National, Greens may boost Labour vote

National continues to warn of the dangers of a Labour government pushed into implementing radical policies by the Greens, while the Greens keep saying they would push Labour into being ‘bolder’.

This may have the reverse effect to what both parties want – more people voting for Labour to reduce or eliminate Green influence. And going by recent polls there’s a real possibility Labour could get enough votes to either govern alone, or if they choose to govern with a majority but with a weakened Green Party in coalition.

Voting for National will probably do nothing but reduce their embarrassment a bit, they look a long way from challenging Labour even with ACT.

Voting Green will increase the chances of them making the threshold, and if the manage that it will increase the chances of Labour requiring Green support and increase Green leverage in policy negotiations.

ODT: Labour ‘cannot govern alone’: Greens

The Greens are warning their supporters that Labour “cannot govern alone”, and their party is the only one bold enough to meet the challenges New Zealand faces.

And, despite repeated rebuffs by Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw say a wealth tax is still firmly on the table if Greens negotiate with Labour post-election.

“They can say what they need to in an [election] campaign,” Davidson said when asked about Ardern’s repeated flat-out rejection of the plan.

That keeps feeding National ammunition to attack Labour with, which Judith Collins has been doing.

Davidson said the fact that National has been hammering this policy so hard was a “sign of their desperation”.

“It has become alarmingly clear that the priority of National, and the other smaller parties, is not to keep us safe … but to divide us, and to make us scared, in the pursuit of power,” she said during her speech.

In his speech, Shaw made something of a call to action to his supporters.

“At this election, I can confidently say that the Green Party is the only party putting forward proposals that are actually bold enough to meet the scale of the challenges we face.”

And Davidson took it further: “Labour cannot govern alone.”

“Unchallenged decisions can mean bad decisions, and with the Greens at the decision-making table, we’ll make sure that we truly face the challenges we’ve been ignoring for too long.”

This is a contrast to last election when Greens went out of their way to play down concerns about what influence they might have on Labour in government.

Green survival depends on getting 5%, so they are having to compete with Labour for votes.

Collins has kept trying to hammer Labour, repeatedly insisting that the Green wealth tax would be a certainty. RNZ: Judith Collins says Greens ‘unemployable’ in latest wealth tax attack

Collins has spent much of her time in recent days warning voters about the Greens’ proposed wealth tax, arguing Labour leader Jacinda Ardern would break her promise not to introduce it.

Regardless of National’s position, Ardern says not is not the time for experimental taxes.

“One of the reasons we have ruled out the Green Party policy is because no other country has this form of taxation. Now is not the time to be experimenting with tax policy when we need to focus on our economic recovery.”

Collins would not budge, saying she believed her concerns were very real, and rejecting the claims of desperation.

“No, I think they’re very real … she shouldn’t go into name calling. “

She took her attacks on the Green Party further still, saying the Greens “didn’t really pay taxes before entering Parliament”.

“Well, most of them are unemployable I always thought. The whole lot of them. Don’t mean to be nasty but there we go, it’s the truth.”

She says having co-leader Marama Davidson as deputy prime minister “would be challenging for the country”.

The role of Deputy Prime Minister has no more power than any other Minister. All they have to do is occasionally fill in for the Prime Minister. Winston Peters did it this term and simply carried out a caretaker role. He had far more power in coalition negotiations.

I’m not a fan of Davidson at all, but I have no concerns with her becoming Deputy PM.

There is also one MP who is still supporting Collins:

But that’s false. Voting National instead of Labour would increase the chances of Greens having more influence. Voting Labour instead of National is the most effective way of reducing Green influence.

PGF wouldn’t fund Green school

This looks like a continuation of the campaign scrap between NZ First and Greens, who appeared to be trying their hardest to mutually destruct.

It appears that Shane Jones has fed a story to Newshub (PGF applications mustn’t be confidential: Green School previously turned down for Provincial Growth Fund cash

Newshub can reveal the nearly $12 million of taxpayer money netted by the controversial Green School wasn’t the first time they’d tried to dip into the public purse.

