Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Craig on conspiracy theories

December 4th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Colin Craig should be talking about Conservative Party policies, but instead he is letting himself be distracted by questions about his personal beliefs.

He seems to have adopted a stance of accepting conspiracy theories may be true, as they have not been proven untrue. That is not a sensible position. The nature of conspiracy theories is you can never prove they are not true. You need to use common sense. The latest is on the moon landings:

Conservative leader Colin Craig says he has “no idea” whether man has walked on the moon, adding it’s “what we’re told” and he is “sort of” inclined to believe it.

His comments this morning came after it emerged last week he has no formal position on chemtrails – a conspiracy theory that suggests the trails left by aircraft deliberately spread chemicals.

Mr Craig was asked about the moon landing conspiracy – which suggests the Apollo moon landings were faked by the US government – by Radio Live host Marcus Lush this morning.

“I don’t have a belief or a non-belief in these things, I jut don’t know,” Mr Craig replied.

Asked again, Mr Craig said he had “no idea” whether man had walked on the moon.

“That’s what we’re told. I’m sort of inclined to believe it. But at the end of the day, I haven’t looked into it. And I know there’s some very serious people that question these things.”

He went on: “I’m happy that they can think that. I’m not going to judge any of these things without the facts.”

What Craig should have done is laugh at the question, joke about whether Marcus is also going to ask him if the moon is made of cheese, and then start talking policies.

Neil Armstrong once said, in relation to the claims the moon landings were faked, that they could always head up to the moon themselves and grab the camera he left behind there.

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Parliament – 4th December 2013

December 4th, 2013 at 12:50 pm by Scott Miller
 Questions for Oral Answer – 2pm to 3pm
  1. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the stability of his Government?
  2. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on progress in lifting New Zealand’s export performance and reducing its reliance on borrowing from overseas lenders?
  3. HONE HARAWIRA to the Minister of Education: What responsibility does she accept for the New Zealand results as identified in the OECD’s PISA report released yesterday, which shows New Zealand’s test scores in maths, reading and science have all deteriorated under her watch, and that New Zealand’s education system has failed to keep pace with the educational achievements of other countries, also under her watch?
  4. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE to the Minister of Finance: Why has he revised the estimated proceeds from asset sales down to a minimum of $4.6 billion?
  5. SIMON O’CONNOR to the Minister of Science and Innovation:What steps is the Government taking to improve the understanding, skills and adoption of science and technology in New Zealand society?
  6. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON to the Minister of Health: What improvements in health services are shown in the latest health targets results?
  7. Hon PHIL HEATLEY to the Associate Minister of Social Development: How is the enhanced information sharing between the Ministry of Social Development and Inland Revenue delivering on the Government’s promise to crack down on welfare fraud?
  8. CHRIS HIPKINS to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied that the Government’s educational priorities are leading to an improvement in student achievement; if so, why?
  9. JACQUI DEAN to the Minister of Defence: How have recent New Zealand Defence Force exercises contributed toward the Government’s goal of developing a Joint Amphibious Task Force?
  10. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN to the Minister of Finance: Has he been advised whether the Prime Minister stands by his statement on asset sales that “mixed ownership will free up $5 billion to $7 billion”?
  11. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied with her own performance as Minister of Education; if not, why not?
  12. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister of Housing: Does he stand by all his statements?
Patsy question of the day
Today’s patsy of the day question of the day goes to question 6 from Dr Paul Hutchison to the Minister of Health asking about improvements to health targets.
General Debate – 3pm to 4pm
This debate is made up of 12 rounds of  5 minutes speeches on any general topic members wish to speak on
Private and local orders of the day  – 4pm to 6pm

This bill is designed to correct irregularities in the setting and assessing of rates in the Kaipara District Council area between 2006/07 to 2011/12 as a result of the Kaipara District Council using a one-off targeted rate on residents to pay for the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme. In addition, this bill seeeks to vaildate the 2010/11 annual report, 2009-2019 & 2012-2022 long term plans in regards to the one off targeted rate to help fund the Mangawhai Community Wastewater Scheme.

For more bankground to how this bill has become a major issue for the area, please feel free to visit this link

Kaipara rates revolt – Rodney Times

2) Tasman District Council (Validation and Recovery of Certain Rates) Bill - Hon Damien O’ Connor – Second Reading

This bill is designed to claifiy rating issues in the Tasman District during the years 2003-2004 and 2008-2009 in which they failed to apply section 23 of the Local Government Act 2002 correctly when setting rates in the region, especially in the areas of  Tata Beach and Ligar Bay in Golden Bay who have challenged the Tasman District Council over stormwater charges billed to them during these years.

For some background reading to the bill and the reasons why it has been created feel free to read these stories from the Nelson Mail

http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/7731601/Council-seeks-bill-to-fix-rating-mistake
http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/news/7783535/Residents-meet-MP-over-new-bill

Members’ orders of the day – 7.30pm to 10pm

1) Electronic Transactions (Contract Formation) Amendment Bill - Paul Goldsmith – Second Reading

The primary purpose of this bill is to amend the  Electronic Transactions Act 2002 to clarify when a contract is formed upon being accepted and communicated electronically between groups.  This bill adapts an already accpeted rule  found in common law from the Adams v Lindsell case which finds that a contract is accepted upon posting back a signed contract to a group, to include electronic communications of contracts.

2) Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill - Hone Harawira – First Reading

The purpose of this bill is to provide state funded Breakfast and Lunch programmes to all decile 1 and 2 schools in New Zealand by amending the Education Act 1989 to allow for state funding of this programme. This bill is orignally designed as a result of the Child Poverty Action Groups 2011 report entitled – Hunger for learning, which called for action to be taken in regards to poverty in New Zealand.

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Will 3.2 close?

December 4th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In its heyday, Parliament’s Pickwicks bar was cheek to jowl with patrons including some of the country’s most influential politicians, journalists and lobbyists. These days it can barely pull $200 a day.

