Morgan targets 10% for TOP

Extravagant claims about how much of the party vote one will get are not unusual in election campaigns – until recent poll reversals Winston Peters was intimating NZ First could surpass Labour and compete with National.

The Opportunities Party has to get at least 5% to make it into Parliament, but not wanting to cut it fine Gareth Morgan says his aim is double that.

NZH: Morgan says TOP will get 10 per cent, as Green voters look for a new home

Gareth Morgan says the Green Party’s recent troubles could be his party’s gain, as disillusioned greenies will be shopping around for a new environmentally-minded party.

The Greens have always refused to be a cross bench party willing to work with anyone in government to promote environmental policies, and with their collapse this week their may be some voters looking for an environmental alternative.

Morgan’s fledgling The Opportunities Party officially launched its election campaign today in Wellington with little fanfare.

The event was held in an understated church hall in the CBD. Around 60 people attended and of those, 20 were candidates and 15 were media.

A lot more than that have attended TOP meetings around the country.

Morgan, completely straight-faced, told reporters he expected the party to get 10 per cent on election day.

Still unsmiling, he said he expected to get 30 per cent in 2020, before breaking out into a grin: “I always like a challenge.”

Asked where those votes would come from, Morgan said TOP would “skim the cream” from a few parties and would “pick up a few” from the Greens.

“They may well bounce back, but I think if they’re going to lose they’ll lose some to Labour and some to us.”

He admitted that despite securing 4000 paid-up members, TOP’s main barrier to election was getting noticed above the better-funded, old parties. It was depending largely on the “viral spread” of its policies online.

Morgan also seems to be targeting ‘stuff the politicians’ voters who go to NZ First in protest.

1 News:  Gareth Morgan launches scathing attack on major parties at launch of TOP campaign

In a speech filled with colourful and scathing analogies of how the major political parties have failed New Zealand, Gareth Morgan has launched his Opportunities Party election campaign today.

Speaking in Wellington this afternoon, Mr Morgan painted a picture of a New Zealand that has failed its middle and working classes, while the two major parties squabble over political rhetoric, and devise policies simply designed get them into power.

“We’ve already moved the policy debate in this country and we haven’t had a single vote yet,” Mr Morgan said.

“We’re the new kids on the block here, so we don’t get the coverage or funding the old establishment parties have access too, but we have one advantage, we are free of the hatred of old tribal politics.”

Mr Morgan described a toxic New Zealand political culture, where the major parties endlessly play “politics” while suicide stats, homeless numbers, housing affordability and the environment all fall into the abyss.

“What’s the political establishment doing – pretty well nothing. Stuck in an outdated left versus right political ideology with a tax and targeted welfare regime that’s obsolete, they trade insults and argue at the margins while New Zealand, this land of opportunity, slips away.

“They fight not to restore the fairness of our society but to perpetuate their own political power in some vain belief that it’s an ideology that’s need to get this country back on track.”

“Let’s be very clear, TOP doesn’t care who leads the next government. Those who campaign to change from blue to red, from right to left are like a bunch of kids screaming ‘dad’s burnt the dinner, let’s get the dog to cook’.

“What NZ desperately need is ideas to restore opportunities, policies that aren’t designed to get a party into power but to fix the problems we have.”

I would consider voting TOP if they look like being able to get close to 5% (still a big challenge for them).

I presume the Greens will continue to rule out working with National so that leaves them in a weak position on the sideline.

I’d rather have TOP holding the balance of power than Winston.

Aim: TOP dog on cross benches

It’s getting hard to differentiate between attention seeking stunts, a normal day in the campaign, and official party launches these days.

Gareth Morgan and the The Opportunities Party have been campaigning for Months, but they had their official campaign launch today.

Scoop:  Labour will need more than ‘Jacinda Trudeau’: TOP

“Quite clearly, Jacinda’s a great communicator, so that’s good,” said Morgan, who welcomed Labour’s resurgence as “great for New Zealand democracy”.

