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The Neverending Story in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

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“Public backlash grows against pointless media speculation on coalition talks”

— is, unfortunately, not a headline we’ll be seeing  any time soon.

The media role is reporting post-election politics has not been an edifying spectacle to watch. Put simply, the most exacerbating aspect of three weeks of coalition negotiation has not been the length of time – remarkably short by international standards – but the interminable, inane,  media commentary we’ve had to endure.

As  reported on 7 October, in lieu of any actual news-worthy stories, the msm (mainstream media) has taken to either parroting National Party propaganda on a non-existent “Teal Coalition” – or engaged in an onanistic beat up on the length of time needed for coalition negotiations.

National Party de-facto spokesperson, Maserati-owner, and legend-in-his-own-mind, Mike Hosking, waxed lyrical about a so-called “Teal” arrangement;

The concept of a grand coalition? Naive in theory yes, in reality not the slightest chance.

The best suggestion for the deal that never was – but could so easily have been – was the teal coalition, the Nats and Greens.

The Greens held themselves to ransom by tying themselves to Labour.

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A teal coalition could well have worked and the Greens would almost certainly have got more out of it than they will get if the nod goes their way tomorrow (or whenever Winston decides).

Although why Hosking considers a “Grand Coalition between National and Labour as “naive” without “the slightest chance” and a National-Green coalition as something that “could so easily have been” – is never explained by him. But that’s the thing with public displays of  political-porn – it requires no internal logic or consistency.

On 14  October, I watched TV3’s The Nation – expecting a one-hour long exercise in pointless navel-gazing as to who Winston Peters will “go with”.

To my pleasant surprise, adults had taken over the programme and the viewer was treated to more pressing issues;

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In segment one, Lisa Owen discussed workers’ rights and workplace safety with Richard Wagstaff, Hazel Armstrong, and Jackie Blue. It was a critical look at the grim stats surrounding workplace accidents; deaths; injuries, and maimings.

Former National Party MP – and now Human Rights Commissioner – Jackie Blue, made the startling  admission that low unionisation in the workforce was part of the problem of workplace accidents;

I also think a fact in the forestry deaths is that they have very low rates of unionisation. They don’t have anyone speaking for them. There’s no voice for forestry workers. And I listened to an interview Helen did a year before she died, and she said she got to know the forestry workers, and once they understood the concept of a union, they wanted to be part of one.

The second segment featured an interview with BNZ CEO, Anthony Healey, supporting the Left’s call for a capital gains tax. Some of Healey’s comments would have come straight out of The Daily Blog;

“It’s really about equity in the tax system.

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Well, I think you can take a very broad based approach to it, but one of the things that I think is really important in this discussion is we’re not talking about, and my opinion is we need to tax in aggregate more; it’s about redistributing tax. So if you were to apply a broad based capital gains tax, that gives you the ability to address other things in the tax system, like company tax, like income tax, especially for those that are more needy.

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Well, I think where we really need to address tax is at the lower end of the taxation system. If you were to apply a capital gains tax where you see a lot of wealth accumulation as opposed to income, then you have room to move, and you can look at the lower income tax rate, particularly for those who are struggling to make ends meet.”

When bank CEOs are advocating Labour and Green Party tax policies, you just know that the neo-liberal paradigm has lost it’s 1980s/90s gloss.

The last segment featured a good look at how Artificial Intelligence (AI) would be impacting on jobs in the coming years and decades. People closely connected with the AI industry – Greg Cross, Grant Straker, and Ben Goertzel shared their insights as to where we were heading with increasingly advanced technologies.

Then came the panel – Tracy Watkins from Fairfax media; former National Party parliamentary researcher, Chris Simpson, and political pundit,  Vernon Tava.

What came next in the following ten to fifteen minutes was not a word uttered to discuss any of the three issues raised in The Nation. Even Lisa Owen’s opening remarks on the one year anniversary of trade unionist Helen Kelley’s death and the role she played in highlighting workplace  accidental deaths was not discussed.

Instead, Owen led the panelists down the garden path to discussing… the coalition talks and “the mysterious NZ First Board”.

It was ten to fifteen minutes of pointless pontificating and using up valuable oxygen as Fairfax political reporter Tracy Watkins lamented that Winston Peters  “ just doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it very much“.

The obligatory cliche of “the tail wagging the dog” was trotted out by Watkins and Owen. Watkins description of the coalition talks as a “circus” suggests she has been too long in politics and jaded cynicism has coloured her view of things.

Only Vernon Tava’s comments struck home when he pointed out;

“…Media, who are becoming increasingly desperate standing around in cold lobbies in Wellington shouting questions at people as they walk briskly from one hallway to another…”

The only “circus” has been a media one.

Meanwhile,  broadcast and print media have been going nuts with their ongoing speculations. For example, the 16 October edition of The Dominion Post had no less that seven distinct pieces in that edition, including an editorial headedTime for Waiting to end“;

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(Curiously, the very same editorial was republished in Christchurch’s The Press, and headed, “New Zealand needs to know who will govern it“.)

The opening statement was so ludicrously dripping with sanctimony that it beggared belief anyone could write it with a straight face;

“The New Zealand public is to be congratulated for it’s extraordinary patience over the last three weeks since the general election.”

The New Zealand public is not only patient – but a darned sight more mature than the children who currently work in our mainstream media, and who constantly pester their Uncle Winston from the back seat of  the family stationwagon;

“Are we there yet?”

“No.”

“Are we there yet?”

“No!”

“Are we there yet?”

“NO!!!”

The public are patient. They fully understand  the complexities of forming a government and that it must be done carefully. As Labour leader Jacinda Ardern explained on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 17 October with pained patience for the benefit of the media, ;

“…The ability of a government to be both  stable and durable ultimately comes down to whether or not you have enough commonality to form a government that’s going to  last the distance.”

In the same edition of the Dompost, Tracy Watkins had a front-page piece beneath the paper’s banner, entitled, “Is the coalition deal a crown or a poisoned chalice?” She stated matter-of-factly;

“After weeks of secrecy and the bizarre silence of the two major party leaders…”

“Secrecy”? “Bizarre silence”?!

Another way of  phrasing Watkins’ prose could be;

“After weeks of  nothing to write about by the two major newspaper chains…”

As a political blogger, I write often and passionately about transparency in government; government departments; NGOs, etc.

On coalition negotiations, however, confidentiality is a prerequisite for meaningful dialogue between the parties, unfettered by pressure from pious media pundits.

Case in point, TV3’s  Patrick Gower passing judgement in 2014 on an electoral arrangement between Mana Movement and the Internet Party;

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Second case-in-point; numerous media commentators (Mike Hosking, et al) calling for the Green Party enter into coalition dialogue with National. As if such a scenario were remotely possible (or desirable).

On 11 October, Radio NZ’s Tim Watkin (former Producer of TV3’s The Nationexpressed his own personal frustration in a way that was verging on the farcical;

“Well, I hate to say ‘I told you so’. But as frustration builds over the way our new government is being built – amid casual abuse, secrecy and over-reach – we really only have ourselves to blame, for the way this administration is being born in darkness, at least. Its mother is our own complacency.

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Yet many New Zealanders fell in behind the parties’ spin, complaining that journalists were wasting time asking coalition questions and pushing for answers the poor party leaders couldn’t possibly give. ‘Focus on the issues,’ they cried.

How many of them are now among those bemoaning the lack of transparency in these negotiations and the deals being done behind closed doors?

We are left with little idea of which policies are being traded for which and have next to no notion about the priorities of whichever government might emerge, because we failed as a public to demand answers before the election.

I have no problem with these negotiations being conducted in confidence. I don’t mind New Zealand First shuttling back and forth between parties and being able to handle this process in secret. This is a time for a veil, of sorts.

But we should know, from reportage and interviews pre-election, what’s being traded.”

