Chinese sounding names revisited

In 2015 Labour got blasted for their claims that data of Chinese-sounding-names proved some point about housing. Most of what I remember is the mess Labour made of it.

Russell Brown has some new information on this that looks bad for both Labour and for the media that ran their story.

At Public Address – Harkanwal Singh: What really happened with those Chinese-sounding-names

The 2015 publication of what has become known as the the “Chinese-sounding-names” story on Auckland home ownership was, says Harkanwal Singh, “a really pivotal moment for me, working in a New Zealand newsroom. Because that’s when I realised that things don’t have to be true to be published.”

Singh was working as the New Zealand Herald’s first dedicated data journalist and was at the meeting where Labour Party MP Phil Twyford and party researcher Rob Salmond brought in their data – which they said showed a hitherto unsuspected level of Chinese foreign ownership in Auckland housing.

“They said ‘we’re not being racist’ as they handed over the data set,” he told Jogai Bhatt and I at last Sunday’s Orcon IRL.

Singh’s questions over the data delayed publication by a week. During that week he contacted Auckland University’s Thomas Lumley and Edward Abraham of Dragonfly Data Science (“the best statisticians in the country”).

“And I went back to my editors and I said, look, you should publish it, but you should say that Labour is saying this – and the statisticians are saying that it’s not true.”

His suggestion was not taken up by his editors.

“The story ran with the headline ‘We have Chinese buyers’ and and all I did was add some bullet points which said ‘this data is wrong’. But they were published on the fifth page, inside, in a little box, so no one really saw them.

“It was hugely problematic and as a immigrant and as a person of colour, I saw a huge problem with it. But no one else in the newsroom saw any problem with it. And when I approached senior journalists I was told ‘it’s a great story’.

“I think it’s still not been addressed and no one’s really addressed how they went about doing it. And it’s a huge issue of data literacy if you’re just going to publish analysis done by political parties for their own goals.”

Concerns of a data expert were ignored in the race to make headlines. This is a stain on the Herald as well as on Labour.

Video of the whole interview:

While this was poorly done by Labour and by the Herald there could be valid concerns about who was buying and financing properties that stoke the price surge.

James Ting-Edwards in comments:


Among the sad parts of this story is that the “foreign money” conversation could have happened without anti-migrant language or dog-whistles.

David Hood had a good go at telling that story here (with the graph above), drawing on data to show a divergence between the rise in NZ house values and domestic borrowing. That “magic money” came from somewhere, and is a legitimate domestic policy target regardless of its source in terms of countries, geopolitics, or cultural ties.

He quotes a key paragraph:

Is all the magic money offshore capital? We just don’t know. There is a lack of evidence of it coming from other parts inside the New Zealand economy, and given the hundreds of billions of dollars, a local source would be somewhat obvious. We also know that in other countries, with more internal housing markets, household debt does not just match the pattern of house value, the amounts add up to the same in gains. In New Zealand there is a 300 billion shortfall.

Proper investigations by Labour and the media may have found the answers.

Instead they went for dog whistling using dodgy data.

Phil twyford is now Minister of Housing, and NZ Herald continues to promote click bait headlines and sack journalists.

Blogger of the year

Political blogs in New Zealand serve as a useful enough niche in discussions on democratic matters but are waning in influence and newsworthiness.This is largely due to the growing dominance of Facebook as a forum for just about everything, but is also an effect of ‘Dirty Politics’ on the two largest blogs.

Twitter has it’s uses in monitoring news, and views of the news writers, but as a forum it is also diminishing in importance. It has been tainted by misguided and often bitter social crusaders with too much bashing of anyone with different views.

Kiwiblog still chugs along as one of the biggest and most worthwhile blogs to watch. David Farrar was rocked by ‘Dirty Politics’ but kept going and is still a knowledgeable and very well informed political commentator. He is trashed by some on the left because he is closely associated with National but gives some good insights into the Government without being a yes man, he is prepared to criticise his own side and praise opponents albeit with an obvious preference overall.

Amongst the daily noise there are some good comments and a number of commenters are worth watching out for.

The Standard has had a difficult year, with internal divisions causing more than a few problems, and a couple of long serving and prominent authors/commenters being banned over differences. While it there are still strong Labour connections there is a growing influence – often negative – of Green supporters, active in effectively censoring The Standard by shutting out and driving away views and people deemed unwelcome.

There are some commenters worth watching out for but there is a lot of repeat bleating and unrealistic idealism.

The Daily Blog has waned. A lot of effort and resource went into Waatea Fifth Estate which was designed as a great alternative to the struggling traditional media, but failed to get repeat funding for next year -it was interesting at times but didn’t build an audience. Some posts are good but the messy site design and too many rants and ridiculously slanted assertions from Martyn Bradbury detract from overall credibility.

Commenters have been heavily filtered since the beginning a The Daily Blog, with Bradbury’s  lack of confidence in his arguments resulting in him protecting them from examination, so the comments threads are rarely of much value.

Whale Oil is still the biggest blog stats-wise, mainly due to having by far the most daily posts (25 yesterday), by many of these are fillers and click bait. Slater sometimes has some fresh and breaking content but not much these days, and tends to bang on about a few topics repeatedly. Insider sources have diminished markedly. He also now relies a lot on other media content, ironically heavily criticising that same media for being past it and irrelevant.

The commenting community is still very active despite major purges in 2014 in particular but you have search for good content, which can be tedious with the often very slow Discus system.

