Early voting for New Zealanders living overseas opens today. Rebekah Holt talks to some expat voters to discover whether the Jacinda effect has taken hold in Australia.
In early July this year the then co-leader of the New Zealand Green Party James Shaw visited Melbourne to recruit NZ voters living here, and visit his dad. On a cold winters night in a Brunswick wine bar it was like watching a not very aggressive fisherman non-lethally shoot sustainably raised fish in a barrel.
About 60 people had gathered to hear him in the most non-challenging political environment I have witnessed since Jim Bolger popped into the Rangiora bakery for a custard square in 1993.
Shaw stood a good chance of getting everyone in that room’s vote, based on my wildly unscientific casual ask around after. He even convinced my friend Laura to vote for the first time in the 11 years she has been away from NZ. And I don’t think he was even trying.
There was some idle chatter about TOP amongst those who are interested in such matters, but nothing that Gareth or Sean left unsupervised couldn’t have destroyed in under five minutes on Twitter. More discernible was the feeling that everyone had had a gutsful of Labour.
But then Toby Manhire single-handedly changed the face of the 2017 election by suggesting it was time for the Greens to go a little bit crazy. And they did.
Metiria resigned, and Cersei had Jacinda kill Andrew Little so she could take her rightful place. Give or take some other details.
The smoke from the cleansing fires still thick in the air, I asked five people who attended that night a little over eight weeks and one Greens co-leader ago if they are now feeling the gravitational pull of Jacinda. And – spoiler – there has been some movement.
The group is accidentally all women in their 30s who have lived in Melbourne for anything between four months and 11 years.
Had you been sure of how you would vote throughout the year?
Hannah: Yes, I had a firm idea.
Laura: I actually wasn’t going to vote but seeing James [Shaw] speak convinced me to.
Esther: Yes, I am a committed Greens voter.
Beatrix: Yes, I’ve known I will vote Green.
Tiffany: Yes, Greens but I did consider TOP for about three seconds.
Has that changed since Metiria Turei’s resignation?
Hannah: I think it has. Not because of what Metiria did in a time of need. Being a student was struggle enough, having a child to support whilst being a student I could not even fathom. But what changed my view is the apparent disunity in the Green Party and their treatment of Metiria.
Laura: I haven’t kept up with what happened with the Greens actually, but my vote has changed.
Esther: Not at all. I am sad Metiria felt she had to resign, I understand the party couldn’t back her unreservedly. I think James Shaw walked that line well.
Beatrix: No, although I’m devastated she was forced to resign, I think the party handled the situation well.
Tiffany: I have changed my mind about my vote but Metiria’s resignation wasn’t the biggest factor .
Has how you will vote changed since Jacinda Ardern became Labour leader?
Hannah: I suppose it has. For a long time Labour had no clear vision, no clear leadership and it seemed like there was a lot of disagreement in terms of what sort of policy direction they were going to take. With Ardern there finally seems to be a clear direction.
Laura: Yes. James Shaw actually convinced me to vote for the first time in the 11 years I have been out of NZ, and I was going to vote Greens because their values are closest to what I believe in, but now I will probably vote for Labour.
Esther: My initial impression of Jacinda was very positive but I think her public position on Metiria’s so-called benefit fraud disclosure was very harsh and therefore disappointing.
Beatrix: No, too little, too late. Electing her as leader over Little would have felt like bold move back in the day. Now it feels more like a reinforcement of just how much women in politics have to prove themselves before they’re allowed in the hot seat.
Tiffany: Absolutely. It’s Labour/Labour for me now.
How did Metiria’s disclosures affect your decision?
Hannah: I do think it was an ill-informed decision to announce this on Metiria’s behalf, because you are putting it out there to the public and I think the vast majority of the public cannot get over their prejudices around poverty, gender and race which is very upsetting.
Esther: As many people have pointed out. if ‘we’ (NZers) are genuinely concerned about fraud in all its guises why are so many of ‘us’ happy to pay people under the table and why is there such lenient sentencing of white collar criminals?
Beatrix: Initially, I found her disclosure weirdly exhilarating – I say weirdly because I haven’t experienced anything like her situation. I felt really emotional and I was excited by what she was saying. I don’t know that I thought she was being bold, but I loved the honesty. But the aftermath actually shocked me. I don’t know what I was expecting but I could not believe how sanctimonious people were. People who I know consult their accountants carefully every year to figure out what they can get away with have a complete disconnect here.
Tiffany: The benefit ‘fraud’ didn’t affect my decision. Electoral fraud I am a bit less happy about and the two part disclosure was not great.
How did Metiria’s treatment, by other politicians and more widely, affect your vote?
Hannah: I think it is really disappointing the way that this has panned out for Metiria. Perhaps she thought that everyone was going to understand her, because this is an issue that affects many people at certain stages of their lives. But it seems that she hasn’t been understood; no-one has really come out and said ‘it is hard for beneficiaries’ because it is such a hot topic.
Esther: I’m just very disappointed by the scale of the response. In my view it was totally out of proportion with what she did.
Beatrix: I was initially excited when Jacinda became leader because I thought she would very strongly represent the Labour-Green alliance and also thought that she had a great opportunity to reinforce Labour’s support for beneficiaries. I don’t think either happened.
Tiffany: No, I’ve always though right wing politicians that want to pare back state services but take every state service they can are pieces of shit.
Has Jacinda’s polling success swayed your thinking about how you will vote in the last few weeks and have you made up your mind firmly?
Hannah: Labour now has a strong leader with clear policy objectives, charisma and someone I think many people can see as our prime minister. It might not have changed how I will vote, but it has certainly made me feel more confident in the options available. I am not 100% sure how I will vote yet.
Laura: I don’t care about the polling, it’s purely about Jacinda being the leader now for me. I saw Jacinda being interviewed by Anika Moa and it was like how I felt when I saw Helen Clark on IceTV. Helen was wearing a leather jacket carrying a pizza and the words ‘Labour delivers’ appeared on screen and I knew she was the one for me. Being able to go on a show like that was a big thing, it impressed me, she is a real person. Same with Jacinda.
Esther: Not at all. I hope Labour will be in a position to form a government with a strong Greens partnership.
Tiffany: Polls didn’t influence me. I had already decided to send a clear message that Jacinda was the right choice.
Are you willing to say how you will vote?
Hannah: No, it’s not something I want to announce on a public platform.
Beatrix: Green and Green