National’s Election Strategy


Over the weekend at TV3’s The Nation we saw conclusive evidence of National’s 2014 Election Strategy: DO NOT TALK POLICY.

Steven Joyce was bullying and boorish. He consistently interrupted and talked over both Grant Robertson and the host, Lisa Owen. At one stage, Joyce would not let Owen cut to a break and continued talking like a spoilt child angry at his Christmas presents.

Grant Robertson also interrupted Joyce. In my view, he had no choice – he could not allow the bullying to stand. He had to be assertive and challenge this aggressive and adversarial behaviour. I was impressed at the way he stood up to this bully – kudos to Grant, but how disappointing he had to do it.

Make no mistake, the disappointing tone of the “debate” was set by Joyce. He made it impossible for either Robertson or Owen to speak without shouting. As a result, the “debate” itself was a complete mess. It was terrible to watch and did nothing substantive to contribute to any reasonable discussion around policy and the role of government in economic development. That, after all, was the point of having both of them on the programme.

I found the panel after the “debate” more helpful in terms of thinking about our economic development. Both Selwyn Pellett and Fran O’Sullivan brought real analysis to how we leverage our greatest assets and think longer term about injecting more value throughout our economy.

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Along with diversity, the question of foreign ownership of our assets is a serious question. We cannot be flippant in how we deal with this issue. We need to find the correct balance between creating foreign direct investment to supplement our own lack of cash while ensuring a reasonable share of the profits and benefits from such investment stay in New Zealand.

There is nothing xenophobic about having a clear and articulated regime around foreign investment. The Chinese do it. The Aussies do it. We need a stronger and more comprehensive regime focused on developing our economy, not some laissez faire approach ignorant of our realities.  This is actually a critical plank of any economic development strategy.

Yet, none of this was actually discussed in any intelligent way in this “debate” around our economic development.

But, of course, this is a deliberate and planned outcome from the debate consistent with National’s strategy this election. It is straight from the Crosby/Textor playbook. We have seen examples of it before, such as when Simon Bridges came out swinging against John Campbell throwing more angry combinations than most Commonwealth boxers. Lead out aggressively, make the attacks personal, do everything you can to avoid being held to account, speak loudly and quickly while certainly making sure to do nothing around discussing your actual plans for the future.

In short, don’t talk policy.

Joyce was determined not to talk policy. He was determined to talk over Grant Robertson.  He was determined to talk over Lisa Owen. He was determined to make a bite size line stick – that Labour is xenophobic. That was his constant refrain: “for Labour, James Cameron is OK, but not the Chinese”.

Some of you might say: “who cares? Only politicos watch this show anyway.”

Well, it does matter. First, because we are entitled as an electorate to have an open and transparent discussion around the direction we are heading as a country. This is especially so given our reduced manufacturing and over-reliance on dairy. Second, the bite size lines do stick and go further than the viewers watching this show. The headline on The Herald website was that Labour was accused of being xenophobic. It is deliberate, and plays into our superficial analysis of our country’s direction.

What is clear is that National does not want to talk policy. Because the reality is that National is still mired in a disproven ideology meaning that their overall policy is to have no policy.

The free market mantra remains their catch call and they are happy to leave things to the “invisible hand” of the market. Well, that hand is pretty invisible. Despite this ideology being fundamentally disproved by the Global Financial Crisis, the economic elite have no reason to abandon it. It continues to serve their purposes with no serious accountability for the failure of that ideology as seen in New Zealand through this government’s corporate crony capitalism and the windfall of the sale of public assets.

The problem is that this theory follows completely false assumptions. The free market theory, adopted to organising our social structures, depends on individuals being inherently suspicious of each other and driven only by self-interest.

But, that is not how we work.

Humanity works best when we are compassionate, collective, and caring. Who would deny that? Look at our most concrete social structure: the family. Do families work best with members inherently suspicious of each other and driven only by self-interest?

This theory of self-interest and individualism assumes a lack of faith in humanity. We need to reject that assumption, reject thirty years of neo-liberalism, and work towards recreating Godszone reflective of the values we share as New Zealanders.

When people say that there is no difference between Labour and National, I challenge that. Look at the policies of the respective parties – go to their websites. Labour has policies covering a range of issues: housing, education, youth employment, raising the minimum wage, regional development… Actual ideas. National wants to bring a corporate model to education, build more inefficient roads in their Minister’s electorates, and spy on all of us.

