The pressure is on National.
Despite polling well above any other party it’s a government increasingly under siege, with issues on a number of fronts that threaten its current dominance and re-election.
Opinion polling out today suggests that the Government is on a knife edge – the next election could go either way. It can’t afford further bad news and to lose any more support. For the latest poll information and very useful analysis, see Tracy Watkins’ Trend good for Labour but there's a way to go. See also National no longer a sure winner – poll, and Vernon Small’s Minor parties hold sway in dead heat.
The Skycity report is the latest vulnerability for National. If John Key still thinks the Audit Office has given him a ‘total vindication’ in the report, he really needs to read John Armstrong’s blistering critique: Banana republic stuff — but minus the bananas. The Audit Office itself is criticised by Gordon Campbell for ignoring political realities in pointing the finger at officials: ‘Get real, Audit Office. In the current public service climate, officials would have to be either very brave or foolhardy to fly in the face of the clear signals they were getting from the Beehive heavyweights, and they would also need to have alternative job options’ – see: On the Audit Office report on the SkyCity deal.
Nonetheless, Key appears determined to push the deal through quickly – see Dan Satherley’s Key rejects criticism of Sky City deal, and Adam Bennett and David Fisher’s Select treatment for SkyCity won't stop deal.
There is still more to come on the Skycity issue – a debate about the more contentious trade-off of ‘pokies for convention centre’ which will require special legislation – see the Herald’s editorial, Social cost of casino deal left for public to judge.
National is particularly vulnerable in Christchurch at the moment. As John Armstrong explains in a must-read column, the decision to backdown on some of the school closures is driven by ‘the need to buttress National's hold on the city’ – see: Partial backdown shows National has eye on election. So was the U-turn a political success? Immediately after the announcement, University of Canterbury political scientist Bronwyn Hayward (@BMHayward) tweeted that she was so happy with the Government’s announcement she could hug Hekia Parata. Similarly, the Press editorial on the matter proclaimed, ‘The Government should be congratulated for at last properly consulting people about the plan and for taking heed of concerns’ – see: Deliver on promise.
Yet National is still receiving a lot of bad publicity over the school closures. And Hekia Parata continues to be ‘the minister the public most love to hate’ – see for example: 71pc want Parata gone – survey. Much of the media has been baying for her to give an apology for the errors committed by herself, her Ministry and Novopay – see Tova O'Brien’s Sorry seems to be the hardest word.
The Government is onto a popular winner with its announcement to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes (at some stage in the future, depending on what happens in Australia). Most parties have signed up for it in Parliament – with only Act and NZ First dissenting – see Newswire’s Plain packaging `a windfall for lawyers' – Peters. There’s strong support in the blogosphere too – see for example, No Right Turn: A good move, and David Farrar’s The plain packaging decision. But much of the credit is going, not to National, but to the Maori Party – see Patrick Gower’s Turia has absolutely smashed Big Tobacco.
The asset sale issue is probably the one that National is most vulnerable on. Already this week National’s deadline for a court decision has passed – see TV3’s Court asserts authority on asset sales.
And Matthew Hooton speculates on the reasoning behind a possible negative judgement for the Government – see: World exclusive: Top court's draft water judgment. The options for the Government if the decision goes against them are stark. Negotiations with iwi, further delays or cancelling the sales will all be politically humiliating. Legislating away the problem may be popular with National’s voter base but such a broken promise would explode the coalition deal with the Maori Party at a time when National is running low on little helpers in Parliament. An early election could be tempting – particularly if National can turn the issue into a vote on Treaty rights. An election that became a vote on the asset sales themselves would likely be suicidal.
Of course, there are some indicators that National is doing quite well at the moment. A recent One News poll put the party on 49%, leading political editor Corin Dann to put forward an explanation for why the Government is doing so well: What a difference a summer can make.
