Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington 26/7/2002
Letter from Wellington
Friday, 26 July 2002
The polls are showing great volatility. Labour's support is ranging from 46 to 38%; National is between 26 and 21%; NZ First is as high as 11 and as low as 8; the Greens range from 9 to 6; United 7 to 4; and ACT 10 to 5. Election day turnout is going to be critical. The next Parliament looks certain to be interesting.
ACT has risen in the polls because the party has addressed the real issues - health, education, law and order, one law for all and the economy. ACT has put forward practical solutions.
ACT has pioneered e-politics. The party has sent out more than 150,000 emails and 400,000 faxes. ACT's website has been voted the best by a panel of experts. During the past week, the website has received another 603,000 hits. Fifteen thousand overseas voters have hot-buttoned from ACT's website to the Electoral Commission for an overseas vote.
Today ACT is putting out text messages to its supporters who have given us their cell phone numbers - another first for New Zealand.
Focus Group Polling
ACT's focus group polling has never been more favourable. Voters see ACT as having run the best campaign, having been the effective Opposition in Parliament and a party with fresh ideas.
ACT's support among women has doubled since the last election. There are three reasons - ACT's strong stand on law and order, ACT's opposition to the NCEA experiment on our children, and ACT's outstanding women candidates.
ACT Policies Graded
The Sensible Sentencing Trust, in a press release today, has rated ACT's law and order policy at 10 out of 10. The trust states that ACT has been "consistent on Zero Tolerance" and "performed very well on select committees". Labour's law and order policy is rated only 4 out of 10. NZ First is described as "a late starter in the crime scene". ( http://www.act.org.nz/sensiblesentencing)
Michael Littlewood, in his assessment of superannuation policies, gives ACT the top mark of 77 percent. ( http://www.act.org.nz/superannuation.)
With Labour's vote collapsing to 38% in the Herald Digi poll today, Labour will be looking back at key decisions Helen Clark made, all of which have proved wrong. First, she decided to call a snap election, gambling on winning an outright majority.
Second, Labour has run a negative campaign with no manifesto and no policies. Promises such as Pledge Number Six - "Tougher sentences for the most serious offenders" - just remind voters that Labour has ignored the referendum for tougher sentences at the last election.
Labour's advertisements attacking its potential coalition partners have reminded voters of how unstable a Labour-led government will be.
Third, Ms Clark has shown during the campaign that she loses her rag under pressure. She attacked John Campbell, the ABC, the Greens, NZ First - everyone.
Clark only had one strategy - frighten centre-right voters to support Labour to stop the Greens. Once that failed, there was no fallback plan. Even if they can put together a Labour/Green/United (?) government, Clark's authority has been weakened.
National has failed to campaign on policies. It got side-tracked into the debate on two-year-old corn cobs and the teachers' strike. (The real issue was the NCEA, not the teachers' pay dispute. It was obvious that Labour and its friends in the union would agree to arbitration - leaving National with no issue.)
National has campaigned on its old parole policy of releasing offenders after two-thirds of their sentence. This was always going to be a loser.
Bill English and Michelle Boag have been ankle-tapped throughout the campaign by malicious anti-Boag stories being leaked to the media.
Rise for Every Worker
Neither National nor Labour have policies for the 1.8 million New Zealanders who work for a living. Only ACT is offering a pay rise for the working family - through the policy of a tax cut for every worker.
The Letter believes the United Future Party may not be united. While Peter Dunne tells TV he would be a good coalition partner for Labour, his number three candidate, Bernie Ogilvy, told a public meeting on Wednesday night at the Auckland College of Education: "There's no way United Future would consider a coalition with the Lefties".
Stephen Franks has received a complaint from the Outdoor Recreation Party that ACT has stolen their policy. Pardon? It might have been an idea for them to have checked ACT's website before registering their party and splitting the sportsmen's vote. ACT has campaigned on the same policy for six years. (See http://www.act.org.nz/huntingandfishing.)
Millennium People, the Maori recruitment firm, has put out a press statement claiming the Labour government has destroyed their business. They closed the doors this week on a business that is understood to have turned over almost $1 million in 18 months. Millennium People didn't employ John Davy - Maori TV did. They claim they told Maori TV to do a credit check on Mr Davy before hiring him. But Labour MPs have publicly put the blame on the recruitment firm. Labour put the word out to government departments and agencies not to use the company, calling them "rank amateurs".
In their press statement, Millennium People point out that the Labour government talks of "capacity building" but have destroyed a Maori business for political reasons.
The media were going to run the story today but pulled it after the PM's Department intervened. (The press release the PM doesn't want you to read is at http://www.act.org.nz/millennium.)