The sorry state of the third floor Beehive bar, known by workers as 3.2, was revealed in a survey of staff which asked whether it was time for for Pickwicks to pull its last pint.

It has been under threat of closure since a survey of catering services at Parliament earlier this year.

Most staff were in favour of keeping it open – but a surprising 40 per cent of staff were happy to see it close.

It is no longer the vibrant place it was. In the 1990s a couple of dozen staff at least would drop into it almost every night just before 6 pm to watch the news, have a drink or two, chat about the day, and then head back to work. Occasionally they may turn into all nighters.

My major achievement was getting the management to place a second TV in there, so we could watch both the TV1 and TV3 news.

Former patron, Carterton Mayor and former NZ First MP Ron Mark, said the writing was on the wall after the introduction of smoke free bars in 2004 forced the smokers among the MPs and journalists to go elsewhere.

Parliament was the worse for the loss of that regular contact between journalists and MPs over a beer, Mark said.

It gave both a chance to understand each others perspective.

”There was an old rule that what happened and what was said in 3.2 stayed in 3.2.”

That is indeed the rule.

Former TVNZ boss Bill Ralston, who worked as a parliamentary reporter in the 1980s and 1990s, said the bar used to thrive.

”It was one of those places certainly during the term of the Lange Labour government and the early years of Bolger and the late years of Muldoon, [where it was] a huge advantage for journalists to be actually to reach out and sit down and talk with the key politicians of the day.”

Pickwicks provided a more relaxed social setting where people from all parts of the political process could meet.

Media and MPs had less contact today and the relationship was more formal.

”It made Parliament a little, kind of gentler I suppose in some ways. Simply because you were going to be confronted by these people, should you go to that bar you would run a chance of meeting them. Whereas I suppose these days you can sit in the Gallery, write a story and go home and never actually see the politician that you might have described from the House or in any form of commentary.”

It will be sad if it closes, but if not enough people use it, then it shouldn’t be subsidised.

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Banks not to stand in 2014

December 4th, 2013 at 10:40 am by David Farrar

ACT have announced:

Today, Hon John Banks, MP for Epsom and leader of ACT, has announced that he will not be seeking re-election in the 2014 General Election.  John has decided, after 36 years of public service, that it is time for him to spend more time on his family and his private business interests.  In the meantime, John will continue as the MP for Epsom and Leader of ACT.

As part of its candidate selection process for general elections, the Board of ACT will shortly be opening nominations for candidates to stand for ACT in the 2014 General Election.  We have a number of very talented potential candidates and we expect to name our key candidates, including a new candidate for Epsom, by the time of our annual conference in early March.

An inevitable decision. I can’t see ACT able to hold Epsom unless someone with a proven track record of local support such as Cameron Brewer stood for them.

UPDATE: Banks has said he will stand down as Leader at the conference in March 2014.

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Labour on ACC levy reductions

December 4th, 2013 at 7:39 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Labour believes ACC levy cuts next year are timed to be an election bribe.

The Government has announced earners’ levies will be cut 15 per cent and the employers’ levy by 17 per cent.

Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway says the cuts are overdue – and the timing is cynical. …

“There’s no doubt that the timing of this is designed to be an election bribe.”

Okay so in this paragraph Labour effectively says the reductions should not occur in an election year.

It’s disappointment for motorists, who’ll have to wait another year before paying lower ACC levies.

ACC had recommended cutting the motor vehicle levy by at least five per cent.

But the Government’s putting it off until 2015.

Mr Lees-Galloway says that means the least risky road users will continue subsidising the most risky.

While in this paragraph they attacking the Government for delaying motor levy cuts until 2015.

They’re not happy campers!

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More renewal for National

December 3rd, 2013 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Taranaki-King Country MP Shane Ardern has announced he will retire from politics at the next election.

Ardern, who once drove a tractor up Parliament’s steps, said after 16 years it was time to retire in order to spend more time with his family and return to full time work on his farm.

“Family and farming is where my heart lies.”

Ardern said it had been a “privilege” to serve his electorate, saying he entered politics because he was passionate about representing rural New Zealanders and ensuring they had a voice in Wellington.

“As Chair of the Primary Production Select Committee, Chair of National’s agriculture caucus, and through my work on a number of other select committees, I have worked on policies that have helped drive New Zealand’s economic recovery,” he said.

“These have assisted our farming communities and the towns and businesses that rely so heavily on the success of our primary industries.”

Ardern was first elected in a by-election in 1998.

I have fond memories of going up to Taranaki for a few days and campaigning in Stratford for Shane during the by-election. Sadly one of the roads I was given to door knock was the one with the nurses’ residences for the local hospital – which was closing. Didn’t get the best responses, but was a fun campaign.

Shane has been a great advocate for rural New Zealand, and will be interesting to see who comes forward to contest the seat.

This brings the number of announced National retirements to eight – Chris Tremain, Chris Auchinvole, Kate Wilkinson, Katrina Shanks, Paul Hutchison, Phil Heatley, Cam Calder and now Shane Ardern.  While each individual departure is sad, the opportunity for National to rejuvenate is significant. The contrast to Labour is significant as their MPs who entered in the 1980s refuse to leave.

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Cunliffe breaches election day law

December 3rd, 2013 at 1:58 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe might have fallen foul of the law with a message posted on his Twitter profile on the day of the Christchurch East by-election.

The Electoral Commission is looking into the tweet by Cunliffe on Saturday urging Christchurch East residents to get out and vote for the successful Labour candidate Poto Williams.

“If you are resident in Christchurch East don’t forget to vote today – for Labour and Poto Williams!” he wrote.

Under Electoral Commission rules, no campaigning of any kind is allowed on election day. …

He said he was not aware of the rules at the time it was sent. He would co-operate with the Electoral Commission if it investigated.

David Cunliffe has been a candidate in five general elections, and even the lowliest candidate knows you can not campaign on election day. The Leader of the Opposition can not plead ignorance of the law.

