Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: National dismisses horror poll as a “rogue”, new populist party draws huge crowd in Auckland, and family attempts managed isolation escape to see father’s body.
There are two possible explanations for an astonishing political poll that came out last night. Conducted by Reid Research for Newshub, it showed National plummeting to just 25%, and down a significant margin from the last time the poll was taken too. Labour was soaring at 61%, which is the best it has ever done in this particular poll. The poll was conducted between 16-24 July, so during the period since Judith Collins took the National leadership, and has a standard margin of error of 3.1%.
Now, it could be that the poll is simply wrong. It is only one survey, and we’ll also likely have a One News Colmar-Brunton poll to compare it against later in the week. National’s deputy leader Gerry Brownlee immediately put out a statement dismissing the result as “not even in the same ballpark as our internal polls, other public polls and the hugely positive public response to our Leader Judith Collins, including as measured by the Massey University-Stuff study,” which you can read here. National aligned pollster David Farrar drew attention to a piece on polling site 538, which noted that even the most rigorous polls will have outliers. It’s not a slight on either Newshub or Reid Research to say that this can happen. Incidentally, Collins has been out and about recently, and Justin Giovannetti followed her to the Wairarapa, where she was talking about things other than the long list of recent scandals.
Or, the poll could be right, and it means that Collins has totally failed to turn things around for National. Collins is up to just under 15% in the preferred PM stakes, reports Newshub, which is better than any other leader of National has managed in a while. But one perception that Collins has often had to deal with is that she’s very popular with the base, but very polarising with the wider public. It’s certainly possible that National now is down to just their core support, and very few others. Some with longer memories might also remember a time when Collins herself said that any National leader polling below 35% should be in trouble.
One thing is clear – on any poll you look at right now, Labour is much more popular than National. And if this current trend holds, some National MPs will not be getting back into parliament. As Richard Harman at Politik writes, the party list still hasn’t been released, so a fight over renewal vs incumbency protection is possible.
There are a few other important points to note about the poll. The first is that the Greens have once again just crossed the 5% threshold, meaning they would survive on this poll – but once again, only just. And it’s another example of Act polling higher than NZ First – this time, the gap was 3.3 to 2.0 – and the former was moving up, while the latter was moving down. For the parties outside parliament, none are showing signs of catching fire. And on that, there was a final fascinating nugget from the Newshub poll – a majority of voters would actually rather see a coalition government, rather than one party just governing alone. And a very interesting point was raised by commentator Ben Thomas, who notes that if Labour does in fact govern alone, it’s going to have to fill a lot of ministerial jobs with people who may not have the experience for them – the same would of course likely be true of any party governing alone.
An exciting development for The Spinoff: We’ve now got merch for sale! You can check out everything we’ve got on offer here, but among other things we’ve got tea towels, pens, coffee cups, tote bags and T-shirts for sale. You can also buy copies of The Spinoff Book, which we released at the end of last year, featuring dozens of the best pieces of writing to appear on the site over our first five years. And of course, Spinoff Members get a discount on all of it, which you can sign up for here.
Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross’s new party Advance NZ has secured a potentially significant new partnership. It has launched an alliance with a group called the NZ Public Party – you won’t have read much about them in the news, but they’re huge on facebook and have been doing a lot of quite well-attended events over the past few months. To say their views are controversial would be something of an understatement, but the crowds are turning out for them. I went along to their campaign launch yesterday, at which a very enthusiastic thousand or so people packed into the Logan Campbell Centre in Auckland to hear about topics like 5G, vaccinations, the conspiracy theory known as Agenda 21, and most importantly of all to many of those gathered, the belief that those in power intend to use Covid-19 to destroy democracy.
A quick point about the ‘alliance’ nature of the Advance NZ/NZ Public Party merger: On stage yesterday, Ross reeled off a long string of parties outside parliament, saying they’d still be welcome to join up. Since then, people in the leadership teams of the Opportunities Party, Outdoors Party, New Conservative and Social Credit (the largest four parties listed by Ross) have all confirmed to me that they’ll be doing nothing of the sort.
