Where danger lurks



Labour must be deeply gratified (but please, not smug) with the latest Roy Morgan poll which shows that if an election were held now a Labour/Green alliance would win easily. And the poll was taken before John Banks was ordered to stand trial for knowingly submitting a false expenses return, and his subsequent stand down as a NACT Minister so we’ve yet to see if  John Key’s ‘blancmange’ coalition will wobble right off the plate.

So the stars are aligning for David Cunliffe but if a week’s a long time in politics a year can be a lifetime.  Apart from the tremendous boost since the leadership contest Labour has scored few real hits on its own merits. It embarrassed itself with the housing policy announcement using a 23 year old investor as its poster boy instead of a genuine family struggling to get a leg up on the housing ladder.  But redemption is nigh with Nick Smith’s  handling of the Ruritaniwha dam coming under increasing scrutiny with allegations that he misled parliament about the initial DOC report. His scalp must be tingling in dread anticipation; it would be a huge score for Labour to take down a minister. Yes, there’s a certain amount of Schadenfreude for the left to watch the government screw up all by themselves but it’s the Opposition’s job to bring them down through diligent research and smart politics.

It’s now up to Labour to set the agenda and look like a government in waiting. And setting the agenda means knowing as far as possible what’s coming up. If I were them I’d be having a serious look at what Private Members’ Bills are lurking in the ballot box – both Labour and Green.  Cunliffe campaigned primarily on jobs, housing and power prices and that’s where he should stay.

This may not be a popular stance amongst the liberal left but I don’t reckon there’s a groundswell of support among blue collar workers or young voters for Iain Lees-Galloway’s bill to drop the drink drive limit. Most people I’ve talked to here in the provinces think it’s yet another nanny state intrusion into their private lives. (There’s better ways to deal with NZ’s binge drinking culture like, oh I don’t know…maybe forcing the alcohol industry to take some responsibility?) And you know what? It doesn’t matter a toss if National supports lowering the limit, it won’t take the hit. National ended up giving the green light to the Anti-Smacking bill – and yes, I’m using the Right’s handle deliberately as an example of Labour’s dismal management of the issue – and suffered no backlash at all, whereas Labour went into electoral free-fall even though it was Sue Bradford’s bill.

MPs use private member’s bills either to get PR oxygen for themselves and backwater portfolios or to get oxygen for an issue they care passionately about – Maryan Street’s euthanasia bill for example. Cunliffe wisely didn’t want mercy killing to dominate the election and he should think hard about other bills with the potential to steer Labour off message and into political quicksand.


  1. it would be a huge score for Labour to take down a minister.

    Particularly one who had resigned previously, and then reinstated by Key. As that speaks to Key’s (lack of) judgement too.

  2. i’m going to disagree with this. yes, I agree it’s important to be smart when picking issues to highlight, but let’s not go back to the situation where we stick to bland, middle-of-the-road policies that won’t scare the voters. if there’s one thing we learned from the leadership race, it’s that the polls responded positively even though the contenders were putting out some really progressive left-wing policies. policies that weren’t just bland & safe.

    policies around social & conscience issues are always going to be controversial. as you rightly recognise, the problem is the management of the narrative around these policies, not the policies themselves. so i’d rather labour was doing socially progressive stuff as well as the economically progressive stuff, but having better planning & organisation around them.

    • Stargazer; socially progressive stuff by all means but let’s get serious about what that might look like. How about regulating the alcohol and banking industries, tightening up tax loopholes for the wealthy and setting out a tax agenda that doesn’t penalise two parents for working, how about more access to affordable early childhood education and sending ACC back to its first principles? just off the top of my head. But lowering the drink drive limit? Sorry that doesn’t pass my test of ‘Red’ Labour or socially progressive. It feels like legislation for the sake of legislation.