On blog comments – while Whale Oil keeps conquering the click stats their number of comments gives a better idea of comparative interest, with most posts getting few if any comments. There are often as many comments per day at Kiwiblog, and The Standard usually isn’t far off in comment numbers either (but not the last few days).

Public Address sometimes has some very good posts – Legal Beagle is always worth looking out for and  Russell Brown’s posts on drugs are worthwhile – but they are barely daily so it’s more of a magazine style blog. Comment numbers are spasmodic.

The Pundit is still there but only has the occasional post. Andrew Geddis is always worth checking out but otherwise, from a 16 strong line up of authors there isn’t much content, with only 9 posts this month.

No Right Turn is worth keeping an eye on but with no commenting allowed it lacks community and variety.

Blogger of the Year

For me there has been a stand out political blogger in New Zealand this year – Danyl at Dim-Post.

Dim-Post evolved from a semi-satirical site with an interest in literature into political activism to an extent in 2015. Danyl helped James Shaw in his campaign to take over Russel Norman’s co-leadership of the Green Party, and became a part of the Green campaign committee.

But this year, especially in the second half, Danyl has done something unusual for a political blogger – he has been prepared to examine his own political views and critique his own side, the left, with some very good insights and challenges. He has also been prepared to look across the political spectrum and mix criticism with praise and acknowledge positives with the current Government.

It’s rarely refreshing to see someone involved in politics prepared to break out of the bubble and look at the bigger pictures, even when they are not painting what they prefer to see.

Comments are also often worth skimming through as there are some good contributions there.

For a sort of a lefty Danyl is notably different to the idealists with entrenched views and no tolerance for alternative views.

Some of Danyl’s thought provoking recent posts – if you have spare time over the holidays it could be interesting to revisit these posts and comments.

I think Key’s tendency to blow with the wind has more to do with political expediency than intellectual honesty, and I said so. But I agree that the ability to change your mind is an important trait, and since then I’ve been trying to think of recent instances in which I’ve changed my mind on political issues, and I couldn’t really think of any, which worried me a bit.

I guess I know what twitter and all of the Green and Labour Party MPs have been talking about today. This poll conducted by a Feminist charity in the UK is a pretty typical example of the various surveys about public attitudes to feminism (I’m not aware of any similar work in NZ). Most people will say they believe in gender equality but very few people will self-describe themselves as feminist.

I’m not a fancy media strategist etc but when you’re twenty points behind in the polls and there’s a huge, unpredicted political change, probably not that smart to go around saying ‘nothing has changed.’

One of Key’s strengths was an apparent indifference towards his government’s policy agenda. There were no bottom lines, no hills to die on. With the exception of major natural and financial disasters, everything else in the country was pretty much fine as it was but could be changed, preferably slightly, if the public mood seemed to call for it. ‘We think we’ve got the mix about right,’ was Key’s first response to any problem. It gave him enormous flexibility, and he’s leaving his office with popularity and political capital unmatched by any other Prime Minister.

A series on Marxism:

The Standard has one of those ‘Maybe Marx was right‘ posts you see a lot on the left nowadays, linking to a column in the Guardian suggesting the same thing. Reading the Trotsky biography I’ve mentioned on here before has lead me to a lot of secondary reading about Marx and Marxism, and my half-informed take is that Marx was right about some things but very wrong about other, very major things, and his total wrongness on those major things hasn’t yet sunk in for the radical left, which is a source of a lot of their failure and irrelevance. I want to talk about one of the wrong things.

One of Marx’s big ideas was that history operates according to scientific laws. This was a much more sophisticated way to think about history than people back then were used to. A lot of intellectuals thought that history was shaped by a ‘world spirit’, viz Hegel. Most normal people – In Europe, at least – thought the Judeo-Christian God made everything happen. Most historians thought that ‘great men’ shaped history. The idea that technological and economic change and other materialist factors drove history was, well, revolutionary.

Yesterday a few people asked me why on earth I wrote a long confused rant about Marxism. Like, what does that even have to do with anything that’s happening in the real world? Possibly nothing, increasingly so, but I think it’s relevant to some of what’s happening on the left. The post is a culmination of stuff I’ve been thinking about for a while.

When I wrote my screed about Marxism one of my fears was that Scott Hamilton would show up and tear it to pieces. Happily he has not done this, instead he directed me to this post he wrote a few months ago also critiquing the base-superstructure model.

Giovanni Tiso has written a post about Why he is a Marxist.

I like forums that challenge norms, that provoke thought and encourage discussion. It’s lacking in the big blogs. I think that Danyl has done this better than anyone this year.

National custard and Labour jelly

The National led Government may be showing signs of turning to custard but who wants warmed up Labour jelly?

Rob Salmond posted about a dire time for the Government at Public Address.


These last few weeks have been dire for the government, across housing, crime, employment, and caring for kids. Yes, I’m biased, but I haven’t seen National have this bad of a stretch for a long while.


He details a number of things that have been going wrong for National – fair enough – and concludes:

This whole period has been very messy, possibly worse than they’ve had. And at the moment it’s not easy to see where the next big win for National is coming from, unless they massively reverse course on a house building programme, something 75% of the public wants but the government has spent years saying is insane.

There’s an old idea in politics that people aren’t willing to consider switching teams until they get sick of the incumbent, in just the same way most people don’t buy a new car until the old one starts giving them problems.

The last three weeks show a government car that’s starting to cough and splutter, spewing out noxious gas but not going anywhere fast.

The next fifteen months are going to be fascinating.