Tim demanded that “we should know, from reportage and interviews pre-election, what’s being traded” – seemingly forgetting that any post-election agreement would eventually reveal precisely “ what’s being traded“.

The rest of his intemperate commentary is symptomatic of political journos and commentators venting their impatience. In the meantime, the public went about their daily lives, content with leaving coalition-building to those who had been elected to carry out that task.

This is not how the Fourth Estate should be behaving. This is not reporting unfolding political events. It is not even analysis of unfolding political events. This was a naked move to artificially generate political events.

No news?  No problem.

Make some up.

The impatience of the msm was highlighted when, on several occasions, TV3’s news led with the length of time being taken for coalition talks – complete with this melodramatic graphic;

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It takes a remarkable talent to create a story out of simply… waiting. This desperation of the msm for any political activity to report  was remarked on by Auckland University political scientist, Jennifer Curtin on 15 October;

Associate Professor Curtin said the amount of time being taken was reasonable and in Nordic countries such as Sweden taking two to three weeks to form a government was the norm.

“So asking for something to happen since October the 12th in four or five days is probably a little bit unrealistic and a little bit first past the post really, in the way we’re thinking about government formation.”

Four days later, as if further illustration was required, on 19 October Mediaworks presented us an updated report that… well… there was nothing to report;

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When Tracy Watkins referred to a “circus” on The Nation, she was almost right. There has been a circus in this country since 23 September. But this time  it hasn’t come from our  political representatives.

Lisa Owen from The Nation on 21 October was honest when she admitted on behalf of the Fourth Estate;

“We’re impatient. We are impatient.”

The ‘Devil finds work for idle hands’, it is said. More so for idle children and  journalists with nothing to do, and too much time to do it in.

Let’s hope that all these well-paid, well-resourced journalists will be devoting equal air-time or column-inches to scrutinising the attacks-to-come from the Neo-liberal Establishment. Those attacks have already started.

That is where the real reporting, analysis, and commentary should be focused on.

What are the chances?

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References

NZ Herald:  Mike Hosking – Reading the coalition tea leaves

Mediaworks: The Nation (14 October 2017)

Scoop media: The Nation – Workers’ Rights Panel

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Anthony Healy

Mediaworks:  Panel – Tracy Watkins, Chris Simpson and Vernon Tava

Radio NZ:  Labour, Greens ‘ready to go’ – Ardern

Fairfax media:  It’s difficult to know if Winston Peters is offering a crown or a poisoned chalice

Twitter: Patrick Gower

Radio NZ:  Negotiation secrecy a snub to democracy

Mediaworks: Newshub Live at 6pm (18th October 2017)

Radio NZ: NZ First board set to consider possible coalition deal

Mediaworks: Newshub webpage 19 October

Scoop media:  The Nation – Lisa Owen interviews Jacinda Ardern

Other Blogs

Cut Your Hair:  Don’t blame MMP for bad king/queenmakers

Sciblogs:  For a teal coalition

The Standard: “Reporters”

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (tekau)

An Open Letter To Winston Peters

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 October 2017.

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RIP Neo-Liberalism in New Zealand: 1984 – 2017

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Peters has called it: NZ First will go into coalition with Labour-Greens.

In reality, it was the only decision he could possibly make.

Firstly, National has a scary reputation for devouring it’s coalition partners:

  • Peter Dunne – falling electoral support at each election until he faced a potentially humiliating defeat by Labour’s Greg O’Connor. Instead, he chose to resign and leave Parliament voluntarily rather than being turfed out by the voters of Ōhāriu.
  • ACT/David Seymour – a shadow of it’s hey-day in 2002, when it had nine MPs, it is currently hooked up to perpetual political life-support. Seymour is  tolerated by the Nats as a cute mascot rather than as a useful partner. No one has the heart to flick the “off” switch to end Seymour’s tenacious grip on parliamentary life.
  • The Maori  Party – it’s close alliance with successive National governments took it from five seats in 2008 to losing everything at this election. Coalition with the Tories was the proverbial “kiss of death” for the Maori Party.

NZ First has dodged that party-killing-bullet by declining to join with the National ‘Black Widow’ Party.

Secondly, a National-NZ First Coalition would have meant taking on the baggage of failed policies; knee-jerk rush from crisis-to-crisis,   and bad headlines from the last nine years of mis-management from the Key-English Administration;

  • increasingly polluted waterways
  • families living in cars
  • under-funded health system
  • stretched mental health services
  • increasingly unaffordable housing
  • rising greenhouse gas emissions
  • low wages
  • economic growth predicated on housing speculation and immigration
  • etc, etc, etc.

A coalition with National would have meant taking ownership of nine years of worsening statistics and bleak media headlines.

How would that benefit NZ First? The answer is self-evident.

National has had nine years to address the critical problems confronting us as a nation. The sight of families with children living in cars or rivers that are toxic with urban and rural pollution and unfit to swim in is not the New Zealand we wanted to leave future generations. Yet that is precisely the legacy bequeathed by the Nats and their neo-liberal, market-driven ideology. That would have been the poisoned chalice from which Peters would have supped from.

As Shakespeare might  have said, “fuck that shit!”

A coalition with Labour and the Greens offers a fresh start. It puts NZ First into a brand new government, with a fresh  leadership, new ideas, and none of the baggage offered by a tired government that had simply run out of ideas.

It also accords Winston Peters with the legacy he sought: the Kingmaker who put the sword to thirtythree years of the neo-liberal experiment.

The nightmare of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson is over. Neo-liberalism is dead.

Thank you, Winston Peters.

And as I promised: I offer my apologies for doubting that you would make the right decision. This is one of those occasions where I am happy to have been proven 100% wrong.

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Related blogposts

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

An Open Letter To Winston Peters

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 October 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (tekau)

13 October 2017 1 comment

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At 2PM today (7 October 2017), the Electoral Commission announced the final vote results, including some 446,287 special votes cast (17% of  total  votes cast).

As a result, National has lost two seats and the Greens and Labour each pick up one seat in Parliament. The Green’s  Golriz Ghahraman and Labour’s Angie Warren-Clark enter Parliament on the Party List.

The final seat counts and voting figures:

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Acknowledgement for graphic: Radio NZ

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Acknowledgement for graphic: Radio NZ

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The results show a decisive  swing against National:

Election Results

 

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 2014  2017  change (-/+)  2014 seats  2017 seats
 National  1,131,501 (47.04%) 1,152,075 (44.4%) + 20,574
(- 2.64)
60 56 (-4)
Labour  604,534 (25.13%) 956,184 (36.9%) + 351,650
(+ 11.77%)
32 46 (+14)
Greens  257,356 (10.70%) 162,443
(6.3%)
– 94,913
(- 4.4)
14 8 (-6)
CombinedRed-Green Vote  861,890 (35.53%) 1,118,627
(43.2%)
+ 256,737
(+ 7.67)
46 54 (+8)
NZ First  208,300 (8.66%) 186,706
(7.2%)
21,594
(- 1.46)
11 9 (-2)
Special Votes 330,985
(13.5%)
446,287
(17%)
115,302
(+3.5)
Total Votes 2,446,279
(77.9% t/out)
 2,591,896
(79.8% t/out)
 + 145,617
(+ 1.6)
 —  —

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Observations

(1) The rise of Labour (aka, the “Jacinda Effect”) appears to have stripped support from the Maori Party, NZ First, and the Greens. Any shift of voters from NZ First to National was insufficient to boost the Nats percentage of total votes.

(2) As expected, Special Votes have favoured the Left.

(3) Winston Peters has been proven correct to wait before Special Votes were counted and announced before initiating coalition talks. A National-NZ First Coalition (65 seats) would prove little different to a Labour-Green-NZ First coalition (63 seats).