The Green School – now one of New Zealand’s most well-known schools for all the wrong reasons.

And it scored millions of dollars of Government funding signed off by Green Party co-leader James Shaw in his capacity as Associate Finance Minister – a decision at odds with the Green Party’s policy to phase out funding for private schools.

Shaw has described it as “an error of judgment for which I apologise”.

It turns out Shaw’s error of judgment – demanding the green light for the Green School’s request for cash – wasn’t the school’s first rodeo.

“The Green School made an application to the Provincial Growth Fund. It was rapidly nixed,” says NZ First MP Shane Jones, who oversees the PGF as Regional Economic Development Minister.

A document obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act shows the school had a crack at getting far less funding last year but failed.

It wanted just under $1m – that was declined. But when it applied for 12 times that – the funding was approved.

“James got his nose out of joint and fought for it to be restored through the shovel-ready money,” Jones says.

The application was refused partly because it wouldn’t create sustainable new jobs. The school’s now promising to create 200 jobs.

In the 2019 application – for a fraction of the funding – the school was promising in excess of 100 new jobs.

Documents say: “the applicant estimates that the project will bring in around [redacted] in economic benefit on annual basis and will create at least 100 jobs linked to the project.”

But officials in the Provincial Development Unit which determines PGF funding were sceptical.

“The success of the Bali operation may not be an appropriate indication of the likelihood of success for a venture based in Taranaki. There is insufficient market research to justify that it will be successful.”

It may be that after failing with the PGF application the Green School did more work on their market research, or on the presentation of their application.

Jones declared on Newshub Nation he was determined to kill off his Government sibling.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure the Greens do not survive,” he said.

So this looks like a hit job by Jones. His problem is that he is performing poorly in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate, and polls suggest that NZ First is struggling to get near the 5% threshold, so NZ First are at real risk this election.

I think that this sort of minor party conflict is likely to drag both parties down.

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

Shaw sort of talks tough on tax and other coalition demands

Following a ‘pledge’ by Grant Robertson that tax-wise Labour “we will only implement the changes that Labour is campaigning on” next term – see Labour’s underwhelming tax policy – Green leader James Shaw sort of talked tough, saying Greens would consider not forming a coalition if they didn’t get what they wanted.

Shaw said that a wealth tax would be ‘a top priority’ when asked if it would be a bottom line.

Stuff: Labour rules out Green Party’s wealth tax in any Government it forms

The Labour Party has ruled out implementing the Green Party’s wealth tax.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said no new taxes or other changes to income tax would be introduced in the term.

He was asked if that included proposals from possible coalition partners, such as the Green Party who are campaigning on a substantial wealth tax on millionaires.

“This is Labour’s tax policy. We are committing to not implementing anything other than this if we are in Government,” Robertson said.

He was asked again if this meant he was ruling out giving some ground to the Green Party in possible coalition talks.

“What I’m saying is that this is the policy that Labour is campaigning on, and we will only implement the changes that Labour is campaigning on,” Robertson said.

Polling consistently over 50% Labour can probably afford to talk as if they will be in a position to do what they like next term, which is nowhere near enough on tax, certainly not transformational or reforming.

But Greens are desperate for votes to get them over the threshold to keep them in Parliament, and need to move support from Labour to do that, so are trying something they have done little of before, talking tough.

ODT/NZH: Greens prepared to play hard ball on forming next Government

The Greens are prepared to forego a coalition or confidence and supply arrangement and sit on the crossbenches if post-election talks do not go their way.

Co-leader James Shaw made the comments on Thursday, saying the only post-election deal that was off the table completely was one which would give National power.

However, he said if the Greens held the balance of power it was “always a possibility” that it would walk away from negotiations with Labour if they could not get the gains they wanted.

If there was no coalition or confidence and supply agreement, that would force a minority Labour government to seek the Greens’ support for legislation on a case-by-case basis.

He wouldn’t say what the Greens’ bottom lines in those talks were, but said a wealth tax was a “top priority”.

