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Country of Origin Food Labelling – A Big Green Tick!

31 October 2011 2 comments

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Full Story

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The issue of country-of-origin labelling on food is one of my pet-peeves (along with those horrid little sticky labels on apples,oranges, pears, etc – yes, we know they are apples, oranges, pears, etc!)  when I do my grocery shopping.

When I buy food, I look at several factors; fat/salt/sugar content; price-per-kilo; and country-of-origin. All three hold equally high priority for me. Though I will usually always lean toward locally-produced items. At the very least, I prefer to support local manucturers who employ local workers and I can be (reasonably) assured of good quality ingredients and high standards of production.

In short, I am a fussy b*stard when it comes to grocery shopping.

As a consumer, I demand the right to know the source of my food.

So when John Key’s spokesperson sez,

“”The primary reason for not adopting mandatory labelling is that the costs to consumers, industry and government outweigh the benefits…“” Source

… then I highly  unimpressed.

I’m sorry, Mr Key, but as an elected representative of the people of this country, it is not up to you to determine that something will be a “cost to consumers, industry and government outweigh the benefits“! You are neither my Nanny nor my Daddy to tell me that.

Your job, Dear Leader, is to ensure that the needs of the public are met on such issues – not to tell us what we do or don’t need.

Jeezus H, it’s not Labour that was a “Nanny State” – it’s this current government that keeps telling us what is/isn’t “beneficial” for us.

Thank god the election is only 25 days away.

Green Party – you get the big Green tick from this blog! It’s refreshing to see politicians looking after the needs of the folk who elected them into office!

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Addendum

Silliest country-of-origin label  seen on a food item: “Made from local and imported ingredients”. Said item was a leg of ham. *facepalm*

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Supplementary Member system – it’s a bloody rort!

30 October 2011 2 comments

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“Supplementary Member” – It’s a rort!

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Full Story

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When “Vote for Change” spokesperson, Jordan Williams makes the claim that, “there is growing consensus that Supplementary Member is a good compromise between MMP and First Past the Post” – he is, of course creating a new “reality” to suit his group’s political agenda.

For one thing, “there is growing consensus that Supplementary Member is a good compromise” – is not true. There is no such “consensus”, growing or otherwise.

In fact, a poll conducted by UMR Research Ltd in May showed only 3% of voters supported that system,

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Full Story

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Williams’ claim that “Supplementary Member is a good compromise between MMP and First Past the Post” is also nonsensical wishful thinking.

MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) is a proportional system.  The number of MPs is determined (generally) by the percentage of Party Votes that a political party wins.

For example, if the Greens get 10% of the Party Vote, they get 10% of the seats in Parliament: 12 (10% of 120 = 12)

FPP (First Past the Post) is not proportional. The results of how many seats a political  party wins is purely random. In fact, in 1978 and 1981, Labour won more seats than National – but because of the vaguaries of FPP, National was given more seats in Parliament. (FPP is quite  arbitrary in the results it throws up.)

SM (Supplementary Member) is simply another version of FPP – but with “add-ons”.  It is not proportional.

To quote the Electoral Commission’s own website,

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SM – Supplementary Member

There are 120 Members of Parliament. There are 90 electorates, including the Maori electorates. Each elects one MP, called an Electorate MP.  The other 30 seats are called supplementary seats. MPs are elected to these seats from political party lists and are likely to be called List MPs.
Each voter gets two votes.
The first vote is to choose the MP the voter wants to represent the electorate they live in. This is called the electorate vote. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. They do not have to get more than half the votes.
The second vote is for the political party the voter chooses. This is called the party vote. The share of the 30 supplementary seats each party gets reflects its share of the party vote.
For example, if a party gets 30% of the party vote, it will get about 9 List MPs in Parliament (being 30% of the 30 supplementary seats) no matter how many electorate seats it wins.
This makes SM different from MMP where a party’s share of all 120 seats mirrors its share of the party vote.
One or other of the major parties would usually have enough seats to govern alone, but coalitions or agreements between parties may sometimes be needed.

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To paint a picture of the difference between MMP and SM;

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MMP

Proportional?