With only a two seat difference, Peters is in a better position to consider a three-way coalition with Labour and the Greens. The question is, will he align himself with the 1,152,075 who voted  National – or the 1,305,333 who voted against the Nats, and supported Labour, the Greens, and NZ First?

National may be the ‘largest’ party in Parliament – but the largest bloc of voters was Labour-Green-NZ First.

Choose wisely, Mr Peters, choose wisely.

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References

Radio NZ:  Election17 final results are coming

Radio NZ:  Final Election17 Results – UPDATED

Wikipedia:   New Zealand general election, 2014

Electoral Commission:  New Zealand 2014 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission:  2017 General Election – Official Result

Other Blogs

The Standard: And the final result is…

Previous related blogposts

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (waru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 October 2017.

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Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land…

12 October 2017 3 comments

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You can feel mainstream media’s frustration with the news-vacuum created by the two week period necessary to count the approximately 384,072 (15% of total votes) Special Votes that were cast this election.

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Winston Peters has announced on several occasions that he will wait until the Specials are counted and announced by the Electoral Commission on 7 October,  before making any announcements on coalition;

“This will be the last press conference I am going to hold until after the 7th of October… I can’t tell you what we are going to do until we have seen all the facts.

I can’t talk to you until I know what the 384,000 people who have cast their vote said…”

And you know what? He’s 100% right.

All the media pundit speculation; all the ambushing at airport terminals; all the annoyingly repetitive questions are utterly pointless. Peters simply cannot say anything meaningful until 7 October because the 2017 Election has not yet fully played out.

This is not a game of rugby where, after eighty minutes, a score determines a winner and loser (or draw).  In this game of “electoral rugby”, the score will not be delivered for two weeks.

The media – still feeling the adrenaline from Election Night “drama” – appears not to have realised this. The 24-Hour News Cycle is not geared toward a process lasting days or weeks.

One journalist writing for the NZ Herald, Audrey Young, even suggested that initiating coalition talks before the Specials were counted and announced was somehow a “good thing”;

It is surprising that NZ First has not begun talking to National yet, at a point when it has maximum leverage.

Not doing so before the special votes runs the risk having less leverage after the specials are counted should there be no change in the seats, or in the unlikely event of National gaining.

That bizarre suggestion could be taken further; why not announce a government before any votes are counted?

Pushed to maximum absurdity, why not announce a government before an election even takes place?  Banana republics fully recommend  this technique.

It says a lot about the impatience and immaturity of journalists that they are demanding decisions on coalition-building before all votes are counted. It is  doubtful if any journalist in Europe – which has had proportional representation far longer than we have – would even imagine  making such a nonsensical  suggestion.

Little wonder that Peters lost his cool on 27 September where he held a press conference and lambasted the mainstream media for their “drivel”;

“Now frankly if that’s the value you place on journalistic integrity you go right ahead, but the reality is you could point to the Electoral Commission and others and ask yourself why is it that 384,000 people will not have their vote counted until the 7th of October. 

Maybe then you could say to yourselves that may be the reason why New Zealand First has to withhold its view because we don’t know yet what the exact precise voice of the New Zealand people is.

All I’m asking for is a bit of understanding rather than the tripe that some people are putting out, malicious, malignant, and vicious in the extreme.”

The mainstream media did not take kindly to the critical analysis which they themselves usually mete out to public figures. They reported Peters’ press conference in unflattering terms and a vehemence usually reserved for social/political outcasts who have somehow dared challenge the established order of things;

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The Fourth Estate does not ‘do’ criticism well.

Even cartoonists have piled in on Peters, caricaturising him for daring to impede the [rapid] course of democracy;

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Or satirising Peters for being in a position to coalesce either with Labour or National. Despite this being a feature of all proportionally-elected Parliaments around the world, this has somehow taken the mainstream media by surprise;

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Perhaps Winston Peters was correct when he accused  New Zealand’s mainstream media of continuing to view the political landscape  through a First Past the Post prism;

“You ran a first past the post campaign in an MMP environment. And things suffer from that.”

Without a hint of self-awareness of irony, the usually insightful Bernard Hickey  offered this strangely familiar ‘advice’ to Peters;

It could have been so different. He could have simply said he couldn’t disclose his negotiating position until after the counting of the special votes and that he could not say who he would choose. Everyone would have accepted that as a fair stance.

Really? “Everyone would have accepted that as a fair stance”?!

How many timers did Peters tell journalists  that he “couldn’t disclose his negotiating position until after the counting of the special votes and that he could not say who he would choose” and how many times did those same journalists (or their colleagues) persist?

I have considerable respect for Mr Hickey’s researching and reporting skills. He is one of New Zealand’s most talented journalists/commentators.

On this point, however, he has over-looked the stubborn persistence of his colleagues in their unrelenting demands on Peters.

That media drivel has extended to journalists reporting on a non-existent, fabricated “story” – a potential National-Green (or “Teal”) Coalition.

Nowhere was this suggestion made seriously – except by National-leaning right-wing commentators, National party supporters, and National politicians. It should be blatantly clear to the most apolitical person that,

(a) such a coalition has been dismissed by the Green Party on numerous occassions

(b) such a coalition would be impractical due to wide policy differences between National and the Greens

(c) such a coalition scenario was being made only as a negotiation tactic by National to leverage against NZ First, and

(d) such a coalition would offer very little benefit to the Greens.

Green party leader, James Shaw, had to repeat – on numerous occassions – that any notion of a National-Green deal was out of a question;

“Our job is to form a government with the Labour Party, that’s what I said on election night, that’s what I campaigned on for the last 18 months and that’s what we are busy working on.

I said on election night that I think the numbers are there for a new government and that’s what we are working on, so everything else frankly is noise and no signal.”

This did not stop the mainstream media from breathlessly (breathe, Patrick, breathe!) reporting repeating the “story” without analysing where it was emanating from: the Right. Or who it would benefit: National.

Writing a series of stories on an imaginary National-Green coalition scenario, Fairfax ‘s political reporter Tracy Watkins could almost be on the National Party’s communications-team payroll;

Metiria Turei’s departure from the Greens co-leadership seems to be what lies behind National’s belief that a deal may be possible – she was always cast as an implacable opponent to any deal with National. James Shaw is seen as being more of a pragmatist.

But National would only be prepared to make environmental concessions – the Greens’ social and economic policy platform would be seen as a step too far. Big concessions on climate change policy would also be a stumbling block.

On both those counts the Greens would likely rule themselves out of a deal – co-leader James Shaw has made it clear economic and social policy have the same priority as environmental policy.

There is a view within National, however, that a deal with the Greens would be more forward and future looking than any deal with NZ First.

One concern is what is seen as an erratic list of NZ First bottom lines, but there is also an acknowledgement that National was exposed on environmental issues like dirty water in the campaign.

That’s why National insiders say an approach to the Greens should not be ruled out.

But Watkins was not completely oblivious to the Kiwi-version of ‘Game of Thrones‘.  She briefly alluded to comprehending that National is pitting the Greens against NZ First;

Senior National MPs have made repeated overtures through the media that its door is open to the Greens, who would have more leverage in negotiations with the centre-right than the centre-left.

Watkins and her colleagues at Fairfax made no attempt to shed light on National’s “repeated overtures”. She and other journalists appeared content to be the ‘conduit’ of National’s machiavellian machinations as prelude to coalition talks.

Such was the vacuum caused by the interregnum between Election Day and Special  Votes day.  That vacuum – caused by the news blackout until coalition talks begin in earnest after 7 October – had obviously enabled sensationalism to guide editorial policy.

Writing for another Fairfax newspaper, the Sunday Star Times, so-called “journalist” Stacey Kirk cast aside any remaining mask of impartiality and came out guns blazing, demanding a National Green Coalition;

They should, and the reasons they won’t work with National are getting flimsier by the day. But they won’t – it’s a matter that strikes too close to the heart of too many of their base – and for that reason, they simply can’t.