First the Greens have to get enough votes to get back into Parliament. They also need to hope that Labour don’t get enough votes to have a one party majority (which would enable them to do as they please).

And they also have to learn to do tough negotiations, something they seem unfamiliar with. Within the Green Party they make decisions by consensus, which is quite a different skill to doing inter-party coalition negotiations.

Time will tell whether they get enough votes, and if the do whether they can walk the tough talk.

Shaw also made other indications of demands.

He would also be pushing for co-leader Marama Davidson to be a minister and suggested a Green MP hold the agriculture portfolio.

If Greens are in coalition then Davidson should be one of their ministers, bu this is a different approach to this term when they chose for Davidson to lead from outside Government.

I’d be very surprised if Labour gave Greens the agriculture portfolio.

Shaw said a new Labour-led government would need to be in partnership with the Greens for it to be truly transformational.

“I think, in the next Parliament if Labour and the Greens are able to form a government together, then you will see a truly progressive government for New Zealand.”

The Greens need to push this line to take votes from Labour, but it provides ammunition to opponents, who will say that their are risks with a Labour+Green government getting radical, but there’s been no sign of Labour going anywhere near radical. Instead they look very centrist conservative.

If the Greens were in a position to negotiate a post-election deal, Shaw said it would be up to the party’s members to give any deal the nod.

It makes tough negotiations difficult if the negotiators have to refer to party members to confirm and deals.

Shaw:

“If you look at the policies we have released so far … those give you an indication of where we want to be able to play a role in government.”

He went on to specifically name-check its wealth tax policy as well as its minimum income scheme, clean energy and its upcoming agriculture policy.

Asked if the Greens wealth tax plan was a “bottom line,” Shaw said that it was a “top priority”.

Labour have made it clear it is not an option at all for them.

Greens have some tough times ahead. First they have to make it back into Parliament. Then if they do they have to hope Labour don’t have a majority. They will also hope NZ First are out of the reckoning in coalition negotiations.

If they are in a position to negotiate they then have to see if tough talk can become tough negotiations.

One risk for the Greens with Shaw’s stance – if Labour get enough votes to give them a majority on their own they can do what they like with tax policy, and can hardly roll over on it for the Greens.

If this happens the Greens have virtually ruled themselves out of being included in Government if Labour offers that option.

Green reaction to Labour’s tax policy

Labour announced their tax policy yesterday that will barely change anything – see Labour’s underwhelming tax policy.

One of the strongest critics was the Green Party.

From RNZ Labour pledges to raise tax on earnings over $180k

Greens co-leader James Shaw says Labour’s policy does not address “the growing wealth gap and inequality in Aotearoa”, or help pay for the Covid response.

“The Greens believe we should ask those who are benefiting the most to chip in a bit of what they’ve gained to help the people who need support during this crisis.

“We know that a huge accelerator of this inequality is our broken tax system that taxes people who earn but not people who own,” Shaw says .

Greens emailed Labour’s announcement is not enough:

Earlier today, the Labour Party announced their proposal to introduce a new top tax rate. Fixing the way we tax here in Aotearoa is long overdue, but this isn’t the way to do it. Labour is proposing patchwork solutions when visionary change is needed.

Too many of us are struggling to put a roof over our heads, food on the table, or pay rising rents and bills. Tinkering around the edges of an already broken system isn’t enough to address the growing wealth gap and inequality — and it puts us at risk of the gap growing even further. 

We know a huge accelerator of inequality in Aotearoa is a broken system that taxes people who earn, but not people who own. Unless we fix this, the lucky few will continue to amass wealth without paying their fair share while the rest of us struggle to get by. 

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Earlier this year we announced our Poverty Action Plan: a whole new approach to tax that makes sure the wealthy pay their fair share so everyone has what they need, when they need it. 

A small 1% tax on the wealth of millionaires means big change for the rest of us. It’s a simple and fair way to even the playing field and unlock the resources all of us need to thrive and participate fully in our communities. 

