Colin James on journalism

December 21, 2017

Colin James’ final column in the Otago Daily Times as a political journalist gives an insight into the craft of good journlaism:

. . . Journalists are close in to events but never part of them. They meet the powerful and the celebrated. Some are seduced into thinking themselves their equals. They are then lost to journalism.

Journalists make no momentous decisions. Celebrity ill-becomes them. They are a channel through which the powerful and celebrated talk to the people and the people talk back.

To others, the journalist seems greatly privileged to be alongside power and stardust. And the journalist is privileged. But not in the way most non-journalists think.

The privilege is to spend a lifetime learning.

A journalist can ask questions of almost everyone and almost all will answer: the powerful and celebrated, the knowing and skilled, the repositories of arcane science or ways of thinking and the “ordinary” guardians of understanding of a community or of a simple truth or of a good way to live an “ordinary” life.

They are all at the journalist’s call. They all teach a journalist who listens.

It’s the journalists who listen carefully who get the inside information and the scoops, not those who do the most talking.

Yet the journalist need not be expert or knowing or complete. The journalist needs understand only so much of a topic as readers-viewers-listeners want or need to know. The journalist has only to light on and illuminate an idea or project or nation or technology.

No other occupation offers that intense opportunity — to learn but not to have to know, to learn a little and move to the next learning.

For a half-century I have had that deeply enriching privilege.

The utu is to listen with respect.

I think he’s using utu in the sense of reciprocation or balance, not revenge.

A journalist is sceptical, alert to lies, deceit, backside-covering and charlatanism. But not cynical. A cynic has stopped listening and learning. A journalist is open. If not, the communication channel that is the journalist will choke.

The utu is also to write down or talk about the learning so that others can know what the journalist has learnt. . . 

My beat was politics and policy, a high privilege. Since politics is power, I met those in power and their advisers and came to understand and respect them, even those I could not admire. Many I the inner person came quietly to like.

Almost all in politics mean well. I learned they are different: they see, or affect to see, only one side of each many-sided story the journalist sees.

Most do indeed mean well, which shouldn’t be confused with mostly doing good.

And since politics seeps into almost every corner of a nation’s life, I met thousands of interesting people from nearly every walk of life.

I met many more when I could put my email address under what I wrote and readers could write to me easily.

Almost all were thoughtful and courteous. The tiny few who were angry or abusive almost all recovered the courtesy and decency that is in everyone when I replied with courtesy and respect. . . 

Courtesy and respect – some regard them as old-fashioned but values like that should never go out of fashion.

The  media would be better if there was more of  both, from journalists, to those they deal with, and from those who respond to what they see and hear in the media.

P.S.

I met James a few times and was impressed by both his courtesy and his knowledge.

He told me that his determination to be impartial kept him from voting.

I don’t think journalists have to refrain from voting to be impartial in their work.

But I wonder if  it’s just coincidence that the examples he picks in this paragraph are from the left or if they give a clue to James’ political leaning:

. . . When David Lange died and the Greens stood in his memory opening their 2005 election campaign, I the journalist stayed sitting while I the inner person behind the journalist secretly stood. There was the same wrench when the Council of Trade Unions conference in 2015 stood in memory of the fine Peter Conway. . .

You can catch up with James’ writing at his website.


As Aussies see us

April 6, 2015

Cameron Stewart writes in The Australian on how, and why the trans-Tasman tide is flowing in New Zealand’s favour:

Jennifer Zhu, a former Australian public servant, was writing briefing notes for incoming prime minister Tony Abbott when she hatched her own Pacific solution.

She leans forward so her story can be heard above the rhythmic grunts of the dragon boat teams gliding across New Zealand’s ­Wellington harbour at dusk. “I was in Canberra working on the briefings for the change of ­government [in 2013] when I realised how much the public service was going to be cut [under Abbott],” she says. Her Australian boyfriend, ­fellow public servant Iain McKenzie, 28, chimes in: “We could see that promotions were unlikely.”

“So I looked up a website,” continues Zhu, 27, who now works for ­Immigration New ­Zealand, “and there were lots of government jobs here. We thought, ‘Why not?’ ” After a year in Wellington, they haven’t looked back. “We both have good [public service] jobs and it’s a much more relaxed culture,” says Iain. “We’re not leaving anytime soon.” . . .

Stewart gives other examples of Australians and ex-pat New Zealanders who have moved here to work in a variety of occupations including farming, viticulture, nursing and hospitality then looks at why the tide has turned.

What has happened is that somewhere, somehow, perhaps in the dead of night when no one was looking, Australia and New Zealand have swapped sides. Cocky, confident Australia is now home to dysfunctional politics, yawning budget deficits, rising unemployment and an electorate unwilling to accept tough reforms.

