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Posts Tagged ‘2011 general election’

Polls, propaganda, and Tracy Watkins

12 September 2014 2 comments

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Fairfax media - if you think, the bolsheviks win

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1. A bit of personal history…

Since I became more and more politically active, part of the growth of my political consciousness was an awareness that the media – whether print or electronic – was not always a clear reflection of what really was happening.

The first time I became starkly aware of the disconnect between a media story and reality was in 1989, when an associate and I made a submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee on the Classifications Bill. The Bill was aimed at replacing the old, antiquated Censorship Act.

There were some aspects of the Bill which we took exception to (from a liberal viewpoint) and we put together a submission, and requested an opportunity for a supporting oral submission.

We were due to ‘appear’ near the end of the day, and thus had an interesting opportunity to listen to all the submissions made by various groups, organisations, and individuals. Submitters ranged from the Nurses Organisation; Film Directors Association,  NZ Law Society, etc.

I took note of the tenor of each submitter, and it was roughly 50/50 toward strengthening the proposed Classifications Act or liberalising it.

The following morning, the Dominion featured two stories on two submitters – both from the “pro-censorship” camp.

A critical submission from the NZ Law Society, regarding an aspect of the Bill which they deemed to be fatally flawed, was not reported. Neither did the Dominion report an astounding comment by then-MP, Trevor Rogers, who threatened to “change officials of the Courts” who could not, would not, implement the new law, whether flawed or not.

Had I not attended the Select Committee hearing personally, I would have assumed that all submissions were of a similar nature; would not have been aware of opposing views; would have been unaware of the Law Society’s views; and been oblivious to a Member of Parliament threatening to interfere with the judicial system of this country.

After 25 years, the incident remains vividly clear in my memory.

That was my very first lesson – not just in Select Committees – but media (mis-)reporting.

Since I began this blogging lark in July 2011,  I have found no reason to lessen my wariness of  media reporting, accuracy, and fairness. In fact, sadly, quite the opposite.

2. Once upon a time, in a fairy-tale land called Fairfax Media…

So begins this analysis of a recent Fairfax-Ipsos Poll which, upon closer scrutiny, is a fantasy lifted straight from the pages of Brothers Grimm.

A very recent  Ipsos poll was taken over a five day period, starting from Saturday, 30 August – the day of Judith Collins’ resignation from her ministerial portfolios (though not from Parliament itself).

The results, as a graphic;

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Fairfax poll - november 2011

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The infographic shows National at 54% and the Labour-Green bloc at 38%.

Right?

Wrong.

The above poll infographic was taken from a Research International poll, commissioned also by Fairfax Media – and released on 23 November, 2011three days before the General Election, three years ago.

The actual current, September 2014  poll results from Fairfax and it’s “newly” commissioned polling agent, Ipsos;

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Fairfax poll - september 2014

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Compare the two polls above.

Two “different” polls. Two different polling companies. Three years apart. Almost exactly same figures.

Now let’s chuck in the actual election results for the 2011 Election;

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2011 poll - 2014 poll- fairfax - 2011 general election

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In the 2011 poll,  Fairfax’s polling agent over-estimated National’s support by a staggering 6.69 percentage points – well outside the stated margin of error  by Research International (3.1%).

Considering that other mainstream polling companies have National ranging from 45% (Roy Morgan) to 46.4% (NZ Herald-Digipoll and TV3 News) to 50% (TVNZ News), it could be safely argued that the Fairfax-Ipsos results are in Wacky-Doodle Land.

The figures are not only dubious – but Fairfax buries an important fact;

The undecided vote remained steady at 13 per cent, which is higher than in some other polls. [my emphasis]

That statement is buried near the bottom of Vernon Small’s article, “National soars without Collins – poll“.

Incredibly, Small then adds – almost seemingly as an after-thought;

Benson said if Ipsos included those who said they were undecided, but when pressed were leaning towards a particular party, that number dropped to about 7 per cent and saw National’s vote come in about 2 percentage points lower.

Anything else we need to know, Vernon?!

The problem here is not just Fairfax presenting dodgy polling figures over two consecutive election periods – but the fact that Vernon Small, who wrote a story covering the poll,  was thoroughly accepting of the results – and made no effort to question the veracity of the figures. Some  comments from Small;

Two weeks out from the election National’s popularity has soared after the dumping of justice minister Judith Collins, putting John Key on course for a thumping victory on the evidence of a new Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll.

[…]

Assuming all the small parties hold their current seats, but independent Brendan Horan is not returned, National would have a dominant 70 seat bloc in a 125 seat Parliament.

Small also quoted Ipsos pollster Matt Benson without any real critical analysis;

Ipsos pollster Matt Benson said the poll followed the first televised leaders’ debate and straddled the resignation of Collins.  ‘‘Despite a difficult week for National the poll shows support rise for the National Party, and John Key as preferred PM has also increased to 51.7 percent.’’ 

He said the rise may have been caused by wavering voters, uncomfortable with Collins, swinging in behind Key for finally taking action against her.

In no way could this poll and associated story be considered critical political analysis or news in the traditional sense.

Little wonder that, after only ten comments, Fairfax closed down posting on it’s comments section, at the end of Small’s article;

* Comments are now closed on this story.

– Stuff

The criticism of Fairfax must have been excoriating!

The problem here, as I see it;

Firstly, Ipsos is paid by Fairfax to conduct it’s polling.

Therefore, Fairfax has an inherent, undeclared financial interest in the source of  “story”. Fairfax is not reporting on a story from the point of view of an impartial, disinterested party. They have a vested, commercial stake in promoting Ipsos’ findings.

As such Fairfax would be as critical of Ipsos as the Editor of the Dominion Post would commission an investigative piece on sub-editors being made redundant from his own newspaper (the redundancies happened – the story reporting  the event never materialised).

