Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington 8/7/2002
Letter from Wellington
Monday, 8 July 2002
Last weekend in ACT's own tracking polls the party was at 12% in Auckland. As in every election, ACT's support began rising the moment the campaign started. The number of voters responding to ACT's direct mail campaign is phenomenal - the highest in the party's history.
More than 70,000 voters have now written back to ACT - that's over 3% of the electorate. Then there's the internet. ACT's website received a record 400,000 hits last week.
ACT's decision to run an issue-based campaign, built around billboards to deliver the message, and the web to deliver the detail, is working. Focus group polling by ACT shows voters want politicians to address the issues - and voters want to know what parties' solutions are.
Richard Prebble in the TV debates has ignored what the commentators think is important. Instead, he has directed his message to ACT's fastest growing support group - women. And ACT's polling shows that they heard and liked what ACT has to say.
Labour in Trouble
Law and order is rising as an issue - the latest Colmar Brunton poll made it number one issue of concern. Labour's own focus group polling shows the party is seen as "soft" on crime, and as having ignored the Norm Withers referendum.
Labour made a quick decision to drop the original version of its Pledge Card promise number six, which was for "initiatives on youth crime", and replaced it with a promise to "get tough on crime". The only problem is, the electorate believes that is what Labour promised last election.
The number of overseas voters registering is up on last election, but still only a fraction of the 200,000-plus who are eligible. New voting regulations mean the overseas voters don't have to re-enrol. Everyone who registered a "party" vote last election will be eligible. Overseas voters can log on to ACT's website - www.act.org.nz - where they can "hot button" to register to vote.
Helen Clark has told Labour's ad agency, Grey Advertising, that she wants her billboards "above wherever ACT has a billboard". Sorry Helen - ACT guessed you were going to go early and pre-booked the best 20 billboard sites available.
GE - Only a Media Issue
The attempt by the media - State TV in particular - to make GE the issue of the campaign, is not working. Voters believe the Royal Commission approach, proceed with adequate safeguards, to be correct. Few voters are changing their vote over the GE issue. Half of all Green voters do not support the party's GE ultimatum.
The Green vote is now a protest vote, an anti-establishment gesture. If the NBR poll last Friday is accurate and the Greens have fallen to 6.6%, then the Greens may not make the threshold. Jeanette Fitzsimons seems to have lost Coromandel. The Greens demographic - young voters - are the most likely to stay at home.
The Real Issues
The issues of real concern to voters are health, education, law and order, the economy and the Treaty.
ACT's solution to waiting lists, is our "patient guarantee". ACT will instruct hospital boards to treat privately all patients waiting past the medically safe time. As private is nearly always cheaper, ACT's policy will, over the medium term, save money. (For details of ACT's health policy, see http://www.act.org.nz/healthlaunch .)
ACT alone opposed the NCEA as political correctness gone mad. Teachers are overwhelmed with bureaucracy and pupils disenchanted because there are no meaningful marks. The answer is to restore exams, marks and standards.
The Le Pen Dilemma
Winston Peters' openly racist attacks on Asian immigration have created the Le Pen dilemma. Helen Clark, in last night's TV debate, refused to rule out a coalition with Mr Peters. That's political expediency. It's significant that Bill English declined to make such an offer. National has learned from two previous attempts to work with Mr Peters. He won't fix it, he'll wreck it.
Richard Prebble is the only political leader to have stood up to Mr Peters and condemned his Le Pen style campaign.
ACT is leading in e-politics, being the first party to live-stream its press conferences - at 10.30am every day -and its campaign opening. The events are being archived and can be accessed at www.act.org.nz.
But being first brings its own troubles. ACT live-streamed its first press conference from Parliament, and nothing happened. Technicians were called. The equipment was working, cables were connected - but still no picture.
Technicians followed the cable down to the basement and found the problem. A technician had mistakenly plugged in ACT's live feed to the Civil Defence network, which has its HQ at Parliament.
Labour's proposed health tax is a way around its promise not to increase income tax. Labour hasn't said anything about not increasing the health tax - just as it justified the petrol tax increase.
Good News from National
National has told the Letter that its polling in the constituencies is holding up well. National doesn't believe it will lose any of its constituency seats and is optimistic it will gain some - Coromandel, Wairarapa and Northcote.
In Coromandel, Jeanette Fitzsimons in unpopular with farmers and business. In Northcote, Labour's Ann Hartley has also lost support. In Wairarapa, Labour's Georgina Beyer, who has neglected her electorate duties in favour of doing BBC interviews, is regarded as the worst constituency MP in Parliament.
Under MMP it is possible for a party to gain or lose constituency seats, independently of the party vote. If ACT wins more party MPs and National gains more constituencies, the centre-right could end up with a much better result than polls are predicting.
The Letter has obtained the police report into Paintergate. You be the judge. See www.act.org.nz/paintergate.