A Christchurch ice cream shop having some fun with the election (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Campaign grinds to the finish line

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Campaign grinds to the finish line, claims about overseas donations to NZ Public Party account, and scandal uncovered over single use plastic dumping.

It’s almost over. The extended cut of the 2020 general election is winding down, with a massive advance vote already cast, and the campaigns themselves shifting away from policy towards sheer turnout efforts. Here’s where each one is at:

For National’s Judith Collins, the talking points out of this week have been utterly bizarre. Most of her headlines have revolved around comments made about obesity being a “personal choice”, rather than anything remotely approaching the political platform of the National party. The other headlines have been about making savage attacks on the wealth tax policies of the Green party, despite it being ruled out again and again by Labour’s leadership.

Meanwhile Labour’s campaign has ended focusing on the party’s leadership, and batting away attacks from National based on the Green wealth tax. Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan set out a bit what that looks like – Jacinda Ardern meets huge crowds and visits iconic businesses, while finance spokesperson Grant Robertson stares straight down the barrel of a camera and tells former ‘Key and English’ National voters that the Nats are now in a state of chaos, and Labour will provide stability. It’s the aura of a party that has totally captured the centre ground of the political landscape, and come Sunday morning it will probably have put them back into government – possibly even alone. On that point, take our quiz and see if you can tell the difference between lines issued by the Labour or National campaigns – I tried it and got exactly 50% right.

One question for Labour now is who will be deputy PM, as Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva discusses – Winston Peters did a very able job filling in, and there are doubts about whether other top parliamentarians could do the same.

For the Greens and NZ First, the prospects of holding significant sway over the next government seem slim. Newshub’s Tova O’Brien had a report last night suggesting Winston Peters’ staff have now given up hope of him getting back in. Meanwhile on Politik, there’s a report that focuses on what the Greens might go for if they are in a position to negotiate with Labour – to get there, they both need to cross the 5% threshold (not a certainty) and Labour’s share will also matter – if the latter has an absolute majority, there may not be much need for negotiation.

For Act, it’s looking like it will be their best election in a generation. Stuff’s John Weekes went out and about around Epsom with David Seymour to see how he is on the campaign trail – interestingly, there’s no sense in the piece that Seymour is going out of his way to be nice to voters, rather he just goes out there and presents himself authentically. Ironically, the success of Act could come at a cost – when small parties rapidly expand their number of MPs, sometimes those new MPs turn out to be excellent parliamentarians, and at other times, well, they’re just not.

If you want more on the state of the campaign, I’d highly encourage you to download Gone By Lunchtime and have a listen on your commute. The team has really hit their stride over this campaign, and I think a lot of people will be hoping they don’t just go back to the previously irregular schedule.

Finally, it’s looking pretty unlikely to be an issue now (touch wood) but just in case, here’s what will happen if there’s a Covid resurgence before the election. Stuff has covered off how election day would be run if we were suddenly plunged back into level two, three or four, with escalating measures at polling places to protect workers and voters. The chief electoral officer also has the power to suspend or adjourn voting in specific areas if need be. In any case, for many it won’t matter – our live updates reported that as of yesterday 1.42 million people had already voted.


Claims are being made that donations from the US anti-vax movement are being made to Advance NZ, via the NZ Public Party component. One News had a report on this last night, which also bounced off an interview co-leader Jami-Lee Ross did with former Trump advisor Steve Bannon. The Public Party account doesn’t have to declare where it gets money from, because it is unregistered – however that also limits the ability for that money to be passed on to Advance NZ. Either way, if such donations are being made (and Ross denies that donations have come from “any American interests”) then it’s something of a dodge around the spirit of electoral donation laws.


Massive plastic bladders are being dumped in landfills with no records or oversight, reports Radio NZ’s Phil Pennington. It’s all single use plastic, and one trucking company alone has dumped the equivalent of 9 million plastic bags in the last year. Incredibly, the plastic used for the bladders (technically called flexitanks) is even recyclable, but it’s just not happening. None of the organisations who monitor waste management and recycling really seemed to be across it either, at the time the story was written.


A person has been referred to police after claiming to have voted multiple times, reports Newshub. There’s little further information, however people should be aware that voting multiple times is illegal. That old saying ‘vote early, vote often’ is meant to be a joke.


