the south.

I saw him in Dunedin last night – he comes across as very well informed, passionate,  and determined to make a difference.

This is in contrast to my impression of Winston Peters (last year) and Andrew Little (earlier this year) who played to their faithful with slogan laden speeches. Morgan sounded original and was interesting right through his presentation.

On Monday: Southlanders voice their concerns at public meeting with Gareth Morgan

Mental health, the economy, environmental issues and poverty were among the concerns raised by Southlanders at an Opportunities Party meeting on Monday night.

About 100 people were at the meeting, led by party leader Gareth Morgan, and held at CentreStage in Invercargill.

Morgan said the newly founded party aimed to turn around concerns with its radical policies, and make the best of the people, economy and resources in New Zealand.

It was the second trip to Invercargill for Morgan and his team, who have been touring the country.

With New Zealand having one of the highest rates of teenage suicide, the Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) and thriving families policy would be the first step to smoothing the path to adulthood, Morgan said.

“That’s [rates of youth suicide] pretty bad. It’s just one indicator that things aren’t great,” he said.

The aim of the party was to “persuade the government to make all boats lift” and make progress as a nation, he said.

Tuesday night in Queenstown Morgan targets inequality:

Speaking at a public meeting in Queenstown last night, The Opportunities Party (Top) founder outlined sweeping economic and social reforms for tackling what he said were growing income disparities among New Zealanders.

The audience of about 50 people, ranging in age from pensioners to a toddler, were told the economy appeared to be doing ”reasonably well” on the surface.

But New Zealand had become a low-wage, ”treadmill economy” in which most people were working harder and producing more, but were not getting wealthier.

A widening gap between the asset-owning class and everyone else was causing social stress reflected in rates of youth suicide, workplace and school bullying and imprisonment that were among the highest in developed countries, Mr Morgan said.

Both of those reports sound similar content to last night.

ODT reports: Morgan impresses Dunedin audience

Mainstream political parties who underestimate Gareth Morgan’s influence in the September 23 election will do so at their peril.

Mr Morgan, the leader and founder of The Opportunities Party (Top) attracted about 200 people to hear him in South Dunedin’s Mayfair Theatre last night

That’s a good number for a new party. Morgan asked how many had been to his previous Dunedin meeting. He estimated about 1/3 of the audience had.

For 40 minutes, Mr Morgan enthralled the audience, fielding applause and laughter as he outlined only one policy – although it was a very wide-ranging and quite detailed policy -before taking questions.

”I promised I would only talk about one policy tonight, otherwise I would have you all in a coma,” he said to much laughter. When the economist-turned-investor and now politician formed his party, much was made about his style of delivery, which was described as dry and casual.

Although he was dressed casually, often with his hands in his pockets, those attending last night paid close attention to what he was saying.

It was different to normal polispeak, he is very much a non-politician politician.

Mr Morgan’s delivery was slick, peppered with colourful language. He said his job was to offend everyone and often mentioning his party’s policies would go down like a ”cup of cold sick”.

His job is to battle against the same old, against the status quo in politics.

The audience ranged from those in their 20’s through to retirees. Those spoken to by the Otago Daily Times said Mr Morgan had good ideas and was talking sense, something other political parties might be wise to take note of, three months out from the election.

Given the main parties are coming across poorly and could do with a good boot up the political bum, there are votes in Morgan’s approach, but it’s a big challenge to look like getting close to the 5% needed.

I went to an Internet Party meeting in the 2014 campaign and that was very different – more showy but much less substance.

I also went to an ACT conference and David Seymour impressed, Jamie Whyte didn’t. The election result suggested that was a common impression.

The provincial media seems to be warming to Morgan, but the political media establishment in Wellington and Auckland still seem unexcited.

If anyone can shake up the political establishment this year it’s Morgan. Time will tell whether he just shakes up the campaign, or gets to also shake up Parliament.

Morgan says his intention if successful is to not take sides but to sit on the cross benches pushing for any policy gains they can get. Some of their policies are radical considering how bland National and Labour are in the main, but they are well researched and could make a good contribution to the mix.

But he has a long way to get there. The TOP van moves to Timaru today, the campaign for a party that can’t use free MP travel is a long haul.


Morgan and the Macron miracle

The UK vote for Brexit surprised, the election of Donald trump in the US shocked, and then Emmanuel Macron came from virtually nowhere to win the French presidency.

Then Theresa May destroyed a significant advantage to end a disastrous campaign still ahead of the rapidly improving left wing maverick Jeremy Corbyn but severely weakened, both in government and as Prime Minister.

Now France is voting for their Parliament, and exit polls suggest that Macron’s party En Marche will win a majority. Not bad for a party that didn’t exist at the start of last year.

So around the world voters are make decisions that seem to stick it to traditional politics and the status quo.

Could it happen in New Zealand?

Winston Peters and NZ First are often promoted as the king maker, with the baubles of power virtually a formality. But Peters is very old hat and has been there, done that before.

Will voters look for something different?

Barry Soper writes:  In politics anything is possible

Think about it, Prime Minister Gareth Morgan, leading a majority government with half of his MPs never having been elected to office before.

Sounds absurd? Yes well it’s highly unlikely to happen but these days in politics anything is possible as we’re seeing in France at the moment which has to be the political story to beat them all.

The 47 million French voters are again today going to the polls and are expected to give their new 39-year-old President Emmanuel Macron a healthy majority. It’s spectacular because Macron’s party was only founded by him in April last year.

After he won the Presidency last month he was on his own, he didn’t have one MP in the French Assembly. Since then he’s had to cobble together 577 candidates to stand for his party and after the first round of voting they led in 400 constituencies, more than half of them women.

And it looks like En Marche has succeeded.

Let Macron’s success be a warning to those established political parties who think elections are a walk in the park. The Socialists who ran the last French Government failed to scrape together even ten percent of the vote.

Here in New Zealand National obviously have the most to lose, but voters here have shown a reluctance to take big risks. They have preferred a stable government but without absolute power.

NZ First are in the box seat to hold the balance of power, but it’s possible a real alternative is considered.

The 5% threshold is a long shot for a new party, something that hasn’t been achieved before here.

The newly formed Conservative Party got a 2.65% in 2011, and increased to 3.97% in 2014, creditable but not enough. They are out of contention now after the political collapse of Colin Craig.

The only option looks to be TOP. Morgan doesn’t look like getting his party close at this stage, but there is three months to go.

Recent overseas elections have shown that anything is possible, even the unexpected, but a major surprise looks unlikely here.



Morgan says he will spend $5 million

Big spending campaigners didn’t have a good return on their investment last election, with Colin Craig’s Conservatives coming up a bit short of the threshold and Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party spending even more and having less success, in fact he dragged the Mana Party backwards and out of Parliament.

Gareth Morgan is suggesting even bigger numbers for his The Opportunities Party, but he has a big political hill top climb.

NZ Herald: Morgan prepares to spend $5m

Gareth Morgan expects to spend up to $5 million of his own fortune on his political party – saying he is “donkey deep now and has to keep going”.

“I have been surprised [at the cost]. The sad reality of politics is you have to have money to play. And I don’t like that,” Morgan told the Herald.

The media political machine hasn’t really warmed to Morgan so he will find it difficult to get the exposure he needs.

Morgan said a lack of money particularly excluded the young, many of whom can’t afford to take time off work to campaign, he said.

The deck is stacked against newcomers to politics. Incumbent parties and sitting MPs have effectively been campaigning for months already on full MP pay and using their free travel perks.

University of Otago Faculty of Law professor Andrew Geddis said New Zealand was “pretty much in the middle of the road” internationally in terms of controls on fundraising and spending, with no spending limits in Australia and the US.

Spending limits here cover advertising, but not other campaign expenses like opinion polling, travel and staff.

Incumbents exploit taxpayer funded polling, travel and to an extent staff.

Geddis said there wasn’t a strong link between spending money and winning in New Zealand, however there were high entry costs for new parties and low levels of state funding for parties (the Greens have called for an inquiry to investigate state-funding for parties).

