Comparing the front benches

November 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A comparison of the National (11) and Labour (8) front benches.

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MP Status

Only one of Labour’s front bench is a List MP – the leader. All the others are electorate MPs. National is two thirds electorate and one third list.


Both are close to one third female.


Both around one quarter Maori.Labour also has a Pasifika front bencher.


For the first time for a while (I think) Labour now has a younger front bench. Three quarters are aged below 50.


Labour has issues here. Half the front bench is from Wellington and no one from Christchurch or provincial NZ.


There is not a single South Island MP on Labour’s front bench. In fact only two SI MPs intheir top 17.

Decade Entered

National and Labour now have similar profiles in terms of longevity of front benchers in Parliament.

So overall this reshuffle has rejuvenated the Labour front bench and the two front benchers now looking quite similiar except Labour has an age advantage and National an area advantage.

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The new Executive

October 6th, 2014 at 11:08 am by David Farrar

The new ministerial list is here.

The change in rankings is shown below.


So Adams and Bridges are the big movers up. Bennett and Coleman also move to the front bench, meaning four new front benchers. This is great – National needs to rejuvenate to maintain support, and Key has shown significant caucus and cabinet rejuvenation, at a time where Labour has stagnated. Kaye, Woodhouse, McClay and Lotu-Iiga also move up the ranks, with the former two moving into Cabinet.

Maggie Barry is a brand new Cabinet Minister, and Louise Upston and Paul Goldsmith become Ministers outside Cabinet.

Craig Foss remains a Minister, but outside Cabinet. And Chester Borrows leave the ministry, but is likely to become Deputy Speaker.

Some of the significant portfolio changes:

  • PM becomes overall Minister for National Security and Intelligence but Chris Finlayson will be Minister responsible for the SIS and GCSB
  • Paula Bennett made Minister for Social Housing and gains Associate Finance plus State Services
  • Jonathan Coleman becomes Health Minister
  • Amy Adams is Justice Minister
  • Simon Bridges gets Transport and gives up Labour to Michael Woodhouse
  • Gerry Brownlee gets Defence
  • Anne Tolley is Welfare, or Social Development Minister
  • Nick Smith swaps Conservation for Environment, and Maggie Barry gets Conservation
  • Nikki Kaye picks up the ACC portfolio
  • Michael Woodhouse also picks up Police and Sam Lotu-Iiga gets Corrections
  • Louise Upston gets Land Information and is Minister for Women
  • Paul Goldsmith gets Commerce and Consumer Affairs

It is an elegant reshuffle with some ministers keeping their main portfolios, but a lot of change. Helen Clark in her third term left rejuvenation far too late. It is good to see the PM determined not to make the same mistake.

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Can National win a 4th or even a 5th term?

October 1st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

My answer up until the election result was no.

I had even mentally drafted a blog post intended for the day after the election, in case of a National victory, in which somewhat somberly I would have stated that while it is great National got a third term, MPs should realise that this is probably their last term in Government. The post would have been about how they need to secure the policy gains of the last six years, so as many of them as possible can’t be reversed, and also how if they can go into opposition with a relatively solid vote, then maybe there will be just two terms in opposition.

The nature of the election result has changed that. A fourth, or even a fifth term, is now a very credible possibility. I’m not saying a probability, but definitely a credible possibility. Here’s why:

  1. National’s 48% is the sort of result you get in your first term, not your last term
  2. The left vote totaled just 36%, and they need to grow this by 12% if they want to be able to govern, without being dependent on what Winston may decide
  3. The Conservatives could well make 5% in 2017, giving National an extra buffer
  4. John Key is now very likely to contest the 2017 election. Previously I would have said it was 60/40 at best.
  5. Labour’s leadership battle is turning off the public, and may leave the party divided and wrecked

Media have already started to say it is hard to see how Labour can be competitive in 2017. Tracy Watkins writes:

Whoever wins the battle over the Labour leadership may already have lost the war.

David Cunliffe’s extraordinary attack on his caucus and his rivals for the leadership over the past 24 hours seems to leave no way back from a bloody and divisive three-year battle for control of the caucus.

Down that path leads to defeat again in 2017; the party will be so focused on its internal battles it will have lost sight of the real war, which is to reach past the sectional interests in Labour and reconnect with the voters who will decide the next Government.

Also Charlie Gates at Stuff writes:

Labour could be out of power until 2020, based on analysis of average voting patterns over nearly 100 years.

Analysis of voting figures from 1919 to 2014 reveals the trends behind the power struggle between National and Labour.

If those trends continue, it could mean Labour will be in opposition until 2020, although political trends can easily be disrupted by scandals and unexpected developments.

With the leadership again up for grabs, the figures show that when Labour appoints a leader while in opposition it takes the party an average of 4.6 years to regain power. That would put its recovery beyond the 2017 election and closer to 2020.

Watkins also earlier said:

Divided. Chaotic. At war. There is even glum talk in Labour about a six-year project to rebuild from last Saturday’s defeat.

Six years would deliver National a fourth term. Possibly even a fifth. If Labour MPs think they know the meaning of despair now, try a 12- or 15-year stint in Opposition.

Here’s where it gets grim for Labour. Their 2011 result was meant to be like National’s 2002 result – their worst result in 90 years etc. Now National won six years later, but that was after they got to within 2% of Labour of 2005, and with the Brash phenomena which saw the vote increase 17%. And that was followed by the Key phenomena.

