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Friday 18 November: Winston on the brink

Banks trails in Epsom poll. Move on from teapot saga, says Goff. Maori v Mana battle rages on. NZ First a whisker from 5%.


Steven Joyce may think RNZ are doing as he advises (7.25am). Phil Goff perhaps thinks it's him they're listening to (12.00pm). But RNZ would no doubt insist that relegation of the teapot tapes down the Checkpoint bulletin at 5pm is simply because there is greater value in the two stories that go higher: the Pike River inquiry and tomorrow's memorial. Third item in line is the news that Bradley Ambrose is to have his case heard in the High Court on Tuesday next week (see 7.45am). That's followed by Phil Goff launching Labour's economic development package and saying he's sick of the teapot palaver.

One News leads on that Epsom poll (see 6.05pm), with Guyon Espiner delivering the report from - guess where? - outside the Urban Cafe in Epsom.

(An aside here: thanks to our investigative journalism last Friday - see 4.20pm -  we all know that the tea-venue was relocated late in the piece from the Teed Street Larder to the Urban Cafe. As the bloke from Teed Street told me in an exclusive - by default - interview, “it was rocking in here, and we only had two tables at the back – I don’t think they wanted to be there." How different might things have been if they'd decided to take that table at the back?)

Second is Key causing upset with his police-have-spare-time line. One News has even dredged up a "burglary victim" to say that he doesn't reckon the police have done enough for him. He doesn't look that upset though - he's wearing a cheshire grin throughout. Third is news that TVNZ have been issued a search warrant. We're told they are "considering their legal options". Then off to the fire in a Sydney rest home.

That fire leads on 3 News, which goes second with John Key, the tapes, John Banks, Winston, Brash, Bradley Ambrose, police, legal action, all stuffed into a Duncan Garner shaped sack. Third is Phil Goff fumbling his lines on capital gains tax in an excerpt from a pre-recorded interview for tomorrow's The Nation (see 5.30pm). Next it's Patrick "Gower" Scoop, with another bit of on-camera showmanship, this time asking Paul Goldsmith about three hundred times whether - "yes or no" - people should vote for him in Epsom.

Campbell Live repeats our exercise from Wednesday (see 5.45pm), looking at the fascinating cast of candidates that will surf in on Winston's coat-tails should NZ First grab that magic 5% vote. Except they do it with moving pictures and audio and all that. Show-offs.

On Close Up it's a special on Pike River , with the anniversary of the disaster tomorrow.

Rightyho, time for to pop out briefly for some responsible drinking. Back tomorrow, but not before 9am, I shouldn't think, unless something startling happens. Which it won't. Happy Friday night to you.

6.05pm: POLL

In the words of Guyon Espiner, it is the "worst of all worlds for John Key": One News's Colmar Brunton poll of 500 Epsom voters puts John Banks 11 points behind the National candidate Paul Goldsmith, which would mean no parliamentary presence for the embattled ACT party. Goldsmith, the Reluctant Frontrunner, is on 41%, Banks on 30%, David Parker of Labour on 17% and David Hay of the Greens on 11%.

Key tells One News he has sent the signal to The People of Epsom, but it is in their hands. "I have no interest in another cup of tea," he says. Frankly if they had another bloody cup of tea I think we'd all pack our bags and move to Australia.

A roundup of the news bulletins and 7pm shows about 7.30pm.

5.50pm: TVNZ has confirmed it has received a search warrant from the police relating to teapot tape material

From the TVNZ site:

TVNZ is considering its legal position after it was sent the search warrant this afternoon. TVNZ has not heard the tape, but has been told by police that they are interested in obtaining raw field vision of the cup of tea meeting.

5.30pm: This is going to piss the people at The Nation right off. They've been chasing an interview with the prime minister since September, all to no avail. And look: their rival Q+A have John Key in the studio on Sunday morning. Punishment from the Key camp for Duncan Garner’s teapot-tape hounding this week? Who knows.

On The Nation tomorrow at 10.30am, TV3 (repeated Sunday 8am), from TV3’s summary:

1. Colin James reviews the week on the campaign trail

2. Natasha Smith goes campaigning with those who might succeed Phil Goff --- David Cunliffe, David Parker, Shane Jones and David Shearer.

3. Phil Goff with Duncan Garner.

4. Narelle Suisted inside the Green Campaign --- how radical are they?

5. Sean Plunket with Winston Peters.

6. The Sunday Media Panel will (as usual) be Bill Ralston and Brian Edwards.

And over at Q+A on Sunday (One, 9am), from their puff:

We kick off election week with three key players in this last lap of the campaign: Prime Minister John Key, Labour leader Phil Goff and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

All three are live in our studio to talk to Paul Holmes and Guyon Espiner.

