Sunday 30 October: Q+A, The Nation, the Sunday papers, the bloggers

by Toby Manhire / 30 October, 2011
Feedback, tips and threats in the comments, on Twitter to @listenerlive or email Zing!

9.35pm: They tried to squeeze too much into a half-hour format there, did Sky News (nb repeats later tonight on Prime at 11.10pm), though the quiz questions, despite my early puzzlement, were a lively embellishment. None of the candidates is likely to have dragged large numbers into their camps on the basis of that display - the most compelling engagement in these debates is in many ways between the Maori and Mana parties, one of this campaign's major subplots. Norman was assured, but could be more animated - as could they all. In many ways the Greens' support and influence should catapult them into the major party leaders' debate.

And that will be the debate tomorrow night, as Key and Goff lock horns for the first time. The main talking points today have been ongoing response to Labour's move to up the age of entitlement for superannuation (see 9.20am), National's announcement of schools spending, in part derived from asset sales (2.40pm), the Labour pledge to fund half the Auckland city rail loop, scrapping the "Holiday Highway" (12.20pm), and a poll for TV3 showing Labour regaining ground. We'll learn tomorrow from 7pm whether Goff can capitalise on that recovery.

A final thought on those minor party debates, which have bookended the day: poor old Winston, sitting somewhere watching them, thinking By god I'd have given those buggers a good shake. Which he would have.

Back tomorrow bright and early (find us here) with a paper roundup, an ear on the radio and an eye on the telly, the blogs, all that.

9.30pm: Chris Trotter asks Peter Dunne if he's ever been able to extract a "major concession" from a government he's supported. He cites the business tax changes in the Labour government 2005-2008 when he was revenue minister. But it is not the role of support partners to be the tail that wags the dog, he says.

David Farrar is pushing Russel Norman on their willingness to coalesce with National. He reels off his priorities. Trotter pushes him on a scenario in which Labour get mid-30s, National mid-40s, he replies "our preference is very clear, Labour".

Farrar spices things up by suggesting he swings both ways (his words).

Dunne says it would be "very difficult" to work with Labour, but doesn't blanket rule it out.

"We will work with whoever is the government if they will work for the aspirations of our people," says Turia.

No one want to work with you, Mr Harawira, says Soper. HH replies that if Mana win seats, and the leading party needs three seats to form a government, "they'll be asking: what's the fastest flight to Kaitaia."

Turia and Harawira are quite tactile, especially since the coughing incident. There clearly remains some real warmth there.

Brash: "I would find it very hard to work with Labour under their current policy platform. Much of it doesn't make sense in a modern economy." What would he want of National? The priority is to get "poor quality spending under control". That and the Resource Management Act, he says.

He doesn't get any further, though, as someone is clearly shouting in Soper's ear, so he winds things up.

9.15pm: An interesting debate begins to develop between Brash and Harawira on "universality" versus "proactivity". But it gets snuffed out and we're off to commercials again.

9.05pm: Next, Maori issues, so of course we begin with a Te Reo test from Wade. Don Brash gets Haere Mai right! Welcome! Peter Dunne think E noho ra means stand up. He's wrong it means goodbye. Miraculously, Turia and Harawira succeed. Russel Norman gets Kia wamarie. He doesn't know! It means good luck, as you know. He can't pronounce it, either. He smiles apologetically, looking more yellow and green than just green.

Harawira is asked if he's too intransigent on the foreshore and seabed bill. "You should always be prepared to compromise on strategy, but you should never compromise your principles." Turia is strong in defending the Maori party deal with National over the legislation. It was the best available, and Hone knows it, she says.

Chris Trotter asks a good question of Brash. Would his "one law for all" approach be enough to bring down a government they're supporting. He implies that it is a very important principle for ACT, but points out that he backs compensation for land illegally taken.

9pm: Russel Norman says the Greens are against deep sea drilling but not the shallow stuff. Peter Dunne continues in his inimitable ambidextrous style: on the one hand this, on the other that. Turia has a cup of water now. She looks a little exhausted. I feel much the same way.