Labour though did not increase in 2014. They went backwards. Their 2014 result was not National’s 2005, but a repeat of 2002. So to win, Labour probably needs six years, plus a leader either capable of galvanising public support as Brash was, or appealing to middle NZ as Key was.  As Labour has neither of those, this is why Labour winning even in 2020 can not be assured. National has a chance to be a very long-term Government.

But having said all that, a fourth term is still difficult. It has not happened since 1969 – 45 years ago. Voters do tire of Governments, and the biggest challenge to National is likely to be itself. So what does National need to do to win in 2014. Here’s my list.

  1. Continue to rejuvenate. What National did in its second term with significant ministerial renewal and massive caucus renewal needs to continue. The reshuffle in the next few days should be more than tinkering. The future leadership of the party needs to be given opportunities to prove they can handle more demanding portfolios, so they can ascend to the front bench eventually. That must of course be balanced with having confidence they can handle more politically demanding portfolios.
  2. A fresh team in 2017. I do not believe National will win a fourth term with a Government front bench that looks near identical to the one elected in 2008. In early 2017 there should be a quite profound number of retirements of senior Ministers, to allow a new front bench to contest the 2017 election. Of course John Key must remain (sorry Bronagh – Italy will have to wait a bit longer), but others should look at retiring while on top.
  3. Fresh ideas are needed. The public will not give you a fourth term just for being good managers. a Government can not look like it has run out of ideas and steam. Every Minister should be asked to identify at least three significant policy reforms in their area which can be implemented over the next three years.
  4. Don’t get arrogant. It is very tempting to get arrogant about 2017 while Labour is going through a civil war. The danger is not Labour, it is National. Don’t put the boot into Labour too much. The public may see it as the 18 year old picking on the six year old. Yes of course there will be some mocking in general debate, but don’t get arrogant in question time, or generally with the public. Stay focused on what matters – the economy, jobs, wages, schools and hospitals – not Labour’s infighting. Leave that to the bloggers :-)
  5. Keep connected with your communities. MPs all need a decent holiday, and should take them. But next year is when National MPs should start door knocking again. Don’t leave it until election year, when it looks like all you want is their vote. You have an advantage that most of the public don’t want to hear from Labour at the moment, but they do want to hear from National. Both electorate and list MPs should be door knocking in every electortate in NZ next year – including Ministers. Also don’t get third termitis and as Ministers start refusing to meet with sector groups because you think  you know what they will say. Reputations for inaccessibility can damage a Government.
  6. Start work on candidate selections next year also. Identify good candidates, and work with them to plan their best way into Parliament. We need more female candidates especially.
  7. Start thinking leadership succession. National is lucky they will keep John Key for this term, and if they get a fourth term, most of that term. But he will retire at some point, or National will lose in 2017. National will need a credible replacement Prime Minister or Opposition Leader. Preferably a number of options. The public need to know them well, and have confidence  in them, when succession does happen.
  8. Look to build a relationship with NZ First MPs you can work with. Don’t treat them as the Opposition, even though they will oppose much of what the Government does. They have 11 MPs, and may hold the balance of power in 2017. I doubt many of them will want to go near Labour, so there is an opportunity there for National. Winston is very problematic, as always, but he may not be there for ever.
  9. Deliver tax cuts aimed at low and middle income New Zealand. It’s the best way to boost incomes for all New Zealanders, and provides a great contrast to Labour who regard tax cuts as a necessary evil, rather than a good.
  10. Start a conversation about what the relationship between the Crown and Maori will be like, as the final few historical grievances are settled. Ignoring the issue is not wise.

National on 48% is better positioned than one could have hoped to get a fourth term. And Labour has very serious issues. But a fourth term is not easy. In fact it ha snot happened for 45 years. It will be damn hard work to make it happen, but it is now possible. It is up to National, not Labour, if the public decide they should get a fourth term.  It will need more than steady as it goes. It needs further renewal, fresh policy ideas, humility and lots of hard work to stay connected with the community.


A Minister and an Under Secretary

September 29th, 2014 at 2:02 pm by David Farrar

National has announced two confidence and supply agreements – with United Future and ACT.

The United Future one is basically:

  • Agree to work on  the next iteration of the National Medicines Strategy, improving water quality, giving recreational fishers more opportunities. re-affirming the use of public private partnerships for major roading projects and other United Future policies
  • Peter Dunne appointed  Minister of Internal Affairs, Associate Minister of Health and Associate Minister of Conservation. Sits on  Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee, Cabinet Social Policy Committee, and the Cabinet Committee on State Sector Reform and Expenditure Control.
  • National will give Dunne some of their question slots and speaking slots

The ACT one is:

  • National and ACT to continue with partnership schools, regulatory reform and RMA reform
  • David Seymour appointed  Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Minister of Education and Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Minister for Regulatory Reform. Sits on Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee and Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee
  • National will give Seymour some of their question slots and speaking slots

I think making David Seymour an Under Secretary rather than an Associate Minister is a smart move. It allows ACT to be involved in the implementation of policy in areas of importance to them – charter schools and regulatory reform, but doesn’t see a new MP made a Minister straight away. It is quite possible that if Seymour does well, he may become a Minister at some stage.