By rewriting the tax rules, we’re going beyond the old, broken system and guaranteeing that everyone who needs it, no matter what, has a minimum income they can rely on. Support shouldn’t be conditional and our plan isn’t either. That means support for students and people out of work, extra help if you’re sick or disabled, and simple payments for families so all kids can thrive.

When we announced our plan, Labour was dismissive and said that it relied on “heroic” assumptions. It’s not enough for us to settle for broken systems — a compassionate system is possible and we’re the only ones with the vision and the plan to make it a reality. This is why the Greens need to be at the table in the next Government. 

We are at a crossroads. We can hit reimagine Aotearoa exactly how we want it. Now, more than ever, we know how much we can achieve when we work together — this is our chance to create change that benefits all of us.

But again Labour has been dismissive of Green tax policy. Grant Robertson:

Robertson is promising no other increases or new taxes, but was asked whether that would stand if Labour needed to negotiate post election for support, with a party like the Greens, that has a more aggressive tax policy.

“This is the policy that Labour is campaigning on and we will only implement the changes that are in this policy,” he said.

So he has effectively told the Greens to get stuffed.

With Labour polling at over 50% he can probably be arrogant.

And with Greens polling mostly close to the 5% threshold and 3.2% in the latest (UMR) poll they may have little or no say in the next Government.

Peters attacks the Greens

The Government lasted nearly three years lasted nearly three years trying to portray the three party arrangement as solid and working well together.

But with the election looming and the fear of failing to make the threshold rising Winston Peters is attacking both the Greens and Labour. This post is on the Green target.

Newshub: NZ First and Greens fighting for survival, trying to kill each other off amid Green School debacle

The James Shaw political pile-on is off the charts after Newshub revealed he strong-armed ministerial colleagues to get funding for the controversial privately-owned Taranaki Green School.

NZ First leader Winston Peters is calling it one of the worst things he’s seen in his political career and is warning of “repercussions” over the funding, while National says the Greens should be ashamed and that Shaw must resign. 

Labour, NZ First and the Greens almost held it together an entire term, but as the election drew near, the raw disdain between the Greens and New Zealand First bubbled forth.

Peters said in July his party “opposed woke pixie dust”, while Shaw described New Zealand First as a “chaotic and disorganised” partner in Government.

“You can almost see the advertisements, can’t you? New Zealand First – you can stop progress,” Shaw joked in his adjournment speech last month.

But ironically Shaw has now been caught out holding his ministerial colleagues to political ransom, stalling progress to get his own way.

Newshub revealed on Tuesday Shaw’s office emailed his ministerial colleagues strong-arming them with an ultimatum, refusing to sign off on projects in a $3 billion infrastructure fund unless he got dosh for the controversial Green School.

Shaw told Newshub on Wednesday he “didn’t hold anybody to ransom”, but Peters sees it differently.

“If you can’t win by logic and by reason and by the soundness of your proposal then that’s no way to behave,” the NZ First leader told Newshub.

“It’s pretty bad. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Maybe it has happened but not in that naked, inexperienced way.”

It’s funny to see Peters attack someone else over naked political ransom, but there is a difference with how he does it, he’s very experienced at it.

The Prime Minister said there will be different views in a Government of three political parties.

That’s the line that’s been spun throughout the term when there’s been differences, and it is accurate enough, there should be differences between three parties. But how those differences are being expressed has changed markedly.

“Obviously as a coalition Government working with three different parties, there will often be different perspectives,” she said on Wednesday.

You can say that again – Shaw has made it clear he thinks Peters is a handbrake on progress.

Peters responded, “Well, a handbrake on stupid ideas is not a handbrake on progress.”

Stupid to Peters. The difference between NZ First and the Greens is that the Greens didn’t do much handbraking on NZ First’s stupid ideas.

Shaw said Peters will say anything to get re-elected.

“Winston Peters is fighting for his political survival and so he will say what he says in order to try and ensure he’s back in Parliament after the election,” he told Newshub.

Thanks to Shaw, the Greens are now fighting for their political survival too.

Last campaign Labour and the Greens, and to an extent NZ First, promoted their intent and ability to be able to work together.

