Friday, September 30, 2005

A semi-naked male leaping around in mock battle

Just before the election, Don Brash made some stunningly ignorant comments on the wero, asking why important visitors to New Zealand were greeted by "a Maori New Zealander jumping around half naked". So I wonder what he thought of this...

"We're talking about rape and murder"

What's in the Abu Ghraib pictures that the US government doesn't want people to see? Two months ago I linked to a piece in Editor and Publisher containing quotes from people who had seen the material. The original is down, but they've kindly rehashed it. Here's the highlights:

"[the acts] can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman" - Donald Rumsfeld

"The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience... We're talking about rape and murder -- and some very serious charges." - Senator Lindsey Graham

"The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. The worst about all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking..." - Seymour Hersh

Note that contrary to Senator Graham's claim, no charges have been laid, despite the evidence being in the hands of the government for eighteen months. Instead, the worst of what went on at Abu Ghraib has been quietly swept under the rug in the name of "protecting America's reputation" and "not providing a pretext for terrorism". And as a result, those responsible have not been held accountable, and people have been allowed to get away with - literally - rape and murder simply because the Bush administration wishes to avoid a scandal.

Meanwhile, down in the sewer they're posting pictures of Saddam's atrocities. Because obviously, that makes it all OK. You really have to love these guys...

Awatere Huata jailed

For two years and nine months.

Sorry, but I love to see the mighty (or in this case, the not-so mighty, but with a high horse just the same) fall.

Gay marriage vetoed in California

Governor Schwarzenegger has vetoed the gay marriage bill recently passed by the California legislature. The bill would have amended the California Family Code to define marriages conducted by the state as a "civil contract between two persons" (rather than the present "a man and a woman") - allowing the state to issue marriage licenses regardless of gender. Schwarzenegger's veto means that that won't happen; while the bill had comfortable majorities in both the house and Senate, it did not have the two-thirds majority required to overturn a veto.

Schwarzenegger claimed that the bill was contrary to a previous proposition and was therefore unconstitutional, but this is simply specious. Proposition 22 forbade the recognition of same-sex marriages contracted outside of California; it did not prohibit California from licensing such marriages itself. Instead, Schwarzenegger is just pandering to bigotry, and trying to hide behind shoddy legal reasoning to do it. Hopefully that will be punished by the voters of California at the ballot box next November.

Transparency triumphs in the US

The ACLU has won their fight to have the remaining pictures and videos from Abu Ghraib (shown to Congress but otherwise kept secret) released to the public. The government had argued that the photos had to be kept secret for fear that more scenes of Americans torturing Iraqis would "provide a pretext for terrorism"; the court rejected this in the strongest possible language, saying that terrorists "do not need pretexts for their barbarism" and that

Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command.


With great respect to the concerns expressed by General Meyers, my task is not to defer to our worst fears, but to interpret and apply the law, in this case, the Freedom of Information Act, which advances values important to our society, transparency and accountability in government.

Of course, "transparency and accountability" are precisely what the government was trying to avoid...

But I think the award for the most shameful response goes to CENTCOM commander General John Abizaid, who claimed that releasing the pictures would present "a false image" and distort reality. Which turns reality on its head - now the cover up is the truth, and the truth is the distortion. Orwell's "Ministry of Truth" would have been proud...

If you're interested, the full judgement can be read here.

Not long now...

One more day to go until the specials are counted, the final election results are announced, and we can return to politics as usual. The results will be out at 11am on Satuday - slightly earlier than expected, and if things go well we'll have a government by Monday. It may not be able to do anything unless it can bring enough of the country with it, but as I've repeatedly said, that's not exactly a Bad Thing (and if Brash ends up PM, it will be a Very Good Thing indeed).

United Future is signalling strongly that he will not formally be part of the government, and that he should have signalled more strongly that his inclination was to go with National. I'm not sure that there's anyone who believed that it wasn't, given United Future's differences with the government on conscience issues and the pre-election outbursts from several MPs. But the problem is that United Future is trying to present itself as a centrist party, rather than a right-but-not-(quite)-raving-loonie party, and any shift will require significant rebranding.

Which raises the question of how a center party can grow under MMP to become the essential moderating swing-vote that Dunne wants. At the moment, it is the two major parties which drive the agenda - Labour wants a more equal society, and National more market (with touches of bugger the social consequences). Center parties are reduced to the role of propping up either of these two agendas, and maybe getting a few policy bennies as a reward. Their problem is that they don't have a strong enough agenda of their own to push. Dunne has tried to develop one with his appeal to "middle New Zealand" and "common sense", but this is too vague, as is his pet issue of "the family". He needs to start spelling out what these mean in concrete terms, rather than just using them as motherhood statements to capture votes.