I imagine they will soon announce an agreement with the Maori Party, but that may be delayed due to the Maori Party’s need to do consultative hui. And then we should get the appointment of the National Ministers.

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John Oliver on Eminem vs National

September 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I can’t embed it but go to You Tube and look at John Oliver on the election result and Eminem vs National.

Especially love his mocking of NZ accents, but especially Steven Joyce for saying he thinks it was “pretty legal”.


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Eminem suing National

September 16th, 2014 at 2:59 pm by David Farrar

Eminem’s publishers have announced:

In proceedings filed today in the Wellington Registry of the High Court of New Zealand, Eight Mile Style, LLC and Martin Affiliated, LLC, the Detroit-based publishers of Eminem’s copyrights, are seeking damages for copyright infringement against the New Zealand National Party. The proceedings stem from allegations that unauthorised use has been made of Eminem’s Grammy and Academy Award winning song, “Lose Yourself”, in election campaign advertising run by the National Party in the lead up to the 2014 New Zealand General Election which is to take place on 20 September 2014.

Joel Martin, speaking on behalf of the publishers, said: “The claim we have filed alleges copyright infringement. Eminem’s publishers were not approached for permission to use any of Eminem’s songs for this campaign advertisement. It is both disappointing and sadly ironic that the political party responsible for championing the rights of music publishers in New Zealand by the introduction of the 3 strikes copyright reforms should itself have so little regard for copyright. We do not hesitate to take immediate action to protect the integrity of Eminem’s works, particularly where a party, as here, has sought to associate itself with Eminem and his work.”

I guess it will come down to whether the song used by National was altered enough to be considered a new work.

Personally I think parties are best to avoid music that even slightly resembles an existing song.

UPDATE: The Herald reports:

In a statement, the National Party said it completely rejected the allegations the music used in its early campaign advertisements had infringed the copyright of any artist’s work.

“The National Party purchased the music in question from recognised production music supplier Beatbox, based in Australia and Singapore. The music was originally published by Spider Cues Music, a well-established Los Angeles-based provider of music to the film and entertainment industry.

“As with all works licensed by the Beatbox library music service, the National Party was assured the music in question did not infringe any copyright and was an original work.

“Furthermore, the music license and fee were arranged through the Australasian Performing Rights Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (Apra/Amcos), who act as agents for Beatbox in Australia and New Zealand.

“These organisations exist to protect the rights of artists.

“Regardless, as our advertising was moving on to different material at the time of the complaint, over two weeks ago, we were able to accommodate the complaining artist and undertake not to continue using the track. However, this has not satisfied the complainant.”

The National Party said the song had been licensed multiple times both in Australia and New Zealand without issue or complaint.

That’s a pretty strong defence. Looks like it could be a beat up.

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Issues that matter – Health

September 12th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar



In 2008 only 65% of people requiring cancer treatment got it within four weeks. Many had to go to Australia to get treatment. Today every DHB has 100% of people needing cancer treatment getting it within four weeks. Source: Ministry of Health National Health Targets.



The best way to reduce smoking, is for young New Zealanders not to take it up. In 2007 15.7% of 15 to 17 year olds were smokers. In 2013 this rate had reduced to 8.0%. Source: Ministry of Health Public Health Survey. Note I don’t think this change is not necessarily related to who is in Government, but think it is important to make the point that the trend is very positive.



In 2008 the public health system provided 118,000 elective operations. In 2013/14 it was 161,933. A huge increase of 44,000. Source: Ministry of Health National Health Targets.

Surgery Growth


From 2003 to 2008 the number of elective operations increased by 2,950 a year. Since 2008 it has increased by 7,368 a year. Source: Ministry of Health National Health Targets and National Party.



Recall all the moral panic over youth drinking.  Well the Ministry of Health Public Health Survey shows that in 2007 19.5% of 15 to 17 year olds were hazardous drinkers and in 2013 only 8.1% were – almost half as many. Source: Ministry of Health Public Health Survey.



That’s 3,289 more nurses, 1,589 more doctors and 1,000 fewer health managers and administrators since 2008. Source: National Party Health Policy.



This is the change in percentage terms. Source: National Party. A 17.8% increase in nursing numbers and 26.8% increase in doctor numbers.



In 2008 only 70% of people in Emergency Departments were treated within six hours. In 2014 it was 94%. Source: Ministry of Health National Health Targets.



In 2008 only 76% of two year olds were immunised (on time). In 2014 it was 93%. Source: Ministry of Health National Health Targets.

These are not abstract changes. These are changes that make a huge impact on people’s lives. Few things are more important than quick cancer treatment, shorter emergency department stays, more immunisations and more elective operations. Plus on top of that the youth rates for smoking and hazardous drinking has almost halved.

These are issues that matter.

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National’s tax cuts

September 8th, 2014 at 3:17 pm by David Farrar

John Key and Bill English have announced the parameters for tax cuts:

Allow around $1 billion a year for new spending, including between $600 million and $700 million a year more for health and education. This total new spending is consistent with the level of new spending in our last two Budgets and it’s well below the $2 billion to $3 billion spending increases under the last Labour government, which had little to show for them.

Reserve the remaining $500 million per Budget for modest tax reductions and further debt repayment, as economic and fiscal conditions permit. This portion of the allowance will be moved between Budgets and accumulated as necessary. Therefore, by the third year there will be around $1.5 billion available for tax cuts and debt repayment.