If the leader of NZ’s second largest political party can campaign without consequences on election day, then how could the Electoral Commission expect anyone else to take the law seriously?

The tweet may not have had a huge impact, but I can’t see anyway the Electoral Commission can not refer it to the Police without setting an awful precedent.

UPDATE: The Electoral Commission wrote to all parties contesting the by-election the day before, telling them what the rules are for e-day and they even specifically referred to not using Twitter to campaign.

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Where to for Chorus

December 3rd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The decision by every other party and MP in Parliament (and the Conservatives outside it) to oppose legislating to overturn the Commerce Commission decision on the price of copper broadband was both bad and good for the Government.

The bad is that legislation was obviously a preferred option for the Government, even though the Telecommunications Review was only a discussion document. It is true that they had some weeks ago started to back off that route, and look at other options, but their statements up until then had quite strongly been in support of legislation.

I think it is a fair criticism that the Government should have talked to other parties at an earlier stage about whether they would support legislation, rather than fairly forcefully support it, and then realise you can’t do it.

So while the political management hasn’t been optimal, the upside is that having Parliament assert its right to say no to the Government, does actually assist the Government. It removes the legislative option off the table, and will I believe lead to more constructive dialogue between all parties on where to go from now. The members of the Coalition for Fair Internet Pricing (Kiwiblog is a member) will I believe be keen to engage constructively not that the risk of over-riding the independent regulator is gone, and Chorus can’t demand the Government do something it is clearly incapable of doing.

The decision by Amy Adams to have an independent financial review of Chorus was an excellent one (and something I had called for), and the way I see it is there are four steps ahead of us on resolving this issue They are:

  1. Does Chorus have financial problems under the current settings, and the Commerce Commission determination?
  2. If the answer to 1 is yes, Are there changes Chorus can make to solve those problems themselves?
  3. If the answer to 2 is no, then what are the factors that got Chorus into this state?
  4. If the answer to 2 is no, then taking account of 3, what options are open to the Government, and which are preferred

We will soon get the answer to No 1. I am sure it will be a comprehensive report. I’ve had a financial modelling expert take me through what they expect the report will find, and that it will conclude on current settings Chorus will breach their debt financing agreements – specifically the acceptable ratio of debt to EBITDA. The Commerce Commission determination will increase debt and decrease EBITDA and this means the banks could withdraw their loans to Chorus which could plunge it into an Air New Zealand type situation.

Note that this does not mean Chorus will be bankrupt or even unprofitable. The report could well conclude that over the next six years or so Chorus will still make small profits, and even have marginally positive cashflow. The issue is likely to be mainly around debt and timing of cash requirements.

So if the answer to 1 is yes as the Prime Minister has (correctly it seems) warned, then we get to whether Chorus can make changes themselves to prevent a breach of their debt agreements, or can renegotiate their financing.

Obviously one change is a reduction of dividends. I say this with sadness as a Chorus shareholder, but if you have a debt problem, then you can’t expect to pay out dividends. Once you are getting the full benefits of the fibre investments, then they would resume I expect. I note Chorus has already started to head down this path by saying their proposed dividends are likely to be reduced.

It is unlikely that change would be enough. So the report needs to also look at whether other changes will be enough to prevent a debt default. Can opex be reduced. Can capex be delayed.  With that in mind we note the story yesterday:

Network company Chorus is flying about 200 staff from Wellington to Auckland today for an annual get- together – despite “crying poverty”.

Mr Bonnar said Chorus had twice been recognised as one of the best employers in Australasia, “and a big part of that is once a year we get all our people together”.

“It’s to hear from the senior people in the business where the organisation is at, where it’s going, what its strategy is and how what they do fits in with it.”

Now I don’t have a problem with Chorus doing this as a private company. But if you are sticking your hand out for Government assistance, then decisions like this will face public scrutiny. The cost is minimal to their overall opex, but taxpayers will expect Chorus to be as fiscally frugal as possible, before any additional taxpayer money is considered.

But what happens if the report concludes that Chorus does both have a debt problem, and can’t solve it internally. Well then I think you need to identify the factors that got Chorus into this state. I don’t mean a blame game, but identifying what contributed. Obviously the Commerce Commission determination is a significant factor, but is it the only factor? Have there been UFB cost over-runs? Was Chorus too close to the debt rations anyway, regardless of the determination?

Then after you have identified the factors involved, do you look at potential outcomes for the Government and Chorus. Off the top of my head, they include:

  • Chorus defaults on its debt (highly undesirable)
  • Chorus defaults on the UFB build (highly undesirable)
  • Chorus renegotiates the debt (would banks agree?)
  • The Government guarantees the debt for Chorus (the banks may call it in immediately)
  • The Government makes the repayment schedule for the UFB build financing longer (will it make much difference?)
  • The Government loans Chorus more money
  • The Government slows down the UFB build (undesirable)
  • The Government takes a stake in Chorus

I’m not against the last option. In fact the Government already has some preference shares in Chorus as part of the UFB contract. When it comes to commercial trading companies, I believe the Government shouldn’t own any shares at all. I’d sell 100% of the power companies etc. However just as I can accept the state should own Transpower as the national electricity grid, there is a case that the national fibre and telecommunications grid should be a government utility also.

Put it like this, if you were back in 1987, knowing what you know now, you would have split NZ Post telecommunications division into a Telecom and a Chorus on day 1, and have sold Telecom and kept Chorus. You sell off the competitive elements and own and regulate the monopoly.

So I’m not ideologically against the Government taking a stake in Chorus. It also would mean that both current Chorus shareholders and the Government would both share in the pain of getting Chorus out of its debt problems – which is preferable to it being just the Government (or worse Internet users as originally mooted).

To a degree, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s see what the report says on 1, 2 and 3. Then we can focus on the “least bad” option for ensuring Chorus can deliver on the UFB project and 75% of New Zealand homes get fibre access to ultrafast broadband.

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Did Clark authorise mass spying on NZers for the US?