A family group escaped from managed isolation in Hamilton over the weekend to see the body of the children’s father, reports Caroline Williams for Stuff. The mother said she wanted to give her four children closure, after the man had a stroke, and the family had watched his final moments over video chat. They escaped out a window, and four of the five were swiftly recaptured, though one made it to Auckland. All had returned negative day-3 tests for Covid-19, but of course some people go on to test positive in their day-12 test, so that could be a problem.
Covid-19 and the resulting economic impact has led to some workforce changes. Radio NZ reports the NZDF has seen hundreds of additional applications to be recruited in the last few months, likely partly because of the stability of such a career. Radio NZ also had a story last week about a surge in the number of tertiary education enrolments, with both a university and a polytech reporting that the average age of the new applicants was higher than in a normal year.
Some policy announcements from the weekend: The Green Party will go into the election campaign with an actual published manifesto, after putting it out at their campaign launch on Saturday. All 52 pages of it can be read here, and as the NZ Herald reports, it is intended to be a guide for the party if they spend another term in government. It goes into quite a bit of detail too, as might be expected for a 52 page document.
Meanwhile the Opportunities Party have also launched their campaign, with a UBI at the centre of it all. Party leader Geoff Simmons went on Radio NZ to talk about that, and also about changes that they’d like to see made to the Resource Management Act.
And Winston Peters has been in Invercargill, saying that if NZ First are part of government again they’ll stop the closure of Tiwai Point. Stuff reports he has put forward several options, including a new negotiated agreement with owner Rio Tinto, or a management or worker buyout. Neither of the latter options seem particularly viable, according to the story.
Kurdish Iranian exile and journalist Behrouz Boochani has been granted refugee status in New Zealand, reports the Guardian, after a long spell of imprisonment in Australia’s offshore concentration camp on Manus Island. He came to New Zealand on a temporary visa In November to speak at a festival, and managed to keep his head down long enough for his application to be processed. Now, he is living in Christchurch, and on a pathway to citizenship. May he find peace in his new home, along with everyone else in the new intake.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Laura O’Connell Rapira writes about the vision expressed at the Alternative Aotearoa hui over the weekend. Professor Andrew Geddis discusses the upcoming Borrowdale case that will severely test the legality of the recent lockdown. Josie Adams reports on a new law making it easier for women to take collective action for equal pay. ICU doctor Alex Kazemi writes about the danger of over-valourising the most visible medical professionals. Fiona Rae speaks to a woman who became a mother while also going through breast cancer. Hayden Donnell celebrates the scrapping of a particularly poor bit of urban planning law. Sarah Catherall navigates the difficult questions around how much to tell kids when they ask about sex.
And in some other fun bits and pieces: Calum Henderson collates Mike Hosking’s twitter commitment to a perfect life. Josie Adams reviews the abomination that is the hot Marmite drink. Leonie Hayden reviews the brand new comedy sketch show Sis, which “has heralded a new era for Pacific voices”. And Tara Ward looks at the outraged reaction to Seven Sharp telling the country the tooth fairy isn’t real.
A personal opinion about a matter in the news at the moment: I make no secret of the fact that I think it is morally wrong to charge returning New Zealanders for managed isolation facilities. But this piece by Phoebe Carr on the site 1 of 200 makes the point better than I could that it is also culturally wrong, cutting against our traditions of embrace and welcome of arrivals. Here’s an excerpt:
Last year it had never been cheaper to fly away. With our chic black passports, New Zealanders had the most far-reaching freedom of movement, and we made the most of it. We built solidarity internationally, exporting our unique antipodean perspectives and linking our motu with the rest of the world. We continue to contribute financially through taxes, interest payments on student loans, and remittances. Returnees and newcomers alike bring to Aotearoa fresh eyes and new languages, ideas, skills and commodities.
Now the crisis has struck, the gates are closing, and some of our compatriots feel the urge to pull the drawbridge up from behind them. A few express it through toxic commentary on the internet. That stings, but it has no real bite, tweets can’t stop us from returning. A government imposed financial barrier could though.
There was a lot of rugby on over the weekend, and it’d be nice to focus solely on the Crusaders losing at home to the mighty Hurricanes. But instead, for a sport piece today I’ll direct your attention to this wonderful piece of writing by Justin Giovannetti, who went to see his first ever game in person. It was the game between the Parliamentary XV and the Centurions club in Wainuiomata, and featured none other than Dr Ashley Bloomfield dotting down for the first try of the game.
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