Archive for September, 2007

Beatup on MP Superannuation

September 30th, 2007 at 9:27 am by David Farrar

The Sunday Star-Times has a beat-up article on MPs superannuaton scheme but it fails to mention the most crucial fact.

The Remuneration Authority when setting MPs salaries, does so on the basis of taking into account the total cost of an MP – including superannuation subsidies.

So the superannuation scheme is not an additional cost.  If there was not such a scheme, then MPs base salaries would be up around $150,000 intead of the $122,500 they are. The cost of the super scheme is now effectively deducted from their base salary (both employer and employee contribution).

Now one can debate whether or not a backbench MP is worth $150,000, and that is a legitimate debate (I would point out this is a pay drop for most National MPs), but the issue of how much goes into superannuation vs salary is a red herring as both are set as part of a total remuneration calculation (which is the only sensible way to do it).

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No bulk funding for schools?

September 30th, 2007 at 9:05 am by David Farrar

I will be very disappointed if National does drop its policy of bulk funding for schools.  All bulk funding is, is simply letting a school spend its entire budget as they see fit – rather than having central Government dictate how much must be spent on this area, how much on this area, needing permission for capital works etc.

Bulk funding is one of those things that you have hysterical scare-mongering against, but once it is in everyone would wonder what was all the fuss about.  A bit like Homosexual Law Reform in the mid 1980s.  Once it happens, no-one at all will want to go back to the old system as they discover how much better the new system is.

Katherine Rich has said they’re looking at other options to give schools more flexibility in their management locally.  I hope these are significant.

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Tazers

September 30th, 2007 at 8:57 am by David Farrar

The latest Police shooting appears to be a good example of where a Tazer may have saved a life.

Anyone who thinks that pepper spray would be effective enough in stopping a charging man with a hammer aimed at your head, should try offering their own head up to be made into scrambled eggs.

It’s amusing to read that the group “Campaign Against the Tazer” claims not to be against the Tazer in all circumstances.  Greg O’Connor pointed out that makes their name look pretty silly then.

There is an argument against the Tazer.  Because it is (almost always) non-lethal, there is a risk Police will use it when it isn’t necessary.  We’ve seen this in the United States (mainly with private security though).  And in NZ we have seen occasions when Police have used pepper spray without proper justification.

But it is a balancing act.  Does the risk of tazers being used inappropriately outweigh the likelihood that lives will be saved (both Police and attackers) by having available a weapon between pepper spray and a pistol?

I don’t think it does, and that Tazers on balance will be a good thing.  However the Police will need to clamp down ruthlessly on any use of them when not justified.

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Dunedin Mayoralty

September 29th, 2007 at 4:05 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports on two polls showing incumbent Mayor Peter Chin with a huge lead.

Most of the major races have now had polls published.  Yet to see anything for Christchurch or Wellington though.  Have I missed them or has there been nothing?

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Interview with Pansy

September 29th, 2007 at 11:57 am by David Farrar

Michelle Hewitson interviews Pansy Wong in the Herald.  I found it quite a charming interview as Pansy’s quirkiness comes through nicely in it.

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Supporting the Rugby Team

September 29th, 2007 at 11:49 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial is unimpressed with the PM’s move to have the have the Speaker investigate the Parliamentary Rugby Team.

So ends, probably, a harmless and charming tradition. What could be more in tune with this country than the pleasure that a few of its male MPs derive from an occasional game of rugby? What could be the harm in accepting sponsorship for their recent trip to France?

 The sponsorship had been organised by a representative of Sky TV, as it has been for years. Sky TV has an obvious interest in rugby. So do some of the other sponsors: Air New Zealand, adidas, Lion Nathan, Visa, McDonald’s and AMP. The French Government provided internal travel and accommodation.

Lobbying is a long way from corruption. If this trip was unethical, we have become too sanctimonious for words, or play.

Hear hear.

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The race is close

September 29th, 2007 at 11:42 am by David Farrar

Today’s Herald DigiPoll should deal to any complacency about the result of the next election. It is competitive.