Labour’s policies directly acknowledge the role of government. Along with the other progressive policies on the ticket, we are starting to see – albeit at snail’s pace – a response to the failures of neoliberalism resulting in our developing inequalities.

But Joyce and Co don’t want to talk about that. They don’t want to talk about anything.

Actually, if you really want to know National’s policies, take a look at ACT’s website. That’s where you’ll find ‘em.


  1. As much as I found the bickering and talking over one and other quite pathetic I didn’t really expect a lot more. After all Joyce must have been on the defence from before he arrived at the studio as I find The Nation to be that far left leaning that it rivals Team NZ on a windy day.
    I always watch this programme and Q + A in hope that there is a neutral panel and that the questions are not skewed to favour the left. But alas that doesn’t seem to happen.

      • All the nat’s are aggressive and blind, and rather irrational.

        They appear brainwashed so you will ever make any sense of what they say or do.

        We heard for instance during that debate with Joyce/Robertson Steven Joyce did say because Napier Gisborne rail only carried 6% of the total freight it was not worth considering right?

        Well in a TV3 poll on farm sales to foreigner’s of 16000 was released on Campbell live today and said only 6% wanted foreigner’s to own farms here and 94% said we should not allow it any more.

        So using Joyce’s rational he should eat his words if he actually carries through and signs off on the Lochinvar station.

        When he is saying it is good for NZ to sell our farms to foreigner’s when only 6% of us believe that to be true,
        then 6% freight use considered as valid is he saying that 6% is or is not significant?

        So if the answer is no or yes then he and his junta is not listening to NZ is he. Incidentally Gisborne herald ran a poll on should we use rail for freight and tourism or as a cycleway, and 86% said yes to rail and 14% said cycleway. Eat your words Steven.

    • Perspectives are a funny thing ain’t they – they often reveal the filters of those espousing them. If Im reading yours correctly, you feel questions that deal with issues and solutions are biased to the left leaning mindset… Hmm, interesting. It begs the question, what would a right wing bias question look like? Perhaps “what’s your favourite spin doctored hollow slogan”? And “what’s your best ad hominem put down of those who think differently to you”??

  2. Why should we be surprised? National is, and has always been, about personality contests, social division and short-term pork barrel thinking. The only sensible long-term policy I can ever remember National coming up with was electrification of the main trunk line. National lacks foresight and political wisdom – it stands for reaction rather than innovation.

  3. If that performance is repeated by Joyce and other other of his cronies, the solution is simple; place each of the politicians in a studio setting of their own, with a microphone.

    Ask the question; request an answer; the guest has one or two minutes to respond. If that guest tries to shout over another guest – switch off his/her microphone.

    With a dead microphone, she/he can babble on to their heart’s delight until the host comes back with the next question. And frame the question based on the previous guest’s comments. It’ll soon become apparent that the Ranting Poli paid no attention to what the other guest has said.

    In which case the Host can ask a simple question; how can the public expect you to listen to their concerns when you don’t listen during a debate?

    Separate studios; separate microphones; and an on/off switch.


    And yes, this is indeed important. The last thing we need is people becoming even further alienated because National (or other parties’) candidates become hysterical and ranting.

  4. Totally agree. Joyce is the archetypal playground bully. Lisa Owen should have had the guts to order a stop to the debate right then, and interview both men on their own. What a pity she didn’t.

  5. Excellent, completely relevant and and thoroughly pertinent analysis, thank you Michael Timmins.

    It has been clear since the beginning of his term as PM that Key’s policy would be to merely maintain the status quo in NZ. That is because the Nats and their followers do OK under the outmoded economic theory that they (along with the ‘economic elite’ in other rich Western countries, esp the UK and the USA) continue to promote.

    This ongoing promotion of failed economic theory persists despite abundant evidence that it offers no future for the impoverished of this world. Economics does not NEED to be the ‘dismal science’ but it will nevertheless remain so, as long as secretive organisations composed of the world’s wealthiest individuals, like the Bilderberg Group maintain their stranglehold over economic policy.

    Key’s capitalist government, like those currently ‘running’ the UK and the USA are mere pawns in the ‘greater game’ played by groups of super-rich lobbyists such as the Bilderberg group.

    I don’t imagine that the members of that particular organisation lost any money in the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the subsequent Global Financial Crisis.

