Posts Tagged ‘Labour Party’

Real estate agents bill: a done deal?

September 5, 2008

Last night Parliament passed the Real Estate Agents Bill, sweeping away the old and seriously ineffective self-regulatory regime operated by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand.

When the new Act comes into force in 14 months or so, consumers who feel ripped off will be able to claim up to $100,000 in compensation against agents from an independent Disciplinary Tribunal. At little cost. At the moment, agents may be fined up to $750. Which the Institute can keep if they want.

As the Herald put it last year:,

“The institute, as much as agents on the ground, ought to wear much of the blame for the Government’s intervention. It has regarded its duty of self-regulation for the industry as about just one of those two words, self.”

Associate Justice Minister Clayton Cosgrove claimed that around $1 million was spent on a highly sophisticated lobbying campaign to stop the bill. The REINZ President:

“…refused to comment on Mr Cosgrove’s accusation that REINZ had spent $1 million lobbying against the law, engaging top Wellington advocate Mai Chen. But he said he was disillusioned with some MPs. “It’s disappointing that people who said they would support us didn’t.”

I wonder who he was talking about. The Nats voted against the Bill, saying property managers should be covered by its provisions. They also say, “at the end of the day the consumer will not have more protection than under existing legislation.” Bizzare.

What the Herald doesn’t mention in this morning’s report is that Cosgrove has also claimed that the REINZ president told a Palmerston North gathering that the bill would not pass until after the election and that the Institute expected the National Party to make changes in the industry’s favour.

So, a victory for the consumer — for the moment — and an end to a system of self-regulation so ineffective that it is widely mocked as it dies a well-deserved death.


6.5% and closing

September 4, 2008

Another poll shows the gap between National and Labour closing, to 6.5%. It confirms the trend revealed by other recent poll results.

The latest Roy Morgan poll — of 841 electors over 18–31 August — shows National at 44.5% (down 3.5%) and Labour at 38% (up 4%). Bad news for NZ First, down 4% to 2.5%, with the others largely unchanged: Greens at 8% (up 0.5%), Maori Party at 3.5% (up 1.5%), ACT at 1.5% (no change) and United Future at 1% (up 1%).

The previous Morgan poll was conducted between 28 July and 10 August, so would not have included much of the impact of the loose lips debacle. The current one does, along with much of the Peters saga.

Another factor may be increasing confidence in the Government:

“The Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating has risen strongly for the third New Zealand Morgan Poll in a row, rising 11.5pts to 115. It is now at its highest level since being at 118.5 in late February. For the first time since February, a majority of New Zealanders 50.5% (up 6%) say the country is “heading in the right direction” compared to 35.5% (down 5.5%) that say the country is “heading in the wrong direction.””

The interest rate cuts may have helped, and there are more of those on the way.

It is only one poll, but should it prove accurate then the Peters saga has affected NZ First but not Labour or ACT. This would not be a surprise, as most NZers probably understand only too well that had Labour done as National suggests, and shut out Peters, then we would simply have had an early election. This doesn’t seem to be wished for outside the right-wing blogs and John Key.

According to Tane’s calculations the latest result puts a Labour-led coalition in by a nose. Morgan on the other hand say that, “If an election were held now New Zealand would have a Coalition Government likely to be led by the National Party.” Even though Tane doesn’t factor in the overhang from the Maori Party seats, it looks as though the Maori Party would hold the balance of power.

But this is really beside the point. Political events in NZ are moving at a breathtaking pace, and anything could happen between now and the election, whenever that is.

Peters newsflash: Glenn told Clark about donation in February

August 28, 2008

Helen Clark has revealed that Owen Glenn told her in February that he donated $100,000 to NZ First. (Except he didn’t, as we now know — he donated it to Peters’ fighting fund.)

She recounts that when she put this to Peters at the time, he assured her that his party had not received a donation from Glenn. Technically, he was right; his fighting fund received the money.

But it seems that Glenn also told the PM that Peters had solicited the money from him personally:

“Mr Glenn on that occasion said to me pretty much what he said to the Privileges Committee. As you would expect, the first thing that I did was go away and ring Mr Peters, and Mr Peters has consistently maintained that he never made that phone call to Mr Glenn. So, there’s always been a conflict of evidence.”

