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Posts Tagged ‘Voting’

Democracy denied – Labour’s saddest failing

30 November 2018 2 comments

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Labour’s most tragic failing to date has largely flown under the media radar: to reinstate the right of prisoners to vote. Labour’s inaction is made worse in the knowledge that it would have taken little effort and very little cost to undertake.

In 2010, as part of it’s get-tough-on-crime rhetoric, National passed the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act. It’s intention was clear enough:

The bill proposes to remove the right of a person serving a term of imprisonment of less than three years to register as an elector.

Previously, the Electoral Act 1993 had disqualified prisoners from voting those “detained in a prison under a sentence of imprisonment for life, preventive detention or for a term of three years or more“.

The Act was first proposed by National MP, Paul Quinn. Mr Quinn was one of National’s few Maori MPs at the time, and was struggling to make a name for himself in Parliament. In both the 2008 and 2011 general elections he finished second in the Hutt Electorate to Labour’s Trevor Mallard. By 2011 he had dropped seven places on National’s Party List and did not make it back to Parliament as a List MP.

The irony of Mr Quinn’s sponsoring of the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill should not be lost on anyone. As a Maori MP and Treaty negotiator for Ngati Awa, his Bill would target and disenfranchise a predominantly Maori prison population;

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Attorney General Chris Finlayson – one of National’s well-respected moderates and an uncommonly insightful member of Parliament – was scathing of Quinn’s Bill. In a report presented to the House, he attacked the Bill as “unjustifiably inconsistent”, “not rationally linked”, having “irrational inconsistencies”, “irrational and irregular”, and creating “irrational effects of the Bill … disproportionate to its objective”.

He pointed out several examples of irrational inconsistencies;

“The blanket ban on prisoner voting is both under and over inclusive. It is under inclusive because a prisoner convicted of a serious violent offence who serves a two and a half year sentence in prison between general elections will be able to vote. It is over inclusive because someone convicted and given a one-week sentence that coincided with a general election would be unable to vote. The provision does not impair the right to vote as minimally as reasonably possible as it disenfranchises in an irrational and irregular manner.”

Minister Finlayson concluded that “the blanket disenfranchisement of prisoners appears to be inconsistent with s 12 of the Bill of Rights Act and that it cannot be justified under s 5 of that Act“.

Writing in his regular on-line column, Gordon Campbell also pointed out bizarre contradictions inherent in Quinn’s Bill;

Hidden in the majority verdict though, is this gem of illogic : “The Electoral Enrolment Centre has proposed working with the Department of Corrections to develop a national procedure to encourage prisoners to re-enrol upon release from prison.” Got that? The centre-right faction on the select committee wants officialdom to devise a new bureaucratic programme to re-register prisoners all over again, once they’re out of jail. First, they want to treat prisoners as non-persons and deny them the vote – and then want to set up a nationwide programme to re-ignite the same motivation that they’ve just gratuitously chosen to dampen. If there was a prize for political stupidity and bureaucratic proliferation in the first term of the current government, this Bill would have to be a prime contender. Prime Minister John Key clearly needs to take heed of the verdict of his Attorney – General, and advise the National caucus to vote against this measure.

Quinn may have vanished from Parliament (and from most people’s memories), but the chilling legacy he left behind in that one piece of ill-considered legislation has caused on-going social harm.

Despite Minister Finlayson’s warning, National and ACT passed the legislation 63 votes to 58 against. The Maori Party and Peter Dunne – National’s coalition partners – voted with Labour, the Greens, and the Progressive Party (Jim Anderton).

Labour MPs were vociferous in their opposition to Quinn’s Bill.

Lianne Dalziel:

“We know why this bill is being introduced: it is called dog-whistle politics. There is nothing worse in this House than to see matters of substance raised in a debate such as this. I take the strongest possible exception to using an amendment to electoral law to argue this dog-whistle position to attack people who are in prison at a particular time.

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I say that getting marginalised people in our society on to the electoral roll is one of the hardest things that we have to confront when we try to sign up people during the election campaign. Every member of this House will know how much resource we put into the Electoral Commission to make sure that people are on the roll in the lead-up to both the local-body elections, which take place this year, and the general election, which takes place next year.”

Charles Chauvel:

“The Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill is nothing more than the latest in a long line of dog-whistle attempts to make the Government, the National Party, and its ACT Party fellow traveller over there seem tough on crime. This House should be gravely concerned that some of its members can come in here and propose legislation for those reasons, without any regard for its practical implications. Those members would place political image above fairness, above the value our society places on the civic duty of voting, above the effectiveness of our electoral roll, and above prisoners’ reintegration into society upon release…

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This bill has no intention other than to make the Government look tough on crime.”

Chris Hipkins:

“This bill will disenfranchise them from society even further.

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We spend so much time getting people on to the electoral roll in the first place, and some of the people who are the most difficult to get on to the roll in the first place are the people who are disenfranchised from our community. We struggle to get the people who are more likely to go to prison on to the electoral roll in the first place, yet this bill removes them from the electoral roll. It is not justified. It will further marginalise them from our community.

