Monday, August 29, 2005

National Website

I wouldn't usually draw attention to this, but I think that a glance at National's website is actually quite telling.

We are in the middle of an extremely competitive election campaign, with high levels of public interest, but what does National have to offer up in its featured 'National News' section?

Well, firstly and obviously a link to details about the tax announcement - fair enough, that is National's centrepiece (some would argue only) policy. Beyond that though, it's very sparce. There are two stories that are 2 weeks old, one of which is an announcement about National creating a new Ministerial role (I thought they believed in a smaller cabinet), and the second is weirdly, an ad about their TV ad. The other story is the 3 week old launch of National's immigration policy.

In the world of websites, this is all very dated. Labour's website on the other hand has six uptodate stories that are no older than 3 days.

To me this reflects, when you take tax cuts out of the equation, National's absence of anything positive to say about where they would take New Zealand. Labour on the other hand has produced a substantial youth policy, announced an $80 million plan to get new entrant class sizes down to 15, and a plan to give all pre-schoolers extra health checks over the last week, and that's just off the top of my head.

I was also surprised to see the "Helengrad Hall of Infamy" section further down the site. This section seems solely devoted to taking personal pot-shots at the PM, and at this stage contains a silly rip-off song. Is this the website of a serious Party wanting to govern, or a socially inadequate teenage libertarian?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

When Campaigns Collide

It has been an exceptionally busy campaign weekend.

Things got off to quite a strange start on Saturday. A couple of us set up a stall and begun handing out information at the Pakuranga Plaza. Usually we receive quite a good response at this location. The polling booth beside the Plaza is quite a strong one for us and we comfortably won the Party vote there in 2002.

After 15 minutes of leafleting however, we were feeling distinctly unloved. Aside from malevolent stares and snarls of disdain we encountered muttered comments about "communists" and one woman actually physically pulled her child away from us as if to avoid contamination. It look set to be a very long afternoon.

An explanation came after about 15 minutes when, after seeing Maurice walking by, we established that a National Party meeting was taking place inside the supermarket. It was therefore unsurprising that we were getting a hard time as many of the people walking by were attending the meeting!

Anyway, things settled down after that and we had a good response over the ensuing hour or two before heading off to doorknock the Millen/Latham Ave area, which was also very positive.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Day of Contrasts

Today summed up the difference between the two main Parties, and their respective campaigns.

On one hand National gave a good impression of three senile, blind dogs put in a sack in a sausage factory as the bumbled and stumbled over each other with regard to their three contradictory policies on native logging. Inthe end Brash executed a perfect flip-flop and scuttled what would have been a hugely unpopular policy. This is not a Party fit to run the local rabbit board, let alone a country.

On the other hand, Labour delivered a positive new policy that will make a huge difference in our primary schools. Labour will inject up to $80 million per year to bring new entrant classes down to a one teacher to fifteen child teaching ratio. The current ratio is 1:23. The policy will give young New Zealanders the best possible learning environment at a critical stage of their development.

National simply cannot deliver investments in our future of this kind while they are wedded to giving high income earners a $92 tax cut per week. I would personally receive quite a good tax cut under National, but I'd rather know that 5 year olds in our public schools are getting a great education.

Today's Howick & Pakuranga Times

Order in one’s home first

AS a candidate with Christian beliefs I was offended by Ewen McQueen’s comments (Times, August 23) that Labour is “anti-Christian”.

As Pastor Ian Buckley says in the article, there are “multiple opinions among Bible-believing Christians”. Mr McQueen’s comment suggests a narrow fundamentalist outlook that is intolerant of anyone who comes up with views different to his.

I am proud of the principled stands that the Labour government has made against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, against participating in the immoral Iraq war, and against the scourge of child poverty in our country.

Labour’s policies have seen child poverty fall from one in three children to among the lowest in the developed world.

These are policies that reflect my Christian beliefs.

Coming from a party formerly led by the disgraced Graham Capill, Mr McQueen should be careful about using the political stage to lecture people about morals.

The Bible I know tells us we should keep our own houses in order rather than jumping to judgment against others.

Michael Wood,
Labour candidate for Pakuranga

Tax Cuts = Higher Wages. Yeah Right

An article in yesterdays Herald highlighted another good reason why ordinary working people will not benefit from National's tax cut plans.