In fairness, it should be pointed out that Fairfax is by no means unique in this obvious conflict of interest. The NZ Herald, TVNZ, and TV3 all have their own contracted pollsters. None of them will question the accuracy of their respective polling agents.

Secondly, because Fairfax (and other media) have a vested interest with their respective pollsters, they are locked in to using that sole company as a source for polling “news”. Hence,  each media outlet’s authoritative reputation rests on pushing up the credibility of their respective polls. They must not question their own polling for fear of damaging their reputation for “authoritative political analysis”.

Regardless if their own polling is hopelessly implausible, it must be presented as factual and inarguably credible.

Even if it is clearly not.

3. Radio NZ – an oasis of information in a desert of pseudo “news”

The non-commercial Radio New Zealand not only reports polling results from various pollsters, but is currently running a Poll of Polls;

The POLL of POLLS is an arithmetical average of the four most recent major polls since mid-June from among: TV1 Colmar Brunton, TV3 Reid Research, Fairfax Media-Ipsos, NZ Herald DigiPoll, Roy Morgan New Zealand and UMR Research, which is not published.”

– and is well worth keeping an eye on.

Off the main pollsters, the most accurate one to keep an eye on is Roy Morgan, as it alone calls respondents on cellphones. All others rely solely on landlines to contact respondents.

4. Tracy Watkins

Associated with Vernon Small’s front page article on the Dominion Post on 5 September, was a side-bar “opinion piece” by the paper’s political editor, Tracy Watkins. This is the on-line version;

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tracy watkins - dominion post - fairfax news - all over bar the shouting

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“Two weeks down, two weeks to go and on today’s stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll it’s all over bar the shouting.”

I was stunned when I read that comment. In effect, Watkins has elevated Fairfax’s 3 September  public opinion poll to supplant the up-coming general election and accept a National Party victory based on Ipsos’ findings.

I put this issue to Neil Watts, blogger (Fearfactsexposed) and long-time commentator/critic of Fairfax Media and it’s policies. I asked him about the credibility of Fairfax’s polling and he replied,

“Having watched Fairfax Media make an art form of National Party propaganda for many years now, nothing they publish surprises me anymore. Their polls are notoriously, willfully unreliable, and they blatantly use them to manipulate  rather than inform  the electorate.”

This would certainly seem to be the case, as it should be noted that two different polling companies contracted by Fairfax consistantly over-rated National in their results. Neil had definite thoughts on why that might be. He said;

“Their political coverage is partisan, anti-opposition, anti-democratic, and their spin consistently comes from the exact same angle that the National Party are taking via Crosby Textor.

In fact, this is so reliable, that I only bother to read stuff.co.nz these days to find out what the Government’s spin will be on any given issue.”

When I pointed out Watkins’ piece, “All over bar the shouting”, Neil was scathing about her lack of impartiality;

“Political editor Tracy Watkins is clearly enamored with the Prime Minister and unprofessionally close to him. After several international trips with John Key and a substantial back catalogue of journalese ‘love letters’ to him, she really has zero credibility as an objective reporter.

To the informed reader, her copy is generally one-eyed, propagandist tripe. The weight of evidence is in their reporting, but I have heard from sources within Fairfax Media that their blatant goal is to get Key’s Government re-elected.”

If true, and the Fourth Estate has become a mouth-piece for The Political Establishment, it may explain why people are turning away from the mainstream media as well as politics. The previous general election had the lowest voter turn-out since 1887 – no feat to be proud of, and seemingly  indicative of a growing malaise of alienation, apathy, and disconnection from our heretofore strong civic pride.

It simply beggars belief that a journalist such as Ms Watkins with many years experience could publish such an off-hand comment that effectively undermines current efforts by the Electoral Commission, trade unions, political parties, et al, to encourage people to enroll and to vote.

The Commission is spending tax payers’ money to encourage voter turn-out – and Watkins’ casual, flippant, remark that “it’s all over bar the shouting” undermined that campaign with half a dozen words. The fact that the Dominion Post reinforced that off-the-cuff remark by placing the Fairfax-Ipsos poll-story on the front page of the edition reinforced her comment with a subtle message; “don’t bother voting – National has won – it’s all over bar the shouting”;

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dominion-post-5-september-2014-fairfax-ipsos-poll-2014-election-tracey-watkins

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Note the heading in big, black, bold lettering,

Poll sees Nats in command

In command“? Was the election held on 5 September?! Did I miss it?

Note also the hidden subtext of an image of the PM, John Key, twice the size of his opponant, David Cunliffe. Note the victorious look on Key’s face – and the open-mouth “petulance” of ‘disappointment’ on Cunliffe’s.

The impression is clear; Key has “won” the election.

Cunliffe’s annoyance validates Key’s trimphant expression.

This is not reporting the news – it is manufacturing it.

Meanwhile, with more than a hint of irony, the real news of election-related events are buried within the newspaper;

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dominion-post-5-september-2014-fairfax-ipsos-poll-2014-election-tracey-watkins

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Little wonder that Neil Watts summed up Fairfax’s agenda thusly,

 “For a media corporation to be effectively aiming for oligarchical rule in New Zealand is a gross abuse of power and position. At the very least, they should be honest and open about their political loyalties, so that ordinary Kiwi voters can make an informed choice about where they source their news.”

I see nothing to disabuse me of the notion I began to develop in  1989, that a healthy dose of skepticism is required when presented with information from a media source.

Their agenda is no longer to present news.

Their agenda is to manufacture it; embellish it; use it to sell advertising; and to further political goals.

How else does one explain naked propaganda-masquerading-as-“news”?

