Thursday, June 30, 2005

Polls give parties whiff of a battle

Unlike some folk in the blogosphere who are confidently predicting a National victory on the basis of one poll, MP's and candidates from both major Parties in East Auckland are taking nothing for granted this election...

Todays H & P Times:


“POLLS are like perfume – they’re delicious to smell, dangerous to swallow”.

Manukau East Labour MP Ross Robertson’s comment follows National leading the polls with 40.1 per cent support this week.

“Only one poll counts and that is election day,” Mr Robertson said. “However there is a trend there and that is of concern. We will work hard and I’m confident we can pull it back.”

Mr Robertson said people are judging performance.

“I still believe Helen Clark is a more commanding leader than others on offer. She’s articulate, smart and savvy.”

Pakuranga National MP Maurice Williamson is excited by recent polls, but cautious.

“It is a slight lead [Labour on 36.2 per cent] and our biggest enemies are arrogance and complacency. We have to keep up the momentum and put our case to the public.”

He said it’s a vast improvement to three years ago when National plummeted to 21 per cent.

“Last time we weren’t even on the same paddock. We didn’t even know when the game was on.”

Colleague, Clevedon MP Judith Collins shared the same view.“Polls look good but you can’t get too cocky.”

Pakuranga Labour candidate Michael Wood suggested this year’s election will be close.

“This returns New Zealand to a more normal state of affairs after the historic weakness of National in recent years. It also reminds political parties that no voter should be taken for granted.”

In light of polls, Mr Wood said his campaign team is working harder.

“Our door knocking team has already covered as many houses as we reached during the entire 2002 campaign and we are escalating a programme of stalls, community group contact and cottage meetings.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Taking people seriously

Something I have been thinking about over the last week is the unfortunate way in which modern methods of political communication, particularly during campaigns, bring political discussions down to the lowest common denominator.

In part it's simply the nature of modern media such as television advertising, in part it's because of more developed theories about how you "sell" messages to people, and in part I think it has been laziness on the part of various political parties. I think all of the parties have been guilty to some extent of treating voters like dopes in this way, although I do believe that National's recent Iwi/Kiwi billboard hit a new low as it was not only trite, but horribly divisive.

Anyway I'd be keen to hear other people's thoughts on the phenomona, that is the practice and effect of trying to hook voters with snazzy billboards, clever catch phrases, cutesy gimmicks, and all of that clap-trap, without actually genuinely engaging people on the fundamentally different ideas that really drive the various political parties.

We're trying to take voters more seriously in our Pakuranga campaign by actually talking to them like thinking human beings at stalls, shopping centres, and on the doorstep. In a bold move I am also planning on talking to one of the local Rotary Clubs about the differing policy implications of free market and social democratic political philosophy as opposed to the standard "here are our key achievements colour coded for your convenience" spiel.

We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Who is mainstream?

Russell Brown has written a good article about Brash's "clever, creepy" attempt to catergorise New Zealanders into "mainstream" and well, non mainstream.

I find it extraordinary that MP's who have in recent years supported the extension of rights to more New Zealanders have been accused of "social engineering", yet when the Leader of the Opposition in accordance with his own personal views, presumes to define who fits into the mainstream and who doesn't, this is somehow not.

These comments signal the start of what looks to be a pretty ugly, divisive election campaign in which National uses psychological hooks like the "mainstream" line to drive a wedge between New Zealanders for political gain. That's no better than Winston's trienial attack on immigants.

It's tough to counter this kind of garbage, but Labour's message will be to respond positively. We will be campaigning on a positive vision for the future of New Zealand in which everyone is treated with respect, and has a fair go.

Wait for it..

... behind National's slick slogans and clever billboards there lies an absolute dislocation from reality.

Cathy Odgers, recently introduced to the New Zealand blogosphere by National Party bigwig and Wellington Central campaign manager David Farrar, has taken a swing in this direction.

After a couple of hundred words of personal abuse in her June 20th posting, Ms Odgers comes out with this pearler, which to me speaks volumes about the people in the National and ACT parties and their (lack of) connection with the real world: "NZ does not and never will have poverty".

Easy to say from an office tower in Hong Kong I suppose.