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Espiner on National

September 28th, 2007 at 5:58 pm by David Farrar

I referred to National’s handling of the GP frees issue as “a bit sloppy”.  Colin Espiner is somewhat tougher, calling it “the mother of all clangers” and most amusingly:

I haven’t seen the Prime Minister looking this happy since Don Brash started talking about another MP’s testicles during a press conference.

Heh.

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Ouch

September 28th, 2007 at 5:40 pm by David Farrar

You Tube politics is here to stay. An attack video with some footage of John Key at the Porirua markets with close ups of John sniffing various vegetables to check if they were fresh. I found it pretty funny, but of course I am not the target of it. Politicians are going to have to get used to these.

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Support the Burmese

September 28th, 2007 at 5:16 pm by David Farrar

The military Government in Burma is truly one of the most nasty and repressive ones about. This week there have been awful reports of their supression of pro democracy forces.

If you are in Auckland then show your opposition to the regime:

When: Saturday, 29 September, 14:00
Where: Aotea Square, Auckland.

Hat Tip: The Standard

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Hooton praises Labour

September 28th, 2007 at 5:04 pm by David Farrar

The Standard has highlighted this rare praise from Matthew Hooton:

PRESENTER: Ah, right, we better start with climate change policy announcement… How do you think it went, Matthew.

HOOTON: Well, I have to say it was probably the most successful policy announcement by a government in a democracy that I’ve ever heard of.

The Greens are now starting to complain a bit though.  However that probably reassures most NZers :-)

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Support the Free Speech Coalition

September 28th, 2007 at 1:52 pm by David Farrar

After scores of requests for something to be done about the Electoral Finance Bill, apart from hoping the Government does a Damascus and agrees to withdraw it, I am happy to announce the formation of the Free Speech Coalition.

Please support us in informing the public about this Bill, and what its effects on society will be.  The more the public know about this Bill, the more they will hate it.  But we need to be able to get them more aware of it – that is the aim of the Free Speech Coalition.  We have no major funders.  In fact we have no funders at all at this stage.  All expenses have been met by us personally.

So please help us to help yourselves.

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Two more public Curia polls

September 28th, 2007 at 12:15 pm by David Farrar

Curia has had two more local government polls published by media organisations.

The Northern Advocate, Bay Report and Northland Age have published their poll for the Far North Mayoralty, which reveals Wayne Brown is narrowly ahead of incumbent Yvonne Sharp, but it is close.

Less close is the Wanganui Chronicle poll, which Laws Watch has scanned a table from in. Michael Laws is well in the lead.

I did declare to the Editor a potential conflict that Michael got me arrested 13 years ago, but that I was now well over it:-)

Not that I would anyway ever let personal views interfere with providing the best professional service I can.

Interestingly Laws had commissioned his own poll, and the topline results are very similiar.

We’ve also done polling for a number of mayoral candidates (never in the same area as one we are polling for a newspaper) so come election night on the 13th I’ll be following a dozen races with professional interest.

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Quotes from Law Society Submission on Electoral Finance Bill

September 28th, 2007 at 9:06 am by David Farrar

I’ve found the Law Society submission online. Some quotes:

The bill has serious defects, which mean it will not achieve its stated aims. Moreover, it is likely to curtail the legitimate expression of opinions while failing to curb (and potentially even incentivising) clandestine conduct in relation to the electoral process. The bill as a whole represents a backward step in the integrity of democracy in New Zealand.

 Okay not too positive.

The fact that redrafting and brokering is going on amongst political parties as to changes that will be promoted by the Government at the same time as submissions are being sought, excludes public participation and is an anathema to the Select Committee process.

It would be inappropriate to repair such a measure with a complex, negotiated Supplementary Order Paper even if this were referred to a Select Committee. A Supplementary Order Paper would not usually be subject to Bill of Rights Act certification by the Attorney-General. This is particularly important given that the opinion on Bill of Rights Act consistency given by the Crown Law Office in relation to the present bill does not seem to engage with the points raised in this submission.