Because looking at the full-blown story on the front page, I can see no other interpretation than the conclusion I have arrived at.

According to the Dominion Post, the election is done and dusted and the Nats are “in command”. So don’t bother voting. It’s all over.

Bar the shouting.

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References

Fairfax media: National still cosy in polls after tea break (2011)

Fairfax media: National soars without Collins – poll (2014)

Wikipedia: New Zealand 2011 General Election

Roy Morgan: ‘Dirty Politics’ muddies the water for major parties in New Zealand

NZ Herald: National or Labour could form a Government – poll

TV3 News: Key could need Maori Party post-election

TVNZ News: National unscathed by Dirty Politics – poll

Radio NZ: Election 2014 – Poll of Polls

Dominion Post: All over bar the shouting

Massey University: Massey commentators preview key election issues

Dominion Post: Tracy Watkins on politics

Additional

Fairfax media: Ipsos Polling Station

Previous related blogposts

Mr Morgan phoned

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (part tahi)

Census, Surveys, and Cellphones (Part rua)

 


 

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20 september 2014 VOTE

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen/Lurch Left Memes

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 September 2014

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Labour, Greens, NZ First, & Mana – A Bright Idea with electricity!

10 March 2013 15 comments

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What?

A part of me is mightily pissed off at Labour.

Like, really ticked off.

From 2000 to 2008, they had ample opportunity to safeguard state assets and remove them from any prospect of privatisation by ideologically-driven,  rightwing elements in our political system.

But perhaps, I suspect that most folk – including the Left –  had believed that privatisation had been abandoned by National as an  ideological dead-end experiment, leading nowhere except eventual foreign ownership and profits remitted to offshore investors. Which, as a consequence, worsened our already shabby Balance of Payments deficit.

More importantly, we had every right to expect that National believed that asset sales would be a sure-fire way of losing an election.

However, someone – some bright, zealous, political strategist working in some back-room somewhere – must’ve come across a “cunning plan” to make asset sales palatable to at least half the voters.

That’s all the Nats needed; 50% of voters.

Why?

To pay for tax cuts in 2009 and 2010. Those tax cuts dug a $2 billion-plus hole in government revenue (see:  Govt’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting, see: Outlook slashes tax-take by $8b). The shortfall could only be made up by borrowing more – or selling something. National opted for the latter.

How?

Post 2011 Election,  has demonstrated that National has not changed it’s free-market stripes. Given an opportunity, they would hock off as much of the country as possible. For “the good of the nation”, you understand.

At the 2011 election, National were handed that opportunity, on a gold plate*,  by a voting public who seemed to be distracted by smoking magic mushrooms. Whilst voters expressed disdain at National’s privatisation – they voted National regardless.

(Call me old fashioned, but I tend not to vote for things I disagree with.)

Go figure.

Note that I said “they voted National” – they didn’t vote for National. It may seem as if I’m splitting hairs on a molecular level – but bear with me.

Consider the facts;

  • 1. In 2011, National won 1,058,638 votes – or 47.31% of votes cast. That gave them 59 seats.
  • 2. The 2011 election was the lowest voter turn-out (74.21%) since 1887.
  • 3. Whilst Labour’s vote dropped from 2008 to 2011, overall the anti-asset sale bloc gained more popular votes in 2011 than the pro-sale bloc,
National , ACT, United Future Party Votes Labour, Greens, NZ First, Maori Party, Mana, and Conservative Party votes

National – 1,058,636

Labour – 614,937

ACT – 23,889

Greens – 247,372

United Future – 13,443

NZ First – 147,544

Maori Party – 31,982

Mana – 24,168

Conservative Party* – 59,237

TOTAL – 1,095,968

Total – 1,125,240

* Whilst the Conservative gained no seats in Parliament (because of the 5% threshold), their numbers are included because they gained over double the electoral-support for ACT.

In effect, Key could claim an mythical “mandate” simply because the MMP rules in 2011 gave ACT a seat, but no representation for the Conservatives – even though support for the latter was double that of ACT.

  • 4. Voting patterns are reflected in polls which consistantly show public opinion opposed to asset sales. Generally, the figure is around two thirds opposed and less than a third supporting. (see: Most of us oppose selling NZ)

In fact, this blogger cannot find any reputable poll favouring National’s privatisation programme.

However, the harsh reality is that, for politicians, unless faced by a populist revolt and tens of thousands taking to the streets (see: Huge protest says no to mining on conservation land) , the only numbers that really count are bums-on-seats. Parliamentary seats.

Political machinations in Epsom and Ohariu gave Key the two seat Parliamentary majority he needed, and that’s what counts as a “mandate”. For the Nats, that’s the end-of-story.

Who?

As Dear Leader has oft been quoted,

 “On the mixed-ownership model debate, the Government has been very clear about its intentions since well before the 2011 election.” – John Key, 24 June 2012 (see: Most of us oppose selling NZ)

Thus far, 200,000 have pre-registered (see: Mighty River pre-registrations top 200,000) – which, whilst a sizeable number, is still only around five percent of those who voted for National in 2011. And I suspect many are pre-registering for a variety of reasons,

  • self interested naked greed
  • a desire to keep shares in local hands
  • and a few bogus pre-registrations to subvert the process (a surreptitiously organised covert resistance? You might say that, but  I couldn’t possibly comment)

The 200,000 pre-reguistrations is still dwarfed by signaturies to the petition, which is fast approaching 400,000 (see: Asset sales referendum likely)

So, did all 1,058,638 voters  who voted National in 2011 also endorse asset sales, either in whole or partial?

The answer is a clear no.  In a poll just over a year ago (see:  Poll shows asset sales unpopular), around 32% – about one third – of National supporters disapproved of asset sales.