So if the economy grows as projected, then tax cuts of around $1.5 billion a year will be possible by year 3. The PM confirmed they will be targeted at low to middle income earners.

“It means that over the next four years, National will spend around $10 billion more in total, and most of that on health and education,” Mr English says.

if you are in surplus, you can increase spending and reduce taxes.

This is absolutely the right thing to do, and a normal thing to do. As the books move into surplus, a moderate Government will “spend” the surplus on a mixture of extra spending and tax reductions (plus of course maintaining a large enough surplus so that debt reduces). I expect all parties to do a mixture of extra spending and tax cuts. Sure left wing parties might do 80% spending and 20% tax cuts and right wing parties say 50% spending and 50% tax cuts. But Labour not only won’t give tax cuts, David Cunliffe has said their Capital gains Tax will see families and businesses eventually paying an extra $4 to $5 billion a year in taxes – and the Greens want to have the top tax rate of 40% – the highest we have had since Muldoon!

So what sort of tax cuts could you do in April 2017 with $1.5 billion?

  • The bottom rate could drop from 10.5% to 6% on your first $14,000 of income
  • The second bottom rate could drop from 17.5% to 14.5% on your income from $14,000 to $48,000.

$48,000 is close to the average wage. A 3% reduction in the second bottom rate would be almost $1,000 a year more cash in the hand for a worker.

A clear choice in this election – parties that would reduce taxes vs parties that want to tax New Zealanders more.

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Two recreational fishing parks

September 8th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

National has announced:

Conservation Spokesman Dr Nick Smith and Primary Industries Spokesman Nathan Guy today announced a re-elected National Government will introduce two recreational fishing parks covering areas of the inner Hauraki Gulf and the Marlborough Sounds as part of a wider reform of marine protection legislation.

“This is a first for New Zealand. We are going to create a new concept of recreational fishing parks in a new Marine Protected Areas Act. These areas will be reserved predominantly for recreational fishing and will enhance the opportunity for Kiwi families to catch fish in areas like the inner Hauraki Gulf and the Marlborough Sounds,” Dr Smith says.

This will be hugely popular with recreational fishers!

“On a typical summer’s day on the Hauraki Gulf, there can be up to 6,900 recreational vessels on the water – that equals around 21,000 fishers. National wants to preserve the inner Hauraki Gulf exclusively for these fishers, so families in Auckland and across the wider region can continue to enjoy one of the country’s best-loved pastimes,” Mr Guy says.

The proposed Hauraki Recreational Fishing Park would extend across the inner Hauraki Gulf, incorporating Statistical Area 7 in Fisheries Management Area 1 and Omaha Bay, and would exclude all commercial activity.

Many happy Aucklanders.

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35 more towns to get fibre under National

September 4th, 2014 at 2:31 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A further 5 per cent of New Zealanders will get ultrafast broadband if National is re-elected, the Government has announced.

National communications spokeswoman Amy Adams said the footprint of the fibre-optic cable network would be extended from the original target of 75 per cent of the country to a new target of 80 per cent at a cost of between $152 million and $210m.

The extended programme would be funded from the Future Investment Fund.

Adams listed 35 towns she said would be “strong contenders” to join the existing 33 cities and towns getting UFB. They included some large towns such as Westport and Picton.

The UFB programme was the “most ambitious communications infrastructure programme in the world, given our low population density”, Adams said.

Excellent. A few shares in Air New Zealand or some power stations in exchange for another 5% of the population gaining fibre. A great move, and very welcome I am sure by the 200,000 extra New Zealanders who will now get fibre under this plan.

The towns named by Adams as strong contenders for UFB are: Te Puke, Motueka, Morrinsville, Kerikeri, Huntly, Thames, Matamata, Otaki, Kawerau, Waitara, Kaitaia, Dannevirke, Alexandra, Stratford, Whitianga, Cromwell, Taumarunui, Picton, Foxton, Kaikohe, Marton, Te Kuiti, Katikati, Temuka, Waihi, Waipukurau, Warkworth, Carterton, Dargaville, Opotiki, Snells Beach, Te Aroha, Wairoa, Paeroa and Westport.

National has led the way on having a fibre connected country. In 2008 all Labour was promising was VDSL to more of NZ. National promised and is delivering fibre to 75% of NZ, and now 80% of NZ. On top of that a big investment in rural broadband.

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$100 million for cleaner waterways

September 3rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

National has announced:

A re-elected National-led Government will spend $100 million over 10 years to buy and retire selected areas of farmland next to important waterways to create an environmental buffer that helps improve water quality.

National will also introduce a mandatory requirement to exclude dairy cattle from waterways.

National’s Environment Spokeswoman, Amy Adams, and Primary Industries spokesman Nathan Guy made the announcement at the Waituna Lagoon in Southland with Prime Minister and National Party Leader John Key today.

“New Zealand’s freshwater makes us an incredibly lucky country. We have over 400,000 kilometres of rivers and more than 4,000 lakes,” Ms Adams says.

“New Zealand’s water is among the very best in the world and we want to keep it that way. These are the next steps in our considered and sensible plan to continual improvements in freshwater quality.