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For all their dancing around each other, National is serious when it says it would be happy to talk to the Greens. But it’s also serious when it says it knows it has to make big environmental moves regardless.

If the Greens are serious about putting the environment above politics – and the long-term rebuild of the party – they really should listen.

Kirk’s piece could easily have emanated from the Ninth Floor of the Beehive – not the Dominion Post Building in downtown Wellington.

The media pimping for a fourth National-led coalition, involving the Greens, would be comical if it weren’t potentially so damaging to our democracy. Media are meant to question political activity such as coalition-building  – not aggressively promote them in an openly partisan manner. Especially not for the benefit of one dominant party. And especially not to install that political party to government.

One person went so far as launching an on-line petition calling for just such a coalition;

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The organisor is one, Clive Antony, a Christchurch “organic fashion entrepreneur”. (That’s a ‘thing’? Who knew?)  Mr Anthony explained why he wanted a “Teal” coalition;

“I genuinely think there is common ground between the National Party and the Green Party, which could result in practical policy wins for New Zealand. Environmental issues such as carbon neutrality and social issues like child poverty come to mind.”

Mr Anthony happens to be a National Party supporter.

Mr Anthony failed to explain what National has been doing the last nine years to protect the environment; why rivers have continued to be degraded; why the agricultural sector has been left out of the emissions trading scheme; why National has squandered billions on new roading projects instead of public transport; etc, etc. Also, Mr Anthony has failed to ask why National has not willingly adopted Green Party policies in the last nine years.

What has stopped them?  Party policies are not copyright.  After all, you don’t have to be in coalition with a party to take on their policies.

Although it helps if National were honest enough to release official reports in a timely manner, instead of the public relying on them to be leaked;

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This is how National demonstrates transparency and integrity.  This is the party that attempts to suppress critical information on climate change.

This is the party that some media pundits are clamouring to enter into a meaningful working relationship with the Greens.

As former Green MP, Mojo Mathers pointed out on Twitter;

“Oh my, National love the Greens now do they? Pity they couldn’t show some love for the environment over the last 9 years. #NoGreenWash

Dirty coal. Polluted rivers. Industrial dairying. Rising emissions. Billion dollar motorways. Seabed mining in blue whale habitat and more.”

Another, former Green MP, Catherine Delahunty, voiced what probably 99.9% of Green Party members are thinking right now;

“I would rather drink hemlock than go with the National Party. The last thing I want to see is the Green Party or any other party propping them up to put them back into power. They’ve done enough damage.”

Green Party (co-)leader, James Shaw, was more diplomatic;

“A slim majority of voters did vote for change, and so that’s what I’m working on… We campaigned on a change of Government, and I said at the time it was only fair to let voters know what they were voting for – are you voting for the status quo, or are you voting for change?”

Other individuals pimping for a Nat-Green coalition are sundry National party MPs such as  Paula Bennett or former politicians such as Jim Bolger.

All of which was supported by far-right blogger, Cameron Slater’s “intern staff”, on the “Whaleoil” blog;

Currently we are sitting in wait for old mate Winston Peters to choose who is going to run the country. After watching all the pundits in media talk about what the next government would look like, it started to annoy me that everyone has been ruling out a National/Green coalition and rightly so as both parties have basically written it off.

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A quick Blue-Green arrangement with the appropriate Government Ministries assigned to Green Ministers would kill the NZ First posturing dead and would probably be the death knell for NZ First forever once Mr Peters resigns.”

National’s pollster and party apparatchik, David Farrar, was also actively pimping for a National-Green Coalition;

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When even the far-right are salivating at the prospect of a Blue-Green coalition, you know something is seriously askew.

However,  judging by comments posted by Kiwiblog’s readers, the prospect of a Blue-Green coalition does not sit well with his audience.

As an interesting side-note, both Whaleoil and Kiwiblog both published their first stories on a Blue-Green coalition around 27 and 28 September. The Tory communications-strategy memo talking up a Blue-Green scenario appears to have been sent to Slater and Farrar at the same time.

It beggars belief that very few media commentators have picked up on what is really the bleedin’ obvious: National’s strategy is obviously a ploy to leverage against NZ First.

Of all the pundits, only one person seems to have sussed what was really happening and why. Otago University law professor and political commentator,  Andrew Geddis,  put things very succinctly when he wrote for Radio NZ on 30 September;

Media coverage of the post-election period echoes this existential angst. With Winston Peters declaring that he – sorry, New Zealand First – won’t make any decisions on governing deals until after the final vote count is announced on October 7, we face something of a news vacuum.

Commentators valiantly have attempted to fill this void with fevered speculation about who Peters likes and hates, or fantastical notions that a National-Greens deal could be struck instead…

That is as close to sensible commentary as we’ve gotten the last two weeks.

The 2017 General Election may be remembered in future – not for Winston Peters holding the balance of power – but for the unedifying rubbish churned out by so-called professional, experienced journalists. In their thirst for something – anything!! – to report, the media commentariate have engaged in  onanistic political fantasies.

They have also wittingly allowed themselves to be National’s marionettes – with strings reaching up to the Ninth Floor.

The National-Green Coalition fairytale promulgated by some in the media was a glimpse into the weird world of journalistic daydreaming. In other words, New Zealanders just got a taste of some real fake news.

Like children in the back seat of a car on a two-week long drive, this is what it looks like when bored journalists and media commentators become anxious and frustrated. Their impatience gets the better of them.

And a politician called them on it;

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When the antiquated, binary system of First Past the Post  was replaced with a more sophisticated; more representative; more inclusive MMP in the 1990s, our political system matured. Our Parliament became more ethnically and gender diverse. We even elected the world’s first transgender MP.

MMP is complex and requires careful consideration and time.

It is fit-for-purpose for the complexities of 21st Century New Zealand.

The Fourth Estate is yet to catch up.

 

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References

Electoral Commission: Preliminary results for the 2017 General Election

Otago Daily Times:  Peters will wait for special vote count

NZ Herald:  Winston Peters – 7 per cent of the vote, 100 per cent of the power

Newsroom:  Winston’s awful start

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters launches tirade on media, stays mum on coalition talks

TVNZ:  ‘Next question!’ – belligerent Winston Peters has press pack in stitches after shutting down Aussie reporter

NZ Herald:   Attack on media, some insults and stonewalling – Winston Peters comes out firing in press conference

Newstalk ZB:  Winston Peters hits out at media in fiery press conference

Radio NZ:  Green Party dismisses National-Green speculation

Fairfax media:  The Green Party also hold the balance of power, but they don’t seem to want it

Fairfax media:  National says don’t rule out an approach to Greens on election night

Fairfax media:  Stacey Kirk – Honour above the environment? Greens hold a deck of aces they’re refusing to play

NZ Herald:  Grassroots petition calls for National-Green coalition

Fairfax media: Govt sits on climate warnings

Twitter: Mojo Mathers

Radio NZ:  ‘Snowball’s chance in hell’ of a Green-National deal

Mediaworks:  ‘I will hear the Prime Minister out’ – James Shaw

Mediaworks:  Winston Peters’ super leak ‘great gossip’ I couldn’t use against him – Paula Bennett

Fairfax media:  Greens have a responsibility to talk to National – Jim Bolger

Radio NZ:  Special votes – why the wait?

NZCity:  Have patience, says Winston Peters

E-Tangata: Georgina Beyer – How far can you fall?

Other Blogs

Kiwiblog:  What could the Greens get if they went with National not Winston?

Kiwiblog:  How a National-Green coalition could work

The Daily Blog: Martyn Bradbury – Let’s seriously consider David Farrar’s offer to the Greens and laugh and laugh and laugh

Liberation:  Cartoons and images about negotiating the new government

Previous related blogposts

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (waru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 7 October 2017.