The Government car has certainly looked more dented recently. But Labourites have been predicting that the Key wheels are about to fall off for years.

It seems to have been Labour’s main strategy – wait until it’s their turn.

So the Government has looked a bit like lumpy custard lately – but tellingly on a Labour leaning blog the comments quickly turned to the lack of solidity in the presumptive alternative, Labour.


Trouble is Labour for what ever reason as still so unlikeable I wonder how much difference it will make.


What am I supposed to think after reading this? If the point is meant to be that a Labour-led alternative would be better, then I wish there were more in here about what Labour would be doing, why Labour’s people are superior, would make highly competent and better Ministers who are less prone to screwing up, and how it’d overall be better.

Otherwise it’s just asking people to vote for the least worst instead of the best.

Joe Wylie:

It’s like we’ve internalized the right wing talking points.

When Rob Salmond offers nothing beyond passively spectating while National deliver a series of own goals, yes, you could be forgiven for thinking that.


Meanwhile Labour is still shooting itself in the foot with unwanted headlines like Andrew Little: ‘I was wrong’.

Labour still looks too wobbly to look like a credible alternative.

Salmond tries to defend his post and strategy:

I agree that there’s a two-fold challenge for parties of the left – to show their promise as well as the incumbent’s shortcomings – and they need to meet both challenges to win the right to govern. Commenters are entirely right about that.

The only thing I’d say is that not every blog post is about every aspect of politics.

Put another way, a *blog post* that concentrates solely on National’s shortcomings does not mean the left’s *electoral strategy* is to concentrate solely on shortcomings. There are many other blog posts and other media that do different things to this post. Indeed, in many other forums Labour and the Greens are already rolling out their positive vision for New Zealand, promoting alternative policies on housing, jobs, kids, and so on. It’s the combination of all of those posts that make up the strategy, not this post alone.

Salmond admits that his post is a party of ‘the strategy’.

There is not much sign of Labour “rolling out their positive vision for New Zealand”, and even those who would like a decent alternative to vote for are not seeing it.

Labour is currently better known for ruling out policy positions and having a jelly-like policy strategy.

And Labour and Andrew Little have become likened to ‘barking at every passing car’ – which is what Salmond’s post appears to be encapsulating.

That’s the vision we feel New Zealanders will warm to come election day, and that people will go the booth next year voting for a great progressive vision as well as to get rid of the current crowd.


There you have Labour on a plate. Warmed up jelly is not very appealing to voters.

When will we see a substantial main course on offer?

Sock puppetry, shilling and lying

There were some prominent accusations of political sock puppetry yesterday.

Mickysavage at The Standard: The sock puppets, the media and the UBI

And now for the second “contribution”, this one from the sockpuppets at the Taxpayers Union.  I think a few lefties should sit down and design a similar sock puppet organization and see if it can attract similar media atteniton.  I suspect that North Korea is looking our way to see how it is done properly, such is the TU’s ability to get media coverage.

The level of hypocrisy here is really high….

Why the media even tolerate these clowns is beyond me.

NBR sparked a major spat on Twitter with a head to head interview of Matthew Hooton and Rob Salmond.

Head to head: Hooton & Salmond
on accusations of shilling and lying

After quibbling about what Andrew Little actually said about tgreats against Paul Bennett and implications about Matthew Hooton:

Hooton: …and then of course for some reason he brings highly paid PR operatives into it and when he’s asked what he means by that he says me…

Little didn’t bring Hooton into it, he didn’t rule Hooton out when asked about him.

Salmond: Again that’s not true, you’re just making it up again Matthew.

Hooton: No, he was asked, Rob, you need just to, I know you’re being paid for this interview by the Labour Party, but you need to take into account …

NBR: All right Rob, are you being paid?

Salmond: Of course I’m being paid, I’m you know so’s Matthew being paid…

Hooton: No, so I’m losing money from being here Rob because I don’t, I’m not a paid shill. You are a paid shill. You go on the media, and you are paid to run lines on blogs, and in the media, on behalf of the people who are paying you money. I’m not.

Salmond openly posts at Public Address, his last post was prior to and related to the Standard post: The Taxpayers’ Union rides again!

Salmond: Matthew you’re in the PR industry aren’t you, is this true? I’ve heard rumours you’re in the PR industry…

Hooton: Yeah that’s right.

It’s well known that Hooton runs a PR company: Exeltium “is is New Zealand’s most successful corporate and public affairs consultancy”.

Salmond: You’re in the PR industry, isn’t that exactly how the PR industry works? So that’s really you isn’t it?

Hooton: I also have a hobby called political commentary, and one of the things which I think the Labour party fails to understand, because you come from more of a command and control culture, is that some people just do have political views and wish to talk about politics and some people find that interesting. And they don’t have a financial in it. They don’t get paid by a political party the way you are. The only political party in recent times i think that’s paid me is the Mongolian Green Party, and I think I got a speaking fee from the Conservatives, whereas you are paid by Andrew Little’s Labour Party.

Salmond: Yes I am and I’ve never hidden that fact from anybody.

Hooton: But you’re accusing me, and Andrew Little does this regularly, and many of your friends on the left wing blog, accuse others of taking money. But the irony is it’s you that takes the money.

Salmond: Well I think you know, I’m not sure if you’ve got the Alanis Morrisette irony disease there, I don’t think there’s anything ironic about that…as you heard earlier in this interview what I’m accusing Matthew of isn’t of being paid by anybody, those words never crossed my lips…

Not those words but strongly implied at least in the above transcript.

