Monday 21 November: Goff, Key and the worm

by Toby Manhire / 21 November, 2011
Asset sales and the Winston factor dominate as the leaders go head to head on TV3.


10.05pm: The day ends with another insightful debate in Maori TV's Kowhiri 11 series. Pita Sharples and Shane Jones are the familiar faces in this Tamaki-Makaurau clash, but the candidates for the Greens and, especially, Mana, will have garnered their parties some support with impressive performances. In an ideal world, every constituency in the country would get a good, solid televised hour like this.

Thanks for your company. Till tomorrow.

9.40pm: The TV3 leaders' debate

Jane Clifton's verdict

Just what this campaign needed: a good, strong dose of worm medicine.

It was a boon for Phil Goff after more than a week of being ignored by the media in favour of the interminable tea dance. He was the master worm-charmer this time, and won the debate overall, with or without examination of worm-casts.

This is probably not surprising, because, as the commentators’ panel afterwards pointed out, the worm arbiters in the studio were uncommitted voters. Practically by definition, this means the worm-wrangling was done by people statistically less likely to be National or Act supporters – ie to support the perceived establishment – and more likely to be feeling disaffected and grumpy. If you haven’t formed a party preference by this stage of the game, chances are it’s because you’re not happy, and aren’t going to be easily made happy. That Goff’s masterly portrayal of how hard things are now for low-income New Zealanders was heavily endorsed should have been no surprise – and should also be a warning for National about where the “undecideds” and “don’t knows” might be headed, if they make last-minute choices in big numbers.

However, the other striking feature was that Winston Peters is the anti-catnip – even as as far as undecided voters are concerned. Given that Winston has thrived on the Grumpy vote in the past, this is not terrific news for him. The worm-riders rewarded Key for rejecting Winston, and punished Goff accordingly when he, albeit with a visible lack of relish, indicated he would work with the pinstriped one again.

Diana Wichtel's verdict

John Key started by sucking his teeth and saying something that sounded like “G’deve-ning yerrum!”  He would later call attention to his record on hobbits so perhaps he was speaking Elvish. His hair had taken an odd lurch to the centre left.

Phil Goff came out looking surprisingly chipper, considering, and owned the first half, as far as the worm, if not Paul Henry, was concerned. The worm liked such words as “fair” and “people at the bottom”. The worm didn’t like “global crisis".

Goff did less well when talking about not ruling out Winston Peters, who John Campbell rather colourfully described as “a rogue political entity”. Goff retaliated by pointing out that John Key had gone into coalition with Hone Harawira. Snap.

No one liked talk of Act. Though, as Key pointed out, “their voting record has been very stolid.” The debate itself threatened to be fairly stolid but John Campbell kept it fair, reasonably friendly and a teapot-free zone. My pick for winner: the worm.


6.35pm: A reader in legal circles informs us that Bradley Ambrose's request for a summary judgement on the legality of the teapot tapes will be heard tomorrow at 10am in Courtroom No 9, Auckland High Court, in front of Chief Judge Helen Winkelmann.


Leading Checkpoint on RNZ National is John Key saying he’s not panicking over the Winston spectre. Winston says he is. Next is National’s education policy. Then crime.

Top of the bulletin on 3 News is bad weather, followed by a bad sign in Miramar, and then more bad weather. Then a crime story, and then Winston saying the PM is getting all Panic-Key (boom!) and Key saying “volatile” a lot. Regrettably I don’t think we have “volatile” in the Bingo. Next Patrick “Gower” Scoop braves the bright lights of Johnsonville to do his familiar faux-naïf routine, this time with National's Katrina Shanks, whose party doesn’t want her to win the Ohariu electorate vote. John Key has sent an epistolary cup of tea to voters, gently urging them to help Peter Dunne back into the house.

One News leads on wild weather, then a wild fire in Northland, then Russel Norman joining Key in a burst of jitters over the reliability of Wild Winston Peters. Guyon Espiner tells us that National’s internal polling puts NZ First at 4%. Next is National’s education policy, with an emphasis on a change that will prevent students from collecting extra loans when they switch degrees. Fifth in line, the Electoral Commission says that Labour’s controversial flyer is a matter for the Advertising Standards Authority, not them. That segues into Labour pushing the asset-sales line.  Next, the Te Karere poll on Te Tai Tonga.

5.40pm: Would you take a look at that? It's the Scoop election sweepstake.

