National candidate Paul Goldsmith failed to show for an debate between Epsom candidates on TV3's The Nation this weekend — removing any doubt his party will again gift the seat to ACT.
There was the vaguest of possibilities that the John Banks contretemps could derail the deal.
But, no. Mr Goldsmith's absence, and the official excuse that he is focussing on the list vote, scream to National faithful to vote for ACT candidate David Seymour (as did John Key's earlier decision to attend a fundraiser for Mr Seymour).
The mechanics and madness of MMP now demand that Labour and Green supporters foil this plan by casing their electorate vote for Mr Goldsmith.
Left wing tactical voting, combined with Nats who weren't onboard with the cup of tea, saw National's man finish a surprisingly close second to John Banks in 2011.
One to watch, particularly if Mr Banks draws out the agony of his case by refusing to resign by Monday — as ACT leader Jamie Whyte and campaign manager Richard Prebble so clearly want him to do [UPDATE: Banks has quit. Pity for ACT it wasn't in time to save Mr Seymour an excruciating series of questions on whether the party takes white collar crime seriously; see below.]
RAW DATA: The Nation/TV3 transcript (watch the panel interview here)
Lisa Owen: I’m joined this morning by a trio, each of whom want to fill John Banks’ shoes in Epsom; Act’s David Seymour, Labour’s Michael Wood and Green’s contender Julie Anne Genter. We invited National’s candidate Paul Goldsmith on as well but declined saying curiously that he was focusing on campaigning for the party vote. Which begs the question David Seymour have they already done a deal with you?
David Seymour: I get out everyday, knock of doors to try and persuade people that I’m the best possible representative for Epsom and that voting for me in the Epsom electorate is the most powerful thing that Epsom voters can do to ensure continued centre-right government. –
Have they done a deal with you? Simple question, straight forward answer please. -
Seymour: There’s no deal. In the secrecy of the ballot booth people will make up their own mind. And the message is that voting for me ensures continued stable centre-right government.
Key said that he wouldn’t decide until closer to the election. But has he decided already? Is there a deal on the table?
Seymour: Well you’d have to talk to him about that. Certainly he has attended a fundraiser in support of my campaign.
But he would have to talk to you in order to do a deal. So are you having a conversation? Is there a deal?
Seymour: No, he hasn’t said that to me but what I know, what really matters is that Epsom deserves good representation. And that’s why I have knocked on 7-thousand doors and counting.
Julie Anne Genter, it seems pretty obvious here doesn’t it?
Julie Anne Genter: That John Key is desperate to maintain his wafer thin majority and he has to look to a party that has 0.5% support in the polls and now has their third MP convicted or found guilty of a criminal offence. And I think it’s pretty sad. It’s pretty desperate.
Michael Wood, are the people of Epsom sick of taking one for the team? Are they sick of having an Act MP because National says it’s good for them?
Michael Wood: This is an electorate which has been kicked around and abused and used. And I actually think that the least the Act party could do at this point in the proceedings is to concede that there is a deal that is on the table or in the offing. That is the only way that the Act party has survived, they don’t stand up on their own two feet. And I think that heaps of people are sick of it.
Seymour: Well that’s absolutely not true. In 2005 the National party campaigned against Rodney Hide and he won anyway. In 2008 Rodney Hide won by 15 thousand votes, he was clearly the most popular option. -
Genter: - But that was Rodney Hide before he had to -
Seymour: And I’m appealing to people in Epsom by voting for me they can have a good representative, someone who is approachable, who is working hard for the electorate. I’m giving this whole year to campaign full time.
So you don’t want a deal? You can win without a deal? You don’t want a deal?
Wood: Call for no deal David. Call for no deal.
Seymour: I’m looking for every endorsement I can get. What I’ve said
So sorry, just to be clear, I couldn’t hear you then, are you happy – you don’t want a deal?
Seymour: No, I’m happy to get every endorsement I can and the support of every person I can in Epsom. And the Prime Minister who’s a resident of Epsom, if he says that he’d like people to vote for me then all the better but I’m just focused on providing the best possible representation for Epsom. And that’s why I get out every day and talk to people and campaign to be their MP.
So when will we know, when will voters know about a deal? When are you going to tell voters?
Seymour: Well it’s not up for me to tell. Look, the Prime Minister has attended a fundraiser helping to raise money for my campaign. But at the end of the day it’s a mathematical -
Exactly, that is exactly the point isn’t it? -
Seymour: At the end of the day it’s a mathematical reality. That the most powerful thing Epsom voters can do is vote for me to keep centre-right government.
Alright, we currently have an MP for Epsom who has been found guilty of deliberately filing a false electoral return. Do you consider that to be a serious crime?