That sort of attitude explains why it was that during the mad rush of reforms during the 1980s and 1990s, New Zealand went from being one of the most equal, to one of the least equal countries in the world - the people leading the process simply didn't care. That's why people like my Mother who is a Plunket Nurse in Otara, deals with third world diseases and babies who have lost arms and legs to Menengitis owing to poor living conditions. Twenty years ago this would have been unthinkable in New Zealand, and we are only now beginning to address some of these appalling problems.

Ms Ogden and her ilk can remain in their ivory towers and ignore the problems of the real world, but I care, and I think that most "mainstream" New Zealanders also care.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

No Free Lunch

David Slack has put together an interesting interactive website:

You go to the site, punch in a variety of potential tax cuts, and then have to work out how you will cut spending to make up for the lost revenue. Given that National is talking about tax cuts for everyone, that's quite a challenge. Indeed, the Christchurch Press has recently tallied up National's spending and tax promises and found that they now total some $7 billion!

There are now 2-3 months for Labour to expose the lack of credibility in National's plans. There is no such thing as a free lunch and I think that this will become increasingly apparent to voters.

Who says the internet wastes time?

Another time wasting quiz doing the rounds in the blogosphere...

Your IQ Is 125

Your Logical Intelligence is Exceptional
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius
Your General Knowledge is Above Average

Friday, June 24, 2005


New Zealand Cricket team should in my view immediately call of it's planned tour of Zimbabwe.

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today did the right thing by stating that the Zimbabwe cricket team would not be welcome to tour New Zealand over the summer. While the government can do this by simply refusing visa's to the visitng team, there is of course no way that the government can stop our team from visiting Zimbabwe.

That decision needs to be made by New Zealand Cricket. While it is a difficult matter owing to the fine that the International Cricket Council (ICC) may impose for a refusal to tour, there comes a time when you just have to do the right thing. Robert Mugabe's regime has descended to new lows with it's recent clearance of urban areas housing people likely to support the opposition, and it is up to those in prominent positions to protest.

Mugabe is the patron of Zimbabwe cricket, and a refusal to tour on ethical grounds would be a very strong international signal that his behaviour is unacceptable. New Zealand has led the way in condemning Mugabe's government within the Commonwealth, and it would be wrong for one of our leading national sports teams to now turn a blind eye to his abuses.

From a cricket lover this is hard, but some things are far more important than sport.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

New Blogs

That's right, we need more blogs in our lives...

First up is cheezy, a friend of a friend currently residing in the UK. While he isn't exactly a fawning sycophant when it comes to Labour, he has just posted a very good article on why a National government would be a very, very bad idea.

He makes the very good point in his rather lengthy post about the fact that a Don Brash led National government would in all likelyhood have participated in the illegal, and strategically disastrous Iraq war. When it comes down to it, questions about war and morality are the true litmus test of political leadership, and a National government would have shown it's true colours by cravenly sending our troops to follow the USA into that quamire.

Labour MP Tim Barnett has also decided to risk life and limb by entering the blogosphere. Tim has attracted some of the most vicious personal attacks you will ever see in the political world for holding a range of progressive views, but he continues to coherently argue for what he believes is right. For that he has my uptmost admiration.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

On the ground campaigning continues

Posted by HelloCampaigning doesn't stop for the rain!

Rain or shine, our campaign team is out every weekend pushing the 'two ticks for Labour' message. Pictured here are a slightly wet, but very dedicated team of Arna, Conor, Patrick, myself, Sam, and his daughter after a very soggy afternoon on Tiraumea Drive. Thanks to the local dairy owner for the space by his shop and efforts with the camera.

The more the campaign advances, the more I am certain that face to face contact with voters is the best way to communicate our messages and convince people of the importance of re-electing a Labour government. While the opposition campaign seems to be relying on short, populist messages, we have the harder job of explaining 6 years of achievements and describing a vision for the future.

In any case, I enjoy the chance to actually speak one on one with residents, and so far the response has been really positive. Most people are just happy to see a candidate front up. We'll be continuing to make our way through the electorate so look out for us at a dairy near you!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Big bucks buy elections?