“We are particularly committed to improving the quality of our freshwater and have made a number of key decisions that previous governments have put in the too-hard basket.

“This Government has introduced national standards for freshwater to safeguard it for future generations,” Ms Adams says. “That new framework will give communities around the country the tools to maintain and improve the quality of their lakes and rivers.

“To continue this progress, the next National-led Government will invest $100 million over 10 years to further enhance the quality of freshwater through a targeted fund to buy and retire areas of farmland next to waterways.

This seems like a moderate sensible policy. We all want cleaner waterways, but the extreme solutions of the Greens would see our national dairy herd reduce by at least 20%, with a corresponding fall in exports and incomes.

National will also introduce a requirement to exclude dairy cattle from waterways by 1 July 2017, and will work with industry to exclude other cattle from waterways over time on intensively farmed lowland properties, says Ms Adams.

“National is committed to building a stronger economy, particularly in our regions. We are also determined to improve the quality of our environment at the same time, and we are confident we can achieve both.”

Mr Guy says dairy farmers have done a fantastic job addressing some of the key environmental issues they face, and they have fenced over 23,000 kilometres of waterways – over 90 per cent of all dairy farm waterways.

“This is an incredible undertaking to do voluntarily. At the end of the day, farmers are environmentalists; they want to leave their land in a better state for their children, and their grandchildren.

Farmers are not the enemy.

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National’s housing announcements

August 24th, 2014 at 2:54 pm by David Farrar

Their housing policy and social housing policies are linked.

John Key gives an example in his speech of how it might work:

Let’s imagine a couple are both earning $40,000 a year – they might, for example, be living here in South Auckland.

They’ve been in KiwiSaver for five years, and are looking to buy a first home that’s under the price limit.

Under our changes, they could together withdraw up to $29,000 from their KiwiSaver accounts, and get either a $10,000 or $20,000 HomeStart Grant, depending on whether they’re buying an existing or a new home.

In total, that means a deposit after five years of almost $40,000 – or almost $50,000 if they are buying new.

That would be enough on its own to get a Welcome Home Loan for a house costing up to $400,000 or up to $500,000 if new – depending, of course, on their ability to service the mortgage.

Our changes will give a lot more people the confidence that if they join KiwiSaver, and keep saving, they can put together a deposit on their first house.

It’s important to note that most of that deposit will be their own savings.

We want to help people into their first home, but they have to help themselves first.

I much prefer that to the Government borrowing $3 billion more per year to try and become NZ’s biggest property company!

All these changes I’m announcing today will take effect from 1 April next year, if we are re-elected.

Not too long after that, the first people to benefit from these changes will be unlocking the front door of their own home for the first time.

The new policy will cost $218 million over the next five years.

That’s a fairly modest cost compared of around $35 million per year compared to borrowing $3 billion a year.

The details of the changes are:

The package comprises three changes:
Replacing the KiwiSaver First Home Deposit Subsidy with a KiwiSaver HomeStart Grant, doubling the support for buying a new home and increasing the house price limits;
Enabling larger KiwiSaver First Home Withdrawals by including the member’s tax credit (meaning first home buyers will now be able to withdraw all of their KiwiSaver savings except the $1000 kick-start);
Expanding eligibility for Welcome Home Loans by aligning the house price caps with the new KiwiSaver HomeStart Grant.

“We are roughly doubling the number of people receiving a Government grant to buy a first home from 10,000 per year to 20,000 per year, and doubling the Government grant they are eligible for if buying a newly-built home,” Dr Smith says.

“The focus of this package is to increase the supply of new housing and to encourage housing companies to build homes in a price range affordable for first home buyers.

 “The house price limits for KiwiSaver HomeStart and Welcome Home Loans will be $550,000 in Auckland, $450,000 in Wellington, Christchurch and other similarly-priced housing markets, and $350,000 for the rest of the country.”

Currently, first home buyers are eligible for a grant of $3000 after three years in KiwiSaver, $4000 after four years and $5000 after five years. Under KiwiSaver HomeStart, this grant will double to $6000 after three years, $8000 after four years and $10,000 after five years for the purchase of a newly-built home.

The changes to the KiwiSaver First Home Withdrawal in enabling access to the member’s tax credit will increase the maximum withdrawal amount by $512 per year for each year a member has contributed.

The KiwiSaver First Home Withdrawal is limited to members buying a first home, who have been contributing for a minimum of three years. The KiwiSaver HomeStart Grant and Welcome Home Loans have additional criteria of people having an income below $80,000 for an individual and $120,000 for a couple, and the house being purchased must be below the regional house price limits.

I wasn’t at the campaign launch, but I underatand there were 2,000 to 2,500 people there making it the biggest political gathering in a few decades I’d say – and it was a National Party meeting in South Auckland!

UPDATE: I hear the final count was 2,700!

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National’s first TV ad

August 20th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

National’s first TV ad. I was pretty critical of some of their advertising last campaign (the opening address was terrible) but I have to say I think this one is well done. A clear crisp message that has resonance, plus a bit of humour.

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$100 million for urban cycleways

August 18th, 2014 at 4:16 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The National Party is promising to spend $100 million over four years in new funding on urban cycleways. 

National rolled out its big guns to try to whip up some enthusiasm for the new proposal, but the massed ranks of reporters were barely interested.

Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee visited the Petone foreshore for the announcement this afternoon. 