Aside from the fact that 66% of people will see a tax cut of only around $10/week, the following comment from the Managing Director of the Times Newspapers, which co-incidentally publishes the H&P Times, shows that the benefits of tax cuts will not necessarily accrue to workers:

"Times Newspapers managing director Reay Neben says while the company won't benefit from the decision to defer corporate tax cuts, the personal tax rates changes will alleviate pressure to increase staff pay rates. "

In other words, the employer will hold off on giving pay rises that s/he would otherwise feel obliged to give, and argue that the employee has received a raise through tax cuts! Result, the worker is actually no better off.

This is actually an important part of the debate, for despite their public protestations that they want to see the incomes of New Zealanders increased, National has taken pot shots at any group of workers who have tried to win a decent increase this year (ie; the EPMU 5% campaign). If the strategy is to give workers a payrise through a tax cut, then where does it stop - most workers expect a pay rise each year.

Labour has delivered investment in skills and training like apprenticeships, and fairer labour laws. These are contributing far more to long-term wage growth than a measly $10/week tax cut can.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Very strange

I guess that when you're looking for excuses for not winning a leaders debate you can't use the tried and tested "the dog ate my notes" as an excuse, but Don Brash's comment that he "restrained" himself because Helen Clark is a woman, is simply strange.

The PM has rightly called this patronising, but frankly it's just pathetic. As if the constant prevarication, flip-flopping, unwillingness to answer specific questions (ie; details about NCEA), and general failure to show a firm grasp of policy, were all not enough to show that this man is not a leader, then this comment confirms it.

You don't go into a debate as a prospective Prime Minister and go easy on the other person because of their gender. Brash has either shown a strange patronising attitude to half of the population, or he is lying to cover up for a sub-par performance on a day when National should have dominated through sheer blanket coverage of the tax cut policy.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Campaign Update

The past couple of weeks have seen our campaign in Pakuranga shift into top gear. Over the past couple of weeks we have:

- knocked on around 800 doors
- produced and then distributed 20 000 leaflets to our team of deliverers
- held several stalls in shopping areas meeting hundreds of locals
- accepted three invitations to speak to community groups
- made contact with around 20 large worksites with a view to holding meetings
- continued to expand our network of signage

And that's just the big stuff. With the official Labour campaign launch taking place at the Auckland townhall tomorrow we expect things to get even more frenetic. The final two weeks of the campaign will see our activities reach a peak.

It's all good fun and the response is great, but roll on September 18!

(The attached picture is of a group of very wet campaign helpers after an afternoon doorknocking in the Ennis Ave area).

Thursday, August 18, 2005

It's all so clear

Today's announcement that Labour will extend the Working for Families package to cover 60 000 more Nw Zealand families makes the choices at this election chrystal clear.

Whereas National will enact expensive tax cuts that will primarily benefit the wealthy, Labour will invest in ordinary New Zealand families - the backbone of our economy and society. The Greens have done a comparison of what a probable tax cut package vs. the Working for Families package would mean for working New Zealand families, and it is a stark picture.

Across the board tax cuts would give Don Brash a $380/week tax cut were he (god forbid) to be Prime Minister, and just $28/week more to the average kiwi family on $50 000. Contrarily, Labour will provide $113/week assistance to that average family.

It's simple really, do we want policies that benefit the wealthy few, or average hard working families?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Shock Horror, Detailed Analysis!

After months of hyping their tax cut plans, National has over the last week or so furiously tried to downplay public expectations ahead of their announcement on Monday.

Here is a link to a very good interview between blogger Keith Ng and Michael Cullen, in which Cullen explains the fiscal realities that government has to deal with, and the impossibility of large tax cuts without equally large tax cuts or overseas borrowing.

In the middle of a sloganeering election campaign, it's nice to actually read a reasoned, detailed analysis from one of the major players. Not exactly a light read, but a good overview of Labour's fiscal strategy.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lange Transcript

Well, I can't find an audio clip, but Russell Brown has a transcript of the speech (not quite the same without the big booming voice, but brilliant nonetheless):,

Goodbye Mr Lange

The outpouring of national feeling following the death of David Lange has been extraordinary.

Despite leading New Zealand through a tumultuous, controversial period, Lange's abilities to distill and communicate a message, to make us laugh, and to make us feel proud to be New Zealanders, seem to have earned a measure of affection and respect from New Zealanders across the political spectrum.

There will be plenty of time in the coming years to analysis the impact of the fourth Labour government that he led, but at the moment I think that it is appropriate to focus on the qualities of Lange the man.

Last night on National Radio I heard for the first time, his whole address to the Oxford Union in which he makes a moral case against nuclear weapons. While we often hear that famous quip in which he admonishes his American opponent by saying "I can smell the uranium on (your breath)", the full address shows that Lange was so much more than a funny fat man with endless one liners. The full address is a masterful critique of the peverse philosphy of nuclear weapons which led at that time to the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) standoff. Lange presents the case with passion, conviction, and a command of the language that only the truly gifted possess. If I find an audio clip of it I will post it here.

