It has been a week. (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
It has been a week. (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

PoliticsJuly 26, 2020

Live updates, July 26: Labour over 60%, National at 25% in Newshub poll

It has been a week. (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
It has been a week. (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 26. The latest on New Zealand news, politics and the Covid-19 crisis, updated throughout the day. 

7.30pm: The day in sum

National recorded a terrible result in a new Reid poll for Newshub, with Labour passing 60%. Judith Collins rejected it as a rogue poll.

A new, merged political vehicle was launched by Jami-Lee Ross and Billie Te Kahika.

Chlöe Swarbrick hit back at being called a “celebrity” candidate by Auckland Central rival Helen White.

There were no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

Australia reported its deadliest day since the pandemic began.

An investigation into “pumped storage” options was announced.

The Green co-leaders made a pitch for support based on public trust.

Jacinda Ardern turned 40.

6.45pm: What a difference three years makes

Different polling companies, different methodologies and different times, but it’s pretty stunning to consider tonight’s Reid Research poll for Newshub with the poll published almost exactly three years ago, and at almost exactly the same proximity to the 2017 election as tonight’s is to the 2020 edition.

Colmar Brunton One News poll, three years ago versus Reid Newshub poll today:

National: 47% / 25%
Labour: 24% / 61%
Green: 15% / 6%
NZ First: 11% / 2%
Act: 0.5% / 3.5%

6.20pm: ‘One in 20 polls will always be a rogue’ – Brownlee

National has doubled down on dismissing the Reid/Newshub poll (see 6.05pm) as unreliable. Gerry Brownlee, chair of the National campaign, has taken the unusual step of issuing a press release in response to a TV survey, saying: “These numbers aren’t even in the same ballpark as our internal polls, other public polls and the hugely positive public response to our Leader Judith Collins.”

And: “Even with the most rigorous methodology, one in 20 polls will always be a rogue and this is clearly one of them. More than 200,000 New Zealanders are already out of work – and that is before we experience the full impact of the economic crisis as the wage subsidy scheme comes to an end.

6.05pm: Poll crushing news for Collins and National

A new Reid Research poll for Newshub puts National at just over 25%, with Labour surpassing 60%.

The key numbers:

Labour: 60.9% (up 4.4 from last Newshub poll)
National: 25.1% (down 5.5)
Greens: 5.7% (up 0.2)
NZ First: 2% (down 0.7)
Act: 3.3% (up 1.5)
Conservatives: 0.9% (down 0.1)
Māori Party: 0.4% (down 0.5)
TOP O.4% (up 0.3)

Those numbers would make it possible, indeed comfortable, for Labour to govern alone. They’d take 77 of the 120 seats, with National getting 32, the Greens 7 and Act 4.

In the preferred PM numbers, Collins has better news, hitting 14.6%, up 11.5 points from the last poll, and well above the 4.5% Simon Bridges registered before he was toppled by Todd Muller. Jacinda Ardern is on 62%, up 2.5.

“This is a rogue poll,” Collins told Newshub. That “reeks of desperation”, said Tova O’Brien, Newshub’s political editor.

The poll was in the field July 16-24. Collins became leader on July 14.

Read Newshub’s full coverage here.

5.15pm: The JLR-BTK show

As promised, Alex Braae has filed his report from the conscious coupling of Jami-Lee Ross’s Advance NZ Party and Billy Te Kahiki’s Public Party. It sounds like a carnival of conspiracy theory, but don’t dismiss it too quick. As Alex notes, the project will be a test of whether the rampant under-the-radar conversation on the likes of fluouride, anti-Vaxx, Covid-hoax and 5G that plays out on social media can form, with a dash of Jami-Lee Ross thrown into the soup, into electoral success. The turnout – at least 1,000, by Alex’s reckoning – would leave most New Zealand political parties envious.

Here’s a taste of his account:

There were attacks on Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who had spent time at the WHO. “Anyone who does any length of time at an organisation like that is going to be fully indoctrinated.” There were enthusiastic boos for the “fully groomed globalist” Jacinda Ardern. “Her story speaks like the perfect history of a prime minister who will betray our people.”

It was Agenda 21. It was anti-vaxxing. It was 5G. It was people being forced out of the provinces to live in “technocratic high rise cities”. It was all on the way, said Te Kahika, and he was the only one who could stand in the way of “them”, who were using Covid-19 to get the public used to “herd control”.

