National and Labour economic with truth about fuel pipeline

But one thing has become clear in the course of this story. National and Labour are both being economic with the truth how a fuel line came to be leaking 80m³ of fuel. Perhaps it is fitting for the final week of a chaotic election campaign that has seen wild swings in the polls from Labour to National and back to Labour.

Trying to make sense of who is involved is another matter. National and Labour are blaming each other, though if one looks at who knows what, it has been known since 2005. This means that for the last three years of the previous Labour Government and the entire duration of this Government it has been known that there is a problem with the pipe. And a more recent report from 2012 suggesting that there should be a back up plan does not help the situation either.

Airlines flying in and out of Auckland International Airport are being constricted by the lack of fuel. And thousands of passengers have suffered delays. No doubt this has included politicians trying to get to meetings and last week campaign events.

To show how serious the issue is being taken, a Royal New Zealand Navy tanker has been drafted in to deliver fuel.

What I find perhaps surprising is the lack of alarm being shown by the Department of Conservation in having so much fuel leak into the environment.

For a Government that has spent billions on roads and talks about infrastructure being critical to New Zealand’s development, and also given its support for oil, the lack of emphasis on maintaining this infrastructure – or getting the parties responsible for it to do so – is perhaps the most surprising aspect.

But as we progress through the final days of the N.Z. election campaign, I doubt this is going to change voters minds. The ones that have already made their minds up will just be hardened further.

The only thing that can really be debated is how this will impact on New Zealand’s reputation. Some say we just need to stay came and let the authorities get on top of it. Others will be less impressed – especially if they find their flight taking a several thousand kilometre detour because there is not enough fuel to get out of Auckland. And the saying goes one disgruntled customer will tell for people – if they then tell four more each, it is easy to see how this could spiral out of control if not dealt with quickly.

N.Z. 2017 election in home straight: the final five days

So here we are. The final five days of campaigning are about to begin. The last rounds of flyers will be doing into letter boxes. The last radio chats will be held. The last public addresses will be before Friday. On Friday the election hoardings will be dismantled. The websites will be prepped for being taken offline by 0000 hours on Saturday. Final plans will be getting laid down for the election night celebrations/commisserations.

For A.C.T. the priorities will be rounding up enough voters to give David Seymour an A.C.T. Member of Parliament (Beth Houlbrooke)to share the workload with. Their messages will be familiar ones – simplifying and lowering the individual taxes; removing what they view as unnecessary red tape such as the Resource Management Act.

At this stage A.C.T. look like they might pick up a second M.P., which for them would be a major achievement.

For National, the priorities will be pushing the same messages about stable government; Jacinda does not know what she is doing and long term commitments. It will be trying to shore up votes on housing, economy, jobs and education. Mr English’s wife Mary, who works in the medical profession will be a useful asset winning over female voters.

At this stage I think National is trailing Labour. It will probably get 46 seats probably not be able to form a Government even with A.C.T. and New Zealand First on board.

For Labour, containing the ongoing attacks over their taxation policy, which is on their website will be the major focus. Labour will be continuing to focus on Ms Ardern’s positive message “Lets do this”, and continuing to keep up the pressure on housing, social welfare, health and jobs.

I think Labour is leading and will probably get 49 seats. It will need New Zealand First and possibly the Greens to get enough seats.

The Greens are still dealing with the fall out from Metiria Turei’s admission about her lying to Work and Income New Zealand regarding a benefit she was on. Their leader James Shaw has much work to do and is handicapped by the fact that normally Mrs Turei would pick up a substantial workload. Their messages will be about transport, clean water, housing and health. How much the public is willing to forgive them will become clear on 23 September 2017.

I expect the Greens will get 9 seats in Parliament. Unfortunately some talented M.P.’s are likely to pay a price for Mrs Turei not being honest and paying up at the same time, which would have limited the damage.