But if National is vulnerable and under pressure, then what of the state of the opposition? Labour is obviously pushing very hard on the Skycity issue. With deliberate thought to his wording, Labour leader David Shearer has proclaimed: ‘This has had John Key's fingerprints all over it and it was a shonky deal and John Key is donkey-deep in it’. On Twitter, David Fisher (@DFisherJourno) elaborated on the unusual language: ‘I'm told Labour's use of "donkey deep" is part of a subliminal "shonky" "donkey" "John Key" alliteration thing. Is that easier than policy?’
Labour also has its vulnerabilities at the moment. They start at the top – with Shearer, and blogger Pete George reports on his latest miscommunication in: Shearer: absolutely there’s room for MPs with homophobic views in Labour. The party also won’t be helped by the surprise resignation of Charles Chauvel yesterday – see Claire Trevett’s MP quits ahead of reshuffle. Various bloggers have outlined why this news is bad for Labour – see: David Farrar’s Chauvel resigns from Parliament, and No Right Turn’s Goodbye Charles. Cameron Slater is also running a series of blog post on the future prospects of the party’s deputy leader – see, for example, Grant Robertson, Prime Minister? – Delivering Heads.
The bigger issue for Labour is its potential coalition partners. Senior Labour activist Greg Presland has blogged about the likely problems of working with Winston Peters: ‘How could a Labour Green Coalition include New Zealand First? The simple answer is that it could not. It would be inherently unstable, its policy goals would be shackled by the strange world view NZF has about issues such as climate change’ – see: Labour's Coalition Prospects.
There is an increasing focus on the role of NZ First after the 2014 election – in particular, see David Farrar’s The nightmare for the next PM and Stuff’s Which NZ First wheel will fall off next? And if there’s any doubt about the likelihood of Peters getting his party over the line in 2014, his recent campaigning about Maori health funding is another example of his willingness and ability to exploit hot-button issues – see Brook Sabin’s Rongoa healers defend taxpayer funding. Also on the issue, see: Mathew Backhouse and Rebecca Quilliam’s Trust calls Peters' comments 'scaremongering' and the Dominion Post editorial, Monitoring needed for traditional healing.
What about Mana? It is clearly embarrassing for Hone Harawira to have news such as David Fisher’s Harawira sons charged over attack on 12-year-old boy. David Farrar has responded to defend Harawira from being associated with the story – see: Nothing to do with Hone. Nonetheless, Fisher also reports, Harawira steps in to settle dispute.
Other recent items of interest or importance:
* The blogosphere has been a bit stale lately, so its good news that Martyn Bradbury – far from retiring from blogging – is setting up a whole new blogging experiment – see his announcement: Announcing my new media project - TheDailyBlog.co.nz - read the other side of the story. But how long will it last? When Cameron Slater launched a similar venture (a collaborative blog labelled ‘Gotcha’) with Cathy Odgers a few years ago, the wheels started falling off immediately. Meanwhile, No Right Turn has just celebrated Ten years, and David Farrar is about to do likewise with Kiwiblog: A 10th birthday party.
* Chris Trotter critiques the Living Wage campaign, suggesting that it shows just how weak New Zealand’s labour movement has become – see: Low-paid staff need solidarity. In contrast, Rodney Hide says the education unions are far too strong – see: Mad and bad unions hold us to ransom.
* Just how much spin do politicians need? – see Bernard Orsman’s Mayor heavy on 'spin doctors'.
* It’s not just iwi lawyers who earn big bucks from treaty cases. Tony Wall looks at who the government has paid for help since 2008 and there are a lot of ex-politicians on the list, including Paul Swain, Tukoroirangi Morgan, Jim Bolger, Rick Barker and Wira Gardiner – see: Treaty cases earn top dollar for 'top team'.
* This had to be written, but would have been a tough task given the competition from Richard Prosser’s own pen – see Steve Braunias’ The Secret Diary of ... Richard Prosser.
* Finally, ever since Jenny Shipley became the first New Zealand Prime Minister to attend the Hero Parade, in 1999, mainstream politicians have been frequent participants in the public celebrations of the LGBT community. This has made for some fantastic and interesting photo opportunities - some of which are reproduced in this blog post, NZ politicians at gay events – images.
