The Dim-Post

September 8, 2015

State of play

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:50 am

The Herald has a story about Key defending his response to the refugee crisis:

Prime Minister John Key has defended the scale and pace of his rescue package for Syrian refugees, saying if it was rushed it would jeopardise the success of resettlement and could mean refugees from other countries missed out.

Mr Key yesterday announced New Zealand would accept 750 Syrian refugees over the next three years, including 600 in an emergency intake above the usual annual quota of 750.

The cost of resettling the refugees is estimated at $49 million in addition to the current $58 million annual cost of resettlement programmes.

I wish we could do more. But I think this is better than last week’s response to the crisis, which was to do nothing. I also think Key is doing this against the wishes of the majority of his caucus. Print and most broadcast media have called for action on this issue but if you listen to even a few minutes of talkback radio, the sentiment there is overwhelmingly opposed to it. These aren’t refugees, the argument goes: they’re welfare bludging terrorists. And the dumbest, most awful people on talkback are a useful barometer of what National’s backbench MPs think on any given issue.

But this will be popular with the broader public and if Key is to maintain his status as our most popular Prime Minister ever he needs to do what’s popular, not what he or his party actually want. We’re less than a year into Key’s third term and this is now a very odd-looking National government. Of the main goals for the term, campaigned on during the election, RMA reform is dead; killed because the Nats ran a guy they knew was under police investigation as an electorate MP in Northland, then lost that electorate and their majority when that scandal exploded in their faces. Key’s dream of changing the flag to the silver fern on black is almost certainly dead, because he set up the process and committed the money before finding out that the copyright on that image isn’t available, and that the public prefers the current flag to the knock-off alternatives. They’re not going to make their surplus, or, if they do then they’re forecast to go straight back into deficit until at least 2018. 

But they are still making good on their other big election promise: free doctor’s visits for under-13s. In some ways the third-term Key National government has been one of the best left-wing governments we’ve ever had. They raised core welfare benefits for the first time in almost forty years, and now they’ve raised the refugee quota for the first time in thirty years.

What’s happening here, I think, is that all the energy that normal governments put into developing new policies and implementing agendas is going into maintaining Key’s popularity, the perpetuation of which has become a goal in itself, not a means to an end. National party policy is routinely botched – like Key’s mishandling of the flag change, very similar to Nick Smith’s decision to build houses on Auckland land that the government didn’t even own, or discuss the legal status of with local iwi – because the core role of this government is to generate events like the Parliamentary announcement of the All-Black line-up or source adorable puppies for the leader to take selfies with. These propaganda pieces are never botched because they’re core business. And government policy is now a subset of this public relations machine. Rather than justifying policy it determines it. Which is enormously empowering to the left, because it means we get to set government policy from opposition if we can just make it popular enough.

25 Comments »

  1. I heard Darien Fenton say that the prime job of any MP is to legislate so if the other side adopts your policy then suck it and move on. Labour and the Greens look set for a fair bit of sucking it seems.

    Comment by TerryB — September 8, 2015 @ 9:01 am

  2. A belated return to satire. Well done.

    Comment by Tinakori — September 8, 2015 @ 9:16 am

  3. you’re wrong on the copyright issue – the All Blacks only copyright their specific silver fern design on black. Other people can, and do, use it. You just can’t use the one specifically designed and trademarked by the rugby union (without their ok).You can buy fern flags on black at the following link, for example.

    http://www.silverfernflag.org/store.html

    Comment by Dave Guerin — September 8, 2015 @ 9:25 am

  4. I wish we could do more. But I think this is better than last week’s response to the crisis, which was to do nothing.

    We are doing more than I thought we would. Unfortunately we are still doing 2x bugger all and are creating false hopes.

    We could do more, but that would risk being unpopular.

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 8, 2015 @ 9:31 am

  5. By “the left” you mean “the Greens” right?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 8, 2015 @ 9:39 am

  6. That is a good line equating National back benchers with talk back radio callers
    Meanwhile the Left/opposition are like my Twitterati feed, headless chocks rushing to after the latest cause de célèbre
    Starving children, better things to spend 25 million on, let’s spend $49million plus $57 mill on refugees, no we need even more refugees

    All good causes but rushing after all them does not shout leadership

    Comment by rayinnz — September 8, 2015 @ 9:43 am

  7. But they are still making good on their other big election promise: free doctor’s visits for under-13s

    Are they? Last I heard, a lot of GPs were opting out because the Government had not provided sufficient extra funding.

