Hello, its been a long 5 years away, but there is a twist. This blog will have considerably less discussion of New Zealand politics, and instead a wider range of issues. It also has a new look, and will soon have pictures.
Hope you enjoy it
Hello, its been a long 5 years away, but there is a twist. This blog will have considerably less discussion of New Zealand politics, and instead a wider range of issues. It also has a new look, and will soon have pictures.
Hope you enjoy it
On the front page of todays Dominion Post is the artilce “Power crisis? what power crisis?”, outlining how a drought in the South Island has caused hydro lake levels to fall to 52% of average, with a trend on a graph mirroring the 1992 drought and power shortages. the Government is launching a conservation campaign, but insists that there is no crisis and has refused to set a savings target. This is in stark contrast to 2001, when the Government launched a large campaign to save power, with the aim of a 10% cut in consumption over 10 weeks (resulting in an 8% consumption cut). This is despite the lake levels being lower than at any time since 1992, and major industry figures saying we are in a riskier situation than ever before. Why?
It’s an election year. As Paula Oliver writes, “the last thing Labour needs just months from an election, is a serious power shortage that impacts on the way voters live their lives”.
Labour is, of course, doing its absolute best to duck responsibility for the crisis, saying that it is a drought for which it can not be held responsible, and the crisis is being well managed. Which is only partly true.
Of course, Labour did not cause the drought. But it can be held respsonsible for the failure to allow increased power generation by removing RMA restrictions. The resource consent process in the RMA helped create the power crisis by stopping the building of new power stations which can not gain resource consent. A good example of this, was Project Aqua, a project Meridian energy planned which involved diverting water from the Waitaki River near Oamaru into a canal and through several dams. The project would have generated 540 megawatts of electricity, but was cancelled in 2004, as it was unable to gain resource consent, and the Government was unwilling to intervene. Although Aqua would not solve all our power worries, it would have helped, especially given our rising population and the fact we haven’t had any major new power stations built since the Clyde Dam. project Aqua isn’t the only example. Numerous wind farms have faced delays, if not refusal, as a result of MINBYists using the resource consent process to stop them. The result. Not only power shortages, but enviromental problems, as three quarters of new electricity generation under Labour has been thermal, producing a lot more carbon dioxide.
So where do the Greens stand on this. They are supportive of the existing RMA, saying it doesn’t need big changes. They also opposed Project Aqua. The reality is that Project Aqua was a lot more enviromentally friendly than burning coal. Maybe the Greens electricity policy is forcing people to save power by having power cuts? If so, they might just get to see some of that policy implemented.
As for me, I’m going to do my bit to save power by not blogging again until Thursday (or Friday).
Today, in what was one of the important developments in New Zealand abortion law for the last 19 years (since when in 1989 then Health Minister Helen Clark (now PM) changed the law to allow girls under 16 to have abortions behind their parents backs), the high court has confirmed what we (in the pro-life movement) had always known. That most abortions in this country were illegal. Here are the findings:
“there is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by the certifying consultants. Indeed the committee has stated that the law is being used more liberally than Parliament intended” (Clause 5c of the judgement). Dead right.
From the NZ Herald: “the committee had failed its statutory duty to review the procedures for abortions and enquire into the circumstances in which consultants authorised abortions on mental health grounds”. So true. mental health has become a blank check for abortion on demand. The judgement cited how in 2005, in Canterbury, 4992 women sought permission to have abortions, and only 27 were declioned. An approval rate of 99.5% (page 20). During the period 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004, out of 18 280 applications sent to 20 certifying consultants, only 142 (0.8%) were declined. At least some spplications were declined.
“It also sought the committee had failed to in its duty to ensure adequate counselling facilities were available”. I’m not an expert on this area, so I’ll go with what the court said. The court did however, allow counselling in institutions (mostly hospitals) that preform abortions, raising questions about the indepence and neutrality of the counselling.
In another ruling against the pro-life side, the court found that the unborn child (this, and not the fetus, was the term used in the judgement) did not have a right to life under the law, but had a “claim on the conscience of the community, and not merely that of the mother” (page 35).