Clark said that every time the issue arose she rang Peters and asked for his word. And got it.

“I have not known Mr Peters to lie to me, and I have to take people as I find them. He is utterly convinced that he never made that call.”

Maybe so, but as the Herald says:

“This new information this morning means Helen Clark has known for months of the conflicting sides of the story which were publicly revealed yesterday in letters to Parliament’s privileges committee.”

True. It’s not really sustainable to know something like this and simply accept Peters’ word for it. It needed to be investigated properly, for the sake of the body politic, if nothing else. Peters may indeed never have made the call, or may be utterly mistaken about that (though it’s hard to see how you could be mistaken about asking someone you’d only met a couple of times for a $100,000 donation). But that’s not the point. Cabinet ministers need to be seen to be acting properly.

Update: Steve Pierson at The Standard notes that when Clark asked Peters in February about Glenn’s assertion that he had made a donation to Peters:

“… Peters was at least on notice that a donation may have been made and, given that, he shouldn’t have flatly denied a donation had been made. However, it also shifts the weight of evidence to a conclusion that Peters has been misleading us.”


August 28, 2008

The Herald’s editorial this morning goes to some length to ignore logic in a desperate bid to parrot today’s National Party talking points.

Echoing Farrar’s “who has the most to gain by not telling the truth?” line, it begins with its conclusion:

“If Winston Peters had the decency his position deserves, he would now resign.”

Problem is, it doesn’t come down to “who has the most to gain by not telling the truth.” If it did, I’d be 99% inclined to go with Peters having the greater motivation, but would still be mindful of Glenn’s estrangement from Labour that Farrar and co want us to overlook.

But it doesn’t. Having decided that Peters has the greater motivation to lie and is therefore guilty of doing so, and should resign in consequence, it notes:

If neither is honestly mistaken in his recall, then one of them is not telling the truth.”

I’ve added the emphasis, because this is the point at which the analysis should have started. Belatedly the Herald admits that its reasoning is based on overlooking the point that the conflict of evidence may not result from one (or both) lying.

The problem is that the Herald does not demonstrate that “neither of them is honestly mistaken in his recall”. I wish it could.

This sort of stuff puts the Herald in the same league as Farrar, who begins his post, “Owen Glenn has told the truth in his letter to the Privileges Committee.” I’m now strongly of the opinion that right-wing bloggers should be exempted from all jury service, because of the way they rush to judgement!

One thing the Herald gets right:

“Even National, ever tentative, has now cast him aside.”

Key held off as long as he could before taking a stand. Courageous? What a joke.

Perhaps it pays not to snub billionaires, Helen?

Perhaps it pays not to snub billionaires, Helen?

Latest poll goodish news for Labour

August 24, 2008

Labour’s “on the move.” So says TV3 News, reporting the latest 3News poll.

The poll confirms the trend revealed by other recent poll results. A slight bounce for Labour, National maintains a decisive advantage, with the loose lips debacle not having made much impact… yet.

National remains on 48%, Labour is up 2 points at 37%, the Greens are down one point on 6%, NZ First’s on 3%, Act 2%, and United Future 1%.

A little under 3 months out from the election this is good news for Labour, who need to start closing the gap. If the Greens and NZ First make it back into Parliament, then it doesn’t have too much more ground to make up before the election starts to look very exciting.

The minor party results probably don’t mean too much, although it doesn’t look like the donations saga has done Peters any good.

The poll of 1000 voters was taken between August 14 and August 20, and has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Maori Party options open?

August 19, 2008

An interesting insight into the possibility of the Maori Party propping up a National-led government in the not-so-distant future is provided by Tim Donoghue’s Inside the Beltway post, “Sheep the casualty in battle for Maori seats“. (Earlier posts here and here.)

The Maori Party ended a tour of the Ikaroa-Rawhiti seat with a dinner at the Wainuiomata RSA in Wellington last Thursday. Donoghue reports:

“Significantly, one of the attendees at this dinner was Hutt South National Party candidate Paul Quinn who, on current polling, looks like entering Parliament at number 48 on the Nats’ list later this year.