4.55pm: "Storm in a teapot transforms New Zealand's sleepy election season" is the headline on a story in the UK Independent by its Australian correspondent, Kathy Marks, which introduces a new entry to an already befuddling nomenclature: teapotgate.

4.35pm: A poll puts the Maori party's Rahui Katene ahead in Te Tai Tonga. She leads on 46% over the Labour party's Rino Tirikatene on 35%. In the party vote, however, Labour leads the Maori party by 36% to 25%. More details here.

4.15pm: From 7pm, this live blog will leap over to a dedicated Debate Live Blog Page here. For the moment there's nothing to see there. Except for our worm, doing some warmup exercises.

4.10pm: Labour are "repeating their 2005 smear campaign to state housing tenants", writes David Farrar at Kiwiblog.

4.05pm: Does National's education policy pave the way for National Standards to morph into League Tables, something Anne Tolley has in the past ruled out? Danyl at the Dim-Post thinks so.

3.55pm: The Listener's Jane Clifton is on The Panel on RNZ National any minute now.

3.30pm: Phil Goff has defended Labour's controversial leaflets (see 11.30am). "It's a hard hitting leaflet so that's what it is, it tells the truth, that's what the National Party will require," he said, according to Newstalk ZB.

3.05pm: Twitterific National MP Tau Henare has announced that he's not well and won't be tweeting again till Sunday, to the disappointment of numerous followers, and (presumably) the profound relief of his leaders.


Click the link below to get four Bingo cards, the handiwork of Philip Pinner, to print and play during tonight's debate. If you don't know the rules to Bingo look them up on the internet or in a book or ask someone. Each card is different. Profligate gambling encouraged. Enjoy!

Listener Live Debate Bingo

2.20pm: There is a new edition of the Listener in the world. The cover story is not strictly election-related, but it will appeal to anyone who is interested in politics, and not only because it’s penned by the inimitable Jane Clifton. The feature, “Boost Your Mental Muscle”, addresses the burgeoning field of behavioural psychological thought that politicians are embracing – especially Cameron’s lot in the UK.

Clifton’s politics column looks at a very strange tea-obsessed week.

Joanne Black relates her own experience of accidentally recording a prime minister in conversation, and reflects on media ethics.

In the Listener Lounge, Fiona Rae previews all the radio and TV on election night (we’ll be up and running here, by the way, monitoring most everything).

And the Listener editorial calls for an end to abuse of our waterways.

1.40pm: POLICY

National has launched its education policy. The release - which includes links to the four policy documents - can be found here.

The early childhood headlines include a target, by 2015, of 98% for new entrants in school having participated in early childhood education, a lift in the number of qualified ECE teachers from 67% to 80% by the end of 2012 and retention of the 20 hours provision.

For schools, the policy includes a commitment to national standards, the online Network for Learning (announced at the campaign launch at the end of last month) and a review of the Teachers Council.

On skills and training, there is a pledge for a "complete rationalisation of the industry training sector, to simplify the system and ensure all Industry Training Organisations across all industries can deliver a quality system of training for trainees and employers.

And for the tertiary sector, an undertaking to "link funding for tertiary institutions to performance, publish employment data for graduates of each qualification and simplify the number of qualifications on offer."

1.20pm: A group of students from Massey University have created On the Fence, an online tool designed to help people uncertain which party they should vote for. It's an impressive piece of work. (Disclosure: I'm on their "specialist panel".)

12.25pm: A press release arrives from the Electoral Commission on a favourite subject of mine: the ban on so called "influential" activity on election day. From the advisory:

All election and referendum advertising and other statements, by anybody including the media, which could influence voters cannot be published or broadcast on election day until after the close of the poll at 7 pm ...

News stories posted on websites before election day can remain, as long as the website is not advertised on election day. Comment functions should be disabled on all websites, including social media sites, until after 7pm on election day to avoid readers posting statements that could influence voters.

The edict to disable comment functions on all websites including social media sites is a hairy one. As far as I'm aware it's not possible, for example, to disable comments on Facebook sites. There is no mention of Twitter in this guidance, but when I've asked before I've been told that it does cover Twitter. See my posts here and here.

(Update: Scoop has has posted the Commission's advisory in full.)

12.05pm: The police are holding off executing search warrants they have been granted on four media organisations until after tomorrow's expected ruling in the High Court over the question of whether the conversation captured in the teapot tapes can be considered private, according to RNZ National news at noon. More here.