8.55pm: Lordy, this quiz thing is endemic. Now they're beginning their section on the environment with what University Challenge would call "a picture round". Russel Norman correctly identifies kowhai. Peter Dunne struggles with a pukeko. Don Brash identified a Kauri tree. All true. I believe I just wrote the sentence Peter Dunne struggle with a pukeko. Golly.

Turia has a coughing fit while talking about the Rena. No one brings her a glass of water. Harawira picks up her theme, which seems a bit like playing on when someone's down with an injury. Referee!

8.50pm: Turia defends the rights of iwi to purchase assets, should they put on sale. Harawira tries to cleave a point of difference here, saying he wouldn't go along with that, because he wouldn't go along with the sale of assets at all.

8.45pm: After a few minutes on asset sales and trade, they're talking about water ownership and management - including Maori claim to those. Norman handles the questions comfortably, as do the others, To be honest, my attention is mostly drawn to the remarkable stencilled backdrop, which has birds and wind turbines and telegraph poles. And the Beehive. It's very enviro. It's very Green party, actually. No wonder Don Brash looks so lost.

8.40pm: David Farrar is one of the panel of media, along with Ngahuia Wade and Chris Trotter, and he begins with a series of quiz questions for leaders. Strange start.

8.35pm: We're under way in the Sky News debate - and the actual opening credits look more like an elaborate game of Guess Who? Barry Soper is chairing - though he's actually standing, while the leaders - Don Brash of ACT, Peter Dunne of United Future, Tariana Turia of the Maori party, Hone Harawira from Mana and the Greens' Russel with one L Norman - are seated. Norman, Soper observes, is the only candidate who has never wanted to stand for another party.

8.30pm: The opening credits for the Sky News minor parties' leader debate is epic, terrifying. Oh, no, that's a trailer for Game of Thrones.

8.10pm: The Qantas grounding led both TV One and TV3's 6pm bulletins. TV3 had their poll to reveal. One opened their election coverage with the National campaign launch - but not the angle that John Key and Steven Joyce were after. They did cover the schools funding and the "mixed ownership model" - a term that most seem to be rejecting as a spinned euphemism for asset sales - but opened on the protests at the launch in central Aucklan, featuring, among others, Mana candidate Sue Bradford.

In an odd moment of circularity, Guyon Espiner concluded his report by saying of the protesters, "So I suppose they achieved their aim, of gettng on national television."

The Sky debate of minor party leaders begins in 20 minutes. We'll keep at least half an eye on it.

8pm: POLL Labour has gained on National in a new 3 News Reid Research poll. National have dropped by 5.1% but are still on a commanding 52.3%, a comfortable lead over Labour, who are on 30.2%, a rise of 3.6%. The Greens are steady at 9.4%. NZ First are on 2.5%, ACT on a dismal 1.5%.

4.15pm: This blog will close for a bit now. We’ll probably be watching the Sky debate this evening (starts 8.30pm, later on Prime), which features pretty well the same line-up as appeared on Q+A this morning.

Certainly, Sky’s boss seems excited about it – almost exactly the same way he was last time round.

From this year’s press release:

John Fellet, SKY Chief Executive, says “Campaign 2011 will provide New Zealand and Australian viewers with an informative and balanced view of the policies and politics associated with the upcoming election.”

“Voters will be able to deliberate and consider how the next Government may be formed, with Leaders and their parties having the time to present their case in a non confrontational environment,” says Fellet.

and from 2008’s press release:

John Fellet, SKY Chief Executive, said “Campaign ’08 will provide New Zealand and Australian viewers with an informative and balanced view of the policies and politics associated with the upcoming election, giving each of the seven party Leaders the time to present their case in non confrontational environment

4.05pm: Back now to those opening statements of Friday and Saturday nights – and the promised summary of bloggers’ reactions. I’ve plonked it all in a separate post here. You can watch the National, Labour, Green and Act offerings here.

3.50pm: Winston Peters has launched NZ First's campaign. Here's the Herald report.

3.15pm: Annette King, who has so far been quiet in Labour's campaign, tweets:

What happened to Keys promise that he was selling assets to pay off debt? He has already banked the money in the govt's books?