Salmond: I’m accusing him of being an incompetent commentator, now he says he’s just a hobby commentator, and maybe that’s showing…

Now that’s ironic. Salmond was prominent in Labour’s embarrassing Chinese sounding surname debacle, and he continues to show that he’s out of his depth as a party paid political commentator.

This is only half way through the NBR interview, I’ll transcribe more when I get the time.

But after this, yesterday morning, Salmond and Hooton continued a slanging match on Twitter. See:

This included:

2004! Wow. Time to stop hyperventilating. Can someone take a paper bag? , you nearby?

Not a good look for Salmond, nor for Labour.

If Andrew Little wants to turn his leadership around he needs better PR advice and much better shilling.

Danyl reacted to this with a disclosure at Dim-Post:

Voluminous disclosure

Rob Salmond and Matthew Hooton had a discussion about commentators and ‘paid political operators’ and conflicts of interest, which seems like a good time to disclose that I’ve recently done a bit of paid contract work for the Green Party (research, writing). Also, and possibly more significantly, as of last week I’m a member of the Greens’ Campaign Committee, which is tasked with planning and implementing the party’s 2017 election campaign. So I will not be a totally disinterested commentator when analysing the upcoming campaign or politics in general.

I don’t really do any of the mainstream media political commentary that Hooton and Salmond do. And no one in the Greens asks me to write or say certain things on the blog. (They have, in the past, but the requests were so lame I did not comply.) I find that my bias is mostly one of omission. I get confused about what I know that is and isn’t confidential, so I basically mostly say nothing about the Greens so I don’t get in trouble. If the party somehow becomes so newsworthy that I have to write about them, and I have to check what I’m writing with the staff or leaders I’ll make sure I disclose that. Otherwise they’ve got nothing to do with any of my pontificating.

He has disclosed connections to the Greens and in particular to James Shaw before but this takes his party association to another level.

This means that most of New Zealand’s biggest political blogs have party connections:

  • Cameron Slater (Whale Oil) has National Party links and is paid by some MPs and national and local body candidates to promote their interests and attack opponents.
  • David Farrar (Kiwiblog) has long had close connections to National and is John Key’s pollster.
  • Public Address – Russell Brown is closely aligned with Labour and Rob Salmond is paid by Labour.
  • The Daily Blog – Martyn Bradbury has been paid by the Mana Party and implied he was paid by Dotcom’s Internet party.
  • The Standard has had and still has authors with close connections to the Labour Party and to a lesser extent to the Greens.
  • Danyl/The Dim-Post is now on the Green’s campaign committee

Matthew Hooton floats around commenting wherever he can on radio, on TV, in print media and he pops up on various online forums – he often pops up at The Standard and elsewhere. He denies any party funding for his activities, so (not disclosed in the NBR interview) he was a keynote speaker at the recent ACT annual conference.

Most people with the commitment to comment online have (or have had in Hooton’s case) party involvement.

Disclosure: I have never received any money for any content here at Your NZ, and everything posted under my name has been written by me unless shown as a quote. I have no involvement or connection with any political party or politician, nor with any media organisation. Your NZ is financially and politically independent.

How and why of UBI

Comments on the  Public Address/Polity post Home-spun non-truths look at ways of paying for a Universal basic Income and why it could be a good idea.

Daniel Carr:

Treasury has a page that describes a simple method for modelling raising revenue through income tax. It takes into account reduced GST revenue and wages from changes to the income tax rate. Obviously there’s more to a UBI then that, but it’s a good start if you’re thinking about how feasable it would be.

I’ve made a spreadsheet that implements it. Feel free to see what you can come up with.

It’s set for a $11,000 Adult UBI and $4000 child UBI that completely replaces jobseekers, dbp, student allowance, invalids benefits and offsets student loans by 50% (i.e. living expenses), but leaves pensioners no worse off. I get a net cost of $26,763 billion.

It can be done with the following tax rates on the current brackets plus a new ‘above $150000’ bracket. It results in net income increase for people on and below the median income from wages and salaries. Negative transfers kick in just above that:

His suggested tax rates:

  • up to $14000: 35% (currently 10.5%)
  • up to $48000: 38% (currently 17.5%)
  • up to $70000: 46% (currently 30%)
  • up to $150000: 56% (currently 33%)
  • above $150000: 66% (currently 33%)

He doesn’t say whether his suggestions includes the ACC Earner Premium which is currently 1.45% (it drops to 1.39% from 1 April 2016).

Remember also that we pay 15% Goods and Services Tax out of our taxed income.

Brent Jackson pointed out:

Those tax brackets are never going to work if the corporate rate stays at 30%

It’s not a corporate tax, it’s a tax on all business profits so affects many small and medium sized businesses as well as large corporations.

If the business tax rate is significantly different from personal tax rates it can create many unintended consequences. And if the business tax rate is raised too much it results in reduced business activity, more movement of businesses offshore, and more avoidance and evasion of tax. We already have a substantial cash economy that evades tax.

Adam H on why:

Finland of course…

Actually there’s a really good tax reason to do this. It’s effectively a tax free allowance: you slice it off the bottom and add it on the top. One effect is that people join the system who otherwise might not.

It’s fundamentally a simplification mechanism, and flattens out all (yes, all) the terrible marginal tax rates that arise in the current mess. It’s a bit like introducing a flat tax… so why do some groups rail against it?

Because flat taxes are better for those who earn more and not as good for those who earn less. A UBI would balance that to an extent.

Slicing off the bottom and adding to the top moves more of the tax burden to middle to higher earners. Many lower earners may little or no income tax already due to Working for Families.