New Zealand’s present abortion laws are based around the 1977 Abortion, Contraception and Sterilisation Act, which Parliament passed following a Royal Commission on the area. This law clarified New Zealand’s previous ambiguos abortion laws, allowing abortion in “hard cases” such as where continuing the pregnancy would result in serious danger to the life or health (including mental heatlh) of the woman, but banning it in all other circumstances. In 1978 the restrictive prosions of the Act were watered down by deleting the provision for the health risk to be of such nature it cannot be averted by other means. In order for a woman to obtain an abortion legally, she needed the permission of two certifying consultants. The certifying consultants were appointed and overseen by the Abortion Supervisory Committee (the “committee” refered to above), which was given the task of overseeing the practice of abortion in New Zealand, and ensure they were done in accordance with the legislation. The weakness of the legislation was the “mental health” provision, which was interpreted very liberally to allow abortion on demand in practice.
Today’s court descison found that the Abortion Supervisory Committee had failed in its duty, and instead allowed abortion on demand. Indeed the verdict talked about the “wholesale non-compliance by certifying consultants” with the law (I can’t find the quote skim-reading the verdict, but Idiot/Savant has found it somewhere).
The issue is what will happen now. Essentially, the court found that most abortions were illegal, and the Abortion Supervisory Committee had failed to properly oversee the law, but did little else. It refused the request by Right to Life (the group launching the court case) for a mandamus, or court order, forcing the committee to change its ways. But even in the absence of such, the judgement must surely cause the committee to make some changes. However, given the pro-abortion makeup of the committee I would not be the least bit surprised if the committee ducked and turned in every way it could to keep abortion on demand being practiced. But there is still the slim hope that the ruling could lead to significent changes to New Zealand’s abortion law.
If the latter happens, expect “pro-choice” people to demand the law to be changed. Over the last 30 years they have been content to keep the law as it is, because the abuse of the mental health provision enabled them to get what they want- namely abortion on demand. Also, changing the law would reopen the issue, and could have resulted in new restrictions, particularly in the case of late term abortions.
Any new legislation proposed, which Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn is already calling for, would result in abortion on demand in law as well as practice. This would be a defeat for the pro-life side, as women would be able to just walk into a clinic and have an abortion, instaed of going through the time consuming procedure of going through the two certifying consultants to rubber stamp her descison first (in which time she might change her mind). But it would represent an opportunity, as it would reopen the issue, and allow it to get media attention, and for the pro-life side to make New Zealanders rethink their liberal attitudes to abortion. Further, while such a Bill would be likely to pass into law, there could be restrictive amendments to it, at select committee stage, and committee of the whole house stage, which would make it more restrictive than the current practice. The prospect of a more conservative Parliament after the next election, makes this more likely. A likely outcome would allow abortion on demand for early abortions, with a lot of restrictions on late term ones. This would be better than allowing the current practice of abortion on demand.
In any case, we should hope for the best, and keep fighting for a world without abortion. The lives of New Zealands unborn children depend on it.
This election is liklely to see a large number of changes to the composition of Parliament. From present polling, it is very likely that there will be more National MPs and fewer Labour ones. But there will also be changes in MPs retiring and being replaced.
So far this Parliamentary term, we have seen the following changes:
Jim Sutton to Charles Chauvel
Georgina Beyer to Lesley Soper
Ann Hartley to Louisa Wall
Dianne Yates to Sua William Sio
Don Brash to katrina Shanks
Rod Donald to Nandor Tanczos
Brian Donelly to Dail Jones.
The following changes are likely:
Mark Gosche to Carol Beaumont (Maungakiekie)
Steve Maharey to Ian Lees Galloway (Palmerston North)
Paul Swain to Chris Hipkins (Rimutaka)
Marion Hobbs to Grant Robertson (Wellington Central)
Tim Barnett to Brendon Burns (Christchurch Central)
David Benson-Pope to Clare Curran (Dunedin South)
Also going: Jill Pettis and Margaret Wilson (both list)
Expect to retire soon after the election (if lost)
Micheal Cullen (list), Helen Clark (Mt Albert 2011)
Don’t be surprised to see retire in or before 2011 if Labour looses:
Rick Barker (list), Mark Burton (will be list soon), Lianne Dalziel (Christchurch East), Martin Gallagher (will be list soon), Pete Hodgson (Dundedin North), Ross Robertson (Manakau East), and Judith Tizard (Auckland Central, but good chance she will be list soon). Several of the above could be defeated in the election ahead.