It was obvious that David Lange suffered a great deal in his later years, yet never did he use his postition to garner public sympathy or profile. Such was his modesty and aversion to privileged treatment that we have heard so much about since his passing.

May he rest in peace.


Someone trying to comment on a posting has just e-mailed me to say that they were unable to do so and wondering why I do not allow comments. This isn't the case and I'm guessing that there is just some technical glitch, which I will look into.

If anyone else has this problem, please e-mail me on

The arguments on the comments threads are half the fun on a blog and I'm keen to hear your views. All comments (apart from the slanderous, violent, grossly offensive etc!!!) are welcome

Friday, August 12, 2005


This is definitely worth a dial!

Particularly pertinent in the light of Brash's muddling performance over the privatisation of state assets on last nights debate....

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Man of Principle

I was extremely saddened by the death of British Labour MP Robin Cook over the weekend.

There are some very good obituaries on the Guardian site here and here.

Cook was someone I have always admired, and never more so than during his principled opposition to Britain's invovlement in the Iraq war. While many in British Labour were prepared to vocally voice their opposition to that illegal war, Cook was willing to make a moral stand on the issue and resigned his cabinet position when the decision was made by the government to participate.

For a man who had build a formidable career over a quarter of a century in the House of Commons, that was a sacrifice of considerable proportions.

More broadly, Cook advocated for a morals based foreign policy which would see Labour's historical mission to uplift the poor and downtrodden domestically, applied to Britain's international dealings. A Gordon Brown-led Labour government may have seen him re-elevated to high office in government again to put these principles into action, but sadly that cannot happen.

The British Labour Party is far the poorer for this loss.

Blog light(er)

Work and campaigning activities are really chewing into my time at the moment, so I'm likely to be blogging a little less frequently over the coming weeks.

Damned real world!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Striking a balance

I was present in Mangere today at the launch of Labour's 4th pledge card commitment.

The pledge is to complete the Treaty claims settlement process by 2020, and to set a cut off date of September 2008 for the lodgement of claims.

I think that this policy strikes a good balance. The whole area is a tricky one, becuase on one side, there are a range of legitimate and outstanding grievances that need to be settled. On the other, there is a strong public feeling that while we want to "put things right", there does need to be a point at which things move on.

The policy strikes a reasonable balance because while it brings some finality to the process, there is a very reasonable amount of time for claims to be lodged, researched, and discussed. Having too short a time frame would simply give rise to a new set of grievances and we would be back we started. The evidence is that when claims have been settled fairly, that iwi groups have been able to move on and make some real progress for local Maori (ie; Ngai Tahu).

This will no doubt be a contenscious area for debate, but I think that on the whole, most fair minded New Zealanders support the settlement process, and the time limit policy will unltimately strengthen that support by showing that we are actually moving towards a final goal.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Today's Howick & Pakuranga Times

Pity about the headline!

Give interest-free money to everyone, not just students, scoffs Williamson

LABOUR candidate Michael Wood is ‘stoked’ by his party’s proposed student loans policy.

“Along with many other young New Zealanders, I am absolutely stoked by the pledge card announcement that Labour will scrap the interest on student loans for graduates living in New Zealand,” said the Pakuranga candidate.

“This policy will make a real difference to 400,000 young New Zealanders with loans. A friend of mine with post-graduate qualifications has a $50,000 loan and a $55,000 salary.

Under Labour’s policy he’ll pay off his loan eight years quicker, saving $47,000. This policy will encourage New Zealand’s best and brightest to keep their skills and talents here in New Zealand.

That’s good for young New Zealanders and good for our economy.”

But Mr Woods’ views predictably don’t sit well with Pakuranga National MP Maurice Williamson.

“I think it’s an appallingly reckless thing to do,” said Mr Williamson, who attributes the move to “desperation”.

“What if you’ve gone and done something else in life, like a bricklayer or electrician - why don’t you get free money for your business to get yourself set up?”

He quipped: “[under Labour’s policy] you’d be mad not to enrol in a tertiary institution and borrow to the maximum, then stick the money into some form of government bonds where it’s safe, make the interest off it, and never have to pay interest on the money you’re owing.

“It’s a bad signal. If giving people interest-free money is a good idea, why don’t they give it to businesses, why don’t they give it to homeowners for their mortgages – interest-free money for everyone, it would be great.”