“Even Maori Party firebrand Hone Harawira has said in recent weeks he could work with a John Key National-led Government so Quinn’s presence at the meeting was far from coincidental. Indeed, it was an indication Labour’s 2005 slogan that a vote for the Maori Party is a vote for National might be more true this time around.”

Presumably, Quinn was invited.

This follows Hone Harawira’s recent revelation on Alt TV that Labour was not listening to Maori Party overtures, and is pursuing an unrealistic hard line on an electoral accommodation. Discussions with Labour, he said,  were “pretty forced” while “conversations with National are a lot more relaxed.”

Here’s what Harawira said, when asked whether the Maori Party could form a coalition with National (courtesy of TUMEKE!):

“I don’t see why not. I mean our role as the Maori party is to defend Maori rights and advance Maori interests for the benefit of the whole nation. It doesn’t matter who the government’s going to be – as long as we are there to ensure those things happen. Why not? Now people say to me, ‘How on Earth could you think of going into – of jumping in bed with – National?’ and I answer the question: And what’s Labour done for Maori in the last nine years?”

Now, we mustn’t forget that the Maori Party normally determines its post-election strategy in a series of hui. But they learnt last time that it doesn’t pay to be “last cab off the rank”, as Helen Clark put it dismissively.

Poll confirms gap narrowing, a little

August 18, 2008

The One News Colmar Brunton poll just out confirms my reading of the two other polls released late last week.

Taken more recently (Saturday week ago to last Thursday), the Colmar Brunton poll confirms a slight bounce for Labour, up 2 points to 37%. This appears to be at the expense of the minor parties, however –with none of the smaller parties polling above the 5% threshold in this poll.

Further, National’s support has not been affected by the secret tapes and loose lips affair. At 51% National is still polling well enough to govern alone.

I don’t expect either situation come election time. NZers have proven themselves extremely adept at fine-tuning the final result, and we can confidently expect sufficient green-leaning Labour voters to peel off to save the Greens, if this looks necessary on the day.

Likewise, I’d be surprised if the voters give National a total mandate to govern alone. Why would they? They are still too much of an unknown quantity to be allowed to govern without check (and ACT doesn’t qualify as a check for more than 90% of the electorate, probably).

[Update: Pierson at The Standard posts on the polls.]

No bounce for Labour yet

August 16, 2008

The two mid-August polls released to date show little evidence of a bounce for Labour out of the “loose lips” debacle for National.

Roy Morgan’s poll shows National steady at around 48% and Labour returning to its May level of around 35% after a few months in the 30-32.5% range. Perhaps a bounce, but pretty small at best.

More interestingly, confidence in the Government has bounced back “strongly” to 103.5, after falling from over 120.0 last September to bottom out at 87-88% in late June-early July. And more NZers (44.5%, up 6%) say the country is “heading in the right direction” than say it is “heading in the wrong direction” (41%, down 6%). So some good news for Labour.

Not so the Fairfax Nielsen poll. This shows Labour steady on 35% and National up 3 points to 54%.

Like the Morgan poll, the FN poll showed confidence in the economy improving: “the number of voters who are more optimistic increased by three points to 45% over April, while pessimists declined from 39% to 30%.”

The Morgan polling period was 28 July–10 August (N = 834), so the effects of the loose lips stories that broke on the evening of 3 August would be diluted. The FN poll was conducted over 6 August–12 August (N = 1102) and includes the effects of the loose lips — although some respondents would have been polled before the story had fully unravelled. It is also more likely to be accurate given the larger sample size.

The next TV3 poll should therefore help shed light on a confused situation. As Inventory2 points out, Duncan Garner’s blog yesterday hints that the news will not be good for Labour (Garner is the 3 News political editor, after all). Garnber opines that:

National was quick to nail Labour and Helen Clark to the secret recorder. Key has no proof of course – but he didn’t have to. It was a bit of a dog whistle – but it may have worked. I reckon National might just hold up in the polls due to be released over the next 10 days.”

Still, even if there is no immediate pay-off for Labour from the loose lips debacle, the episode may prove valuable in the long-run. Garner imagines Labour putting together advertisements that feature English and his comments as part of a campaign based on trust, leadership and privatisation. I’d say that last week’s events might prove very useful to Labour as it seeks to build a narrative around “hidden agendas”.