That puts paid to the notion of lets just amend the Bill and all will be fine. 

Withdrawing the bill and starting again would enable a Regulatory Impact Statement and a list of those consulted to be added to the Explanatory Note. Both are notably absent from this bill.

Accordingly the Society submits that the current Bill should be abandoned and a process embarked upon whereby:

  • the principles to which New Zealand aspires in terrns of its democratic process are identified (clause 3(a) to (e) may indeed identify these);

  • the areas where current law fails to embody and protect these principles are determined; and

  • fair and practical solutions to these problems are formulated.

This is polite lawyer speak for “Kill the Bill”.

They also have a good analysis of the problems of extending the regulated period: 

Informing people about the services available to them from their government is a necessary, important and proper function of government. However, when a restricted period (during which any criticism of government initiatives is a regulated election advertisement) is too long and spending limits are too low, the dissemination of information about government services provides an unacceptable advantage to the incumbent government. This is so even if used in good faith, though the advantage is easily amenable to abuse.

 An unacceptable advantage to the incumbent Government says it all.  Of course that is the unwritten primary purpose of the Bill.

They they deal to the regulations on issue advocacy:

The primary issue with this restriction is the potential for it to be used as a weapon for shutting down debate. Bizarrely, the regime seems to mean that the best way to take an issue off the table is to take a position on it. By taking a position on an issue a party or candidate ensures that any person or entity wishing to take the opposing view publicly will be required to go through the strict process of registering as a third party and then be limited to $60,000 in its spending. The net effect is a stifling of debate on important issues. Furthermore, the basic fact that collectively parties and candidates will be found to have “taken positions” on almost everything, entails the financial regulation of speech on almost all relevant issues at election time. The net effect is a stifling of political debate.Of course we are sure the Government never wanted to shut down debate on unpopular issues.  No no the “haters and wreckers” are embraced by Helen.

Then again the conclusion:

The broad purposes of the bill may well be admirable. However, it appears that its operative provisions have been formulated in a manner so divorced from these purposes that the bill will have the opposite effect to that which is intended. In this case a political compromise has resulted in a compromise of principles and this cannot be accepted in an area as important as regulation of the democratic process.

The Society considers that the bill goes no way towards increasing transparency or accountability in the democratic process. Conversely, it risks encouraging large anonymous donations to political parties and candidates in preference to open participation in public debate. In this way it promotes rather than prevents the undue influence of wealth.The rules regarding registration, disclosure, spending limits and related offences are so complex, vague and uncertain as to make participation in our parliamentary democracy an arduous and perhaps even legally dangerous undertaking for ordinary New Zealanders.

In conclusion, there is no one part of the bill that is problematic. Rather, the bill in its current form is a flawed attempt to achieve a legitimate social objective. Its cumulative defects make it irredeemable: the democratic deficit associated with use of the Supplementary Order Paper procedure (even if that were referred to the Select Committee) means that redemption ought not to be attempted in that way. Hence the bill ought not to proceed.

I’m not quite sure what irredeemable means (okay I do know) but it doesn’t sound like a good thing for the New Zealand Law Society to say about a proposed law.

The Select Committee has an easy job.  The oral submissions have now concluded.  All that is required is a half hour meeting to resolve that the Bill does not proceed.  Just do it!

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Law Society says Kill the Bill

September 27th, 2007 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

This is almost unprecedented.

The Law Society puts in a submission on most bills before Parliament.  But almost without exception they provide constructive suggestions as to how to improve the Bill. But in their own words:

“It’s very rare for the society to come to the view that a bill is bad and should not proceed further. But the Electoral Finance Bill is one such bill,”

They state:

“The rules regarding registration, disclosure, spending limits and related offences are so complex, vague and uncertain as to make participation in our parliamentary democracy a difficult undertaking for ordinary New Zealanders.

