The Dim-Post

June 4, 2013

Transitional problems

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 1:46 pm

Via Scoop, Labour’s press release on the launch of their campaign to win the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election:

Labour launches Ikaroa-Rawhiti campaign

Labour Leader David Shearer has launched Labour’s Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election campaign with a promise that the party will use the next four weeks to honour the legacy of Parekura Horomia, and retain the seat he held for 14 years.

Labour’s candidate Meka Whaitiri today held her official campaign launch at Kohupatiki Marae near Hastings. David Shearer was joined at the launch by Rino Tirikatene and Louisa Wall from Labour’s Maori caucus and a number of other MPs.

“Labour will campaign relentlessly to once again earn the trust of the people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti. We will organise, mobilise and terrorise our political opponents.


“Let the games begin,” says David Shearer.

In possibly-not-unrelated news, Labour are in the process of hiring a new Senior Press Secretary.

June 2, 2013


Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 11:53 am

I don’t blog about the Greens much now that my wife works for them. If I make fun of them then things will become very difficult for me very quickly and if I’m nice about them I’d just look like a shill, on top of which my wild guesses might look like they’re informed by insider knowledge.  But I honestly don’t know anything about the strategy behind Russel Norman’s Key-bashing speech at the party’s AGM today. Via Isaac Davison at the Herald:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has made a sharp personal attack on Prime Minister John Key, all but shutting the door on working with National after the next election.

Key described Labour and the Greens as the “devil-beast”; Norman hit back at his party’s annual conference yesterday by labelling Key “corrosive” and “extremely divisive”, repeatedly comparing him to former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

“Next time you see John Key smiling, remember he’s not smiling because he likes you, he’s smiling because he’s giving favours to his mates while undermining your democracy,” he told an audience of around 120 people in Christchurch.

The Greens have previously avoided personality politics. Asked whether his speech signalled a new approach, Norman said: “It’s important to put a line in the sand about what’s happening to our constitution and our democracy.”

After the speech, he would not rule out working with National if it gained a third term – but his tone of contempt for the National-led Government’s “attacks on democracy” and “dodgy deals” made it clear that this would be unlikely.

“It is hard to see how that will work out well,” he said.

. . . And the best part of not knowing anything about something is that you can blog about it.

Part of Norman’s speech is just standard opposition stuff. Lots of people on the left think that National has taken a rather sinister and anti-democratic turn, and opposition leaders are supposed to articulate these sorts of concerns and present them to the wider public. That’s the job.

The other element is the personal attack on Key. I think there’s some real-politik here. Key’s been attacking the Greens very vigorously: his research probably tells him that voters in the center are apprehensive about them. And if a party just lies back and takes that kind of abuse without responding it makes them look weak in the eyes of the voters. People don’t vote for weak.

When the leaders of two parties who aren’t trying to attract one another’s voters attack each other in public like this it often works out well for both of them. In this case Key gets to scare voters in the center off defecting to Labour while the Greens try to peel away left-wing Labour voters who are dissatisfied with the current leadership (according to current polling that’s almost all of them).

It’s a really bad situation for Labour to be in, but Labour have spent the last couple of weeks telling everyone who’d listen that they’d prefer to form a coalition with New Zealand First and lock the Greens out of government again, so I doubt Norman gives a damn about whether he’s making life harder for Labour.

June 1, 2013

The wolf and the lion

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 1:18 pm

It must be frustrating for John Key and his senior strategists. Here they are, the most popular government in modern New Zealand history successfully implementing a strong right-wing agenda: sacking thousands of public servants, selling off assets, lowering tax for the rich, trusts and corporations, introducing charter schools, gutting environmental protections . . . the list goes on. And how does his party repay him? Well, according to the leaked strategy papers written  by National activist – and alleged WhaleOil co-blogger – Simon Lusk they form a faction inside National, complain about how bitterly disappointed they are in his government, call him a ‘wet’ and plot a post-election coup to depose all of Key’s political allies.

MPs and senior-staffers get sent this sort of stuff all the time. Evn so, Lusk’s advice is unusually terrible: during a period in which Labour and the Greens are pulling National back towards the centre, Lusk feels the party should tack to the extreme far-right, an area currently occupied by ACT, who fluctuate between 0.0 and 0.2% in the polls.

National’s leadership seems to have grown tired of this back-seat strategising: prompted, presumably, by Andrea Vance’s interview with Lusk last weekend they’ve leaked these documents to the media, and an extremely well-prepared John Key spoke on Lusk and his role in the party to Richard Harman on The Nation this morning. This’ll make life a bit trickier for Judith Collins who is perceived to be Lusk’s patron within the party and who can now be accused of being a ‘tea-party’ candidate, and so that’s a win for Steven Joyce, and something of a declaration of Key’s post-leadership vision of the National Party when he steps down.


