Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington 8/4/2002
Letter from Wellington
Monday, 08 April 2002
An Early Election
Although Labour denies it will go to the polls early, the party is making plans. The Letter has been told that Labour MPs have been privately briefed to prepare. Labour will finalise its list on 23 April and fundraising is in full swing.
If you were planning to go early, what else would you do? Deny it, so you can blame events for forcing an election.
Downhill From Here
The next poll will probably see a reaction against all third parties, lifting Labour's hopes of governing alone. National, with no policy and still weeding out dead wood, is totally unprepared for an election. Rising interest rates, increasing inflation, falling commodity prices and nurses lining up to strike after the teachers, are all reasons to go early, before the economy gets worse.
Brain Drain In Full Flood
The Letter believes the reversal of the Brain Drain caused by September 11, is over. February figures show only 31 more skilled Kiwis arrived home than left. The March figures will show the Brain Drain is back in full flood.
Immigration - An Election Issue?
ACT has consistently called for quality immigration, long term. ACT subscribes to a Statistics Department service that lets us access raw migration data - so we know more about what is happening than the government does. The quality of Labour's decision-making in immigration is woeful. Labour increased immigration quotas and failed to anticipate the return of Kiwis after September 11. That's why 6000 children arrived at schools around New Zealand at the start of the year, to find no classrooms or teachers. Immigration has caused a shortage of rental housing in Auckland. Landlords are holding auctions, with desperate tenants bidding up prices. New housing starts in Auckland in February were double the number for February 2001.
New Zealand is, with Sweden, the only country in the world increasing interest rates. Why? Fear of an explosion in Auckland property prices, fuelled by immigration.
The latest National Bank survey shows growth in the regions has slowed - but Auckland is growing at 3 percent.
ACT's analysis shows most new immigrants are unskilled. Only 13 percent of the Kiwis who returned home after September 11 have skills. The Clark/Howard agreement to end the dole in Australia for NZers is seeing unskilled Kiwis coming back - most to Auckland.
The government's decision to lift the overall immigration target coincides with an alarming drop in the quality of immigrants. Most are unskilled, such as those accompanying family members - ie school children - and those who qualify on family re-unification or humanitarian grounds, including refugees.
Even those who qualify on "points" are not as well qualified as the Kiwis who are leaving. How many foreign doctors do we need driving taxis?
The immediate consequence of increased immigration is a strong stimulant to consumer spending and the housing market. It is unsustainable. It leads to inflation and interest rate rises - a good reason for Labour to call an early election, before it becomes obvious that the government's immigration policies have ended the export-led recovery.
(ACT's analysis of the immigration data is on our website at www.act.org.nz/braindrain.) When Winston Peters wakes up and reads these figures, he is going to go bananas.
Anderton has joined Social
As the Letter predicted, Jim Anderton has in effect left the Alliance and joined the Democrats (ie Social Credit). The party will probably re-name itself the Social Democrats but it is the old Social Credit party.
Commentators are writing off the real Alliance but the Letter does not. ACT's polling shows about 5 percent of the electorate are socialist. Jim Anderton has taken with him few of the New Labour grassroots campaigners. The Democrats may have money but they have few young workers.
Given enough time before the election, a Matt McCarten/Laila Harre-led, genuine left-wing Alliance could go well and out-poll the "Social" Democrats.
Anderton could end up a lonely figure like Peter Dunne, with an electorate but no party. His real competition is not Laila Harre but Winston Peters, as they compete for the disillusioned vote.
The "real" Alliance is competing with the Greens for the true Left vote. As the Greens are hopelessly disorganised - they can't even agree on their Treaty policy - it is not a foregone conclusion. It is a reason why the Greens, like Labour, would welcome an early election.
ACT has been polling Wellington Central as a possible electorate race. Richard Prebble, who has not declared his intentions, is ahead of National's Hekia Parata. Marian Hobbs' personal popularity is well below that of the Labour Party. But the seat is overwhelmingly Centre-Left, making it a hard ask for an ACT candidate to win.
But the list voting intention has ACT excited. ACT is polling at 6 percent in the party vote - but 15 percent of the "don't knows" say they are leaning towards ACT. The male/female split is almost even.
This confirms other polling by ACT. The party is seen as the effective Opposition, with good ideas. Policies such as Zero Tolerance for Crime, lower taxes than Australia, less compliance costs and cutting red tape, "school choice" and resolving hospital waiting lists by using the private sector, are gaining ACT credibility.
ACT's strategists are convinced the party will do well, whenever the election is held.
Last week the Letter reported Labour Minister Margaret Wilson had abandoned her cat, Rothcoe, to her ex-neighbours. The Dominion's intrepid reporters have found we were wrong. Ms Wilson abandoned not one cat but two!