3.30pm: Pumped storage project part of 100% renewable ambition

A major investment in “pumped storage” options which may pave the way to a 100% renewable power grid have been announced today. The Government will fund a “close examination” of an Interim Climate Change Committee recommendation to develop hydro schemes which pump water to manage demand for electricity.

“If a business case stacks up pumped hydro would be a game changer for securing sustainable, cheaper, low-emissions electricity for the long term,” said Megan Woods, who among other things is the minister for energy, in a statement.

“Pumped hydro moves water to an upper reservoir when there is surplus renewable energy generation and demand for electricity is low. It is released back down to a hydro power station to generate electricity when demand is high. It works like a battery because the stored energy in the water is released when it is used in the hydroelectric dam. This opens up huge possibilities for cheaper electricity and increased supply.”

The government has allocated $30 million to the analysis, which will predominantly be focused on a pumped hydro storage project at Lake Onslow in Central Otago.

Russel Norman of Greenpeace welcomed the move, but stressed that the investigation must “look at the climate, biodiversity, social, cultural, technical and economic impacts of such a scheme”.

2.05pm: Australia records deadliest day of pandemic

More tragic news from across the Tasman, with the state of Victoria reporting 10 more people have died from coronavirus, making it the deadliest day in Australia since Covid-19 first arrived. The news came as Victoria, which has returned to lockdown, recorded 459 new cases of the coronavirus.

“Seven men ranging in age from their 40s to their 80s and three women in their 70s and 80s are the latest to die from the virus and take the state’s death toll to 71,” reported the ABC.

More than 42,000 tests were processed yesterday, a new high.

Read Siouxsie Wiles here on the critical difference between the strategy in Australia, and that in New Zealand.

1.15pm: Jami-Lee Ross’s Advance Party merges with NZ Public Party

The leftfield potential of New Zealand elections over the last decade continues in 2020, with the confirmation this afternoon that the Advance Party of Jami-Lee Ross has merged with Billy Te Kahika’s NZ Public Party.

A statement announcing the merger of Ross’s fledgling party, formed after he was ejected from the National Party in a fireball of scandal, and the NZ Public Party, which has built an online following which includes many conspiracy theorists, makes clear it is a marriage of convenience. “By forming an alliance of parties, together with other small parties that believe in greater freedom and democracy, we stand a stronger chance of uniting together and crossing the five percent threshold into parliament,” said Ross.

He called the new combo “the new Alliance Party of the 2020s, but a centrist version of that model”. Te Kahika will stand in Te Tai Tokerau and Ross in Botany.

The Spinoff’s Alex Braae is at the launch event, where he is watching what “may be the wildest shit I’ve seen in this country’s politics”. We’ll have a full dispatch from our chief wild shit correspondent later today.

Speaking of Jami-Lee Ross, Andrea Vance’s interview with Sarah Dowie, the Invercargill MP who is leaving parliament at the end of the term, makes for important, sobering reading.

1.00pm: No new cases of Covid-19

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has announced in a press release. There are no new recovered cases, either, so the total active case number remains at 21, all of whom are in managed isolation or quarantine. It is 86 days since there was a case of Covid-19 “acquired locally from an unknown source”, said the ministry release.

Yesterday laboratories processed 1,754 tests, well short of the daily target of 4,000. “Testing remains an important part of our overall strategy to detect any community cases of Covid-19 as quickly as possible,” is the ministry message. “We all have a part to play and we’re encouraging anyone who is offered a swab, to take up that offer.”

12.05pm: New role for top Trump aide, New Zealander Chris Liddell

Reuters is reporting that Chris Liddell, deputy chief of staff in Donald Trump’s White House, is about to be nominated by the US as the next secretary to the OECD. Sometimes dubbed the “club of wealthy nations”, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is a policy and research body comprised of 37 nations including New Zealand.

Liddell is one of the very few White House senior staff who have survived more than a couple of years in a turbulent Trump term. Born in Matamata, Liddell was a student at Mt Albert Grammar and Auckland University. He has been CEO of Carter Holt Harvey in New Zealand, and the CFO at both General Motors and Microsoft in the US.

His little red Corvette parked outside the West Wing, Liddell’s White House role overseeing the policy process includes determining which officials get face time with the president. “The US is committed to a strong and unified OECD, and intends to nominate Christopher P Liddell to be the next secretary general of the OECD,” said an unnamed official, according to Reuters.