Tough on crime rhetoric is the easy part. Dealing with the underlying social causes of criminal offending, the disenfranchisement from society, and the total feeling of anger that exists within many of the people in our prisons is something we have to think long and hard about. We do not do a good job of this, because the political rhetoric is too hard on any side of this political debate. It is very difficult to deal with this issue in a way that will look good on the news and will make people likely to vote for us. Yes, there are votes in being seen to be hard on criminals. There are very few votes, unfortunately, in dealing with the root causes of crime and criminal offending, because they are not easy and they do not fit on a bumper sticker.”

Clayton Cosgrove:

“… The truth about this bill, which every person who came before the select committee—including David Farrar, although he supported it—agreed on, is that it will do nothing to help victims. This bill will do nothing to stop recidivism. It will do nothing to stop reoffending, and there is no evidence that it will. This bill will do nothing to change prisoner behaviour. Every submitter bar the member Paul Quinn admitted that this bill was simply a political pamphlet.”

Grant Robertson:

“This kind of legislation is the simple stuff, the meaningless stuff. The hard work of the criminal justice area in trying to make sure that we rehabilitate people and reintegrate them into society is not what we hear from National. 

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The true test of being committed to democracy is to say that even if people have committed some of these crimes, we still fundamentally believe that they have a human right to vote. If we want people to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society, we need to give them a chance to be involved in society. Virtually every person who is covered by the extension of this law, the 2,000 or 3,000 people who are sentenced each year to less than 3 years in prison, will end up back in society. We are not talking here—though with the mistake that National has made, it almost is—about people sentenced to life imprisonment. That is already in the law. Every single one of the people to whom this extension applies will be back in society. What we should be doing is working out how we reintegrate those people into society and how we contribute to rehabilitation. Instead, we have petty, spiteful legislation that does nothing to make our communities safer.”

Carmel Sepuloni:

“I look at the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill and think that it is so incredibly trivial and insignificant. The bill will bring about no change, and no positive repercussions, for New Zealand society.

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The one question that I have to ask when I look at this bill, given that it is a law and order bill, which has gone through the Law and Order Committee, is whether this bill will act as a deterrent to crime. I think the answer is actually no. I cannot envisage any person who is incarcerated, or any person who is on the verge of committing a crime, thinking: “Oh, I had better not commit this burglary; otherwise I will go to prison and lose my right to vote!”. The reality is that for all of us in this House to vote is a right, and for many other people around the world it is an absolute privilege to have the right to vote. But I assume that many of the people who are incarcerated may not actually see voting as being one of the priorities in their lives. In fact, I wonder how many of those people who are incarcerated who actually exercise the right to vote have actually felt a sense of loss when they have been incarcerated and lost that right to vote. This bill seems rather insignificant and almost a complete waste of time in regard to what that member, Paul Quinn, was attempting to do.

When we look at whether it could act as a deterrent to crime, we see that obvious common-sense dictates that actually, no, it probably will not.”

Then-Maori Party MP,  Hone Harawira, was no less scathing of the Bill;

“Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Huri rauna kia ora tātou katoa e te Whare. This bill, the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill, to remove the right of anyone in jail to vote is a direct attack on the democratic freedoms of people we should be trying to help. It is an assault on the intelligence of ordinary New Zealanders. It is another in a raft of misbegotten, panicked pieces of legislation that are driving this country over the precipice into the mindless depths of right-wing insanity.”

Green MP, David Clendon, seemingly had to remind our elected representatives – especially those in government – that voting was core and fundamental to democracy;

“The right to vote, the commission said, is considered fundamental to representative democracies… It [the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill] is at odds with the concept of democracy.”

In 2014, “jailhouse lawyer”, Arthur Taylor, challenged the National government’s law in a Court of Law.

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In July 2015, the High Court found in Taylor’s favour. Justice Heath reasserted Attorney General Finlayson’s determination that banning prisoners from voting was  inconsistent with the Bill of Rights and unjustified;

“The purpose of a formal declaration is to draw to the attention of the New Zealand public that Parliament has enacted legislation inconsistent with a fundamental right.”

In 2017, the Court of Appeal also determined that the law was unfair, unjustified, and inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

National refused point blank to repeal the law. Said Bill English;

“If they raise significant policy issues we’d look at them, but up until now we haven’t seen a reason to change the law.”

Then came the election last year and the National government was swept away. A Labour-led Coalition could finally undo a bad law.

Or so you would think.

On 9 November, after another victory by Arthur Taylor in the Supreme Court, Coalition Justice Minister, Andrew Little issued a response;

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Minister Little said;

“It’s not that much of a priority.”

It’s. Not. That. Much. Of. A. Priority.

Think about that for a moment: “It’s not that much of a priority.”

According to Minister Little, the very foundation of democracy – voting – is “not that much of a priority.”

Attempting to re-engage a marginalised sector of our society by encouraging civic responsibility is “not that much of a priority.”

In the year that is the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand –

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– voting by a disenfranchised, disengaged section of our society is “not that much of a priority.”

Overturning a bad law “not that much of a priority.”

I sincerely hope that Minister Little did not understand the full implications and that he mis-spoke. Because when an elected representative declares that righting a wrong – such as citizens stripped of their vote – is “not that much of a priority”, they are demonstrating a callous disregard for our democratic traditions that defies understanding.