By contrast, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is running the most successful and ­stable centre-right government in the world. Whereas Abbott might not survive his first term as leader, Key, 53, is into his third term and has never been more popular. Key presides over a country that is no longer a dead-end backwater but one that enjoys plentiful jobs, strong economic growth and is on the cusp of a budget surplus. All this despite its second-largest city, Christchurch, being devastated by the earthquake of February 22, 2011, which left 185 people dead, the city centre in ruins and a $40 billion clean-up.

Even the Kiwi dollar, for so long the poor cousin to our own currency, is at virtual parity these days. “I’ve been here for 15 years and I’ve never seen this before,” mutters the woman at the Melbourne airport currency exchange as she hands me fewer $NZ than I gave her in $A. “They must be doing something right over there.”

GDP growth in New Zealand last year was 3.3 per cent compared with 2.8 per cent in ­Australia, while unemployment was 5.7 per cent in the December quarter compared with 6.1 per cent (now 6.3 per cent) here. Forget rugby; New ­Zealand is winning a bigger game. When Abbott visited New Zealand in February, he had to ­concede Key has led “a very successful, a really, really successful centre-right government. There are lessons for ­Australia in what you have done.” By contrast, the New Zealand press pack suppressed giggles when Key told an Australian journalist: “I think it’s a bit harsh to describe it [Australia] as one of the more unstable democracies in the Pacific.”

As a result of this trans-Tasman shift in ­fortunes, we are seeing something we have not seen for a generation. The tide of Kiwis coming to our shores has ebbed while the number of those going back home has flowed. This year the trans-Tasman migration is likely to be in New Zealand’s favour — something that has not been seen since Australia had “the recession it had to have” in the early 1990s. . .

[Prime Minister John]Key says Australia’s mining sector and growth in the big cities has slowed, making the country less attractive. “It is harder; I don’t think the opportunities are there in the same way, while on the other side of the equation there are lots of opportunities here in New Zealand and while they may make less money the cost of ­living is generally a lot lower.” . . .

A friend who works in Australia says he earns more and a lot of things cost less there than they do here. But when he takes into account the higher tax rate and other compulsory costs he pays the difference isn’t nearly as big as it appears.

It is often said that Key runs New Zealand like a CEO rather than a politician and that there are clear parallels in style with another self‑ made millionaire-turned-politician, Malcolm Turnbull. “I know [Malcolm] well and I like him,” is all that Key will say of Turnbull, wary of wading into leadership speculation.

Key is a delegator rather than a dictator and makes a habit of consulting in person with ­several of his ministerial colleagues each ­morning. He holds informal meetings ahead of formal Cabinet sessions so that people can float ideas or shoot them down without undue embarrassment. “Most people realise we are not doing extreme things,” he says. “We try to explain what we are about.” He says he is “unashamedly pro-economic growth” but prefers the path of pragmatism over ideology. “My instincts are very much in the middle so I am not fighting internal demons,” he says. “I am not a secret right-winger who wants to do things.”

He does not accuse Abbott of being a secret right-winger but the truth is that compared with Abbott, Key is much more of a pragmatic centrist economically and is more liberal socially, having voted for gay marriage in 2012.

It says much about Key’s political skills that he managed to usher in an increase in the GST in 2010, a debate that both sides of Australian politics are unwilling to have. Ironically, Key did this despite Howard, the architect of ­Australia’s GST, advising Key over a lunch in Auckland in 2010 that a rise was too risky. “I said to [Howard] ‘I am going to raise the GST and drop personal tax rates’ and he said, ‘Don’t do it’. He said, ‘You’ll have the obvious ­argument that the price of bread goes up and it will be felt more keenly by the poorer person and so you will lose that debate’.”

But in the end Key chose to pursue the reform and succeeded, with surprisingly little political bloodshed, in lifting the GST by 2.5 percentage points to 15 per cent while cutting personal and company tax. As a result, New Zealand’s top personal tax rate is now only 33 per cent compared with 45 in Australia, while the company tax rate is 28 per cent compared with 30 per cent here. Key has also been part-privatising state assets in power, coal and aviation, a path that causes political grief in Australia. Key’s reform record has been helped by ­having a first-rate finance minister, Bill English.

In welfare reform, Australia is looking to ­emulate the New Zealand system, which is ­saving billions in long-term payments. In 2011, Key adopted a new model of welfare that ­identifies groups at risk of long-term welfare and establishes special targeted programs for them. “We’ve done a lot in what is called the ‘investment approach’ to welfare reform and we have been genuinely investing money up front in people who would otherwise be long-term beneficiaries,” says Key. When social services minister Scott Morrison addressed Canberra’s National Press Club in February he spent most of his speech lauding the New Zealand model and promising to look at what Australia could adopt from it.