They attracted a journalistic throng but questions about cycling were over in a flash, then the attention turned to the continuing fallout from the publication of Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics. 

Key’s repeated suggestions that the rest of the country would be more interested in cycleways or other initiatives fell on unresponsive ears.

Petone was chosen as the location of today’s announcement because work is under way to develop a route for cyclists between there and Ngauranga alongside State Highway 2.

Key also noted the national cycle trail network launched in 2009 had  grown to 2575kmm with 10 trails in the North Island and 12 in the South Island.

One can be in favour of both roads and cycleways. I am.

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National announces coalition choices

July 28th, 2014 at 4:13 pm by David Farrar

John Key has announced the following.

  • They will contest all 64 general electorates
  • In Ohariu and Epsom they are saying that they are happy for supporters to vote tactically for Peter Dunne and David Seymour
  • There is no “deal” with the Conservatives in East Coast Bays, or elsewhere.
  • Main focus is on maximising the party vote for National

I suspect thousands of National activists around the country have just breathed a sigh of relief there is no deal with the Conservatives.

In my view there should be representation in Parliament for those who have seriously conservative social and economic views. However both NZ First and Conservatives are competing in that space and while they remain separate parties, there is a risk neither will make it. But I can’t see either leader agreeing to be the deputy leader to the other one :-)

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National’s 2014 List

July 27th, 2014 at 10:25 am by David Farrar


National has released their 2014 Party List. I’ve done my normal calculations to show the approximate level of party vote needed for candidates to get elected. The assumptions are:

  • No change in electorate seats (I actually think there will be some, but for this exercise am assuming the status quo)
  • There is 3% wasted vote

National is currently  averaging 52.5% in the polls. If we assume National gets 49%, then get 63 MPs. The caucus demographics would be:

  • 73% European (46), 16% Maori (10), 6% Asian (4), 5% Pasifika (3)
  • 71% Male (45), 29% Female (18)
  • 2% in 20s, 10% in 30s, 37% in 40s, 41% in 50s, 11% in 60s
  • 38% from Northern Region, 18% CNI, 19% LNI, 17% Cant Westland, 8% Southern

Reasonably good demographic spread. I would like to see the proportion of women higher, but National has only five list only spots, so the challenge is not ranking women in winnable places (which National has done) but having more women win electorate nominations (which are decided purely locally).

Overall on a result of 49% National would have 17 new MPs – 10 electorate MPs and 7 List MPs.

The new List MPs would be Brett Hudson, Paramjit Parmar, Chris Bishop, Nuk Korako, Jono Naylor, Maureen Pugh and Fia Turner. But four of those people could well win their seats also (Hutt South, Port Hills, Palmerston North and West Coast – Tasman).

The placing of Brett Hudson (Ohariu) so highly means that you don’t have to be a clairvoyant to predict that National will endorse Peter Dunne in Ohariu.

Chris Bishop is the highest ranked male new candidate (excepting the strategic seat of Ohariu) which is a great result for him. Chris is one of the top debaters in New Zealand and will be a real asset to National in the House if he gets elected.

So potentially 17 new MPs is an excellent renewal for National.  even if National only gets what the got last time (47.5%) they still get 61 MPs, which is 15 new MPs.

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Hauiti quits

July 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

National list MP Claudette Hauiti has decided to withdraw from the election and politics altogether.

She has already been selected as National’s candidate in the Kelston electorate, which is thought to be a safe Labour seat.

She told National MPs at their caucus meeting this morning.

Her decision comes a few days before National releases its list ranking and Ms Hauiti may have been warned she would get a low list ranking.

A tough decision, not but I think the right one. When you come in mid-term it is hard to make an impact in terms of achievements, and her lapses of judgement will have been a factor. I wish Claudette well.

It is worth noting that when the credit card receipts came out for the last Labour Government, Ministers had charged up all sorts of personal expenses ranging from mountain bikes to golf clubs – with no repercussions. However we are now in an era where (rightfully) there is greater scrutiny and less tolerance of such occurrences – even if repaid.

This is not the first time National has had to do a second selection. They also did one for Tamaki in 2011 when the selected candidate and MP (Allan Peachey) stood down very late (due to ill health).

UPDATE: Typo above corrected.

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500 Pasifika in South Auckland turn up to hear John Key

July 9th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key spoke to more than 500 members of South Auckland’s Pasifika community today in an attempt to sway votes from the Labour stronghold.

That’s a massive turnout, in an area which normally is the strongest in NZ for Labour.

Mr Lotu-Iiga said he grew up in the Mangere community and was once too a Labour voter, but he had been seeing a shift in support towards National. “Things are changing around here.”

Also at the meeting was Manukau city church group member Del Kumandan, who said he too had seen National’s support grow in the area.

“The tide’s definitely turning?the people are identifying with what National is doing for them.”

National is never going to win South Auckland or even come close. But an extra party vote in South Auckland is just as good as an extra vote in Clutha-Southland.

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Can National pick up electorate seats?

June 30th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Normally when a Government is seeking a third term, they’re not looking to pick up any seats, just defend them. For example Labour in 2005 lost 10 electorates to National.

But Stuff reports it may be different this time:

National is gunning for vulnerable Labour MPs in four seats in a move that could further rattle its opponent.

