Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Collins wins and loses in new poll, investigations into managed isolation guards napping on the job, and Heron report damns Walker and Boag.
The latest poll for National is much better than how they started the week, but they’re still down in a couple of crucial ways. First of all, their result of 32% in the One News Colmar-Brunton poll is much better than the 25% they got in Newshub’s poll to start the week. But it’s also down 6 points on where National were in the last ONCB poll, and also below the internal polling that leaked out of the caucus room during the week. And most importantly of all, National are still miles away from catching up to Labour, who have risen in the ONCB poll to 53%. The last one of these was taken in June, during the brief National leadership of Todd Muller, and before the several weeks of chaos we’ve just seen.
The poll also revealed an important point for National going into the election – the base is firmly behind Judith Collins as leader. She scored 20% in the preferred PM stakes, which is much higher than either Simon Bridges or Muller achieved. She also had a better general approval rating than either of her two predecessors. But on the question of trust, she’s still trailing behind PM Jacinda Ardern by a huge margin. That once again highlights the difficulty she’s going to face, as a polarising figure for the wider country.
Two other parties had significant figures in last night’s poll: Act are now up to 5% for the first time in well over a decade, meaning that even in the vanishingly unlikely circumstances of party leader David Seymour losing Epsom, they could theoretically still cross the threshold needed to automatically get MPs. And NZ First haven’t moved at all from 2%, with party leader Winston Peters rated as the least trustworthy leader of a parliamentary party in the poll.
Does this all mean Newshub’s poll was “rogue”, as was claimed by National? Put it like this – their poll was reputable before that result, remains reputable now, and sometimes these sorts of results just happen even if they wouldn’t necessarily be replicated on election night. For a reminder of how that all works, read this analysis by Thomas Lumley.
A few other fascinating points in it all: The Greens are in a weird spot, in that they’re still hovering around 5%, but without the security of a seat. It’ll make the campaigns of Marama Davidson in Tāmaki Makaurau and Chlöe Swarbrick in Auckland Central all the more important to their survival in parliament – but given the overall makeup of the parliament on this poll, they might still be heading for a spell in opposition. New Conservative rose a bit to 1.2%. And there was a new name in the preferred PM stakes – Billy Te Kahika, who has recently joined his populist, conspiratorially minded NZ Public Party with MP Jami-Lee Ross’s Advance NZ party. Te Kahika was only on 1%, but his political career only started a few months ago, so who knows where he’ll be at in another few months.
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.
Multiple investigations have been launched after reports of security guards at managed isolation facilities sleeping on the job, reports Newshub’s Michael Morrah. The concern is that such incidents could mean that Covid-positive people get out into the community more easily, and contribute to the sorts of outbreaks we’re now seeing in Australia. Minister Megan Woods said if the reports are true, “clearly it is not acceptable.” One question that popped into my head while reading it – how much are the guards getting paid, and is it enough to live on? Apparently the shifts they do are up to 12 hours, and some have second jobs driving taxis. You’d hope that people doing such crucial work were making enough money to be comfortably well rested for their shifts.
The Michael Heron QC report into the leak of Covid patient data has come out, and it is damning for former National figures Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker. Radio NZ reports that it largely confirms the story that was admitted to several weeks ago, but came with confirmation that Walker tried to leak to media over distress at being labelled racist for a press release he had put out several days prior. The report also suggested there was no longer a need for emergency services like the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust – of which Boag was the acting CEO – to be getting Covid patient data, but overall said it was understandable for the health ministry to have not reviewed this policy at the time of the leak.
Thousands of people still get arrested and charged with cannabis offences every year, reports Madeleine Holden for The Spinoff. The figures cut against the presumption many have that the drug isn’t really a priority for police any more – in fact, many people on the ground say the police still take a very active interest in relatively small scale cultivation and use. And the convictions people get in the process can ruin lives. There’s a vote coming up if you believe this is all a massive waste of police resources and human potential.
Meanwhile, a government bill is being introduced that would allow police to conduct roadside drug-driving tests, after pressure from National’s Nick Smith. Stuff reports the bill would likely target cannabis, various opiates, and various amphetamines including ecstasy and P. It’s something of a change in heart from the government, which has previously struggled to come up with the right regime for such testing. To be clear, any change in law won’t change the legal status of drug driving – it’s already very illegal – a position which also would not change if the upcoming cannabis referendum is successful.
The case of a Korean diplomat who allegedly sexually assaulted an embassy staffer in New Zealand is being discussed at very high levels. Hongkon Kim, now South Korea’s consul general in the Philippines, is accused of carrying out the assault before leaving the country in early 2018. He denies the allegations. The Korea Times reported that the matter had been discussed between PM Ardern and President Moon Jae-in, and the story notes that it is unusual for individual cases to be discussed by country leaders in that way. In a follow up, Stuff reported a statement from Ardern’s office that the PM had “expressed her disappointment that the Korean Government was unable to waive immunity to allow aspects of the police investigation into this matter to proceed”.
A few more pieces on the possible Lake Onslow pumped hydro scheme, which got quite a bit of feedback yesterday: The first two both come from Business Desk, and are out beyond the normal paywall. Former Meridian CEO Keith Turner argues that it is a “nation-building” project that would allow us to finally replace gas as an energy source, and create an electricity system fit for the future. John Carnegie from PEPANZ however argues that it is much too expensive a project to solve the problem it is seeking to address, and will also cause serious investment issues in the market for electricity generation.
Those are both takes which see the existing electricity generation market as something of a given, so here’s something from a completely different angle. Climate change activist at The Tuesday Club Axel Wilkie questions whether maximising shareholder profit should be any part of the objectives of the electricity sector, and that it would have been much better for the country if the old effectively nationalised system was never broken up in the first place.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Michael Andrew reports on the looming wave of financial hardship that will accompany the end of the wage subsidy, and what budgeting services are bracing for. Maria Hoyle reports on the fraught and difficult situation many migrants in NZ are facing. Stacey Morrison introduces a brand new and very exciting podcast called Conversations that Count, which takes in a year of unprecedentedness and looks to the future. We’re presenting a brand new short film about the climate activists who organised last year’s massive school strikes. Uther Dean reviews Sprigs, the new novel by Brannavan Gnanalingam. And I report on the strange case of a New Conservative candidate who launched explosive claims that his sign had been vandalised, only to discover that it was in fact a crude photoshop.
For a feature today, a look at what the future of international relations might be in an increasingly isolationist world. Professor Robert Patman has outlined some thoughts in the ODT which are well worth reading, about how as a small country committed to multilateralism, New Zealand must do more to bring other like-minded nations together. Here’s an excerpt:
It’s clear our traditional allies, the US and the UK, currently led by populist governments, can no longer be relied upon to provide leadership in a multilateral setting. So New Zealand must be prepared to work with other like-minded states to build a new global political grouping dedicated to advancing the rules-based order.
New Zealand could even help lead such a movement, given its global reputation for decisive and compassionate leadership after the Christchurch terrorist atrocity and during the pandemic. By rejecting the politics of populism and isolationism, New Zealand can embrace a new form of bottom-up multilateralism that does not depend on great powers setting the agenda.
That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme