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Coalition Majority – Missing Votes – Tauranga – Same Sex Marriage – Xmas Lotto – Millennium Traffic – Greens – Party Hopping – Hobbiton – Editorial: Nutty Greens

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COALITION MAJORITY: The Labour-Alliance Coalition retains the faint hope of restoring its outright majority by winning an extra seat through the party vote, but it has taken the precaution of talks with the balance-of-power-wielding Greens. Labour has its fingers crossed that its party vote will expand sufficiently with the counting of special votes to give the Coalition an absolute two-seat majority without the Greens.

MISSING VOTES: Polling officer Val Hosie knows exactly where the ballot papers at the centre of the missing votes scandal were the day after the election: on her verandah.
The Himatangi Beach resident took the votes home for the night and the next day left them outside - where they were collected.

TAURANGA: National Party chiefs will decide this morning whether to challenge Winston Peters' razor-thin majority in Tauranga.
But even if they decide against it, Labour has not ruled out mounting its own challenge, to strengthen its hold on Government.
Just over 3000 special votes were counted yesterday, slicing Mr Peters' 323 election-night majority over National's Katherine O'Regan to just 62.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE: The top minds responsible for advising the Government on law reform want same-sex marriages to be given legal status - and they have the backing of Prime Minister-designate Helen Clark.
The Law Commission says marriage for gay and lesbian couples should be recognised in law by a system of registration that would put them on the same legal footing as heterosexual marriage.

XMAS LOTTO: Church leaders are denouncing Lotto organisers and TVNZ for promoting gambling on Christmas Day.
The Churches Broadcasting Commission says screening the regular Saturday superdraw on Christmas Day is illegal because the law bans advertising programmes on December 25.
It hopes to launch a legal challenge to stop the screening, arguing that a lottery draw also goes against the spirit of Christmas, which should be a family occasion.

MILLENNIUM TRAFFIC: Gridlock looms as the most likely major issue facing Operation First Light, the police programme to handle Gisborne's millennium celebrations.
As part of the planning, fire trucks and ambulances will be stationed in the winding Waioeka Gorge and police motorbikes and helicopters placed on standby to cope with traffic incidents on the road to Gisborne.

GREENS: The dreads are in the House - and they are not going to be cut down to size.
Dreadlocks and hemp suits were formally approved as suitable attire for MPs yesterday as new Green MPs Nandor Tanczos (campaign slogan: "Put the Dread in the House"), Sue Bradford, Sue Kedgley and Ian Ewen-Street arrived at Parliament.

PARTY HOPPING: Labour may have to change its plans to ban party-hopping by MPs to satisfy the concerns of the Greens and NZ First.
Green co-leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald said yesterday that Labour's anti-defector bill would give party leaders too much power to decide when a guilty MP should be removed from Parliament.

HOBBITON: Filming of the $360 million fantasy trilogy Lord of the Rings began in the central Waikato yesterday.
The 120-strong crew of director Peter Jackson's movie will spend five days filming the mock-up Hobbiton village on a farm between Matamata and Karapiro.
Co-director John Mahaffie, a New Zealander whose credits include Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, said stand-in actors for stars such as Gandalf's Sir Ian McKellen were being used for the opening shots of the Hobbiton hamlet.

EDITORIAL- NUTTY GREENS: A new party in Parliament, no matter how "nutty," deserves a welcome. "Nutty" was the Alliance president's word for the Greens, and his party knows them better than any other does. He, in fact, welcomed the appearance of a party further to the left than the Alliance, although it is doubtful he wanted to see it win seats. Labour certainly did not. The prospect of bargaining for a second party's support - particularly one that could be flaky - would not please any major partner in government.
Labour has openly blamed the National Party's aggressive campaign in Coromandel for the sudden success of the Greens. But National was reacting to a poll that showed the Green candidate within reach of the seat and it was vital that voters were alerted to the implications. Jeanette Fitzsimons appeals as a gentle, thoughtful, highly principled person and it is good to see such people in Parliament. But her views of trade and "sustainable" living would make life rough for those who voted for her. Let us hope they did so with their eyes open, knowing one electorate could give the Greens pivotal power.

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