- Yes

Does the percentage of voter support equate to seats in Parliament?

- Yes. With some rare exceptions,  parties gain only as much seats as the percentage of Party Votes they win.

Eg; 25% of Party votes = 25% of Parliamentary seats (30)

50% of Party votes = 50% of Parliamentary seats (60)

Etc.

Can one of the Big Two parties win more seats than their Party Vote entitles them?

- Generally, no.

Is MMP fairer to voters who vote for small parties such as the Greens, ACT, etc?

- Yes. Supporters of smaller parties stand a better chance of representation than under FPP or SM.

Do unelected Party List MPs get into Parliament under MMP?

- No. This is a myth. Party List MPs are firstly selected by their own Party members. Then, to win a seat in Parliament,  that Party must win over 5% of the Party List votes (or an electorate). So the Green’s 9 MPs were elected into Parliament by 157,613  New Zealanders voting for them. Likewise, ACT’s 4 MPs were elected by 85,496 New Zealanders voting for ACT.

How many seats will there be in a MMP Parliament?

- 120

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SM

Proportional?

- No

Does the percentage of voter support equate to seats in Parliament?

- No. A Party can win more seats than voter support. That is, because as with FPP, a candidate can win a seat with as little as 30% of the electorate vote. There is little correlation between percentages of voter support to final seat numbers.

Can one of the Big Two parties win more seats than their Party Vote entitles them?

- Yes. As with FPP, this will be quite likely.

Is SM fairer to voters who vote for small parties such as the Greens, ACT, etc?

- No. Smaller parties who can’t win electorate seats, and rely instead on the Party Vote, will win only a few seats.

Do unelected Party List MPs get into Parliament under SM?

- No. Again, Party List MPs will be voted in by ticking the appropriate Party Vote. The big difference is that there will be a under-representationfor those New Zealanders who happen to support parties other than National or Labour.

How many seats will there be in a SM Parliament?

- 120

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An example of what a SM-style election result might  look like would be  the 1984 General Election, which was held under FPP,

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Final results for NZ General Election (1984)

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Under MMP, the final shape of Parliament might have looked like this, given the same percentages translated to Party Votes,

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Final results for NZ General Election (1984) - Projected, under MMP System

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Anti-MMP proponent, Jordan Williams, claims that SM “ is a good compromise between MMP and First Past the Post“. It clearly is nothing of the sort.

MMP is already a compromise between FPP and proportional representation because  70 of the seats in Parliament are still elected under FPP. The rest, 50,  are proportionally allocated according to each party’s Party Vote.

SM is simply FPP, with add-ons. The small number of proportionally-allocated seats under SM (thirty out of 120), do not result in a proportional Parliament. It does not give fair representation for smaller Parties. And more importantly; it returns dominance to the Big Two: Labour and National.

And by sheer “coincidence”, the majority  of “Vote for Change” supporters are also National supporters. This is because under FPP or SM, National (or Labour) could govern on their own, without any real break on their executive power.

Past history has shown us – whether under Muldoon’s strictly regimented, centralised economy  – or under Labour’s Rogernomics – than both National and Labour will ram through policies without smaller parties exercising a “braking” effect on their political power. In effect, they have “unbridled power”, as Sir Geoffrey Palmer once said.

Personally, I do not trust politicians with such unbridled power (even ones I vote for). Not because politicians are inherently “evil” – they are not “evil” – but being human, are liable to make mistakes like the rest of us.

MMP at least gives us an opportunity to put the brakes on politicians.

SM is taking the brakes off – and putting your foot on the accelerator for three years.

No thanks. That is why, on 26 November, I will tick the MMP box, to Make Mine Proportional.

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“Vote for Change” and a Big Leap Backwards…

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Having looked at the “Vote for Change” website, their statements are highly subjective and some are downright misleading. For example,

MMP allows List MPs who have been voted out by their local electorates to sneak back into Parliament on party lists.”

This is only half the truth. What V.f.C has “forgotten” to tell the reader is that any candidate  who enters Parliament on the Party List is there because New Zealand voters ticked the Party List vote for that particular party.