Clendon, Harawira, and others were correct to describe Quinn’s Bill as a direct attack on the democratic freedoms of people. The right to vote is the most basic cornerstone of a true, participatory democracy. Nothing else comes close to the critical importance of the universal franchise.

Only in countries where a notional facade of democracy exists in name only, is the right to vote regarded with similar cavalier disregard. In both Russia and the United States, vested interests have actively undermined participatory democracy. In China, voting is limited to one party. Britain is still locked in a feudal-era First Past the Post system.

When the National government’s own Attorney General – Chris Finlayson – described the removal of the right for prisoners to vote as “unjustifiably inconsistent with the electoral rights affirmed by s12 of the Bill of Rights Act“, then we are left with only one conclusion: it was bad law from the start.

Minister Little was completely and utterly wrong when he said it was “not that much of a priority.”

It should be the highest priority for any nation professing to be a participatory democracy.

If the former National government could abrogate workers rights by changing their status from employees to “contractors”, with an odious piece of legislation passed in just 48 hour from First Reading to Royal Assent – then it should not be an insurmountable task to abolish the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act before the house rises this year.

In fact, by next Friday would be good.

Minister Little, tear down this bad law.

Minister Little, do it now.

Make it a priority.

 

 

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References

Legislation: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010

Ministry of Justice: Report of the Attorney-General under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 on the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill

Wikipedia: Paul Quinn

NZ Herald: Cross-claim endangers settlement

Department of Corrections: Prison facts and statistics – September 2011

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill — First Reading

Parliament: Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill — Second Reading

TVNZ: Jailed bush lawyer asks High Court for right to vote

Radio NZ: Prison vote law breaches human rights – judge

Mediaworks/Newshub:  No voting in prison ‘unfair’ – Court of Appeal

Radio NZ: Prisoners’ right to vote currently not a priority for Parliament – Little

Ministry for Culture & Heritage: Suffrage 125

Legislation: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 (aka “Hobbit Law”)

Acknowledgement

Scoop media: Martin Doyle Cartoon – Voting sucks

Additional

Radio NZ: Protest over prison voting ban

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: Prisoner Rights Blogger wins for Human Rights

Green:  Prisoner voting ban needs to be repealed

The Green Blog: Prisoner voting disqualification and the Bill of Rights Act

Public Address: Fact-checking Parliament – more prisoners can vote than they think

Werewolf: Robbing the Vote

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It’s a measure of the times we live in that neither the media nor New Zealanders in general seem worried that parliament can ‘remove’ rights supposedly guaranteed under our Bill of Rights. Prisoners are themselves victims of a serious constitutional crime. Given our noble history of women’s suffrage, it’s amazing no women have spoken up on behalf of women prisoners.” – Martin Doyle, cartoonist, 29 January 2015

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 November 2018.

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She saw John Key on TV and decided to vote!

22 September 2014 6 comments

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ballot box

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NZ, Wellington, 15 September – ‘Tina’* is 50, a close friend,  and one of the “Missing Million” from the last election. In fact, ‘Tina’ has never voted in her life.  Not once.

In ‘Tina’s’ own words, politics has never held any interest for her and she was always busy with raising a family. To her, politicians were all “the same” and of no relevance to her life. Her family and close friends were her world.

All that changed on 14 August.

‘Tina’ surprised me one evening, the day after Nicky Hager released his book “Dirty Politics“, when she asked me,

“Frank, how do I go about voting?”

I was somewhat taken aback. I was fully aware that ‘Tina’ was without doubt the most apolitical person amongst my friends and acquaintances. Her out-of-the-blue query left me surprised, and somewhat lost for words. (Unusual for me.)

I asked (almost knowing the answer) if she was enrolled. ‘Tina’ wasn’t.

I replied that the easiest way would be to wait for Early Voting to open to the public, where she could enroll and vote at the same time. I reassured her it was a relatively easy process and would take very little time.

I was curious, though, what had motivated her,

“What’s brought this on,” I asked?

She said she had seen a “guy on television” and asked if John Key was the Prime Minister. I replied, yes, sadly, he is.

“Why do you ask?”

‘Tina’ replied,

“He was going on about some book and they were asking him questions about it. I don’t know what it was about, but I know he was lying.”

This is the TV3 interview ‘Tina’ saw;

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Video - John Key talks Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics

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Despite having little interest or knowledge of politics, ‘Tina’ picked up very quickly that Key was not telling the truth when questioned by reporters. Especially toward the end of the interview. And ‘Tina’ was pissed off that Key was treating the public as fools if he thought his dishonesty was not obvious to the casual observer.

Our following discussion was which party should she vote for that got rid “of that man”. I replied that Key’s party was National – so don’t tick that box. I listed ACT, the Conservatives, United Future, and the Maori Party as parties that supported Key – so avoid them like the plague.

NZ First was a question mark as there was no way of guessing if Peters would support Key or Labour. So forget that party.

The only three parties guaranteed to get rid of Key were Labour, the Greens, and Mana-Internet.