“It’s an issue of whether that’s sufficient for Labour: the Jacinda Trudeau Effect, I call it,” he said, referring to the impact a young, stylish leader has had on Canadian politics through its Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

On TOP:

While TOP’s plan was to “to be a 30 percent party by 2020”, he expected TOP to poll 10 percent at the Sept. 23 election, although modified that to “being realistic” 5 percent and six MPs in the next Parliament, enough potentially to help form a minority government led by either National or Labour.

TOP has polled 2 percent in three published polls and 3 percent in a UMR poll reported this week by Radio New Zealand.

The party hopes that means it has the momentum to make 5 percent by election day. As TOP expects to win no electorate seats, a party vote under 5 percent would be wasted as it would gain no parliamentary seats under New Zealand’s MMP proportional voting system.

Morgan insisted he did not want to become a Cabinet Minister and would look only to provide support to a government from Parliament’s ‘cross-benches’.

Rather than naming non-negotiable ‘bottom line’ policies, if TOP had a choice of partners, it would pick the one that promised to enact the largest number of TOP’s 15 main policies, said Morgan.

“Whoever gives us the most will get the nod.”

So Morgan wants to be TOP dog on the cross benches.

Reassessing election prospects

Last week changed the political landscape significantly, with saturation coverage of one candidate, the political demise of one leader and the lame ducking of another.

Election prospects have changed, but at this stage it is difficult to predict by how much. I’l have a go at assessing how things look now.

National 38-48%

They were always going to struggle to maintain last elections 47% with John Key retiring last year and switching to a solid but uninspiring Bill English and a so far uninspiring campaign.

If Labour retains their resurgence the question shifts from where in the forties National will end up to whether they stay in the forties. They are still probably good for low to mid forties but if the stuff something up badly could easily slip.

Labour 29-40%

There is no doubt that Jacinda Ardern has made a big difference to Labour’s prospects. They looked like they were heading to 20 or less under Andrew Little, but now a return to the 30s looks likely.

Labour now look able to pull votes back from the Greens and NZ First, finally compete seriously with National for the floaters, and the effect of the lift in excitement on turning out younger voters shouldn’t be underestimated.

And don’t underestimate the Kelvin Davis effect – his elevation makes Labour more competitive against the Maori Party and NZ First.

I think the only question is how far into the thirties they can climb – as long as Ardern doesn’t trip up significantly. On the other hand, given the volatility of modern elections I wouldn’t rule out Labour sneaking into the forties.

Greens 8-12%

As dramatically as Labour’s fortunes have turned for the better, Green prospects have probably dived from record highs in the polls.

Metiria Turei’s beneficiary gamble looked like it was a winner but has turned to custard. James Shaw looks worn and weak. Turei and the Greens still have some staunch support, but the icing looks like it has disappeared of their cake.

Of course this could change if Turei bows to pressure and steps down as co-leader, but a lot would then depend on who replaced her. Marama Davidson would probably only appeal to the dedicated Greenies and lefties, but Julie Anne Genter would have wider appeal.

NZ First 6-16%

A week or two ago Winston Peters was confidently counting his electoral chickens. He disappeared last week, with the media preferring to pander to someone young enough to be his granddaughter.

Winston versus English and Little looked competitive, to media and to a growing number of voters.

Winston versus Ardern is a completely different look. The stuffing seems to be knocked out of the old codger. He’s a determined campaigner, but can he revitalise himself for another shot at glory?

Another factor is the Shane Jones card – he is now going to have to compete with Kelvin Davis for attention and may be exposed. The direct speaking Davis will give Jones some real competition up north.

Maori Party 1-3%

I think that Te Ururoa Flavell still has a good chance of retaining his electorate, Maori have been good tactical voters and returning Flavell and party voting Labour makes more sense than throwing the Maori Party out.

But winning more Maori seats, and getting enough party vote to retain Marama Fox, has probably got harder.