I am extremely concerned by a report stating that a "forestry lobby group" are planning a $2 million anti-government election year advertising campaign.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with groups from whatever side of the political fence coming out to either advocate for or against the policies of particular political parties. But this is different.

In a small country like New Zealand, $2million dollars during an election campaign is huge money. The article I link to above points out that during the 2002 election campaign, the National Party itself only spent around $1 million on their campaign. If memory serves me correctly, Labour spent about $2 million, and ACT a bit more.

Given that scale, a consortium of private interests throwing such huge interests into a campaign to push a very specific policy gripe (they want to own the carbon credits referred to in my previous post), is a real concern. Presumably, this group of very rich blokes hope that their campaign will help unseat the government so that they will receive the potentially very profitable carbon credits.

That sounds like a self-interested group wanting to buy votes to line their own pockets to me. Further, it is a concern to anyone interested in a genuine, representative democracy. How many groups representing the interests of, say, the intellectually handicapped, beneficiaries, or the elderly, can afford that much influence???

Sunday, June 19, 2005


ACT come National cheerleader (funny how the wind changes) Aaron Bhatnagar has taken a swing at a few Labour bloggers, including yours truly, for not jumping on to our computers in a flash to talk about the fact that that New Zealand may need to purchase aroud $500 million in carbon credits over 2008-12 because we will not meet our commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

I consider myself suitably remonstrated for thinking that things like work, family, and on the ground election campaigning are more important!

Anyway, this is an issue worth commenting on. It's simple really. If you accept the reality that carbon emissions are resulting in serious climate change (as all of the serious players and nearly every single national government do), then you have two choices:

1) Do nothing and leave future generations to clean up the mess.
2) Work collectively to begin addressing the problem now.

New Zealand, along with around 150 other countries has chosen to take action. We would be absolutely crazy not to as with an agriculturally-based economy such as ours, we have an enormous amount to lose. Remember the drought suffered in many parts of New Zealand during the late 1990s that wiped billions of dollars off our economic output? Well recently published research suggests that climate change could lead to such events occurring 2-4 times more frequently. Make no mistake, our standard of living is at serious risk if the problem of climate change is not addressed.

Importantly, the nature of the problem requires an international effort. It isn't a case of each individual state being able to take measures and then say "I'm OK Jack". This is a global problem that can only be tackled on a global scale. That's what Kyoto is about. It's not a perfect mechanism, but what it does is pull together around 150 countries and actually requires them to modify their behaviour by reducing the carbon emissions that cause climate change.

Even in countries that haven't ratified like the US and Australia, the Kyoto consensus is having an effect. In Oz, while the conservative federal government has refused to ratify, most of the state Labor governments are moving to restrict carbon emissions to Kyoto levels, while in the US, California Governor Arnold Schwarzanegger has just announced carbon emission targets for his state that go beyond the reductions envisioned by Kyoto.

Kyoto works in quite a simple way. Countries commit to reducing carbon emissions, and if they don't, they either have to show that they are doing enough "good things" (like planting forests) to make up for this, or they have to pay for their pollution by buying carbon credits. Because it looks like we may be over our targets for 2008-12, we are in the position that we either need to quickly reduce emissions, or we will have to buy carbon credits.

It is essentially a market approach - we pay for the mess we create. Do the right-wing opponents of Kyoto who so freely propose user pays for every thing else seriously think that we should not have to pay for the economic and social damage of climate change?

One thing's for sure - someone will pay. If we don't use mechanisms like Kyoto to address the issue now, it will be our children and our granchildren who suffer. I believe it is our duty to take responsibility.

Further interesting commentary on frogblog

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The 'P' Word

I'm extremely pleased by recent comments made by Steve Maharey on the issue of poverty in New Zealand.

The 'P' word was almost unutterable in the 1990s as the National government of the day persisted with the myth that there was no poverty in New Zealand. In fact, when Labour came to government in 1999, this sand in the head approach had become so entrenched that the incoming administration could not even ask the Ministry for qualitative information about poverty in New Zealand, because the research capacity of the Ministry in this area had been removed.