Chris Liddell at the White House. Photo: The Spinoff

10.45am: Swarbrick hits back at ‘celebrity’ label

Auckland Central’s Labour candidate, Helen White, launched her campaign on Friday night by urging left-leaning voters to support her efforts to peg back the 1,518 majority achieved at the last election by Nikki Kaye, who in recent months was elevated to the National deputy leadership before quitting politics altogether. White told RNZ that there was no chance of a deal to make way for Chlöe Swarbrick, the Green candidate who has launched a full-blooded campaign to win the seat itself, rather than the usual party-tick-focused campaign favoured by the Greens.

White’s team is keen to point out that at the last election the Green candidate won fewer than 3,000 votes, compared with her 11,617. Don’t split the vote, is their message. It’s a compelling argument. But the tone and language of the campaign is evidently playing directly into the hands of Swarbrick’s campaign. Sarah Robson reported that when asked what she would say to those who pointed to Swarbrick’s higher profile, White said: “I’d ask them whether they’re looking for a celebrity or someone to do this job very seriously.”

In response Swarbrick has this morning had this to say: “Before I fought my way into parliament with the Greens, I was dismissed as having no life experience. Now I’ve put my head down and done the work to huge results, and a candidate preferring themselves the front runner is using the same attacks against me that misogynists do our PM?”

It’s already a heated race, and we don’t even know who the National candidate is yet.

10.00am: Bloomfield of dreams

Several ongoing plot lines in the story of New Zealand collided yesterday in Wainuiomata, where Ashley Bloomfield took the field for the Centurions versus the Parliamentarians. Here he is, as you’ve never seen him before:

Ashley Bloomfield makes a run during the 25th annual parliamentary rugby match. (Photo by Elias Rodriguez/Getty Images)

We sent our political editor, Justin Giovannetti to watch the game. It was the first game of rugby he’d watched in his life. Read his match report here.

9.45am: The prime minister turns 40

Happy birthday to Jacinda Ardern, who like so many of us no doubt woke this morning wondering at a milestone birthday whether she would make anything of her life. Her daughter, Neve, recently marked her own milestone birthday (2) with a cake from the greatest cake book of them all.

Here’s hoping that her family managed something from the book today. Or maybe they enlisted top New Zealand pâtissière Laura Daniel to whip up another of these tributes?

Laura Daniel’s Jacinda cake

Three years ago today, Jacinda Ardern wasn’t even the leader of the Labour Party. It was, however, a momentous day in its own right. Here’s what she wrote in her review of the last election:

We were resolute, united, focused on policy and ideas, but by June and July Labour was polling in the mid-20s and falling. In fact, I remember specifically the crunch point, and since then both Andrew and I have spoken about it.

It was the 26th of July. I remember because it was my birthday. 

9.30am: Greens point to trust failure in politics

The Green Party yesterday launched its campaign for the 2020 election, along with a 52-page document designed to underpin its policy thinking both in post-election negotiations and in government, should it find itself there again. Thomas Coughlan of Stuff has a good summary of its contents here.

Both co-leaders appeared on Q+A this morning, and there was a strong indication of the kind of messages the Greens are likely to be pushing. Marama Davidson said that while the party had not achieved everything it sought over the last three years, “it’s clear for people to see what the Greens have been fighting to the wire for.” Asked by Jack Tame for the achievement she was most proud of, Davidson pointed to the ban on new offshore oil and gas explorations, “something our people and our party have been campaigning for for decades”.

She refused to say whether or not she trusted New Zealand First, instead noting that the Greens, unlike other parties, were not embroiled in investigations or charges relating to donations. “I think politics at the moment is showing that people need to have trust in the democratic system,” said Davidson. “All political parties need to do a lot better.”

8.00am: Yesterday’s key stories

After a major police search overnight, a 17-year-old boy who absconded from a managed isolation facility in Hamilton was apprehended by police in Auckland yesterday morning. He and three family members appeared in court, and it emerged they had been trying to attend the children’s father’s funeral.

The Greens launched their election campaign with a new policy platform entitled “Think Ahead, Act Now”.

There were no new cases of Covid-19.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield scored a try for the Centurions XV in a rugby match against the Parliamentary XV in Wainuiomata.

Read yesterday’s live updates here

Keep going!