Part of Key’s popularity stems from what political analyst Colin James calls his macro- personality. “Key has a remarkable rapport with ­people across the political spectrum and that is unusual. Bob Hawke probably had that but ­certainly Rudd, Gillard and Abbott didn’t.” . .

Because Australians and New Zealanders are allowed to work in each other’s countries without restrictions, migration statistics are not definitive but they do suggest that far more Australians are now moving to New Zealand to live. While there will always be a flurry of movement because of family ties between the estimated 600,000 Kiwis in Australia and 60,000 Australians in New Zealand, the total number of ­people from ­Australia moving to New Zealand (including New Zealanders returning home) has soared in the past two years to February from 15,355 to 23,571.

Spoonley says the ­number of non-Kiwi ­citizens arriving from Australia to live in New Zealand has jumped by 50 per cent in the past two years, from 5234 in the 12 months to ­January 2013 to 7895 this year.

Job opportunities and quality of life have driven this trend. According to data comparison website Numbeo, apartment rents are on average 24 per cent lower in New Zealand than in Australia and apartment costs per square metre 36 per cent lower. The national median house price has stayed flat at $350,000, according to the Real Estate Institute NZ, and even in Auckland, where the market is hottest, the median price of a house — $675,000 — still ­compares favourably with Australian cities.

New Zealand also enjoys a reputation for better work-life balance, although OECD ­figures suggest New Zealanders only have ­marginally more leisure time than Australians. The downside is that salaries in New Zealand are also around 30 per cent lower on average, although this gap is said to be closing.

Even so, New Zealand is trying to make the most of its moment in the sun, having recently held job expos in Perth and Sydney and another in Melbourne later this month to spread the message that “New Zealand is one of the best performing economies in the world right now and the demand for skilled workers is high”. . .

The current contrasting fortunes of both countries could easily be reversed in years ahead, and the traditional flow of Kiwis to ­Australia could resume. Like Australia, New Zealand is heavily dependent on the health of the Chinese economy and its dairy industry, the country’s biggest export earner, suffered sharply lower prices last year.

In addition, the rebuilding of Christchurch is adding around 1.25 per cent to GDP growth each year but this will tail off as the city nears completion. Even so, a report last month by Moody’s Investor Services predicts continued strong economic growth for at least the next two years and for New Zealand’s budget to return to surplus — a word that Australians can only dream about.

Key concedes that New Zealand has better growth and employment than Australia right now but declines to brag. “We want a strong Australia,” he maintains. “A strong Australia is good for New Zealand. No relationship is more important to New Zealand … there is naturally a bit of rivalry but Aussies are looked at fondly here. Most people, I think, look at Aussies and go, ‘It really is the lucky country even if it has one too many creepy-crawlies and sharks’.”

Key lists several high-profile Australians who have come to New Zealand to live, but his final one packs a punch. “The Australian High ­Commissioner [Michael Potts], who is just about to finish his time here, is not going back to Australia,” the PM reveals. “He is about to live down the road here in Wellington,” he says, pointing out the window. “His wife is a Kiwi so they have made the call they are going to live in New Zealand.”

Key cannot hide his grin. Now even the ­diplomats are defecting. It’s taken a generation, but the Bondi Bludgers are finally enjoying their revenge.

 

"A great read from The Australian on why so many Kiwis are coming home: http://nzyn.at/1FbFD4s"


Human-shaped anthropocene epoch vs overhang idealised historical period

January 28, 2015

Quote of the day from Colin James:

. . . human-made law is for humans’ wellbeing and future, not the preservation of some frozen-in-time environmental mix. We live in the human-shaped anthropocene epoch, not in an overhang of some idealised historical period. We started the shaping millennia ago with shovels and fire. . .

He was discussing the dilemma facing the Green Party and their tendency to see economic development and environmental protection and enhancement as mutually exclusive.

Environmental awareness is growing and in spite of what they would like to believe, green issues and initiatives are not the preserve of the left of the political spectrum where the Greens are mired.

Both the will and means to have green growth are increasing with the economic, environmental and social benefits it brings.

The Greens no doubt feel threatened by that because the country grows greener their radical left agenda becomes even less relevant.

 

 


Poll of polls

September 19, 2014

Colin James’ final poll of polls:

National’s trends from 20 June and from 20 August to the latest interviewing midpoint of 15 September, projected forward five days to tomorrow, points towards around 47.5% on the final count. Take out 1%-1.5% to account for the overweighting of National by the Fairfax Ipsos poll by comparison with all others in most of its recent polling (but not the most recent): that would give 46%-46.5%.

The trends for Labour point to 25% and for the Greens to 12.5%-13% . . .

The latest polls took National’s lead over Labour and the Greens down to a still healthy 8.2%. . . .