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An Open Letter To Winston Peters

12 October 2017 5 comments

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Kia ora Mr Peters,

With the counting of Special Votes, a clearer picture has emerged as to what voters in this country have chosen. The majority have voted against National and it’s allies.

In the face of childish temper-tantrums from some media commentariate/journalists, and machiavellian machinations from the  National Party and it’s fellow-travellers on the Right, you have held firm to wait until 7 October. This was a proper course of action, and you have rightly stood by it (as I wrote here: Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land).

Now comes the part where you negotiate with National and Labour. On this point I have no idea if you have made up your mind or not. I will assume you are still open to the various options and permutations available to you and other parties.

If you happen to be reading this, let me offer  my thoughts on this matter.

National has been in power for nine years. During that time, it has allowed a toxic ‘cocktail’ of social and environmental problems (I refuse to be PC and refer to them as “issues”) to brew and fester. Our media are full of daily headlines of problems confronting us, and they seem to be worsening – not improving.

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There is not a day or week that goes by without another in a long – and lengthening – series of ‘horror’ stories that forty years ago would have been unimaginable in our ‘Godzone’.

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And the most appalling fact  – it is all so needless and preventable. We know what the problems are. What appears to be lacking is the will to implement sensible, sound policies to address them.

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We portray New Zealand as “100% Pure”, with rivers of crystal pure water;

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The reality, though, would probably put most of us in hospital if we tried drinking from our waterways;

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No wonder overseas media like Al Jazeera are taking an interest into the true state of our degraded environment.

The fact is that after three terms in office, all we seem to be getting is more platitudes from this government and worsening headlines.

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Even the solutions for our gravest problems are few from this current government. For example it seems that the extent of their “vision” is to cram homeless families into motels.

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If anything, the cold, dead, hand of National and it’s insidious policies have made matters worse.

In 2008, Housing NZ’s state housing stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2016, that number had fallen to 61,600 (plus a further 2,700 leased) – a dramatic shortfall of 7,400 properties.

Is it any   wonder we have families living in cars in the second decade of the 21st Century?

Even in my own street; just behind the house that I live in, a family came within days of being made homeless. Imagine, Mr Peters, a Kiwi family – including a six-month old baby – forced out onto the street.

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When did homelessness for entire families ever become the ‘norm’ in this country? (Many would assert – with some validity – that it began in 1984, with the advent of Rogernomics and the rise of neo-liberalism.)

There are other stories of growing deprivation. Children going to school with no breakfast or lunch. Families working several jobs and still unable to make ends meet. Massive student debt burdening young people. NGOs having their funding cut – though strangely enough, National always seems to be able to find spare cash to spend on flag referenda; farms in the middle of the Saudi Desert; corporate welfare such as cash hand-outs to Tiwai Point aluminium smelter; yacht races, etc.

This is the government you are now potentially willing to ally yourself with.

That is nine years of failed policies; worsening social problems; and degraded environment that you will be inheriting and putting into the laps of yourself any of your MPs who are “lucky” enough to be allocated ministerial portfolios.

A coalition with National comes with several tonnes of some very bad, smelly ‘baggage’.

That is what you will be signing up  for if you snuggle up with National: all the accumulated crap of the last nine years. I hope you’re ready for it, Mr Peters. That’s a lot of trouble you’re willing to take on.

By now, you may be thinking what I’m thinking…  A deal with Labour and the Green Party is suddenly taking on a very rosy tint.

It’s your call, Mr Peters. Though if I may be so bold – it’s not much of a choice really…

National with it’s accumulated nine years of failures and mounting bad media coverage – versus a fresh new government without any foul-smelling baggage.

I know which I would choose.

Remember the last time you chose to ally with a government that had been in power for just two terms and was increasingly unpopular with it’s failing health service; severe police cuts; housing problems, etc?

If I recall, that did not end well, either…

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Winston Peters

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I hope you make the right choice, Mr Peters. For yourself, your Party colleagues, but most importantly, for the people of this country.

Best wishes, sir.

With regards,

Frank Macskasy

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References

Mediaworks:  What’s behind New Zealand’s mental health funding crisis?

Fairfax media: $45m budget blow out on Canterbury’s mental health services

Newsroom:  Auckland’s crumbling mental health services

Fairfax media: Creative approach to mental health underfunded despite evidence it works

Radio NZ:  Mental health workers struggling to cope

Fairfax media:  Couple living in car with six cats, four chihuahuas and a rabbit

Al Jazeera:  New Zealand’s homeless – Living in cars and garages

Mediaworks:  NZ’s homelessness the worst in OECD – by far

NZ Herald: Homelessness to reach a new crisis point this winter

Radio NZ: NZ tops list of developed countries with most homeless

Mediaworks:  Al Jazeera launches investigation into New Zealand’s polluted waterways

Fairfax media:  River ecologist – ‘It’s a really bad situation’

NZ Herald:  Most rivers in New Zealand too dirty for a swim

Radio NZ:  100 percent pure or 60 percent polluted?

Fairfax media:  New ‘100% Pure’ campaign shows tourist drinking river water

Mediaworks:  New Zealand housing most unaffordable in the world – The Economist

Radio NZ:  Housing in many NZ cities ‘severely unaffordable’

NZ Herald:  New teachers quit city, delay kids, due to unaffordable housing

NZ Herald: Half of Auckland’s fast-track housing areas axed, Darby finds

Interest.co.nz:  New official Reserve Bank figures definitively show that investors accounted for nearly 46% of all mortgage monies

NZ Herald:   Govt to buy more motels to house homeless as its role in emergency housing grows

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

Previous related blogposts

Message to Minister Adams: Family of five, including six month old baby – about to live in a van

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (waru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (tekau)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 October 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Iwa)

3 October 2017 1 comment

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Red-Green, Blue-Green?

There is mischief-making afoot.

Suggestions for a National-Green coalition are being floated by various right-wing commentators, National Party figures, and some media pundits. Despite Green Party Leader, James Shaw, repeatedly ruling out any such possibility – the suggestion continues to circulate.

On  election night, as TOP leader Gareth Morgan realised his party would not reach the 5% MMP threshold, he made the bizarre comment that the Greens should join with National in a formal coalition;

“I want them [the Green Party] to do what we would’ve done if we had been above five, and say to National who are gonna be the Government it’s very obvious, we will work with you, we need to work on the environment no matter who the Government is.”

To which Shaw predictably responded;

“My view is that he would have been better off backing a party that had similar ideas, like us.”

This was reiterated for the NZ Herald;

Shaw said he would not being making contact with National, but he would take a call from National leader Bill English.

“It’s my responsibility to do so. And we’ll have to see what they’ve got to say. But one of the things I will be saying in return is ‘You know we campaigned on a change of government and you know what was in our manifesto … and how incongruous that is to what the National Party policy programme is’.”

On 25 September, right-wing political commentator and mischief-maker, Matthew Hooton, again raised the proposal for a National-Green coalition on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon political panel;

“And then there’s the other one, of course, there’s the National-Green option, which is  favoured by National party members… it’s an interesting one…”

On the same day, on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint, former PM Jim Bolger repeated the National-Green coalition possibility to host, John Campbell;

“…The Greens might be quietly reflecting on whether they, unique in the world as a Green party, should only link themselves to left-wing politics. Whereas  the environment is neither left wing or right wing, frankly. The environment is the environment, it’s Mother Earth we’re talking about.

And I just wonder whether or not they won’t reflect on towards the National government that signed up to the Paris Climate Accords and have set in place the process to reach  the goals that was set out there.

So I’d imagine in a quiet back room the Greens might be saying, ‘Why? Why are we saying we can only go with one party?’, eg the Labour party, and you might watch this space if I was you, John.”

