State of the parties – National

It’s just under six months until the election due on 23 September, but that’s still a long time in politics. At least as much as ever this election is up for grabs, there is no clear idea of what the outcome will be.

National will be hoping to keep it’s support high enough so that along with it’s current coalition partners ACT, United Future and the Maori Party it can sneak back in.

Labour and Greens are trying hard to become competitive as a duet, but that hasn’t gained traction yet going by the polls.

Media always seem to predict that New Zealand First will be in a ‘king making’ position and they may be right this time, it currently seems to be the most likely outcome – uncertainty of which way Winston will swing.

National

When John Key stepped down late last year and Bill English took over as Prime Minister doubts increased substantially that National could hold their support for an unprecedented fourth election. Those doubts remain at this stage.

English has had a mixed start as PM. He has a reputation for being steady and reliable, but as leader he has had some missteps and he is not charismatic.

Media appeal should not be a deciding factor in who can run the country the best, but the media insist on making something out of it for their own benefit. So it can dominate what most voters see.

English has one thing in his favour – Andrew Little, who is no more charismatic than English. Actually it goes further than that – New Zealand politics in general has a lack of charisma.

National has to try and battle the growing perception of problems like crime and poverty, and the housing situation continues to pose problems (but many voters have had significant increases in their property values so may not mind).

National has done a good job again of turning over MPs, their regeneration has been effective. The biggest turn over this time is Key, and perhaps key.

National’s biggest asset is the economy, which apart from housing and despite a dairy dip is still looking very healthy.

So National’s fate may come down to whether the economy decides the election or whether opposing parties can get enough traction on other issues.

But they will also be dependent on what happens to their current support parties, and that is a big unknown at this stage.

Kaye versus Ardern

If Jacinda Ardern thought she wouldn’t have to contend with Nikki Kay again after she moved to the Mt Albert electorate – they competed for Auckland Central for the last two elections – she was mistaken.

Today in Parliament Kaye took a major swipe at Ardern in the General Debate.

I think the phrase that I would give New Zealanders is: you have got one party of substance, of significant initiatives delivering for New Zealand, compared with a superficial cosmetic facelift. I want to talk about the deputy leadership of the Labour Party.

We lost Annette King. I want to acknowledge Annette King. She has been a brilliant member of Parliament. She is someone who has huge respect across the House. And we got Jacinda Ardern.

Now, I have been based in Auckland Central for 8 years. I struggle to name anything that Jacinda has done.

What I can say is that a great example is when Kevin Hague and I developed an adoption law reform bill. We spent a year on that bill; we put it in the ballot.

Jacinda Ardern did a one-line bill telling the Law Commission to write the law for her.

On her first day in the job as deputy leader, on one of the biggest issues confronting our generation, Generation X and Generation Y—on the issue of superannuation affordability—where was she?

She had made a whole lot of statements previously about the importance of raising the age, and Jacinda Ardern was nowhere to be seen. She had cut and run on the biggest issue facing our generation, and that is another example of what is a whole lot of photo ops—yes, she will be across every billboard, but she absolutely failed our generation on her first day on the job.

It looks like National have decided to try and unsettle Ardern, who may have thought everything was smoothly going to plan. Until today.

Kay continued later in her speech.

This is a Labour Party that thinks the only way that it can get into Government is to totally get rid of all of its policies and to make sure that has got some nice fancy new billboards and some photo ops—compared with a Government that is prepared to make the hard decisions, that is investing in infrastructure, and that is investing more than a third more in schools.

And again:

You have got significant investments happening across social housing, and you have got a Labour Party—the main Opposition—that thinks the way that it can win is to have no policy, to have a superficial facelift, and to have another person on the billboards.

I do want to acknowledge that this election will be fought on some of the big issues for Generation X and Generation Y, and in my view it is this side of the House that is confronting those issues, and that side that is failing.

Ardern wasn’t present but responded to media later.