That’s 338,764 voters who opposed asset sales who ticked the box for National in 2011, despite knowing full well that Key was promising partial floats on Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy (now in doubt), and a further sell-down of Air New Zealand.

338,764 people who voted for something they didn’t want.

As Marcus Lush said on Radiolive on 28 February this year (2013),

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Why would anyone vote National and be opposed to asset sales -  28 February 2013 -  Radiolive - Marcus Lush

[click on image to access Radiolive link]

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Good question.

The answer, I think, can be distilled  down into two categories of voters.

  1. The first group simply either didn’t taken notice of  the asset sales campaign, or, more likely did not believe that Key would go ahead with the policy. They may even have thought that Key’s coalition ally(ies), United Future and/or the Maori Party, would stop the sales from proceeding. There was a kind of  “in denial” mentality going on here.
  2. The second group is perhaps more complex. Whilst they don’t support asset sales per se, they perhaps believed National Party rhetoric that shares would remain in New Zealand hands. Considering the consequences of Contact Energy’s privatisation – where the majority of shares are now in Australian hands – this would seem to be a forlorn hope.

Having spoken with National Party voters belonging to Group 1, I believe that asset sales will impact to varying degrees on National’s support at the next election. Having woken up to the fact that Key has no intention of backing away from  sales,  there are 300,000 National voters who may think twice before voting National again.

Expect National to drop in the next few polls following the sale of Mighty River Power.

However, unless something totally unanticipated happens between now and May, the partial sale of Mighty River Power will probably proceed. Followed by Genesis and Meridian. Followed by hefty power price increases if past history is anything to go by.

Where (to from here?)

NZ First’s Winston Peters has promised that any government he is part of will buy back state assets. (Which, by the way, if he’s not telling lies, means that any coalition deal with the Nats is off the table. I’m not holding my breath on this. The 1996 election is still fresh in my mind.)

On 4 March this year (2013), Peters announced,

“New Zealand First will use its influence on the next coalition Government to buy back our state-owned power companies which are being flogged off by National and we are committed to buying back the shares at no greater price than paid by the first purchaser.”

Source: One More Quisling Moment from Key

This is do-able. Especially if NZ Superannuation funds are used, which would not impact or have any bearing on a new Government’s books.

By announcing that the shares would be re-purchased  “at no greater price than paid by the first purchaser” – Peters is effectively putting all purchasers on notice: expect to incur a loss if you buy into National’s thieving (and let’s be clear – selling goods that don’t belong to you is theft) programme.

And a year earlier, in March 2012, Hone Harawira had promised the same in an open letter to investors,

“So today I think it only proper to send a warning to overseas investors – steer clear of any share offer in the above SOE’s. The purchase of these shares is likely to see you caught up in legal battles and direct action from citizens determined to protect their own interests, both of which will be lengthy and costly and have an adverse impact on the value of your investment.

As the leader of the MANA Movement and Member of the New Zealand House of Representatives, I wish to advise that MANA is opposed to the privatisation of state assets and will strongly argue for any shares sold to overseas investors to be returned to New Zealand hands.”

Source: Hone Harawira: Open letter to overseas investors

By contrast, in an attempt to appear “fiscally responsible” to Middle Class voters, Labour and the Greens were luke-warm, at best.

Green co-leader, Russel Norman said,

“We just can’t make the promise that Winston is making. We will do whatever we can, but it is two years away, the books are getting into a terrible mess because of National, and closer to the time we will make an announcement but at the moment we can’t.”

Source: Peters: Use super funds to buy back state assets

And Labour’s Clayton Cosgrove effectively went, ‘ditto’,

“… I can’t commit to an open-ended fiscal envelope. That would be fiscally irresponsible in my view.”

Source: IBID

Which is all pretty timid stuff.

This, my fellow New Zealanders, is why the Centre-Left lost the 2011 Election: no boldness in vision; no measurable difference to the Nats; and no unshakeable courage of  their/our convictions.

All that Labour and the Greens  said was “no” to asset sales.

And when Cunliffe suggested that a future Labour-led government would re-nationalise these SOEs – he was firmly slapped down by his Party.

On 4 December 2011,

I don’t stand for a paler shade of blue, and I want to look down the barrel and say this: if the Government is going to sell off precious state assets then we would not rule out re-nationalising some of them. And people need to be aware of that regulatory risk.”

When asked by host Guyon Espiner whether he would buy them back, Mr Cunliffe replied “we would look very hard [at buying them back].” Source

On 5 December 2011,

Labour leadership aspirant David Cunliffe has moved to clarify his position on the buyback of state assets.

He believed comments he made in a weekend interview, where he didn’t rule out buying back partially privatised SOE’s, had been misinterpreted.

Mr Cunliffe said it was not an explicit promise to buy back all shareholdings National may sell. Source

That’s not “manning the barricades” stuff – that’s an open retreat in the face of a remorseless enemy.

Which, in turn, emboldened National to openly mock and taunt the Labour Opposition, seven months later,

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) : I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. We are still waiting, this week, for the Labour Party to commit to buying back the shares of the 49 percent of the energy companies that the Government is planning to sell, mainly to New Zealanders. New Zealand First has made that undertaking. New Zealand First has shown that the Labour Party has persuaded New Zealand First that its arguments are so strong, New Zealand First should go and buy them back if it has a role in a future Government. But the Labour Party has not been able to persuade itself. Labour members have been in the Chamber arguing, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, that these proposed share offers are fiscally irresponsible, economic nonsense, and a sell-out to foreigners, but they are not so fiscally irresponsible that they are going to buy them back. They are not such a sell-out to foreigners that they are going to buy them back. They are not such an economic nonsense that they are going to buy them back.” – Source

At a time when Labour should be tearing strips of National and setting their own counter-agenda – we’re getting precious little of that. Instead, the agenda is being set by Key and his cronies with bugger-all opposition. The Greens and NZ First have scored more ‘hits’ against the Nats than Labour.