The Maori Party M.P.’s Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell have been fairly quiet in the campaign. That might be a result of having only two M.P.’s to work with rather than any slackness on their part. Their priorities will probably pushing on with the Treaty of Waitangi settlements and – I hope – some progress on addressing the dismally high participation of Maori in youth crime, unemployment and truancy.

I expect that the Maori Party will get 3 M.P.’s. In other words Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell will be returned to Parliament, but with a new face.

Last but not least, New Zealand First occupy a role they are familiar with, and I suspect they will gain more familiarity with in the next couple of weeks. Labour’s surge in the polls as a result of the Jacindanami, means it is now a serious alternative provided the remaining week in the election campaign goes okay. New Zealand First‘s familiar messages about house ownership, immigration and jobs are coming out once again, albeit probably more strongly than in the past, spurred on by a dissatisfied public wanting change.

Winston Peters is a wily old fox and has been around the halls of power for long enough now to know how M.M.P. works. He knows, provided his party does not make any election killing gaffes, it is set to be king maker again. The question is how big will the king maker be? My guess is 12 M.P.’s.

National’s scaremongering smacks of desperation

For nearly 3 weeks, there was an astonishing calm on the battle front. Politicians went about their campaigning. Policies were released and countered. Debates were held and the respect seemed mutual. But then came a political poll: Labour had leap frogged over National and suddenly the incumbents were in grave danger of losing. Time to mobilize the foot soldiers, unlock the munition dumps with their array of mud.

Over the last few days, the barometer has really dropped on National’s election campaigning. As it has progressed the campaign started cleanly with National and Labour trading blows over policy. But in the last few days it has been steadily falling with a barrage of increasingly desperate, outdated and sometimes blatantly ridiculous attack adverts.

National’s campaign smacks of the desperation of a party that knows it is in trouble with voters. When the campaign harks back to desperate tactics used in the 2002 General Election – which makes it all the more surprising given 27 July 2002 was National’s darkest day, with a paltry 27 seats left to them in the new Parliament – what is it telling you about their general strategy?

Among the gimmicks have been the revival of the fart tax attack ads, suggesting that Labour is going to tax cows farting. Aside from forgetting some basic biology that most people who paid attention at high school would have learnt that cows also belch, National have had nine (9) years to introduce measures to deal with the methane discharge. They have had this time in which they could have worked with farmers to get them on grass that was promised would reduce emissions. National have had time to get farmers onto more sustainable modes of farming than dairying, which has peaked, contrary to what they or Federated Farmers will tell you.

Another attack is more recent, but just misguided and perhaps even more discredited. A week ago National attacked Labour over an alleged N.Z.$11.7 billion hole in their financial plan for New Zealand. Not only was it totally discredited by numerous accountants, and by BERL, who costed the plan, even National Party members began criticizing Treasurer Steven Joyce for continuing to harp on about it.

I suppose at some point the campaign was going to get dirty. The 2014, 2011, 2008 and 2005 campaigns were all shades of poo rather than the colours of any of New Zealand’s political parties. The 2002 campaign had the Painter-Gate incident. 2005 was rocked by the Exclusive Brethren claims and eventually the funding scandal that saw various political parties use funding that they were not entitled to – and be made to pay it back.

The 2008 one saw A.C.T. and New Zealand First engaged in mortal combat, which stemmed from allegations surrounding donations made to the party – which was cleared of any wrong doing, but not before exiting Parliament in the election that year. In 2014 the journalist Nicky Hager released a book called Dirty Politics, regarding the . It was also the election where Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party aligned themselves in an ill-fated alliance with Hone Harawira’s Mana Party that split the left vote when it was most needed.

The mud slinging is in its early days yet, but both sides have a stockpile of it that they had been – correctly – hoping to avoid having to use. Unfortunately the Young Nats fired the first shots and so now they and their heroes can reap what they sowed.

Jacinda’s first 100 days

100 days. The first three months plus 10 days. It is a thing in politics to lay out for everyone to see what one plans to do in their first 100 days in office.

