Research NZ – low confidence and trust in politicians

Members of Parliament and local council members are the least trusted of a range of professions and groups, and journalists are virtually the same.

Research NZ asked the general public to rate their level of trust and confidence in parliamentary representatives compared to some other professions.

  • Fire Service 89%
  • Ambulance Service 81%
  • Doctors and nurses 81%
  • Police 69%
  • School teachers 65%
  • Lawyers 43%
  • Government workers 35%
  • Journalists 23%
  • Local council members 22%
  • Members of Parliament 22%

Respondents were considered to have trust and confidence if they rated it between 7-10 on a 0-10 scale.

With elected representatives and those who are supposed to hold politicians to account grouped a distant last this doesn’t look good for our democracy.

Poll – political affiliation and trust

A poll by Victoria University/Colmar Brunton shows a spread of political affiliations or leanings. Asked:

Most political parties in New Zealand lean to the ‘left’ or the ‘right’ with their policies.

Parties to the left are liberal and believe governments should support the less fortunate people in society.

Parties to the right are more conservative and believe in individual responsibility.

Some parties position themselves in the centre. How would you please your political views using the scale below?

  • 30% – Left-centre left (0-4)
  • 29% – Centre (5)
  • 35% – Centre right-right (6-10)
  • 5% – Don’t know

Alternately grouping 4 and 6 as close to centre:

  • 21% – Left-centre left (0-3)
  • 51% – Centre (4-6)
  • 24%- Centre right-right 7-10
  • 5% – Don’t know

I am really not sure where I would place myself, as I have a range of leanings depending on the issue or policy. Most likely I would go 5 as a rough average.

The poll also gauged trust per political affiliation.

Victoria University: Latest trust survey explores link to political leanings

The results show the centre-left have the highest trust of any political grouping in 13 of the 23 institutions or groups they were asked about.

The least trusting group is those immediately to the left of the centre-left, the left, who have the lowest trust of any political grouping in 17 of 23 institutions they were asked about, including big and small businesses, the church and the police.

The left also have the lowest level of inter-personal trust.

However I have some doubts about the results. In almost all results the ‘Left’ (presumably 0-3) result was zero trust, with the only question registering any response from the left being on saying Yes to corruption being widespread in new Zealand Government.

If you want to see all the questions and esults (PPTX, 4MB).

Poll – trust in institutions, politicians, media and bloggers

A third “Who do we trust?” survey, taken in March 2019 by the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies in association with Colmar Brunton, surveyed 1000 New Zealanders on various issues of trust and life satisfaction.

New Zealanders who trust the government to do what is right for New Zealand:

  • 2016 – 48%
  • 2018 – 65%
  • 2019 – 63%

People satisfied with life in general (10=completely, 0=not at all):

  • 10 – 6%
  • 9 – 12%
  • 8 – 25%
  • 7 – 25%

Total ‘satisfied’ (7-10): 68%

  • 6 – 13%
  • 5 – 11%
  • 4 – 4%

Total ‘neither nor’ (4-6): 28%

  • 3 – 2%
  • 2 – 1%
  • 1 – 1%

Total ‘dissatisfied’ (0-3): 3%

Total who comment on blogs and social media who are dissatisfied? Not asked, but I suspect that is disproportionately high going by the tone of many comments.

The most distrusted groups are Bloggers/online commentators, followed by Members of Parliament and Media.

But it may not be as bad as it appears at a glance. At the bottom of the pile are ‘Bloggers/online commentators’:

  • I have complete trust – 0%
  • I have lots of trust – 3%
  • I have some trust – 30%
  • I have little trust – 43%
  • I have no trust at all – 24%

So a third of people have either some or lots of trust. That may seem low, but many if not most people will have little to no idea about ‘Bloggers/online commentators’ apart from a smattering of negative headlines, if that.

I don’t trust some but I do generally trust many.

There would be few if any bloggers with a public profile (as a blogger) other than Cameron Slater, David Farrar, Dermot Nottingham and Martyn Bradbury.

New Zealanders perceptions that citizens’ interests are equally and fairly considered by government

People who live in Auckland, who were born outside of New Zealand are more likely to say citizens’ interests are considered a great deal.

People who are dissatisfied with life, distrustful of people and who have political leanings to the right are more likely to say citizens’ interests are considered very little or not at all

Victoria University: Latest trust survey explores link to political leanings


Who could trust Jami-Lee Ross now?

Could any woman trust Jami-Lee Ross to be faithful and honest in a relationship?

