Know when to go


You’ve got to know when to hold up, know when to fold up, know when to walk away . . . “

The Gambler  was right as are Helen Clark and Michael Cullen.

By announcing they are standing down from the leadership they’ve circumvented the rumours, the inevitable questions from the media and the just as inevitable plotting from the Labour caucus.

Cullen is a list MP so he could walk away from parliament altogether at any time with minimal disruption. Clark, as an electorate MP, has a duty to her constituents and the expense of a by-election to consider before she resigns but I wouldn’t expect her to complete the full term.

Two of her soon to be former minsiters should follow her example.

Jim Anderton has had more than his day.

His majority  is a still respectable 4,566 and he got 14,174 votes. But Marc Alexander, the National candidate got 9608 electorate votes and 11954 party votes.

The Labour candidate Erin Ebborn-Gillespie won only 4,581 electorate votes but Labour recevied 12,583 party votes. While Progressive, the vanity vehicle Anderton calls a party, got only 1,878 votes.

He should make this his last term.

Peter Dunne should also take a hard look at the numbers in Ohariu.

He received 11,250 electorate votes, the Labour candidate Charles Chauvel was 1170 behind on 10, 080.

National’s Katrina Shanks was 3rd with 8,822 electorate votes but National won the party vote with 15,750. Labour received 11,182 votes and United Future just 787. This suggests that had Dunne not announced he would go with National which prompted a nod and a wink from John Key for a party-vote campaign in the electorate, then Shanks may have won the seat.

Something else to consider – the Green candidate, Gareth Huges got 2,229 votes – so if those people had voted tactictly for Chauvel,  Dunne would have lost the seat to Labour.

United Future is now Ununited Past and Dunne should step down at the end of the term.

Some National MPs need to consider this and also remember that one of the reasons Labour lost was that the electorate thought the caucus was getting a bit stale.

I’m not going to name names, suffice it to say there are some MPs who should accept that in the best interests of the party they should make this their last term and step down with their dignity intact or become victims of another dead-wood purge.

Third poll favours blue


The Herald DigiPoll confirms the trend of the two television polls last night – if support translates into real votes tomorrow the blue block would win because National would be able to govern with Act and United Future.

Photo / Herald graphic

This assumes the Maori Party would win 5 seats and we’d have a 123 seat parliament.  National would have 61 seats, Act 2 and United Future 1. 

Three out of three polls is encouraging but its the fourth poll, and only real one, tomorrow which matters and there are still too many ifs and maybes to be sure about that.

The poll of polls, a rolling average of the last four surveys, also shows the blue block slightly ahead of the red one:

Photo / Herald graphic

TV3 poll better for blue


The TV3 poll is slightly better for the blue block than the TV1 (two posts back).

National is up almost one percent to 46.

Labour’s vote collapses to just over 33. It is being punished for president Mike Williams’ failed trip to Melbourne to dig up dirt on John Key.

The Greens are coasting at 9 percent – the highest ever result in a 3 News poll.

New Zealand First is on 3.4 percent – and facing oblivion on Saturday.

ACT has received a last minute boost – 2.8 – that would see Roger Douglas in parliament.

The Maori Party is on 2.7 – and is expected to win at least four seats – most likely five.

That would give National 59 seats, Act 4 plus 1 seat for United Future –  a total of 64 in a 122 seat parliament.

Labour would be down to 42 seats, the Greens 12, Progressive 1. Even if you add the Maroir Party’s 4 or 5 they’ll only get to 59 or 60.

If NZ First does get 5% it would disadvantage National and help Labour.

John Key leads the preferred Prime Minister rankings, up 2.8 to 36.4 and Helen Clark is up slightly to 34.2.

The trend is going the right – in whatever sense you care to choose – way. But it is only a poll so while it’s encouraging it’s still too close for complacency.

Update: Curiablog has the average of polls:

Blue block just – TV1 poll


TV1’s final pre-election poll puts National at 47% support and Labour at 35%.

The Green Party has 9%, Act 2.5, New Zealand First 2.4% and Maori Party 1.3%.

It would be a 122 seat party so National, (58 seats) Act (3) and United (1) would just get a majority with 62 seats.

Labour, (43 seats), Greens (12 seats) and Progressive (1)  would get 56 seats.

The Maori Party would have 4 seats so even if they went with Labour the left block would be two seats short of a majority.

New Zealand First wouldn’t be in parliament.

However, a change within the margin of error could make a difference to any of those conclusions.

Pretty but unscientific


Jimungo has been running an weekly pulse of the nation poll.

Absolutely nothing can be read into the results which aren’t scientific:

 Visit Pulse of the Nation

Here we have it: the final Virtual Election of the Pulse of the Nation weekly series. This is the last Virtual Election before the real New Zealand General Election happens this Saturday 8 November.

The only election that counts is the one this Saturday at polling places across the country. The mood of the country between 9am when polls open and 7pm when they close will determine the make-up of our next parliament.