NZ Herald: Gloves off: National MPs target Labour’s Jacinda Ardern in series of attacks

Ardern was not in the debating chamber at the time, but said she saw the debate on television.

She said her and Kaye had made an agreement when they ran against each in Auckland Central to only talk about issues and not make personal attacks.

“I’ve stuck to that,” Ardern said.

Newshub: Nikki Kaye launches war of words on Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern was surprised at the attack, and told Newshub “It’s certainly not a style of politics I’ve seen her use before”.

“Nikki and I have run against each other in Auckland Central for a number of years and usually pretty much stuck to the issues and avoided making it personal. I’m going to stick to that.”

“I’m going to stick with the way I like to do politics, and it’s making sure that you keep away from making it too personal. But each to their own.”

Electorate contests are more one to one and personal, especially when candidates campaign together as Ardern did with Green MY Julie Anne Genter in Mt Albert.

But Ardern should have been aware that by stepping up into a deputy leadership role, and promoting herself as the new face of the party, she was getting into a highly competitive high stakes level of politics.

Voters look for leaders who look like they can lead, not just look and be nice.

Kaye is stepping up to higher levels of responsibility as a Minister, and also as a party representative.

Ardern may need to toughen up and shape up.

Mallard mud in Hutt South

Labour fossil Trevor Mallard was pushed hard by National’s young gun Chris Bishop last election, ending up holding on by 709 votes, down from a majority of 4,825 votes (to Paul Quinn) in 2011.

This time round Mallard has thrown in the electorate towel and has chosen to stand on the list only. He is aiming for the job of Speaker. He will be hoping for a high enough list placing to get him into the big chair in Parliament.

Standing for Labour this year will be Ginny Andersen, who for some reason has moved from Ohariu where she came close to Peter Dunne in 2014.

Mallard must have forgotten that he is trying to look respectful and behave like he has put his maverick mud throwing days behind him yesterday. He took a dirty swipe at Bishop on Twitter:

MallardTweet

Also on Facebook:

MallardFacebook

He seems to already fancy himself with the Speaker’s chair in his Facebook profile. Associating that sort of comment with Parliament and the Speaker is not a good look.

He has edited that Facebook comment to now just read “Kids help keep my successor grounded.”

And his Tweet has now been deleted. A bit of social media flak seems to have prompted him to remove his ill considered comments.

This sort of ill discipline may not help his list chances, and is as likely to damage Andersen’s electorate chances as help them.

Someone who was first elected to Parliament in 1984 should know better. At least he has apologised.

MallardTweet2

 

Government battles crime targets

The National Party has been trying to portray successes in dealing with crime, but the Government looks likely to fail to meet it’s own targets on reducing crime.

Yesterday on Twitter promoting less bad crime statistics:

But RNZ: Govt likely to miss violent crime target

The government looks unlikely to meet its self-set target for reducing violent crime, under the latest information released for its ‘Better Public Services’ targets.

It might also miss its target for lowering reoffending rates.

The government said it was on track to meet seven of its targets for the delivery of public services, but said four needed “more work” if those targets were to be met.

The Better Public Service targets, which were set in 2012, include welfare dependency, immunisation rates and violent offending.

One of the targets was to reduce the rate of total crime by 20 percent by June 2018, violent crime by 20 percent by June this year and youth crime by 25 percent by June this year.

Total crime is down by 14 percent since June 2011, and youth crime by 32 percent.

However, violent crime has only been reduced by 2 percent since 2011.

Another target was to reduce the reoffending rate by 25 percent by this year, but that has only fallen by 4.4 percent.

The government had earlier signalled it would change the way this was measured because the total number of reoffenders, as opposed to the rate, had dropped by 26 percent.

So some improvements, but more challenges on crime reduction.

One oddity – if crime is reducing as much as is claimed – 14% – why is the Government increasing Police numbers by about a thousand?