I guess it’s partly because it eliminates the ability to moralise and penalise lifestyles. How could we target specific voter groups if you can’t differentiate…?

Ben Wilson:

I think it’s actually entirely about that. Because everyone can see given even one second, that it is possible to rejig all the taxation so that it’s a cost neutral change.

A cost neutral change? Perhaps overall, but if more people get benefits (which is what a UBI is under a different name) then someone else has to pay for it, unless the Government increases borrowing or increases the money supply, neither of which are sustainable.

The change in attitudes towards people who are in poor circumstances, as no longer “beneficiaries” but rather “people on the smallest possible income”. Their choice to work is not then nobbled by the brutal removal of any assistance, and the prospect of a stand-down if the work they get is precarious (as it usually is for people in such circumstances). Indeed, any paid work they choose to do is their business, they just have to pay their taxes like everyone else.

What about the change in attitude of (some) people who now regard an ‘income’ as a right that requires no effort to earn?

Rob Stowell:

I love the idea of a UBI. I love the way, for example, it could change society and the way we thing about work. If no-one wants to clean toilets, no-one HAS to. So toilet-cleaning might get you a good wage.

Or no one will want to clean toilets.

Other jobs might decline in value – because they offer personal satisfaction at a rate that amply compensates. Art might be everywhere. Music might be free.

That may not work so well if everyone chooses to be an artist or a musician.

I’ve heard similar elsewhere – a UBI enables people to choose to do what they like without having to worry about earning money.

With Labour’s proposed free tertiary education it is likely to increase hobby degrees – and the cost to the state to pay for the privilege.

This will reduce productivity and could be disastrous for the economy.

Tax policy would have to shift markedly, though. Already wealthy folks know there are many ways to minimise your tax. If we put up income and corporate rates, the ridiculousness of having no CGT will jump out. Because it’s such a simple way to avoid tax altogether, with higher income tax no-one will declare money they can shove into a capital asset. It’s already glaringly obvious this is happening.

If tax policy is changed markedly it will be a big gamble that benefits will outweigh unintended consequences. If it’s too expensive to do business competitively in New Zealand it is likely to increase the already substantial overseas based business interests here, like in Australia and China.

Tony j rickets:

Jenny just showed me a Listener piece about lousy pay for skilled responsible truck drivers leading to a shortage of truck drivers – this could really improve how we think about the value of labour.

It could. But if more people choose a non-employed lifestyle and jobs like truck driving and cleaning have to pay much more to attract sufficient labour then costs will go up. Put that alongside taxes going up and it will be harder to do do business, and the cost of goods and services will go up.

Marc C:

The way it has been presented, often only quoted as being about $ 211 a week per person, it will hardly thrill the majority on benefits, as if that is all they would get, it is definitely not enough to pay basic living costs. It would not even cover the rent for a room in many flats in Auckland.

But there are different models of an UBI, and those that are on benefits for health and disability, and for needing to care for a child or disabled person, they will surely need a good top-up to cover their actual needs.

It will not completely do away with a kind of “welfare system”, it can save a lot of administrative costs though, and if linked to taxation, it would work quite well, I think, provided the necessary changes to tax rates will be done.

A UBI matching the current level of National Super would be a lot more expensive than discussed above. If it is set less than Super we will have a multi-tiered system that could cause problems – are old people valued more than young people?

If Working for Families is retained, and accommodation allowances and health assistance and other targeted assistance we move further from a basic income and would just have a base income with a lot of bits on top of it. Not universal.

Labour has initiated a tricky and complex topic. It’s not just a UBI that needs to be considered, it’s inextricably linked to our whole welfare and tax systems as well as how we do business and how all that might impact on the economy.

If the result is more than a bit of tweaking the outcome will be very hard to predict. It would be a massive experiment with a huge amount at stake.


Polity polls and pondering

Rob Salmond, Labour Party consultant now an author at Public Address, has posted on recent polls – Poll Soup. He complains about poor analysis of recent polls by media, so I’m complaining about his poll analysis.

At the outset, let me say this is not a post that says the polls are wrong, nor that the left are where they want to be.

But the analysis of the polls this week has been poor.

Primarily, there’s been the claim that National’s high 40s ratings show the TPP protests and/or Labour’s tertiary policy launch have had no impact. That claim is wrong, both because an overall poll rating doesn’t say anything in particular about single events, and more importantly because the government has actually lost almost 2% support over the summer break. Here’s the evidence:

There were four public polls in November / December  2015 – two from Roy Morgan, and one each from TV3 and the New Zealand Herald. Across those four polls, National’s average was 49%.

There have been three polls so far this year – two from Roy Morgan and one from TVNZ. Across those three polls, National’s average was 47.5%, 1.5% below its average from November-December.

Over the same period, the government as a whole (National + Maori Party + ACT + UF) is down an average of 1.8%.

So the claim of “no movement” is a stretch.

TNZV made that claim by comparing their poll in February with one in October, some four months ago. There’s been a lot of events over those four months, not just the TPP and Labour’s policy launch, including a bunch of more recent polls to compare against.

Comparing 3 polls at the quietest time of the political year with 4 polls at the second quietest time of the political year is a fairly narrow analysis, especially when one of the polls in December could easily be a high outlier.

Looking at the trends of a single pollster, Roy Morgan…

…it shows National rising slightly. Salmond notes:

For completeness, the latest Roy Morgan poll does in fact show National up slightly from January to now. But I’d hardly be the first to note the jumpiness of that particular poll from one polling window to the next. I always prefer more evidence than that.