Bolger’s hippy-like ‘Mother Earth’ musings was followed by Tracy Watkins. Writing for Fairfax media on 25/26 September, she still laboured under the impression that a National-Green coalition was a real ‘thing’;

Like Winston Peters, the Greens could theoretically hold the balance of power, after National made it clear it is more than willing to talk turkey with the minor party.

[…]  Some senior Nats consider a deal with the Greens more desirable than a NZ First deal – the Green’s environmental platform is seen within National as something it could accommodate, particularly after the clobbering it took over clean water during the election campaign.

That highlighted to National that its credibility on environmental issues and New Zealand’s 100 per cent pure brand needs some serious work – and a Greens deal would be a simple way to enhance its environmental credentials.

There is also recognition that a deal with the Greens would be more forward looking and more likely to ride the mood for change than a deal with the NZ First, whose policies are more backward looking.

Peter Dunne followed on Radio NZ’s Morning Report on 27 September, with his call for a National-Green coalition;

“The best option in my view … is for the Greens to be very bold, work out that they could make significant changes on climate change policy, and go with National.”

Note that this suggestion came from Peter Dunne, who recently chucked in his own political career rather than facing  Labour’s Greg O’Connor at the ballot box.

Where was Dunne’s own boldness?

What happened to his own United Future Party?

Even a chat-show’s sports commentator put his two cents worth in. The AM Show’s Mark Richardson suddenly decided that commentating on grown men kicking balls around wet paddocks wasn’t enough of a challenge for him. Duncan Garner decided to prompt Richardson to offer the public his  suddenly new-found “political expertise”.

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Mark Richardson, Sports Presenter (now moonlighting as a political pundit)

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Richardson complied, and sagely advised;

AM Show sports commentator Mark Richardson is dipping his toe into the political pool again, this time splashing his ideas at the leader of the Green Party.

Introduced by his colleague Duncan Garner as a “political expert”, who has “decided that you [Green Party leader James Shaw] should listen to him and this is what he wants to say.”

The cricketer-turned-broadcaster challenged Shaw to form a coalition government with National, following the stalemate reached in Saturday’s election.

I just want to say James,” said Richardson, directly to camera, “be a risk taker and back yourself, but not only back yourself, back that band of hopeful young administrators you take with them (sic),” he said.

How ‘delightful’ that National supporters and other sundry right-wingers are encouraging the Greens to be “bold”  and “risk takers”. After all, if such an unlikely coalition were to eventuate, the damage wreaked upon the Green Party wouldn’t impact one iota on the likes of Morgan, Hooton, Bolger, Dunne, Richardson, et al. But it sure as hell would destroy the Greens and eliminate the Labour Party’s only reliable potential coalition partner.

Game over for the Left.

So no surprise that a whole bunch of people on the Right and media have suddenly focused on the Green Party;

  • For media pundits, they are suffering from boredom and a debilitating psychological effect called ‘lackofheadline-itis’. With coalition negotiations unlikely to commence until Special Votes have been counted and announced on 7 October, manufacturing “news” by positing a fantasy fairy tale of the Greens linking up with National creates headlines. It’s as close to fake news as we’ll get with the msm.
  • For National Party supporters – such as AM Show sports commentator Mark Richardson (see above) – such a deal with the Green Party would lend legitimacy to a fourth term National government. Make no mistake, the Green Party is a powerful brand, and the Nats want it. Badly.
  • For the National government, should any  such a coalition eventuate, the kudos for any environmental gains would inevitably be snapped for themselves, as it did with the home insulation deal it made with the Green Party in 2009;

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Success for that  programme was claimed solely by the Nats;

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But as the fate of small parties such as ACT, United Future/Peter Dunne, and the Maori Party demonstrated with crystal clarity, snuggling up close to the National Party goliath is akin to trying to cuddle up to a ravenous lion. It will not end well.

Just ask Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox.

So National would benefit two-fold.

By contrast, it is unclear what gain (if any) the Greens could hope to achieve.

National and sundry right-wing commentators should knock off trying to use the Green Party as pawns in any negotiations with NZ First. Trying to use the Green Party as “leverage” will simply not work. The Green Party refuses to be anybody’s “lever”.

Just to be absolutely clear – because evidently, having it in writing, in black and white, on the Green Party website – is insufficient for some people;

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Matthew Hooton can’t count

Also on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon political panel on 25 September, right-wing political commentator,  Matthew Hooton, stated that National’s vote on Saturday was better than previous elections;

“Admittedly partly as a result of the decline of the Conservative Party, National has won more votes, got a higher proportion of the vote than it did in 2014 and 2008…”

It is unclear what Hooton has based that assumption on, as his statement is contradicted by the Provisional Results from the Electoral Commission.

According to the Commission’s website, the National Party gained the followed percentage and individual votes for 2008, 2014, and 2017;

Election Year Party
Votes
%
Votes
2008 1,053,398 44.93%
2014 1,131,501 47.04%
2017* 998,813 46.0%

(* Preliminary results)

The numbers are clear; National’s vote has fallen by 132,000 and their percentage of the Party Vote has fallen by over one percentage point from 2014. (And whilst National’s Party vote percentage was higher this year than 2008 – they still suffered a drop in actual votes by 54,585.

Even the demise of Colin Craig’s Conservative Party (aka, CCCP) failed to lift National’s poll results.

Whichever way you look at it, the tide is beginning to ebb on National’s fortunes.

Stuart Nash wins Napier outright

Following the 2014 General Election, I pointed out that Stuart Nash’s win in the Napier seat was due more to Garth McVicar splitting the right-wing vote, allowing Labour to slip through to victory. As I reported on 26 September, 2014;

Nash did not “win” Napier.

The National candidate, Wayne Walford lost the electorate when Garth McVicar from the Conservative Party split the right wing vote in the electorate. Remember; electorate contests are still fought using First Past the Post – not by any  proportionality or preferential voting.

The actual results were;

McVICAR, Garth: (Conservatives) 7,135

NASH, Stuart: (Labour) 14,041

WALFORD, Wayne: (National) 10,308

Add McVicar’s 7,135 to Walford’s figures, and the combined 17,443 would have trounced Nash easily.

On Election Night 2017, Stuart Nash did not had the benefit of a popular Conservative Party candidate splitting the right-wing vote. Instead, he won the seat outright;

Candidate
 Stuart Nash (L)
18,407*
 David Elliott (N)
14,159*
 Laurence Day (CCCP)
200*

* Figures provisional.

 

Not only did Nash retain his overall majority, but McVicar’s 7,135 votes from 2014 appears to have been evenly split between Nash and Elliott.

This time, Nash can legitimately assert that he won the Napier seat without vote-splitting creating an artificial majority, as happened three years ago.

Winston Peters waiting for Special Votes

It’s not often that I agree with NZ First leader, Winston Peters. But on 27 September he told the media;

“This will be the last press conference I am going to hold until after the 7th of October… I can’t tell you what we are going to do until we have seen all the facts.

I can’t talk to you until I know what the 384,000 people who have cast their vote said… please don’t write the kind of thing saying someone has moral authority…we are not first past the post here.”

He’s right.

Until Special Votes are counted, making statements to the media is an exercise in futility. It would be pandering more to the dictates of the 24-hour news cycle rather than offering anything constructive to the public.

At this point the media will have to exercise patience and simply accept that until Special Votes are counted, nothing can (or should) happen.

The democratic process cannot; must not; should not, revolve around the 24-hour news cycle.

The Curious resignation of  Wayne Eagleson

Something very, very curious has transpired in the dark coridors of power in the Beehive. The Prime Minister’s Number 2, right-hand man, Wayne Eagleson  announced his resignation on 25 September.

Eagleson was one of several high-ranking National figures who were informed that Winston Peters had received a superannuation overpayment.