New Zealand’s leading politics programme will spend the hour covering all the big issues – New Zealand’s economy and how each party would handle the tough times ahead, coalitions, the possible shape of the next government and even the fallout from the teapot tapes.

Joining Dr Jon Johansson on our expert panel this weekend, former Labour Party President now head of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Mike Williams, and former Deputy Prime Minister and Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Don McKinnon.


At a reader's suggestion, Philip has been looking at the small print in the latest poll results and digs up a fascinating detail: while you'd expect the pool of undecided voters to become smaller as election day draws nearer, the opposite is true, according to the two poll results of the last 24 hours that specify the figure.

In today's Herald the undecided figure is given as 12.7% for its Digipoll. That is a jump of 4.6% from last week's poll where the number is 8.1%. On November 4 the undecideds were at 10.1%.

In last night’s One News/Colmar Brunton poll the undecideds are at 12% (Party) and 18% (Electorate); in the November 10 poll, undecideds were 10% (party) and 12% (electorate). On November 3 the undecideds were 8% (party) and 12% (electorate)

(NB the Colmar Brunton links are pdf/google doc files.)

This strikes us as remarkable - though we stand ready to be contradicted by learned psephologists.

4.15pm: According to Radio New Zealand news the High Court will consider the question of whether the Banks-Key conversation was private or not next Tuesday.

4.05pm: Another post from Steven Price, this time on his complaint about the anti-MMP lobby group Vote for Change and their response.

3.45pm: One News are promising poll results from Epsom in their 6pm bulletin. If Paul Goldsmith, aka The Reluctant Candidate, is well out in front, that cup of tea will have scalded John Key painfully, opening up the scenario of rightwing party votes for ACT counting for nothing, while NZ First pogo their way over the 5% threshold.

3.30pm: Another photograph of national significance from the campaign trail, this time tweeted by Andrea Vance of Fairfax. "John Key explaining asset sales to man with a sausage sandwich," she says. Will the man reveal his sauces?

3.10pm: BLOGGERS

Tim Watkin warns at Pundit of the consequences of National taking enough of the vote to govern alone – including for the party itself.

At Public Address, Russell Brown writes on internal party polling, and Steven Joyce’s appearance on Morning Report today.

At Maui Street, Morgan Godfery has his roundup of the week in Maori politics, in the course of which he says, on the Maori-Mana row (see 2.30pm), “the Maori Party's contention disrespects the Pakeha whakapapa of many Maori too”.

Cactus Kate says what this morning’s Herald poll proves is “how important [it is] that Epsom vote for John Banks and return ACT as a coalition partner for National. And how Ohariu voters need to do the same with Peter Dunne.”

2.40pm: An erudite Listener Live reader emails from Dunedin, where he has been reading a magazine called "The New Yorker". Two cartoons in the issue might easily have been inspired by the campaign in New Zealand, says he.

He means this one. And this one.

2.30pm: Speaking to Willie Jackson on RadioLive, Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia is pulling no punches with regard to Hone Harawira, who left her fold to form the Mana party. Turia has another go at Mana for being a "brown Alliance" rather than a party representing Maori people - a criticism that Mana's Annette Sykes questioned earlier today, saying it ran contrary to kaupapa Maori, contradicting Maori principles of inclusion.

Turia adds: "I know that Hone doesn't believe in the values of this alliance."

1.30pm: I don't know what it means, but I know I'm frightened.

(Update: more here.)

1.00pm: I've just caught up with an interesting piece posted online at the Herald yesterday (though oddly it appears to have been put in the weather section) by George Laking. Laking, an Auckland-based doctor, notes that John Key has failed to respond to a series of questions from international experts about New Zealand's commitment to tackling climate change. Laking issues a challenge to candidates in Epsom:

The National Party was able to reach and hold its position on high-carbon development because anti-scientific views on climate change went unchecked. Act's electoral future will be decided in Epsom, one of the wealthiest, most educated electorates. It is home to our most elite schools and a campus of our leading University. Why are Principals and Vice-Chancellors not speaking out against anti-scientific views that threaten our collective future?

12.35pm: A couple more policy announcements have landed: all in the noon entry, to limit clutter, right?

12.10pm: The Listener's report on the jobs crisis for young New Zealanders is now online.

12.00pm: POLICY

National has released its public services policy, pledging to shrink the public sector further by lowering the cap on staff numbers by almost 250 full-time-equivalent positions. The release is here. The policy in PDF format is here.