“Voters know unless a party has a realistic chance of making the quite high 5 per cent threshold, a vote for them is wasted. It’s not just money that achieves success, it’s been seen as potentially successful.”

A lot of money seems to be essential, at least for the media to pay any attention to a new party or to different approaches to campaigning and to politics.

But it nowhere near guarantees success.

Any other party wanting to get anywhere near the ridiculously high MMP threshold (kept in place by incumbent parties to protect their positions and keep new parties out, another substantial advantage they give themselves) has a huge hill to climb.

TOP has the finance, but they don’t yet have any candidates that interest the media.

What Morgan needs to try and find is a party leader who is competent, ambitious and confident, but also is different or controversial enough to attract attention from the headline seeking media. He isn’t that person and knows it.

Otherwise the incumbent party advantages and the lack of media opportunities for new parties the political establishment is very difficult to upset. There’s some irony in the media reluctance to provide balance, because they could help a political revolution (or at least an interesting addition) happen.

Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup  also looks at TOP:  Is Gareth Morgan’s TOP really an anti-Establishment party of outsiders?


Young voters are looking for substance

Bill English has tried some trivial photo ops, but Geoffrey Miller writes about more substance being important seeking the young vote in  Forget the spaghetti pizzas – it’s substance voters are looking for.

It’s that time again when politicians pull out all the stops to do what they think will make young people vote for them.

At the 2014 election, Kim Dotcom spent some $4m largely targeting the youth vote.

That was an expensive flop.

Both Labour and the Greens were also keen to target young voters, which were given the label of the “missing million” and assumed to be chiefly latent support for left-wing causes. And for the most part, the focus was on “getting out the vote”, rather than changing the substance of the party platforms to offer something non-voters wanted.

They seem to think that all they need to do is advise non-voters and new voters how good they and their policies are and they will get the missing votes.

Of course, it is not just the left which has sought to target younger voters. Ironically, National has probably been more successful at picking up young voters. Many of John Key’s stunts – singing Gangnam Style, planking, making derp faces and so on – reached a much wider audience.

Key’s frequent appearances on non-political media – such as More FM – helped with this, but these only worked because the stunts suited Key’s personality. Bill English’s efforts – such as his spaghetti pizza selfies – look contrived by comparison.

I think that voters are more likely to be deterred rather than attracted by contrivances.

This time around, much of the left’s focus seems to be going on putting forward younger candidates.

Greens have lauded their new young candidates, and Labour had a go at promoting Jacinda Ardern (they seem to have backed off that a bit).

The assumption is that young voters are attracted by young candidates – but is this really true?

Bernie Sanders attracted young voters in the US, Jeremy Corbyn attracted young voters in the UK.

Take Winston Peters, for example. With Peters being 72 and the face of the SuperGold card, most assume New Zealand First has no real hope of attracting a large pool of younger voters. Yet during this year’s Orientation Week at Victoria University, Peters reportedly attracted hundreds of students on a summer weeknight to hear him speak.

I think new voters are looking for something different than the same old National and the same old Labour.

What about the ethnicity of candidates? Corbyn and Sanders are both fabled ‘old white men’, yet have managed to appeal to significant numbers of non-white younger voters. On the other hand, Winston Peters, part-Maori, has traditionally found his biggest voter base in elderly Pakeha New Zealanders.

Another probable fallacy is that more female candidates will automatically attract more female votes.

Substance over style

The lesson from the surge of young voters for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the UK is that to get young voters to vote, you need to give them something to vote for. In Corbyn’s case, this was a traditional, ideologically-driven left-wing manifesto which included an end to student fees, nationalisation of railways and increasing taxes on the rich.

Labour’s announcement this week that they will reduce the number of foreign students (who don’t vote anyway) is unlikely to impact on the young vote, except for those who don’t like the anti-immigration message.

Social media was a part of Corbyn’s success – as it was for Bernie Sanders – but only as an adjunct.

Social media campaigning is seen as essential – and it probably is, to an extent. But…

In New Zealand, part of the appeal of Winston Peters has traditionally been the repetition of simple policies against immigration and in favour of elderly voters.

