How do we decide what is right or wrong?

Jehan Casinader wrote this – As a Christian, Israel Folau’s searing sermons from cyberspace make me angry –  in relation to religion, but can also apply to politics.

Surrendering to a higher power doesn’t make you a saint. Those who believe in God, including me, are just as broken, flawed and selfish as everyone else.

That’s why Folau – and those who have vilified him – have lost sight of the bigger picture. Judging others is easier than engaging in deeper conversations about faith, truth and morality.

If there is a God, what is he or she really like?

Where do we find meaning?

And how do we decide what is right and wrong?

Many people seem to treat politics based on beliefs and faith similar to religious beliefs. They believe politicians from their chosen party and politicians, they support them unquestioningly.

And they seem to fear opposing parties and positions to the point of vilifying them no matter what the merits of what they propose, do or say.

For some, politics is an extension of their religion

For others, politics seems to have become their religion.

If there is a political ideal, what is it really like?

Where do we find meaning?

And how do we decide what is right and wrong?


Journalists blame polls for their wrong guesses

This may seen repetitive, but again polls have been blamed for being wrong over the Australian election and for predicting the outcome incorrectly, this time by political journalist Tracey Watkins at Stuff, who should know better.


And journalists shouldn’t report on polls as if they are supposed to be predictors. Polls and pollsters should not be trying to predict unknown votes in the future.

In Lessons for Key in Australian election? Watkins wrote:

Australia has been plunged into political turmoil, its election result in the balance, Aussie prime minister Malcolm Turnbull fighting for his political survival. Sound familiar?  

Whether it’s Britain, the United States, and now Australia, voters are defying convention, the expert predictions, and even the polls.

Voters may well have defied the polls (whether voters are effectively telling both politicians and polls to get stuffed is another issue) but mentions the polls alongside ‘expert predictions’ when they are totally different things. Or they should be different things.

But a chill must have passed down John Key’s spine all the same.

If New Zealand follows the new world order he could be out of a job little more than a year from now.

Of course, the polls all say otherwise and Labour is hardly looking threatening. And yet.

The polls don’t say anything about how people may vote in over a year. They try to measure opinion accurately at the time they are taken, and by the time they are published that is always in the past.

And polls have known margins of error and even those have a lack of confidence in being 100% approximately accurate. They have a statistical 1 in 20 chance of being further askew.

The polls predicted Britain’s Brexit vote would go the other way.

The polls didn’t predict the Brexit vote incorrectly, they didn’t predict anything.

It is journalists and pundits who use polls to try to predict election outcomes. This is lazy and it is prone to a much higher margin of error than statistical polls.

And when journalists and pundits get their predictions wrong they blame the polls.

They are using polls as scapegoats for their own failings if they are themselves trying to predict the outcome of an election or referendum.

Polls may give us a useful indication of trends in public opinion, but the closer you get to an election the greater the chance of polls being seen to ‘get it wrong’.

Polls don’t and can’t measure the opinion of ‘undecideds’. Which way undecideds vote can swing markedly in the weeks and even days leading up to an election. Polls are too slow to reflect significant late changes and are looking back anyway, not forward.

Understanding how polling works is basic stuff that political journalists should understand. But they are either ignorant of polling 101, or they choose to misuse polls.

Take a Financial Times Brexit poll of polls as an example of what they polls are telling us and what they aren’t telling us.


Some journalists may take that as a prediction of the referendum result but 48-46 is nowhere near as precise as it may appear.

Combined polls like this are usually weighted to give greater prominence to more recent polls but even those are already history. Opinions may have moved on already and often will have.

48 versus 46 in a poll doesn’t actually mean 48 versus 46. There are a number of inaccuracies.