National’s Super age proposal

This afternoon Bill English announce National’s superannuation policy, which included a raising of the entitlement age in 20 years time.

There has been a lot of immediate reaction. I think people should think this through and discuss it sensibly.

There are political implications for coalition negotiations but that shouldn’t stop a decent debate without resorting to knee jerk reactions.

This policy won’t affect me as I’ll be on Super long before this takes effect.


Lifting NZ Super age the right thing to do

Progressively lifting the age of entitlement to New Zealand Superannuation from 65 to 67 is the responsible and fair thing to do for New Zealand, Finance Minister Steven Joyce says.

“Average life expectancy is increasing by around 1.3 years each decade and more older people are staying in the workforce,” Mr Joyce says.

“Greater life expectancy is of course positive but it does drive up the cost of NZ Super. While New Zealand has a more affordable scheme than most countries, the increasing costs would require future trade-offs – either restricting spending increases in areas like health and education, or increasing taxes.”

The Government intends to increase the age of entitlement for NZ Super by six months each year from July 2037 until it reaches 67 in July 2040. This means everyone born on or after 1 January 1974 will be eligible for NZ Super from age 67.

Other settings such as indexing NZ Super to the average wage and universal entitlement without means testing will remain unchanged; and the age that KiwiSaver funds can be accessed will remain at 65.

“Making a change over a reasonable timeframe will give future generations of New Zealanders more choice as to how they allocate their government spending,” Mr Joyce says.

“While others have called for an earlier transition, the Government’s view is that giving 20 years’ notice balances timeliness with being fair to current generations of working New Zealanders.”

Average life expectancy in New Zealand has increased by 12 years over the past 60 years, including by four years since 2001, when the age for NZ Super was increased to 65.

“When the age was set at 65 in 2001, a retiree could expect to spend about a fifth of their life receiving NZ Super. That has since increased to around a quarter,” Mr Joyce says. “Following this change, those eligible for NZ Super at 67 in 2040 can still expect to receive it for a quarter of their life on average.”

Mr Joyce says the Government’s previous position of not changing the age of eligibility was appropriate in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, when New Zealanders were looking for certainty at a time when the Government’s finances were under pressure.

The Government is also proposing to double the residency requirements for NZ Super so that applicants must have lived in New Zealand for 20 years, with five of those after the age of 50. People who are already citizens or residents will remain eligible under the existing rules.

The Government intends to introduce legislation to make these changes early in 2018. The residency changes will cover people who arrive in New Zealand after the legislation is passed.

“These changes are important and need to be politically durable,” Mr Joyce says. “Scheduling the legislation in this way gives all political parties the opportunity to discuss their position with the public before it comes before Parliament.”

The proposed changes to the age of eligibility and the residency requirements are estimated to save the Government in excess of 0.6 per cent of GDP or $4.0 billion annually once the changes are fully in place.

Included in the legislation will be provision for parliamentary consideration of any need for any temporary transition requirements in 2030.

“It is not possible yet to determine what, if any, temporary support will be needed for people who are unable to continue working beyond the age of 65,” Mr Joyce says.

“Considering any requirements in 2030 will give a future parliament the opportunity to consider current information on health and labour market trends of different groups as the age change approaches.”

 

Interesting Wellington Central contest

Wellington Central was always going to be an interesting electorate to watch this election, with Grant Robertson going up against  James Shaw.

While the Green Party has historically sought party votes only and nodded and winked at the Labour candidates for the electorate votes now he is party co-leader Shaw will want to be seen as popular with voters.

Results from 2014:

wellingtoncentral2014

While Robertson won the electorate vote easily Labour came third behind National and Greens in the party vote.

National’s candidate for the last two elections, Paul Foster-Bell, was challenged for candidacy and withdrew, announcing he would resign at the end of this term.

National’s canddiate has now been announced. Stuff: National chooses Nicola Willis for Wellington Central seat

Former John Key adviser and Fonterra executive Nicola Willis has been selected unopposed as National’s candidate for the Wellington central seat.