NZPD Editor (bryce.edwards@
John Armstrong (Herald): Sky City report 'deeply disturbing'
Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the Audit Office report on the SkyCity deal
Patrick Gower (TV3): Sky City deal lacked transparency – Auditor-General
Newswire (TV3): 'Sky City given unfair advantage' – Shearer
Radio NZ: Business to Govt: get on with it
Adam Bennett and David Fisher (Herald): Select treatment for SkyCity won't stop deal
Kate Chapman and Vernon Small (Stuff): SkyCity report slates Government ministers
Adam Bennett and David Fisher (Herald): SkyCity 'treated very differently' in tender
Toby Manhire (Listener): The SkyCity convention centre deal: 10 quotes from the Auditor-General report
Adam Bennett (Herald): SkyCity cleared in convention probe
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The Sky City reports
No Right Turn: "Vindicated"
The Standard: A-G reveals details of Nats’ dirty deal with SkyCity
Adam Bennett (Herald): SkyCity deal doesn't mean more pokies - Key
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Trend good for Labour but there's a way to go
Tracy Watkins and Andrea Vance (Stuff): National no longer a sure winner – poll
Vernon Small (Stuff): Minor parties hold sway in dead heat
Tracy Watkins and Andrea Vance (Stuff): Nats keep grip on rural voters - poll
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Latest poll
Taranaki Daily News: Editorial: Disquiet casts shadow over asset sales
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Support grows for National, Key – poll
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Latest poll
Corin Dann (TVNZ): Corin Dann: What a difference a summer can make
Kate Chapman (Stuff): Good start to year reflected in poll - PM
Tobacco plain packaging
Brook Sabin (TV3): Govt prepares for legal action over plain packaging
Kate Chapman (Stuff): Plain packaging must wait till wrangles pass
Isaac Davison (Herald): Plain smoke packets get go-ahead
Newswire (TV3): Plain packaging `a windfall for lawyers' - Peters
Kate Shuttleworth (APNZ): NZ to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Tobacco plain packaging to be introduced
No Right Turn: A good move
Isaac Davison (Herald): Plain packaging for cigarettes a legal minefield
Patrick Gower (TV3): Turia has absolutely smashed Big Tobacco
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The plain packaging decision
Andrea Vance, Charley Mann, and Caroline King (Stuff): 71pc want Parata gone – survey
Dominion Post: Editorial: Lessons from the school shake-up
Newswire (TV3): School closures 'must not be rushed' -NZEI
Metiria Turei (Frogblog): The heart has been ripped out of Christchurch school communities
Patrick Gower (TV3): Parata's apology 'gobbledygook'
Dan Satherley (TV3): No ill-feeling towards minister, despite closures
Peter Cresswell (Not PC): Spot the contradiction
Anthony Robins (The Standard): Christchurch kids as political pawns
Caroline King (Stuff): Hundreds protest Christchurch school closures
Thomas Mead (TV3): School staff vote 'no confidence' in Hekia Parata
Tova O'Brien (TV3): Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Kate Shuttleworth (Herald): Parata makes Novopay apology
Southland Times: Editorial: Closures but no cigar
Colin Espiner (Stuff): Timing of school closures couldn't be worse
Michael Cummings (Stuff): Parata's tenure hangs by a thread
Kate Chapman (Stuff): Too early for teacher job loss numbers - Parata
Dan Satherley (TV3): No 'sorry' from Hekia Parata over school closures
Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the schools closures, Afghanistan and Hollywood politics
Hamish Clark (TV3): Tears of happiness after school decision
Rebuilding Christchurch: 140 vs 280: This shouldn’t be this hard
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Christchurch Schools details
Adam Bennett (Herald): Key stands by Parata after poll
Rebuiding Christchurch: School closures against deprivation index: the results will shock you!
Tina Law (Stuff): Was the schools shake-up pain necessary?