Peters excels at old fashioned person to person public meeting campaigning, and hardly uses social media. But he’s after 10-15% of the vote, not 50%.

All parties will be looking for votes from wherever they think they can get them.

Peters attracts a substantial protest vote who don’t care about his lack of substance or his refusal to say what he might do in coalition negotiations, but he is as old school as a politician can get.

Don’t discount TOP. They have substance in their policies, they have passion and drive in Gareth Morgan, and they have a country that is getting tired of National but hasn’t warmed to Andrew Little and Labour.

And Greens seem to have hit a support ceiling, hence their trying to attract young voters, female voters and Maori voters. But can they offer substance to such a wide range of voters? Where is their substance on the environment? It risks being overwhelmed by all their other targets.

Add the dual leadership of Turei and Shaw and it’s hard to know what the Green substance is supposed to be.

English can do substance if he sticks to his strengths rather than associating himself with slippery spaghetti.

Little promised straight talk but squirms outside his rehearsed lines.

Will anyone step up and demand attention through substance? No matter how old or white they are, or not, they could attract all sorts of voters.

Q+A: Gareth Morgan and TOP

“Economist and reluctant politician, Dr Gareth Morgan, talks to Corin Dann about what The Opportunities Party is offering – can he cut through to voters?”

In this week’s Colmar Brunton poll TOP got 1% support (rounded, CB haven’t published their detailed results yet). That’s a start but a long way from the 5% they need to make the threshold. UPDATE: Corin Dann says 1.5%

TOP look like being the wild card in September’s election. They are targeting the ‘not status quo’ vote.

“You cannot build transparency on anything but a foundation of fairness”

A lot to take out of this and it will take time to go over it.

But in short Morgan is passionate about taking a different approach to politics, and promoting non-partisan research based policies. He is listening and learning what people want outside of the political bubble.

The panel discussion was interesting. Matt McCarten totally doesn’t get it. Jennifer Curtin gets a bit of it but is a long way from understanding the real difference. Fran O’Sullivan had a bit more of an idea about Morgan’s differences and strengths.

I am growing on the idea that TOP is the only real credible alternative to the status quo politics we are being weighed down with.

The panel are wrong about where TOP votes may come from. They can potentially get votes from across the spectrum, they can attract people who want politics done differently, done sensibly backed by solid research.

Can TOP look like getting close to 5%?

I think the key is in getting a leader who can share Morgan’s passion and logical approach but unlike Morgan wants  a political career in reforming New Zealand democracy.

Video: Gareth Morgan and TOP’s election campaign

Morgan message on J Day

The annual J Day was held on Saturday.

Norml: J Day this Saturday 6 May, nationwide cannabis law reform events

J Day is a worldwide protest against prohibition and a celebration of Kiwi cannabis culture, held on the first Saturday in May every year. This Saturday is the 26th Annual national day of action supporting cannabis law reform, including safe legal access to medicinal cannabis.

To mark the occasion NORML and our cannabis law reform colleagues organise free events nationwide. J Day is where supporters of cannabis law reform can meet like minded people, relax without fear, learn how they can help make cannabis legal, join their local group and meet other cannabis advocates.

“With an election soon it is important people show their support,” said J Day’s national coordinator Chris Fowlie, of Auckland. “For the first time there are multiple parties contesting the election who advocate for cannabis law reform. The Greens have been joined by Labour and the Maori Party, as well as ACT, TOP and the Cannabis Party. Even United Future is on the side of reform!”

“We agree cannabis should be a health issue, not a crime, and there are too many cannabis users to arrest.”

Gareth Morgan of TOP (The Opportunities Party) has given a message to mark the occasion:

Sorry I can’t be with you on J Day, which is a bit of a shame because it’s very significant one this year for us.

We are about to produce a policy on cannabis law reform.

We have looked at the issues around this subject and the big one is harm.

We have to minimise harm and it’s pretty clear from all the evidence that, particularly internationally, that prohibition is not the way to go if you want to minimise harm from use of this drug. be produced and under what restrictions, what pricing, all that sort of stuff.