This campaign looks like being a lot more combative.

Greens have been polling close to the 5% threshold (except for Roy Morgan polls) but have tended to get less in elections than in polls so will be worried, especially with the popularity of Ardern competing more for votes.

Both Shaw and Marama Davidson have admitted that the current Green School mess will make things even harder for them to survive.

NZ First have been polling at under half the threshold. Peters has pulled rabbits out of campaign hats in the past and will be looking for the same sort of opportunity this time.

But NZ First and Greens going hammer and tongs against each other is a questionable strategy, as they hardly compete for their own votes. These spats are more likely to just reduce votes for both, it’s unlikely to attract support.

What both parties will be hoping for is that they survive and are in a position to form a coalition with Labour without a third party competing for baubles and slush funds.

UMR poll August 2020

The UMR polls seem to be getting published now with a reasonable amount of detail and history. The latest poll results done from July 29 – August 3) (with comparison from their 26 May – 1 June poll):

  • Labour 52% (down from 54)
  • National 28% (down from 30)
  • ACT 5.9% (no result to compare to)
  • Greens 5.4% (was 4)
  • NZ First 5.1% (was 5)

That’s fairly consistent with other polls, which means great for Labour and ACT, awful for National, marginal for Greens and better than other recent polls for NZ First, this must be the poll that Winston likes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern 61%
  • Judith Collins 20%

Source: https://thestandard.org.nz/umr-poll-august-2020/

Collins is rating much better than Simon bridges and Todd Muller but is a long way behind Ardern, and i think will struggle to get much closer going by her recent performance.

Roy Morgan party poll – July 2020

Roy Morgan have just published their July poll results (polling through July so already a bit dated). These are quite similar to the Reid Research results (16-24 July) that National claimed to be a ‘rogue’ poll, and are different to the more recent Colmar Brunton poll (25-29 July).

Electors were asked: “If a New Zealand Election were held today which party would receive your party vote?”

  • Labour 53.5% (down 1)
  • National 26.5% (down 0.5)
  • Greens 8% (down 1)
  • ACT 6.5% (up 1.5)
  • Others 4.0%
  • NZ First 1.5% (no change)
  • The Opportunities Party 1.5% (no change)
  • Maori Party 0.5% (down 0.5)

Again, most polling was done before the Colmar Brunton poll in late July that appeared to show a bit of a National recovery, but confirms they have been well off the pace since the Covid pandemic struck and since Todd Muller took over leadership from Simon Bridges. It will reflect some leadership change and Boag/Walker/Falloon effects, but is too soon to show much if any Judith Collins effect.

New Zealand Party Vote

That still looks great for Labour and grim for National.

And it is worse for NZ First who are well adrift of the 5% threshold (Q+A will release a poll on the Northland electorate tomorrow which will give an indication whether Shane Jones has any chance there).

This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone – both landline and mobile – with a NZ wide cross-section of 899 electors during July. Of all electors surveyed 4% (down 2%) didn’t name a party.

Source: https://www.roymorgan.com/findings/8489-nz-national%20-voting-intention-july-2020-202008070802

This shows all the poll results this term with the divergence of Labour and National this year very obvious:

Both the recent higher results for National are Colmar Brunton – have they been the outlier/rogue? Or are they closer to the mark with both Reid Research and Roy Morgan out of whack?

Colmar Brunton for National: 29% (May), 38% (June), 32% (July). Even if that’s more accurate than the others it is still dismal for National.

And this shows the climb of ACT and decline of NZ First:

Ardern and Labour look to have sidelined Winston Peters and NZ First.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

Labour + Greens are looking very strong in all polls at 55-65%, but Labour could easily govern alone based on all recent polls, and nothing currently seems to be challenging their dominance as control of Covid looks good and the economic impact has been held at bay for now at least.

Ardern – from ‘transformative’ to conservative

In the 2017 election campaign and after taking over as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promoted herself as ‘transformative’, she promised a major focus on climate change describing it as ‘the nuclear free issue of her time’, and she promised to put a priority on dealing with child poverty.