Here at Jimungo, here’s how we saw the mood swinging over the last week:




UP 0.7




UP 1.1




DOWN 1.4




UP 0.8




UP 0.2


NZ First


DOWN 1.5




UP 0.3


United Future


UP 0.4




UP 0.2

400 people 6 politicians


I started my journalism career in an election year – 1981 when politicians still faced the public at meetings and the public still turned up in good numbers – several hundred people – to hear them.

After attending two meet the candidates forums in the past fortnight with fewer than 25 people in each audience I’d begun to wonder if this form of democratic interaction was dying.

However, a report on a meeting  in Queenstown gives me hope.

The ODT reports that 400 people turned out to hear six politicians: National deputy leader Bill English, his Labour counterpart Michael Cullen, Progressive MP Jim Anderton, Act candidate Roger Douglas, Greens co-leader Russel Norman and NZ First leader Winston Peters.

All parliamentary parties had been invited to send a representative and while I understand that wee parties’ MPs can’t be everywhere, it’s a poor reflection on both United Future and the Maori Party that they couldn’t find a candidate to represent them at the forum.

The ODt says that Queenstown Lakes Mayor Clive Geddis received sustained applause from the audience when he told the politicians:

“. . . if you can run the economy of New Zealand for the next decade as these people out here have run the economy of the Lakes District for the past decade, the GDP will be 30% greater . . . than it is today.

“Close to 400 people here this evening have paid to come and hear politicians. It’s a sobering thought and what is behind that is a genuine interest.”

Mr Geddes said those who had turned out felt they had ownership of their community, had a say in the way it was managed and felt they were in charge of their own economy.

“People who are prepared to front on a cold, rainy night, pay 30 bucks to hear you . . . but more importantly that you take away from them the message that this town has got something you can learn from them.”

The paper also noted the best one-liners:

Bill English on the anti-smacking legislation: It’s going to be the nanny state on P.

Russel Norman reacting after being criticised for being an Australian representing a New Zealand party in an election: Hey, I’m a citizen, mate. There are a lot of migrants in this country. Get used to it.

Michael Cullen after being asked about the proposed location of the new Frankton school: I don’t have a briefing on that, I assume they’re planning for future growth.

MC Jim Hopkins reacting to Dr Cullen’s comment: Hold the press . . . a politician has just admitted he doesn’t know something.

Winston Peters after being asked to confirm a rumour a deal had been done between New Zealand First and Labour that if NZ First did not get in, Mr Peters would be appointed Right Honourable Consul of Monaco: You came all the way tonight and that’s your best shot? Sit down and be a good lad.

Maybe you had to be there to appreciate it, but if that’s the best Peters can do the standard of his repartee is down with his standard of accountability.

Seven headed monster = headless chook


Gary left a comment on an earlier post pointing out that a Labour, Greens, Maori Party, NZ First, Progressive government wouldn’t be a five headed monstor, it would be seven headed because two of the parties have two heads each.

As he said, that would mean that more than 10% of the government would be leaders.

What we get is the-is update image of a hydra shown on Cactus Kate:
//” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

A government headed by that many heads would be headed for trouble and achieve about as much as a headless chook.

Do we want a circus?


The joy of political commentators like me would know no bounds as such an unwieldy motley crew of conflicting parties would be a magnificent circus to watch in action.

Of course, it would be a disaster in these economic times when a clear, single-minded approach is desperately required to the recession and international market collapse and, instead, New Zealand delivered itself a muddled, bickering coalition of the unwilling and the wilful.

Bill Ralston on what could happen if a silver, bronze and most of the other runners (Labour, Progressive, United Future, Green Party, New Zealand First, Maori Party)  beat gold (National) and the other runners who’d go with them – Act, United Future and Maori Party.

Is he being premature only putting the Green Party on the left when it isn’t announcing its preferred coalition partner until tomorrow?

No. They might be fooling themselves but when you look at their criteria for their preferred coalition partner they’re not fooling anyone else that they are seriously considering going with National.

And that’s one of their biggest weaknesses – if they were strong on the environment and moderate on social and economic policy they could sit in the middle and hold the balance of power election after election. But because they’re on the far left, their options, and their influence are limited to Labour.

Everyone said the polls would tighten . . .


And the latest Roy Morgan one certainly has.

National’s down 7 to 40.5% and Labour’s up 1 to 37.5%.

The Green Party is up 2.5 to 9%, NZ First is down 1 to 4%, Act is on 3.5% (up 2), the Maori Party is up .5% to 2%, Progressive is up 1 to 1% United is up .5 to 1% and others are up .5 to 1.5%.

While I don’t like the result, I’m even more puzzled by the confidence rating:

The Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating at 108.5 points (up 5.5 points) has risen as the election campaign has begun with 48% (up 4%) of New Zealanders saying the country is “heading in the right direction” compared to 39.5% (down 1%) that say the country is “heading in the wrong direction.”

The Roy Morgan New Zealand Consumer Confidence Rating (102.3 points, down 7.6 points) however has halted its recent climb dropping sharply as only 39% (down 7%) of New Zealanders say now is a “good time to buy” major household items.