    Comment by Moses — September 8, 2015 @ 9:48 am

  8. Add the “Business Growth Agenda” glossy publications to that list of propaganda pieces Danyl.

    Comment by AVL — September 8, 2015 @ 9:49 am

  9. I am at a loss to understand why Key is so popular! His commnts on issues he is questioned about are rarely to the point. He is probably a nice man if somewhat dim.

    Comment by A M Thom — September 8, 2015 @ 10:08 am

  10. and now they’ve raised the refugee quota for the first time in thirty years

    I don’t think they have, they only allowed a one time increase above the quota.
    But the quota remains the same.

    Which is enormously empowering to the left, because it means we get to set government policy from opposition if we can just make it popular enough.

    The other way to look at it, is that it is incredibly frustrating for the left to come up with policies for which Key then takes the credit.

    Comment by eszett — September 8, 2015 @ 10:11 am

  11. Your line that this is one of the best left-wing governments just doesn’t stack up. It isn’t a left-wing government, and the last government was (or at least, it was centre-left and moved to the centre).

    National has transitioned from being a right wing government to a centre-right government. It is still cutting spending on social services in real terms, it is still focused on de-regulation, and it is still focused on privatisation.

    The last Labour government increased taxes and made them more progressive, rebuilt state services, re-regulated many industries, re-nationalised assets, improved employment and minimum wage provisions, instigated a (flawed) family tax credit, etc.

    Comment by Onsos — September 8, 2015 @ 10:16 am

  12. His comments on issues he is questioned about are rarely to the point. He is probably a nice man if somewhat dim.

    No offence, but have you just arrived in NZ from another planet? Still buying the image after nearly a decade? He is neither nice, nor dim. Calculating and (politically) smart.

    His “rarely to the point” answers are, of course, part of the attraction. Say nothing much = say nothing wrong.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — September 8, 2015 @ 10:28 am

  13. “one of the best left-wing governments we’ve ever had”
    Because they couldn’t ram neolib through as much as they wanted to due to their own colossal incompetence? Or because they said they were going to do some good regardless of whether they didn’t?

    Comment by roy cartland — September 8, 2015 @ 10:33 am

  14. Ha ha, a classic phrase that will come back to haunt us “…the dumbest, most awful people on talkback are a useful barometer of what National’s backbench MPs think on any given issue”

    Comment by wjohnallen — September 8, 2015 @ 11:37 am

  15. “And the dumbest, most awful people on talkback are a useful barometer of what National’s backbench MPs think on any given issue.”

    Oh you’re on fire today, Danyl – that’s gold.

    Comment by rickrowling — September 8, 2015 @ 11:39 am

  16. 1. As previously posted, the All Blacks silver fern is a specific design – a fern at a certain angle curved just so with a certain number of leaves – and I’m not sure where Danyl’s “(Key) set up the process and committed the money before finding out that the copyright on that image isn’t available” bit comes from.

    2. Danyl’s final paragraph reads like resignation to the fact that the Left can’t formulate policy OR get elected.

    Comment by @simongarlick — September 8, 2015 @ 12:02 pm

  17. Free doctor’s visits for under 13s are a mirage because they still charge on top of the government grant.

    Comment by Frank Gaze — September 8, 2015 @ 12:47 pm

  18. @simongarlick “..and I’m not sure where Danyl’s “(Key) set up the process and committed the money before finding out that the copyright on that image isn’t available”

    a) This is a satire blog.

    b) Yes, you are quite right that All Blacks’ silver fern is a specific design. And that specific All Blacks’ design is very transparently the one the Key et al wanted to be the flag.

    Comment by RJL — September 8, 2015 @ 1:07 pm

  19. National has transitioned from being a right wing government to a centre-right government. It is still cutting spending on social services in real terms, it is still focused on de-regulation, and it is still focused on privatisation.