This election Ardern is promoting as little as possible apart from her record as a manager of crises, in particular the largely successful management of the Covid pandemic.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warns voters not to expect big Labour Party policies this election

Speaking to RNZ this morning, Ardern said voters should not expect a “large-scale range of policies” from Labour this election.

“What we will be doing over this election period is adding some additional aspects [of policy],” she said.

“But I would flag to voters not to expect to see the large scale manifestos that are a significant departure from what we are doing.”

Instead, she said her “big focus” was on the Covid-19 recovery.

“Ultimately, what needs to be done, we are already rolling out.”

At the last election, Labour campaigned on a number of big-ticket policies, such as building 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, fees-free tertiary education and extending paid parental leave.

Ardern this morning suggested that new policy ideas on this type of scale were off the table for Labour this election.

Politically this is understandable – going buy recent polls Ardern and Labour could sleep walk to victory next month, and it’s quite possible they will be able to rule alone.

Last election Ardern and Labour made ‘promises’ they couldn’t keep.

This election they seem determined to make no promises despite them having a much better chance of keeping them.

Her main opponent, Judith Collins, is goading Ardern on her lack of policies.

Stuff: Judith Collins slams Jacinda Ardern for lack of election policy

National leader Judith Collins has attacked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for announcing almost no policy ahead of September’s election, accusing the prime minister of “hiding”.

Collins said Ardern was “incapable of delivering anything but slogans” and promised to have a “rolling maul” of policies herself.

“What we’re seeing [from Labour] is no policy at all. We’re going to have a rolling maul of policies ahead of the election,” Collins said.

“Hiding away is never a way to win an election.”

Ardern was asked about the relative lack of policy at her post-Cabinet press conference on Monday.

She said the next three years had been somewhat “predetermined” by Covid-19, meaning her Government’s plan to get through the economic impact of that crisis would form much of Labour’s policy.

“We have already laid out a very significant plan, including a very significant investment regime, as part of our plan on Covid recovery and rebuild,” Ardern said.

Labour’s approach is working for now, but will it sustain high levels of support through the campaign?

They have been criticised,with some justification, for not delivering on major policies this term, like housing, tax (CGT), social welfare reform, child poverty.

Now criticism of their lack of policies is gathering steam.

And most genuine concern about her approach is not coming from political opponents on right.

Bernard Hickey at Newsroom: A second term PM for crises and the status quo

Where once she campaigned as a transformer, Jacinda Ardern will ask for a second term as simply a manager of the post-1989 tax and welfare status quo, and of the Covid-19 recovery. That’s despite having the potential political power to govern without the moderating ‘hand brake’ of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

In political circles, it is known as the ‘low target’ strategy: offer little obvious change from the status quo to give your opponent few clear pain points to target you on the grounds you want to ‘hurt’ one part of the electorate or another. It is essentially a conservative strategy, often employed by conservative parties in government. 

This week Jacinda Ardern revealed herself as a small ‘c’ conservative, focused on maintaining the current shape and (historically and comparatively small) size of government, but with a friendlier face. She confirmed Labour had no plans for major new spending or tax or welfare reform in the last full post-Cabinet news conference of her first term. Instead, voters should look at the Government’s current achievements, its plans for Covid-19 recovery and Budget 2020’s debt track as an indicator of ‘steady-as-she-goes’. There is no more. That is it. 

After months of wondering if she was about to flex her new and larger political muscles to pull a big policy rabbit out of the hat, she tapped the hat, turned it upside down, asked us to peer inside at the emptiness, and put it back down on the table: a popular magician without a trick who doesn’t harm rabbits.

Ardern’s only obvious ambition is winning, despite being in a strong position to promote progressive transformation type initiatives.

It is giving Collins and National a chance of clawing back some support so they don’t lose too badly.

It is giving the Greens the most opportunity. They say that for real transformation and significant change, especially on climate change and social issues, a decent Green vote will put them in a strong balance of power position.

Time will tell whether this campaign strategy will hold up through the campaign.

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.