Seymour: John has done wrong and he’s paid a huge personal and political cost. Strictly speaking it’s still before the courts, he still has some options.
Is it a serious crime in your view?
Seymour: Nobody is above the law and I think it’s a good thing in New Zealand that we have very high standards. The judge has delivered a verdict and we’ll see what happens in due course.
So what? It’s white collar crime so it’s ok? Is that what you are saying? I’m asking you straight. Is it a serious crime or not?
Seymour: It’s a serious thing to break the law. And that’s what the judge has found. And that’s where we are at.
So should he go now then?
Seymour: Well if there’s going to be any kind of announcement it will actually come from our leader not from me. What I’m doing is focusing on things I can control. I don’t look backwards I look forwards.
Well we’re hearing that there is division amongst the party, that the new guard Jamie Whyte wants him gone. Is there division?
Seymour: No, I think the Act party has never been more unified around its purpose and what we are doing today is advancing the idea that we want lower taxes, we want a high growth economy, we want to get tough on burglary, we want to reform the public sector.
So Michael Wood, should he go? Should he go now?
Wood: He should absolutely go. The day before the verdict Richard Prebble through the Act party letter was defending John Banks, saying that he was not guilty. Banks does still not accept that he has done anything wrong and the Act party is clearly in disarray. Look the people of Epsom have been embarrassed again by the Act party. It comes after the shenanigans around Rodney Hide and his perks, it comes after the dead baby scandal, it comes after the new leader’s comments around incest. And I hear from the people of Epsom that they actually want some dignified and honorable representation and an end to this circus.
You do seem to have a disproportionate number of MPs who seem to fall foul of the law. What’s going on with your selection of candidates?
Seymour: I think the Act party has been one of the most effective parties in promoting free markets and changing the rules and making New Zealand better place in terms of its public policy….
Genter: - And getting tough on crime. -
Seymour: … and for that reason we come under a lot more scrutiny than other parties.
Genter: Oh right. -
Seymour: I’ve always said consistently that I’m going to have to campaign harder and work hard in Epsom than any other candidate in New Zealand. I didn’t sign up for a walk in the park. And so we go on.
Julie Anne Genter, do you see a double standard here with a party that’s says it stands up for law and order but yet among their own-
Genter: It’s ironic but perhaps fitting that the party that campaigned to get tough on law and order and have the three strikes rule have actually had three out of nineteen MPs found guilty of a criminal offense. That’s 16%, a much higher percentage than any other party in parliament. And I actually think it’s time for Epsom voters to a choice for representative who isn’t from a party that has been so terribly disgraced.
But haven’t you just parachuted into this electorate?
Genter: I’ve been living in the electorate. I’ve been living in Auckland for about eight years.
Seymour: I think a better question for you Julie would be, why did your leader go and see Kim Dotcom at the Dotcom mansion and will you try and block the extradition of somebody who has effectively just bought a political party if you have the option of going into government with Internet-Mana?
Genter: No, of course we won’t. Of course we won’t block extradition.
Seymour: So you’re saying you won’t go into government with Dotcom?
Genter: Well that wasn’t the question that you just asked. But of course we wouldn’t block extradition.
Seymour: Well that’s good to hear.
Genter: What we want is for the law to be upheld. And I think that it’s typical…
Seymour: So why did Russel Norman go to the Dotcom mansion?
Genter: So this is a typical National party talking point which distracts from the real issues. There’s actually nothing illegal or untoward about talking to residents in New Zealand. And certainly there was no question of buying access.
Seymour: It’s a bit rich though isn’t it?
So Michael Wood, when you go door knocking in Epsom do people care about the Banks issue or what is the single biggest thing they are telling you they care about?
Wood: Absolutely. This is the single biggest issue for people in Epsom. I talk to Labour voters, I talk to National voters and across the board people are absolutely sick and tired of this. I just want to respond to that point. The idea of the Act party accusing other people of manipulating the electoral system is like Dad farting and then blaming the family dog.
Seymour: And you’re campaigning for dignified representation.
Wood: This is the party whose only lifeline is through a deal with the National party…
Seymour: Here’s the deal with you Michael, are you campaigning to win the seat or are you going to endorse Paul Goldsmith?
Wood: If I could finish thank you David. The fact that Paul Goldsmith is not here today speaks for itself. It speaks to the fact that a dirty deal has been conjured up. And I’ve got something with me actually. There was a famous case in the early 1980s where Roy Hattersley the deputy leader of the British Labour party refused to appear in interviews and refused to front up and he was replaced by a bag of lard. I’m not so unkind, but every time that Paul Goldsmith fails to front in this campaign we are going to remind people about the dirty deal with his bag of wholemeal flour. And this is going to sit in place of Paul Goldsmith who is not fronting and is facilitating a deal with the Act party to get them in when they don’t deserve it.