  • It is rounded, so 48 could be anywhere from 47.51 to 48.49 and 46 could be anywhere from 45.51 to 46.49.
  • Typical margins of error are 3-4 % so 48 plus margins of error mean it could be anywhere between 44% to 52%, and 46 could mean 42-50%
  • Add the rounding and 48 could be 43.51% to 52.49%, 46 could be 41.51% to 50.49%.
  • Statistically there’s a 1 in 20 chance those results could be more inaccurate.
  • There could be typically up to 10% or more of ‘undecided’ and ‘refused to say’ responses.
  • Opinions could and often do change the closer you get to an election.

And this shows that some people vote tactically (differently to what they want), so may vote differently to what they would tell a pollster.

And there may be some people who deliberately give pollsters false opinions as a form of protest at polls or politicians.

Polls have known inaccuracies – and these are significant when opinion is evenly divided. And  they don’t predict election results.

Some journalists try to predict election results – and either ignorantly or deliberately blame polls for their inaccuracies.


Wrong dishonourable Winston Peters

Winston Peters has a long history of making accusations under the protection of Parliamentary privilege. He has made a career out of trying to wreck the careers of others.

At times Peters has raised valid issues but more often than not his attacks are empty bluster. Promises of having evidence often come to nothing.

So the standard he has set is low.

Today he stooped even lower.

Brendan Horan has been trying to needle and nail the leader who threw him out of NZ First. Peters attacked back.

This House should not be used in that way particularly by the Jimmy Saville of New Zealand politics.

It wasn’t a one off smear, he tried it again. And when asked to withdraw and apologise he tried to build on the smear:

Yes, I did make that reference, it is true, and I apologise.

He was made to “apologise according to the rules” but it was accompanied by a trivialising smirk and laugh. This was very nasty behaviour and totally inappropriate for a Member of Parliament.

He is officially titled “Rt Hon Winston Peters” but ‘right’ and ‘honourable’ should be stripped from him.

Peters was wrong to make an unsubstantiated accusation like this, it was dishonourable scumbag behaviour. It reflects very poorly on Peters, on Parliament and the New Zealand First Party.

If Peters does nothing to apologise then the New Zealand First Party should hold him to account. If the party has any honour.

Draft Hansard transcript:


Tabling of Document—

BRENDAN HORAN (Independent): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table a document, New Zealand First board meeting minutes from March 2013, which point to improper use of taxpayer funds.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave has been sought. I will allow the member the Rt Hon Winston Peters to speak before I put the question.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This House should not be used in that way, particularly by the Jimmy Savile of New Zealand politics.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Brendan Horan: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I need no further assistance. The way forward is for the House to decide this matter. Leave is sought to table particular minutes of a political party dated—I have forgotten—March some time. Leave is sought for that document to be tabled. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is objection.

BRENDAN HORAN (Independent): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table a document from New Zealand Racing that shows the ownership of the racehorse—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has described the document. This is information from the New Zealand Racing Conference. Leave is sought to table it. Is there any objection? There is objection.

[Continuation line: Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is this one of these]

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is this one of these documents that is available online? The question is why that member was not asked that. My understanding is that it is.

Mr SPEAKER: I am not sure whether it is available. Possibly it might have been better to do that.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think if the member had properly explained what he was trying to table, there would not have been opposition. He referred to the word “ownership”, and Jimmy Savile—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Brendan Horan: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat at the back. I have put the leave. The House has decided. That is the end of the matter.

BRENDAN HORAN (Independent): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to Standing Order 116 , and I take offence at the disgusting comments from—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 20/8: “Constantly raising trifling points of order is itself disorderly.”

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Deputy Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a protocol in this House, which is in the Standing Orders, that if a member takes offence at an offensive remark aimed at them, the House upholds it. That was a really offensive remark.

Mr SPEAKER: Sorry. Then I apologise to the House. I never heard anything that I considered—

Hon Anne Tolley: He referred to him as Jimmy Savile.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I never heard anything that I thought was offensive. But, as is the practice of this House, if the member did make a remark at which offence has been taken, then the member should stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): Yes, I did make that reference, it is true, and I apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise according to the rules, without adding—

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.

Video: 20.05.14 – Question 5: Rt Hon Winston Peters to the Prime Minister