Kate Shuttleworth (Herald): Principals: We were duped
John Armstrong (Herald): Partial backdown shows National has eye on election
Kate Chapman (Stuff): Too early for teacher job loss numbers – Parata
The Press: Editorial: Deliver on promise
Claire Trevett (Herald): MP quits ahead of reshuffle
Claire Trevett (Herald): Labour MP Charles Chauvel resigns
Kate Chapman and Vernon Small (Stuff): Labour MP Charles Chauvel quits Parliament
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Chauvel resigns from Parliament
No Right Turn: Goodbye Charles
Caleb Allison (NBR): Champagne Charlie's lavish legacy
The Standard: Reshuffle for unity
Pete George (Your NZ): Shearer – communication breakdown
Pete George (Your NZ): Shearer: absolutely there’s room for MPs with homophobic views in Labour
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Shearer on homophobes and Labour
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Grant Robertson, Prime Minister? – Being Gay II
Cameron Slater (Whaleoil): Grant Robertson, Prime Minister? – Delivering Heads
The Standard: Labour: the democratic reforms continue
NZ in Afghanistan
Kate Chapman and Vernon Small (Stuff): Keeping troops in Afghanistan 'a legacy commitment'
Lloyd burr (TV3): NZDF troops to stay in Afghanistan for one more year
Adam Bennett (Herald): 27 NZ troops to stay on in Afghanistan
Newswire (TV3): Leaving Kiwis in Kabul 'a broken promise'
David Fisher (Herald): Harawira steps in to settle dispute
Vaimoana Tapaleao (Herald): Harawira quits anti-violence role
Tony Wall (Stuff): Treaty cases earn top dollar for 'top team'
Radio NZ: Te Urewera Four member granted parole
Edward Gay (Herald): Tame Iti's 'lieutenant' to be freed next month
Brook Sabin (TV3): Rongoa healers defend taxpayer funding
Dominion Post: Editorial: Monitoring needed for traditional healing
Stuff: An unhealthy exception
Maui Street: Towards a "Separate" Maori Justice System
David Fisher (Herald): Harawira sons charged over attack on 12-year-old boy
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Nothing to do with Hone
Mathew Backhouse and Rebecca Quilliam (Herald): Trust calls Peters' comments 'scaremongering'
Peter Cresswell (Not PC): Twisting the Treaty: A Tribal Grab for Wealth and Power
Inequality, poverty, employment
Waikato Times: Editorial: The fair minimum
Tapu Misa (Herald): Moral pressure drives fight for living wage
The Standard: “There is Power in a Union”
Chris Trotter (The Press): Low-paid staff need solidarity
Matt McCarten (Herald): Living wage a moral entitlement
Rodney Hide (Herald): Rodney Hide: Mad and bad unions hold us to ransom
The Standard: Species of Kiwi
Ben Clarke (The Standard): Inequality: even Treasury cares…
The Standard: Five Broken Things.
Darien Fenton (Red Alert): Wake up and listen
Offsetting Behaviour: It's Complicated: Oz minimum wage edition
Denise Roche (Frogblog): You can’t live on a precarious wage.
Newswire (TV3): Pay rise plea for parliament's cleaners
Marika Hill (Stuff): A true bill of health - the real costs
Rodney Hide (Herald): Rodney Hide: It beggars belief this is happening
Pete George (Your NZ): Five broken things at The Standard
Nicole Mathewson (Stuff): Prescription price rise hits vulnerable
Stevan Cowan (Against the current): Give that man a white flag to wave!
Karoline Tuckey (Stuff): Living wage 'impractical'
Pattrick Smellie (NBR): Cabinet holds back on asset sales, waits for Supreme Court
Kate Chapman and Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Key defends $100m asset selldown cost
Mark Cairns (Herald): Mark Cairns: Mixed ownership works for port
Patrick Smellie (TV3): Cabinet holds back on pushing asset sales
Don Franks (Redline): Asset sales rallies and left misconceptions
Richard Prosser and ‘Wogistan’
Gordon Campbell (Stuff): Taking free speech too far
Steve Braunias (Stuff): The Secret Diary of ... Richard Prosser
Sunday Star Times: Editorial – Prosser’s stupidity just the party line [not online]
Paul Little (Herald):Now, please let me explain
Pete George (YourNZ): NZ First would have dumped Prosser but for Horan – and Peters?