December 3rd, 2013 at 6:03 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

The Prime Minister is playing down suggestions the public may have been targeted for data collection by domestic spy agencies.

Fresh revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have shown the Australian Defence Signals Directorate offered in 2008 to share data collected on Australian citizens with its intelligence partners

John Key called GCSB boss Ian Fletcher today to seek assurances that New Zealand had not done the same.

“I wasn’t Prime Minister (at the time), but I rang the head of the agency and said ‘can you confirm for me that New Zealand didn’t collect wholesale metadata about our ordinary New Zealanders.’

“The answer was ‘we didn’t, and because we didn’t we couldn’t have shared it.'”

The Australian offer was made in 2008, when Helen Clark was Prime Minister. So maybe someone should ask Helen Clark on the record if she ever authorised the collection of metadata from NZers, and the sharing of it with other countries.

Maybe the NZ Labour Party can confirm that when they were in Government, this did not happen on their watch.

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Crown wraps up Singh electoral fraud trial

December 2nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

3  News reports:

A wealth of evidence suggests Daljit Singh and seven supporters falsely enrolled several people to increase his chances of winning an Auckland local board election, a jury has been told.

Crown lawyer Robin McCoubrey told jurors that documentary and text evidence showed Singh and his supporters were obtaining addresses of people from well outside Auckland in the lead-up to the Otara-Papatoetoe local board elections in 2010.

Mr McCoubrey was delivering his closing address at the High Court in Auckland, eight weeks after the trial of Singh and seven supporters on charges of using false documents began.

Mr McCoubrey says names, addresses and birth details of several people in the Punjabi community were obtained.

They were then sent to the Electoral Enrolment Centre (EEC) to notify them of a change of address so they were registered as living in the Otara-Papatoetoe area, without the knowledge of the people involved.

Mr McCoubrey says several of the people he says were falsely enrolled had testified that they weren’t interested in voting in Singh’s area.

Several of the documents sent to the EEC had fingerprints of the accused on them, and text messages between the accused showed they knew what they were doing, Mr McCoubrey said.

I didn’t realise they had fingerprint evidence. That makes it very hard to deny or explain.
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Best terms of trade in 40 years

December 2nd, 2013 at 2:52 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

New Zealand’s merchandise terms of trade rose 7.5 percent in the September 2013 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. The latest increase was due to export prices for goods rising more than import prices.

“Dairy export prices helped lift the terms of trade to their highest level since 1973,” prices manager Chris Pike said. “Both the terms of trade and export prices have been on the rise since the start of this year, reflecting higher dairy prices.”

Terms of trade is a measure of the purchasing power of New Zealand’s exports abroad. An increase means New Zealand can buy more imports for the same amount of exports.

In the latest quarter, the price of exported goods rose 8.9 percent, while seasonally adjusted export volumes fell 2.1 percent. Both price and volume movements were strongly influenced by dairy products.

In the September 2013 quarter, dairy export prices rose 24 percent to their highest level since 2008, and are now 46 percent higher than a year ago. Seasonally adjusted dairy export volumes fell 2.7 percent, which is the fourth consecutive quarterly fall. Seasonally adjusted dairy product values rose 20 percent, following a 4.7 percent fall in the June 2013 quarter.

So which political party wants NZ to doubly decimate our dairy herd (reduce it by 20%) in order to fight climate change? I wonder how many votes know Green party policy is to reduce NZ’s dairy herd by 20%, at a time that dairy prices are giving us the best terms of trade in 40 years. It’s almost an economic suicide note.

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The 2013 Trans-Tasman Ratings

December 2nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Transtasman has published its annual ratings for the 120 (currently) MPs. As usual, I do some analysis.

The overall average rating is 4.7 (+0.3 from 2012, which is a reasonable increase)

Average Ratings per Party

  1. Maori 5.2 (-0.5)
  2. National 5.1 (+0.2)
  3. Labour 4.6 (+0.6)
  4. Green 4.4 (+0.4)
  5. United Future 4.0 (-2.5)
  6. NZ First 3.3 (-0.1)
  7. Mana 2.5 (-2.0)
  8. ACT 1.0 (+1.0)

The small parties all get pretty hammered. NZ First says much the same, and National, Greens and Labour all go up. Labour’s average rating has increased the most.

Top MPs

  1. Bill English 9.0 (+1.5)
  2. John Key 8.5 (+0.5)
  3. David Cunliffe 7,5 (+3.0)
    Steven Joyce 7.5 (+0.5)
    Tim Groser 7.5 (nc)
    Chris Finlayson 7.5 (-0.5)
    Judith Collins 7.5 (nc)
    Paula Bennett 7.5 (+0.5)

Bottom MPs

  1. John Banks 1 (+1.0)
    Rajan Prasad 1.0 (nc)
    Brendan Horan 1.0 (-1.0)

Top Labour MPs

  1. David Cunliffe 7.5 (+3.0)
  2. David Parker 7.0 (+0.5)
    Phil Goff 7.0 (+0.5)
    Annette King 7.0 (+1.0)
    Chris Hipkins 7.0 (+1.5)

Top Third Party MPs

  1. Russel Norman 7.0 (-1.0)
    Winston Peters 7.0 (nc)
  2. Tariana Turia 6.5 (+0.5)
  3. Metiria Turei 6.0 (nc)
    Te Ururoa Flavell 6.0 (nc)
    Kevin Hague 6.0 (+1.0)

Biggest Increases

  1. David Cunliffe +3.0
    Hekia Parata +3.0
  2. Paul Goldsmith +2.5

Biggest Decreases

  1. Peter Dunne -2.5
  2. Phil Heatley -2.0
    Hone Harawira -2.0
    Pita Sharples -2.0

Group Ratings

  1. Ministers 6.3 (+0.3)
  2. Cabinet 6.7 (+0.6)
  3. National frontbench 7.4 (+0.6)
  4. Labour frontbench 5.8 (+1.7)
  5. National backbench 4.0 (nc)

The Cabinet have improved their rankings this year and the National front bench are scoring very highly. However a significant increase for Labour’s front bench which finally has most of their strongest MPs on it.