‘Tina’s’ next question was the one I dreaded;

“What’s the difference?”

What followed was a short, crash-course in the difference between Labour, the Greens, and Mana-Internet. Which, when trying to explain it to someone out loud seemed ridiculous. The differences seemed minor. Almost trivial and meaningless.

Choosing the electorate candidate was straight forward – vote for the Labour candidate.

On 15 September, I received the following txt-message from ‘Tina’,

“U be proud of me Frank. I just voted.”

I was proud. ‘Tina’ had seen something from our elected Prime Minister that she did not like – and she set about doing something about it. Despite never having voted in her life, my friend made the decision to learn what the process was; what the parties were; and which option best matched her beliefs.

Later that day, ‘Tina’ sent me this photo. She proudly pointed at the little sticker they gave her at the Voting Station; “Yes, I have Voted“.  She txt-messaged me,

“The beehive needs a maturity injection. Its seems there is a lot of school yard bullying and antics going on.”

 

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T just voted

 

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Tina hasn’t told me which party she voted for, and I won’t ask.  But one of the “Missing Million” is no longer missing.

And one of three parties is now one vote stronger.

The moral of this story?  Sometimes it is not the policies or personalities that impel a person to vote.

Sometimes it can be as simple as a flash of insight.

And doing something about it.

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* Not real name

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References

TV3: Video: John Key talks Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics

Previous related blogposts

“Dirty Politics” – the fall-out continues

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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 16 September 2014.

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Letter to the Editor: The power of the vote

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FROM: "f.macskasy"
SUBJECT: Letters to the editor
DATE: Sun, 20 Apr 2014 14:38:19 +1200
TO: "Sunday Star Times" <letters@star-times.co.nz> 

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The Editor
SUNDAY STAR TIMES

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This year, if every Labour, Green, Mana, and Internet Party
supporter finds just one person who didn’t vote in 2011,
and supports them to go to the ballot booth on 20 September
– we will have a new government as our Christmas present.

Then we can have a government that focuses on more jobs;
building homes for young New Zealanders; alleviating child
poverty; protecting the environment, and all the other
critical problems confronting our nation.

Those should be our priorities - not endless scandals;
corporate welfare; tax breaks for the rich; dodgy deals
behind closed doors; rising inequality; falling home
ownership whilst speculators profit; farms sold of to
foreign investors; threats to our coastline through
unconstrained deep sea drilling; polluted rivers and lakes;
and not enough jobs for the 168,000 unemployed in this
country whilst National allows cheap foreign labour for the
Christchurch re-build.

To every Labour, Green, Mana, Internet Party supporter; find
one person who did not vote in 2011 and encourage him/her to
vote for change. The power of the Vote is greater than many
realise - which is why so many dictators around the world
fear it.

We can have the country we want. But we're going to have to
work hard to achieve it.

-Frank Macskasy

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(Address & phone number supplied)

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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Letter to the Editor: Winston Peters, Kim Dotcom, and blank cheques

22 January 2014 6 comments

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old-paper-with-quill-pen-vector_34-14879

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FROM:     “f.macskasy”
SUBJECT: Letter to the ed
DATE:      Wed, 22 Jan 2014 11:17:04 +1300
TO:          “Dominion Post” letters@dompost.co.nz

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The Editor
Dominion Post

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One thing that can’t be denied is that a vote for NZ First –
despite having some policies I agree with – is pretty much a
blank cheque for Winston Peters. I’ve no idea if a vote for
NZF is a vote for a Labour-led bloc or a center-right block
led by John Key.

Kinda like a vote for Kim Dotcom’s Party – what would we get
if we voted for his party? A potential coalition with
Labour? National? Sitting on the cross benches?

As a voter, I’d like the privilege of an informed choice –
not a stab-in-the-dark-and-hope-for-the-best.

Really, is that too much to ask?!
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-Frank Macskasy

(address and phone number supplied)

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vote left

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The Power of your Vote (part rua)

17 January 2014 1 comment

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Russell Brand "I don't vote"

 

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A point for some folk to think about if they are considering scrawling “No Confidence” on their voting paper…

Writing “No Confidence” carries zero weight.

Your ballot will simply be recorded as “spoiled” and categorised in a general “Invalid” category.

There is no such thing as a “No Confidence” category. Politicians will never see your “No Confidence” ballot paper. Neither will the Electoral Commission  keep a tally of “No Confidence votes” to pass on to politicians.

All that will happen is that your ballot is invalid and not counted.

Writing “No Confidence” on your ballot has simply rendered that person invisible and irrelevant  to the democratic process.

That is a self-indulgent luxury which we cannot afford.

 

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Skipping voting is not rebellion its surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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The Power of your Vote (part tahi)

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Russell Brand "I don't vote"

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I watched the Brand video

He’s a passionate man.

Passionate in defending his own style of apathy.

Let me repeat; non-voting will help no one except the 1%. They, and their aspirationist, middle-class, supporters WILL vote.

And things like beneficiary bashing; removing worker’s rights; undermining unions; mining in DoC land; deep sea drilling; selling state assets (again to the 1%); tax cuts for the wealthy; increased GST and user-pays for the poor; more corporate welfare; increasing police powers and state surveillance; weakening environment protection laws;  forcing tenants out of state houses; higher prescription charges; etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc… these will all continue.

