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The BulletinAugust 18, 2020

The Bulletin: Reaction to the election delay

delay election

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Reaction to the election delay, questions continue over the information given over testing, and Watercare CEO resigns amid drought.

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the election will be delayed by four weeks. Here’s a report on that from Justin Giovannetti, who writes that it follows consultation from a wide range of other political parties, many of whom were calling for a delay. “Moving an election date, especially this late in the electoral cycle is a significant decision. In the end what matters most is what is in the best interests of voters and our democracy,” said Ardern. Moreover, she made it clear that this delay would be a one off – if there is another Covid outbreak, we’ll just have to deal with it. We’ve updated all of our key dates for the campaign accordingly.

In response, the Electoral Commission has swung into action. The NZ Herald reports they’ll now have to update a lot of their material and communications, but are confident about getting it done. Incidentally, the Electoral Commission had always intended to run the election as if the country were at alert level two, so logistically not a lot necessarily changes for them. It does also bring a new crop of voters into the frame – Stuff reports thousands of teenagers will turn 18 between the old date and the new date, and will thus become eligible.

In terms of the political reaction, NZ First welcomed the decision, as it had been one of the options the party had pushed for. ACT also said the same, with David Seymour saying “ACT believes a free and fair contest requires that we have four weeks at Level 1 in the run up to Election Day. If the Government manages to contain the Auckland outbreak, and we don’t have further lockdowns, then today’s decision will allow that to happen” – the statement also included some jabs about the government’s response. The Greens by contrast hit out at other parties, saying “we have been incredibly disappointed to see the National and other small parties continue to use the weekend to bang on about what would suit them best politically when it comes to the Election Day date.”

National’s statement merely acknowledged the new date, rather than welcoming or criticising the decision. However, the party did say it was willing to give constructive scrutiny on the government’s actions in response to the outbreak, as parliament will be recalled as well. As you may remember from last week, parliament wasn’t actually dissolved on the date it was originally meant to be, meaning that MPs can come back. There is likely to be an intense round of questioning today about this latest outbreak – more on that below.

Who benefits from the delay? The conventional wisdom among pundits is that it will give National a much better opportunity to close the dramatic gap in the polls, partly because of the extra time (after National wasted literally months with infighting and scandals) and partly because one of National’s strengths as a party is in local campaigning. It also potentially gives NZ First a better chance of getting their numbers above the 5% threshold, which most polls are currently putting them under. There was some suggestion the two parties could have combined on a confidence vote to bring down the government if the election wasn’t delayed, but in the end it didn’t come to that. Voters who haven’t yet made up their mind, and generally use the campaign period to do so, will also benefit if an actual campaign turns out to be possible.

So as a final point, I don’t often go out of my way to praise individual politicians – quite the opposite in fact – and this is entirely my personal opinion. But I would like to give a word of support for the PM’s decision to delay the election. She has willingly risked the possibility of losing some of her partisan political advantage, and in doing so created fairer and more democratic conditions for all parties, and for voters. Not every politician in her position would have done the right thing like that.

There were nine new cases of community transmission announced yesterday, and as our live blog reported, most of them are definitively linked to the existing cluster. There was also some discussion of what a ‘level 1.5’ could look like – in the sense of getting back to what is close to normal life, but with the sort of lifestyle changes that means any potential outbreaks can’t develop so rapidly.

Even so, questions remain about why we’re back here in the first place, and the information that had been given around testing. Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva has looked into those questions, with Dr Ashley Bloomfield admitting there was “dissonance between what the Prime Minister thought was happening and what was happening on the ground, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t full information being provided.”

After six years in the job, the chief executive of Watercare Raveen Jaduram has resigned. Stuff reports it comes at a difficult time for the Auckland infrastructure provider, with the city still struggling with a bad drought, and Jaduram has spent the last few months not able to do his normal duties because of the need to manage that drought. He was the highest paid executive in the wider group of Council Controlled Organisations, and the pay packet also came with some criticism. As for the drought itself, restrictions are likely to be in place for a long time, because dam storage levels still aren’t up to where they need to be for this time of year. Writing on the NZ Herald, (paywalled) Simon Wilson has assessed why Jaduram needed to go, and what a huge gap in future planning has been left.