ACT Party 0.5-2%

David Seymour has been trying hard to attract attention and voters but doesn’t seem to be getting any traction. He should be good to retain his Epsom electorate, but ACT’s lack of known candidates other than Seymour doesn’t help their chances.

The media doesn’t usually care about new candidates, unless it’s plucking someone like Chlöe Swarbrick out of nowhere to try to inject some interest into a boring mayoral campaign. And the media seems to not fancy ACT unless it’s negative news. Seymour is likely to remain alone.

United Future 0.1-0.3%

It’s hard to see United Future attracting any more party votes. The media gave up on there being a party behind Peter Dunne terms ago, nothing there for headlines. The party has continued to wither.

Dunne already had a major challenge in trying to retain his Ohariu electorate. Labour have recruited a known candidate, Greg O’Connor. Greens are helping Labour by not standing a candidate.

National have made it clearer than ever that they want National voters to support Dunne.

But what looked like 50/50 prospects for Dunne may have turned against him with Labour’s resurgence. Ardern has not only revitalised Labour campaigners, she may encourage reluctant voters to turn out. This will work against Dunne.

Mana Party 0.1-0.5%

The Mana party is a one man band this election, without the money or distraction of Kim Dotcom. The party vote looks irrelevant.

Hone Harawira was always a chance of winning back Te Tai Tokerau, but with Davis’ elevation that probably got a lot harder.

There looks to be an outside chance only of Harawira getting back into Parliament, and even more of an outside chance that Harawira could make or break a Labour led coalition, but it shouldn’t be discounted entirely.

The Opportunities Party 1-4%

Gareth Morgan had a chance of picking up votes from those who wanted something different and not Winston, someone to ‘keep the big parties honest’. And picking up disheartened Labour voters. Until last week.

If Labour jumps back into contention then TOP will find it really difficult to attract enough media attention, and they will find it really difficult to get the polls up enough to encourage enough voters to get them over the 5% threshold.

The Rest

The nature of New Zealand politics and the reluctance of media to give any credibility to new parties and outsider candidates means that no other parties will have a chance of getting more than crumbs.

But…

There could be another shock wave.

It’s hard to see any other positive leadership change, unless Genter adds some solidity to the Greens.

Who knows what Winston will try to have probably his last shot at the big prize?

Ardern may keep Labour’s resurgence going, or she could trip up. Kelvin Davis could stuff things up, his agttack on English and other National ministers on Q+A yesterday looked ugly and counter productive to Ardern’s clain of positivity.

National still have the benefit of incumbency plus very good economic conditions, relatively low unemployment, and a record of steady management – but may have trouble attracting media attention.

National also have the advantage of being by far the biggest party, and they will probably only need one other party, or a repeat of the current handful of insignificant parties, to get over the line.

But housing. Auckland is shaping up as a big influence on the election.

And National has to find an effective way of countering ‘the Jacinda effect’ and the current media obsession with her.

The elephant in Labour’s room

Ardern has eliminated Labour’s biggest millstone, Andrew Little. Labour look to be on the rise.

But they have a major challenge too – Labour + Greens + NZ First

I think that many voters have real concerns about how this triumverate could possible work in a coalition.

Unless Labour can rise enough in polls to look like they might only need one of NZ First or the Greens then this remains an issue.

There could even be a voter resistance to Labour + Greens – many like a Green influence but have strong reservations about Greens calling the shots too much.

In any case for Labour to get close to 40% it’s hard to see Greens also keeping their current share.

The NZ First factor

Whether Winston finds a way to dig up something that gives him a last burst of hope or not, voters have to consider and compare National + NZ First versus Labour + NZ First as likely alternatives.

Both National and Labour can’t ignore this – the one of them that does best at convincing voters they can work with Winston but resist baubling him may succeed.

Here it is advantage to National.

National 45% + NZ First 6% looks quite different to Labour 35% + NZ First 15%.

But of course this balance of probabilities could change over the next few weeks.

The Jacinda effect on other parties

The change of Labour leadership to Jacinda Ardern could have quite an effect on how the other parties campaign, and how the fare in the election.