Could any woman trust Jami-Lee Ross to not reveal private communications if a relationship turned sour?

Could any MP or politician or party official or party member or voter or colleague trust Jami-Lee Ross to be faithful and honest  as an MP?

Could any MP or politician or party official or party member or voter or colleague trust trust Jami-Lee Ross to not reveal private communications if a relationship turned sour?

Could anyone trust Jami-Lee Ross not to secretly record communications for the purpose of using against you in the future?

Trust is probably more scarce than votes would be if Ross stood for re-election.

The only ones who appear to be standing by Ross are those who seem to think he can be used for their political purposes. Such as Winston Peters and NZ First.

Cameron Slater was full on using Ross before that abruptly ended when he had his stroke, Simon Lusk was also involved – he is known to have worked with both Slater and Ross in the past. And is on record as getting a thrill out of trashing people’s careers and or lives.

I think that whoever is involved in the current operation to return Ross to parliament and keep him in his electorate there is very little that can be trusted about them.

And – isn’t a bit coincidental that at the same time as Ross is accusing someone of inciting him to suicide, Whale Oil has been doing exactly the same thing in relation to Slater?

Political credibility – expertise plus trustworthiness

A US publication by two academics has said that political credibility comes down to two things – perceived expertise and trustworthiness. Gordon Campbell considers the two in respect of Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges.

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on the Ardern/Bridges problems with credibility

Credibility is always such a fickle, unstable element in politics. You know it when you see it, though.

In January a US publication called The Journal of Political Marketing featured a (paywalled) article called “What Does Credibility Look Like?” in which two American academics grouped the attributes of political credibility into:
(a) “the performance-based traits of competence and strength” and
(b) the “interpersonal characteristics of warmth and trust.”

In brief, they concluded that credibility came down to “expertise” on one hand, and “trustworthiness” on the other.

By the time the 2020 election rolls around, voters will have enjoyed a further two and a half years of exposure to the administrative expertise of Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges, and to their capacity to generate feelings of trust.

At this stage Ardern has had a lot of media exposure. When she first stepped up into the Labour leadership role she looked competent but the gloss has worn off, with some performances of the Labour Party rubbing off on her. Her competence has taken a hit, and this week in particular as Shane Jones and Winston Peters virtually ignored her telling off of Jones she looked impotent and weak. She has certainly worked hard on displaying warmth, but that too has looked strained recently.

Jacinda Ardern doesn’t do ruthless. Not yet, anyway. Last year, Jacinda-mania was incited almost entirely by her interpersonal skills and a general image of her being a straight shooter. Such qualities do not easily transfer to the daily grind of the bureaucratic processes of government.

Of late, Ardern’s sympathy for those seeking to end the planet’s dependence on fossil fuels has clashed with the necessity to allow the bids for oil exploration blocs to run their bureaucratic course.

At this relatively early stage of the term Labour and Ardern are suffering from having assigned or delayed many decisions, with many working groups and inquiries being one of their most biggest achievements – or non-achievements. It may be prudent, but it doesn’t look strong, yet at least.

…finding the right balance between competence and compassion in government is never all that easy. With John Key, his foibles on that front were balanced by the stolid figure of Bill English.

Ardern, unfortunately, has a far more mercurial deputy in Winston Peters and a Cabinet wild card (Shane Jones) not renowned for being a team player. Compared to what Ardern has to manage, the Key/English regime was an administrative cake-walk.

Government credibility is being stretched by attempts by NZ First and the Greens to set themselves apart, lately through publicity stunts of dubious merit.

Ardern has another perhaps larger problem – the credibility of her Labour Cabinet.

Much will depend on Grant Robertson and his first budget – spending priorities and perceptions of financial management skills will matter a lot in respect of competence.

Another critical portfolio housing. Last year Labour made a big deal of National’s incompetence in dealing with a growing housing problem, and promised a lot – in particular they promised a lot of houses, and an end to homelessness.

Phil Twyford seems to have had trouble leaving ‘opposition’ behaviour behind – like nearly all incoming Labour ministers he had only ever been in Opposition before.

It was always going to be difficult to crank up the Government house building programme, especially when starting with a shortage of labour and resources. They won’t get many built in their first year, but if by year three of the term 10,000 houses a year aren’t being built, and there are still obvious housing shortages, then Labour will have a real credibility problem. Trust they can deliver on strong words will figure in the next election campaign.,

Some other Labour ministers are noticeably struggling with their jobs, like Clare Curran.