On top of that, the Greens have become the “go to” opposition Party, for criticism of National policies. If you doubt me, check out the next 6pm TV news bulletin. Which opposition party spokesperson is interviewed? Keep tabs over a few night. You’ll quickly see what I mean.

So, what options does Labour have?

It has two options;

  1. Carry on with a conservative course. There is a 50/50 chance it will lead the next government, with perhaps a one or two seat majority, consisting of Labour/Greens/Mana/NZ first.
  2. Strike out with a strategy of  aggressive and bold announcements of initiatives. Announce;
  • radical policies that are a departure from neo-liberalism and declare that the Great Neo-liberal Experiment is dead; “we come to bury the bastard, not praise him”.
  • focus on the message that the 30 year experiment in neo-liberalism has failed utterly, and is one reason we’re driving our young people to Australia
  • a policy that all state assets will be re-purchased at cost-price (as a coalition deal with NZ First)
  • a list of National policies that will be ruthlessly  reviewed and dumped (eg, the Hobbit Law)
  • a focus on job creation; attacking the root causes of child poverty; and a committment for decent housing for all New Zealanders
  • a full review of the tax system, with a plan to reduce (or eliminate gst) and replaced with a comprehensive Capital Gains Tax; Financial Transactions Tax; and other non-income related taxes
  • Comprehensive food-in-schools programmes
  • looking at how our Scandinavian and Nordic cuzzies are running their economies/societies
  • cheaper education for our kids
  • a conversation with New Zealanders as to what kind of society we want to live in – and are we willing to pay for it and set goals to achieve it?
  • etc, etc.

As part of Option 2, I have one further Bright Idea…

A Libertarian acquaintaince and I were chatting one evening at  ‘Backbenches’ (prior to it catching fire – and no, our conversation wasn’t that heated) . We were talking about the three state owned power companies.

He asked me; why should there be  three state owned companies; all producing the same service; at roughly the same costs and prices – have three sets of management; CEOs; offices; accounting systems; staff; etc? Wouldn’t  it make more sense to combine the three and pass the savings onto consumers?

Damn it, he was right. What is the point of having three state owned electricity companies?

One could do the same job – and cheaper.

Just as we had the old ECNZ, prior to Max Bradford’s so-called “reforms” in the late 1990s. At the time, Mr Bradford promised cheaper electricity through competition. Instead, power prices have doubled sinced the start of the century. (see: The 30-year power price hike , see: Power prices over decade)

“Ministry of Economic Development (MED) statistics show average power prices rose from 13.9 cents per kilowatt-hour on average in May 2001 to 26 cents in May 2011.” Source

The problem is not just to re-nationalise our electricity companies.

The next problem is what do we do with them?

How do we make them socially responsive to domestic consumers as well as  efficient?

Do we re-combine Mighty River Power, Genesis, and Meridian back into one single unit, a new ECNZ?

Do we ensure that there are Board members elected to a new ECNZ whose constituents are domestic users? Perhaps any such Board should have directly-elected  representation?

Do we entrench a new, state owned ECNZ in legislation so it’s future is protected from predatory governments seeking either maximum returns (ie, price gouging) or to privatise it?

Could a new ECNZ afford to offer each domestic household their first 300kwh per month, free,  as has been suggested by Victoria University researcher, Geoff Bertram? (see: Call for free power )

These are the issues which the Opposition should be focused on.

And thus far, we’ve not heard much from them.

If  Labour-Greens-NZ First are serious about being an alternative government, then by the gods, they should be serious about giving us that alternative.

Conclusion

When National started campaigning in the 2008 election, it began two years in advance with a series of  aggressive policies. It was acting like a Government-in-Waiting.

By contrast, Labour and the other parties are an Opposition-in-Waiting.   They are timidly watching and waiting for the public love affair with Key to wear off, and for National to f**k up.

Well, news flash guys.  That doesn’t seem to be working too well. The Nats have been excoriated with scandal after scandal last year and this year; unemployment rising; Mainzeal and Solid Energy collapsing – and the Nats are still high in the polls?!

My message to Labour, Greens, NZ first, and Mana;

If you want the voting public to take notice of you, you have to give them something that’ll make them notice you.

Be bold.

Be aggressive.

Offer alternatives.

Offer practical solutions.

Give the public a vision.

And at all times, work together.

If you don’t give the public an alternative, why should they look away from National?

Give the people of New Zealand an alternative, better way of living – and they will look at you.

But not until then.

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(* Plate will soon be auctioned on Trademe.)

Previous Blogposts

Politics through a crystal ball, palmistry, or chicken entrails?

History Lesson – Tahi – Electricity Sector “reforms”

Additional

Power prices over decade

The 30-year power price hike

Call for free power

Cunliffe: buy back any sold assets

Cunliffe not promising to buy back assets

Parliament: Hansards – Wednesday, 20 June 2012, Bill English on Asset Sales

More heat in power struggle as prices go up

Government in $112b barney over accounting

Electricity prices tipped to rise steeply

Heavy traffic hits Mighty River Power share site

One More Quisling Moment from Key

Other blogs

MANA threaten overseas investors not to buy assets – Bloomberg pick up on the story

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Headlines that come back to haunt us…

12 June 2012 4 comments

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Every so often, headlines from the past come back to haunt us because of some striking element of relevance. This  story from the Dominion Post last year, is perhaps exceptionally pertinent, as John Key’s popularity is now in free-fall. It appears that those who dis-trusted the ‘Teflon Don‘ had good reason to be suspicious,

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Full Story

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An associated poll – whilst not scientifically reliable – supported the claims made by Danya Levy and Paloma Migone that more people trusted Phil Goff to be truthful than John Key,

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As National continues to spring surprises on the electorate; as John Key continues to have to defend unpopular policies; and as the economy fails to improve – his teflon coating has peeled away and he is under  greater critical scrutiny than ever.

