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Green Party Co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw (Photo: Getty/Hagen Hopkins/Stringer)
Green Party Co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw (Photo: Getty/Hagen Hopkins/Stringer)

The BulletinSeptember 29, 2020

The Bulletin: The poll the Greens wanted

Green Party Co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw (Photo: Getty/Hagen Hopkins/Stringer)
Green Party Co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw (Photo: Getty/Hagen Hopkins/Stringer)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: New poll puts Greens in coalition hot seat, Labour pledges more time for Tiwai Pt phase out, and what the bosses think about the election.

Another poll is out, and this one is telling a story of a very different parliament after the election compared to other recent polls. The One News Colmar Brunton survey still has Labour a long way ahead on 47%, with National back on 33% – that suggests the vast gap is closing up slightly. Act came third on 8%, and the Greens were next on 7%. No other party was within touching distance of the 5% threshold, with NZ First falling as low as 1%.

There’s a significant detail within those numbers: All of a sudden, the Greens have leverage over Labour. Because Labour would only have 59 seats, that leaves them a few short of actually commanding a majority. That would give the Greens the option of providing confidence and supply to a minority Labour government, or going into coalition with them.

But in raw political terms, that means power. You’ll note that I’ve been banging on a lot recently about what the Green party bottom lines are in negotiations – to date, they don’t have any – rather they have a list of ‘top priorities’. These include issues like sweeping welfare and tax reform, their ocean protection plan and their housing policies. But it’s for precisely this scenario that knowing what they intend to push for – and how strongly they intend to push – matters a great deal. And as two of Stuff’s top political people write, the Greens holding the balance of power in this way could change the whole dynamic of the race, and make some National supporters who don’t like the Greens consider switching to Labour to keep them out.

For National and Act, there is still a long way to go before those numbers look remotely like enough to govern with. But Act especially have been doing particularly well in the polls recently by the standards they’ve endured over the past decade, and Radio NZ’s Jo Moir had a good story on how they’re finding the change.

Meanwhile polling has taken place in the crucial Te Tai Hauāuru electorate, which is widely seen as the best chance the Māori party have of making it back in. Te Ao News reports the poll shows a significant lead for Labour’s Adrian Rurawhe, over the Māori party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. There’s still a large chunk of undecided vote though, so that could close up. In the party vote within the electorate, just over half of those voters intend to vote Labour.

Labour has pledged to give the Tiwai Point smelter a bit more time to make phase itself out, reports the NZ Herald. Basically, their pledge is about working with owner Rio Tinto to reduce power prices, on the condition that the smelter maintains employment and gives assurances of remediation work on the site after it has closed. The four major power company gentailers love it – all of them had a great day on the sharemarket following the announcement, perhaps because it increases the chances that demand for electricity will stay high. But as Newshub reports, Greenpeace has criticised the move as a “corporate handout” and a subsidy for climate emissions.

Meanwhile, what happens after a bit more time is granted? Stuff reports local iwi Ngāi Tahu want to see it converted over the green hydrogen production. This is basically fuel hydrogen made using renewable energy, so without the massive emissions that hydrogen production normally involves. “The ability to attend to the nation’s emissions in a renewable clean technology, which is already largely structurally in place, makes extraordinarily good sense,’’ said kaumatua Sir Tipene O’Regan.

What do business bosses think about the state of the election? The NZ Herald (mostly paywalled) Mood of the Boardroom surveys have been released, so you can get a sense of what the guy in the office upstairs reckons. Among the highlights: the respective finance spokespeople of Labour and National were measured against each other, with minister Grant Robertson being seen as more credible than rival Paul Goldsmith. Ratings of cabinet ministers were also obtained, with the party being seen to lack depth in the ministerial ranks. In news that will surprise absolutely nobody, business confidence is down because of the impact of Covid-19.

National has announced they’ll put funding towards a retraining package to get unemployed people back into work, if elected. Radio NZ has reported on the $250 million policy, which includes a scheme to pay tertiary education providers for every unemployed person they retrain and get back into full-time work within a year. Leader Judith Collins said that would provide an incentive to tertiary providers to focus “on stuff that matters … no messing around, just stuff that’s going to get jobs.”

In a lot of rural areas, the internet is pretty bad – and it’s having both a social and economic impact. Rural News Group has reported on a connectivity survey conducted by Federated Farmers, which ironically some of those on the patchiest plans couldn’t even complete online. Increasingly farmers are expected to engage with the government and the wider business world through the internet, and it can also help address the loneliness of geographical isolation.

Some good economic news for Auckland: Radio NZ reports the job losses from the second lockdown haven’t been as severe as expected, going by the number of people applying for the Jobseeker benefit. That has surprised some economists, who predicted the consequences of locking down would be dire. Of course, things still aren’t great around the country, with an average of 219 new people accessing the Jobseeker every day.

Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt is facing bankruptcy over a legal bill he can’t pay, reports the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Logan Church. The costs relate to legal fees racked up while defending allegations of defamation made by a fellow councillor. Shadbolt won in court, but didn’t get his costs paid. It follows a tumultuous few years in office for Shadbolt, who has also faced questions about whether his health is still good enough for the job.

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National’s Michael Woodhouse speaking at the Opoho Church election forum in Dunedin, with host Philip Somerville in the background (Alex Braae)

Right now on The Spinoff: Brooke Stanley Pao from AAAP writes about the hollowness of kindness rhetoric if it isn’t backed up by action. Justin Latif writes about how a South Auckland playground will be a gateway to the history of an iwi. The 100 Year Forecast project looks at how exactly we know that the climate is changing. Emily Writes speaks to the co-creator of a joyful drag show for kids, about the recent brouhaha over it getting government funding. Sam Brooks tries to figure out how old the Wests on Westside are meant to be, given how much historical ground has been covered.

And I’ve got another dispatch from the road: This one comes from the Opoho Presbyterian Church in Dunedin, where for more than two decades they’ve been hosting perhaps the best election forum in the country. The piece looks at why it works so well, and what other meetings could take note of.

For a feature today, a compelling reason to vote yes in the cannabis referendum. When I say that, I mean a compelling reason for me personally – other people with other views might be swayed or otherwise by other arguments. But as Emmaline Pickering-Martin writes on E-Tangata, the existing system is simply cruel and unfair on anyone who isn’t wealthy and white. Here’s an excerpt:

Some of the important issues are around medicinal use. For instance, the people who can’t access it because it can cost anywhere between $150–$1,200 a month and must be prescribed by a GP. So there are equity issues on top of the major barriers in accessing healthcare that already exist for parts of our society.

Money plays a large part in this. In order to get a GP appointment, you must phone ahead (assuming you have a phone), make arrangements for the kids, travel to the GP whether that’s in a private car (which requires petrol) or public transport (which requires a Hop card or fare), then paying for the GP visit and for the product.

We assume that privileged people are able to do this easily. But the reality for others is that this process isn’t straightforward — and when you have debilitating chronic pain or anxiety and depression, it becomes almost impossible.

The summer has started poorly for the White Ferns, with a T20 series defeat against Australia already in the bag. Stuff reports they were thrashed twice in the opening games of the three match series, which concludes in Brisbane tomorrow. A couple of dodgy umpiring decisions have hurt the cause, but over and above that they haven’t really looked like being in the contest against the Australians, who admittedly are the best team in the world by some distance.

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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