Because as sure as the sun rises each morning, the Right Wing understand the power of the vote.

Why do you think you NEVER see right-wingers advocating non-voting?

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No surrender

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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If John Key, Rodney Hide, or John Banks told you…

… that voting was a waste of time, so don’t bother – would you decide to give up and not vote?

Hell no! You’d tell them where to stick it, where the sun don’t shine (to quote our American cuzzies)!

And because there is a meme for every occassion, these are the ones I’d like to share with you.

These ones are designed to engage young people,

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Vote - Key Bring us down

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Vote in 2014 dude - do yourself a favour

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Vote the government out

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Voting in 2014

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And more general ones,

voting-is-not-a-privilege-its-a-right-1024x681

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VOTE dont-vote-dont-complain

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Voting is your voice - be heard

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Not voting is not rebellion, it's surrender!

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National Party spin on Aaron Gilmore and MMP

12 June 2013 1 comment

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Want a good reason for voting for MMP

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Something I’ve noticed in the last few days, as the Aaron Gilmore saga drags on, is the number of snide references being made to our electoral system, MMP (Mixed Member Proportional).

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"...what he's reflecting actually is the reality of MMP. Which whether we like it or not every party leader is powerless."

what he’s reflecting actually is the reality of MMP. Which whether we like it or not, every party leader is powerless.”John Key, 9 May 2013

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 As with the sacking from NZ First's caucus of list MP Brendan Horan, who continues to sit in the House and draw his generous salary and perks, that has underlined a key flaw in the rules for MMP. List MPs are in Parliament solely because of the positions allocated to them by their parties. If they are no longer acceptable to their parties at large, they should likewise be kicked out of Parliament.

As with the sacking from NZ First’s caucus of list MP Brendan Horan, who continues to sit in the House and draw his generous salary and perks, that has underlined a key flaw in the rules for MMP.
List MPs are in Parliament solely because of the positions allocated to them by their parties. If they are no longer acceptable to their parties at large, they should likewise be kicked out of Parliament.”Un-named author, 11 May 2013

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“It is absolutely the curse of MMP that you can’t get rid of an MP that doesn’t deserve to be there.”

“It is absolutely the curse of MMP that you can’t get rid of an MP that doesn’t deserve to be there.”Michelle Boag, May 2013

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The new meme is that the MMP system is somehow permitting Aaron Gilmore to remain in Parliament, and is vexing his Leader’s desire to remove him. The subtext is that MMP is severely ‘flawed’,  allowing errant members of Parliament to flout the ‘system’ and disregard the wishes of the public – and their Party leaders.

The corollary is that the previous system, First Past the Post (FPP) was somehow ‘superior’; tougher on wayward politicians, and allowed Party leaders to ditch them.

Both views are patently false.

As usual, watch out for politicians and their hangers-on – they speak with a forked tongue.

The reality is that pre-MMP, during our First Past the Post era, there were several members of Parliament who split away from their Parties (either National or Labour).

The Roll Call of Honour/Dis-Honour – depending on your point of view:

Matiu  Rata – resigned from Labour, 1979

Jim Anderton – resigned from Labour, April 1989

Gilbert Myles – resigned from National, late 1991

Hamish MacIntyre – resigned from National, late 1991

Cam Campion – resigned from National, March 1993

Winston Peters – resigned from National, early 1993*

Of the six MPs listed above, only Peters resigned from Parliament (as well as his Party), prompting a by-election on 17 April 1993. Rata prompted a by-election the following year, in June 1980.

Peters’ resignation was made of his own volition, as he sought a mandate from his Electorate after a public and very acrimonious split from the Bolger-led National Government of the day. (Indeed, Peters’ by-election was  dismissed  as a “stunt” by his opponants. I guess you can’t win either way.)

The remaining for MPs, Anderton; Myles; MacIntyre; and  Campion all remained as sitting Independent MPs until the following general election. Only Anderton and Peters were re-elected in subsequent elections.

All five MPs were electorate-based, and elected under FPP. In this respect, both MMP and FPP share a common feature; at no time could either Labour or National force their five ‘rogue’ MPs from Parliament.

This is a fact that Key, Boag, and the un-named author of the Dominion Post editorial should be fully aquainted with.

It appears to me is that by ‘dissing’ MMP, the conservative elements in politics (Key, Boag, and an obviously right-leaning anonymous  editorialist) are attempting to shift blame from their own short-comings  onto our electoral system. “Scape goating” is the appropriate term, I believe.

But worse than that – by smearing our electoral system, the Conservative Establishment is further undermining the public perception of democracy in New Zealand.  The apalling low voter turn-out in 2011 –  74.2% , the lowest turnout since 1887 – can only be exacerbated when those with a loud public voice ridicule and deride our electoral system.

The subtext here is; “our electoral system is crap; don’t bother using it; don’t vote; disengage”.

This, of course, suits the purposes of the Conservative Establishment. The less people who vote, the better for them. Their hope is that their own voter base will ignore the subliminal messaging and continue to cast their ballots on Election Day.