3.10pm: There seems to be some confusion over Key's use of the term "mixed ownership model". It is not, as far as I can tell, suggesting any sort of public-private partnership for the investment in schools, but his choice of description for what Labour - and most others - are calling "asset sales", a choice of words intended to underline the fact that majority ownership (51%) of the assets (four energy companies and Air NZ) would remain in state hands.

2.55pm: Here's a Wordle of the John Key speech to launch National's campaign, which gives a decent sense of the emphasis. The world "school" appears more than 34 times in the released version of the speech. Perhaps most remarkably, not so much as a single mention of rugby, All Blacks, or World Cup.

2.40pm: POLICY The official National releases on their Future Investment Fund are here and here. The rather nebulous sounding "Network for Learning" is outlined in a release in Anne Tolley's name here.

Labour MP Phil Twyford writes on Labour's support for the Auckland rail loop here.

2.15pm: More on that "Future Investment Fund" noted earlier, which does indeed seem to be National's big announcement for its launch today. This from Newstalk ZB:

[Key] announced that one billion dollars of the expected $5 to $7 billion from the sale of the assets will be spent on modernising and transforming schools.

That’d see the budget for school building projects each year increased by more than 50 percent, without extra borrowing.

Mr Key promises he’ll be transparent about the proceeds that go into the Future Investment Fund and about what the money will be spent on.

"That'd" in a news report! Well did you evah?

1.57pm: The next line belongs to Key himself (again I'm relying on tweets from the launch here). It seems that after protesters stormed into the SkyCity venue, the prime minister said something like "you had to come here, because you're party didn't have a launch". Or, as Tau Henare puts it in his distinctive Twitter style:

Protesters came to OUR Launch coz they couldnt go to theirs coz they not having one. Lazy bastards.

However competent on his feet Key is, the sight of protesters in the hall and around it is something of an embarrassment to National.

1.55pm: According to various tweets, Bill English has delivered a nice line to introduce John Key at the National party campaign launch, under way now in Auckland. "We're so proud of him, we put him on our billboards."

1.50pm: Brian Edwards writes on his blogs about the upcoming three Key versus Goff debates and their importance in the race. He's concerned that the moderator of the TV One debates, Guyon Espiner, will have to work harder to control things, in the light of the "debate bedlam" in the Parker-Joyce encounter on Q+A this morning.

1.40pm: Derek Cheng weighs up the minor parties leaders' debate at the Herald. His verdict:

Peter Dunne constantly looked natural when seizing every opportunity to speak. Photo / Mark MitchellIt was a Peter Dunne victory by a hair quiff over Metiria Turei, while Don Brash and Pita Sharples were unable to stamp their mark on the first minor party leaders' debate this morning.

1.30pm: The Herald on Sunday consigns the pesky election to a trail at the bottom of the page promising “Election exclusives”.

It has polled New Zealanders on their “least wanted” prime minister, which returned Phil Goff at the top, on 25.6%. I suspect that’s a rather lower figure than the HoS hoped for, but still they give it a story to itself, “Goff leads from bottom” on page 2.

That’s your lot on the election until Kerre Woodham’s column on page 22, in which she commends Goff and Labour for “having the courage to put the [superannuation eligibility] issue on the table”.

Three “Election 2011 – four ticks” slugged pages follow, with poll results showing support for MMP and the business-backed campaign against it, a column by Deborah Coddington assessing the opening addresses, and piffle from Rachel Glucina. And it seems that the Feelers aren’t endorsing National, despite their tune Stand By and Count Upwards, or whatever it is, being laced through every bit of the party’s campaign.

Further in, Alice Neville lunches with an All Black jersey wearing Don “Burger King” Brash at a Sardinian restaurant in London. More meals with leaders to come, we’re promised. Jonathan Milne writes in defence of MMP – the picture alone makes the click worth it.

Like the SST, the HoS chooses not to editorialise on the election. Matt McCarten is a rare voice in the media unimpressed by Labour’s pledge on super eligibility. “Making workers stay in their jobs two years longer and forcing them to hand over a percentage of their wages to a private company to invest into large capitalist corporations for a fee is not a pro-worker policy – no matter how it’s dressed up,” writes the former Alliance man, now adviser to the Mana party.