More evidence, the last five Roy Morgan results for National: 49, 49, 47, 48, 48.5

Not much jumpiness there, especially taking into account a margin of error of about 3.2%.

I deliberately left out the previous three Roy Morgan results: 43, 50.5, 44.5

That’s quite ‘jumpy’ – if you choose your range you can just about support whatever contention you like.

The ‘jumpiest’ result in the ranges Salmond used happens to be Herald-Digipoll in December of 51.3%, which in a four result sample (the others were 46.7, 49, 47) can make quite a difference.

Here’s another way of cherry picking poll results:

  • Last 5 results: 51.3, 47, 47, 47, 48.5 = 48.16 average
  • Previous 5 results: 50, 47, 49, 46.7, 49 = 48.34 average

Statistically there’s nothing in that comparison.

Then Salmond looks at future prospects of left (Labour+Greens) versus right (National).

National, of course, remains in the box seat. Along with its solid hangers-on (ACT, UF), it sits in the high 40s. Solid supporters of an alternative government (Labour + Greens) sit a little above 40%, and the swinging centre is climbing towards 10%.

If the election were held today, I’ve little doubt National would be returned even though – as noted on One News – Labour + Greens + NZF would be very nearly able to form a government if they wished. On today’s numbers, I think Winston would choose Key if offered the choice.

To be seriously in the game, the putative left coalition needs to at least tie National at election time. Obviously, having the combined left beat National is better again, and the higher the margin the better. But at a minimum, a tie’s required.

That means the left needs to shift around 4% of the population from supporting the status quo to supporting change.

National -4 and Labour/Green +4 is a shift of 8%. It’s certainly doable.

It’s interesting that Salmond is suggesting that “to be seriously in the game” Labour+Greens needs to at least tie with National, otherwise he thinks NZ First would go with National (that’s uncertain).

So their target is about 45%, which could be Labour 33 + Greens 12, or Labour 35 + Greens 10.

But that would still need NZ First to make up the numbers.

Would Winston think that National 45 versus Labour 35, or National 45 versus Labour Green 45? It’s hard to see Labour being level with National on their own.

NZ First are polling relatively high for them between elections, in the range 5.5-10 since the 2014 election. They normally better their polling in elections.

What if NZ First get 10% and Greens 8%?

There are many interesting possibilities. And don’t forget the final numbers, which could be ACT, Maori Party and Dunne if he doesn’t retire. They could still make the difference, as they have for the past two elections.

There’s some interesting discussion in Poll Soup, especially on the ‘missing million’ that some on the left still think is their holy grail.

Kelly’s cannabis request rejected

Helen Kelly’s oncologist applied to the Ministry of Health to be legally allowed to ease her discomfort as she dies with cannabis related products. This has been rejected, with the MoH asking for more information and claiming the oncologist hasn’t provided it.

This has been a rapidly evolving story that I haven’t had time to cover properly.

Some links to information as the story unfolds:

Stuff: Former union boss given two months to live – nearly a year ago

“But it doesn’t cure me, it just gives me time … I don’t know what the prognosis is now, but it’s still death and it’s still months.”

Kelly continues to source cannabis illegally while she awaits the outcome of her application to the Ministry of Health for medicinal cannabis.

Currently her application has been deferred while the ministry waits for more information from her oncologist.

But Kelly says she’s been asked to provide things she doesn’t have access to, and the ministry should be stepping up and helping source information.

“Why doesn’t the Ministry of Health have a list, which they’re satisfied meets their criteria? Instead you have all these people Googling away and Skyping American producers trying to work out what they’re saying.

“I’ll try and find the information they want and see whether that goes through and, if it doesn’t, then I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Kelly’s situation is very sad – she’s dying. And it’s also sad that the Ministry of Health is making it hard for her to obtain what she wants legally.

Russell Brown has a good post at Public Address on developments: Helen Kelly’s letter.

There’s some concerning issues but some possible positives:

The good part is that the criteria for applications like Helen’s can be improved without changing the law. They’re not part of the Medicines Act. I think Peter Dunne needs to ensure,  as minister, that the process is fundamentally improved. Because a process so designed as to frustrate all medical cannabis applications will not prevent the use of cannabis in this way.

In the end, we do need to revisit the law – as the Law Commisison and two Parliamentary select committee inquiries have already said. Palliative care is not the only element of medical cannabis policy. But it’s certainly the place we should start, given the growing use of cannabis this way in defiance of the law. When we fail to do this, we impose risk and stress on desperately ill people and their doctors – and we’re saying we don’t care enough to properly regulate for their safety.

But the situation with Kelly is awful.

No one is going to prosecute Helen Kelly for treating her symptoms with cannabis. But what the system currently says is that it can’t and won’t make that safer for her. We need to do better than this. A lot better.

Surely we can do a lot better.

Brown attributes most of the blame on the National caucus and by implication John Key.


‘The Message’ is clear

Russell Brown has posted The Message at Public Address, giving an account of sorts of Phil Goff’s launch of his campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.

They message he is trying to convey is quite clear. His intro:

The announcement of Phil Goff’s intention to seek the Auckland mayoralty yesterday was able and organised. Various important constituencies were represented in the room, the messaging was precise and the first person to be greeted by name in the candidate’s speech was the present deputy mayor, Penny Hulse. So she’s on board.