It is a sad day in our country when those with a strong public voice (political leaders, public figures, anonymous editorial writers, etc) use their positions to undermine democracy and further erode public participation, when instead they have a duty to promote a sense of  civic duty in our nation.

What’s the bet that come the next election, John Key, Michelle Boag, and the anonymous Dominion Post editorialist will all be voting?

Of course they will. They understand the power of the ballot.

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When you stop voting

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 May 2013.

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References

TVNZ:   Gilmore refuses to resign amid fresh allegations (9 May 2013)

Dominion Post: Editorial: Gilmore should accept it’s time to go  (11 May 2013)

National Business Review: Boag: how best to deal with Gilmore

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Why a Four Year Parliamentary Term is not a Good Idea

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it's time to meet the muppets of the government

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Three years or four?

John Key has made suggestions to  reform certain  aspects of the Parliamentatry electoral cycle,

  • A fixed date for elections, such as our American cuzzies have
  • And extending the Parliamentary term from three to four years

The first suggestion – having a fixed date for elections – is sound. Anything that takes a wee bit of power away from politicians should be welcomed.

On that basis – anything that takes a wee bit of power away from politicians should be welcomed – extending the Parliamentary term from three to four years is one that fills me with disquiet.

I’ve heard the arguments for extending the Parliamentary term,

  1. It’s more efficient
  2. It gives government more time to achieve things
  3. Governments spend the third year of their current term in election mode to win the next election

None of those three arguments convinces me.

1. It’s more efficient

So is the One Party State; an autocratic ruler; or a  Parliamentary term of ten or twenty years . But would we be any better of, in terms of  public participation democracy? (Think: Putin in Russia.)

2. It gives government more time to achieve things…

That statement is never completed. It gives government more time to achieve – what? What incredibly complex, radical reforms are there that require an extra year (or more) for a government to have more time? What does Key have in mind that demands a four year term?

Remember that Select Committees work in unison, not one at a time, and Legislation can be passed in as little as 48 hours – as “The Hobbit Law” showed us (see: Helen Kelly – The Hobbit Dispute) – not that I’m advocating legislative changes conducted at warp speed.

Perhaps governments might have “more time to achieve things” if time wasn’t wasted with petty point-scoring in the Debating Chamber?

3. Governments spend the third year of their current term in election mode to win the next election

Perhaps a government might not have to spend the entire third year in “campaign mode” if, in the preceding two years,  they worked with the people and not against them?

A phrase comes to mind…

By their works ye shall know them.

A good government shouldn’t have to spend the entire third year in “election mode”. A bad government will never have enough time to campaign for re-election.

It’s not the length of time that should matter to a government, but what they achieve with it. If the people approve, a good government will be returned with a decent majority. A good government should have nothing to fear from the electorate.

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Looking at the last 30 years, would I be inclined to give politicians (of all hues) an extra year?

Not bloody likely.

And I’m not referring to the scandals; the cronyism; unpopular asset sale programme; rising unemployment; cynical beneficiary bashing; growing child poverty and widening  income/wealth gap.

I’m referring to attitude.

John Key wants us to trust him with an extra year in power.

But has he given us reason to trust him?

If anything, Key’s attitude of dismissive, casual arrogance does not reassure us that he (or his successors) would use additional political power without a corresponding rise in said arrogance.

To remind the reader of what John Key really thinks of us and his critics…

1. Critics

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key stephenson

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In May 2011, journalist journalist Jon Stephenson, wrote a scathing expose of New Zealand’s involvement in Afghanistan and questioned whether they were complicit in torture.

The article outlined two instances last year where SAS forces allegedly captured suspects and handed them to Afghanistan authorities, including the Afghan secret police, the National Directorate of Security, which has a reputation for torturing prisoners.

New Zealand has signed several international conventions outlawing the inhumane detention of prisoners, including torture.

Source: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims

When challenged, Stephenson offered,

“I’m happy to put my information before an inquiry. Any fair or impartial inquiry will show that they are the ones misleading the public. Not me.”

Source: IBID

It which point Key jumped in with this derisory response,

I’ve got no reason for NZDF to be lying, and I’ve found [Stephenson] myself personally not to be credible.”

Key then attempted to smear Stephenson’s character by accusing him of making a bogus phone call.

We should not forget John Key dismissal of  Nicky Hager’s book, on CIA involvement in NZ military activities in Afghanistan. Key said,

I don’t have time to read fiction.”

Key claimed  that the book contained “no smoking gun”, just supposition, which, “makes it business as normal for Nicky Hager”. (Despite the book having 1,300-plus footnotes to referencing documentation.)

National ministers also seem to have little hesitation in attacking their critics in quite nasty ways. Remember Natasha Fuller,  Jennifer Johnston,  Bradley Ambrose, and even Bomber Bradbury who fell foul of the system when he dared criticse Dear Leader?

If there are “trust issues” here – they seem well founded.

2.The Poor & Unwise “life” choices

Key’s disdain of those who do not meet his world-view was perhaps best summed up on 17 February, 2011, when he was reported as making these comments,

When Labour’s social development spokeswoman Annette King asked about Salvation Army reports of high demand for food parcels, Mr Key responded by saying it was true that the global recession meant more people were on benefits.