Details of how the extension to the wage subsidy will work have been announced, and Michael Andrew has wrapped them. The key point is this – to be eligible, “a 40% decline in revenue for any consecutive period of at least 14 days within August 12 and September 14 compared to last year” will have to be demonstrated. In terms of funding the extension, it will cost about half a billion dollars, which will come out of the existing wage subsidy fund.

Iwi and Pacific leaders fear not enough will be done to protect their communities, with the re-emergence of community transmission, reports Ātea editor Leonie Hayden. Among the measures being considered by various iwi are new regional checkpoints, which if you ignore the conniptions some had at the concept, were probably pretty useful last time around at stopping the spread of the virus. On a related note, there are fears in Northland that the virus could be spread by Aucklanders leaving, Stuff reports.

An example of a border exemption, that some might view as economic development: We’ve republished a report from BusinessDesk’s Rebecca Stevenson, who has revealed that four people have been granted entry in order to work on two golf courses owned by an American billionaire. The work – which is expected to create other jobs – cannot proceed without them, and the company is covering the costs of their stay in managed isolation.

A light bit of media criticism: I’ve been lucky enough to recently read the Feilding-Rangitīkei Herald, and the weekend edition of the Whanganui Chronicle. Both papers had some really strong local stories up-front, with the Herald in particular carrying excellent reporting and editorial coverage of a local Meet the Candidates debate. You get a real sense of place from reading them – but the local stuff only lasts a few pages, before you’re into nationwide syndicated content. And I know the economics for local news are tough, but imagine how much more could be done with just a couple more reporters on the ground. Both are part of nationwide news stables who are looking to embed themselves more deeply in communities – you’d hope this is something that could be prioritised.

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Young NZ First chairman Jay McLaren-Harris (Photo: Eddy Fifield)

Right now on The Spinoff: Dr Siouxsie Wiles criticises calls to move away from the elimination strategy for Covid-19, saying the evidence for alternative approaches doesn’t stack up. Justin Latif writes about how his daughter’s Māngere school is trying to address the digital divide. Alice Webb-Liddall reports on the closure of playgrounds around Auckland, and the surprising slowness on many of them to make it clear they’re actually closed. Madeleine Chapman has the meme wrap of the political week, focusing heavily on one Rotorua restaurant. There’s a brand new political podcast recorded late last night, so hopefully won’t be out of date yet.

A few pieces on conspiracy theories: Josie Adams reports on new research which debunks one of the defining ideas about why people get sucked into them in the first place. Christine L Ammunson writes about conspiracy theories in the Pacific world, and how the ancestors of people today trusted in expertise and experience.

And finally, you gotta watch this show. The first episode of Youth Wings is out, following Young NZ First chairman Jay McLaren-Harris. And if you want to keep up with all of our video series and podcasts, subscribe to our new newsletter Rec Room.

For a feature today, a look at the connections between the global white supremacist movement, and conspiracy theories among Māori. Like yesterday’s feature, it’s from the always impressive E-Tangata – this time the piece is by Tina Ngata. The conclusions are as lucid as they are concerning. Here’s an excerpt:

While the numbers are debatable, it’s a fact that Māori trauma over colonial invasion, and political dispossession, can ferment into xenophobic anxiety.

This can subsequently be exploited by white supremacists who erase their own position of coloniser to engage our fear of others taking over. It’s proven only too easy for Māori to move from seeing the primary issue as “who decides what immigration should look like” to the fear-ridden narrative of “keep the new arrivals out or they will take over”.

So some Māori are very open to suggestions that there are larger forces at play. In addition to this, Māori have been continually misrepresented in mainstream media as promiscuous, thugs, poor parents.

Some people don’t know this, but the New Zealand’s NRL team’s full name is actually the Mighty Vodafone Warriors. But perhaps not for much longer, as the NZ Herald’s Chris Rattue reports. It appears that the NRL is trying to force the club’s naming rights sponsor out, even though there are two years left on the current deal, because of a row with competition sponsor Telstra. The year has already been hard enough for the Warriors, and no doubt this will add an additional financial hit.

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

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