Goff was at pains to emphasise that yesterday was not a campaign launch, merely the announcement of his candidacy. Policy will come with the launch proper, next year. He has already drawn some clear lines: finance the CRL more quickly, prevent Port expansion into the harbour, don’t privatise Watercare. But he will need to take good advice on what he chooses to say around the complexities of the Unitary Plan, the Auckland Plan and the Long Term Plan before having to actually state policy on them. Populism gets very perilous in that area, especially when you’re promising “protection for areas of high heritage value.”

But yesterday’s launch was competent and confident. After he spoke, Goff circulated easily for photographs while the press waited at the door of the room. His meeting and greeting completed, he turned, strode to the door and delivered his lines. He clearly does know how this is done.

Is Russell Goff’s media adviser? Did he arrange the media event? Whether he did or not his message is quite clear.

I can’t see any dosclosure so he must just be a interested observer, albeit quite keen on Goff’s bid for the mayoralty.


What does Labour stand for?

What does Andrew Little stand for? Does anyone have any idea?

He’s not the first Labour leader to morph into meaninglessness since Helen Clark stood down. He’s the fourth.

Peter Dunne may have swung away from Labour over the decades. He posts on his weekly blog (it’s often an interesting insight) about Labour in the UK and how that compares to here:

The contrast with the New Zealand Labour Party could not be more striking. Rather than standing for anything, it seems to have decided that the best way for it to reconnect with New Zealand voters is to be against everything, despite the absurd situations that creates.

For example, since the time of Norman Kirk, now over four decades ago, Labour has been in favour of changing the New Zealand flag to something more representative of our country today, although it has never actually done anything about it. Now, when the Prime Minister initiates a referendum process to change the flag, Labour is suddenly against the idea.

Similarly with the new Health and Safety legislation. Everyone accepts the current law is inadequate and in need of reform. The legislation currently going through Parliament does not meet Labour’s objectives but is nevertheless acknowledged as an improvement on what we have at present.

But contrary Labour opposes it as not going far enough. In other words, it would rather stick with an unacceptable status quo, putting more people’s lives at risk, than support changes which at the very least improve the current law.

These knee-jerk reactions are symptomatic of a Party that has lost its way, and does not know where it stands anymore.

Who, for further example, would have ever imagined a Labour Party in New Zealand apologising to Chinese migrants one decade for the disgusting, discriminatory poll-tax imposed on their forbears a century ago, in the next decade attacking those with Chinese sounding surnames for buying residential property in Auckland?

Or, with its historic commitment to free speech, singling out particular journalists and commentators for attack because they are perceived to be supportive of the current government?

Labour needs a Corbyn-like threat, a contemporary Jim Anderton if you like, to shake it out of its torpor and to allow it to redefine itself in terms of what it actually now stands for.

As the failings of the Little leadership start to become obvious, and the mutterings begin about possible replacements, the challenge will be to find a candidate to stands for something and is prepared to fight for it.

That forlorn hope probably means Andrew Little is safe for a while, and that Labour’s spiral of angry negativity will continue. It also means John Key’s smirky grin will grow ever broader.

Is this disillusionment with Labour just because Dunne has spend to long in coalition with National?

Someone who presumably still has close ties with Labour also Looks at Corbyn and Labour in the UK. And at his own Labour Party. Rob Salmod (Labour’s pollster and infamous for his Chinese surname data analysis) in In defence of the centre at Public Address:

The part where Monbiot is right is that the centre ground really is where elections are won and lost. (That statement is more controversial in New Zealand than it should be.) There are a ton of people there, and those peoples’ own identities are of being open to voting left or right. Below is a chart showing how New Zealanders perceive themselves, Labour, and National. Over a third see themselves as right of where they see Labour, and left of where they see National. That’s huge.

But “pulling the centre back towards the left” is massively, massively hard. You win those people over by being relevant to them as they are, not by telling them they’re worldview needs a rethink. It is just basic psychology. Tell people they were right all along; they like you. Tell people they were wrong all along; they don’t.

And if you win a majority of centrists, you win. The New Zealand Election Study series records six MMP elections in New Zealand – the three where Labour did best among centrists were the three Labour won.

That’s another message from the adacemic study I quoted above – in Germany, Sweden, and the UK, the elections where the left did best among centrists were the elections where they took power. As their popularity among centrists declined, so did their seat share.

New Zealand’s Labour looks nothing like a centrist party. Andrew Little looks nothing like a centrist leader.

I saw this exchange on Twitter a couple of days ago:

Lance Wiggs ‏@lancewiggs
Fascinating to see UK’s Corbyn vs @AndrewLittleMP’s @nzlabour. Corbyn is offering genuine difference, based on Labour values

Andrew Little ‏@AndrewLittleMP
@lancewiggs @nzlabour That explains opposition to state house sales, opp’n to loss of sovereignty under TPP, support for higher min wage …

Lance Wiggs ‏@lancewiggs
@AndrewLittleMP Some good things but plenty of anti-immigration, and other non-labour values. I’ve no idea what you stand for. @nzlabour

I have no idea what Labour or Little stand for either. Last year Little stood for “cut the crap”. That’s been flushed away by the Labour groomers. Little allowed himself to be repackaged as somethig but no one seems to know quite what.

Ng’s response to Salmond

In response Rob Salmond’s  A week on from the housing controversy where he tries to defend his and Phil Twyford’s use of property sales data and also refers to people who have bee very critical.

After I published Labour’s method online, Keith Ng, Tze Ming Mok, and Chuan-Zheng Lee – all skilled analysts, all otherwise critical on this topic – all agreed the name-based ethnicity analysis was statistically sound, robust, and accurate.