Bob Clakson to Simon Bridges (Tauranga)
Brian Connell to Amy Adams (Raikia/Selwyn)
Also retiring Katherine Rich, Clem Simich and Mark Blumsky (all list)
Nandor Tanczos to Russel Norman.
Instead of looking at each case, the important thing is to assess the overall impact of these retirements and their replacements. I’ll begin with Labour. You can see the list is quite long. I added in a list of MPs likely to retire in or before 2011, consisting of MPs who are getting old, past their political used by date, and who may not want to hang around another two or three terms in opposition until Labour returns to office. If all these MPs retire,then only 26 (half) of Labours pre 2005 will remain. Although Labour won’t have 52 MPs for a several years, there will be young people to replace them. Given the mass of MPs leaving, including at the top ranks, those who shine will have plenty of opportunities for promotion. On ideological issues, not much will change. Most of the replacements come from the same trade unions and minority groups that the old MPs came from (is there any Labour MPs who are white hetrosexual males who are not union members?) so no change there. The one area where change will occur is social issues, and sadly its not the change I want. Gradually all the socially conservative MPs will retire. John Tamihere has already gone. Tatio Phillip Field has left Labour, paul Swain is retiring, and Ross Robertson might soon. Eventually Harry Duynhoven and George Hawkins will go to. It is very doubtful that their replacements will support repealing the Civil Unions Act, Prostitution law Reform Act, or Anti-smacking law that their predesesors voted against (in the case of the Anti-smacking law that their predessesors weren’t allowed to vote against). As a result those few social conservatives within Labour will become an ever smaller minority. In fact, I think one would struggle to find one civil union bill or abortion or anti-smacking Bill opponent amongst the ranks of Young Labour. The next generation of Labour MPs (todays Young Labour) will have joined the Party during the Clark years, and thus agree with her government. They will be socially liberal, and carry the same nanny state agenda, from banning smacking to banning smoking in bars to banning fireworks in future, about controlling peoples lives that helen Clark her her cronies have. Most distirbing of all, is that there was not one whisper of dissent at Labours Electoral Finance Act, or the Anti-smacking Bill, in fact both were vocally supported by Young Labour and their associates, indicating that the two aspects of Labour I hate the most, their crusading social liberal nanny state stance (the Anti-smacking Bill being the best example), and their corrupt lust for power at all costs (the Electoral Finance Act and pledge card being the prime examples), will be perpetuated.
Turning now to National, National has already undergone significent renewal since 1999, helped largely by its decimation in its disasterous preformance at the 2002 election. During this time, however, the ideological foundations of the party have shifted little, despite the huge change in members. It is hard to see much difference between the ideological positions and philosophy behind the Forth National Government, and those of the current caucus. National remains split between a centrist faction and harder right wing one, but the prospect of regaining power have put these divisions out of sight. In any case, what matters more here than the overall caucus makeup is the leader and senior MPs. On social issues, most of National was against legalized prostitution, civil unions, the Anti-smacking Bill, but had a substantial socially liberal minority within it. I would be surprised if this changes much, and early indications from the new MPs of 2005 is that they are similar to their predecessors. The retirements have seen 2 social liberals (Rich and Blumsky) retire, as well as two social conservatives (Connell and Clarkson). More important than these retirements is who will replace them. I did disscuss this issue in a private conversation with National Party insider David Farrar several weeks (maybe months ago), and he was of the opinion that National contained a mix of social liberals and social conservatives and that the candidate selections reflected this. It is hard to disagree, and while some social conservatives will be added ( Stephen Franks (although he prefers to call himself classical liberal), Marc Alexander and Sam Lotu-Liga), there are in Nikki Kaye and Hekia Parata new social liberals. On another note, with 7 Maori candidates, 3 Asian and 1 Pacific islander candidates, National is fielding one of its most diverse slate of candidates. Whether it will help them tap into the ethnic minority vote remains to be seen.