“The effect in our view will be to stifle debate on important issues at election time which is precisely when debate should be encouraged,”

Both the Human Rights Commission and the Law Society have said the Bill is so flawed that it should not proceed.  If Labour, Greens, NZ First and United Future insist on pressing ahead, despite this, they should be made to suffer the consequences.

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DPF on Radio NZ

September 27th, 2007 at 4:28 pm by David Farrar

I’m on Checkpoint at some stage today discussing the Police and their decision to use a Wiki to consult on the new Police Act.  As one would expect, I’m very positive on the move.

What a pity the Electoral Finance Bill/Act isn’t also being consulted on by Wiki.  We could then actually turn it into something less retarded.

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National’s Health Discussion paper

September 27th, 2007 at 9:18 am by David Farrar

National released yesterday its discussion paper on health.  Some key points are:

  • Greater involvement by doctors, nurses and other health professionals in the public health system’s planning and operation
  • Relocating some hospital services to Integrated Family Health Centres, which would provide a fuller range of services closer to patients
  • Use of public-private partnerships to boost elective surgery availability and cut waiting lists
  • Investigate bonding and student-loan write-offs to boost the health workforce

The full paper is 51 pages long.

Understandably some of the media focus has been the statement during the press conference that National does not plan to continue to cap GP fees.  I’ll touch on the process and the substance of this.

The political management has been a bit sloppy to not have this explicit in the discussion document or at least the accompanying material.   Any release of decisions or thinking should be done in a controlled structured way, not done because a journalist happens to ask the right question. This combined with the publicity over the policy to allow minority private ownership stakes in some SOEs makes it an untidy few days.  Again not that the substance is wrong (in fact it is good to see differences between Labour and National) but that it looks like policy is being revealed grudgingly.  The SOE stuff has been public for months and months and any questions on policy should always refer to the fact that this is not new.  MPs should have at hand that this was released publicly on x date by y, is on the website at z etc etc.

Anyway onto the substance of should GP fees be capped, and Tony Ryall answered this well:

“We think the Government’s price control affects the long-term viability of general practice. So people can have the price control, but they might not have a GP. That’s the reason we’ve indicated for a long time that we just don’t think they should have this.”

He said National would have a much more “trusting relationship and a relationship of mutual respect” with doctors, who had undertaken to pass on subsidies when they signed up for them.

And then John Key said:

National leader John Key also said fees would be controlled by “the market”. Asked what would stop rural doctors increasing their fees given they faced little competition, Mr Key said “country GPs aren’t exactly known for being rip-off merchants”.

Labour’s imposing price controls on GPs has been part a 20 year battle by Helen Clark (she tried in the 1980s) to effectively nationalise GPs and make them de facto state employees.  We’d be like the UK National Health Service and I suggest anyone who trumpets that service should be forced to go and use it.

The reality is we have a huge GP shortage, especially in rural areas.  The thought of GPs making themselves filthy rich because they are the only GP in say Haast is a joke.  We have real problems getting GPs into rural areas, even with the massive influx of foreign trained GPs.

GPs income relative to other professionals has, if I recall correctly, massively shrunk in the last 20 years.  It used to be a top profession to aim for, with top remuneration, but now some LLB students are earning more than a GP, before the med student even finishes study.

Another reason the state should not price set for GPs is not all practices are the same.  They have different property costs, different staff costs, different mixtures of patients, different average times per consultation etc.

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Now a quiz question

September 27th, 2007 at 6:55 am by David Farrar

I didn’t spot it myself, but several people e-mailed me to point out that Question 4 in yesterday’s Dominion Post five-minute quiz was:

“David Farrar hosts which popular New Zealand weblog?”

I guess the next step is to become a Trivial Pursuits question :-)

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The Republic of New Zealand

September 27th, 2007 at 6:35 am by David Farrar

Yesterday was not just the 100th anniversary of the Dominion of New Zealand, but also of the Dominion newspaper.