Hundreds of National Party faithful are gathered in Wellington this weekend for the party’s annual conference, where Prime Minister John Key will attempt to talk them down from a buoyant mood by warning that complacency could see National turfed from power.

With a string of polls showing National around 50 per cent, Key will warn them that voter turnout could be the decider and not to assume the election is a done deal.

‘‘I will reiterate the message that while National is doing very well in the polls in reality this is going to be a very tight election,’’ Key said yesterday.

‘‘This is a race to 61 seats and despite the fact Labour is polling very poorly it could still hold hands with the Greens and NZ First, potentially Internet-Mana, and form a government. So there is no room for complacency within National.’’ 

In a sign that National is taking nothing for granted sources say it has also targeted four Labour MPs in seats it thinks it can win – Trevor Mallard in Hutt South, Ruth Dyson in Port Hills, Damien O’Connor in West Coast and Iain Lees-Galloway in Palmerston North.

The first two seats have big boundary changes, and the latter two have Mayors or former Mayors standing for National.

National’s strategy could disrupt Labour’s efforts to maximise the party vote, given that the survival of those MPs could hinge on them campaigning for the electorate vote instead to keep their political careers afloat.

Dyson and Mallard are not on the list, so if they lose they’re gone.

O’Connor is 22 and Lees-Galloway 24 on Labour’s list. If they lost their seats then they’d only make it back if Labour gets around 29% to 30% party vote.

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Small tax cuts are better than no tax cuts

June 30th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

National is downplaying the promise of tax cuts, signalling that other policy pledges will take priority.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday said no decision has been made on whether the party would campaign on income tax cuts.

The Government returned the books to black in last month’s Budget, leading Key to dangle the prospect of some relief for middle New Zealand.

But as National wrapped up its annual conference in Wellington, he softened his stance.

“In reality we don’t have a lot of money to move on tax,” he said.

“I’m not saying we couldn’t put together a tax package but everyone needs to be realistic about how small that is.

I think it would be very regrettable if National does not offer some tax cuts. They should be the party of low tax.

Of course they would be modest, and not able to occur until 2015/16 at the earliest. But small tax cuts are better than no tax  cuts.

Tax cuts are the only guaranteed way to boost the after tax income of every working New Zealander.

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Demographic changes with National electorate candidates

June 24th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I blogged a few days ago on the profiles of the 10 new National candidates for seats currently held by National.

A reader e-mailed to say:

It would have been useful to include the background of the people they are replacing so we could judge the extent to which each party is diversifying or consolidating. 

So here’s the changes:

  • 9 of the retiring MPs are male, and one female. Their replacements are 8 men and 2 women.
  • By age – those retiring are 40s – 3 50s – 3 60s – 4. The new candidates are 20s  – 1, 30s –  1, 40s – 6, 50s -2
  • By ethnicity, all retiring are European, and of the new candidates eight are European and two are Maori
  • By occupation, those retiring are four farmers, an accountant, a doctor, a real estate agent, a lawyer, a diplomat and an engineer. The backgrounds of the new candidates are on the other blog post.

So overall, a marginal increase in women, a significant increase in Maori, a drop in age (as expected) and fewer farmers but more people with a business background.

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National’s potential electoral deals

June 12th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

 In the very strange case of Colin Craig and the Conservative Party, there is little doubt that John Key and his campaign maestro Steven Joyce are reluctant suitors.

Deal or no deal?

Welcome to John Key’s nightmare – or the closest you get to a nightmare when your party’s on 50 per cent and your opposition is fractured into five parts.

The prime minister has said he will announce a job-lot of deals with potential support parties in coming weeks.

On the face of it “arrangements” with all three make sense. In a tight race why throw away a chunk of Centre-Right support on your side of the fence, especially if Internet-Mana is going to vacuum up two or three seats on the other side?


Tactical voting is nothing new. In 1999 Helen Clark told Labour voters to vote for the Jeanette Fitzsimons in Coromandel. And last election the Greens told their supporters to vote for the Labour candidates in Auckland Central and Ohariu.

In the case of UnitedFuture, it is an easy equation.

Peter Dunne is a dream ally. He won’t go with the other side, causes only the occasional headache on principle each term, and has ministerial experience.

Even if you dump him he doesn’t go feral. And the chances are his party will poll so low that he will create an overhang seat – a net gain for the Right.

If a party gets below 0.4% then it is an overhang seat.

ACT and David Seymour in Epsom are slightly more problematic.

Seymour is earnest lobby fodder for National, his party is on the spectrum – as in the Right-wing one – and if he gets over the line there is a serious chance he will bring in another MP. However, the whiff of John Banks’ exit lingers in the air and there is an outside chance that Epsom voters will return the reluctant candidate Paul Goldsmith anyway.

And they have every right to do so.

I think Epsom voters will vote tactically, as they did previously. But the choice is up to them. National may say we are only seeking the party vote in an electorate – but they still stand a candidate, giving voters the choice. Epsom voters are not controlled by National. If they don’t want to tactically vote, then they won’t. All National will be doing is saying we’re happy for people to vote for the ACT candidate, as having ACT in Parliament means you get a National-led Government.

Which brings us to the third option, and the very strange case of Colin Craig and the Conservative Party.

There is little doubt that Key and his campaign maestro Steven Joyce are reluctant suitors.

