Image: Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins in the final leaders’ debate (Getty Images)
Image: Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins in the final leaders’ debate (Getty Images)

The BulletinOctober 16, 2020

The Bulletin: All over bar the counting?

Image: Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins in the final leaders’ debate (Getty Images)
Image: Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins in the final leaders’ debate (Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Pre-election poll shows massive lead for Labour, Advance NZ kicked off Facebook, and new developments in NZ First Foundation saga.

A poll released just days before the election shows Labour is still in a clear position to form the next government. While the One News Colmar Brunton showed Labour no longer had the numbers to govern alone, a surge for the Greens means they held a significant combined lead over National and Act.

The numbers: Labour were down one point to 46%, National were down a point to 31%, the Greens were up to 8%, and Act were holding steady on 8%. No other party was above the threshold, though NZ First continued to climb, getting up to 3%. New Conservative were up to 2%, The Opportunities Party were down to 1%, Advance NZ were stuck on 1%, and the Māori Party were up to 1%. If that is the final tally, then basically the only viable government will be Labour supported by the Greens. It’s worth noting though – on these numbers there is still a possibility that we’ll see either or both of NZ First and the Māori Party get back in, the latter through winning one of the seven seats they’re contesting.

But a significant point about it all: The poll only had a 7% share of undecideds, and 8% of voters refusing to answer. Combine that with the 1.5 million strong early vote, and that leaves an extremely small number of available voters for parties to win. This doesn’t mean that the shape of parliament is a foregone conclusion of course, so if you haven’t voted yet, see that you do. And of course, we can’t discount the possibility that the polls are simply wrong, unlikely as that seems.

The poll also asked referendum questions, and showed the gap is tightening on both. However, the numbers also had the End of Life Choice Act looking like it would comfortably win, while the margin for the Cannabis Legalisation and Control bill was smaller, it looks likely at this stage to lose.

The last leaders’ debate also took place last night, and the verdict from our pundits was one of a long slog coming to an end. It has been a hugely challenging year for the country, which in turn will have severely tested the politicians and their teams – not to mention the additional month of campaigning that was added after the Covid resurgence. A frantic final day beckons, and a Newshub poll will be released tonight. But generally speaking, it’s now out of their hands, and the decision falls to a public full of people who have already made their minds up. We’ll know fairly early tomorrow night what the big picture results will be, so keep an eye on The Spinoff for full coverage.

Just quickly, you may be aware that a major new climate change report was released yesterday. It’s called Our Atmosphere and Climate 2020, and was compiled by the environment ministry and Stats NZ. Because on today of all days it’s all just going to get lost in the churn, I will instead endeavour to do full coverage of this report in a Bulletin in the middle of next week.

The Advance NZ facebook page has been shut down, on the grounds of “repeatedly sharing misinformation” that “could lead to imminent physical harm”. The Spinoff reports the takedown happened during the middle of a Billy Te Kahika livestream, in which he hinted at what was about to happen. The party has described the move as “cynical” and “nothing short of election interference”. A similar move was also made last week against the Outdoors Party. Speaking personally, I find both decisions a bit troubling, given that (like them or not) both parties are legitimate registered participants in a democratic election.

Another major development has broken in the saga of the NZ First Foundation, on the verge of the election. Stuff’s Matt Shand has revealed Winston Peters and other MPs were briefed on the foundation a year before stories started breaking, via a report that also included details of the foundation’s bank account. Stuff’s contention is that in reality, the foundation operated as a slush fund for the party itself. In related news, an urgent appeal against name suppression for two people charged in relation to the foundation has been dismissed, reports Radio NZ.

An important story about the impact Covid-19 is having on a rural school: Stuff’s Josephine Franks reports Mangakahia Area School in Northland has lost about a third of their roll this year, for reasons including fear of catching the virus, but also a need among some students to work and support their families. Among the educational consequences of that, the decline in the roll has also meant the school has lost funding for teachers.

A curious story about university administration, discovered by some student journalists who went digging: We’ve republished this piece by Craccum’s Daniel Meech, who reports that Auckland University staff have secretly been tracking student social media mentions of the university for months. As the year went on, the notes being taken became more detailed, and there’s even the suggestion that a university employee may have set up a sock-puppet account on Reddit to anonymously seed university messaging on the platform.

Small tourism operators are calling on domestic tourists to support them over the coming season, reports Stuff. A lot of the big players got significant government support to get them through the period of border closures, but a lot of the small players got basically nothing apart from potentially the wage subsidy. As a result, many might not survive the coming months. This was a bit of a theme that came up regularly at election meetings on the West Coast – I wrote about that here.

Toby Morris

On a personal note, I’m back in Auckland now, having been out and about on the road for a long, long time. It’s not an exaggeration to say it was the most enjoyable work project I’ve ever done, and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone around the country who sent in tips, or had a chat about their views, and more than anything else let me come and talk to them where they lived. Thanks must also go to Jucy and Z Energy for making it all possible. To cap it all off, Toby Manhire got me in to do a special edition of Gone By Lunchtime, which if you keep listening to the end you’ll get me ranting at embarrassing length about my love for democratic participation.

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Property managers or the cops of the lease? Renters knows what side it’s on.

Right now on The Spinoff: The Side Eye returns with a final How To Draw of the campaign, focusing on Winston Peters. Chris McIntyre and Stella Blake-Kelly from Policy give an outline of some of the most interesting information and popular policies from that remarkable platform. Alice Webb-Liddall reports on a new study showing systemic gaps in the health system are making it much harder for Māori with eating disorders. Justin Latif speaks to a barber who helps men face up to their demons and mental health issues. Nadine Anne Hura writes about her brother and an electoral system that didn’t represent him at all. And Sam Brooks compares the show Renters to the dreadful cultural stain that was Cops.

For a feature today, another deeply concerning look at the sorts of cuts that are being made in local journalism in the US. The piece on Radio WFTV in Virginia involves an interview with Floyd Press Managing Editor Ashley Spinks, who was also pretty much the only person pulling together a 20 page paper. In the days after doing the interview talking about the cuts, the parent company fired her. Here’s an excerpt:

Like other reporters at Lee-owned papers Spinks was furloughed for a couple of weeks this Spring. And in one particularly infuriating day she, and others, were told their email storage would be slashed. She spent hours deleting messages in order to access her inbox.

But the biggest cut of all for the Floyd Press has been the freelance budget. Spinks assigns and edits a handful of stories each month to freelance reporters.

“Certainly like, if the readership were to notice something it would be I was filling more space with stories that I was pulling in from sister papers,” Spinks says. That means she was pulling stories from reporters in Roanoke or Richmond, and she says readers did notice. She got messages from folks wondering why there was less content about their community. 

One of the best places to watch New Zealand cricketers this summer will be the Women’s Big Bash League. There’s been a bit of commentary over recent weeks about how the White Ferns weren’t able to foot it with Australia, but there’s quite a strong contingent of New Zealand players in this competition. Cricinfo has a wrap of all the overseas players participating in the tournament, including eight from here. After all, you have to play against the best to get good enough to beat the best. Speaking of cricket coverage, Mediaworks has announced their commentary team for the home summer, and as a huge Rikki Swannell fan it’s great to see her in the mix, alongside former Black Cap Simon Doull and former international coach Mike Hesson.

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