11.50am: Green live chat bonanza! MP Gareth Hughes is live chatting now at the Herald. From Noon, co-leader Metiria Turei is chatting at the TVNZ site.

11.45am: The worldle of Phil Goff's rally speech from yesterday leaves no doubt about Labour's emphasis going into the home straight:

11.40am: Mana party leader Hone Harawira has issued another challenge to the Maori party to state their coalition intentions, warning their supporters that they appear destined to prop up a rightwing government. “C’mon Tariana and Pita. Stop these shenanigans and give an answer to the voters. Come clean and tell us who you are going to support after November the 26th," says Harawira in a release. “If you do not answer then we can only assume that you don’t want to tell the truth which is that you are going to jump into bed with National and ACT."

11.30am: BLOGGERS

Scott Yorke aka Imperator Fish, is pessimistic about the prospects for tonight’s debate.

Anthony Robins at the Standard reckons the worm thingee TV3 are using is biased in favour of National.

John Pagani agrees – the Roy Morgan reactor device renders the whole debate a sham, he says, and Phil Goff should pull out.

At Whaleoil, meanwhile, Cameron Slater urges his readers to download the device – Labour supporters are doing the same, he says: “Labour are going to try to stack the worm in their favour…all power to them, but we can’t let them have it all their own way.”

Kiwiblog’s David Farrar thinks “such things are gimmicks that distract people from the substance of the debate”.

Away from the debate and the worm, there is another insightful post on the teapot tapes and their legality or otherwise from Steven Price at Media Law Journal, in which he addresses a number of misapprehensions in Mike Hosking’s argument yesterday (see 12.10pm).

At Liberation, Bryce Edwards introduces a series of posts guest posts by University of Otago Politics student Michelle Nicol that ask whether opinion poll influence voters.

And Whaleoil, David Farrar and Cactus Kate have all expressed disgust at a Labour promotional flyer that reads: "Under National you won't be around to celebrate her 1st birthday" - with a picture of a small child alongside.

11.05am: I've just been sifting through the blogs, where the bells and whistles being used in tonight's TV3 leaders' debate are getting plenty of attention. A point of clarification on this: there are two reactor thingees, one of which (the worm-in-chief) will reflect the responses of a specially selected panel of voters. On top of this is the wildworm (we'll call it), which reflects the views of those who have downloaded the software to their smart phone. More in the TV3 release here.

But, like, whatever. The thing you really need in your lap tonight is your Listener Live Debate Bingo card. They should be ready to print out by mid-afternoon. Huzzah!

10.45am: The Greens have released a YouTube video with the co-leaders reiterating their position on possible deals after November 26. While much some leftwing Green supporters might worry about the "high unlikely" position on a coalition with National, the position has not changed for some months.

10.05am: Bernard Hickey's excellent site is summarising - and linking to - the parties' policy positions. It's not comprehensive (eg the National foreign policy, released Friday, is yet to appear) but as good as I've seen anywhere.

9.35am: I hope they've got good security at the Newstalk ZB Christmas party. The radio station's chief political reporter, Felix Marwick, takes a very different approach on the teapot tapes controversy to his colleagues Mike Hosking and Sean Plunket (he may also be waving at Michael Laws), and calls them "craven and slavish". A taste:

And what of the behaviour of some of our country's most pre-eminent current affairs hosts (you know who you are) and their condemnation of the media's activities? Humiliation and disgrace are among some of the nicer words they've used to describe me and my reporter colleagues in recent days. I'm sorry gentlemen, but isn't highlighting double dealing among our politicians what we (and by we I mean you as well) are supposed to do? Your craven and slavish acceptance of the official line is a huge disappointment.

The full post is here.

9.25am: With the search warrants due to be executed today, the New Zealand Herald front page tells us it is Winston Peters who is now in the PM's cross-hairs. "How could New Zealand govern itself over the next three years?" he said, warning voters of Wicked Winston's threat ... Read the Monday morning paper review here.

9.15am: Interesting. Don Brash, speaking to Kathryn Ryan, refuses to rule out the possibility of stepping aside for Catherine Isaac, who is second on the Act list, should the party get into parliament with John Banks winning Epsom and a party vote large enough for one extra MP. That's not a decision I'm making now, he says, when he very easily could simply say: of course I would go into parliament, I'm the leader and the top of the list. Remember: Isaac is the ACT member Banks and Key are reported to have discussed as a new leader of the party in the teapot tapes.