And appointing Kelvin Davis as Ardern’s deputy may have seemed like a good idea going in to an election campaign, but even then Davis performed poorly and was quickly hidden from sight. That continues now they are in Government.

Helen Clark had a strong deputy, Michael Cullen. Key had English.

Ardern has no one in sight from her own team, and Jones and Peters are filling the vacuum, threatening even her own authority. This may get worse while Peters is Acting prime Minister while Ardern takes maternity leave.

To remain successful – and to avoid her baby-related temporary departure from the political scene looking like a retreat – she will need to lead decisively on her return.

It looks like managing and competing with Peters and Jones will be an ongoing challenge for Ardern. It will be a particular challenge when she comes back from her baby break.

One thing in Labour’s favour at the moment is the retirement of English and Steven Joyce. National need to rebuild, and they have a new leader that most voters barely know, if at all.

Bridges has only recently become National leader and has a lot of work to do to be noticed let alone be seen as competent, strong and warm. His most noticeable attribute so far is boring, in part due to media indifference, and in part (and related) due to his manner and speech, which struggles to grab attention.

Sadly, gender gives Simon Bridges a head start on the ‘expertise’ aspect of political credibility. Trust, on the other hand, could prove to be his Achilles heel.

I think the “head start on the ‘expertise’” is debatable. I haven’t seen much to give me confidence in his expertise yet. And Bridges needs to be noticed to be able to build trust.

He also has a deputy problem. Paula Bennett has not lived up to her purported potential. She has a lot of work to do to be noticed, to appear competent, but as for every good deputy, not to overshadow her leader.

And in the modern era of media obsession with ‘celebrity’ getting positive publicity will be a battle.

Ardern is sure to get saturation coverage when she has her baby. Winning the warmth stakes shouldn’t be a problem. But whether she will come out of that looking competent and strong and trustworthy as a leader, alongside Winston Peters, is another matter altogether. We will see over the next few months.

Bridges will be overshadowed by all of this. There’s little he can do about it but build his leadership skills, take what few chances he can get to be seen and heard, and be ready to step up for the campaign in 2020.

Much may depend on whether voters are sold on the idea of having a celebrity style Prime Minister – Bridges will struggle to compete with Ardern (and Trump) on that, presuming Ardern stays in charge – or whether they are over the glossy magazine superficiality and want more substance.

Public perceptions of expertise and trustworthiness are important in politics, or at least they were. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to have a good view of our leaders beyond the media headlines and PR plastering.

Legal action discredits coalition negotiations

NZH editorial: Peters’ suing of ex-ministers discredits negotiations

For two weeks last month, Winston Peters told the public he was negotiating in good faith with National and Labour, and asked the public to believe the country’s interest was uppermost in his concerns as he weighed up whether to support the incumbent Government for a fourth term, or install a Labour-led coalition.

It turns out he had initiated legal proceedings against leading National ministers the day before the election over the disclosure he had been receiving superannuation at the single rate for seven years while living with a partner.

This reignites publicity about the fact that an MP who has long championed superannuation was overpaid for a number of years, apparently without noticing he has geeing more than he was supposed to be getting.

Including journalists in his legal action also raise eyebrows.

It is disturbing that Peters seeks to have journalists reveal their sources through court discovery procedures. He evidently wants the court to order them to hand over phone records, notes and emails relating to his superannuation overpayment.

His attitude to news media going about their job leaves a lot to be desired and may come to pose a threat to press freedom if he now uses his position to try to put his antagonism into law.

This is a concern – and appears highly hypocritical given Winston’s history of making serious accusations against political opponents without evidence.

But the bigger issue – the question of Peters negotiating with party leaders who he had already filed legal action against, and whether Peters was honest about giving both National and Labour a fair shot at forming a coalition.

…it discredits his post-election negotiations and inevitably reflects on the Government he has chosen. It is now obvious there was extremely little possibility he could work with Bill English, Paula Bennett, Steven Joyce and Anne Tolley since he had initiated legal action against them the day before the election.

Why he put them and the public through three weeks of uncertainty only Peters knows. It is hard to avoid the conclusion it was to increase his leverage on Labour.

It appears that the negotiations and leveraging may have been done in bad faith.

National may well have suspected this as they seemed to not push all that hard for a deal with Peters.

Labour were more desperate for power, and may well have been sucked in by Peters. That is not a good basis to form a coalition based on trust.