May 31, 2013

Parental responsibilty

Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 8:53 am

Every now and then I hear someone in my liberal, left-wing enclave (either real-life or online) wonder at National’s enduring popularity in the polls and question as to why anyone still supports them. Well, the Al Nisbet cartoons and the widespread public support for them are a pretty awesome explanation.


There’s a large – mostly white, predominantly male, generally older – section of the population for whom unemployment, child poverty, Maori and Pacific educational under-achievement and poverty related diseases simply don’t exist as problems. To them the real issue facing the country is welfare-bludging and the vast unproductive class of brown people living lives of lavish indolence, drinking and smoking and gambling in their taxpayer funded homes crowded with expensive consumer electronics. When you think like that, the idea of spending more money to feed the already spoiled children of welfare-bludgers is simply risible. Hence Nisbet’s cartoons and all the online comments and vox-pops agreeing that the state shouldn’t provide breakfasts for poor children because ‘parental responsibility’ and that Nisbet’s cartoons ‘represent a reality’.

Speaking of reality. According to the latest MSD benefit fact sheets (which tell us, incidentally, that the majority of welfare beneficiaries are Pakeha) there are about 2000 people recieving an Invalid’s benefit who are caring for dependent children aged under six years.

Let’s be conservative and assume that there are that many again caring for children between six and twelve and that they’re caring for 1.5 children each and you have 3000 primary school children right there who are growing up in poverty while being cared for by a person suffering from a physical and/or mental illness.

I think it’s safe to assume that these children are over-represented in the cohort of kids who are turning up to school without food. We keep hearing that the solution to this problem is ‘parental responsibility’, not state (or corporate) welfare. But it’s not the fault of these children they were born to parents with depression or schizophrenia or a painful skeletal-muscular disorder that requires that parent to remain heavily medicated. And those parents can’t just magically stop suffering from chronic diseases that compromise their ability to care for their children. Most parents love their kids – if they would they could.

There’s no actual proof that Nisbet’s bludgers exist. The children enumerated in the MSD Benefit fact sheets do exist – but this is where the idiocy of welfare-bludger rhetoric has bought us. People literally want children growing up in conditions of terrible poverty to go hungry because of their commitment to a race-based political fantasy.

May 30, 2013


Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 1:50 pm

Via Scoop, Susan Devoy’s statement on the racist Al Nisbet cartoons published by Fairfax:

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says a cartoon published in newspapers is sadly insensitive to the issue of children living in poverty.

She says, “This is not particularly clever and many will find it hurtful and offensive. The worst aspect, in my opinion, is that it stigmatises efforts to address the situation that sees too many of our children living in poverty.

“Beyond that, it is glaringly obvious that the cartoon portrays Māori or Pacific as the butt of its attempted humour. Using such negative stereotypes in this way is insulting and derogatory in the extreme. “

We’ll see how it plays out, but Devoy could be an unexpectedly effective Race Relations Commissioner. If even the totally unqualified, unengaged Devoy thinks you’re a racist then that’s pretty damning.

Nisbet has defended his art thus:

Obviously the cartoon worked. It got reaction. You’ve got to push the envelope otherwise you have namby pamby PC cartoons.

We seem to be perpetually blessed with a  glut of old, white men who demonstrate their bravery by mocking the poor, ethnic minorities and other stigmitised groups in the name of taking a stand against ‘political correctness’.

May 29, 2013

Signal and noise

Filed under: polls — danylmc @ 8:47 am

Fairfax have a new political poll out. National is up and Labour are down (their last poll had Labour up and National down). Fairfax Political Editor Tracy Watkins offers the obligatory post-hoc rationalisation here:

Labour has taken bold steps in policy, including its affordable housing plan, reforming the power market, a capital gains tax and raising the pension age.

Admittedly, there is a reason why policies like the capital gains tax and raising the pension age haven’t been tried before. They are deeply unpopular.

We heard this for years: a Capital Gains Tax is ‘political suicide’. Then Labour introduced it as a policy last election, the media polled on it, and it was actually pretty popular. 43% support; ie way more popular than the actual Labour Party, then or now.

There’s something similar going on in Vernon Small’s story about the actual poll results:

Mr Key’s decisive handling of the Aaron Gilmore furore and the aftermath of Labour and the Greens’ power policy have also helped lift National’s support.