New Zealand First’s latest average was 7.6%, the Conservatives’ 4.3%. Internet-Mana was down to 1.4%, the Maori party was 1.2% (just enough to ensure two seats), ACT was 0.4% and United Future 0.1%.

New Zealand First’s trend from 20 June points to 6.5%. But, since most of its rise was in the past six weeks, the trend from 20 August may be more accurate. It points to 7.5%. The same last-six-weeks upward tick applies for the Conservatives. Their trend from August 20 points to around 4.2%. Internet Mana’s downtrend points it toward 1.2%. . . .

There’s  no doubt National will be well ahead of Labour and the Greens combined but that doesn’t guarantee a National-led government.

This reinforced the need for anyone who wants stable government, a growing economy and the social dividends that enables, to give their party vote to National.
Photo: Only our plans will ensure a strong, open economy that delivers more for New Zealanders and their families. PARTY VOTE National. #Working4NZ


Craig’s press secretary leaves in tears

September 18, 2014

Conservative leader Colin Craig has just lost his press secretary of two years:

Rachel MacGregor has told Newstalk ZB she’s left the party as of this morning.

Our political editor Barry Soper says she is very upset and has taken public relations advice.

“Colin Craig does campaign on being this wholesome, out there sort of a bloke, that’s all encompassing, that really is the sort of person we should be looking up to.

“Now if he can’t get his own house in order in terms of staff in the Conservative Party then you’ve got to ask questions.”

Barry Soper says this will damage the Conservative Party brand.

Soper just told Leighton Smith he’d talked to her and she was in tears.

Whatever the truth of this is, it will do the party no good.

It is on 4% in Colin James’ poll of polls.

If  it doesn’t make the 5% threshold those votes will be distributed to parties which do.

A friend was talking to a woman about this yesterday. When she realised her vote for the Conservatives might end up helping Labour and the Green Party get an extra MP she was horrified.


25ish + 7ish = too few

September 16, 2014

Winston Peters is mulling over a Labour New Zealand First coalition:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said today that voters should consider a Labour-New Zealand First as a potential alternative Government, not Labour and Greens, in what is the most definitive statement from him yet on post-election options.

That suggests that would keep the Green Party away from the cabinet table in any Labour-Led Government as he did in 2005.

He expressed respect today for both Labour’s finance spokesman David Parker and for Finance Minister Bill English and said: “I see both of them as capable of being Ministers of Finance.”

“This is not indicating a choice,” he said “but the media seem to have overlooked one option entirely, a Labour-New Zealand First combination on coalition or confidence and supply.”

In Colin James’ latest poll of polls Labour had 25.2% support and NZ First had 7.1%

That comes to only 32.3% which is well short of the 50% plus one seat needed for a majority.

It could of course try to be a minority government but that would require a lot of negotiating to get any legislation passed and the other parties who are hoping to be in government wouldn’t necessarily be feeling generous.

In 2005, Helen Clark led a minority Government with the support of New Zealand First, United Future, and the Greens on confidence and supply but at the behest of Mr Peters, restricted ministerial posts to only himself and Peter Dunne of United Future. . .

Lest we forget, that’s the government that spent wildly and put the country into recession before the rest of the world.

Many NZ First supporters would prefer the party went left rather than right so all Peters is doing is playing to the gallery.


Poll of polls

September 6, 2014

Colin James’ poll of polls:

After this week’s stream of polls, including TV1’s poll published on the evening of September 5, National is back in the box seat with 50.2% on the latest four-poll average.

(Explainer: The POLL of POLLS is an arithmetical average of the four most recent major polls since mid-June from among: TV1 Colmar Brunton, TV3 Reid Research, Fairfax Media-Ipsos, NZ Herald DigiPoll, Roy Morgan New Zealand and UMR Research, which is not published.*)

Labour plunged to a new four-poll average of 25.0%, its lowest since at least 2008 and probably since the mid-1990s.

The Greens slipped to 12.0% as a high rating in a Morgan poll dropped out of the average.

cjpop

National’s lead over Labour and the Greens combined climbed to 13.2%.

The two winners from the dirty politics furore, New Zealand First and the Conservatives, were at 5.6% and 3.3% respectively. Internet Mana was 2.2% and the Maori party was 0.9%. ACT was 0.3% and United Future 0.2%, levels at which David Seymour’s and Peter Dunne’s seats, if they win them would be “overhangs” and push the number of seats in Parliament to 122.

cjpop1

National’s high rating is unlikely to translate into that level of support from voters and it will almost certainly need some coalition partners.

. . . National Party campaign chairman Steven Joyce said the party’s popularity following publication of the Dirty Politics book showed a disconnect between what the public and media focus on.

