Robson-on-Politics - 22nd November 2007
Robson-on-Politics - 22nd November
Oz election looms ever closer: From our Melbourne correspondent
There are growing similarities between the Australian and United States' campaigns. Both focus on the presidential-style campaign of the leaders. Almost all of the information that the public get is through television, radio, the internet or newspapers. There are very few candidate or party billboards, except small placards in supporters' properties or shops, and few public meetings.
On the campaign trail, older reporters (of which there seem precious few), sometimes let slip a lament for former times of rallies and robust meetings and street corner oratory before campaigns became so micro managed that politics have taken on a surreal quality. Instead, 'embedded' media accompanying the PM are bundled into buses in the morning not having a clue where they are going.
As they get closer to the destination they are told a few details. Journalists don't have access to interviews leader even though they may be traveling with them. The only leaders' debate has been one on television at the very beginning of the campaign.
Surprise visits to shopping malls are big with Labor and Liberal as opportunities to 'meet the people' but not protestors, as are photo opportunities with children. Kevin Rudd is proving a big hit with teenagers, a difficult group for any politician to reach emotionally, but Kevin'07 has been transformed from a studious, nerdish type to a 'cool' character and is now seen being mobbed by happy young people on a daily basis. It's a nice image and quite genuine.
And Kevin's worked hard for it. From the start of the campaign hardly a day went by without policy being announced in the presence of babies, toddlers, junior or senior students and of course TV cameras.
Kevin Rudd has promised if elected the first thing the new government will do is sign the Kyoto Protocol on global climate change and a Labor Cabinet will only have Christmas and Boxing Day off over this coming festive season.
So come next Saturday's election, if there is a political change, Australian politicians are in for a busy and interesting time and New Zealanders will enjoy having an Aussie government much more in tune with most Kiwis' values and way of seeing the world.
New Zealanders want more investment in public services
It is of no surprise that an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders polled by Fairfax want greater investment in public education, health and housing services.
In spite of Fairfax's misrepresentation of the Labour-Progressive government's "bulging" surpluses - in fact, and as all political journalists know but some pretend not to because they don't want to ruin their cynically-designed "good yarn" stories, almost all of the accrual-accounted surplus has already been invested in hospitals, schools, transport or invested into the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.
The "buldging surplus" has already been almost fully given back to New Zealanders. It has been re-invested back into our social social infrastructure as we enter into a challenging period of population ageing and global climate change - two developments that are going to prove expensive in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren.
The small residual cash surpluses in recent years have been used to pay-down the mortgage, that is now down to below $40 billion. That mortgage is the Crown debt our government inherited from the last National-led misadministration.
But the Treasury, it is reported, now judges that what it had previously judged to be unsustainably higher revenues are structural.
That means that the Treasury is saying that the Crown's future revenue track will be permanently higher than the Treasury itself had previously anticipated, meaning that there is a bit more scope for the Government deliver even more back to the community.
The Labour-Progressive government can be trusted to build on what we are already investing with the "surplus" - i.e. KiwiSaver accounts, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, more investment in education, health and housing. We can be counted on to invest still more social dividends back to New Zealanders.
The Fairfax poll confirms that the Labour-Progressive represents the 58 per cent or so of New Zealanders that would prefer any residual cash surpluses to be invested in public services. This government is in tune with most New Zealanders' values and aspirations.
National, ACT and UnitedFuture are competing with each other to represent the 25 per cent or so of New Zealanders (also reflected in the Fairfax poll) that reject more social investment in favour of across-the-board personal income tax rate cuts.
National voters oppose asset sales
There were lots of other interesting findings in the Fairfax poll: More National-leaning voters oppose the National Party's proposal to sell-down the Crown's stake in State Owned Enterprises than support the policy.
This is interesting. The National Party will be in deep trouble when its current supporters hear the full details of its strategic asset give-away policy and what it means for New Zealand.
Selling off the profitable family silver to foreign ownership would mean more of the dividends of these successful companies would be siphoned off overseas, further reducing the income for New Zealand's potential national savings' effort.
The Labour-Progressive government has implemented a raft of strategies to assist strengthen our national balance sheet by promoting not just Crown savings, but personal savings as well.
But we need a few more terms of Labour-led government yet.
New Zealand's historic failure to save and invest sufficiently is a major handicap in our efforts to strengthen our economy. National's policy is to further weaken New Zealand and make us even more vulnerable to the whims of foreign lenders than we already are thanks to the extremist policies of the 1980s and 1990s.
Fairfax poll points to 4th election defeat for National
A few months ago I commented on a Fairfax poll at the time which for months sat prominently on the www.stuff.co.nz website and screamed that the Labour-Progressive government is "in near crisis" because of a poll published by none other than Fairfax - the Australian company that owns most newspapers sold in New Zealand.
I said at the time that the corporate media owners in this country are active participants in the political process, rather than observers and truth-seekers aiming to help the public understand and interpret the world.
Well, the latest Fairfax poll suggests that everything hitherto written by Fairfax media demanding immediate, if not back-dated tax cuts, and predicting 100 years of National administration, was pure sensationalism and completely misleading.
If you break down the latest Fairfax poll, and consider also the latest Maori electorates' polling by Marae which indicates the Maori Party may win 6 or 7 Maori seats and push the size of Parliament out to 126 seats, then what you find is National, and its mates in ACT and United Future, falling well short of winning half of the seats in a Parliament.
As things stand now, the Right-Wing parties are headed for their fourth consecutive election defeat next year and the reason is also explained in the Fairfax poll: National will lose because its policies do not fit the aspirations and expectations of a majority of New Zealanders.
Voters need to know National liberalised alcohol laws
Well, it is not often that New Zealand Herald, or any media when you think about it, writes a story about the Progressive Party. The newspaper did a story on Auckland Progressive members' desire for us to concentrate our Auckland resources on a single seat and promote a progressive alternative to the backward-looking, overseas debt-funded agenda of National as articulated by a sitting National M.P.
I'd like to put the Labour-Progressive government's record of investment in public transport and roading against the last National government's failure to invest in the future.
I'd like to put our government's record in promoting competition in telecommunications to National's nine years in government when our city's telecommunications were allowed to stagnate to Third World levels.
But there are other issues that I would like to put before voters also.
I want to put National on trial for its 1998 law change to lower the alcohol purchasing age to 18. National's policy to "liberalise" alcohol retailing laws has been an unmitigated public health disaster and I want to go back to Parliament to campaign for sanity.
Vote National: Risk young Kiwis in endless overseas wars
I also want to put foreign policy on the agenda.
National's "stick with our allies" rigid ideology means if we have a National government then in all likelihood that means young Kiwi lives will be put at risk in whatever new war the U.S. government decides to invent as a diversion to its failed domestic policies.
Overseas wars are used by U.S.governments to divert American voters' attention from the serious failures of U.S. domestic policy and to control resources. And I want to give voters an alternative to voting National and ending up with young Kiwis fighting in more Iraqs.