National already had a battle to avoid needing NZ First, that doesn’t change but how they campaign will need a major rethink.

The Greens seem generally happy. It means a rethink of their ‘go for broke’ approach, because a recovering Labour improves their chances of getting into government. albeit with a smaller share of the vote than they were hoping for last week.

The biggest impact may be on NZ First, which could be why Winston’s response to the leadership change yesterday was gruff dismissal. If Labour come back into the reckoning that could significantly reduce NZ First’s opportunities and influence. Peters could easily attarct media attention from Little, but that will be much harder with Ardern.

Peters versus Ardern is a very different contest to Peters versus Little, and swings the pendulum significantly.

The smaller parties are at risk of being ignored even more.

It reduces TOP’s chances of picking up disgruntled voters.

Kelvin Davis’ elevation to deputy makes the Maori party’s battle with Labour quite a bit harder.

Davis must be a hot favourite now to beat Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau and keep Mana out.

ACT have struggled for relevancy and support and that won’t get any easier.

Peter Dunne already had a major challenge in Ohariu and this probably makes things harder for him.

One thing is certain – the whole complexion of this campaign has dramatically changed, and it affects all parties in major ways.

And one aspect of change is probably bigger than Jacinda herself – the media. They had given up on Little long ago and dreaded a boring election campaign. They have promoted Ardern all year, helping get her promoted to deputy, and now to leader.

The media have played a major part in changes to date, and may be the deciding factor inb this election.

NZ First ‘promises’ top $10b

I think that everyone knows that promises and bottom lines from Winston Peters should be taken with a grain of Epsom salts.

But Peters seems to believe that NZ First can lead the next government, he has suggested they could even top National which means they would get a lot of say in which policies are implemented.

Gareth Morgan has highlighted the spending promises of Peters and appears to be going head to head with Peters. The Opportunities Party and NZ First are competing for floating votes and are targeting those who may vote against the status quo.

Stuff: Gareth Morgan positions himself as alternative to Winston Peters

Gareth Morgan is keen to position himself as an anti-Winston Peters “peacemaker”, shoring up a Government on either side of the political divide without introducing the instability of NZ First.

The firebrand economist and newbie politician released a press release attacking Peters on Monday, along with a costing of his “pork barrel promises”.

Morgan contends Peters’ policies – including the writeoff of student debt, removal of GST from food, and free GP visits for pensioners – would cost $10b every year, with no indication of where that money would come from, other than a vague promise to reduce tax evasion.

Grandiose and expensive promises didn’t matter when NZ First were a 5-10% party. If they become, as looks likely, a 10-20% party then the cost of their policies becomes more pertinent. And if they get into the 20-40% zone then it becomes critical.

So it’s important that the possible cost of NZ First policy promises is examined. The media should be doing this but Morgan has done it for them.

TOP: The post-truth World of Winstonomics

It is not unusual for politicians to make promises they can’t keep. In an attempt to restore some integrity and transparency into politics, The Opportunities Party (TOP) has undertaken means to fully cost all our policies and show where the money is coming from.

Not all parties are this robust however. One party in particular, is writing cheques they can’t cash and therefore making promises they can’t possibly deliver. That party is NZ First and their leader is Winston Peters.

We have filtered through the long list of ‘policy’ supplied by New Zealand First on their websiteand pulled out everything we could find that resembled a concrete and significant election commitment.

Winston’s supporters are rightly looking for a change from the ‘do nothing’ Establishment parties that have led us to a society with rising inequality, forgotten regions and unaffordable housing. However, Winston owes those supporters a set of promises he can actually deliver on –  that is not the case with his current offering.

While some of the policies from NZ First have costings, the majority do not.

We took it upon ourselves to do some analysis and so far the tab has run up to around $10 billion per yearwith the promise of more to come.

By far , the biggest cost on his campaign check book  is his promise to give a universal student allowance and write off student debt for those who stay in New Zealand for the same period of their study…And what about the $4.6 billion price tag? Where is that money going to come from?