Pretty exciting times and I look forward to being back with you in a couple of weeks when we do produce this policy and I think you will find that it’s both exciting and a big step forward in terms of minimising the harm of cannabis. All the best.

There is growing pressure on Parliament and on parties to address the problems caused by current laws and current application of laws on cannabis.

Morgan and TOP will help to promote that pressure.

TOP hits the “bottom feeders & bleeders”

Gareth Morgan is often very active on Twitter. I usually ignore most of what he tweets. I was aware of him having a slanging match last night with various people but had better things to do (I watched the Warriors play much better and win) , but Toby Manhire took the time to collate a tirade.

Yesterday on Q and A, deputy PM Paula Bennett dismissed the idea of a tourist tax. Gareth Morgan, leader of the nascent Opportunities Party, didn’t like that, particularly given the behaviour of some freedom campers.

He tweeted this displeasure, in three parts.

And then some people responded and he, well, he engaged with them. Forget about what they said, just read his, well, engagements, all 42 of them, unexpurgated, across two hours from 7pm last night:

Read it all here: An amazing two hours of Gareth Morgan raging at people on Twitter about tourist poo

I suspect that Morgan and TOP are going to have a battle getting anywhere near topping the 5% threshold.

Morgan doesn’t have anything like Fox News and Breitbart to help create New Zealand’s equivalent of a successful Trump by Twitter.

TOP tax policy

The Gareth Morgan Opportunities Party is promoting tax reform as one of their policies. They say it will be a fairer tax system – but the 20% of tax payers who will pay more may not agree.

The Opportunities Party tax reform

The current tax regime favours owners of capital and unjustly burdens wage earners. This is not only inequitable, it results in poor utilisation of capital and lower than necessary income and employment.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the property sector, where speculators and home-owners benefit while those that are renting are punished. It is unfair, pushes up house prices and drives even greater inequality. Ultimately, it is in everyone’s interest that we address the loophole in the tax regime.

Our proposed reform will not collect even one additional dollar in tax – we want to change what is taxed, not the amount of tax collected. Any increase in revenue will be used to reduce income tax rates.

The current system encourages borrowing and speculating on land values. This comes at the expense of investment in our productive businesses, which are held back by a lack of investment.

All productive assets – and that includes the house that provides you with your accommodation each year – are or can produce income each and every year. All income should be taxed, whether it is in cash or in kind. By only taxing the cash income from assets, Establishment parties have hurt many people, and in effect given a handout to property owners.

Not only will plugging this leak in the tax regime make tax fairer and boost economic growth it will over time improve housing affordability, by erasing the reason for property speculation.

At TOP, we acknowledge that all productive assets generate income (either in cash or kind) and by deeming that they produce
a minimum level of assessable income, such capital will be deployed in the most efficient manner. This is critical for maximising jobs and incomes. Those that already declare at least that level of income will be unaffected. Those that don’t, will pay more.

Plugging the hole in our tax regime will be done gradually to ensure house prices remain stable while incomes grow. We acknowledge this is a cultural change and some people will struggle to separate their own self-interest from the matter of what’s fair and reasonable.  However we believe that a well-informed public is astutely rational. While the property-owning group is a big one, the implications of an ever-rising property to income ratio is that future generations will struggle to rent let alone own, businesses will be starved of the investment capital they need to grow and create jobs, our reliance on foreign debt will keep rising and inequality will get worse.

That is unacceptable to fair and rational-minded New Zealanders. Given only 20% of New Zealanders would bear the burden of this change – and we are the most able to afford it – it’s a small cost to improve the lives of many.

Full policy document

Five Reasons the Elderly Should Not Fear TOP’s Tax Reform Package


Morgan/TOP aim to hit and run?

Gareth Morgan is piling a heap of time, resources and money into his The Opportunities Party. He is doing some good policy research and floating some ideas worth at least discussing.

Newshub report on an interview with him on The Nation yesterday: Slash super to pay for Universal Basic Income – Gareth Morgan

Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan says he doesn’t support raising the age of superannuation, but he does want means-testing to restrict higher-income earners who don’t need it.