Mr Joyce told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report programme that despite strong polling, National was not assuming it would govern alone. National was not expecting the kind of result shown in the polls on election day, and having partnerships with several parties created a stronger more stable Government.

“If you just say you need a particular party to get over the line then obviously that particular party has a lot more leverage over the larger party.

“What we’ve shown in 2008 and 2011 if you have options then you can form good strong stable relationships and nobody gets too carried away.” . .

The stronger National’s vote is the more options it will have and the less it can be held hostage to minor players.

Labour is so weak it will be in a very poor bargaining position which would enable potential coalition partners to extract far more concessions in exchange for their support.

Its support could keep dropping if people decide it won’t be able to lead the next government or would have to give away too much to the wee players to enable it to govern .


Poll of polls

September 2, 2014

Colin James’ poll of polls:

Two new polls have affirmed a moderate downward trend in National’s support since July — but only to a still-high level of support at which to govern it would need, at most, support from ACT’s and United Future’s single electorate seats. National’s latest four-poll average was 48.4%.

Labour looks to be troughing. But it also appeared to have troughed in July, only to drop again in early August. Its latest average was 26.2%, below its whole-of-2014 average of 28.8%.

The polls in the latest four-poll average were all taken after Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book was launched on August 13 but before Judith Collins’ sudden resignation on 30 August. The latest midpoint between the start and finish of interviewing was 25 August.

Amidst all this, the Greens held steady at a 12.5% average, which would net it 16 seats, half of the total Labour could expect on its reading.

cjpoll

cjpolls

The two winners from the fallout from National and Labour have been New Zealand First, average 5.2%, and the Conservatives, average 3.1%, both slightly down from recent peaks. Internet-Mana was 2.6%, the Maori party 0.9% (not enough to bring in additional seats to Te Ururoa Flavell’s electorate seat unless other candidates win electorate seats), ACT 0.4% and United Future 0.2%.

A Maori Television poll has Maori Party leader and sitting MP Te Ururoa Flavell with 50% support in Waiariki.

The Maori Party has voted with the opposition more than the government. But given the choice of working with a National-led government of propping up a Labour/Green/NZ First/ Internet/Mana one it is almost certain to opt for stability and certainty rather than instability.

 


Poll of polls

August 30, 2014

Colin James’s poll of polls:

. . .  National’s slip leaves it still strong but also underlines the fact that it does not have the election in the bag.

But its problems are slight compared with Labour’s. Its latest average is below its 2011 election score of 27.5% and far below the 33.0% average at the end of 2013. To make matters worse, a Reid Research poll for Native Affairs on Maori TV showed the Maori party’s Chris McKenzie ahead in Te Tai Hauauru.

The Greens continued to be steady. Their latest four-poll average was 12.6%, which would net it 16 seats.

 

cjpoll

 

cjpolls

While party support is volatile, the most encouraging result is the continuing belief the country is going in the right direction.

polls

 


Poll of polls

August 23, 2014

Colin James’ poll of poll :

The first poll taken after the Nicky Hager book launch, by DigiPoll for the New Zealand Herald from August 14 to 20, did not dent National’s polling average, which was 50.8% in the four polls up to mid-August. DigiPoll recorded a drop from its last poll in mid-July but gave a higher figure than the TV3 poll which dropped out of the latest four-poll average.

(Explainer: The POLL of POLLS is an arithmetical average of the four most recent major polls since mid-June ,from among the following: Fairfax Media-TV1 Colmar Brunton, TV3 Reid Research, Ipsos, NZ Herald DigiPoll, Roy Morgan New Zealand (up to June only one of its two-a-month was included) and UMR Research, which is not published.*)

DigiPoll’s 25.2% reading for Labour dragged Labour’s average down to 25.3%. That average included the Ipsos poll for Fairfax Media, which gave National much more and Labour much less than other recent polls. . . .

The Greens’ average is steady at 11.9%, within a range it has held since the last election. . .

New Zealand First has got close to the 5% hurdle, with a 4.9% average to mid-August, boosted by a high 6.5% in the Roy Morgan poll. Internet-Mana was 2.7%, the Conservatives 2.4%, the Maori party 0.9%, ACT 0.5% and United Future 0.3%. . .

There was a slight lift in the latest Roy Morgan reading (from August 4-17) of whether the country is heading in the right direction. This slight lift is more confirmation that the mood is topping out but it remains very positive. . .

The level of confidence the country is heading in the right direction is important and backs up National’s assertion that it and its policies are working for New Zealand.


A tale of three polls

August 18, 2014

Colin James’ poll of polls on Saturday:

A new Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll published on August 15 again had Labour at a basement rating – 22.5% – and National cruising at 55.1%. But the poll-of-polls scarcely budged because that poll replaced a July Fairfax poll with closely similar readings.