(Sunday Star Times below.)

12.55pm: Trevor Mallard appears to have fallen for a parody National party Twitter account.

12.20pm: POLICY Labour has anounced it would scrap the so-called "Holiday Highway", spending the money from the planned Puhoi-Wellsford instead on funding half of Auckland's city rail loop, or the "Len Line", as it isn't yet known. There was no specification on whether they'd pay for the clockwise or anti-clockwise half.

11.25am: Right then. The Sunday papers.

First, the Sunday Star-Times. It splashes on the start of the campaign, which is to be welcomed, though they surely could have mustered something more gripping and less metaphor-mixing than the headline “Race for votes kicks off”.

The SST lead notes that John Key is promising a “significant announcement” at the party’s campaign launch in Auckland today. Moments ago he tweeted that he’ll be pledging a “Future Investment Fund to modernise schools”, so that’s presumably it. He might also announce that the All Blacks won the World Cup.

Full credit, to use the rugby vernacular, to the SST for devoting its first three pages to election coverage. It includes a John Hartevelt column suggesting “Labour has to do a France to be in the game”. He doesn’t mean the eye-gouging; he means they’ll have to “take on National head-first”.

Anthony Hubbard assesses the challenge for John Key in this campaign (“Looking smug not good policy”) and Rod Oram is typically thorough in the first of a promised series of columns on economic policy (“In denial – time to face facts”, not online as far as I can tell).

Puzzlingly, neither Michael Laws nor the SST editorial address the election – both instead focus on assisted dying in the wake of the Sean Davidson case.

(Scroll up to 1.30pm for the Herald on Sunday.)

10.55am: I half-watched TV3’s The Nation yesterday and half-watched it this morning, and the most notable thing to say off the bat is that there was no one from National on the show. It’s safe to presume they were invited. The strategy appears to be to minimise the debating appearances in favour of rallies and ribbon-cutting. Which is not stupid, but may have to be reviewed in light of Labour’s good start.

That start, in the words of Duncan Garner, TV3 political editor, was “fleet footed”, in contrast to the “flat footed” early show from National. He was supported in that view by the veteran political observer Colin James.

David Cunliffe was doing his best serious party-of-government-yes-we-are face in making the case for the superannuation/KiwiSaver policy – he’s had a good start personally to the campaign. Leader material? Maybe.

Then Winston Peters (see below) and Russel Norman, co-leader of the Greens, appeared. Russel with one L Norman was doing the likeable, unthreatening and consensual stuff again. Garner spent some time trying to get Peters to say whether he’d support Labour’s policy in government. It was time wasted.

Then they had an MMP debate, which was remarkable mostly for the Anti-MMP outfit Vote for Change endorsing supplementary member as their preferred alternative. SM is essentially a pint of First Past the Post with a swift proportional chaser.

Finally Dean Plunkett (that should read Sean, but I rather like the idea of Dean Plunkett, so we’ll let it lie) was joined by Brian Edwards and Bill Ralston. They were as one in awarding the first-wee honours to Labour.

Will it translate into support, however?

10.40am: National Radio's Insight debate on MMP and the referendum on the voting sytem, which aired earlier this morning, can be magicked up through your computer box here. And while we're on the subject, here's the magnificent Jane Clifton's guide to MMP from the Listener.

10.30am: The Australian ABC is one of a number of international media outlets that have picked up the Agence France Presse report headlined New Zealand PM snubs Queen for hobbits.

10.20am: Hone Harawira has hot-footed it over to the Marae Investigates set, where he's debating Kelvin Davis (Labour) and Waihoroi Shortland (Maori party), the other candidates in the crucial Te Tai Tokerau seat. HH starts by describing himself as an "ordinary kind of Maori guy". Shortland looks like he forgot to change out of his gears from last night's disco.

10.10am: Missing from the Q&A minor parties debate was NZ First's Winston Peters - an omission that the party complained about earlier this week. But if he had been, he would, I can confidently say, have spoken a lot about New Zealanders getting a "fair go". He said "fair go" about ten thousand times in NZ First's opening statement on TV last night. He said it on The Nation yesterday. And he said it on Tagata Pasifika earlier this morning. If Air New Zealand are upset about the Koru in the Labour ads, perhaps TVNZ should send their hard man Gordon Harcourt round to Winnie's place.