Winston has also promised to ‘remove GST off food’ as well as rates. Let’s put aside the fact tinkering with our GST system is fraught with issues, and there are much more efficient ways to make housing and food more affordable. The real problem here is the estimated $3.6 billion price tag.

His plan to return GST from tourism to the regions hits the chord that he has been playing for years, sounding the death of our regions. With minimal detail given, it’s hard to know what this really means let alone estimate the cost; it isn’t clear what money he would give back, to whom, and what that money would be used for. However, if this included both international and domestic tourism, the bill could run up to around $3 billion.

The list of promises goes on with three free GP visits for pensioners a year (there are 600,000 pensioners and at $60 extra per visit, that is $108 million), 1,800 more police ($324 million based on Labour’s calculation of 1000 police), free health checks for year 9 students ($10 million, based on the cost of the B4 school check).

The total bill for these promises alone comes to a $10 billion bill per annum. 

That sort of money cannot just be pulled out of thin air as Winston would have us all believe, and certainly, can’t be paid for by nebulous promises to ‘reduce tax evasion.’

This bill does not even include several of his more nebulous or one-off promises such as:

  • Recarpeting government buildings with wool (costed by the Taxpayers Union at $60-90m)
  • To allocate adequate resources into alternatives to 1080 which he will ban (Dave Hansford on Newsroom put the cost of this at $150m just for half of one national park)
  • He also wants to buy back the shares in SOEs that have been sold, which he will somehow do at the same price they were sold for.
  • In fact, NZ First wants to bring our banks back into New Zealand ownership as well.
  • NZ First also plans to ban inshore fishing and compensate the fishers for their losses; a plan that if it includes paua, lobster and snapper, would cost at least $1.3b.

His commitment to railways of national importance, including a rail line to Marsden Point, will apparently be funded by “revenue generated by railway service charges” and a “combination of Land Transport Fund funding and crown grants.”

And of course Winston’s biggest bribe is a long-term one; his promise to keep the age of eligibility for Superannuation at 65. NZ super alone by 2060 will be soaking up 8c in every dollar we earn, and as a result of this and rising health spending, government debt will have ballooned to twice national income.

All in all, New Zealand First is much in the tradition of Muldoonism – it promises heaps but is more than a little short of funding detail.

Is Winston likely to explain how all his promises would be paid for?

What about TOP’s policy costs?

The Opportunities Party (TOP) has undertaken means to fully cost all our policies and show where the money is coming from.

TOP’s youth UBI

The Opportunities Party has announced a policy that will provide all people aged 18-23 a Unconditional Basic Income of $200 a week. Coincidentally (perhaps) TOP are targeting young people to vote for them.

TOP’s Universal Basic Income

We acknowledge the fact that it’s not only people with families that matter but also people starting out in adult life who need support to help them reach their potential.

The Opportunities Party is proud to release an unconditional basic income for those aged between 18-23 years old1.

For the first five years of adulthood, as people are striking out on their own, they have the security of $10,000 per year, no questions asked.

If you are between 18-23

  • You get $200 per week ($10,000 per year) no questions asked, no hoops to jump through, no bureaucrats telling you what to do.
  • You get to decide the best way to use the money, to pursue your own goals.2
  • You will be financially better off under our policies. This includes your mates who are unemployed, students, parents, apprentices, artists, entrepreneurs, etc. Like we said all your mates.
  • This will take stress off you at a pivotal time in your life. NZ has an appalling rate of youth suicide and financial stress plays a key role in this.

This is the third stage of our UBI (Unconditional Basic Income) implementation, after young families and the elderly.

Background

The UBI is a fundamental reform of our social security system that recognises that the economy is changing and work is becoming more uncertain. Unlike the current antiquated system of targeted welfare, the UBI doesn’t penalise people as they move in and out of work, start a business, or retrain. It doesn’t discriminate between different forms of retraining, such as official government courses or more informal approaches like shadowing someone on their job. It acknowledges the people who undertake unpaid work, without whose endeavour our society would collapse. And most importantly it represents a civilisation dividend wherein an affluent society defines a person’s right to access resources, irrespective of their situation. A backgrounder on a UBI is provided here. 

