Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Advance voting surges ahead of final week, poll shows John Tamihere in with a chance at Tāmaki Makaurau, and insights into modern drug smuggling revealed.
With a week to go before election day, hundreds of thousands of people have already got their vote done and dusted. As Stuff reports, more than 585,000 people had cast an advance vote as of the update last Thursday. By some estimates, that total could crack a million when we next get an update (likely to be today) which would be close to the total advance vote in 2017. It’s part of a changing culture of voting that has now been seen across several elections, with increasing numbers choosing to do it well before the actual official election day.
Who is voting, and who are they voting for? We won’t know the second part of that question until election night, but some suggestions have been made about the first. As Radio NZ reports, a higher percentage of voters aged 18-25 are enrolled for this election compared to the last one. As well as that, the referendums going on at the same time are seen by Auckland University politics lecturer Lara Greaves as a force to drive people to the polls. It could be that we end up seeing higher overall turnout as a result of those factors. Anecdotally as well, it has been suggested that a lot of people simply want to get it over with, and aren’t worried about something happening in the final days to change their minds.
Parties are certainly pushing hard to get their supporters to vote early. Radio NZ reports Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has spent the weekend encouraging people to lock their vote in – as her party currently has a huge poll lead, a surge in early voting will likely be to Labour’s advantage, because it will prevent other parties from rallying late. The Green Party also held a rally in Auckland on Saturday, and quite literally marched en masse down to the polls afterwards. NZ First meanwhile, are encouraging supporters to wait until election day itself, reports One News, saying people should see the whole campaign play out before making their decision.
Does all of this advance voting mean the election day advertising blackout is now out of date? That has been something of a talking point, with Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson raising the matter in an interview with Newshub last week. Robertson didn’t outright back a change, but he did note a “perception of inconsistency” around it. Of course, journalists love it because there’s also a media ban, so it forces everyone to at least take the day off before the big night of counting.
In other election news, the Electoral Commission has declared itself confident that no unauthorised material was distributed inside EasyVote packs. If you remember these stories from last week, the latest came in Friday’s live updates, including a statement from the Electoral Commission that “every scenario for the brochure to be inserted into the pack or swapped out with other material has been looked at and eliminated.” In all, they had about two dozen such complaints, and said one possibility was confusion among recipients. While it’s good to see the Commission are confident nothing untoward happened, some of the people I spoke to were utterly adamant that unauthorised flyers had been inside their EasyVote packs.
The latest Māori electorate poll has shown Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere has a real shot at winning Tāmaki Makaurau. The Te Ao News/Curia survey shows him on 29%, behind Labour’s Peeni Henare on 35%. Green co-leader Marama Davidson is way back on 14%. Those numbers don’t include the 12% of voters who are still undecided. It’s a fascinating race to watch because it hadn’t previously been widely considered to be in play. Interestingly as well, if Tamihere wins all three of the leading candidates will likely end up in parliament.
Here’s a story that could give some important insights into the changing nature of drug smuggling into the country. The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Jared Savage reports that several Auckland airport baggage handlers have been charged in connection with allegedly helping get methamphetamine through border controls. Basically, it requires people to be on the inside at both ends of the flight, along with someone who flies between destinations, so it would be a relatively sophisticated operation. All of the men charged have pleaded not guilty.
The National Party launched a series of attacks over the weekend on the Green Party wealth tax, as Politik reports getting the details wrong about it in the process. It was described by Politik’s Richard Harman as “an extraordinary move which smacks of desperation”, given National’s Judith Collins sought to tie the policy to Labour, but Jacinda Ardern has totally ruled out implementing it. National has also been running Facebook ads wrongly telling the average retired couple that the policy would cost them $140 a week, which is wrong in both fact and spirit. All in all, it’s not a very dignified or edifying way for National to conclude their campaign. Meanwhile, as Stuff’s Luke Malpass writes, Labour is out heavily spinning their own failures over the term, including on Kiwibuild and child poverty.
The effect of last season’s drought through the Waikato is lingering in the form of dry subsoils, reports Farmers Weekly. There’s plenty of lush green grass on top, but if it’s another dry year – which looks distinctly possible – that might not necessarily last. Many farmers have also gone into this season with less supplementary feed than normal, because some of what they would have saved was used in autumn.
Two pieces over the weekend have put the issue of conversion therapy in the spotlight. Sherry Zhang spoke to someone who endured a form of conversion therapy in their tight-knit church community. And Emily Writes reports on parenting education network The Parenting Place distancing itself from a previously approved counsellor, whose practice includes attempting to give people who are homosexual the “option of exploring heterosexuality as an authentic expression of their own sexuality” – which you’d be hard pressed not to describe as another form of conversion therapy.
The lockdowns and Covid-19 measures over the course of this year also had a major impact on lowering the annual flu season toll. Radio NZ spoke to professor Michael Baker, who argues that more than a thousand people who otherwise would have died over the winter instead lived through it into summer. And some of the lessons of that – like wearing masks – could be applied to lower the toll from future outbreaks. It’s not all good though – a rise in rheumatic fever has also been observed, which is largely a consequence of people being stuck in poor quality housing.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Jihee Junn explores the remarkable return to popularity of roller skating. Danyl Mclauchlan writes about Labour’s intense centrism, and whether the party will ever give itself permission to do something transformational with power. Laura O’Connell Rapira argues that progressive voters hold more power than they may think. Michelle Langstone talks to DOC science advisor Dr Andrew Digby about being twitter’s favourite birdman, and the recovery of the native kākāpō. Three women write about their experiences of being diagnosed with breast cancer, and what happened afterwards. Alie Benge concludes her series on online dating with a lovely piece about both learning to sit with her loneliness, and meeting someone who gives her what she wanted.
Finally, Hayden Donnell has given a savage review of Wellington, the city I of my birth that I remain in exile from. Even as someone who dearly loves the place, it’s hard not to think he’s right about pretty much all of his criticisms. Of course, he’s wrong about the museum, and I think we all know where that particular bitterness comes from.
For a feature today, another podcast I’ve had a listen to during the recent long drives. It features pretty much the entire Newshub political gallery team, and is called Kitchen Cabinet. Now a warning, if you want calm and measured discussion of the various policy proposals, this is not for you at all. This one is all about the game, and what it does do really well is capture the joy and sheer glee that some political journalists get from their work. At times the depictions of campaign life are almost cartoonish, but if you’re into that, it’s a lot of fun.
The All Blacks were sloppy, the Wallabies were gutsy, and in the end both teams were probably pretty lucky to escape with a draw. The first Bledisloe Cup test of the season finished in dramatic circumstances in Wellington, with almost ten minutes played after the final siren – both teams flinging it around in a desperate bid to break the deadlock. You can watch the highlights here, the video including both a big chunk of that final period, and one of the worst botched try scoring attempts you’ll ever see on the rugby field.
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