Worth noting that as always, I of course disagree with some of the ratings. Some of the National backbench ratings are seriously astray for example.

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The Green Party suppression of dissent

December 2nd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Would-be Green Party leadership challenger David Hay – whose application to stand as a candidate for the party has been rejected – says he is not finished with the party and will today call on the party’s volunteers and candidates to rally behind him.

At number 16 on the party list, Mr Hay was not far off a seat in Parliament with the Greens at the last election. However, following his threat to challenge Russel Norman for co-leadership last week, the party executive on Saturday said he would not be allowed to stand next year.

That prompted Mr Hay to call for both co-leaders Dr Norman and Metiria Turei to stand down.

Last night he told the Herald he planned to increase the pressure on the two co-leaders today by calling on party volunteers to “go on strike”.

That would involve asking them to cease their work on behalf of the party.

The Greens have for years boasted of how democratic their party is, and how they decide things by consensus etc. And then a party member who almost became an MP announces he will seek the co-leader role at their conference next year, and the party hierarchy ban him from being eligible to even be a candidate, let alone a co-leader.

To ban a member from being a candidate is a drastic step. National’s Board uses it very very rarely, and basically only uses it for people who are “mad” or “bad”.

The Greens could leave it up to individual electorates as to whether or not to have David Hay as a candidate. They could have left it up to their membership where to rank him as a candidate. But the party bosses have struck him down. Never again will Green cries of being different ring true.

“The other candidates and volunteers should be very fearful. If they can do this to me as number 16 on the party list … all bets are off in terms of who’s going to be next.”

He claimed Ms Turei was behind the party executive’s move to prevent him from standing next year. Party insiders had told him “it’s got her fingerprints all over it”.

“If this is the way the leadership is behaving we need to put a stop to that,” he said.

So the Greens are now the party where if you declare you want to stand for the leadership, you get banned from candidacy. Sounds like the current co-leaders are very desperate to avoid a vote. I suspect their concern if not that Norman would beat Hay, but that the size of the protest vote for Hay could show how much discontent there is.

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Beware the regulation

December 2nd, 2013 at 7:43 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

In themselves, the Government’s proposed amendments to the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act contain a reasonable degree of common sense. What can be wrong with changes that aim to reduce the risk of children drowning? And if the new law would mean even portable or inflatable pools need to be fenced off, isn’t it right to encourage parents to adopt best practice and empty them after each use?

The only problem is that the proposal is a further sign of a Government regulatory itch that is now of eczematous proportion.

A fair point.

Regulation appeals to governments because it is the easiest response to a problem. But each affects people’s freedom in some way. At their worst, regulations can also skew patterns of investment and the use of economic resources. That is why any government is right to question whether a planned restriction is strictly necessary. And if one is implemented, it should watch it in practice, not least for unintended consequences, and continue to ask if it is justified.

The Government should, therefore, be asking if changes to the swimming pool legislation are necessary when the most stringent fencing will not save young children from all potential water hazards. Many pools are, after all, not far from beaches or lakes, which cannot be barricaded in the way that private pools are meant to be.

Kids can drown in baths. Maybe we should require baths to be fenced off. Also maybe Councils should have to fence off all streams, rivers and lakes. And kids have been known to fall down drains, so perhaps we need to fence off all drains as well.

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Espiner on oil

December 2nd, 2013 at 7:11 am by David Farrar

Colin Espiner writes at Stuff:

I think the Green Party is, overall, a force for good in New Zealand politics and provided it sticks to its core environmental principles rather than social activism it’s likely to do very well again at the next election.

But every now and again the Green Party requires calling out. And its implacable opposition to exploratory drilling by Texan oil company Anadarko off the west coast of the North Island is one of these times.

The hyperbole and rhetoric spewed by the Greens and other assorted opponents of deep-sea drilling for oil and gas is out of all proportion to the risks involved in this venture, and has been driven far more by emotion than it has by logic or science.

A campaign of fear and loathing.

It’s true that deep-sea oil drilling has risk. It’s true there have been accidents – most of them during the 1970s and 1980s, when the technology was still relatively primitive and safety and environmental standards lax by today’s measure.

The notable exception, of course, was Deepwater Horizon, which exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 people and spilling more than 600,000 tonnes of oil into the sea.

A report into that disaster found a litany of safety breaches, poor decisions and cut corners, which sparked a wave of regulation- tightening at other deep-sea oil rigs around the world. Both the energy sector and governmental environment watchdogs agree the industry is far safer now than it was even three years ago.

Those risks will never be completely extinguished, of course. But the same goes for flying in a plane. The chances of your flight crashing are extremely low. Every possible safety precaution is taken. It remains possible you will crash. But you still fly, because the benefits outweigh the risks by such a large margin that most people agree it’s worth it.

No human activity can be made risk free.

The benefits to our economy from deep-sea oil drilling are similarly huge. The Government has estimated the potential returns at $12 billion a year if even one new offshore oil field is found.

In the context of our economy, that’s about the relative size of the worth of Australia’s mineral deposit trade with China. It has the potential to transform New Zealand into a wealthy nation with a high standard of living and first-class social services.

Other nations have become rich from deep-sea oil, most notably Norway, which has managed to keep its reputation as a clean and green nation while pocketing $122 billion, which it uses to fund the world’s most generous welfare system.

Greens and Labour have huge spending plans, but consistently oppose economic development which would help fund that spending.

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Greens dump Hay

December 1st, 2013 at 9:00 am by Jadis

As David Hay feared, yesterday the Greens’ executive took the rare step of dumping him from their candidates pool.  He hasn’t gone quietly though and has suggested the Greens’ leadership should step down.