She replaces Paul Foster-Bell who pulled out once it became clear she had the numbers.

Robertson must still be clear favourite to win, but Willis will be wanting to give things a good nudge.

And much may depend on how Shaw approaches his campaign. How much help will he want to hand Robertson?

The electorate result won’t change the overall outcome of the election.

In association with Labour’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Greens Andrew Little has said that Robertson as Finance Minister is not negotiable.

Robertson is likely to get a high list placing, his current ranking of 3 seems likely. And if his re-election via the list is at risk (that’s possible if Labour support collapses further) then Labour are unlikely to form the next government.

But what if he loses his electorate seat? That would give Greens some justification for arguing for a more significant say in Finance.

Are Greens happy to be subservient to Labour this election? Or will they campaign more strongly in electorates?

It is likely to improve their party vote if the fight for electorate votes as well. When they imply ‘vote for my party but vote for them’ then there must be more chance of both votes going to ‘them’.

Lawyers for Labour

There are already a few lawyers in Parliament. That must be a good thing in a place that writes new laws and amends or discards existing laws.

Attorney General Chris Finlayson is not just a lawyer, he is a Queen’s Counsel.

Minister of Justice and Minister of Courts Amy Adams is a lawyer.

Minister of Revenue Judith Collins is a lawyer who before becoming an MP specialised in employment, property, commercial, and tax law.

This all sounds like appropriate experience for the positions.

Winston Peters was a lawyer before becoming an MP.

Andrew Little started his first career as a lawyer with the Engineers’ Union. That seems appropriate enough for the leader of the Labour Party.

I have noticed that there seems to be quite a few lawyers standing as candidates in this year’s election.

For National: Former navy officer to replace John Key

A property lawyer and former naval officer has been chosen to fill former Prime Minister John Key’s big shoes in Helensville.

Chris Penk was last night announced as National’s nomination for the safe seat, which has held by the party since it was established in 1978.

National could do with some expertise in property in Auckland.

For Greens: No Green deal for Labour Party in Hutt South battle

Labour will have to win Hutt South without help from the Green Party in the September election.

Constitutional lawyer and Green Party candidate Susanne Ruthven  said the situation in Hutt South was different.

For Labour: Lewis selected as Labour’s 2017 candidate for Whanganui

Steph Lewis selected as Labour’s 2017 candidate for Whanganui

She currently works as an lawyer/investigator, resolving disputes between large organisations and members of the public.

For Labour: Auckland central’s new Labour candidate to take on Nikki Kaye

Labour has put forward Helen White as its new candidate standing in the Auckland central electorate after Labour MP Jacinda Ardern left the area to campaign in the Mt Albert by-election.

White, an employment lawyer, wants to return the seat to Labour.

For Labour: Labour’s Whangarei Candidate

Tony Savage has been selected as the Labour Party candidate for Whangarei for the 2017 General Election.

Tony has an employment background as a CEO, technology adviser, strategy consultant, financial adviser as well as being a successful local lawyer in Whangarei practicing mainly within the commercial and property fields.

For Labour: Labour Bay of Plenty candidate announced

Angie Warren-Clark has been selected as the Labour Party candidate for Bay of Plenty.

Mrs Warren-Clark has worked in the electorate for over 10 years in the field of domestic violence and is a non-practising barrister and solicitor.

For Labour: Candidate for East Coast

Kiri is a commercial lawyer and business consultant based in Whakatane and working all throughout the East Coast electorate.

For Labour: Candidate for Ōtaki

Rob is the manager of White Ribbon, the campaign to end men’s violence towards women, and works to help change attitudes and behaviour, both on the Kapiti Coast and throughout New Zealand.

As well as having a law degree, Rob has previous experience as a Parliamentary press secretary and has an extensive background in events management.