Eg; The Attorney General, Christopher Finlayson, stood as National’s candidate in the Rongotai Electorate in the 2008 election. Finlayson failed to win in Rongotai, and was beaten by Labour’s candidate, Annette King.

However, Chris Finlayson won 10,594 Electorate Votes (as opposed to Ms King’s 19,614 electorate votes) and also won 11,950 Party List votes. In total, Finlayson won 22,544 votes.

So Chris Finlayson did not “sneak” back into Parliament: he was elected with 22,544 Electorate and Party votes.

Opponents to MMP, generally, will often skew situations to suit their own p.o.v.

There is more on V.f.C’s website that is a blatant misrepresentation of  the truth… but I’ll leave that for another day.

Instead, I can reaffirm that this blog author supports retaining MMP, and will vote accordingly on 26 November.

I encourage you to do likewise.

Thank you.

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Additional

Electoral Commission: Referendum 2011

Campaign for MMP | Facebook

Campaign for MMP

“Vote For Change”

MMP Or SM? A Big Decision Looms For New Zealand Voters

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58,000 Youth Unemployed

30 October 2011 3 comments

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= 2008 =

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In July 2008, John Key made these committments to New Zealand voters;

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National wants all young people to have the opportunity and responsibility to better themselves, no matter what their circumstances, abilities, or track record.

We expect that all those under the age of 18 should be in work, education, or training. To make this possible, National will provide a universal educational entitlement for all 16- and 17-year-olds.

We know there are plenty of 16- and 17-year-olds who have jobs and are learning from them. We also think there are some who might be more motivated and who might achieve more if they could learn in a non-school setting.

This Youth Guarantee will be different from the education entitlements of the past – because we won’t presume that in the 21st century, school will always be the best place for every young adult to be educated.

Our policy will help a large and potentially productive group of young people make a smoother transition from school into further education.

OUR PRINCIPLES

• Building opportunity for all.
• Encouraging ambition.
• Higher standards in education.

NATIONAL’S PLAN

The Youth Guarantee

National will provide a Youth Guarantee – a universal education entitlement for all 16-and 17- year-olds.

This will allow them to access, free of charge, a programme of educational study towards school-level
qualifications.

Most will continue their education at school, but others might be more motivated and might achieve more if given the opportunity to learn in a non-school setting. They might choose to continue their education at, for example, a polytechnic, a wananga, a private training establishment, or through an apprenticeship.

Courses offered under the Youth Guarantee will have to meet strict quality criteria.

This new entitlement will be on top of, not instead of, the education entitlements young people have now.

Sixteen and 17-year-olds who are not working, and who fail to take up this new entitlement, will not be eligible to receive a benefit.

National estimates these new initiatives will cost $65 million a year.

Source

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= 2011 =

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Since then, New Zealand’s youth unemployment has burgeoned from the 25,000 quoted in John Key’s speech, to over double that:  58,000 young New Zealanders.

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Full Story

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Far from “those under the age of 18 should be in work, education, or training“, National has actually scrapped or severely cut back programmes that assisted  young people  into skills training,

Govt cut $146m from skills training, Goff says

Bennett cutting a benefit that helped her – Labour

Even policies designed to specifically create jobs have been either failures, or undone by other National policies. For example, National promised the following,

” * $5.3 million to encourage developers of cycleway projects to hire 500 young people”

* $2.6 million for extra training places in the defence forces

Source

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Actual results,

Morale slumps as job cuts hit Defence Force

Cycleway jobs fall short

Army shifts $2m contract to China

Since then, National’s policies for unemployed young people consist of, tinkering with youth welfare benefits,

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Full Story

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Amongst National’s  “bold” ideas is,

Anyone aged 16 or 17 on a benefit – other than the invalid benefit – would be also paid in a different way…

… Money for basic living costs like food loaded on to a new payment card that could not be used for things like alcohol or cigarettesSource

Which is kinda bizarre, since it is already illegal for retailers to sell cigarettes and alcohol to 16 and 17 years olds.