  6. How can anyone say that The Nation is left leaning. The politicians easily tell them what to do. The comment made by the interviewer when she called Paula Bennett, Beneficiary, was gone in a heartbeat, as was the comment, on another show, by Ross Meurant. When he likened this regime to Nazis, it was immediately removed, never to be aired. Freedom of speech, anyone?, not here in NZ

  7. How can National talk policy when it doesn’t have any?

    Other than those policies pilfered from the Opposition, the government is void of any of its own!

  8. No-one on this blog would let their four year old behave like Stephen Joyce behaved. Any parent would admonish that behaviour. Most of us would probably intervene if it was someone else’s child. We do not encourage our kids to be that disrespectful to others.

  9. Yes , well….you mentioned 30 years of neo liberalism and with that I totally agree its simply a phony economic system designed for the rich to become MORE RICH …..and ,….. maintain POWER.

    That much is all old news , however….at least the traitor Douglas displayed some modicum of finally being honest (if one could call it that) and finally left the Labour party – unlike the ABC’s – who still remain after all these years……why have they not been purged?

    Why ?

    I guess one could argue that the high profile of Douglas meant he had no option but to come clean and form a party that showed who he really was.

    The mans colossal deception should have been grounds for treason charges. No , …he did not undermine NZ by military force, ..but economically and by stealth and guile.

    In fact… his whole political history has been marked by lies…he lied to the Labour party, he lied to the voting public ‘that competition will mean lower prices’ for basic commodities’ , …and he lied to NZ wage and salary earners ‘that there would be more choice and flexibility ‘ in the manner in which we work.

    All we can deduce is that there must of been in the Labour party….a fair number of people who knew exactly that Douglas was a lier…yet still kept quiet in order to vet him , so that he could rise to that position of prominence…

    And that is alarming….that our political system can not only tolerate that sort of manipulation..but that individuals like that can have such destructive influence without any checks or balances….

    Im sure David Lange felt the same way.

  10. Your framing that we lack money as a country is neoliberal claptrap.The govt.can never run out of its own currency.It has a monopoly on its issuance.It does not tax to spend!It spends first before it collects taxes. Your taxes as such do not pay for anything per se.Taxes give how fiat currency value,control aggregate demand, and give the govt. room to carry out it spending in a non inflationary way.The govt. at this point in time is over taxing us.The evidence for this is unemployment and under employment. Unemployment is caused by the govt.not spending enough to cover its tax liabilities and any saving desires by the public. What we need to be doing is investing in our selves through programs that benefit us all. WE dont need foreign investment that all political parties advanced.

  11. Ann & Murray you are both right. Bye bye democracy.
    Our freedom of our press just took another hit today.
    The move today to strangle our last “Left Wing Media TV3” has just been made as Steven Joyce’s MediaWorks got a new boss, the ex boss of NZX. Now they will choke TV3 as all radio has been and Joyce copies Goebbels strategy. 5/8/14.

    The appointment of former NZX boss Mark Weldon to lead MediaWorks was unexpected and could signal a full or part stock-exchange float, a source says.

    Weldon was announced this morning as the TV and radio company’s new group chief executive.

    MediaWorks was put in receivership in last year by its bankers, who then became the company’s new owners.

    MediaWorks had a number of senior figures internally who could have been considered – the source named head of news Mark Jennings, TV chief executive Paul Maher and sales director Liz Fraser as possible candidates – but had instead gone with an outsider.

  12. We need to find the correct balance between creating foreign direct investment to supplement our own lack of cash while ensuring a reasonable share of the profits and benefits from such investment stay in New Zealand.

    We don’t need foreign investment and never have done. As long as we have the people available to do something then we can do it. We could have a much better living standard if we weren’t trying to pay off the foreign investors and we were producing what we want from our own resources rather than trying to import expensive stuff by exporting cheap stuff. We just need to develop and diversify our economy rather than trying to make more of the same.

  13. Come Sept and national loose, John Key will shoot the coop (as his 10 year contract to Shipley, Slater & co will be up) and Joyce (aka Humpty Dumpty) will be leader of the Opposition.

    nats win and come Christmas John Key will shoot the coop (as his 10 year contract to Shipley, Slater & co will be up) and Joyce (aka Humpty Dumpty) will be Prime Minister.
    Or is that Prime Sinister?

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