Still, Labour’s average, at 27.1%, while off its mid-July lows, remained dire, though the interviews for the poll straddled Labour’s campaign launch on August 10. Labour will worry whether other polls due in coming days replicate the Fairfax.

National’s average did not change from its 50.3% in last Saturday’s averages. . .

poll17.8

TV3’s poll had National down a wee bit and Labour up slightly:

Party vote:

National: 47.5 percent, down 1.9 percent
Labour: 29 percent, up 2.3 percent
Greens: 13 percent, up 0.6 percent
New Zealand First: 4.6 percent, up 0.3 percent
Conservatives: 2.5 percent, down 0.2 percent
Internet Mana: 2.0 percent, down 0.2 percent
Maori Party: 0.8 percent, down 0.3 percent
ACT: 0.3 percent, up 0.2 percent
United Future: 0.2 percent, no change

Seats in Parliament:

National: 61
ACT: 1
United Future: 1
Maori Party: 2
Right total: 65

Labour: 38
Green: 17
Mana: 3
Left total: 58

Preferred Prime Minister:

John Key: 44.1 percent, up 0.3 percent
David Cunliffe: 9.9 percent, up 0.4 percent
Winston Peters: 6.7 percent, up 1.4 percent

1000 people polled, margin of error 3.1 percent

The ONE News Colmar Brunton poll showed both National and Labour dropping a couple of points:

. . . It shows National still in the box seat, with 50%, but down 2 points. Labour is also down 2 points to 26%. The Greens have moved up 1% to 11%, while New Zealand First has moved up 1% to hit the magical 5% mark.

But the big mover is the Internet Mana party which has doubled in support to 4%. The Conservatives are steady on 2%, while the Maori Party, and Act remain on 1%.

At 4%, and assuming Hone Harawira hold his seat, Internet Mana could bring in five MPs, including John Minto and Annette Sykes. . .

These aren’t big changes for the major parties and IMP’s rise could help National by scaring those wavering in the centre its way.

However, the message in both these polls is that in spite of the continued popularity of National and its leader, Prime Minister John Key who has almost five times the support of Labour’s David Cunliffe, the election outcome is far from certain.

If there’s a silver lining to the sideshow of the last few days and a softening of support in the polls it is that it is helping National get its message home to supporters that there is no room for complacency.

People who want a National-led government and/or don’t want the alternative of a weak Labour Party propped up the the Green, NZ First and Internet Mana Party must vote and vote for National.


Gap just 4% in poll of polls

August 10, 2014

Colin James is doing a poll of the four most recent polls each week until the election.

The first one shows that the gap between a National-led government and a Labour-led one is just 4%:

National’s polling average may have peaked during July at 52.5% in the four polls up to mid-July. By end-July it was at 50.3%. That is still a very healthy figure under MMP but if National sheds only 4% by election day, it cannot count on a third term, even with help from ACT, United Future and the Maori Party.

At the comparable time before the last election National was averaging around 56%. It dropped 9 percentage points from there to 47.3% at the election.

(The POLL of POLLS is an arithmetical average of the four most recent major polls, and will appear as a special series of election columns every Saturday on radionz.co.nz until after the election on September 20.)

james poll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This isn’t all bad news.

National’s continued high polling could have led to complacency from supporters who thought they didn’t need to vote or could afford to play with their party vote and from people who want National to win but not too well.

Another important election pointer also looks to have gone through a peak in July: Roy Morgan’s measure of whether people think the country is going in the right direction or the right direction. Those saying “right direction” were at 60% in late July, down from measures ranging from 63.5%-65.5% through the previous two months.

But that is still a very high reading. In a first-past-the-post election it would point to an easy re-election for an incumbent government. It is one reason why National continues to poll so highly.

 

This isn’t an FPP election and while the positive view of the direction the country is heading in is good for national it isn’t good enough for complacency.

The contrast between a stable government led by a strong National Party and an unstable government led by a weak Labour Party which gives lots of bargaining power to the ill-assorted parties they’d need to have on board is stark.

But there is still a lot of work to do to convince enough voters to do the right thing – in all senses of the word.

It might help if more people realise that David Cunliffe’s yeah-nahing over whether or not Internet Mana will be in a government he leads is just words which don’t speak nearly as loudly as the actions of his candidates:

 

mana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The marriage between Internet Mana and Labour which John Minto thinks is made in heaven  would be hell for New Zealand.


English politician of year again

December 18, 2013

Trans Tasman named Finance Minister and deputy PM Bill English as its politician of the year.

Colin James gives him the double.

. . . But there was cabinet innovation: 10 quantitatively targeted cross-government outcomes which require public servants to make an actual difference, not tick “output” boxes and which, while maybe diverting resources from other necessities in the short term, could be developed for wider use longer-term.