Having said that, one group I think did not overreact – despite their strongly critical stance – was the New Zealand Chinese community, including Keith, Tze Ming, and Chuan-Zheng. Their criticism was less about Labour’s intentions, and more about the impact of these revelations on ethnically Chinese New Zealanders.

Ng reacted angrily on Twitter:

New post: has been making shit up about what we’ve been saying about and his analysis.

Hey , which part of “cynical, reckless dogwhistling” made you think I was okay with ‘s intentions?

Hey , who should I talk to about getting a correction in the next issue? ‘s column grossly misrepresented what..

Salmond responded:

I will happily defend my column in the event of said formal complaints.

 Ng retorted:

Really? You think you can justify claiming that me, and “all agreed the name-based ethnicity analysis was statistically sound, robust, and accurate”?

Name-based ethnicity analysis was statistically sound, robust, and accurate”? Cos I’m bloody sure I didn’t, and that you can’t “honest opinion” that shit.

And he re-pointed to his Public address column in response – Don’t put words in our mouths, Rob where he details his disagreement, including:

Hey Rob, don’t put the words “statistically sound, robust, and accurate” into our mouths to describe your work.

If you need clarification, let me restate it: The method is fine, the data is broken, and those problems render it unscientific and utterly useless. Not sound. Not robust. Not accurate.

I was very critical of Labour intentions and I thought I was bloody clear about it.

I said that Phil Twyford was knowingly “straight-up scapegoating” Chinese New Zealanders and offshore Chinese alike and “fueling racial division in this country”. I said it was “cynical, reckless dogwhistling”.

What part of this was ambiguous for you??? Did you think I meant “cynical, reckless, but ultimately well-intentioned dogwhistling”?

Even after a week where Labour has been trying to take the “reverse racism” highground, trying to pretend that we didn’t blame Labour is a new delusional high, Rob.

That’s fairly clear.  Even Rob should get the hint from that.

Ng went on the re-explain his thoughts on Labour’s use of the data.

 they claim their intention was to talk about offshoreness, but what they knew about offshoreness only came from “informed speculation” secondary to the main analysis about ethnicity.

And what did Rob concluded from this “informed speculation”?

My conclusion: if my prior for “is there large-scale offshore $?” were X, my posterior post these data is >X

It’s a wanky way of saying: After seeing the Chinese-sounding names evidence, he is more confident that “there is large-scale offshore Chinese buying in Auckland” than he was before. How confident was he before? And how much more confident has he become?

No, I won’t quantify it, because that would be introducing false precision to qualitative reasoning.

But here’s the problem. He is literally saying his level of certainty isunknown + unknown. Which equals, of course: unknown.

This is the statistical basis on which Twyford is out there using words like “implausible” and “very unlikely”.

Ng concludes:

That is to say, Rob believe it’s okay to use evidence which supports a claim in political debate, explicitly regardless of how weak it is. According to Rob, any shred of evidence is okay in a political debate, because that’s how political debates work.

Please do not mistake me for thinking that this is well-intentioned. This is a cynical attempt to bamboozle the media and the public by hiding your utter lack of evidence behind fancy jargon. It’s a travesty and a sad excuse for analysis. You ought to be ashamed, Rob.

Also, Sunday-Star Times: These claims Rob made about me are incorrect and defamatory. Please issue an correction in your next issue.

The comments continue to be scathing. Another of those mentioned in Salmond’s column and post, Tze Mink Mok, joined in.

I am so fucking pissed off. Rob says of me, Keith and CZ, “Their criticism was less about Labour’s intentions”?? Either Rob was lying or he didn’t bother reading my column (possible): because THAT WAS MY MAIN CRITICISM. Jesus, my blog didn’t even MENTION the effects of any racist backlash on the Chinese community.

Rob’s latest column is just barefaced partisan hackery. I know Russell reposted it to encourage generate debate, but I’m embarrassed that it might be seen as an endorsement of Rob’s independence. Russell, I think that perhaps for Speaker posts it’s a good idea to include a line about the author’s political party affiliations and employment.

Seriously, this is just blatant damage control for the Labour party. Rob*lies* about the debate, and is entirely focused on framing critics of the Labour party as CRAZY and IRRATIONAL while carefully singling out three Chinese critics for praise in order to avoid accusations of racism. He’s shitting on any non-Chinese person who supported us. Because obviously, if you’re not Chinese and say exactly the same things that me and Keith said, and openly supported our positions, you must be completely irrational.

Keith, this is what happens when we fight them on the stats instead of on the solidarity. It goes “Ah yes, much respect to the Chinese who are good at stats [ignores substance of everything the Chinese people were saying because they know nobody understands stats so you can say whatever you want about what the Chinese people were saying about the stats] everybody else is CRAZY.”

And ‘Sue’ has a less emotional but no less pertinent point:

I’m so glad i don’t read sunday papers, but i’m so sad to see words twisted like that. I think what Rob Salmond and the labour party have failed to do is listen.

Listen to people who are hurt & ashamed by a party that at it’s roots is about people. They are so busy fighting to assert the rightness of what they are saying they didn’t notice they’ve exposed some seriously ingrained racism in this country. Why are they not sad & embarrassed and apologetic about the hurt and pain they are causing all the many different asian communities in NZ.

Why is that not the lead on Rob’s article, inside of an afterthought.

There’s no sign of Labour listening or learning from this yet. They keep digging the hole they have jumped into deeper. Salmond is shovelling shit.