Labour, meanwhile, has put into the world its "roadmap for the economy" - an umbrella for three policy documents: Commerce and Small Business; Economic Development; and Finance. You can get them all via its press release. The package includes the party's three main policy initiatives from the last few months: a capital gains tax, compulsory KiwiSaver, and an increase in the age of eligibility for superannuation. Launching the policies, Phil Goff said it was "time to move on" from the teapot controversy, with the PM having proved he is not "man enough" to reveal the details, and on to "the issues that matter".

Labour has also launched an open government policy, promising to ensure the "transparency of political offices", enshrined in a "comprehensive ‘Open Government Charter’". The release is here; the policy is in PDF format here.

There's more: Labour's civil defence policy (release here; policy in PDF form here) promises a review of Civil Defence and emergency services, focused on the response to the Christchurch earthquake and the Rena oil spill.

And Labour's consumer affairs policy is here.

See also National's tourism policy below at 10.55am. I didn't give that a red box, because you can get too many red boxes.

11.45am: Via the Dim-Post, this is Wikipedia's graphic aggregation of NZ polling this year:

11.35am: In his media column for the Herald this morning, John Drinnan notes that the Electoral Commission are yet to rule on Labour's complaint, lodged six weeks ago, about John Key's appearance as a host on Radio Live. He writes:

Chief electoral officer Robert Peden has refused several requests for an interview, will not discuss the issues, the reasons for the delay or even the commission processes. A spokeswoman could not say if there was any prospect for a decision before the election.

If not - and the commission finds against National over the RadioLive show - Labour is expected to complain that the delay has undermined any redress.

11.25am: The International Federation of Journalists has in a statement condemned the NZ Police demands for media organisations including RNZ to divulge unpublished materials.

11.15am: John Key's police complaint has been picked up by the super-blog BoingBoing. The site's most celebrated blogger, Cory Doctorow, writes: "I'm somewhat ambivalent about covert recording, but it seems clear that this isn't merely about investigating the act of recording, or punishing someone who broke the law. This feels like a campaign of intimidation against the institution of the press itself."

11.10am: Forget the election for a moment. Break time. Chris Bourke is talking about and playing Brian Wilson on National Radio.

11.05am: Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking has been to Lofty Stables and thrown his leg over the country's highest saddle to deliver his editorial. Here's a taste:

The losers this week are those in the media who yet again showed a fundamental lack of morals, professionalism, ethics and basic self control. The endless teasing, referencing and toying with what may or may not have been said, whether it should or shouldn’t be released, the endless hours of hot air they managed to generate on a topic the public got thoroughly sick of well before the hacks did ...

Those who have thrashed this, pushed the legal boundaries and revelled in trying to make it a big deal, have been seen for what they are. The TV1 poll shows Key has the numbers, the media has the humiliation.

10.55am: National's leader and tourism spokesman, John Key, has released his party's tourism policy in Queenstown. No mention of Mike Tindall or dwarf-tossing, as far as I can tell.

10.45am: Live chat lovers, it’s Christmas.

Pita Sharples has just begun at Stuff (he was also on Nine to Noon, which is listen-again-able here).

At 11.15am at the Herald, Winston Peters is in the house.

Phil Goff does his thing at the TVNZ site from noon.

And Kate Wilkinson chats at the Press from 12.30pm.

Have I missed any others?

10.30am: TV3 reporter Ali Ikram has confessed to vandalising Labour party billboards. Rather than defacing them, however, he's been facing them - by attaching the Labour leader's mug to their advertisements.

10.00am: Media law expert Steven Price has posted at his Media Law Journal blog, asking if it is a contempt of court for politicians to discuss the teapot tapes. "John Banks and Steven Joyce seem to be suggesting that now that the issue is heading to court they are somehow precluded from commenting", says Price. Not so.

There’s nothing in the law of contempt to stop Banks and Key from talking about what they said in the conversation, or answering questions about what they think of Brash’s leadership or elderly voters. If the politicians really want to be scrupulous about it, they probably shouldn’t talk about how they regard the conversation as private - since that’s the very issue for the court to determine.

But even on that point, it’s mostly a legal question, and it’s for a judge alone - not a jury - to rule on (or not) in the declaration application.

A good point, though I haven't heard Key, Joyce or Banks claim that they're legally prohibited from discussing the tapes: the implication of "it's in the hands of the police" - the common refrain - could be seens simply as saying it's not appropriate to talk about it.

8.45am: Readers! Get your morning paper review here. Yes!

8.05am: On Breakfast, Corin Dann asks Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia: "could you support a National government, with, say, Don Brash in cabinet"? Turia: "I would be very disappointed if I thought Don Brash was going to be making significant decisions for this country, because he isn't on about taking our country forward, taking into account that we've got one in two children being born in New Zealand today that are Maori, Pacific or Asian."