The concept of a UBI is gaining traction here and around the world. It was featured in the TVNZ series What Next as a way to deal with an increasingly disrupted job market. It is also being piloted in many countries around the world including the Netherlands, Finland and Canada. These pilots are exciting, but they overlook the fact that trials have already been done in the 1970s, and we have had a successful UBI for many years in New Zealand; NZ Super. TOP intends to give young people the same opportunities that we’ve been giving those over 65 for the past forty years.

The Opportunities Party (TOP)’s ultimate goal is to roll out a UBI for everyone. The reason for targeting 18-23 year olds next is because they have the highest levels of unemployment and face the greatest challenge getting into the labour market.

So the youth UBI is a start, they want a UBI for everyone (even children?) but this is a starting point.

Giving a UBI to everyone would require a major overhaul of our tax and welfare systems. TOP have related policies:

TOP will really struggle to beat the 5% threshold, and if they do they will really struggle to get National or Labour to get on board with this policy.

I don’t think National would agree to this at all, Labour might be tempted, and Greens may be keen, but NZ First will have their own priorities.

There is a discussion at Reddit on this, and Gareth Morgan responds to some comments.

Don’t judge a UBI as just a left wing concept. It has appeal across the spectrum. More info here http://www.top.org.nz/what_is_the_ubi_why_do_we_want_it

Good article on that here – https://medium.com/basic-income/wouldnt-unconditional-basic-income-just-cause-massive-inflation-fe71d69f15e7

The only condition of eligibility is the same as the basic eligibility for any benefit:

You must also be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident who normally lives here, and who has lived here for at least two years at one time since becoming a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident.

More faq’s here…. http://www.top.org.nz/youth_ubi_faq

I think a UBI is an interesting concept and well worth considering.

But I think a major drawback is the cost of implementing one. If it ensures that no one on a low income or benefit or pension is worse off it will be very expensive initially.

If Winston Peters has any say there will be no drop in Universal Super – I doubt National or Labour would dare drop that entitlement either – so that sets a fairly high entry level for a UBI.

Unless New Zealand suddenly strikes oil in a big way, or perhaps patents a new cheap clean energy source, I don’t think we can afford a UBI in practice.

TOP tried to entice Genter

Julie Anne Genter has revealed that someone in The Opportunities Party sounded her out to see if she might consider jumping from the Green ship and joining them. TOP say that no formal approach was made but they would welcome her if she was interested.

Not surprisingly Genter wasn’t interested. She is one of the best performing and respected Green MPs.

Stuff:  Senior Green MP says she rebuffed TOP party call for her to jump ship

Senior Green MP Julie Anne Genter says she has rebuffed an approach by Gareth Morgan’s The Opportunities Party (TOP) to jump ship.

She had revealed the approach to columnist Toby Manhire who had referred to it but not name her.

It was a friendly conversation that she did not intend to be “a big deal” and did not expect it to be public even though she had mentioned it to Manhire.

“I didn’t expect him to use it, no. But, hey, I told him. I was open about it. i just didn’t think it was a story.”

She really told a journalist a story and didn’t expect it to be used? I find that one hard to believe.

Genter said she had rejected the proposal, made about a month ago after her bill to legalise medicinal cannabis was drawn from the ballot.

She would not disclose who made contact on Facebook, but said it was not Morgan or TOP deputy leader Geoff Simmons.

“I got a message from one of their senior people, a Facebook message, asking if I could talk. This was about four weeks ago the day my bill got pulled from the ballot so I thought it was about that.”

“And I said ‘you can’t be serious’ – no I think I said ‘you’re not serious’ and then he said ‘I’m dead serious Julie Anne’.”