“The Green Party’s co-leaders need to step down and step away,” Hay said. “We don’t want people like this in Parliament. We don’t want them in Government. We don’t want them in the party. I have completely lost faith in the ability of the party’s co-leaders to stick to the Green Party kaupapa and do what the Green Party does . . . to be fair, transparent, and honest, to do a better type of politics.”

I think the Green Party executive made a real mistake in dealing with Hay behind closed doors.  It would have been more helpful to the Greens’ cause and ‘kaupapa’ if the membership had been given the opportunity to reject Hay and his actions themselves rather than have it come from on high – that would have been the kind of direct democracy that the Greens have talked about for years.

The part of the story that is only starting to come out now is why the Greens’ executive dumped Hay from the candidates pool.  It  is related to his actions and behaviour as a candidate at the last election.  Essentially Hay was seen as unable to stick to agreed campaign strategies and behaved somewhat erratically – sounds pretty Greens-like to me!

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Poto wins Christchurch East

December 1st, 2013 at 5:34 am by Jadis

And predictably Poto Williams wins the Christchurch East by-election.  Williams ends ups with a majority of 4,613.

Poto Williams got 8119 votes, Matthew Doocey 3506 and the Greens’ David Moorhouse came in third with 926 votes.  The Conservatives’ Leighton Baker came in a pretty respectable fourth with 487 votes.

Labour has held the Christchurch East seat since 1922 and last general election Lianne Dalziel had a majority of 5334.

 

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Taxpayer funded cafes

November 30th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by Jadis

The Taxpayers’ Union unearthed a gem of a story this week that highlights an ongoing trend of taxpayer funded cafes:

The Taxpayers’ Union has slammed taxpayer owned company Transpower for spending $1.2million on a staff café and reception area in a building where the lease expires in 2014.

In 2012, the taxpayer owned company spent $1.2million refurbishing its reception and building “The Wire” a place where, according to Transpower CEO Patrick Strange, personnel “can engage and collaborate with each other, and with our guests.

“We want to know how a $1.2million café and reception is better value than sending staff to one of the many cafés within a few hundred metres,” says Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams.  “With the time left on the lease, the cost works out at around $65,000 per month.  That’s a lot of free coffee for only 450 staff.”

“This is a taxpayer owned, state monopoly that instead of keeping our electricity prices reasonable or paying dividends back to the Government, has thrown money into building its own exclusive café in the middle of Wellington’s CBD.”

At a time when retail is finding it tough and the Wellington economy certainly needs a bit of a lift wouldn’t it be more prudent and for the ‘greater good’ to save the $1.2M and encourage staff to lunch or meet in cafes nearby.  Off the top of my  head there are around thirty cafes within a few hundred metres of Transpower.  Perhaps an option could have been to have a scaled down reception area and a couple of meeting or collaborative spaces.

How hard is it for public sector CEOs and management to consider how they spend the tax and rate payer dollar?  Is there really proven staff productivity gains?  Perhaps Dr Strange could provide the evidence for why the $1.2M refurb was needed.

Transpower is not alone.  Treasury [DPF: their cafe was closed many years ago] and others have had taxpayer subsidised cafes over the  years.  At the local government level most of the big councils have on-site cafes.  Just imagine if the staff (who are often major employers in a localised area) chose to spend their money in local shops and cafes.  First, any suggestions of dying CBDs (such as in Hamilton and Wellington to an extent) might get a bit of a lift plus it would be one of the easiest economic development policies implemented.

Ultimately, CEOs need to balance staff contentment with appropriate spend of the taxpayer and ratepayer dollar.

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Colin Craig needs to stick to the real issues

November 29th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by Jadis

I’ll put it upfront that I am unlikely ever to be a Conservatives voter.  I am far too right wing economically and am a social liberal (most of the time).  However I will take it upon myself to assist the wider public and ask Colin Craig to please get some discipline.  The man who fronted so much of the pro-smacking brigade has a real problem with discipline himself.

The latest is an interview this morning with Sean Plunket Sean asks a simple question about Chem Trails and Colin gives a pretty poor answer:

“I don’t know and when I don’t know I am quite happy to say I don’t know – and apparently this is not the standard Party line that you are expected to know an have a definite view on this.

“I feel it is very honest to say I don’t.”

I don’t have a huge issue with this response.  When he was leader of the Nats Don Brash was well known for saying he wasn’t sure on an issue and that he would get back to a journalist.

The difficulty is Colin then answered Sean’s question about the Twin Towers and said

“it may be more possible (that terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers instead of a government conspiracy)”.

Interesting that he entertains the possibility of a US government conspiracy to kill thousands of Americans.

Colin then goes on to say:

“the real issue if we are talking Monsanto and other very large food corporates is that there is a real issue about food supply, about food labelling about renewable resources about food. I have some concerns about bioengineering, modification of food – I’m not absolutely opposed to it but I think it is a risky track to go down.”  I do not think our food industry should be controlled by one or two big players.”

My issue with Colin is this.  Stop talking about this fluff.  Start talking about the real Conservatives policies, learn to move a question away from the sensational to the sensible.  Please, please start looking credible.  There is a range of issues and policies that Colin should and could be talking about. Here, Colin, I will help out – try this link to the Conservative Party’s web page http://www.conservativeparty.org.nz/index.php?page=Issues

And please don’t get all snippy and think Liberals (even fiscal conservatives and social libs like me) are picking on you.  We’re not… you have created all of this all by yourself.  You actually have some important stories to tell and issues to highlight but you keep missing them because, like a magpie, you keep going for the flashy stuff.

Ignore the silly fluff and focus!  You should be challenging Winston.  Instead Winston is biding his time and has no need to comment at all because you are creating vacuums and filling them with stuff that is so, so unnecessary.  When was the last time you even touched an issue that crosses over Winston’s territory?  You simply haven’t because you are asleep at the wheel.

A friend overheard an interesting comment from a neighbouring table in a café the other day “If there’s ever a time to make me vote National, it’s Colin Craig. We need to make sure Nats get 50%”

That sort of comment above  is being said not because the electorate cant take you seriously but because you don’t take yourself seriously.  Time to look like a leader and focus on the real issues, Colin.