But on the experience of 2011, Craig is likely to attract more votes than the other two combined.

So will National hold its nose and cut him a deal?

Well, the Conservatives have said they don’t want a deal.

Back in the here and now, Key is playing a much more equivocal game with the Conservatives than the other two parties.

Maybe there was an element of game-playing on Key’s part, but on Tuesday he noted Craig’s enthusiasm for a deal with surprise as he harked back to earlier comments from Craig that he was not seeking an accommodation and was confident of clearing the 5 per cent hurdle.

Another Stuff story reports:

National backbencher Mark Mitchell says Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is “dreaming” if he thinks he will be gifted his seat.

Craig, who was defeated by Mitchell in Rodney by 12,222 votes in 2011, said this week he expected to be offered a deal handing him one of the Rodney, Upper Harbour or East Coast Bays seats in the September election.

Based on current polls, if Craig wins an electorate seat, he would take one or two MPs with him into Parliament, helping National gain a majority.

They could get 4 MPs. They got 2.7% last time and 2.8% gets you four MPs.

I’d be amazed if there was any deal in Rodney or North Shore. It simply would never happen.

Ultimately I imagine the decision will come down to necessity. If the polls show National, ACT and United Future likely to be able to form a Government, then why deal with the Conservatives and risk electoral damage from a deal.

But if it looks like NZ First would hold the balance of power, then I’d say Colin Craig is a far more attractive option than Winston. You can trust Craig, but not Peters.

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Grassroots democracy

June 4th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Was in Mount Maunganui last night for National’s selection of a candidate to replace Tony Ryall in the Bay of Plenty. Tony’s majority in 2011 was a staggering 17,760 votes.

There were 101 voting delegates there. Every single one of them selected by a grassroots branch. Not a single vote held by anyone from head office, let alone a van load of unionists who get bused in to vote. The 101 party members were almost all very long-standing party activists who have spent years or decades door knocking, putting up hoardings, raising funds etc. It’s a great system where they get to decide who will be their local candidate, and is one of the reasons why National has the largest party membership in New Zealand.

The selection was won by Todd Muller (whom I previously blogged on here). Congratulations to Todd who will be an excellent MP and representative for the Bay of Plenty.

Amusingly this means the next National caucus will have three Todds – McClay, Muller, and Barclay. I’m suggesting they be called Senior Todd, Intermediate Todd and Baby Todd :-)

Congrats also to Alfred Ngaro, selected for Te Atatu yesterday also. Boundary changes have made that seat more interesting that in the past.

This concludes the selections for the seats National currently holds. Still Port Hills and a couple of others to go with the Labour held seats. Port Hills could also be interesting.

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Mayor Naylor for Palmerston North

May 13th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor is the sole nominee for the National Party candidacy for the Palmerston North electorate.

Naylor has just announced he will run against sitting Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway in September’s election, subject to confirmation by local party members.

He said after 13 years in local government, he felt he had more to offer the city and could be more effective as a member of parliament than as mayor.

The timing was right for his family, he said, and while he had not been a member of a political party until recently, he believed National’s values around personal responsibility, strong families and community aligned best with his own.

If successful, he would resign from the mayoralty, triggering a by-election.

He plans to continue as mayor during the campaign.

Naylor was first elected mayor in 2007, after serving six years as a city councillor.

He was re-elected last year, in the city’s first election under STV, when he received 51.7 per cent of voters’ first choices.

This makes Palmerston North very interesting. Iain Lees-Galloway holds it for Labour by 3,285 votes.

Naylor has been elected Mayor three times. In 2013 he got more than twice as many votes as the second placed candidate. He got 52% to their 23%. National must have a very reasonable chance of winning the seat.

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National reaffirms pro-immigration stance

May 5th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour joining NZ First as anti-immigration may not go down well with, well, immigrants.

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key laid out the welcome mat for foreigners yesterday and said it was a point of contrast between National and other parties.

“We don’t put up the fear factor you see from other political parties about the multicultural society that is emerging in New Zealand,” he told more than 300 delegates to National’s northern conference at Waipuna Hotel yesterday.

“We welcome tourists that come from overseas; we welcome people that are going to come and study at our schools and universities; we welcome people who want to invest in New Zealand and we welcome people who want to make their home in New Zealand,” he said. “And yes, we welcome people who want to buy a home here and raise a family. That’s what a multicultural, confident society is about.”

New Zealand’s future lay in selling things to the rest of the world and the future of the world was about being more connected, he said.

Indeed. Barriers are reducing.

There was a larger than usual representation of Pacific Island delegates from South Auckland seats and Mr Key made special mention of it.

He referred to the imminent departure of former economic development spokesman Shane Jones from Labour – to take up a position as a Pacific fisheries ambassador for the Government.

“If you look at Labour, they have lost the only guy in their caucus who vaguely even cares about economic growth or prosperity or people getting ahead under their own steam.”

He said it was critical in the campaign to demonstrate contrast on offer by political parties and opposition by Labour and the Greens to jobs and growth. “You don’t need to take my word for it – take Shane Jones’ word for it, because that is exactly what he is saying, that there is no point being economic development minister in a Labour-Greens Government that doesn’t believe in economic development.”

That’s not much of a paraphrase. Jones has said he wishes he had realised earlier how much Labour has changed.

His valedictory speech will be very interesting.

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