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.  And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.

Source: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key

Well, at least we know the real thoughts of the boy from a subsidised State house, raised by a solo-mum receiving state assistance, and who had the benefit of a free, taxpayer funded University education.

3. Public Opposition

On 4 May 2012,  over five thousand people took part in a peaceful,  anti-asset sales Hikoi to Parliament,

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Aotearoa is not for sale hikoi - anti asset sales march   - wellington - 4 May 2012

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Key’s response was instructive,

How many people did they have? John Key asked reporters. “Where was it? Nope wasn’t aware of it.”

Key says the National Party has a clear mandate to proceed with privatising some state assets.

“Well over a million New Zealanders voted for National in the full knowledge we were going to undertake the mixed ownership model,” he said.

“So look, a few thousand people walking down the streets of Wellington isn’t going to change my mind.”

Source: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament

Nearly a year later, on 12 March, a 392,000-plus signature petition was presented to Parliament. The petition  was  signed by ordinary New Zealanders who wanted nothing more or less than a say in their future.

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12-march-2013-presentation-of-anti-asset-sales-petition-parliament-referendum

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Key’s response?

Key said of the opposition petition you could be as sure as little green apples [that] huge numbers of them are not bona fide names on the list” and would have to be struck off.

“They’ve probably taken over a year to get maybe 300,000 names, we’ve had 285,000 pre-registrations in a matter of days”.

Source: Government to ignore asset sales referendum

And according to Green Party co-leader, Russell Norman, Key further disparaged New Zealanders who signed  the petition by saying,

…that the Prime Minister has said the people who signed this are children and tourists….

Source: IBID

Charming.

Key forgot to add, “let them eat cake”.

Unbridled Power?

Never forget that we are governed by an “elected dictatorship”,

  • There is no Upper House to scrutinise legislation from governments.
  • There is no written constitution to safeguard our interests.
  • Referenda have all the ‘bite’ of a toothless octagenarian (not that I support binding referenda – especially without Constitutional safeguards to protect the rights of minorities).
  • There are no mid-term elections; right-of-recall; Presidential Veto; or any other controls over elected representatives.

Once elected, unless a Member of Parliament is found guilty of a criminal act, we have zero control over them.

The upshot?

Just because this  government  is still (apparently) popular with the aspirationists and middle classes, is not a reason  to trust Key – or any other politician for that matter.

There have been too many broken promises; secret agendas; and bitterness from raised expectations that were soon dashed.

It is a truism that trust has to be earned.

And thus far, the glimpse that we’ve had into our current Prime Minister’s persona, is not one that fills me with confidence or trust.

New Zealanders may wish to reflect carefully before giving politicians any more power. It may be ok when it’s “your man (or woman) in power”. You may feel different if it’s the Other Guy running the country.

The issue simply boils down to one simple question;

How far do you trust the buggers?

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 March 2013.

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References

Wikipedia: Election Day (United States)

NZ Herald: Food parcel families made poor choices, says Key (17 Feb 2011)

NZ Herald: PM attacks journalist over SAS torture claims (3 May 2011)

NZ Herald: Charities’ food handouts at record after Govt cuts (18 Oct 2011)

TVNZ: Key unfazed as protesters descend on Parliament (4 May 2012)

Fairfax media: PM John Key Wants Four-Year Term For Parliament (7 Feb 2013)

Fairfax media: Government to ignore asset sales referendum (12 March 2013)

 

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Latest Horizon Poll – Results!!

20 November 2011 8 comments

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The latest Horizon Poll has been released today (20 November) with some expected – and unexpected – results.  Questions canvassed included the following,

The results:

How parties leaders make people feel

Firstly, how did the two main leaders make people feel?

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The poll indicates that the preceding week has made people feel angry, nervous and afraid about John Key.

Conversely though, Key makes people feel comfortable, excited, proud.

The results seem contradictory in one sense – but perfectly understandable in another. Key’s “honeymoon” with the  media has ended – and that with the public is waning. He is now more of a political figure, rather than apolitical as some perceived him, and therefore is beginning to polarise voters.

It is when negative feelings toward a leader becomes more entrenched that support for a government will drop away – as happened with the Clark-led Labour government in 2008.

These changes are already becoming apparent,

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It’s interesting to note that Goff elicits a growing hope (+8.6%) and pride (+7.4%) whereas people appear less hopeful with Key (-6.7%) and less proud (-4.5%). This would appear to tie in with recent  polls, which also indicate a decline in consumer confidence.

Also of interest is that Key is making people feel more angry (+9.7%), afraid (+8.8%), and nervous (+5.6%) than respondants feel for Goff  (+3.8%, +5.2%, +3.1%).  Issues such as asset sales, cost-of-living increases, high unemployment, and a stubbornly stagnant economy probably play a significant part in such results.

Also, with Key’s brittleness over the “Teapot Tapes”, the public have have their first glance under the “ordinary bloke” facade that Key and his advisors have so carefully cultivated. The man is nowhere as laid back as he makes out. He can get rattled and when things aren’t going his way, he has no hesitation in removing himself from the scene – as evidenced by his recent media conference walkout.