The “smile & wave” approach doesn’t work anymore.

National has had three and a half years in office and almost every social and economic indicator is worse than it was in 2008.

People are holding National to account.  And according to polls, they are not liking what they are seeing,

Prime Minister John Key who has been overseas for a fortnight, has dropped in the preferred Prime Minister stakes by 3.7 to 40.5%. Labour leader David Shearer is up by 1.9 to 12.3%…”

With Key’s evasiveness when it comes to fronting up to the public, people’s distrust in him is growing.

Ironically, Key’s  high rating for “best grasp on economic issues” may be his un-doing. Part of his electability was his knowledge (so- called)  of international finance and other economic-related matters. But even with his high rating against Goff (62% vs 16%) he has been spectacularly unsuccessful in meaningful achievement, including,

  • Job creation to cut unemployment
  • Skills training programmes
  • Motivating young New Zealanders to stay in the country instead of jumping the ditch
  • Growing the economy in any meaningful way

Instead, the public have seen only a pathetic  attempt to grow the economy, lacking any real imagination or boldness,

  1. Partial asset sales
  2. Beneficiary bashing
  3. Ongoing cuts to the state sector

… and that’s it.

No wonder that the business sector, last year, voiced their frustrations at any apparent lack of planning by National,

”  Businesses have echoed Labour’s criticism that the Government lacks a blueprint to develop the economy.

Party leaders and their finance spokesmen yesterday fronted up to lobby group Business NZ’s election conference to outline their economic vision.

Business NZ also released the results of its election survey of more than 1300 small to large businesses. While almost all believed it was important for the government to have a co-ordinated plan of action that raised economic performance, little more than a third thought John Key’s Government had one.

Deloitte chief executive Murray Jack said the finding was “disturbing” and the plan Mr Key had earlier in the day confidently spoken to the conference about “was obviously news to most people in this room”.  “

See:  Business NZ sees no economic plan

New Zealanders had high expectations from a John Key-led government. In large part, those expectations were raised unfeasibly high by Key himself. Whether it was promises to raise wages to parity with Australia or grow the economy – Key raised expectations to the heights of Mt Everest,

”  When Sir Ed climbed Mt Everest back in 1953, he wasn’t the only New Zealander on top of the world. We all were.  We were among the five wealthiest countries on earth. Not any more.

Fifty-five years on, we are no longer an Everest nation.  We are among the foothill nations at the base of the OECD wealth mountain. Number 22 for income per person, and falling.

But what does a wealth ranking matter, you might ask?  Why does it matter if we’re number 22 or number four? 

It matters because at number 22 your income is lower, you have to work harder, and you can save less.  You face more uncertainty when things go wrong, when you or your family get sick or lose a job.  No New Zealand sports team would be happy to be number 22.  Why is the Government?

This is a great country.  But it could be so much greater.  It has been so much greater. 

So the question I’m asking Kiwi voters is this:  Do you really believe this is as good as it gets for New Zealand?  Or are you prepared to back yourselves and this country to be greater still? National certainly is. 

Under Helen Clark and Labour, our country has become a story of lost opportunities. 

Despite inheriting the tail wind of a strong global economy, Helen Clark has failed to use that momentum to make significant improvement in areas of real importance to New Zealanders.  She has squandered your economic inheritance by failing to build stronger foundations for the future. 

Tomorrow, Helen Clark will tell us what she thinks about the state of our nation.  In all likelihood, she’ll remind us how good she thinks we’ve got it, how grateful she thinks we should be to Labour, and why we need her for another three years. 

Well, I’ve got a challenge for the Prime Minister.  Before she asks for another three years, why doesn’t she answer the questions Kiwis are really asking, like:

  • Why, after eight years of Labour, are we paying the second-highest interest rates in the developed world?
  • Why, under Labour, is the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world, getting bigger and bigger?
  • Why, under Labour, do we only get a tax cut in election year, when we really needed it years ago?
  • Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof?
  • Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?
  • Why is one in five Kiwi kids leaving school with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills?
  • Why, when Labour claim they aspire to be carbon-neutral, do our greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate?
  • Why hasn’t the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?
  • Why is violent crime against innocent New Zealanders continuing to soar and why is Labour unable to do anything about it?

Those are the questions on which this election will be fought…

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The National Party has an economic plan that will build the foundations for a better future.

  • We will focus on lifting medium-term economic performance and managing taxpayers’ money effectively.
  • We will be unrelenting in our quest to lift our economic growth rate and raise wage rates.
  • We will cut taxes, not just in election year, but in a regular programme of ongoing tax cuts.
  • We will invest in the infrastructure this country needs for productivity growth.
  • We will be more careful with how we spend the cash in the public purse, monitoring not just the quantity but also the quality of government spending.
  • We will concentrate on equipping young New Zealanders with the education they need for a 21st century global economy.
  • We will reduce the burden of compliance and bureaucracy, and we will say goodbye to the blind ideology that locks the private sector out of too many parts of our economy.
  • And we will do all of this while improving the public services that Kiwis have a right to expect.  “

See:  2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand – John Key

Very few of those expectations have been met.

In fact, the only ones who appear to have benefitted the most are… the 1%.

See:  Rich list shows rich getting richer

Perhaps, at this point, someone close to John Key should remind him of this old maxim, by a great man,

You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time. ” – Abraham Lincoln

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National – The End is Nigh (Part #Rua)

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Frank Macskasy Blog Frankly Speaking

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As this blogger has been predicting over the last few months, National is continuing to slide in the polls, and will most likely face electoral defeat at the next elections.