TOPs was seeking a candidate for Auckland Central and he said she was a great performance and “evidence based” so right up TOP’s alley.

She said she had told him her “evidence-based” reasons for staying with the Green Party. It was the best way to make the policy changes she and the caller wanted. That was by changing the Government and the Greens would be a large part of that.

I doubt there was any chance that Genter would have jumped from the Greens at all let alone heading into a campaign, despite her being nudged down the Green Party list, and despite being involved in the photo shoot being left off the North & South glam Green cover.

New parties would love to recruit a sitting MP if they could. There were stories (that seem to have had some basis) that one or two Labour MPs might have considered jumping to the Internet Party last election.

I don’t know this is a big deal. The most interesting aspect is why Genter revealed it to a journalist.

The drinking age

What is often referred to as the drinking age is more accurately the alcohol purchase age.

Yesterday Gareth Morgan successfully got policy debated when he announced his TOP policy on alcohol, which included raising the ‘drinking age’ to 20.

Alcohol is responsible for 4% of avoidable deaths – that is 600-800 people per year – and around $6b of total costs to society. Half of those deaths come from injuries such as violence and car crashes. On weekends, around 2 in 3 injury related admissions to Accident and Emergency are because of alcohol. Alcohol has a huge impact on people’s lives far beyond the resulting police and hospital bills; it is also a major driver of sexual offending and family violence.

The problem is that the framework for regulating alcohol has been relaxed over the last decade or two. Indeed alcohol regulation is far weaker than what we recommended for cannabis. Thankfully international and local studies have set out the key actions that are needed. The National Government has taken steps on some of these actions, although their attempt to allow local areas to set their own rules for the sale of alcohol has proved toothless and needs fixing.

The two main areas that require urgent attention to reduce alcohol harm are the legal drinking age and the excise duty. The legal drinking age was reduced from 20 to 18 in 1999 and there is evidence that this has increased harm, particularly by lowering the ‘de facto’ drinking age to 14-17. The excise duty on alcohol has not been increased in years, so alcohol has become much more affordable, driving an increase in use.

The Opportunities Party (TOP) recommends increasing the legal age for alcohol purchase to 20 years, and increasing the price of alcohol by an average of 10% through excise tax. The $300m revenue from this will be used to provide a much needed injection of funds into community based youth mental health support and drug and alcohol treatment.

Read the research.

The research is arguable, as are TOP’s proposed solutions.

New Zealand certainly has major issues with drinking and alcohol abuse, and there are many associated problems. But it is far from a youth problem, so is targeting 18 and 19 year olds fair and a good way to limit the damage?

Some responses from politicians:

  • Prime Minister Bill English “I don’t think there’s been a strong case made for raising the drinking age. I think it would create all sorts of challenges that we don’t know how to deal with.”
  • Amy Adams (Minister of Justice) “I voted for a split age and that’s still my preference”.
  • Nick Smith “Retain the drinking age at 18 for on-licence, but increase it to 20 for off-licence” (split age).
  • Steven Joyce (Minister of Finance) “No, not personally. I think it’s about right where it is”.
  • David Bennett (Minister for Food Safety) “I’ve always been an 18. I think at that age you’re able to make that choice”.
  • Jonathan Coleman (Minister of Health) “Yes.”
  • Phil Twyford (Labour) “I think that 18 is fine”
  • Eugenie Sage (Greens) “stick with what we’ve got and people can go to war says if people can go to war at 18, then they should be allowed to drink”.
  • Judith Collins “Probably not going down that path”.
  • Marama Davidson (Greens) “It’s not an age thing, I think that all people need to learn to drink responsibly”.
  • Maggie Barry National minister) “We’ll stay with the status quo”.
  • Marama Fox (Maori Party) wanted it raised by mentioned serving in the armed forces.
  • Alfred Ngaro (National minister) “I think at the moment it seems to be working ok”.
  • David Seymour (ACT) “It’s another beat up on young people. Binge drinking and alcohol consumption is actually going down among young people”.