Another of National’s  “bold” initiatives is to return to youth rates, which Labour abolished in 2008,

Nats propose starting-out youth wage

Election explainer: New Zealand’s minimum and youth wage rates, what’s happened in the past, and why they are an election issue – interest.co.nz

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To some people, introducing a youth rate to give young school leavers and unemployed a chance to get into a job sounds fair and reasonable.

Unfortunately, were it that simple.

A youth rate is counterproductive on several levels.

  1. There is often little difference in productivity between a 19 or 21 year old. So it’s an issue of fair pay for fair work.
  2. A youth rate simply shifts job opportunities from one age bracket to another. There is no net increase in employment.
  3. A youth rate is another driver toward reducing wages in the country – and we already lag far behind Australia.
  4. Employing young people on youth rates certainly won’t mean cheaper “charge out” rates for services (or products)  – employers would simply make a larger profit from lower-paid workers.

Even John Key admitted last August,

While a youth minimum was a factor, the Government didn’t want the public to believe it was the only factor. “Because I think if it’s the only factor someone’s getting employed on, we’re probably getting off on the wrong track here.” Source

It seems obvious that National has no real plan to address our growing youth unemployment. Their reliance on fiddling with youth unemployment is ad hoc tinkering; their plan for a “bene card” is laughable; and their proposed policy to re-introduce youth rates is basically an admission of surrender.

Instead of creating new jobs, National’s plan will simply shift employment from one age group to a younger, cheaper group. It pits one sector of society against another – an all to common tactic in right-wing politics, that values Individualism above Community.

National’s track record on this problem is abundantly clear,

2008: 25,000 unemployed young people

2011: 58,000 unemployed young people

Plus, on top of that, valuable policies designed to train and upskill young people into jobs have been cancelled or suffered funding cutbacks.

The answer is blindingly obvious. We need more jobs – not lower wages for some unemployed. This is not what John Key promised us  in 2008, when he said,

Why, under Labour, is the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world, getting bigger and bigger?

We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.” – John Key, “2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

By National’s own Standards, they have failed to deliver on their promises.

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Additional

Speech by John Key: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Youth rates will not solve youth unemployment

Return of youth wage unlikely – Key

Youth unemployment a growing problem

Nats propose starting-out youth wage

Making young poor won’t help jobless

Editorial: Hiring policy leaves youth vulnerable

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That was Then, this is Now #9

28 October 2011 2 comments

Evidently, we Voters are stupid – John Key

28 October 2011 3 comments

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According to John Key, we voters “don’t fully understand what we’re [National] doing“, when it comes to National’s stated intention to sell  half of certain state assets,

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Source

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They don’t fully understand what we’re doing. My experience is when I take audiences through it, like I did just before, no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question.”

Excuse me?! Am I wrong in thinking that has to be one of the most arrogant statements ever uttered by a New Zealand politician?

They don’t fully understand what we’re doing…”

Au contraire, Dear Leader.  We understand fully what your Party is attempting to con us with; to sell us state-owned assets that we, The People, already own; to sell us shares that many of us will be able to ill-afford, as we meet the daily necessities of life; and that, like Contact Energy, will mostly end up in foreign ownership.

My experience is when I take audiences through it, like I did just before, no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question.”

Again, au contraire, Mr Prime Minister, Sir.

When I attended two public meetings in the Hutt Valley (24 May at Marsden St Church, Lower Hutt, and 2 August at  “Expressions” Centre, Upper Hutt), members of the public were invited to ask questions. Several people, in both audiences, asked you critical questions regarding asset sales.

One man in particular, stood up and challenged you on your assertion that Kiwi “mums and dads” would be given preference to buy shares, and was vocal in his criticisms of your plans. He stated matter-of-factly that once sold, those shares could easily be re-sold, and there could be no control over their final ownership.

Even National Party members are uneasy about asset sales,

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State asset sales are proving to be a bone of contention even within National’s own ranks as its grassroots members question whether crucial assets will be flogged off overseas.

The government has struggled to reassure Kiwis that its plan to sell a 49 per cent stake in the remaining state owned power companies won’t see them end up in foreign ownership.

But it also appears to have done a poor selling job among its own members with Finance Minister Bill English facing questions from party members during a public session of the National Party conference in Wellington today.