National’s drop in popularity can be attributed to several, distinct factors,

  1. Economic factors continuing to worsen; rising unemployment; stagnant economy; ballooning government debt
  2. No obvious plan from National to create jobs and get the economy moving again
  3. Constant cuts which seem to achieve nothing, and which are beginning to impact of social services
  4. Unpopular policies such as asset sales
  5. A growing perception that National is demonising unemployed workers and solo-mothers, and treating them as scapegoats for government-failures
  6. Scandal after scandal after scandal – with the John Banks-Dotcom affair being the worst example of political pragmatism trumping ethical decision-making by Key

All of which happened in the late 1990s, with the previous Bolger/Shipley-led National governments,

See previous blogpost:  Learning from history?

See previous blogpost:  Learning from history?

See previous blogpost:  History Lesson – Toru – Jobs

See previous blogpost:  History Lesson – Rua – Police

A Roy Morgan poll released today (Friday 18 May)  shows a distinct drop for National and rise for Labour.

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2011 Election Results

National: 47.31%

Labour: 27.48%

Greens: 11.06%

Mana: 1.08%

Maori Party: 1.43%

United Future: 0.60%

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Roy Morgan Poll for 2 April 2012 – 15 April 2012

National: 49.5%

Labour:  26.5%

Greens: 12.5%

NZ First: 6.5%

United Future: 1%

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Current: Roy Morgan Poll for 30 April  – 13 May 2012

National: 44.5%

Labour:  30%

Greens: 15%

NZ First: 5.5%

Maori Party: 1%

Mana Party: 0.5%

ACT: 0%

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A Labour-Green-NZ First Coalition would equal 50.5%, giving 61 seats in a 120 seat Parliament (no allowance made for potential overhangs). With Hone Harawira winning Te Tai Tokerau, and giving his vote for Supply & Confidence to a Labour-led, government, a possible coalition would have a two seat majority.

This blogger believes that National will continue to trend down in further polling, and a Labour-led coalition will increase it’s majority.

Furthermore, this blogger predicts,

  • ACT will not return in the next election
  • Colin Craig’s Conservative Party will not break the 5% threshold
  • Peter Dunne has a less than 50/50 chance of  holding his Ohariu electorate if he votes with National to privatise state owned corporations

We are seeing the decline of National, and the last term of John Key as Prime Minister.

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References

NZ Herald: Key says he’ll quit politics if National loses election

NZ Herald: National support slips further – poll

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Bugger the polls? (Part #Rua)

6 April 2012 6 comments

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Latest Roy Morgan Poll

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At the beginning of April , this blog analysed a TVNZ/Colmar Brunton poll.

See: Bugger the polls?

The media reported the CB Poll as positive for National. This blog analysed the figures and arrived at a polar-opposite conclusiont: National was dropping in public opinion.

We apply the same analysis for this recent Roy Morgan Poll…

On 7-18 November 2011, a pre-election Roy Morgan poll gave us these  following results,

National: 53%

Labour: 24.5%

Greens: 13%

NZ First: 3%

About a week later, polling in the 22-24 November 2011 period yielded these results,

National: 49.5%

Labour:  23.5%

Greens: 14.5%

NZ First: 6.5%

The Election Results,  on 26 November2011,

National: 47.31%

Labour:  27.48%

Greens: 11.6%

NZ First: 6.59%

Recent Roy Morgan Poll for 12 March-1 April 2012  results,

National: 44%

Labour:  30.5%

Greens: 17%

NZ First: 5%

Colmar Bruntons polling,  on 10 November, 18 November, and 1 April showed the folllowing trends;

National: 54%, 53%, and 51%

Labour: 28%, 26%, and 29%

Roy Morgan’s polling on 7-18 November, 22-24 November, and 12 Mar-1 Apr showed the following trends;

National: 53%, 49.5%, and 44%

Labour: 24.5%, 23.5%, and 30.5%

Election Day results;

National: 47.31%

Labour: 27.48%

Points for consideration,

  • On or around 18 November, both Roy Morgan and Colmar Brunton showed National with 53% support.
  • Roy Morgan’s poll for National on 22-24 November was closest to Election Day (26 November) and their figure of 49.5%  was the closest to the actual Election Day result of 47.31%
  • Support for National is trending down, in both polls.
  • Support for Labour is trending up.
  • Support for the Green Party appears to be rising – though their 11.6% result on Election Day should be cause for careful consideration. It appears that poll respondents may be stating an intention to vote Green – but for some reason may be changing their mind at the last minute.  The 17% result in the recent poll may show more people supporting the Greens, which may translate to correspondingly more votes, despite last-minute mind-changing.

National is obviously bleeding support from mainstream New Zealand. Asset sales, scandals, lack of job growth, never-ending re-structuring of state sector departments on a seemingly ad hoc basis, job losses, environmental concerns, and the Sky City controversy all appear to be taking their toll.

More importantly, John Key is now on the back-foot. With the media honeymoon long gone,  and journalists probing deep into National’s performance, the public are seeing things they may not have noticed before. (Or if they did notice, were prepared to give Key the benefit of the doubt.)

Key’s defensive relationship with the media is now at a stage where,

  • He performed badly on Q+A on 1 April, looking uncertain, harried, and nowhere as confident and persuasive as he used to be.
  • He refuses point-blank to front on Radio NZ, knowing full well that the hosts on ‘Morning Report’, ‘Nine to Noon’, and ‘Checkpoint’ would tear him to shreds.
  • His media appearances now seem to consist mainly of quick lobby-stops in Parliament for one-minute sound-bites, and the “Breakfast” show on TVNZ. With all due respect to Corin Dann and Petra Bagust, the “light and fluffy” style of chat-show soft-interviewing is not conducive to asking Key the hard questions.  National’s media minders and strategists know this full well. So National Party strategists are keeping him well away from the hard interviews.