 

* this post is written by Jadis so please don’t lynch poor DPF

 

 

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Another protection order, another woman dead

November 29th, 2013 at 11:00 am by Jadis

I think few people will be surprised to hear that another woman has been killed by a man who she had a protection order against.

Police have named Sarwan Lata Singh as the 38-year-old woman found dead at a Wellington home in the suburb of Woodridge early Tuesday.

A man has been charged with her murder – and with breaching a protection order meant to keep him away from her.

The reality is that protection orders are pieces of paper.  They are useful as a means of accelerating action if a person is able to report to Police that the order has been breached.  Sadly, we have had too many cases of late where women in particular have been killed or seriously injured at the hands of someone who had one of these orders placed on them.

So if a breach of a protection order occurs, what can happen?  Police advise says:

The Court will give highest priority to the victim’s safety when considering bail applications. Where there is evidence that a breach of a Protection Order has occurred, the person will be arrested and cannot be bailed by the Police for 24 hours.

A breach includes failing to attend a ‘stopping violence’ programme.

The maximum penalty for breach of a Protection Order is six months in prison or a $5000 fine. The penalty increases to two years in prison where three offences are committed within three years. If other serious crimes of violence are involved, the penalties could be even more serious.

The most recent Ministry of Justice figures show that the number of people  convicted of breaching protection orders, by court location and year is:

    Court location 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013*

Christchurch 145 166 125 140 87

Hamilton 88 118 113 109 51

Rotorua 86 83 89 84 45

Auckland 89 85 83 94 41

Dunedin 50 33 48 49 27

Wellington 60 47 49 58 20

*Up to June 30, 2013

So are pieces the paper the answer?  Probably not but they are part of a multi-pronged approach and this Government has done much to strengthen the legislative framework.

Former Principal Family Court Judge Pete Boshier reflected on his time in the role:

In my time as a judge I have dealt with thousands of family violence cases, and that includes applications by women victims of violence for protection orders. The intensity and range of abuse is deplorable and at times I have felt deeply affected by what I have read. All judges are affected in this way. Family violence in our country will not be eradicated by legislative recognition and ongoing commitment by Police in isolation. Time and time again we need to give messages that family violence is harmful, that it injures our country and that it has enormous consequences. Until we get real about this, our progress in eliminating family violence will be too slow. I dream of a New Zealand in which family violence is not the norm for so many families and where there are happy, safe, secure children whose lives are very different from those of generations that have preceded them.

In the same speech Boshier suggests we create specific charges that are for family violence, ensure that assault charges specifically mention family violence in the way they are recorded and much more to put a public face to family violence offenders.

Of course, these measures all take place after assaults and other forms of violence take place. So, do we leave it down to education programmes to get people to understand what is and isn’t violence, to act early and report often?  What other measures need to be put in place?  There has been much talk of rape culture of late – do we also have a ‘violence culture’ (it could be argued they are one in the same) and is it always ‘over there’ and ‘not in my backyard’?

 

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Poto wounds the KiwiAssure policy

November 29th, 2013 at 9:00 am by Jadis

 

Poto Williams’ hasn’t exactly run a strong social media campaign through this by-election.  Given we are into the final day of campaigning it was good of her to put up a new facebook post (her first since 23 October). To be helpful I’ll post it here:

poto Poto

There is one little problem with Poto’s statement “KiwiAssure will compete with the big insurance companies and get a better deal for local people just the way Kiwibank does.”

Kiwibank has recently been added to the “Fair play on Fees” class action.  It is the second bank to be added after ANZ.

We now have a sufficient number of Kiwibank customers to take their complaint to court and fight to get their unlawful penalty fees back.  We expect thousands more Kiwibank customers to join the campaign as a result of today’s announcement and encourage them to do so before the court documents are filed.

The launch of Fair Play on Fees has seen more than 35,000 Kiwis sign up to date, of which over 6,000 are Kiwibank customers.

So I guess Poto wants KiwiAssure to potentially charge unfair fees just how Kiwibank does.  Great policy that one!

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Hamilton’s non-decision on Fluoride

November 29th, 2013 at 6:37 am by Jadis

Surprise, surprise the Hamilton councillors haven’t made a decision on adding fluoride back into the water supply despite now having two referenda and multiple polls asking them to.

I think the Mayor sums it up nicely:

“We spent the last couple of weeks getting legal advice and talking about court cases in Taranaki and I came here to make a decision,”

“To be frank I think people are over it, we’ve had a year of it and people want a final decision made.”

The Mayor Julie Hardaker was one of five councillors that voted to make a decision while the other seven councillors voted to defer a decision until the outcome of the Taranaki case was determined.  All Hamilton councillors received advice that there was no legal reason to defer the decision making.

The court case in Taranaki was put forward by anti-fluoride groups arguing that the council there had no legal right to add fluoride and that fluoridation breaches section 11 of the Bill of Rights Act which allows people the right to refuse to undergo medical treatment.

The part that is a tad irksome is that the Mayor and others are now calling on central Government to legislate over top of all local government.

“…until central government takes a stand on this issue local authorities are going to continue and continue to have to go through these processes.”

I suppose they’d also like to nationalise the water supply?  While there may be some merits in that – privatising may make even more sense – the lack of joint infrastructure and various levels of disrepair could,, among other things, make it a very costly exercise.

 

 

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Political neutrality and the public service

November 28th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by Jadis

What is going on in the Super City?

It’s hard to work out whether this is a failure in governance or management, but it is certainly another massive fail.  Yesterday a mild-mannered, Council bureaucrat called David Hay told us all that he is going to spend the next seven months campaigning to be the next male co-Leader of the Greens. By March he will need to have impressed the Hui that ranks their list,  and by June he will have sold himself to the whole membership for the big annual line dance.