Who in the cabinet drives this thinking? Who pushed an actuarial/investment approach to social policy, limited in scope and application but the government’s most important policy innovation so far?

Who backed the Land and Water Forum which has won consensus on a devilish issue? Who pushed the public service to think how to do more with less without austerity? Who is the policy wonk who looks for deeper and longer-term options?

Who, despite the earthquake, got fiscal consolidation on track and is admired in Australia and Hong Kong (though also calculated wrongly on Cullen fund contributions and the SOE floats)?

Who anchors a sometimes wayward and radical cabinet within sight of National’s moderate conservative tradition?

A man rooted deep in that tradition. A man with a Southland drawl and manner. Bill English is my politician for 2013.

None of these achievements should be taken for granted but the 10 quantitatively targeted cross-government outcomes which require public servants to make an actual difference, not tick “output” boxes are especially noteworthy.

This means public servants have to be responsible for not just doing something, but doing something which makes a positive difference.

That most of them have risen to the challenge is a credit to them as well as the Minister who’s changed the way they operate for the better.


Spoilt for choice

August 2, 2013

 Colin James has been crystal ball gazing:

Political analyst Colin James has tipped environment minister Amy Adams as a potential ‘dark horse’ successor to John Key, in a speech to the New Zealand Contractors’ Federation’s annual conference.

National is in the fortunate position of having a leader who enjoys the confidence of his caucus, party and the wider public so the issue of succession is not a pressing one.

Should it need to find a successor, the party would be spoilt for choice with a talented caucus. Amy is one of many who would be up to the very tough task of following one of the country’s most popular leaders.

The contrast with Labour couldn’t be starker.

Its leader doesn’t have the confidence of his caucus, party or wider public.

Its caucus isn’t awash with talent and it’s so divided it can’t find a successor on whom they can agree to replace David Shearer in spite of his unpopularity.

Mr James also told delegates at the event in Queenstown that his gut feeling was that there would be a third term National government, but the civil construction industry should plan ahead for the “90 per cent probability of a Labour/Greens based government in 2017.” . . .

Winning a second term isn’t a given but it’s more common than not.

A third term is much more difficult, a fourth is rare and has yet to happen under MMP.

 


Rural round-up

July 25, 2012

Alliance expands greenhouse measuring programme:

Alliance Group is expanding a green-house gas monitoring programme to all of its suppliers after a successful trial.

The meat co-operative introduced the web-based Hoofprint programme late last year and tested it with farmers supplying meat for Sainsbury’s supermarket chain in the UK.

It’s a software system that farmers can use to measure and monitor agricultural greenhouse gases associated with beef and lamb production on their farms and improve their productivity. . .

Lean manufacturing helps Tru-Test Group become first to achieve NZQA certification:

Tru-Test Group is bucking the trend towards outsourcing manufacturing to lower-cost economies overseas. The world leader in electric fencing, milk metering and animal weighing and recording, has chosen to keep more than 80 per cent of its production in Auckland.

Reflecting this commitment to the local market, Tru-Test Group has become the first New Zealand company to achieve a New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) Level 2 Certificate in Competitive Manufacturing for its entire production and stores staff.

The NZQA qualification allows factory operators to become actively involved in developing systems that improve productivity and quality. . .

Beef + Lamb NZ has photos and presentations from the Red Meat Sector conference here.

Among them are:

Opening address – Wayne McNee, Director general of Minsitry of Primary Industry.

NZ political environment  – Colin James.

The International Meat Industry – an update  – Murray Johnston General Manager Merchandise  Progressive Enterprises

An Australian perspective – market development, access and outlook – Scott Hansen, Director, Meat & Livestock Australia

Domestic trends and measuring progress against the Red Meat Sector Strategy  –  Rob Davison, Executive Director Economic Service, Beef + Lamb New Zealand

Best practice implementation – tertiary institutions, crown research institutes and industry working together – Dr Andrew West, Vice-Chancellor, Lincoln  University

Dairy sector – best practice in action – Dr Mark Paine, Strategy Investment Leader for People & Business, Dairy NZ

And from Facebook:


Land and Water Forum report has wide support

May 24, 2012

The Land and Water Forum’s latest report calls for national bottom lines to be set for the state of the country’s waterways.

. . .  the LWF, a group representing iwi and key freshwater stakeholders, said iwi and urban and rural communities should then collaborate to develop specific water quality objectives for each catchment and identify local solutions to achieve them. . . 

. . .  The Forum’s second major report provides a national framework within which Regional Councils will work with their communities and iwi to set freshwater objectives and develop limits for its use.

It provides a consistent and transparent process for setting objectives and limits, and one that will lead to effective and enduring outcomes, including greater certainty for investment and development.