10am: In the soft-bottom post-debate analysis, John Pagani reckons that Turei was the outstanding candidate. They (Pagini, Jon Johansson, Deborah Coddington and Holmesy) agree that Dunne was solid, Harawira sounded authentic but lacked numbers (said Holmes), and that Don Brash was largely absent. Mr Brash, sorry pal, but You Are The Weakest Link.

9.55am: Holmes caps it off with quick questions put to each of the five leaders. No real surprises there.

How did they fare? Brash was quieter than might have been expected, Dunne solid in a Sunday morning sermon sort of way, Turei and Sharples did OK. But the most effective by a nose was Harawira, who had the most to say - though he came over a little bit Whitney Houston with the "feed the children" stuff.

9.50am: Asset sales. Sharples says the Maori party is opposed, but refuses to be drawn on whether they'll happily go into a government that sells assets.

"This is not asset sales," says Dunne, pointing out that they're only hawking minority shareholding in an energy company or four. Harawira and Brash have a wee row about whether the government or private interests are better at running companies. Paul Holmes cracks some jokes. "I love Meridian!"

Meanwhile on Twitter, writer Dave Armstrong says; "Are there any National Party policies that the Maori Party actually support?"

9.45am: We're on tax now. Harawira's Hone Heke tax (aka the financial transactions tax, aka the Tobin tax, aka the Robin Hood tax) chimes well with his earlier remarks. He's doing OK.

Turei comes across a bit waffly on the Greens' "smart taxes". Peter Dunne says capital gains tax is "a dumb tax".

9.35am: As if there were any doubt about the agenda at this point in the campaign, Holmes opens the debate on the age of retirement.

Both Sharples and Harawira argue for a reduced age of super-elegibility for Maori, who have a lower life expectancy.

Dunne is doing fairly well, pumping out the "moderate" National line, on the back of his impressive opening address last night.

Holmes is in his element in this format, conducting the five party leaders effectively. The set looks a bit Weakest Link for my liking, but.

After a sluggish start, Harawira is finding a bit of energy. "We have to make a conscious choice that the way we are chasing the global marketplace is not working for this country, it has not been working for some time," he says.

9.25am: The leaders' debate is under way. Taking part: Metiria Turei from the Greens, Don Brash from ACT, Pita Sharples of the Maori Party, Peter Dunne from United Future and Hone Harawira from Mana.

"We're the only authentic Maori party in parliament," says Pita Sharples, in the tastiest moment from the opening statements, which I already feel snoozily familiar. No reaction shot from Hone, sadly.

9.20am: The warm-up act to the leaders' debate (not including National and Labour) that Paul Holmes is chairing for Q&A (or should that be Q+A?, yes probably) is an exchange between Labour associate finance spokesperson David Parker (a man some tip as a future Labour leader) and Steven Joyce, National's minister of everything, aka the Slip Cordon (he has his portfolios spread to cover every angle).

It's all about Labour's proposed changes to retirement provision and KiwiSaver.

Nothing new here, really. The most exciting moment - and this tells you something - is when Joyce pulls a piece of paper from his pocket with a flourish. It's got fiscal stuff on it. "It's quite important," he says. But Espiner won't let him read from it.

Joyce keeps saying "that's right, that's right". Strange verbal tic; he does it all the time in the house, too.

Nothing much new or illuminating here.

9am: Good morning and welcome to the Listener's live coverage of the 2011 election campaign.

So far, the campaign has been barnstormingly good fun - especially given the dullfest that many predicted.

Labour's big surprise - raising the age of superannuation eligibility - threw the proverbial cat among the pigeons, and they followed that up with a rousing opening statement on the telly on Friday night. You can watch that here - we'll be rounding up the bloggers' critiques later this morning.

This morning we'll be watching Q&A, recapping TV3's The Nation, flicking through the papers, and reviewing the bloggers' takes on the opening addresses. And drinking tea from a great big mug.
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