Again, this is reflected by the fact that +1.6 appear more comfortable with Goff – and significantly, people’s comfort level with Key has decreased by -0.5%. Is Key’s “ordinary bloke” facade  developing cracks?

The following poll, though shows a clear difference in how Key and Goff are perecived by the public,

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Key is see as more inspiring, knowledgeable, and stronger.

But Goff’s qualities are that he is seen as more moral, trustworthy, and honest. The latter was backed up by a stuff.co.nz poll that also reflected popular opinion that Goff was more honest/trustworthy than Key,

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Full story

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Key’s past career in speculative trading in the commercial sector may be a factor in this. With the collapse of dozens of finance companies in New Zealand, owing billions to “mum & dad” investors, and with the global banking crisis sparked by dubious activities on Wall Street,  those who are engaged in speculative commerce, finance, stocks, etc, are now viewed with suspicion and often downright hostility.

An underlying subtext to how people view ‘Brand Key’ is that while people certainly consider him to be more knowledgeable than Goff (and the Christchurch “Press” debate may reinforce that impression) – that Key is less trustworthy for reasons outlined above.

Conversely, Goff is seen as more trustworthy, honest, and moral – perhaps because unlike Key, Phil Goff has not be ‘tainted’ by the smell of Wall St excesses. Goff may be seen as wanting to do the “right thing”, whereas Key is seen as a product of hard-nosed business.

Goff has also been candid in admitting that Labour made serious mistakes over selling state assets in the late 1980s. He has apologised for those grievous errors of judgement – no mean feat for a politician. This underscores his trustworthiness compared to John Key’s, right or wrong, in the eyes of the public.

The Horizon Polling for political parties has yielded the following,

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The results comparing those who will “definitely” vote, with those for voters who will “definitely, may or probably” vote.

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Noteworthy is the growth of support for NZ First and the fledgling Conservative Party. If accurate, the Conservative Party are within a hair of crossing the 5% thresh-hold.

The Horizon analysis sez this about seat numbers and coalition permutations, based on the above results,

“The results indicate a National-Conservative-Act-Maori Party- United Future grouping would have 59 seats in a 122 seat Parliament. This assumes Act and United Future win Epsom and Ohariu, the Maori party has 4 electorate seats and Mana one.

A Labour-Green group would have 47, and 50 if joined by Mana.

 

New Zealand First would have 13 seats and the balance of power in the new Parliament.

A National-led coalition would muster 73 votes with New Zealand First support.

 

A Labour-led coalition would muster 63 votes if supported by New Zealand First and Mana.”

The Horizon Poll also took into account public feelings about the “Teapot Tapes” Affair,

The country is highly polarised over the unauthorised recording of a meeting between the Prime Minister, John Key, and the Act party’s Epsom candidate, John Banks.

53% say that neither Mr Key nor Mr Banks, as parties to the conversation, should authorise the public release of the recording.

46.9% think they should authorise its release, according to a major nationwide HorizonPoll, covering 2,874 adult New Zealanders, conducted between 9 am Wednesday and 5.39am Friday (November 16-18). Weighted by age, gender, ethnicity, personal income, education qualification and party vote 2008, the poll has a maximum margin of error of +/- 1.8%.

54.9% also believe the November 11 recording of the eight minute-long conversation, on a microphone left on a table at a Newmarket café by a member of the media, was deliberate. 15.9% say it was inadvertent while 29.2% are not sure.

Asked if the Herald on Sunday, which had the recording last weekend but decided not to publish, or other news media should publish it now, 49.4% say no, 39.5% yes while 11% are not sure.

The issue was damaging the Prime Minister’s credibility this week.

41.9% think the issue has made him less credible, 6.2% more credible while 47.4% say it makes no difference to his credibility. 39% think it has made Mr Banks less credible, 3.2% more credible.

Among those who voted for National in 2008, 17.7% think the issue has made Mr Key less credible, 12.3% more credible – a net credibility loss of 5.4% among his supporters at the last election.

The issue is also impacting New Zealanders’ views on the credibility of the Herald on Sunday (43.1% think it is less credible, 11.8% more credible);  all news media (38.6% less credible, 9.8% more credible) and the police who are investigating a complaint of authorised interception of the private conversation (12.6% less credible, 8.5% more credible).”

The Horizon Poll there backs up other public feedback where a majority believed John Key’s assertion that the conversation between himself and Banks was a private matter and that there was no requirement for eithrer of the men to release the tapes publicly. Despite this feeling, 41.9% of  respondants believed that the affair left Key looking less credible.

An interesting mix of views, though it coyuld be argued that Key did indeed manage to correctly gauge public opinion on this issue.

However, as point out in my piece Tea, tapes, & tantrums  – the overal effect is that Key’s teflon veneer has been significantly scratched by this incident.

It will be interesting to note if Horizon Polling has been an accurate assessment of public opinion. As people correctly state, the only Poll that counts is the one on Election Day. Horizon will be measured against that final outcome.

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Additional

Horizon Poll 20 Nov 2011

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