Peters was criticised for not being open about his intentions before the election, leaving voters guessing about what he might do.

This is poor democracy. Voters should be aware of the risks of believing political ‘promises’ made by Peters, but it appears that some voters were sucked in, given some NZ First campaign policies were quickly dropped in negotiations.

Peters as Foreign Minister is currently overseas. It will be interesting to see how willing journalists will be to hold him to account when he returns.

English’s credibility damaged by Barclay

It was fairly obvious Bill English’s credibility, and National Party credibility, will have taken a hit over the now long drawn out Todd Barclay issue.

This has been confirmed by a Newshub poll:  Bill English’s credibility hit by Todd Barclay saga

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll shows Prime Minister Bill English’s credibility has taken a hit over the Todd Barclay scandal.

By party:

The Newshub-Reid Research poll was conducted July 20-28. One-thousand people were surveyed – 750 by telephone and 250 by internet panel. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

This isn’t surprising. I think English handled it poorly – but he was put under extreme pressure by a sustained avalanche of media coverage. It was a big learning experience for him after managing to stay out of the spotlight for years apart from when presenting the annual budgets.

A more important question though is how much this has damaged his and National’s credibility. Do people trust him less than any other politician?

I could answer yes to ‘have I lost some trust in English’, but would how much would that influence my vote this election? That’s a much more complex question that a vague poll cannot address. Neither can I at this stage, there’s going to be many things to consider before I vote.

I could also say that I have lost trust over the media handling of the the Barclay saga.

Russell and Hooton on trusts

An exchange on Twitter between Deborah Russell (@beefaerie)and Matthew Hooton (MatthewHootonNZ) on trusts.

Deborah Russell: I’m going to be on Breakfast on TV One tomorrow morning, shortly after the 7am news, talking about the

Matthew Hooton: Would you mind explaining that there are no such thing as ‘foreign’ or ‘family’ trusts in NZ law, but only ‘trusts’?

Deborah Russell: I’ll do my best. I have found that most people don’t quite get what’s going on. “Foreign trust” is only for tax purposes.

But the problem is “foreign trusts” and what gets shunted into them, and the lack of information about them.

Matthew Hooton: Also don’t dividends get taxed where paid? So a NZ trust owning e.g. Rio Tinto shares doesn’t get off tax on dividends?

Deborah Russell: They would get taxed in Australia, and in NZ, with our Double Tax Agreement sorting out how much tax is paid in each place.

So the NZ trust *would* pay tax on the Rio Tinto dividends. But the problem is “foreign trusts” and what gets shunted into them, and the lack of information about them.

I think it’s a moral issue, not a tax issue wrt “foreign trusts”. Happy to discuss at length sometime.

Matthew Hooton: Then should get an ethicist on not a tax expert

Deborah Russell: As my PhD is in Philosophy, and I’ve lectured in Ethics, Political Theory, AND Tax, I guess I fit the bill. And Business Ethics, Professional Ethics, Applied Ethics. And more.

Matthew Hooton: Excellent. You’ll be able to talk about the ethics of publishing 240,000 names & addresses, many who have done nothing wrong.

Deborah Russell: Many of whom *may* have done nothing immoral. People may have interesting reasons for consulting a Panamanian firm.

Matthew Hooton: The itself says being on The List does not mean the person has done anything wrong. So why issue the list if not to smear?

Deborah Russell: To crowd source knowledge.

So it could be interesting, just after 7 am on Breakfast, TV One.

The PM/lawyer/trust story

NZ Herald and One News are making a big thing of a story about John Key, his lawyer (who  is apparently is not a lawyer any more), the Antipodes trust company and lobbying.

One News: John Key’s lawyer’s involvement in lobbying government over tax laws revealed

John Key’s personal lawyer lobbied the Government not to change the controversial tax laws.

This is the latest twist in the Panama Papers saga – and it’s raising more questions for the Prime Minister and the role of his lawyer Ken Whitney.

Earlier this month Mr Key shrugged off the revelation that he had a cash deposit with Antipodes Trust, a company that specialises in foreign trusts. His office explained this away by saying the deposit was lodged with Mr Whitney, who had recently moved firms to the Antipodes Trust.

However, Companies House documents show that Mr Whitney has been involved with the firm since its inception more than 20 years ago.

And Official Information Act document also reveals that Mr Whitney and the Antipodes Trust were heavily involved in lobbying the Government not to change the controversial tax rules.