In their 100th anniversary editorial they endorse New Zealand becoming a republic:

For New Zealand, the journey will inevitably include becoming a republic. It is a step that the country needs to take, and take soon, as part of redefining itself to reflect the realities of the 21st century. If anyone now proposed a system of government where the head of state lived half a world away, who visited about once every five years and who had the job solely because her father had it before her, there would be few takers.

An informal poll suggests about 40 per cent believe New Zealand should become a republic, though there are differences over timing. That it is not more is surprising in a nation that prides itself on its independence, on its democracy, and on its egalitarianism. The suspicion must be that the only reason that New Zealand keeps a monarch is a belief that it cannot do better. That is mistaken. There are issues to be worked through – how much power a president should have, how he or she should be chosen – but New Zealanders should have confidence in themselves to do that, and to have one of their own as head of state.

One of the major reasons I hear from people on why they don’t want a republic is they don’t want Helen Clark as President, and with even fewer checks and balances on her. Putting aside the Clark has shown the current checks and balances are non existent (she retrospectively amended the Electoral Act to protect a Labour Minister), it annoys me that people assume the sort of people who want to be PM would be President. But Clark herself was asked yesterday whether she would like to be President as if that was likely.

It would be very easy to have a requirement in the law establishing the NZ Head of State that no person who has ever been an MP can become President, and fur good measure require say at least 75% of Parliament to agree to any appointment (if an appointment model is used) to make sure any President has broad appeal and is not a partisan.

I suspect people don’t realise that the nominal Head of State (QEII) would never ever interfere in a NZ political dispute against the PM, and that the PM gets to appoint and sack unilaterally the de facto Head of State – the Governor-General.

Helen Clark as PM is far more powerful in our constitutional monarchy than she would be under a Republic.

And while not wanting to beat up on Helen, I am disappointed she has one again declined an opportunity to show some leadership on this issue. Bolger knew in the 1990s that championing a Republic did risk losing support, but the whole reason you build up support is so you can spend it. Clark, I have no doubt, fully supports a Republic – but doesn’t want to expend any politcal capital on it.

The trouble with this approach is we have had republicanism by stealth, rather than by virtue of an informed and public debate. And this generates a backlash. Moves such as abolishing titular honours, changing the Oath, abolishing appeals to the Privy Council have all been done in an ad hoc fashion without a clear public mandate. Major constitutional changes should be decisions of the public, not just Parliament, in my opinion.

Anyway enough from me. Go and enjoy Dean Knight’s proclamation of a Republic.

proclamation.jpg

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Police Act reviewed by Wiki

September 27th, 2007 at 6:03 am by David Farrar

Hey thumbs up to the Police who have launched a Wiki as part of a collaborative effort to review the Police Act.  Not guaranteed to be successful, but good to see the effort being made.

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“We do not have this phenomenon”

September 27th, 2007 at 5:58 am by David Farrar

I have to give kudos to Columba University for not giving the kid gloves treatment to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  As Liberty Scott reports he was given a deservedly tough time.

There is a tendency to romanticise and overlook the flaws of foes of the United States, because one may disagree with US policy towards that country.  But one exchange served well to remind us of how bad things are.

Ahmadinejad was asked about the treatment of homosexuals in Iran and replied

“In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,”

“In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don’t know who has told you that we have it,”

They certainly do their best to make this statement come true by executing homosexuals.  Of course they also execute female victims of rape.  Yes the victims.

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Telecom to announce network sale today?

September 26th, 2007 at 8:23 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post (which often gets very accurate leaks from Telecom) predicts that today the Government and Telecom will announce at 9 am that after their three way split into network, wholesale, the network division will be sold off as a separate company.

No details yet but I suspect the trade off for Telecom is a less rigourous regime between their wholesale and retail arms, in exchange for the sale of the bottleneck network and access section.

The devil will be in the detail but in principle I have been a long term advocate of structural separation.  This could be very exicting.  If done well the network company could become a Transpower type national grid on which a fibre to the home infrastructure could be built.