Problem is that it seems Hay is going to fund his campaign through the ratepayers of Auckland – he is a senior policy advisor.

There’s a time honoured process where once every three years frustrated bureaucrats decide they don’t like having to do what they are told and try to get into Parliament. They stand down from their  pen pushing jobs, campaign, lose, and scurry back to a new public trough.

At central Government level the State Services Commission have a fascinating edict “State servants must keep their jobs out of their politics and their politics out of their jobs.”  Of course public servants can be involved in some campaigning, leaflet drops and the like but the political neutrality line is not to be crossed too much.  The Electoral Commission also has a view during election time.  Section 52 of the Electoral Act pertains to public servants seeking election and suggests that

To avoid the possibility of a real or perceived conflict of interest, the Electoral Act requires public servants that stand as candidates to take annual or unpaid leave from nomination day until the first working day after the election.

Now in Hay’s case, he is only seeking election to be the male co-Leader of the Greens however will he be campaigning on Council time? Is the important line of political neutrality of Council employees crossed by his action to seek the Greens co-Leadership?  Why is it even important?

It is important as Government and Council officials are required to give independent, non-partisan, objective advice. That is why public servants usually wait until the last minute to let their intentions be known – not a good year or so out.

Now that his name is out there, can anyone expect that Hay can use that year also giving objective, unbiased advice to Auckland Council. Everything he does could be trying to gain favour with the Greens membership.  Again, it is that “possibility of real or perceived conflict of interest” that will dog poor Mr Hay.

Which raises some questions, did he tell his bosses before he announced his highly political campaign? Did the bosses tell the Mayor? Did anyone think… hold on a minute, this is a massive problem for the credibility Auckland Council?

My guess – no, no, no.

Rest assured though, by next week they will have expensive lawyers arguing with each other, crawling all over it and charging the long suffering ratepayer for the pleasure.

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A Chorus of one

November 28th, 2013 at 3:38 pm by Jadis

New Zealand First, United Future and the Maori Party have all stated their position that the Government should listen to the Commerce Commission on the Chorus and Copper tax issue. It appears to have been a highly coordinated campaign where each Party stated their position in quick succession.

What does this mean for the Government? Well, the silver lining is that they can ditch a proposal that was fairly unpopular and work on alternative arrangements for assisting Chorus that doesn’t involve internet users paying more and undermining the Commerce Commission.

 

Update: ACT and Mana Party have also added their support. I understand Greens and Labour Party will follow in the next hour.

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Voter Apathy in Christchurch East

November 28th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by Jadis

John Armstrong’s column today highlights the extreme levels of apathy in the Christchurch East by-election.

Byelection? What byelection? With just a couple of days to go until the polling booths open in Christchurch East, one thing is for sure: apathy is the big winner so far. It is difficult to recall a by election that has received such scant attention.

Both National and Labour – which has held the seat since 1919 – have made a point of talking down their respective chances of victory.

In Labour’s case, it is easy to understand why. Christchurch East may be one of the poorest electorates in the country. The long-serving Lianne Dalziel, whose decision to contest the Christchurch mayoralty triggered the byelection, may have secured a solid 5,000-plus majority at the last election. The popular politician may have given a strong endorsement of her would-be Labour successor, Poto Williams.

It is no accident, however, that Williams’ campaign manager is none other than Jim Anderton. It is a measure of Labour’s nervousness that it has called on the experienced former Alliance leader to motivate the party’s volunteers who do the donkey work of electioneering.

Most of the country has no idea a by-election is under way.  And they don’t really need to.  It could be argued that Christchurch East is a seat only ever held by Labour so what is the point of ‘taking a look’ at what is going on there.  The truly startling fact is that Labour are doing so little to showcase Labour.  A lot of this comes down to the candidate.  Poto Williams is underwhelming at best.  Why else get long time campaigner Jim Anderton to lead her campaign and scurry behind Poto cleaning up what she’s said by adding a few more layers of intellectual thought and political spin.  Labour’s problem is so much of Christchurch East being a Labour territory was all about Lianne, not all about Labour.  Poto simply does not have the personality or roots that Lianne had.  Armstrong alludes to this:

Labour has reason to worry. First – and most astonishingly – National won the party vote in the seat in 2011 by a margin of more than 4,000 votes.

That outcome had a lot to do with the decline in support for Labour in successive general elections in what was previously “Fortress Christchurch” for the party.

A Labour victory may hinge on the nearly 3,200 voters who backed Dalziel with their electorate vote in 2011 but who gave their party vote to National doing the same favour for Williams at the expense of National’s candidate, Matthew Doocey.

But there are no guarantees of that happening. Quite the reverse.

While I think it is unlikely Doocey will win the by-election he has done a good, safe pair of hands job.  Yes, he is kind of boring and won’t set the world on fire but as the less favoured to win (remember a Nat have never won the electorate vote in Christchurch East) he is doing everything that needs to be done, he is plodding, shaking hands, kissing babies and looking after the Party vote for the Election proper.  A strong showing by Doocey leads to a good future for him. You see that is the point of it for the Nats – yes, it would be nice to get a surprise win but if it means they can blood someone new into that seat who can in the Election proper keep the Party vote solid then in an MMP environment that is gold.  It seems that the Nats have finally matured into MMP politics – putting solid and safe performers into Labour strongholds means two things. First, can cause a bit of bother to incumbent Labour MPs and second, can increase that all important Party vote.

The reality is that National has nothing to lose.  This by-election is no gauge of support of Government instead it is all on Labour to make sure they win.  And they are nervous.

National has wasted no opportunity downplaying its chances, mostly so it can claim a huge upset should Doocey win. If Labour holds the seat on Saturday night, Key will simply argue that was always going to be the case.

Labour has realised it has a scrap on its hands. The capacity of that party’s machine to prod likely Labour voters in the direction of the ballot box should ensure a Labour victory, though not a large one.

So if voter apathy continues and Labour can’t get enough of the vote out it will suggest there is something wrong with Labour’s machine.

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