Her co-leader, Pita Sharples, is with Kathryn Ryan later this morning.

7.45am: Cameraman Bradely Ambrose will today ask the High Court to consider a summary judgement as to whether the material he captured on his recorder on Friday was a private communication. His lawyer, Ron Mansfield, is on Breakfast on One. "We're not interested in releasing the tapes, we're interested in clearing the camerman's name ... Politicians are calling what he did unethical and unlawful and it's not ... they're using it for their own political gain."

They aren't able to seek a ruling from the court on whether the material was captured accidentally or not (Ambrose insists it was accidental), so instead they're asking for a ruling on whether the conversation, which took place in full view - if not full earshot - a week ago today could reaonsably be considered private.

Mansfield believes his client has been defamed. Why not take such an action now, Corin Dann asks. "That might follow."

The lawyer pops up on Morning Report soon after. It sounds as though the earliest they might get a judgement from the court would be next week. He says they are seeking urgency not because of the election, but because his client needs to work, and it is difficult to get work with such claims clouding his reputation.

No one asks Mansfield who is paying his bills. (Update: I'm told Marcus Lush did ask him: see comments for more.)

7.25am: Steven Joyce is on Morning Report. He denies suggestions that the changes in the polls have anything to do with the teapot tapes controversy. For John Key to have allowed the recording's contents to be released would have been to "reward the behaviour that was shown last Friday". Joyce, the campaign manager and minister of everything, says their internal polling suggests that 81% think the row over the secret recording is a distraction, with only 13% believing it is worthy of further coverage. Beware, says Joyce, the "bubble of what seems very important in the campaign trail is not actually very important in the public".

Joyce refuses to be drawn on whether the sight of police arriving at media organisations with search warrants would be, in Simon Mercep's words, "a good look". To have let it lie, Joyce repeats, would be to reward the secret recording. He defends Key's comments comparing the episode to News of the World tactics - in fact it's Mercep who is "getting a bit hyper"; if you permit such things to pass, you're "on the path" to all sorts of other illegal media behaviour.

Joyce signs off in full headmaster mode. "There are one or two people in the media that need to do a little bit of self-assessment this weekend and decide what it is they're going to be talking about."


Leading Checkpoint on Radio New Zealand National at 7am is the Herald/Digipoll. Next is Steven Joyce defending the prime minister's "principled stance" over the secret recordings (they're promising an interview with Joyce, the National campaign manager, in the next hour). That's followed by Peters' performance in Invercargill yesterday, and that in turn by the Pike River Royal Commission.

Breakfast on TV One tops its bulletin with the NZ Police Association having "hit back at claims by the prime minister that a drop in the crime rate has given police officers "a bit of spare time". Next, a date is expected to be set today for a ruling on whether Bradley Ambrose's recording is legal - and a wrap of the rest of the teapot tapes story, including TVNZ having "told the police they'll need a warrant" if they want the materials they're seeking from the organisation, along with three others. Next, a new air service between China and New Zealand.

On TV3, Firstline leads on "National support slips" - a reference to their poll of last night, which saw the party fall by 3.1% to 50.2%. Then to the candidates' debate last night in Epsom - where John Banks deflected a barrage of questions about the secret conversation. Then the camerman seeking a declaratory judgement, and John Key meeting with a deep-sea oil-drilling boss (see last night's bulletin roundup). Next, 92% of eligible New Zealanders are enrolled to vote; the rest are breaking the law.

6.40am: POLL

Straight into it. The New Zealand Herald Digipoll has landed, and while National's support has held, there is a fascinating burst back in the field.

“Winston within a whisker” is the Herald headline. NZ First is up to 4.9%, or a tenth of a percent from the crucial 5% threshold that would take Peters and probably six of his cohorts into parliament. Intriguingly, with the exception of NZ First, which gains 1.2% (itself hardly a surge - if my maths are right it means eight more of the 750 polled named NZ First than last time round), the overall result is essentially unchanged from the last Herald poll.

National remain at 49.9%, Labour 29.1%, Greens 12.6%, Act 1.7%, Maori 0.7%, Conservative 0.6%, Mana 0.4%, United Future 0.1%.

Audrey Young reports that, of the 750 polled, 12.6% are now undecided and in a “horror scenario” for National, if NZ First get another 0.1% and Act fail to win Epsom then National and United Future would not have a majority.

Catch up with yesterday's action here. Get in touch on listenerlive@listener.co.nz or in the comments. We're on Twitter at @listenerlive.