Well, most governments. I cannot recall any such plan being put in place by the LIberal Government of Malcolm Turnbull in Australia, which at a glance looks like it is really not supposed to be there. Clueless as to the issues, wracked by infighting and potentially crippled by revelations that several of its most senior politicians are not legally entitled to be serving, one cannot help but wonder if they will the next Government to fall.

Contrast that with former President Barak Obama of the United States and current President Donald Trump. Both had extensive plans for their first 100 days in office. Contrast it also with former Prime Minister John Key who also had a first 100 day plan.

So does Labour leader Jacinda Ardern. And yesterday she laid out for everyone to see, what Labour’s priorities would be should Ms Ardern and her colleagues in Parliament pick up enough seats to form a coalition. At an address in Wellington to hundreds of Labour Party supporters and their candidates, Ms Ardern told New Zealand what Labour would do as immediate priorities:

  • Urgent legislation banning overseas speculators by Christmas from purchasing houses that they are not going to live in
  • Tertiary education will be free from 01 January 2018

Other priorities outside the first 100 days, but within the first year of taking office would include:

  • The minimum wage will rise to $16.50 from
  • Implementing Labours family support package by not later than 01 July 2018
  • Locking in carbon emissions at zero
  • Investigating a capital gains tax that exempts the family home – no details until after the election

Whilst appearing to be a relatively full on agenda for the first 12 months, Labour caucus members need to be thinking at the back of their minds about a longer plan. I am not talking about one just until 2020 when Labour would be up for re-election. I am talking about a bigger vision for New Zealand for the next couple of generations. In other words a plan that New Zealanders can try to see into the future with.

Political parties – and this might be an M.M.P. symptom – generally seem to look at the country’s future through the election cycle, i.e. every 3 years. Yet they seem to like using the word visionary. It would be more realistic if they could think about the next couple of generations rather than the next couple of election cycles.

The need for a leader with a spine

Recently I have read that Labour leader Jacinda Ardern will talk to the Australian Government about the need to treat New Zealanders living in Australia like others living there. Just as quickly I saw that current Leader of the National Party has shot it down, saying that it was pretty silly of Ms Ardern to do make the promise.

How refreshing I thought. New Zealand has prided itself in the past as being a nation with a spine when it comes to thorny international issues. Last year for example a resolution was passed in the United Nations General Assembly and accepted by the United Nations Security Council condemning Israel’s blatant ignorance of resolutions demanding the cession of home building in Gaza and the occupied territories.

But New Zealand’s finest hour was after the Rainbow Warrior bombing. Horrified that such a thing could happen here, and furious with France – a supposed ally or friend – for carrying out such a heinous act, New Zealand bravely stared down France. It won much respect internationally from other peoples and nations for doing so. An encore – if that is what it could be called – came in 1995 when the French resumed nuclear testing resulting in the recall of the New Zealand ambassador to France.

Notably these acts of New Zealand steadfastness have happened under both National and Labour led Governments. However in more recent circumstances both parties have unnecessarily mellowed, which has led to some unfortunate cave ins when dignitaries visiting from overseas have been met with protests, and the New Zealand Government has failed to stand up for the protesters, especially if they come from countries whose Governments are not known for tolerating dissent.

More sadly still, it seems that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters who in the past has been seen as an unapologetic backer of principled protests, has decided he might apologize to Australia.

For what? What have we done that justifies apologizing to Australia?

It is unlikely that the stoush with Australia will ever get close to the gravity of the run ins with France. However it does need to be noted that this is rather bullying behaviour on Australia’s part and New Zealanders have a right to expect that they will be treated no worse by Australian officials than the nationals of any other country.

So, I welcome the steel in Jacinda Ardern’s spine. To be willing to make such a stand might be precisely what is needed to remind the Australian Government that we have rights too. The Australian Government seems likely – if current polling can be taken with confidence – to not exist after the 2019 General Election (if indeed the Australian Government can last until then), and several Ministers of the Australian Government have recently made mistakes thinking that New Zealanders living there will just roll over and meekly accept whatever comes their way..