He also told The Nation under his policy everyone would get a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $10,000 a year, paid for by slashing current super entitlements.

He says his party did a poll on what would get voters to the polling booth, and the top issue was cannabis law reform. Their negligence about issues like superannuation is part of the problem, he says.

On cannabis law reform, he says his party still needs to discuss it.

Morgan is prepared to discuss contentious issues that other parties are trying to avoid committing themselves on.

He did a good job of selling himself and his party early in the interview. But then he sent out some very confusing signals.

Patrick Gower: I think there you said it, you know, you’re trying to inform people. Is that what you are, an ideas man? You’re not really a politician, are you? You’re not really here to make it into parliament. You’re here to get your ideas out there.

Gareth Morgan: I’m here to get the seven policies as much traction as I can. I mean, my ideal scenario would be the Nats or Labour, whoever’s going to be government, say, ‘We’ll do it all, Gareth, now bugger off.’ I would love that. So I’m not going in there for a job. I’m going in there to try and make New Zealand better because we can do it.

So he wants to change everything but doesn’t want to be in Parliament? That doesn’t look like an approach that will encourage votes.

Patrick Gower: What I’m saying is, are you really serious about it? Because it seems that it’s your ideas that you’re more pushing, rather than a realistic chance of making parliament. I mean, have you got anyone who’s even interested in standing with you yet?

Gareth Morgan: Most people who I respect, who I would want to stand, so I have worked with in the past or are authorities in the area, when I’m talking to them say, ‘Jeez, I’m not going near that toxic environment. You think I’m going to put my family at risk?’ And I’m thinking, ‘Come on, you’re a New Zealander.’ It’s a bit like when I took on cats, you know, and I got these phone calls saying, ‘We support you.’ And I’d say, ‘Well, stand up with me then.’ ‘Oh, God, no. Not doing that.’

This doesn’t sound positive at all about wanting to be in Parliament.

Getting policy results is a lot more than floating ideas. You have to get enough parties/votes in Parliament to back them and take them through all the stages of Parliament and win each vote along the way.

It sounds like Morgan just wants to hit Parliament with his policies and run, rather than run for Parliament and become a hit.



The Nation – Little, Morgan and water

On The Nation this morning:

Labour leader Andrew Little on how he’s going to pay for his election year promises, Superannuation, and housing.

And talks to about his new party and its TOP policies.

An interesting comparison – this week Gareth Morgan spoke in Dunedin – in the same venue and to a bit smaller crowd than Andrew Little last month.

See Morgan:  New party would ban fossil fuel subsidies

See Little: Labour’s Dunedin digital plan welcomed

Also covering clean water issues.

Gower starts by bragging “we set the agenda”.

Little says that he will cover the rising cost of Super by raising GDP above Treasury projections.

Little mentions people in physical workers – he is pushed on numbers and he avoids it, just saying it is “large”.

He says they are certainly not going to adopt Peter Dunne’s “mad policy”.

(Peter Dunne has responded “All this shows is Labour’s absolute abhorrence of giving people any individual choice over their retirement – one state to rule them all!”

He’s doing a Key and putting his leadership on the line over keeping the age at 65.

Sticking with Kiwibuild 100,000 houses built over ten years on top of existing increases in building.

Tax thresholds – “let’s have a look at it”.

The policy commitments Labour will make will be able to be funded out of current tax levels and surplus forecasts.

Dissing the Maori Party as “lap dogs of National” again.

Pushed on how far he demoted Nanaia Mahuta and he avoids that several times. So he is told 6 places.

Little was put on the spot a few times but has obviously been practicing his media management and is getting better at diverting and pushing his own points, although he sometimes fluffs around until he works out what to switch to.

“War for water major election issue check out Caitlin McGee’s yarn online” – not sure how much of an election issue water will turn out to be.

We are only up to March and currently have housing, Pike River, Super, immigration and now water as ‘major’ issues.

Gareth Morgan sounded positive at first but then seems to concede that he is an ideas person that wants National and Labour to take on his policies but doesn’t realistically doesn’t expect to get into Parliament and doesn’t really want to be in Parliament. That’s not going to win him votes.