Hilarious related scene on TV One Breakfast as the business correspondent stated (twice) that Telecom had said they need to employ 700 million extra staff to cope with the split.  Paul and Pippa were in tears of laughter as they teased him over whether Telecom really will need to employ the entire population of the US and Europe.

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Gaynz and English

September 26th, 2007 at 8:12 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports on a very upset Bill English, whose teenage (under 15) son has been attacked by Gaynz.com for statements on his Bebo page.

I think it is appalling to attack a child on the basis of his Bebo page, just because of who his father is. And I should point out that I am not going to allow any comments directly on the son. Young teenage boys don’t need to face a Spanish inquisition about what they may or may not have said on Bebo.

What I want to deal with is the actual target of the attack – Bill English. Gaynz.com has decided that his son is fair game in an attempt to get at Bill. They very clearly are trying to paint a picture that if a child has anti-gay views, then he must be reflecting his parents. This is total crap, and I can use myself as an example.

When I was at school, I was horribly conservative on “gay issues” and basically homophobic. I even circulated an anti HLRB petition at school (to my eternal shame) Now it is ridiculous to suggest my views in any way reflected my parents. I’m not going to open my own family up to debate, but accept my assertion that this is the case.

Now when I got to university my views liberalised massively, and I’m proud to have massively different views now and have supported campaigns such as that for civil unions, and even been the Returning Officer for the Gay Association of Professionals (which a good mate of mine helped establish, and they needed a non member to run their elections). And I can’t even count up how many friends are gay, lesbian or bisexual but off hand I would say at least a couple of dozen.

Anyway the point is not me establishing my “credentials”, but to highlight that my views have changed 180 degrees over time, and that in no way have they been a reflection of my parents views. God forbid they are ever held responsible for my views as a 14 year old or a 40 year old.

Now as I said, Bill is the one they are really going after. They are trying to paint him as some sort of guy who perhaps secretly rails against homosexuals and influences his kids this way. Now Bill doesn’t need me to defend him, and probably will even be pissed off I am talking about some personal stuff, but it really grates me how they paint such a false picture of him.

I know Bill of course. I’ve known him since 1990, and pretty well since 1996. Bill is of course a person of faith, and it is important to him. But never in all the time I have known him has he ever expressed a negative view in private conversation on a person’s sexual orientation. To the contrary he has hired a number of staff who are gay or bisexual and they are fanatically devoted to him. At least one of his children’s godparents is gay. I could go on and give other examples, but I hope I have made my point.

Sure Bill did not vote for civil unions. And that is a legitimate issue on which to debate his views. But to try and smear him on the basis of some comments made on Bebo, allegedly by one of his young teenage sons, is not legitimate. It is unfair to Bill and more importantly it is grossly unfair to his children, who have to cope with all the associated shit.

Once again I warn people I will have a very low tolerance in this thread for inappropriate comments. Think twice before commenting.

UPDATE: No Right Turn labels the GayNZ story as despicable and vile.

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Dominion Day as a holiday

September 26th, 2007 at 7:25 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial is against Dominion Day (today) becoming New Zealand Day. Richard Long is all for it, but Colin James is unconvinced.

I have long held the view that we need both a Waitangi Day and New Zealand Day.  One shouldn’t see it as a choice between the two.

Colin has a point that Dominion Day may not be the best choice for a new New Zealand Day, and I’m very open minded on it being say the anniversary of the Statute of Westminster in November.

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Impacts of Boundary Changes

September 26th, 2007 at 7:08 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett in the NZ Herald has a good article on the impact of the boundary changes.  A summary is:

  • Hamilton East and West now better for Labour
  • Taupo and Rotorua better for National and very winnable
  • West Coast-Tasman better for National and highly marginal
  • New Botany seat will go to National
  • Manurewa and Manukau East become safer forLabour
  • Port Hills becomes a safe urban Labour seat
  • Rangitata becomes more provincial than rural, helping Labour

Last election National got 2% less party vote than Labour.  If it maintains its current poll lead of over 10% then seats which were not marginal may become competitive, such as Hamilton West despite the less favourable boundaries.

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