Premature success

October 17th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Well this is a new one for me – a campaign winds up before it even launches, because it has had premature success.

As readers will know I have been advocating a trial of e-voting for local body elections for some time. A few months ago the Government agreed to a trial in 2016 and possible implementation in 2019. This was a welcome decision, but myself and other advocates thought it wasn’t ambitious enough and we decided to launch a campaign next week to try and speed things up. The aim was to use any by-elections as a trial and then get as many Councils as possible in 2016 committing to using e-voting.

Myself and Conor Roberts (ex Len Brown political advisor) were going to be co-spokepsersons (political balance to show not a partisan thing). We had three major city mayors on board, plus other prominent Mayors. We were all set to launch next Monday.

Then Chris Tremain yesterday announced:

Local Government  Minister Chris Tremain says he will be instructing a working party to explore what would be needed for online voting to be fully introduced in the next local  body elections.

Voter turnout at the 2013 election was the lowest ever recorded with a projected figure of around 40 per cent.  Final results will be confirmed by Local Government New Zealand on Thursday.

“Figures as far back as 1962 (see below) show voter turnout at local body elections are traditionally low but I am concerned that it is on a slow decline,” says Mr Tremain. 

“A large number of people work from smart phones and online voting is definitely the way of the future.  However there are risks involved in transferring to an online system, so it is important we clearly understand those risks before making any final decision.  Accessibility for all voters is a critical consideration in any move forward.

“The government has invested in online verification technology, RealMe, which will enable secure authentication of a person’s identity for online voting.

“The working party, which was announced before the recent local body elections, is being tasked with establishing the technical, financial, and security issues involved in online voting.  In addition I will now ask them to explore the possibility of having full online voting available at the next local body elections.  A condition of this must be that an opportunity exists for a significant trial before 2016. 

This is basically the outcome we were after, so we’ve decided there is no point in launching a campaign when we’ve already had premature success and got what we want! I wish we could take credit for it, but the credit goes to Chris Tremain for deciding to prioritise the trial. And it is important we do have a trial – there are security issues to be worked through etc.

“I will also be inviting the Justice and Electoral Committee, who conduct reviews of local and national elections, to investigate other initiatives that will lift voter turnout. 

“Part of this will be considering the confusion created by the single transferable voting system especially when voters are presented with two voting systems on the same voting papers. Another issue that has been raised, post the elections, has been the three week voting timeframe, so it would be timely to consider this as well.

“Online voting will give people more choice but on its own will not solve low voter turnout.”

It will not get people to vote who are not interested in voting. But it will make it easier for people who do want to vote, to vote. The postal system is slowly dying and the future for local body elections will either be ballot box voting or e-voting, or both.

The annoying thing with the campaign being over before it starts, is we don’t get to do the usual celebratory drinks :-)

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Conor departs Len

September 28th, 2012 at 4:21 pm by David Farrar

For a Friday afternoon, Wellington has been a hotbed of rumour.

It seems that Conor Roberts (Len Brown’s Senior Political Advisor) is off to manage Corporate Affairs for Todd Property.

Leaving aside the implications of this for Brown, this is an interesting move by Roberts.  I’ve highlighted before that Conor will have a political career and a part of Labour’s future Cabinet.  I imagine Conor is looking for a bit of real world experience before taking the plunge into a Labour party parliamentary career.  Labour seriously lacks MPs who have real world experience and Conor also lacks that – for now.  The difference between most Labour lackeys and Conor is that he has realised the problem, and set about doing something about getting the experience he needs.

When Roberts becomes an MP (I suspect he is targeting 2014, but if I was advising him would suggest 2017), he will have that rarest of qualities among Labour people, experience in business rather than as a teacher or a unionist.

Put this private sector time alongside his well know political abilities, and I suspect today’s news represents another step in the development of a politician who will be invaluable to the Labour cause.

Conor will need to tread carefully though.  By putting his neck out many Labour activists, especially in this part of the cycle, will be out to trip him up or paint him as some sort of corporate drone.  Some still blame him for Len not backing the Maritime Union over Ports of Auckland. If he seeks a seat, you can be sure the Maritime Union delegates will be voting for his opponent!

This also means Len Brown will need a new campaign manager for 2013. Of course, the fact there is no high profile candidate yet identified to stand against him is a plus!

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The race for Mt Albert

March 31st, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Ten people have lined up so far for the Mt Albert by-election – seven for Labour and three for National. The Labour seven are:

  1. Phil Twyford
  2. Louisa Wall
  3. Hamish McCracken
  4. Helen White
  5. Glenda Fryer
  6. Conor Roberts
  7. Meg Bates

Twyford has to be the favourite, so long as he can deal with what the Herald calls the “Tizard dilemma”.

Louisa Wall impressed me as an MP. Labour has a pretty bad record of selecting Maori candidates for winnable general seats, so this would be a chance to change that. However Wall did not go out of her way to curry favour with various party factions and they may not want to give her a seat for life.

Hamish McCracken has stood three or four times before and never been ranked above the 50s, which suggests he is not seen as being of the quality needed to have a safe seat. His EPMU background will help with the head offices votes though.

Helen White also has an EPMU background, and is politically quite experienced. Could do well.

Glenda Fryer. Has some profile from Auckland local body politics but I doubt a front runner for the seat.

Conor Roberts. Conor is one of those annoying people – annoying because absolutely everyone likes him! He may be seen as a bit too young for the seat, but on the other hand it has only had two MPs since 1947. Conor would do well on the campaign trail.

Meg Bates. Meg is the only Young Labour President I have not met, so can’t really comment in detail. She used to work for Helen, and Helen generally employed pretty smart people, so she could be another Jacinda Ardern potentially.

The Nats list is:

  1. Melissa Lee
  2. Ravi Musuku
  3. Mike Loftus

As membership is over 200 in their Mt Albert electorate, the selection will get decided by a selection panel of 60 delegates.

Labour’s selection is a panel of seven, made up of:

  • Three people appointed by the NZ Council, one of whom must be a woman
  • Two people elected by the LEC, one of whom must be a woman
  • One person elected at the selection meeting
  • One vote by ballot from those at the selection meeting
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Apprentice Junketeers

May 14th, 2008 at 7:04 am by David Farrar

Yesterday’s Dom Post labels a young parliamentary group visiting Australia group as “apprentice junketeers” which is quite amusing.Six apprentice junketeers drawn from aspiring political leaders will be in Canberra today to listen to Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan deliver his budget.

The group flew to Australia late last week as part of an annual exchange programme.

According to Parliament’s Speaker, Margaret Wilson, the trip is designed to promote friendship and cooperation between New Zealand and Australia. It would expose the sextet of political up-and-comers to a different political, economic, social and cultural system.

The delegation leader is Labour’s new list MP, Louisa Wall. Travelling with her are Labour public relations practitioner Conor Roberts, National communications adviser Willy Trolove, National researcher Kenny Clark, NZ First researcher Tony de Jong and Green Party researcher Hannah Scott. The party will visit Melbourne, Canberra and Hobart.

Now I actually support exchanges such as these as an excellent investment. Almost all policy, fresh research and ideas come from overseas, and having young people involved in Parliament or politics gain first hand experience is as I say a good investment.

It is, in my mind, a very different case to a Speaker’s Tour when four of the five MPs on it are retiring. I have been critical of that trip because the participants are not going to be around to put the experience and contacts made to good use.

The media have been well justified to be sceptical of that particular trip. But I would hate that to be seen as a licence to dismiss all overseas travel as “junkets”. While some trips are better value than others, certainly a lot of Ministerial travel (for example) is damn exhausting work with almost no spare time at all.

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