One of the biggest election issues this year is likely to be the economy. Over the last nine years the economy has grown strongly. In part due to good luck, with high prices for our exports, partly due to the reforms of the 1980s (the growth we saw under Labour was a continuation of a trend which started in 1991), and in part, because Labour kept the main elements of the reforms of the 1980s in place, and was very cautious dealing with the economy.
However, thanks to the global credit crunch, this has changed. Unemployment has started to rise again. We also face problems with high inflation, a official cash rate as high as 8.25%, inflation set to reach 4.7% (well above the 1-3% target range) and a slowing of economic growth to under 1% in 2009 forecast. Other bad features forecast include a doubling of unemployment to 6%, a 13% drop in house prices with the lowest level of house sales in 18 years, and a fall in the value of the New Zealand dollar. Many households in New Zealand are strugling with high food and petrol prices, the high interest rates putting pressure on their mortages, and with these projections things don’t look like they are going to be much better.
None of the above is Labours fault. Sure, Labour could have cut taxes earlier, not bought in redistributive schemes like Working for Families, and so forth. But the reality is that we live in a very globalised world, and do a lot of trade with other countries. This means that circumstances beyond our control have a big impact on our economy. There was nothing that Helen Clark could have done to stop the global credit crunch from occuring, and she is just as much the victim of bad luck now, as she benefited from good luck in the strong growth over the last nine years.
However, economic growth does not come from itself. While government policies have limited effects on growth in the short run, they can set the foundation for better conditions in the long run. But there are limits to what can be achieved. Creating a good business enviroment (low taxes, low levels of regulations, little corruption and stable macroeconomic conditions) as well as investing in infrastructure needed and resources (the most important economic resource is of course people, who need good educations to preform well in a high skill based economy), are the main things. Obviously economic growth needs to be balanced against other concerns like looking after the poor and the enviroment. However, economic growth will make these tasks a lot easier (and basically any other task in government). The reality is that you can not afford to spend much money on social welfare, on health, or education, or fighting climate change, with a failed economy. That is why improving the economy should be central to every Parties plan for New Zealand’s future.
I am not an economic expert (I only took 2 first year papers and one second year paper at university on economics) but I do know the basics. A good plan to improve the New Zealand economy (long term) will consist of:
*Creating a low and flatter tax system, with the abolition of redistributive tax rebates (such as working for families).
*Investing heavily in education, transport and communication networks.
*Reviewing, with the aim of reducing red tape, the Resource Management Act, and all other bureacratic regulations.
*Mantaining the independence of the reserve bank.
*Create competitive markets where state monopolies exist, such as ACC.
*Aim to sign free trade agreements with more countries like the United States.
*Aim to keep markets as flexible as possible, so they can easily adjust to changing market conditions.
In the short run, make progress on all the above. But mantain medium governemnt surpluses (funding tax cuts through cuts in spending) to give the government flexibility, and avoid putting more pressure on inflation and/or overheating the economy, and try not to let interest rates fall too soon or fast (high interest rates are good for punishing people who live beyond their means. On the other hand, in keeping our dollar high, they hurt our exporters).
Enough on my ideas. Back to the real world. The great worry facing the economy is that we could be looking at stagflation in the worst case scenario. In any case, with high inflation and a high OCR, Keynesian style fiscal stimulation is not what the economy needs now, and as Bernard Hickey blogs, the 2008 budget could do more harm than good. Sadly, with this election likely to be a bribe war between Labour and National (like the last), things aren’t going to improve anytime soon.
Onto the political implications. No doubt the tax cuts in the budget were one massive election bribe. The New Zealand public is demanding them to help them in their financial distress. Sadly, although they could help long term, they are not the answer. The risk is that if New Zealanders go and spend all their extra tax cut money, it will push inflation up, the OCR up, the dollar up (huting exporters) and eventually cause a recession. Even if this doesn’t happen, the improvement to peoples financial circumstances from tax cuts will not be overwhelming, and quickly eaten up by rising petrol and other (perhaps more food) price increases. The key to improving peoples wellbeing in the long term is not a one-off tax cut, but long term wage increases driven by growth in productivity.