Mr English said the government was working on ways to ensure Kiwi investors were at the front of the queue but acknowledged there was no way to stop them selling shares to overseas buyers.Source

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So, Mr Key, you are being disingenuous when you claim that “ no-one actually put up their hand and asked a question.” People do put their hands up, and they are generally quite annoyed.

I would also suggest, Mr Key, that it is hardly reassuring if people do not ask you questions.

It generally takes at least two terms for a Prime Minister to believe his own spin doctors and be carried away with his artificially-created “public image”.  For John Key  to make such arrogant utterances in only his first term is not a good sign. It implies that he views us Voters as children who “don’t fully understand” and must be treated with paternalistic patience.

Have a care, Mr Key. Such politicians often end up out of a job after Election Day.

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Additional reading

Deutsche Bank, Craigs win mandate for advice on $7 bln of NZ state asset sales

‘Buy state-asset shares or foreigners will’ – Bill English

National Party members question state asset sales

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Two lost votes for the Nats

- Teresa (Stokes Valley)

We have enough tagging in Stokes Valley without someone doing it to election hoardings as well. I thinks it’s obvious who vandalised these hoardings.

Frank we were going to vote National again but after what we’ve seen my mum and I will be voting for someone else. Maybe NZ First.

To whoever did that spraypainting you’ve cost your cause two votes!

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Entrance to Stokes Valley , taken this afternoon

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The MMP Party - tagged!

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Labour - Tagged!

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Another one - tagged!

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Greens Party - tagged!

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National - NOT tagged! Why is that?

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It’s a bit poor when National Party supporters treat our community with this kind of disregard. If they think this will win them votes then they are so wrong!

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Nats ‘Get Tough on Crime’ – NZ First alleges theft of favourite policy!

26 October 2011 2 comments

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“Getting tough on crime” – that has to be one of the most worn out, cliched “policy” which any Party can announce at Election time,

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Full Story

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I mean, really?

Despite Dear Leader admitting that “the Government’s proposed crackdown on bail will affect only about 50 offenders a year” and “there was already a reverse onus of proof for offenders seeking bail“?

It occurs to me that when a political party is not confident of public support, it will resort to “dog whistle politics“, or scare-mongering populism, to attract votes.

If, as John Key admits, such a policy would affect only a possible 50 offenders per year – it seems an awful lot of effort to be spending on such a small number of people. Especially, when, it is already within Police powers to oppose bail.

Why  spend so much time campaigning on issues of such little substance? If 50 offenders can attract National’s policy-wonks, then surely, 58,000 unemployed young people should be worthy of considerable more attention?

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Or, put another way that we can understand,

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What does National offer as a solution?

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Food stamps for young beneficiaries?! “Clamping down” on youth? “Money for basic living costs like food loaded on to a new payment card that could not be used for things like alcohol or cigarettes“? (When it’s already illegal for retailers to sell these items to 16 and 17 year olds.)

What about something more constructive, like skills training?

Nope. Can’t have that: National has actually cut $146 million on skills training.

It quickly becomes apparent that National has no real policies or ideas how to address a growing crisis of 58,000 unemployed young people. That seems to have been consigned to the Too Hard Basket.

Instead, National is fixated with 50 offenders. Cost: $4.5 million, to ” be funded out of existing budgets”.

(Which begs the question; how can Government use money to pay for one thing, that has already been committed to pay for something else? Anyone for a game of sleight-of-hand tricks?)

“Getting tough on crime” used to be the policy-of-choice of small parties such as the near-dead ACT, and the zombie-like, refuses-to-stay-dead, New Zealand First. It was their preferred  method of attracting votes from low-information voters, for whom “getting tough on crime” was a panacea for society’s ills.

For National to use this tactic – including on one of their billboards – suggests to me that they are worried about maintaining public support. A recent Horizon poll put National at 36.8% – hardly the 50%-plus that other pollsters give them.

My suspicion is that National’s own private polling has produced similar outcomes. National is more vulnerable than we, the public, realise.

Why else engage in populist issues that are suggestive of vulnerable, small-party,  desperation?

Why indeed.

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