“The way in which water issues have traditionally been decided has ultimately benefited no one,” said Mr Bisley. “We all agree we need to do better for the sake of both the economy and the environment.”

What is remarkable about the report is the degree of consensus achieved on it and Colin James gives the credit for that to the process:

. . . the forum’s report is important in substance. It is also important as process. Federated Farmers and Forest and Bird at the far ends of the spectrum of interest groups have publicly backed it, along with many others. So, too, have Government ministers, Labour, the Greens and the Maori party.  The word is that similar consensus and party backing is close on the allocation report.   

In short, on a matter of vital importance to economic and social life there is a real prospect of settled policy that can transcend changes of government.

This is no small achievement and if memory serves me correctly former Environment Minister Nick Smith and Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean had a lot to do with setting up the forum and ensuring it ran well.

The process has worked well for water, is it too much to hope a similar process could work as well for other important matters?

A link to the report is here.


Who said poverty not core concern?

December 17, 2011

Misconception  of the day:

Poverty is not a core concern of National supporters. Colin James

Where on earth did he get that idea?

It certainly wasn’t in the party’s vision which says:

The National Party seeks a safe, prosperous and successful New Zealand that creates opportunities for all New Zealanders to reach their personal goals and dreams.

It is probably fair to say most National supporters aren’t in favour of spending more money on benefits which trap people in dependence. But that doesn’t mean we’re not concerned about poverty and determined to help people get out of it.

We want a healthier, wealthier, better educated and safer country. That won’t be achieved without addressing the causes of poverty and helping people help themselves out of it.

 

 


Tuesday’s answers

September 15, 2009

Paul Tremewan wins another electronic bunch of spring flowers with four right and two bonus points for wit.

Kismet got three points and a bonus for ingenuity.

I’ll accept Gravedodger’s word he knew three and he can have an extra point for the extended discussion.

Andrei gets 2 points and a bonus for extra information and because PDM earned a sprig of blossom for one right.

Monday’s Questions were:

1. “Read him for the tittle-tattle. But for strategic analysis find yourself a grown-up.” Colin James said it, to whom was he referring?

2. Who wrote All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?

3. Titi-tea is the Maori name for which mountain?

4. Sheep breeders encourage multiple births, why aren’t cow breeders so keen on twins?

5. Which ship took New Zealand’s first frozen meat exports to Britain?

Tuesday’s answers follow the break.

Read the rest of this entry »


Monday’s quiz

September 14, 2009

1. “Read him for the tittle-tattle. But for strategic analysis find yourself a grown-up.” Colin James said it, to whom was he referring?

2. Who wrote All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?

3. Titi-tea is the Maori name for which mountain?

4. Sheep breeders encourage multiple births, why aren’t cow breeders so keen on twins?

5. Which ship took New Zealand’s first frozen meat exports to Britain?


Education not just for school

November 11, 2008

She was 10 and in the middle class of a three class country school where all the other pupils were aged 7, 8 or 9.

The best of these were reading chapter books, she, the eldest, was reading books below the level of the youngest – the very early readers with a few words in large font and clear pictures on each page.

I was there as a parent helper and listening to her read. When she got to the word mug and couldn’t read it I was perplexed because she’d read mum and jug earlier so knew the sounds.

After a few moments of fruitless attempts I pointed to the picture and asked her if she knew what it was.

“Yes, that’s a cup,” she said.

I said it was like a cup and asked if she had cups and saucers at home. She said she had cups so I asked if she’d heard of mugs. She hadn’t.

I explained what a mug is and we got on with the next sentence.

But I wondered about her home and family if her vocabulary was so poor she’d never come across the word mug before and couldn’t use her knowledge of words with similar sounds to make a stab at reading it.

This was her seventh school but in spite of the best efforts of her teacher and several parent helpers, she made little progress and she was there only a few weeks before her mother moved again.

She’ll be around 24 now and while I’d like to think she’d succeeded in spite of her homelife it’s quite possible she hasn’t and will have a child or children of her own, struggling at school because of what happens, or doesn’t happen, at home.

One of National’s aims is to lift literacy and numeracy standards. It’s one I fully support but this anecdote shows that education can’t just be left up to schools.

Colin James  sums up the problem:

An underclass is a class without real opportunity. Do children get good nutrition and cognitive development in their earliest years? Those who don’t cannot learn at school and often end up as the enemies of society and economic development. And they pass on their life start to their children.

Key’s challenge is to intervene to give those children a true chance at life, as he had, well parented. Whether he makes a real start on that will define how truly unifying his prime ministership is.

Tackling poor literacy and numeracy would be difficult if all the problems lay in schools, because some of the problems are in society it’s even harder. There’s no doubt John Key and his caucus have the will to tackle it, the challenge is to find a way that works.


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