[Note: Neither poll includes the “refused to says” or “don’t knows”, the latter of which stand at 11% in the FN poll.]

Can Labour win?

August 13, 2008

Therese Arseneau of Canterbury University muses on “Is Labour’s success beyond its control?” for OneNews (Hat-tip: Idiot Savant).

She’s not giving Labour much hope: “Unfortunately for Labour the elements beyond its control are likely to be decisive in 2008.”

First she’s sees a “perfect storm” of hunger for change and pain in the hip pocket driving voters away from Labour. We could argue about what’s behind the hunger for change; Arseneau speculates that, “… governments simply have a natural life cycle, and the public wants to maintain a healthy turnover to keep governments accountable and in touch with voters.”

I’ve argued before that this government has increasingly given the impression of being out of touch, if not arrogant, in its approach to unpopular issues like the EFA and anti-smacking reform. This hauteur is sometimes quite tangible when talking to members of the government, whether elected or not.

Labour’s best chance, thinks Arseneau, is to paint National as risky. This worked in 2005. But then, Don Brash was never going to be convincing as a moderate, was he? The problem this time is that National have figured how MMP works — only took them 12 years — and are concertedly following the MMP script.

That’s what makes last week’s serial taping so important. Two, maybe three or more MPs let their guards down and almost gave the whole game away. Much more of this and Labour gets very competitive. My guess is that National have learnt from last week’s close call, and will be more disciplined from here on in.

Arseneau also thinks that Labour’s chances are improved if there is a large overhang due to the Maori Party securing the electorate but not the party vote and supporting Labour in government. It’s supposedly a heresy on the left to even consider the possibility that Maori Party might do a deal with National, but…

And finally Arseneau thinks that the Greens’ support of a Labour-led government depends on a smallish gap between the two main parties. There’s something in that I’m thinking.

I think that the range of scenarios boils down in the first instance to those with NZ First in Parliament, which probably means NZ First getting more than 5% of the total vote, and those without.

In the not-at-all unlikely event that Labour finishes second, it’s not close, National/ACT falls short of a governing majority and NZ First is returned, then I think that the Greens and the Maori Parties are in a difficult position, as Arseneau says. They must balance what the public will accept, and the extent that they are prepared to accept those National’s policies that are hostile to the environment and the low-paid.

In sum, Labour’s chances hang by some pretty slim threads.

Idiot Savant thinks that this “overstates the case somewhat.”

“Labour is not a passive victim of whatever other parties do, a “log floating down a river”. Even more than the bully-pulpit of government, an election is a chance to shape our political conversation and shift the political ground. If National is pretending to seek the centre, then Labour should be seeking to define it, by staking out ground in popular policy areas where National can never compete – things like universal student allowances, paid parental leave, housing, and privatisation (though they already have the latter firmly in hand).

“In other words, if National is going for the centre, Labour should exploit the fact that centre is well to the left of what most National supporters want, and force National to wedge itself against its own base.”

I’m not sure that there is ever enough time in an election campaign for moulding attitudes at that level. That boat’s left port and is fast disappearing over the horizon. There was a chance to build a narrative around the future, to supplement the great work Labour did in repairing the damage to the social fabric wrought by the neo-liberals in the 1980s and 1990s. Instead, some fine principles were pursued, and the narrative building didn’t happen.

Messing with your heads

June 15, 2008

You’d never know that there is an election imminent.

Two months ago Health Minister Cunliffe slagged off striking doctors for being “unrealistic“, backed up by CTU President Helen Kelly, of all people. Now Education Minister Chris Carter has told a group of North Shore secondary school principals protesting against inadequate funding to “stop moaning and start teaching“. Primary school principals are considering joining the protest.


Carter points out that the Government has spent $5 billion on education since 1999. This year’s amount represents 4.4% of GDP and compares with 3.5% in Australia. He’s right. But it appears that he’s the only person in the country who isn’t aware of the problems schools have experienced with their funding for maintenance, amongst other things.

One thing’s for sure, dissing the hard-working people who struggle to keep our schools and hospitals functioning is not a sure-fire fix for sagging poll ratings.

[Update: The PPTA weighs in, telling Minister Carter that the concerns of the North Shore principals are “shared right across the secondary school sector.” Will he listen now? The answer appears to be, not.]