Only one Labour response. None from NZ First.

With most National MPs asked supporting no change then raising the age looks unlikely.

TOPping 5% a long shot

Gareth Morgan is getting good crowds around the country, but his The Opportunities Party has a huge challenge first to look like it could get anywhere near the 5% threshold, and if it manages that to actually top the threshold.

If he fails it seems likely to impact more on the left vote and especially the Greens, but is attracting voters across the political spectrum.

Stuff:  Gareth Morgan’s new breed of evidence-based populism

ANALYSIS: Gareth Morgan is not a politician.

So can a non-populist non-politician actually get the five per cent of votes for his fledgling The Opportunities Party (TOP) – what he would need to win seats and so make any difference in Parliament? Or will he just do what some in the Greens and Labour are privately worried about: take one or two percentage points of the Left vote and completely waste it.

It is not a waste, it is people expressing their preferences via their vote. If TOP miss the cut it is the fault of an MMP system gerrymandered by the incumbent parties to make it near impossible for new parties to stand a chance.

At a packed 350-seat roadshow in Wellington on Monday night that 5 per cent certainly seemed possible, even if the millionaire Morgan hadn’t stumped up to cover the bar.

There were former National voters, former Labour voters, former Green voters, former Mana voters, former Maori Party voters, and even a former Conservative voter all interested in switching their party votes to TOP.

The demographics were broadly representative of Wellington – lots of beards, mostly Left-leaning – but young and old turned up, and while many of them trickled out during Morgan’s extensive and complicated answers to simple questions, most stayed the whole 90 minutes.

Kerri Taingahue, 55, told me she was planning on switching her vote to TOP from the Maori Party.

Rowan voted for the Mana Party in the last election, and other Left-leaning parties before that, but is strongly considering TOP this time.

His father, Michael, 61, voted for the Greens last time and is considering switching too.

A pair of middle-aged women who didn’t wish to be named said the night was fantastic and empowering. Both had voted for the Greens in the past.

Keith Morris, 42, voted for the Conservative Party in 2014. “I’m very interested in the policies they’ve (TOP) got. They sound well-researched, well thought out, and I think that’s a bonus.”

Graeme Haxton, 56, who usually votes for National, said he signed up for TOP to challenge his own thinking and values. “The more I’ve dug into it the more I’ve found his thinking parallels my own thoughts, particularly within my social conscience.”

Smatterings of support, but can it build into enough votes?

On my way out of the roadshow I caught up with Geoff Simmons, deputy leader and candidate for Wellington Central.

He admitted that Wellington was probably their strongest city, but said crowds all over the South Island and in provincial cities had been bigger than expected.

Big enough? TOP hit 0.8 per cent of the vote in a recent Newshub poll, above the Maori Party, ACT, and UnitedFuture, all  of whom are in Parliament.

But all of those parties have serious chances of winning an electorate seat, something that TOP doesn’t have. And picking up the remaining 4.2 per cent – more than 100,000 voters – in just three months would be no mean feat.

No new party with no current MP has succeeded in making it into Parliament under MMP. That record will be broken some time, but it will be difficult. Very difficult.

And if they don’t? Nothing. That’s the worry of the other left-of-centre parties, particularly the Green Party, who are the most likely to lose votes to them. Party votes for the Greens will definitely result in more seats in Parliament. Party votes for TOP might easily not.

It would serve them right for not allowing or fighting for a reasonable threshold. If more smaller parties made it it would not just make Parliament more representative, it would usually make Government more representative as well.

I have mixed feelings about Morgan, and also about TOP policies (but well researched policies inserted into the mix is a good thing).

But I think breaking the 5% hoodoo would be a good thing and TOP is the best bet this election to manage that. And having TOP on the cross benches should also be a good thing for our democracy too.

Morgan/TOP touring the south

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday night in Queenstown Morgan targets inequality:

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

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

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

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

Both of those reports sound similar content to last night.

ODT reports: Morgan impresses Dunedin audience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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