Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins at Waitangi (Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins at Waitangi (Getty Images)

Covid-19March 16, 2021

The Bulletin: Pressure on Collins after yet another poor poll

Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins at Waitangi (Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins at Waitangi (Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: New poll piles pressure on Judith Collins, Australia deports 15 year old boy under ‘501’ policy, and questions raised over ACC support for March 15 psychological injuries.

Judith Collins is under severe pressure as National leader over low polling. In the first One News Colmar Brunton poll of the year, National is up slightly – but only to 27%, well below levels Collins suggested were deal-breakers before she became leader. Not only that, her personal ratings are now down to 8%. A trio of other figures on the right make up almost that amount among them – Act leader David Seymour, National aspirant Christopher Luxon, and former leader Simon Bridges, in order of their ranking.

In the party vote, Labour is still well ahead. The Greens have nudged up to 9%, with Act on 8%. NZ First and the Māori Party were both on 2%, and TOP and the New Conservatives registered, but not much more. If it were all translated to seats, little would change in the overall balance of power in parliament. It follows a recent poll which had Labour and the Greens staying at very high cumulative support. The Roy Morgan poll tends to show higher levels of support for the Greens, and in this one had them on 13.5%. It also had Labour below 50%, and National below 30% (by a smaller margin.)

For Collins, this result isn’t unsurvivable – but questions about her future are now inevitable. But she might hang on partly because nobody else wants the job right now – as the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Claire Trevett writes in an extended America’s Cup metaphor, “the reason there are no enthusiastic challengers is because nobody wants to take over the boat when it is off its foils and there is precious little in the way of a wind coming to lift it up again.” All the while, a review into the party is being shared around the upper echelons – Stuff reports it is understood to focus heavily on making the party much more diverse.

The biggest drop in personal support came for Jacinda Ardern, who went down 15 points to 43%. It’s a curious stat in some respects. Firstly it’s below Labour’s party vote, which dropped to 49% – still enough to govern alone. But a huge number of people have moved into the ‘don’t know’ category on this question, which makes one wonder if those people are still available to Ardern. Despite all this, Ardern remains easily the most popular politician in the country.

Meanwhile on poll news generally, One News is ditching landlines. Political editor Jessica Mutch McKay wrote about why the firm was moving to a combination of cellphones and online polling – simply put, it’s where they will best reach people. An important point about this to note is that sampling is still weighted for demographics, much like it would be were landlines used. It’s also something of a coda to a long-running theme in New Zealand politics, of wistful partisans excusing their poor polling on the presence or otherwise of landlines.

The Australian government has deported a 15 year old boy to New Zealand, as part of the notorious ‘501’ policy, reports Andrea Vance for Stuff. The teenager is understood to have family circumstances that are – to quote – “complicated and messy”. In making the deportation, Australia may have breached international law – though to focus purely on the law over and above the moral stain of such a policy would be perhaps to miss the point. Asked about the report, PM Ardern said “I have asked for a briefing on that. I don’t have full details. But I would have an expectation that we treat minors in a particular way.” The Greens this morning are describing Australia as a “rogue nation” that “consistently flouts international law”, reports Radio NZ.

Questions are being raised about whether survivors of the March 15 attacks who weren’t physically injured should be entitled to ACC support, reports David Williams for Newsroom. Currently mental health trauma is not covered under the legislation governing ACC, but documents of government discussions show the agency could have simply been directed to provide targeted support on a one-off basis. Cabinet decided against such a move, with one academic saying it was a political choice – “they decided it was something they should not do, rather than could not do.” Many of the people who survived that day are still suffering ongoing psychological effects.

We’ve been doing our utmost to bring you all the coverage you need of the Covid-19 outbreaks and lockdowns. And we can’t do it without the generous support of our members. If you want to help out our news team with this and other big stories, please sign up here.

Dozens of prominent companies have called for new laws against modern forms of slavery, reports Stewart Sowman-Lund for The Spinoff. Estimates vary, but about 40 million people worldwide are understood to be living in slavery right now, and may be involved in the supply chains of companies operating in New Zealand. As such, the organisers of this call say there needs to be legislation that holds companies to account for what goes on in those supply chains.

A couple of insightful pieces about the nature of this government, seen through the lens of the proposed trans-Tasman bubble. The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Claire Trevett has looked at how Australia may be deciding to turn their backs on the concept of a bubble with New Zealand, going with Singapore first and foremost instead. And Stuff’s Henry Cooke has questioned why the government has been so reticent, despite the incredibly close ties between the two countries, and the relative safety of the current situation in Australia. At yesterday’s press conference, PM Ardern said there continued to be a number of complicating factors which were being worked on.

It’s probably fairly obvious news, but it’s useful to have hard numbers on – population growth is way down over the last twelve months. Interest reports growth through migration is down 57% in the year to January, and the net migration gain has been at the lowest levels since 2014. While the proportion of New Zealand citizens coming back from that category is much higher than normal, it still isn’t really making up for the overall dip.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

Image: Tina Tiller

Right now on The Spinoff: Danyl McLauchlan goes hunting for solutions to Wellington’s lengthening list of problems.Anjum Rahman writes about not forgetting the March 15 attacks, or ignoring the pockets that still exist, two years on. New Zealand writer Chloe Gong writes about the fickle YA fiction market, and the diversity of writers in it. Laura Walters reports from London about police breaking up a vigil mourning the death of a woman allegedly killed by an officer. And Alex Casey counts down the ten strangest job listings to find on TradeMe.

For a feature today, a rare example of a place where vaccine hesitancy is reasonable and justified. Vice has looked into why many Pakistanis don’t want to get the Covid-19 vaccine, finding much of the mistrust and fear stems from a well-documented fake vaccination programme run by the CIA in their bid to kill Osama Bin Laden. That abuse of trust also has dire consequences for vaccination workers on the ground, who have nothing to do with military operations. Here’s an excerpt:

Forty miles East of Peshawar, in the town of Mardan in the same province, Almeena Iftikhar, a polio vaccinator, told me she is always scared for her life in the field. Iftikhar is a Lady Health Worker, a program she said is the reerkh ki haddi, or the backbone of the country’s healthcare infrastructure. Lady Health Workers like Iftikhar are salaried government employees, and foot-soldiers in the country’s fight to eradicate polio. They go door-to-door in far flung, rural areas of the country bearing vials of the oral polio vaccine, interact with families in their communities, and provide health education and basic health services.

But in Pakistan, where aid and vaccination programs are commonly associated with the CIA and Western interests, Lady Health Workers have subsequently become easy targets.

I’m not sure if Super Rugby has actually made the Bulletin yet this season, and it hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. As Gregor Paul writes in the (paywalled) NZ Herald, the tournament is looking overwhelmingly likely to be a shootout between the Blues and Crusaders – two teams who were fairly dominant last year as well. The Hurricanes in particular are looking shaky – their team wasn’t good enough to get the job done last year, and has arguably become significantly weaker in the offseason. Fortunately, the two big dogs will finally meet this weekend at Eden Park.

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