I don’t see much of this message from National. Instead, don’t be the least bit surprised if they use tax cuts as a massive election bribe to buy their way into office, like they tried to do last election. The political risk for National is that they will get voted into office now with people thiniking about how they will spend all their new cash, with inflation eating it up almost as soon as they get it. At the same time, all the predicted forecasts (higher unemployment, inflation, low growth e.t.c come to pass). People quickly forget about the tax cuts, blame National for the economic downturn, and return Labour in 2011. There is no doubt that Bill English will have his work cut out for him, with the bad shape the economy is in.
I strongly believe that reruning the 2005 campaign of using tax cuts as an election bribe, while it may work this election (a big if), will hurt National in the long term. Instead National should talk down its tax cuts, promising they will be modest, and not to expect too much from them. When they do come out, they should be identical to Labours, with a few minor alterations to the top tax brackets, like removing the 39% rate, cutting the company tax rate and only minor adjustments above Labours promises to the lower thresholds. They should not be sold as a bribe, but as part of a wider package at lifting New Zealand’s economic growth. A emphasis should be made that we are facing tougher times, and the higher petrol and food prices are here to stay. Nationals first budget should keep with this scheme, think long term, and be a real chance for National to stamp its mark upon the economy. And should include spending cuts, and the clear message that we must be prudent with our finances to help us through the tough times. Above all, national should avoid blaming Labour for the bad economic conditions (as things will not miraclously improve once National takes office). Sadly, I will be most surprised if my approach is taken.
Ultimately, time will tell what happens to the economy, and what National does. I really hope for the best, especially for those low income families struggling under the conditions, but fear the worst.
Canada is a democracy, with a proud long tradition of human rights, and free speech. Right?
Think again. One Canadian citizen, Mark Steyn, who is well known for his politically incorrect views on Islam, “Eurabia” and the threat Islamic fundamentalism poses to western civilization (I sometimes read the pieces he writes for the Investigate magazine, although I do not agree with everything he says), wrote the (in)famous book, America Alone: The End of the world as we know it, arguing that due to Islamic immigration and high birth rates, Muslims would take over Europe, turning it into “Eurabia” and leaving America alone as the only bastion of western civilization. A piece from the book was published in a well known Canadian magazine, Macleans Magazine, in an article avaliable here, entitled “the future belongs to islam”.
Not unsuprisingly, Muslims in Canada didn’t like what Steyn wrote. And not having learned about tolerance and free speech (to be fair to them, there is very little tolerance and free speech in the Muslim countries), one fundamentalist Muslim group, the Canadian Islamic Congress, took a complaint about the article to a “Human rights” commision in British Columbia. Unfortunately, the “human rights” protected by the human rights commision don’t include the right to free trial (there is a 100% conviction rate at the tribunals for complaints made, the comissars who run the trial have no legal training, there are no case law or precedents, no rules of evidence, and the fact the information may be truthfull and published with reasonable intent is absolutely no defence) or freedom of speech. Instead they are about the freedom from speech, and freedom from expression, for the left wing’s favoured minorities. Although the trial of Mark Steyn is still in progress, we have the results from other cases bought before these “Human rights” tribunals.
Mark Steyn isn’t the only Canadian to be bought before these Human Rights Tribunals for offending Muslims. Erza Levant, the author of the conservative magazine Western Standard was bought before the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commision for re-pubishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, which had been printed in Denmark earlier. He was investigated, which included long questioning sessions on his views towards Islam, and why he published the cartoons.
Criticism of Islamic fundamentalism, isn’t the only type of free speech punished by these “human rights” tribunals. In 1997 Hugh Owens published an advertisement in the Saskatoon newspaper, the StarPhoenix arguing that homosexuality was morally wrong, and refering to (but not quoting) several bible passages on homosexuality (including one, Leviticus 20:13, about stoning homosexuals to death) The Saskawatchen Human Rights Tribunal upheld a complaint that the advertisement exposed homosexuals to hate, ridicule and belittlement, and ordered both Owens and the paper to pay $2 000 in fines. The paper introduced a policy of not running “anti-gay” advertisements.