    Slowly and steadily the ship of government towards the right, while paying attention to the winds of public mood and bending to it where necessary. This government is one that is determined not to be the Bolger-Shipley Government.

    Anyone for whom that isn’t obvious after 7 years has lost their credibility as a political commentator.

    Comment by Moses — September 8, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

  20. “I am at a loss to understand why Key is so popular! His commnts on issues he is questioned about are rarely to the point. He is probably a nice man if somewhat dim.”

    How is this so-called popularity guaged? I don’t know a single person in Grey Lynn who likes him. Is the fact that he’s ‘most-preferred’ in Prime Ministerial polls been artfully spun to suggest that he’s enormously ‘popular’ – as opposed to the best of a dim bunch? Was Helen Clarke, also presumably most-preferred as Prime Minister, ever described as ‘popular’? Also, ISIS.

    Comment by jonothan8 — September 8, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

  21. Two things that struck me about the refugee issue have been the – my token gesture is morally superior than yours element and the odd sense of sacrifice.

    All we can do in the face of the enormity of the tragedy can only ever be token. Of course the numbers matter but I really don’t think adding a few more to our total gives anyone the right to claim the moral high ground to the degree of righteous condemnation of others. Unless that’s the actual motivation.

    I’ve noticed a few people suggest that govt spending be shifted from some areas and put to funding more refugees. What seems odd is it’s always spending on something they already don’t want.

    I don’t think it’s much of a sacrifice to forego something one already doesn’t want.

    Comment by NeilM — September 8, 2015 @ 4:49 pm

  22. 100 extra refugees this year,nat a quoted price that is twice what it really costs. Key being dishonest again.

    Comment by Andrew R — September 8, 2015 @ 5:03 pm

  23. Regarding the micro-debate here on the notion of Key as our most popular PM ever…..

    Probably influenced by the Herald on Sunday editorial from a few days ago which suggested (1) Key is as popular as he’s ever been with a 64% preferred PM rating and (2) he’s thus more popular than Helen Clark (or indeed any other former PM) was at the same stage (ie a year on from their third election win).

    (1) First thing to say about Key’s 64% rating trumpeted by the HoS is that the Herald-DigiPolls greatly exaggerate PM/Party Leader ratings. That’s because – in stark contrast to other pollsters – Herald-Digi exclude the always hefty number of respondents choosing None-of-the-Above.

    Hence, Key is on 64% Preferred PM according to Herald-Digi but just 38-40% in the Colmar Brunton and Reid Research polls.

    So, we need to compare like with like……

    Is Key as popular as he’s ever been ?

    No = according to the TV polls,
    kind of = according to the Herald-Digi

    Since 2010, Key’s PM rating in the Herald-Digi has ranged from a low of 56% (in 2013) to a high of 71% (2011). It’s also been at 67 and 68% a number of times. So, he’s both more and less popular than he’s been in the past.

    The (more frequent) TV polls (Colmar Brunton and Reid Research) suggest otherwise. Since the 2014 Election, Key has been averaging 41% Preferred PM (39% average over the last 3 polls).
    Compare that with his 52% average in 2011, 51% in 2009, 48% 2010 and 45% last year.

    On top of that, the detailed Reid Research ratings on a whole lot of diverse measurements surrounding leadership attributes reinforce this evidence of a slow but relatively steady fall in popularity and esteem for the said Key.

    (2) Key vs Clark popularity at this stage in their third term.

    Again, depends whether you look at the Herald poll or the 2 TV polls.

    Herald-DigiPoll
    Key 65, 65, 64
    Clark 52, 51, 54

    So, yeah, Key more popular – but not exactly an overwhelming margin. Particularly when you remember that the Herald-Digi’s methodology exaggerates differences in support.

    Colmar Brunton and Reid Research
    Key 38-40
    Clark 36-39

    So, virtually no diff between Key / Clark a year on from their third election victories.

    Comment by swordfish — September 8, 2015 @ 5:38 pm

  24. I don’t know a single person in Grey Lynn who likes him.

    You should be reviewing movies.

    Comment by tom hunter — September 9, 2015 @ 8:37 am

  25. National has transitioned from being a right wing government to a centre-right government

    Comment by sara — September 26, 2015 @ 9:34 pm


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