      • . Galloways, attention seeking, bland drink driving bill, isn’t addressing the real issue around our attitude to drink in this country. Labour needs to show some real spine on many fronts if they want to win the next election.
        “How about regulating the alcohol and banking industries, tightening up tax loopholes for the wealthy and setting out a tax agenda that doesn’t penalise two parents for working, how about more access to affordable early childhood education and sending ACC back to its first principles” … I agree Jenny

      • ok, so you pick on the drinking limit & euthanasia bill, but then what’s the test for “acceptable” versus “unacceptable” legislation? i heard the drinking limit bill debated on radio nz, and there seems to be some evidence that it works & is more in line with what’s happening overseas. yes, of course we should have some stronger policies, particularly around alcohol advertising, opening hours, density of liquor outlets etc. but it isn’t an either/or situation. we can do all of them (including the drinking limit), and i don’t see how any one of them is more or less socially progressive than the other. what would be better, however, is a comprehensive policy with a range of measures rather than the single policy in this bill. but the fact is that any measure or group of measures around alcohol policy is going to get exactly the same reaction, led by the alcohol industry. i’ve watched them at the local body level as councils try to implement alcohol policy, and it doesn’t matter what the policy is, they put in a lot of resources and they will use the “nanny state” argument for anything. i don’t see that we should let that dictate what is acceptable or unacceptable policy.

        a tax agenda that doesn’t penalise two parents for working

        tell me you aren’t pushing that discriminatory united future policy of income splitting that rewards people in a relationship and punishes people who aren’t. so a mother who happens to be married gets the chance to pay a lower tax rate, but a single woman earning the same amount but with no partner will pay a higher one? the person who is a single parent & has no support at home & no second income from a partner pays a higher tax rate? i’d really like to understand how you can think of this as acceptable socially progressive tax policy. & rest assured i’ll be the first one putting in a complaint to the human rights commission for discrimination on the basis of relationship status if ANY government tries to enact it.

    • sorry but most of the average left that finally broke through and reclaimed the labour party had 9 years of aunty helens social engineering when she was in control and 6 years of it under lange as they traded the wealth of the nation to douglas so they could go on their merry way of social corruption.
      no way never again

  3. Well, Jenny, I do not quite agree with you on Labour having to focus on just that what you summarised above. Labour is having to come clear on the environmental policies it will follow, same as the social security policies that need urgent clarification, on what Labour will stand for in future.

    We get as much as NOTHING on the latter, and it is a truly sore point for many I know. Maybe the blue collar and also middle class office workers are too focused on saving up for their homes, on paying off the homes, on being able to afford their one to two car households, and what else matters for them. They may be preoccupied with health and education, with raising their kids to get the schooling they want for them.

    That is OK, but there is a growing “underclass” in this country, and honestly, will Labour just focus on raising the minimum wage to 15 dollars for those in work, for striving to get a “living wage” for those in core public service?

    There are not just those in the South Auckland and some other electorates who have work, who are concerned, there are those falling through the cracks of the increasingly loosened, privatised, outsourced and in parts abandoned social safety net. People that are sole parents worry from week to week to pay bills, have to work in many cases, but struggle.

    There are now many sick and disabled with work incapacity, who are supposed to be “helped” to find work now, but for many it is rather a “pressure” and approach, that relies on flawed science and a draconian new medical and work capability assessment regime. WINZ even use their own hatchet doctors to offload people off benefits, same as ACC have done.

    How can Labour not take a stand on these practices, that have been tried in the UK with disastrous consequences? It is a screaming injustice, and it calls for a clear position statement, a clear stand, against such highly questionable measures that are being put into place. Yet we hear as much as nothing on this from Labour, and it is very, very disappointing.

    So does Labour stand for true social justice, decent policies for the poorest and sickest, or what is the story? I and others demand answers, as the following exposes what we get:



    The NZ Medical Association recently also published this submission, on some MSD plans, that nobody in the public knows about. So secretly they are planning to have assessors soon, that even lack medical expertise:


    It is time for Labour to come clean on welfare!

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