8.35am: On MMP, Key confirms he'll be voting against the system in the referendum. "If it wasn't for MMP," he says, "we wouldn't be having these endless debates about, despite one party having this big lead, the possibility of a coalition of the unwilling on the other side." "Exactly," says Mike Hosking. Wrapping things up, Hosking asks how long he'd like to remain PM. "As long as I can make a difference." The main thing, he says, is that on Saturday night, he can look back, win or lose, and feel "comfortable in his skin", that he's done everything to the best of his ability.

And what a huge boon that is to Key and National: their leader really does feel comfortable in his skin, and people can see that.

8.25am: Phil Goff is beginning his big last heave on Morning Report. Yes, we can still win, he insists. He again refuses to rule out working with Winston Peters. "Clearly the prime minister would like to have absolute power," he argues. "And that's what the scaremongering about Winston Peters is."

On asset sales as on capital gains tax, Goff is animated and fluent - even though he'd be forgiven for feeling like crawling under a rock. This election, he says, will be a "referendum on asset sales". And 80% of New Zealanders oppose asset sales, Goff says. Landslide for Labour, then.

On Newstalk ZB, a question from the audience, from someone called Matthew Hooton. On Winston Peters. "Can you confirm that you won't negotiate with that crook over your budget?" Sure, says Key. Key does note, however, that should Peters decide to abstain on confidence and supply (something Peters has floated this morning), that may allow them to govern in certain circumstances. But that is "a matter for him".

What about future asset sales? Key holds the line that it's something they haven't discussed. Not in the next term. But he refuses to rule it out in a future term.

7.50am: On Breakfast, Metiria Turei is asked if she trusts Winston Peters. "I don't know what he's going to do," says the Green co-leader, and "what voters need is certainty". All the same, she says, Key "has certainly overblown the issue" of the Winston spectre.

Notable that she is not asked about the charges of dog-whistle racism that were levelled at John Key last night (see 7.55pm), and neither so far it been put to John Key. On Newstalk ZB, Hosking asks the PM about asset sales: he's had a year to make the case to New Zealanders, and still polls suggest the don't back it. "I don't necessarily agree with that," says Key, arguing that people oppose the complete, rather than partial, sale. Hosking follows up by challenging Key on what they'll do with the revenue: it was originally meant to be to pay down debt, and now it's being poured into other projects. It will not surprise you to hear that we have another proposition with which the PM will not agree.

Key - whose first job, he later says, was as an auditor - relishes getting into fiscal figures, though. His opponent Phil Goff is "not great with his numbers", Key giggles. "We'll buy him a calculator!"

Hosking asks on the emissions trading scheme - is that really the future for agriculture in the response to climate change? "I think it's less around carbon trading and more around science," says Key. Hosking: "There's no scientific answer now, though, is there?" "No."

7.35am: John Key is doing breakfast with Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB. He calls the teapot tape a "quirk" of the campaign, and while his response may have given Winston Peters a boost, that is small price to pay for the principle of keeping the media from invading privacy. Key reiterates his concerns about Peters' destabilising threat; in contrast to the Maori party, he says, who have proved a valauable partner of the last three years. "They're good people and you can trust them."

Winston Peters is meanwhile sitting in the Breakfast studio at TV One. Key's attacks show he "losing the plot" and "panicking", says the NZ First leader. But he evades Corin Dann's question: how can a leader go to the governor general with a potential government if your lot are lying in wait to bring it down at a whim? In any case, seethes Peters, they (National) ruled us out before we ruled them out.


We pick up where we left off, with RNZ's Morning Report leading its 7am bulletin on John Key's warning of Winston Peters holding the balance of power. Next is Phil Goff's rallying cry on assets yesterday. Third is Pita Sharples saying he'll push the idea of Maori getting preferential access to shares from asset sales, and Key's dismissal of the idea. Fourth is Herald on Sunday editor Bryce Johns saying he expects to hand over materials including the teapot tapes to police today.

Same again on One News. "The National party will continue this week pushing the anti-Winston-Peters line," opens their 7am bulletin. But that's it on the election.

Goff's anti-asset-sales rally leads on 3 News. Second is another oil spill involving Petrobras, the company hoping to be involved in deep-sea oil drilling off New Zealand.

Thanks for your company. Catch up on yesterday here - and find the campaign, day by day for the last three and a bit weeks, here.
Tamaki Makaurau


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