David Seymour are you surprised that he hasn’t turned up?
Seymour: It’s up to Paul. I can’t speak for other politicians.
Genter: Of course not. John Key has already been at a fundraiser for David Seymour, he has obviously told Paul Goldsmith not to come along today even though he really should be here since he’s the one who’s written John Banks’ biography. I mean he’s the expert on John Banks.
Seymour: Lisa, you ask what people in Epsom are saying on the doorstep. What they are saying is that they want continued stable centre-right government, they want low taxes and no new taxes, they do not want a capital gains tax and they do not want to have their neighborhoods intensified with eight story towers next to their homes. And the kind of rates corruption that they get from Len Brown -
Genter: And this is interesting because this is supposedly the free market party arguing for regulation. Arguing for regulation, higher prices where land values are high, where people want to live.
Seymour: No, what I’m arguing for is if the people of Epsom have bought into certain property rights and the character of their community. And when people buy -
Genter: You know about a third of people in Epsom are under the age of 33.
One at a time, we need to hear what you are saying. Julie Anne Genter if you know, do you know the electorate well do you think?
Genter: I do think I know the electorate well. There’s a large number...
So I just want to ask you then, here in Flower Street at TV3, are we in the electorate?
Genter: It’s right on the border, since the border - no I don’t think it is. We are in Auckland Central.
Wood: No we are not in the electorate. The boundary is just over the road.
Actually no, we are just inside the electorate here. How many schools in the Epsom electorate? Anyone?
Seymour: Ah well let’s start naming them, Auckland Grammar, Epsom Girls’ Grammar, Kohia Terrace where I was last night.
How many? Anyone?
Seymour: There’s around thirty.
Well, there’s thirty. So I’m wondering if National and Act are going to buddy up, why don’t you guys buddy up?
Wood: We are running a principled campaign. We want. -
Seymour: Encouraging Labour voters to vote for Paul Goldsmith.
Wood: I’ve just been asked a question and I’ll answer it thanks David. We’re running a principled campaign. We want this to be a straight out contest of ideas and of parties. But we have a situation in which the National party and the Act party are manipulating the system. And of course Labour voters and Green voters in the electorate will think about their options as the campaign goes on.
Seymour: So you also are running a strategic campaign.
Wood: No we are not. I have not had a single conversation with the Green party about this issue. I have not seen Julie Anne before today.
Seymour: Julie will you be encouraging Green party voters to vote strategically for Paul Goldsmith?
Genter: No, we have always…
Seymour: So will we not, so you say then.
Direct question [to Wood], are you? Paul Goldsmith, should they vote for Paul Goldsmith?
Wood: We are not running a campaign with that message at this point. But we are…
Seymour: At this point. So strategic voting is ok
Wood: No listen. We will not be tied down in to a position on this issue given that there is so much uncertainty and so much frittering.
So you want him to front up and say what his deal is but you won’t come out and say –
Wood: Absolutely. We are calling for a straight contest and an end to the dodgy deals...
Seymour: So are you running to win the seat or you are endorsing Labour party voters to vote for Paul Goldsmith? It’s a simple enough question Michael.
One at a time.
Wood: We are calling for a straight contest and an end to the dodgy deals.
Seymour: But you are going to advocate for Labour voters to vote for Paul Goldsmith.
Wood: It is not for the Labour party or the Green party to defend the position that comes from a situation not created by the Labour party or the Green party.
Ok, so let’s be clear, coat-tailing, who wants it and who wants to get rid of it?
Genter: We want to get rid of it. We want to implement the recommendations of the electoral commission that National has failed to implement. New Zealand voters were very clear that they didn’t support coat-tailing, that came out in the review of MMP. And it’s the National party who failed to implement those recommendations. And the Green party has consistently been against coat-tailing.
Wood: The Act party has been given a veto over New Zealand’s electoral system because of the partisan interests of National and Act. And that is an absolute disgrace. New Zealanders went to a referendum…
Seymour: Voters voted for a referendum 58-42 to keep the current system.
Genter: Yeah, with a review - with a review of MMP.
Seymour: They did not vote - no, they did not vote to have another referendum.
Genter: No David, yes they did.
Seymour: The fact is.-
We are hearing, excuse me, we are hearing that Jamie Whyte is going to call today for John Banks’ resignation. Is that going to happen?
Seymour: I don’t speak for the leader. That’s why we have a leader. Stay tuned.
Wood: Go talk to the leader.
Seymour: But to answer your question…
Thank you, that’s all we have got time for.