Kurt Bayer (Herald): Pocketknife that sparked 'Wogistan' to be auctioned
Pete George (YourNZ): Prosser out on his ear, maybe next month?
Simon Cunliffe (The Press): It's a joke that Prosser remains an MP
Kurt Bayer (Herald): Retreat from Wogistan
Sean Plunkett (The Press): How did Richard Prosser get into Parliament?
Gordon Brown (Stuff): In the world of social media semi-literate morons rule
Ross Henderson (Taranaki Daily News): It's now make or break
Dim-Post: There goes the neighborhood
Michele A’Court (The Press): Why I want to ban old, white men
Sean Plunkett (The Dominion): Prosser's prejudice reveals how socially aware most MPS are
Adam Bennett (Herald): MP Richard Prosser's future looks shaky
John Armstrong (Herald): Prosser saved by the realpolitik bell
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): Fran O'Sullivan: We should expect better of our MPs
Nelson Mail: Our leaders aren't meant to be bigots
Scott Yorke (Imperitorfish): A special thank-you to Richard Prosser
The Standard: Walking the talk
Wyatt Creech (Pundit): Richard Prosser finally makes a name for himself
Dave Armstrong (The Dominion): Glad not to live in a world of dreary Pakeha oneness
Martyn Bradbury (Tumeke): I can't believe I'm saying this but Kerre Woodham is right - the Horror of Prosser's magical blade
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The nightmare for the next PM
Kate Shuttleworth (APNZ): Parata avoids Novopay apology
Andrea Vance (The Press): It's not all Hekia Parata's fault
Local Bodies: Turei Takes on Education Again.
Andrea Vance (Stuff): Pressure is on Parata
Edward Rooney (Herald): Govt investigates rule suppressing teacher complaints
Ellipsister: Unqualified Teachers & Charter Schools
Adam Bennett (Herald): Parata should have gone, says poll
Catherine Woulfe (Listener): Education: Testing times
Newswire (TV3): NZ First attacks Maori healing spending
Waitakere News: Labour's Coalition Prospects
APNZ (Herald): Winston Peters seeks date for Backbencher reopening
Michael Field (Stuff): Skyhawks to taste formation flight once again
Radio NZ: Impact of budget cuts denied
Newswire (TV3): NZ's Afghan troops poorly trained – report
Adam Bennett (Herald): Cutbacks not affecting troops' safety: minister
Rodney Hide (NBR): Mainzeal and the mad men who drive the economy
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Ministers' interests in commercial assest challenged
Neil Reid (Stuff): Labour pushes for the subbie protection it axed
Isaac Davison (Herald): Sharples rejects criticism of relationship with head of Mainzeal
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Asset-sales costs reach $26m mark
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Why we should not own commercial competitive companies
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Legal delay won't derail SOE floats – English
Mathew Hooten (NBR): World exclusive: Top court's draft water judgment
Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Time to Count Kiwis
Caleb Allison (NBR): Does the census matter any more?
Imogen Crispe (TV3): Census makes intersex people ‘invisible’
Alan Dudson (Herald): Alan Dudson: Let's stop subsidising property investors
Deborah Russell (Tellingitleft): Nice try, but it won’t work
Shane Gilchrist (ODT): Castles in the clouds
Isaac Davison (Herald): House building plan: 2000 homes, Completed: Total of 180
Tim Hazeldine (Herald): Tim Hazledine: House affordability? Blame wages
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): Review of council development fees
Dan Satherley (TV3): Analyst warns against printing money
Rob Stock (Stuff): IRD going after multinational tax cheats
Newswire (TV3): Give domestic suppliers preference – Greens
Pan Pylas (Stuff): The risks of using currencies as economic weapons
Liam Dann (Herald): Liam Dann: Currency war a dangerous game