If National’s hierarchy are not perturbed by falling poll support, they should be.  They are bleeding support and at this rate they will end up in a poll-reversal with Labour.

I suspect their own internal polling is showing similar grim (for them) results.

Expect a change on government in 2014, if not earlier.

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Bugger the polls?

1 April 2012 9 comments

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April 1st!?!

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Full Story

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At first, I thought this was an April Fool’s joke.

Evidently not. Colmar Brunton  and TVNZ are playing this one straight.

Like a previous Dominion Post  poll, pulling apart this piece of BS  and illustrating why  polling results like these  are meaningless drivel, is ridiculously easy.

On 10 November 2011, a pre-election Colmar Brunton poll gave us these  following results,

National: 54%

Labour:  28%

Greens: 11%

NZ First: 2.9%

A  week later, on 18 November, Colmar Brunton published these pre-election poll results,

National: 53%

Labour:  26%

Greens: 13%

NZ First: 2.0%

The Election Results,  on 26 November, painted a somewhat different picture,

National: 47.31%

Labour:  27.48%

Greens: 11.6%

NZ First: 6.59%

National’s polling on election day was nowhere as high as Colmar Brunton’s previous, far-fetched results.  (Though Labour and The Green’s results were reasonably close to previous polling, Colmar Brunton had totally under-estimated NZ first’s voter support.)

In which case, Colmar Brunton’s current poll results today (1 April) – which seem to be a rehash of last year’s skewed figures – should be viewed with considerable suspicion,

National: 51%

Labour:  29%

Greens: 11%

NZ First: 3%

What Colmar Brunton’s figure’s do show, is that National’s support is dropping; 54% to 53% to 51% in the polls. That’s a 3 percentage-point from drop from 10 November 2011 to 1 April 2012.

Apply that same 3 percentage point drop to National’s Election Day electoral results and you get 47.31% to 44.31%.

Converted to seats: 54 seats out of 120/121. Even if Banks and Dunne retain their electorates, that gives a National/Banks/Dunne coalition 56 seats out of 120/121.

Quite a different picture to what Colmar Brunton is painting.

As I wrote on 19 March, National’s days are numbered.  Barring a miraculous recovery to full employment and abandonment of their asset sales plans – this will be their last term.

Labour is now a government-in-waiting.

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Previous Blogpost

National – The End is Nigh

Other Blogs

Tumeke:  Mainstream media start brainfart landline polls early

Additional

Drop in support for National and Labour – poll

Support for National barely damaged by Tea Tapes

2011 General Election Results

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National – The End is Nigh

19 March 2012 6 comments

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This recent Roy Morgan poll in the ‘Dominion Post‘ caught my eye,

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Source

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At first glance, the Fairfax report sounds like good news for National and terribly bad news for Labour.

On closer analysis, nothing could be further from the truth. The story is mostly ‘spin’ – a somewhat disingenous attempt to paint the poll results in a good light. National’s own Party strategists will be viewing that poll with considerable dismay.

Here’s why…

A corresponding poll by Roy Morgan in March last year, had National on 52.5% and Labour on 32.5%,

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Comparing March 2011 with March 2012, we see the following results:

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2011 Poll Result

2012 Poll Result

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National

52.5%

48.5%

– 4%

Labour

32.5%

30%

– 2.5%

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Both parties have actually dropped – not risen – as the Fairfax story claims.

Then we compare the Roy Morgan results with last year’s  election results, and the figures become even more interesting,

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March 2011 Poll Result

November Election

March 2012 Poll Result

National

52.5%

47.31%

48.5%

Labour

32.5%

27.48%

30%

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Now let’s factor in the pre-election polling results from Roy Morgan, in the week prior to the November 26 general election,

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March 2011 Poll Result

Pre-Election 2011 Morgan Poll

November 2011 Election

March 2012 Poll Result

National

52.5%

49.5%

47.31%

48.5%

Labour

32.5%

23.5 %

27.48%

30%

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Now a clearer picture emerges and nothing could be further from the truth with regards to the Fairfax report. As the polling – and the General Election results – amply illustrates, National is heading down, steadying currently at 47-48%. (And expect further falls.)

Conversely, Labour dipped from a March 2011 high of 32.5% to 23.5%, and is now climbing again.

More importantly – and this is the point that will be unsettling for National’s party strategists – a year ago,  National went into the 2011 general election from a high of 52.5%. (Other polls had National even higher at 55%-plus.) From that high, as campaigning by other parties offered alternatives to voters,  National shed some support, and their final end-result was 47.1% – a drop of of 5.19%.

If – as is likely – polling patterns are the same in the next couple of years,    a change of government in 2014 is inevitable.

My advice to David Shearer;

  • Get your party policy sorted, asap.
  • Get your party restructuring sorted, asap.
  • Treat other Opposition parties as your coalition partners and with respect. Form a broad Front. This will be the new reality, and if you can show that opposition parties can work together, the public will take notice.
  • Get a (new?)  speech writer – someone who has a flair with words, ideas,  and understands what is required to spark the public’s imagination. Yes, people want policy. But more than that, they want hope and a vision. JFK had it by the truckload.
  • Lastly, and most important;  act as the Prime Minister-in-Waiting that you are. Treat National as an Opposition-In-Waiting, and dismiss their policies accordingly. In fact, don’t be shy in stating boldlly that National’s policies are temporary; have a Use-By date; and Labour will review them.

This is what National has to look forward to in the next couple of years,

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Labour is now a government-in-waiting.

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