It's obviously a key test of any Labour government to address the needs of those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap, and the data referred to in Maharey's statement shows that a succession of policy initiatives since 1999 are successfully moving people out of poverty. We went from being one of the most equal, to one of the least equal societies in the developed world during the 1990s, and I am proud that due to measures like income related rents, and an active employment policy, this government is doing something to restore basic living standards for all New Zealanders.

A vote for a National government is a vote for a return to increasing levels of poverty in our communities.

Of particular note is the fact that the Working for Families package is projected to reduce child poverty by 30% within two years. I find it sickening that those on the political right who attack working for families would happily see those kids re-consigned to a life of desperate want.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Me and my potatoes

spuds - all good Posted by Hello

More people should definitely grow ther own vegetables - very satisfying and tasty.

We've got a big crop of spuds at the moment, and they're very easy to grow. Simply bung them in some loose, rich soil, give an occassional feed of liquid fertiliser, and wait.

I recommend 'Rua' seed potatoes.

Back to the politics tomorrow.

Friday, June 10, 2005

New Local Site - Eastlife

Pakuranga has a new forum for political and community news and discussion:

The editor of the site is a guy called Peter Barclay He is a former Howick & Pakuranga editor, and as such seems to have a pretty good grasp on local issues. The site is very new, but is nicely set out and will I am sure do very well.

In combination with the H&P Times website, this will mean that local voters are very well served in terms of online political information.

Eastlife is also leading with a good story at the moment ;-)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

H&P Times Today

Online attack on Labour dubbed an ‘embarrassing flop’

ATTEMPTS by National/ACT supporters to attack the government’s road building record have flopped embarrassingly, says Pakuranga Labour candidate Michael Wood.

His comment follows the leaking of the Employers and Manufacturers Association’s plan to post a website criticising Labour. The government responded by putting the facts about transport spending on the proposed site, Mr Wood said.

“Anyone interested in comparing the records of Labour and National on infrastructure investment can now go to

“This site shows that in 1999, the last year of the National government, there were $130.6 million of major state highway construction projects in Auckland.

This year, under Labour, it is up more than tenfold to $1.348 billion.

“Investment in transport infrastructure is an important issue for Pakuranga residents.

“I am proud to represent a government that is investing properly in this long neglected area.

“Labour is investing in New Zealand’s long-term social and economic infrastructure whereas National would fritter the money away on the electoral bribe of tax cuts.”

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Fear and Loathing in Pakuranga

Recent accusations by Winston Peters about several former Iraqi citizens living in Pakuranga make me feel distinctly queasy.

The sheer predictability of Mr Peters' attacks against immigrant groups several months out from a general election is truly nauseating. Like clockwork the loaded language, conspiritorial innuendo, and appeal to our fear of difference get trotted out at the same point every electoral cycle.

In this case, he has taken a slightly different approach. A small number of local residents have been named in the House as having had involvement in Saddam Hussein's government, a claim that the men deny. The tactic seems to be do pin awful crimes upon a few individuals in the hope that this will stir up resentment against entire immigrant communities, and from this garner political capital.

Judging from recent reports the men are vigorously defending themselves against the allegations, and will not take the matter lying down. They flatly deny the vague allegations made, and suggest that Mr Peters' source may be someone with a personal grudge.

My view is that until such a time as Mr Peters has some specific and credible information to prove the unsuitability of the men concerned to settle here, he ought to shut up. If he does have this infomation then there are proper channels to direct it through - running a trial by media to cast suspicion upon whole immigrant communities in this fashion is a disgrace.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The truth, the whole truth and...

Have a look at this site.

It was going to be used by the pro National/ACT Employers and Manufacturers Association to propogate the idea that Labour is not committed to building important roading infrastructure. This has been a constant cry from those on the political right, not least the incumbent local MP who is a former National Minister of Transport.

Unfortunately for the EMA, they forgot to register their site name before talking about it publicly, so Labour has now purchased the site and put up the facts, which speak for themselves.

Where National ran down our public services and infrastructure, Labour has invested. National's irresponsible plans to cut taxes and increase public debt would remove government capacity to continue investing in crucial economic and social infrastructure. This kind of investment is exactly the long-term kind of capital expenditure that tax cuts will eat into.