An interesting feature on the voting preferences of migrant communities, and how that could end up affecting the election result. Newsroom’s Dileepa Fonseka has looked in particular at the Chinese, Indian and Pacific communities – which, to be clear, there is plenty of diversity of opinion on all manner of subjects within. A particularly interesting section is based on data from pollster Andrew Zhu, who has been surveying the Chinese community, and found support for National is markedly drifting away to Act.


Internal polling from the Greens shows the tide is running slightly against legalisation in advance voting on the cannabis referendum. I report that the polling also shows turnout could be a crucial factor in what the eventual result is, and it’s looking likely to be close. In fact, both the for and against campaigns are talking up turnout as being what could give their side the strongest possible mandate.


A bit of feedback about governments asking tech companies for access to encrypted data: Simon has got in touch to discuss why that’s a dangerous idea, because once access is opened up for governments, it theoretically could be used by any actor (and would be highly coveted by bad actors.) Here’s a few paragraphs of his email:

There is no such thing as secure encryption with a backdoor, even if you make a law that says so, no more than a law can make pi = 3.

Proponents of the mythical secure but with a back door scheme cry that really, technologists are just lazy and that the answer is there waiting to be found, and anyway, they can keep master keys safe so there’s nothing to worry about. But there are any number of reasons to worry. First, this is exactly equivalent to the question “Are you OK with the police having a copy of your house keys so that they can check your house for objectionable material without telling you, whenever they like?”

Secondly even if you are somehow OK with that, there is the question of security. Leaks like Vault-7 (CIA), Edward Snowden (NSA) or the US Office of Personnel Management (database of security cleared US citizens) show that even the mightiest can’t keep their secrets to themselves. A master key to unlock all the world’s secrets would be an irresistible target for criminals and adversary states. The Russians, Chinese or North Koreans would have that key in a week, and it would be sold to criminals an hour later.


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

Photo: Getty Images, sign wording changed by The Spinoff (original image from Greenpeace’s 2004 GE protest – spot a young Gareth Hughes in the background)

Right now on The Spinoff: We assess the ‘popcorn seats’ – the electorates that will be worth watching on the night. South Auckland nutritionist Mason Ngawhika writes about the real life experiences of those who are obese, in respone to Judith Collins. Stewart Sowman-Lund writes about whether 100% renewable energy is the right goal. Policy.nz’s Chris McIntyre announces the winners in a competition from kids to come up with new policy ideas – the prize for this is that they become associate finance minister after the election. Michael Andrew writes about the political contests and will around regenerative agriculture. James Fuller writes about ACC issuing bills to self-employed people again, and how difficult the system can be to navigate. Josie Adams attended an Auckland Uni youth politician debate that sounds like an absolute horror show. And Sam Brooks collects some of the deep and disgusting stories from the 40-year tenure of the Queen St McDonalds.


For a feature today, an evisceration of the lacklustre strategy from the British government to fight a second wave of Covid-19. The Guardian’s Marina Hyde is always funny, but there’s a savagery in this column that reflects a deep anger at the incompetence on show. Here’s an excerpt:

When I was at school, a man once came to teach us self-defence for a morning, during which he said that you must never take any action halfheartedly, in the hope it might warn your assailant. Do it like you really mean it, because otherwise you just make matters worse for yourself. Back in April, Boris Johnson described coronavirus as “an unexpected mugger” we had to wrestle to the ground. Hand on heart, the mugger is a little more expected the second time around. Yet with this latest set of plans, I can’t help feeling the prime minister is not so much wrestling coronavirus, as warning the virus he will wrestle it if it’s not careful.

His government specialises in measures that become outdated and inadequate about 30 minutes before they’ve even announced them. They are always the Amstrad Emailer of public health responses. Had Johnson been captaining the Titanic, his last words as the icy North Atlantic waters finally closed over his head would have been: “Fine, I give in – close the Irish bar. But leave the Hawaiian lounge open, because that place coins it like a bastard.”


World champions South Africa might be about to pull out of the Rugby Championship. The Sydney Morning Herald reports their departure to Australia has been delayed, and there are major jitters about what that could mean for the value of broadcast deals. The first game they’re currently scheduled for is on November 7, but it’s possible that more tweaks to the schedule will need to be made.


That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme



The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.