On 26 September, both English and Eagleson vigorously denied leaking – or having knowledge of who might have leaked – information on Peters’ superannuation overpayments;

It didn’t come from the National Party.” – Wayne Eagleson

No, not all. I take people by their word that no action was taken by my staff in making that information public.” – Bill English

Now, aside from the fact that Bill English has already shown himself willing and capable of telling lies, by repeating Steven Joyce’s fabrications over Labour’s “$11.7 billion hole” and “increased personal taxes”, there remain an interesting question regarding the statements made by the Prime Minister and Wayne Eagleson.

Namely this: How can either English or Eagleson know with absolute certainty that the leaking of Peters’ personal superannuation details did not come from someone/anyone connected to the National Party?

If they truly  know – with 100% certainty – that no one in the National Party leaked the information; how do they know this? How is that possible?

In fact, it is not  possible.

In that respect, both English and Eagleson are covering up the possibility that the leak emanated from someone within the National party or government.

And if both men are willing to take that small step to cover-up the merest possibility of an internal National Party leak… would it be too much of a stretch to assume that one or both are fully aware of who the leaker is?

Why did Eagleson resign – especially at this very crucial time of coalition negotiations?

And what does Winston Peters know of why Eagleson resigned?

One salient fact fact is indisputable: someone did leak that information. The question is not who was responsible – but who else knew who was responsible.

Wayne Eagleson knows more than he is letting on, as does Bill English.

Winston Peters has had his ‘utu’.

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References

Mediaworks:  A phone call between National and the Greens would be a short one

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon Political Panel – 25.9.2017 (alt.link)

Radio NZ:  Former PM Jim Bolger on how to deal with Winston Peters (alt.link)

NZ Herald:  Green Party leader James Shaw rules out contacting National

Fairfax media:  The Green Party also hold the balance of power, but they don’t seem to want it

Radio NZ: Morning Report –  Dunne predicts ‘blood on the floor’

Fairfax media:  Mark Richardson declares himself as a National supporter, does that matter?

NBR: Govt launches ‘Warm Up NZ’ programmed

National Party:  10 ways National is helping families get ahead

Green Party:  How you vote has never been so important

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2011 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2008 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission: Preliminary results for the 2017 General Election

Electoral Commission: 2014 Election Results – Napier (Alt.link: Wikipedia – Election Results – Napier)

Electoral Commission: 2017 Election Results – Napier (Provisional)

Otago Daily Times:  Peters will wait for special vote count

Mediaworks:  Bill English’s chief of staff quits – but wants NZ First deal first

Radio NZ:  Timeline – Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayments saga

Mediaworks:  As it happened – Parties prepare for election negotiations

Other Blogs

The Standard: How a National/Green coalition could work

Previous related blogposts

Election 2014; A Post-mortem; a Wake; and one helluva hang-over

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (waru)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 September 2017.

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Observations on the 2017 Election campaign… (Waru)

30 September 2017 Leave a comment

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The people have spoke;  votes cast; and now the post-election negotiations begin in earnest…

… once Special Votes are counted and announced on 7 October.

The Electoral ‘Wild Card’ – Special Votes

Three years ago, there were 330,985 Special Votes cast, accounting for 13.5%  of total votes. That reduced National’s seats in Parliament by one, and gifted the Green Party a fourteenth MP. The balance of power in Parliament went through a seismic shift with that one transfer of a single seat.

This year the number of Special Votes has risen dramatically to (approximately) 384,072 (or 15% of total votes).

Special Votes have traditionally supported left-leaning Parties and Labour and the Greens may pick up one or two extra seats, at the expense of National.

This may result in former Iranian refugee, lawyer, and feminist activist,  Golriz Ghahraman becoming the Green’s eighth MP. Two extra MPs will send Mojo Mathers back to Parliament.

National will lose one, maybe two seats, reducing it’s MPs from currently 58 to 57 or 56.

Two extra seats for the Labour-Green bloc will strengthen their hand in negotiations with Winston Peters. A Labour-Green-NZF coalition would rise from 61 seats to 62 or 63 out of a 120 seat Parliament. (With the demise of the Maori Party, there is no over-hang.)

No wonder Peters, Labour, and the Greens can afford to  bide their time. Two weeks will give the three parties a clearer picture as to what voters have delivered.

The Maori Party – a ‘bob each way’

During the election campaign, on 28 August, the Maori Party’s co-leader, Marama Fox, startled the country by making noises that her party could work with Labour as a coalition partner;

“I know our people lean left and they’d love to see us in a coalition arrangement with Jacinda, Metiria not anymore, but somebody from the Greens and Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell. We could change the world – I think that would be amazing.”

She continued asserting that the Maori Party could work in coalition with Labour. In effect Ms Fox was re-branding the Maori Party as an opposition party working to change the government.

But on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 24 September, Corin Dann asked Te Ururoa Flavell if  Bill English deserved a fourth term. Flavell replied;

“Yes, I do. I do, because I work with him. I do believe, come what may that he is an honourable person. That he does have people’s interests at heart […] But  I do believe that he is the right person under the circumstances. He has all that background and that knowledge  and I believe that, that he can take  the country forward.”

Ms Fox may have been earnest in her desire to move her party to the left. But Flavell’s comments suggest otherwise.

We will never know.

The Doom of the Maori Party

The demise of the Maori Party should not surprise anyone. They have suffered the doom of any small political party that has made two grievous mistakes.

Mistake #1: Moving too close to their major coalition partner  and being over-shadowed and subsumed by the  Blue Colossus that was the National-ACT Government.

Mistake #2: Ignoring past ‘messages’ sent to them by voters who consistently showed their displeasure at the Maori Party’s choice of coalition partner. Since the 2008 general election, the Maori Party’s presence in Parliament has steadily dwindled;

2008: 5 seats

2011: 3 seats

2014: 2 seats

2017: nil seats – gone by lunchtime

In blaming voters for their defeat, Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell and other Maori Party leadership ignored the gradual decline of voter support until they had nothing left.

Hone Harawira proved himself correct when he criticised the Maori Party’s coalition with National;

“The downside of being in government with National is having to put up with all the anti-worker, anti-beneficiary and anti-environment (and therefore anti-Maori) legislation that comes as a natural consequence of having a right-wing government.

The Maori Party is a coalition partner of that government and our co-leaders are ministers in that government, so unless we take a very strong position against some of the government’s legislative agenda we will be seen as supporting that agenda.

It does not reflect the hopes and dreams of either the Maori people or the Maori Party, and was opposed by most Maori during the select committee hearings. If we support this bill, we’re effectively saying that our coalition with National is more important than our commitment to Maori.”

Even Patrick Gower warned the Maori Party four years ago that it was sliding toward an inevitable doom if it maintained it’s cosy relationship with the Tories;

” It needs the nuclear option.

It needs to kick National in the guts and walk away.

[…]

It’s time for Flavell to change the narrative.

He needs to start distancing the Maori Party from National. He needs to start extricating it from the cosy relationship.

He needs to position the Maori party differently – much differently. “Positioning” isn’t enough any more – he needs to make a break.

And so it came to pass.

Which is unfortunate, as I believe that the Maori Party’s voice in Parliament added to the public discourse. One hopes that a resurgent Maori-Mana Party will return in 2020. Maori need representation in the House, independent of any mainstream, pakeha-dominated party.

Gareth Morgan – green with envy?

Gareth Morgan’s call for the Green Party to work with National is either political naivete – or a cunning plan to undermine and eventually destroy the Green Party and siphon off their voter-base.

Either way, not a look look for Mr “Common Sense”.

The fate of the Maori Party (and other small parties whose orbits took them too close to their stellar coalition partners) is a clear warning that a blind person could see.

Mr Morgan should to stick to his “knitting” such as promoting the Universal Basic Income and building his own party for 2020.