Also that year, in London, Ontario, mayor Dianne Haskett refused to proclaim “gay pride day” or fly the rainbow flag on city property. The city council was fined $10 000 for its homophobic actions. Another Canadian city, Kelwona, British Columbia, issued a proclamation for gay pride day, omitting the word “pride”. The provinces Human Rights Tribunal called his action a “mean spirited” “insult” to homosexuals.
The following year, in Missauga, Ontario, printer Scott Brockie refused to print material for a gay rights group on the grounds that doing so would go against his religous beliefs. Sadly, the Ontario Human Rights Commission didn’t care much about his human right to practice his religion, and he was ordered to publish the material, after being fined $5 000.
Four years latter in Saskatchewan, Bill Whatcourt, and his Christian Truth Activists organization was found guilty of distributing pamphlets claiming homosexuals were born gay. In response, he was fined $17 500, and given a court order not to distribute pamphlets criticising homosexuality.
In 2005, Pastor Stephen Boissoin wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper Red Deer Advocate calling homosexuality immoral, dangerous, and saying it should not be promoted in schools. Two weeks after the publication of the letter, in the town of Red Deer, a gay teenager was physically assualted, but there was no evidence that the letter had anything to do with the assualt other than the timing coincidence. That was enough for the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal to convict Boissoin of hate speech against homosexuals.
Fortunately, nobody has gone to prison for free speech in Canada yet. The same can not be said about Sweden, which has similar hate speech laws. In 2003, Pastor Ake Green was sentenced to one month in prison for a sermon in his church, calling homosexuality “abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumour in the body of society”, and calling homosexuals “perverts, whose sexual drive the devil has used as his strongest weapon against God”. Although I agree that homosexuality is immoral, I do not share the hate views of Ake Green, and instead hold the belief that it is their actions (of having sexual relations with a person of the same gender, and whom they are not married to (and I don’t believe in gay marriage)) that are morally wrong, not merely being attracted to a person of the same sex.
However, regardless of ones feelings towards homosexuality, or Islam, one basic principle of democracy and freedom is free speech. And that includes the right to say things that may offend some people (such as homosexuals and Muslims). While we may be glad that we do not have hate speech laws in New Zealand, it may not stay that way. The Labour Government went as far as launching an inquiry into the issue, before it was stopped as part of it’s confidence and supply agreement with United Future. Although Labour looks set to loose the next election, who knows if when they return to power their disdain for free speech, that they showed in the Electoral Finance Act, won’t be shown in new hate speech laws. For the meantime, enjoy free speech, and the fact we live in a free society (except in election year), where one is free to express almost any political opinions one wishes. And lets hope it stays that way.
I don’t want to gloat too much on Labours poor polling, but things really are starting to look bleak for the Government. Another poll has come out, this time from Roy Morgan. This poll can be trusted more than others, as it does not have a pro-National bias (Colmar-brunton a prime example of this, AC Nielson can be suspected), and they together with TV3 were very accurate in getting the last election right. The latest figures give a Parliament of (asuming, as always no general electorate seats change hands and all Maori seats go to the Maori Party):
National 63 seats (enough to govern alone)
Labour 40 seats (down 10, the vote being lowered to 32% not a good sign)
Greens 9 seats (support starting to pick up)
Maori Party 7 seats (3 overhang)
ACT (2 seats, 1.5% same as last election)
United Future and Progressives (1 each, in both cases lucky to avoid overhang)
When the figures are redone to give NZ First an electorate seat (presumably Tauranga) and its 4% comes into play, the new seat totals are:
National 61, Labour 38, Greens 8, Maori party 7, NZ First 5, same for all others.