For Labour: Candidate for Christchurch Central

Duncan is a lawyer and professor who has been working since 2010 to help ordinary people in Christchurch get their homes, lives, jobs, and businesses back on track after the earthquakes. As well as practicing, researching, and teaching law, he is an activist and spokesperson for homeowners fighting defective repairs and the failures of insurers, EQC, and others to treat citizens fairly and properly.

There may be more lawyers standing for other parties but I had particularly noticed the number of Labour candidates who were lawyers.

Perhaps lawyers are attracted to politics, and they may be also more inclined to have the  financial resources to be able to campaign. Ordinary workers need to keep working so don’t have the time, even if they had the inclination.

Are there any more lawyers who are MPs or candidates?

 

“They don’t have much respect for the democratic process”

Standing in an election is optional. Same for a by-election. So this claim from Green candidate Julie Anne Genter is odd, and also a tad hypocritical.

1 News: Julie Anne Genter labels National’s Mt Albert by-election no show lacking ‘respect for the democratic process’

Speaking last night Julie Anne Genter told 1 NEWS National’s no show in the contest for the Auckland seat shows a lack of “respect” for the “democratic process”.

“The fact National didn’t put up a candidate shows that they don’t have much respect for the democratic process and they were trying to make very light of this election,” Ms Genter said.

Ms Genter said her performance in the by-election was expected and went on to congratulate Ms Adern for her win.

“It’s pretty typical for a Green Party result in a by-election,” she said.

“Because we campaign on the party vote many Green Party voters are used to giving their CV to other candidates especially candidates as strong as Jacinda Ardern.”

So Genter stood with no expectation of winning and making no attempt to get votes. She used the by-election as a PR exercise. As she can choose to do, but it could be seen as a cynical use of the democratic process.

Is it better to stand in an election and encourage votes for another candidate, or to not stand at all?

Green candidates have stood in electorates for a number of elections making no attempt to win the electorate. They openly campaign for the party vote, but suggest to varying degrees that the electorate vote should go elsewhere.

That is their choice. They are using the democratic process to suit their goals. As National did in the Mt Albert by-election.

Greens chose not to stand a candidate in the recent Mt Roskill by-election to help the Labour candidate. Did that show no respect for the democratic process?

Greens chose not to stand a candidate in the Northland by-election to help Winston Peters. Did that show no respect for the democratic process? Labour stood a candidate but campaigned for votes to not go to her but instead to Peters.

Genter is trying to diss National for making their own choices on what they do in electorates, but she and Greens play the democratic system to suit their own purposes as much as any party.

 

 

National MP stands down from challenge

In November it was announced that someone would challenge list MP Paul Foster-Bell to be the National candidate in the Wellington Central electorate – see National MP challenge in Wellington Central.

National list MP Paul Foster-Bell, who stood in Wellington Central last election against Grant Robertson and James Shaw, is being challenged by Nicola Willis, who appears to be backed by John Key.

Foster-Bell has just announced that he will stand down from selection and won’t contest the election.

It sounds like he may be jumping before he was shoved aside.

Foster-Bell was ranked 46th on the National party list in the 2014 election. He is currently ranked at that same 46 on National’s website.

Candidate votes in Wellington Central in 2014:

  • Grant Robertson 19,807 (Labour 9,306)
  • Paul Foster-Bell 11,540 (National 14,689)
  • James Shaw 5,077 (Greens 11,545)

Will a better National candidate convert more party support into electorate votes? With a higher profile Shaw may split  more votes with Robertson.

 

National’s Smith risk

How big a risk to National’s election chances is Nick Smith?

Some of the criticism of Smith’s water announcement was ill informed, over the top or disingenuous, but did a poor job of both announcing and explaining. Getting cranky makes things worse.

This is on top of multiple stuff ups over housing and also over the Kermadecs sanctuary, which should have been all good publicity.

May cost National the election, it’s far from certain it will but it won’t help.

The national boat has a dirty water leak – can English deal with this? Or hope the sinking can be ignored?