Again, there’s actual hard data on public support for the Labour Greens’ power policy: the TV3 Reid Research poll found that 54% of the population supported it. That seems like an unlikely cause for a slump in popularity. I really dread that we’re going to spend the next eighteen months hearing the gallery assure us that policies that enjoy broad support from the electorate are ‘political suicide’.

May 28, 2013


Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:38 pm

Via Stuff:

Hundreds of containers of beef and sheep meat remain stranded at ports in China, with the Government insisting it has done all it can to resolve the block.

Last Thursday Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said new export certificates were being personally flown to China by officials from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), and he was optimistic meat would be moving by the end of last week.

This morning he said 245 certifications under the name of the old New Zealand Food Safety Authority had been sent to China, but the meat was still not moving.

“At the end of the day we’re dealing with Chinese officials,” Guy told reporters in Parliament today.

“This was an error by MPI using the wrong form, so the error has been noticed by the Chinese, of course we’re rectifying that and reverting back to the old form so now we wait for the Chinese officials to release those containers.”

We went through all this back in the 1990s. Turns out a lot of those back-office public servants – who National loves to sack by the thousand on the grounds that they don’t actually do anything, approximately one hundred and fifty of whom were let go during the MPI merger – do genuinely do some things, like check export certificates.

Epic dissent of the day

Filed under: economics — danylmc @ 8:42 am

Matt Nolan takes (strong) exception to this post and graph. I hope to respond when I find time, and courage.

May 27, 2013

Updated poll chart and the dark backward and abysm of time

Filed under: polls — danylmc @ 9:57 am

From NZPA, 15th July 1998

Labour is ahead in the latest One Network News-Colmar Brunton poll, up five points to 42 percent, while National has lost one point to 36 percent. The two parties were level-pegging, on 37 percent, in the June poll. In last night’s poll the Alliance was steady on 9 percent. ACT lost three points to 8 percent. New Zealand First dropped from 2.1 percent to 1.9 percent. The poll of 1000 voters was taken July 6-9, about the time of bad economic figures, news of the $300 million in spending cuts and confirmation that Japan was in recession. Undecided voters totalled 13 percent. In the preferred Prime Minister stakes, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley dropped two points to 29 percent and Labour leader Helen Clark rose from 17 percent to 21 percent. The coalition Government got a 76 percent disapproval rating compared with 72 percent in the June poll. – NZPA

So that was Clark led-Labour about eighteen months out from their victory in 1999.

I’ve updated the tracking poll, below; interactive version here. But what strikes me is how low Shearer is rating as preferred Prime Minister. 10.5% in the 3 News Reid Poll and 12% in the One News Colmar Brunton. About 30 points behind Key. I’m no political scientist, but I suspect electoral turn-out is lower when hardly any of your supporters want your leader running the country. As the archival story  above suggests, contrary to received Labour Party wisdom, Clark wasn’t ‘single digits unpopular’ at this point in the electoral cycle.


(This aggregated poll written in R by Peter Green adjusts for poll bias: it looks at polls prior to the last election and the actual outcome of the election, adjusts it and then merges the adjusted results together.)

May 22, 2013

Chart of the day, ‘Rock star status’ edition

Filed under: economics — danylmc @ 9:27 am

Via Stuff:

While parts of the rest of the world are still wallowing in recession, New Zealand in recent months has had a significant number of economic bright spots that could see the country reach “rock star status” within the next four years.

That was the view of ANZ bank chief economist Cameron Bagrie speaking at a post Budget luncheon briefing in Christchurch yesterday.

Here’s a graph sourced with historical figures from statistics (in blue) alongside Treasury’s budget projections (in red), showing our net international investment position, ie our assets as a nation minus our liabilities. (That temporary reduction in borrowing over the last two years is the influx of payments after the Christchurch earthquake.)


Where are New Zealanders borrowing that additional $10 billion a year in perpetuity from? Why, we’re borrowing it from foreign banks just like the one Cameron Bagrie works for, which is, presumably, why he thinks we’re a rock star. If you convert our net international position into a % of our GDP we look even worse. Spain is less indebted than us by this metric and Portugal, Ireland and Greece only slightly more doomed.

Whenever opposition finance spokesmen talk about ‘re-balancing the economy’ they’re really talking about reversing that grim, downwards march into eventual fiscal oblivion and an IMF bail-out. They never get to do that when they’re in power though, because re-balancing towards real wealth creation and the tradables and export sector involves re-balancing away from the finance sector, real estate speculators and other rent-seeking agents, who are too politically powerful to allow such a thing to happen. So we get to stay a ‘rock star’ like Greece and Ireland, ie the kind of rock star that drowns in a bathtub.

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