The poll was taken between September 22 and October 5 which means it finished before the PREFU which showed the dreadful state of the nation’s books.

If anyone still thinks the country is heading in the right direction after that it is indeed proof that people ought to be required to pass a comprehension test before they’re allowed to vote.

New era or just paying SFF’s debt?


If debt is not behind this deal, than why would a cooperative want to invite into the fold a company like PGG Wrightson, a public company dominated by two major shareholders?

The question comes from Jon Morgan.  His answer follows:

 The spin merchants for Silver Fern Farms and PGG Wrightson are hailing their merger proposal as the dawn of a wonderful new era in the meat industry.

 Well, they would say that.

They may be right, but here’s an alternative view. Some industry observers feel the deal is more about Silver Fern (formerly known as PPCS) finding someone to pay its debt.

Under the deal, PGG Wrightson will pay $220 million for 50 per cent of Silver Fern, a cooperative owned by 9000 farmer shareholders.

In October PPCS posted a $40 million loss but was back in the black this year with a first-half profit of $11.2 million. Though it expects to make big savings from plant closures it still has to find the money to pay for them – the recent Oringi shutdown is costed at $12 million-$15 million alone.

Silver Fern’s immediate concern is to make sure its accounts are passed for the financial year ending August 31 and it has to show the auditors that its bondholders are secure. Two tranches of bonds are in the market – $50 million to be repaid next March and $75 million due in December 2010.

Though this deal with PGG Wrightson would not be approved by shareholders till September it may be enough to cover any auditors’ concerns.

The debt goes back to the costly Richmond takeover, achieved after a long and bitter battle in 2004, and has been exacerbated by Silver Fern’s failure to make any money for the past three years.

If debt is not behind this deal, than why would a cooperative want to invite into the fold a company like PGG Wrightson, a public company dominated by two major shareholders?

That’s the cynic’s view of what the deal will do for Silver Fern. What will it do for PGG Wrightson? Well, here you have to bear in mind a long-term view of the industry and remember that the man at the top of this company is the entrepreneurial Craig Norgate.

If you regard him as the new Ron Brierley, as Sir Ron’s old mate Sir Selwyn Cushing does, then you could look on this deal as the opening gambit of a power play. After winning control of the Silver Fern boardroom his next move is to lure the other South Island cooperative, Alliance, into a merger, during which he will allow his company to be bought out at a handsome profit.

If Alliance spurns such blandishments, he could launch a takeover instead. That’s much harder to do if the shareholders don’t actually hold tradeable shares. But Alliance is troubled by a dwindling supply of stock in the dairy-rich deep south and would be hard-pressed if a procurement war broke out.

He has a third option: to stay in a new Silver Fern- Alliance company and await further opportunities down the road. And they will come. There’s a mood for change in the industry – the failed Alliance mega-merger plan at least showed that the other meat companies were willing to talk about restructuring. It’s so much more painless when you can rationalise – meaning close meat plants and lay off workers – if you can do it in concert.

Before all this can happen there’s one immediate hurdle to jump. It’s a pretty big one – 75 per cent approval of Silver Fern’s shareholders. Almost all will be South Island farmers, a pretty fractious bunch of late.

They’ve been upset about Silver Fern’s prevarication over the mega- merger but now they know why. Maybe they’ll see the intervention of Mr Norgate as the price they have to pay to get the merger back on track. But then, losing control of their company for $5 extra a lamb may be too high a price for them. Time will tell.

Of course, Alliance could launch a pre-emptive strike and make a rival offer for Silver Fern. That would give the shareholders something to really think about.

The possible ramifications of this deal are enough to make your head spin. Another is the procurement situation. Combined, Silver Fern’s and PGG Wrightson’s stock-buying workforce will be more than 350. Will there be enough work for them all? And what about the contracts that PGG Wrightson now has to procure for other processors, such as Bernard Matthews and Progressive? The company says it will continue to fulfil them, but what happens when stock is in short supply? Its priority will surely be the company that it owns half of.

Stock throughput is any processor’s lifeblood. Bills have to be paid. Silver Fern’s debt will be transferred to PGG Wrightson’s balance sheet, but it will borrow to fund the deal and will need the cashflow.

Another issue for the wider industry is the trust it now has in Silver Fern. All the big companies, along with Meat & Wool New Zealand, backed the Meat Industry Taskforce, set up to find a strategy for an industry beset by tough trading times. The taskforce collapsed late last week when it lost the support of a key player, publicly unnamed but widely believed to be Silver Fern.

It would be unsurprising to find the other members of the taskforce do not hold Silver Fern in high regard. Which could be a problem for the industry’s hopes for expanding meat sales outside the main markets of Britain, Europe and United States. This depends on cooperation, but Silver Fern has not been very cooperative lately.

Again, Mr Norgate may be key to resolving this. His business acumen is widely admired by the companies.

If he decides to make a long- term commitment to the new-look Silver Fern he could smooth over the hurt feelings.

A lot depends on him. Is he there for the long haul or just passing through?

He says it all.

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