NZ Herald: The Antipodes email: The PM, his lawyer and foreign trusts

John Key’s personal lawyer cited a conversation with the Prime Minister when lobbying a Minister about a potential crackdown on the lucrative foreign trust industry.

Time and analysis will show whether there is anything significant or damaging to Key in this story.

There’s another interesting aspect to the story – it appears to have been provided to selected news outlets, One News, the Herald and Radio NZ, and not given to Newshub or Stuff, at least not initially.

Giving one or some media outlets news, in this case one print, one television and one radio outlet, is a technique used to get those outlets to give the news more prominence as an ‘exclusive’ .

The story came from the Greens, who clearly decided to share w tvnz, rnz & herald.

Clearly from Greens – are you saying that was shut out?

Anybody there from Greens – was shut out from story?

it seems fairly obviously it was provided first to Tvnz over tv3 like it was to Herald over stuff

So its just a queue waiting for a press release? Sad.

Little tries to emulate Winston

Instead of taking stock of a failing strategy and changing direction Andrew little seems to have chosen to go further down the dirt track.

Andrew Little: Will he join me and release his tax records to dispel rumours that he has benefited from the use of tax havens?

Little then tabled his tax records from the past few years, challenging Key to do likewise. This stunt is as likely to backfire on Little as score a hit on his opponent – actually, going by Labour’s recent track record it’s more likely to blow up in Little’s face.

Is he trying to impress Winston Peters by rumour mongering in Parliament?

Trying to promote rumours is ingrained in Peters’ modus operandi, but it’s sad to see the Labour leader resorting to this.

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all of his statements in relation to the Panama Papers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Andrew Little: Does he accept that the Panama Papers show that New Zealand – based foreign trusts are being used, at the very least, for tax avoidance?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I have not seen the Panama Papers, so I cannot comment on whether that is the case or not.

Andrew Little: Why did he limit the tax dodging review to only the operation of the law in respect of foreign trusts in New Zealand, and not, for example, the law around portfolio investment entity funds and tax paid by multinationals?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the review being undertaken by John Shewan will be quite comprehensive when it comes to disclosure and the issues around tax. Where that will ultimately go is a matter of us working with the OECD, and our officials are going to Paris on Wednesday to be part of a global meeting on that.

Andrew Little: Why did he push through a law in 2011, which Labour opposed, that cut the tax rate for foreign funds to zero, a move that PriceWaterhousecoopers said put New Zealand on a par with renowned tax havens like Ireland, Luxembourg, and the Caymans?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That member would need to direct that question to the Minister of Revenue. I don’t have those facts.

Andrew Little: Can he confirm that New Zealand was kicked off the EU’s white list following his law change because New Zealand no longer had equivalent “legal requirements of money-laundering and terrorist-financing prevention”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not have that data but I can confirm that New Zealand is ranked in the top 20 in the world when it came to disclosure matters according to the OECD.

Andrew Little: Why does he defend tax-avoiding multinational corporations and owners of foreign trusts who are just using New Zealand to avoid paying tax?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are a variety of reasons why people use foreign trusts, including ones that may be registered in New Zealand. I am sure many of them are legitimate.

Andrew Little: Does he think he has achieved his goal of making New Zealand the Jersey of the South Pacific? And do not pull the wool over our eyes.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do think there is a role for New Zealand in the provision of financial services as part of a diversified economy. I think we can do that quite successfully. My other goal has been to lead National to 50 percent in the polls, not 28 percent. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not mind a certain amount of interjection but when it is getting to that level I am going to have to start mentioning people by name.

Andrew Little: Has he ever been involved, personally or professionally, in a foreign trust or other vehicle used to reduce tax?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no ministerial responsibility for that but I am quite happy for the member to look at the answers I gave in my post Cabinet press conference yesterday.

Andrew Little: Will he join me and release his tax records to dispel rumours that he has benefited from the use of tax havens?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, there are no such rumours. Secondly, I do not think the member actually should table his tax return. I think he should table his CV because he will be out looking for a new job soon.

Andrew Little: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition wants to raise a point of order. Point of order, Andrew Little.

Andrew Little: I seek—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order. It will be heard in silence.

Andrew Little: I seek leave to table my income tax records from the year ended 31 March 2010 to the year ended 31 March 2016.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those particular records. Is there any objection? There is none. They can be tabled. [Interruption] Order! Mr Robertson, when I stand to my feet, it is at that time—

Grant Robertson: I was distracted over here.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept that he may have been distracted, but he needs to look in this direction a bit more often.

  • Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.