These tests are done on the asumption that no electorate seqats change hands. But there is a massive 20% swing (nationwide) from Labour to national since the last election (under this poll), so instead of Labour being 2 points ahead of National (as in 2005 election), National is 18 points clear of Labour. If the electorate vote is similar to the party vote (which it usually is) this will result in a massacre of Labour MPs. Being conservative, and asuming there is a 15% swing between the two parties electorate vote, in favour of National, will see the following seats change hands (according to David Farrars electoral pendulum):
Taupo (good to see the author of the EFA going, with his demotion from cabinet, he may not even be back on the list)
Rotorua (this seat and Taupo already have paper National majorities, so Chadwick should have a very tough job swiming against the tide)
Otaki (as Hughes and Guy will be high on their list, no real consequences)
Hamilton West (a tradtional swing seat should swing to National with the country)
West-Coast Tasman (like with Otaki, the lists make this race irrelavent)
Palmerston North (Steve Maharey’s retirement makes this seat vulnerable)
Auckland Central (byebye Judith Tizard, helo Nikki Kaye)
New Plymouth (if this seat falls with the rest, Labour will hold no provincial electorates. But this seat will be tough for National to crack)
All these seats shoul fall to National this election. The first five are pratically guarenteed a National win, as all would fall under a modest 5% swing. Palmerston North and Auckland Central are tougher targets, but Steve Maharey’s retirement gives National’s Malcolm Plimmer a real chance in this traditional Labour seat. Judith Tizard has a reputation of not doing much (I don’t know how fair this reputation is), and her seat is Labour’s most vulnerable in Auckland. National has an attractive candidate in Nikki Kaye, but again Labour benefits from the Tizard name. New Plymouth would fall on paper under a 14.8% swing, but Duynhoven is popular in his elelctorate, and has the incumbency advantage, so I have doubts about this seat falling.
There are two other electorate seats which might change hands. Wellington central was widely predicted to be a close race between Mark Blumsky (a popular former mayor) and Marion Hobbs, but instead turned out to be one of the few seats where Labour increased its lead over National from 2005. This was largely because the expectations of a tight race drew many Green voters (who had given their electorate vote to Kedgley in 2002) to give their electorate vote to Hobbs (a similar trend occured with Franks electorate vote being decimated, much of it presumably going to Blumsky). This time, with no predictions of a close race, the Green votes might go back to Kedgley, and Marion Hobbs retirement looses her personal vote and incumbency advantage. This might, again a big might, enable Stephen Franks to pull off a big upset. But I won’t bet on it.
Another interesting seat will be Maungakiekie. National won this seat in 1996, showing it can vote National. It has gone with Labour since then, but mark Goesche is retiring, loosing him his personal vote and incumbency advantage. And the new National Party candidate, Sam Lotu-Liga, a Samoan Auckland City Coucil member, will be a far better candidate than Paul Goldsmith was in 2005 (and Sam’s Samoan background should help him tap into the ethnic minority vote). National also polls better than in the rest of the country. Still, a 22.2% swing is needed, and this will be a marathon obstacle. Carol Beaumont (Labour) is a more likely winner. I will be surprised if any other seats change hands. National’s electorate vote held up in 2002, even when its party vote collapsed, as those who had left National to NZ First and United Future in 2002 stayed loyal with their electorate votes. Expect the same with Labour this election.
The other general seat which might change hands is Tauranga. Bob Clarkson won this seat in 2005, by a slender 730 vote majority over you know who. But Bob Clarkson was popular in Tauranga, as he had donated much of his money on a new stadium, and other community projects. And Don Brash’s “one law for all” slogan may have grabbed some redneck votes of Peters. This year, Bob Clarkson is retiring, loosing him his personal vote. He is going to replaced by Simon Bridges, a 30 year old high profile lawyer, who may not be too widely known in Tauranga (certainly not the same name recognition as Peters), and Peters has indicated he is eyeing the seat back since he included a no tolls on the Tauranga harbour bridge as part of his 2005 deal with Labour. Still once out, harder to get back in. And this applies even more to minor party leaders. So I won’t be the least bit surprised if, even by the narrowest of margins Bridges wins this seat (whether NZ First gets 5% is another story).
Even here the news is bad for Labour. Nothing would destroy Labour’s chances of staying in power more than Winston Peters getting Tauranga or 5%. At the moment Labour has the slim (although now vey slim) chance of retaining power in a coalition or other arangement with the Greens and Maori Party (the latter having the advantage of the overhang). Bringing NZ First into play, while it would make things a lot more difficult for National, would end this hope. I can not see Winston prefering a five party unstable hodge podge of Labour, Progressives, Greens and NZ First, over a straight National-NZ First coailiton. And even if NZ First doesn’t play ball, the Maori Party might.
Either way, things aren’t looking good for Labour.