ACT – time to pull the plug

It’s time for National to pull the plug on ACT. The Epsom life-support unit served it’s purpose when ACT could be guaranteed to poll over 1.2% – but it’s electoral support has been waning since 2008;

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Election Year Party
Votes
%
Votes
2008 85,496 3.65%
2011 23,889 1.07%
2014 16,689 0.69%
2017 10,959 .05%

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With no hope of ACT’s sole MP, David Seymour, pulling in a second MP on his “coat-tails”, National might as well cut him loose and regain Epsom for themselves.

Or not.

Who can really care anymore for a “Party” polling at half of one percent?

Certainly not Bill English;

“We want to get on with the job of forming a government, but we will work with New Zealand First at a pace they’re willing to go.”

He said it was pretty clear cut that a two-party coalition would be more stable, and voters had given National a task of forming a government with New Zealand First.

“Our position in going into those negotiations is that almost one in two New Zealanders supported National.

“The voters have given us the task of forming a government with New Zealand First and that’s what we’ll proceed to do.”

ACT would complicate a governing arrangement, and he would not expect the party to be included in that government.

“The shortest path to stable government is a two-party coalition between National and New Zealand First.”

By the way, David Seymour…

On TVNZ’s Q+A, ACT leader and sole-MP, David Seymour, blamed First Past the post for his party’s crushing defeat on Election day;

“Every minor party got hammered, we kind of went back to a first-past-the-post environment.”

Typical of right-wingers; demanding personal responsibility from the rest of us – but never showing any themselves. If ACT cannot win electoral support under MMP, then it will never achieve success under any system (except maybe at gunpoint).

Perhaps Mr Seymour should just accept that 99.95% of voters simply do not like ACT’s free-market, dog-eat-dog,  and corporate-welfarism for it’s taxpayer-funded Charter Schools.

When Gareth Morgan’s TOP gained four times more votes (48,018 – 2.2%) than ACT  (10,959 – 0.05%), what does that say about the fate of neo-liberalism in this country?

Yes Winston, we have…

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The question is, what will he do about it?

Does Winston Peters really want his party to end up like the Maori Party, ACT, and Peter Dunne – all casualties of their political closeness to National?

Lisa Owen made this observation on TV3’s The Nation, on 24 September, when she pointed out to Steven Joyce;

“Given the situation you find yourself in with the previous people you’ve worked with dwindling…”

As others have pointed out, a vote for NZ First was indeed a vote for change. Otherwise, those leaning toward National would have cut out the Black & White Middle Man and voted for the Blue Team.

Going with National is More of the Same.

Choose wisely, Mr Peters, choose wisely.

The Fate of The Maori Seats

With the demise of the Maori Party and the assimilation of all seven Maori Seats into a mainstream, predominantly white-person’s political party, it is more apparent than ever that we need to retain those Maori Seats to ensure on-going, guaranteed Parliamentary representation for Tangata Whenua.

If National bows to Peters’ demand for a referendum on the seats, it will be a sad day for democracy in this country when the Majority get to choose on entrenched safeguards for a Minority.

Why do (some) pakeha feel so threatened by seven seats when they  have 113 seats for themselves, under their potential full control? It can’t be any notion of “reverse-racism”. Those who demand the abolition of Maori seats rarely concern themselves with such matters.

National’s Dirty Politics Strategy

In a Hollywood movie, a budding politician rises up from nowhere and successfully takes on the political Establishment Elites. After a struggle, the hero/heroine prevails, showing that truth, courage, and integrity will always defeat the Dark Forces of the political Elite. Cue happy ending; cue stirring theme music; roll credits; bank the ticket-takings.

In real life, Steven Joyce and his party strategists (with the assistance of Crosby Textor?) spun two lies, regarding Labour’s mythical “$11.7 billion fiscal hole” and that Labour would “raise taxes”. None of which were remotely true. Joyce was aided and abetted by Bill English who unashamedly repeated those two lies at every opportunity, whether on-air debates or interviews on Radio NZ, Q+A, The Nation, etc. At no point did either man resile from their wilful calumny.

If 998,813 voters who ticked “National” on their Party Vote ballot weren’t aware that the two claims were barefaced lies – or, knew it was a lie and simply didn’t care – Joyce’s  strategy for mis-information worked.

Even Patrick Gower – no friend of the Left – knew that Joyce’s claims were deliberate lies, and was appalled at what he was witnessing;

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The Dirty Tricks strategy was previously used against Winston Peters when an unknown agent leaked his superannuation over-payment to the media.

At the next election, Labour and the Greens must be better placed to strategically address “fake news” from the National Party. Labour and Green strategists must  be conscious that the Nats will stoop to lies if their pre-election polling shows them at-risk of losing. A rapid-response task-force should be ready and well-resourced to counteract such lies; to do it immediately,  and with energy.

Patrick Gower put it this way on The Nation on 24 September, when he interviewed Labour’s Phil Twyford;

“…And one of the issues was the attack from National on tax and their lies, in effect. Now, why didn’t you call them out earlier?

[…] But do you look back now and go, ‘We were relentlessly positive, but we let their relentless negativity come in too much.’ Do you look back now as you wake up and go, ‘Oh, we should have called them out earlier.’?

[…] But where was her junkyard dog? Where was someone— If she was relentlessly positive— And, actually, I’m going to call you out here — were you personally too late? Do you take some responsibility for not taking on Steven Joyce and letting him get away with what he did?”

This style of dirty tricks cannot be allowed to become New Zealand’s “new norm”.

That was Then, This is Now

In 2008 and 2011, then-Dear Leader John Key was emphatic that under no circumstances would he entertain any coalition deal with Winston Peters;

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Three years later;

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The Nats are nothing if not “flexible”. As are their “principles”.

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References

Electoral Commission: 2017 General Election Timetable

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2014 General Election Official Results

Fairfax media:   National loses majority, Greens pick up one

Electoral Commission: Preliminary results for the 2017 General Election

Green Party:  Golriz Ghahraman

Mediaworks:  Labour, Greens and Māori Party ‘could change the world’ – Marama Fox

TVNZ: Q+A –  Maori Party – Te Ururoa Flavell

Wikipedia: Maori Party

Fairfax media:  Māori have ‘gone back like a beaten wife to the abuser’, defiant Marama Fox says

Fairfax media:  Te Ururoa Flavell won’t be part of a Māori Party revival

NZ Herald:  Maori Party investigates complaint against Harawira

Mediaworks: Opinion: Maori Party must kick National in guts

Fairfax media:  Party ‘for a fairer New Zealand’ falls flat, as Gareth Morgan’s TOP falls far short of 5 per cent

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2011 General Election Official Results

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2008 General Election Official Results

Radio NZ:  Two-party coalition more stable – English

TVNZ: Q+A –  ‘Every minor party got hammered’ – ACT Party leader David Seymour justifies dismal party vote

Scoop media: TV3’s The Nation –  Lisa Owen interviews Steven Joyce

Fairfax media:  The Māori Party is out: Labour wins all Māori electorates

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National guilty of biggest campaign lie

Mediaworks:  Patrick Gower – National playing ‘post-truth politics’

Fairfax media:  Winston Peters, scandal and a recipe for revenge

Scoop media: TV’s The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews Phil Twyford

Fairfax media:  Bill English – I’m ready to talk to Winston

Other Blogs

The Standard:  National have poisoned the Peters well

The Standard:  National’s political hit job on Winston Peters

The Standard:  Where to now for the Greens?

The Standard:  Consider the people of New Zealand First

The Standard:  National rules itself out of coalitions with cynical BillShit

Previous related blogposts

John Key: Man of Many Principles (2012)

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study (2014)

No More. The Left Falls. (2014)

Election ’17 Countdown: The Promise of Nirvana to come

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (tahi)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rua)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (toru)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (wha)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (ono)

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (whitu)

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(Acknowledgment: Toby Morris, The Wireless)

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 September 2014.

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