An example of what I'm talking about are the Liberal Democrats in the UK. They have a very definite agenda of their own (based on human rights and decent government services - things offered by neither major party), and they would bring this to any coalition talks. Unfortunately, the UK's archaic voting system means that they are systematically under-represented - 10% of the seats on 22% of the vote - so there's little hope of that happening without electoral reform in the UK. But it does perhaps provide a model of what is needed in our own centrist parties. They need their own platform, not one just based on fuzzing the two majors' positions together in the name of moderation.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Apparantly, I've now been blocked by Webmarshal at at least one government department. Though I'm not sure whether its for obscenity, because I've slagged off their minister a few times, or out of a general hate for blogger. Fortunately, readers can still see my LiveJournal feed.

Is there some sort of badge I can get for this?

"Draconian but necessary"

That's Queensland Premier Peter Beattie's judgement of John Howard's proposed new anti-terrorism laws. I'd certainly agree on the former. The package would allow pre-emptive detention without charge for up to two weeks, merely on suspicion of planning a terrorist act. And following in Tony Blair's footsteps, it includes a system of "control orders" allowing suspected terrorists to be subjected to electronic tagging, banned from visiting certain areas or talking to certain people, or even subjected to house arrest for a year. These would be issued in secret proceedings which defendants will not be allowed to contest, on a civil "balance of probabilities" standard. In other words, the government will be able to subject someone to house arrest - effectively imprisonment at their own expense - without ever having their "evidence" tested.

As Peter Cozens points out in the Herald today, this erodes fundamental civil liberties which have "taken centuries to develop at great sacrifice". Things like Habeas Corpus, due process, the right to a fair trial - safeguards which protect all of us from the power of the state and prevent injustices and abuses of power. And for what? "Because of its foreign policy". If the cost of Australia's foreign policy is turning that country into a police state, then I'd suggest that that foreign policy be changed.

As for "necessary", the government has not bothered to argue why these measures are required. All it has done is try and whip up fear of a terrorist attack. But as has been repeatedly pointed out, the similar system in Britain would not have prevented the London bombings, for the simple reason that the bombers were unknown to the police and intelligence services. And they would not assist in the prosecution of terrorists - Australia already has laws against belonging to, funding or supporting terrorist groups, and against murder or conspiracy to murder. All they would do is allow the government to be lazy, to run a dragnet and punish people on the basis of prejudice, paranoia and fear, without ever having to prove their case or hold their "evidence" up to proper scrutiny.

Tim Dunlop is right: this is handing the terrorists a major victory. They've managed to significantly undermine freedom in Australia, without having to use a single bomb. Osama will be pleased...

More possible corruption from Field

One News last night had new allegations against Taito Philip Field - this time that he had helped another Thai overstayer gain residency in exchange for painting several houses. Like the first case, this is dodgy as hell, and should be fully investigated. There's nothing wrong with helping overstayers to normalise their status (and in fact, I think its a Good Thing, especially where they have skills in short supply) - but asking for or accepting a quid pro quo in exchange is corruption, is illegal, and ought to be prosecuted.

As with the previous case, Field has issued a flurry of statements, including from the person he helped. But given that the statements from the Cole family appear to have been extracted by bullying and standover tactics, I'm not sure how far they can be trusted. Something else for Dr Ingram to investigate, I think.

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy

Republican House majority Leader Tom DeLay has been indicted on charges of criminal conspiracy over a corrupt scheme to bypass campaign finance laws. If proven, he could be facing up to two years in jail.

The impact of this cannot be underestimated. DeLay is one of the most powerful men in the Republican party, and wields immense influence. As majority leader, he effectively drives the Republican agenda in Congress, deciding which bills get the full backing of the Republican machine - backing enforced by the threat of running "primarying" reluctant representatives. And he's a key fundraiser for President Bush. This really couldn't happen to a nicer guy...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

An inside view

Isaac Freeman has an inside view of what its like to be an election day worker. Including this bit:

Upon completing our training, we were each issued with our Inconveniently Large Democracy Boxes. Among the other accoutrements of the Issuing Officer, these contained many pads of actual real unused ballot papers. Until this point I had not really thought about how the ballot papers would get to the the polling station, and it had not occurred to me that I would carry them there on my bicycle. Something about this didn't seem safe.


On the week leading up to Election Day, my cats and I guarded my votes from intruders. I by watching out for villains and my cats by sleeping on top of the Democracy Box.

So, if you live in Mount Wellington, voted at the Bailey Road School Hall, are allergic to cats, and suddenly had an attack after voting, it's probably because of the above.

A pattern of exploitation

Taito Philip Field is in the news again, this time over a dodgy house sale. A family facing a mortgagee sale approached him for assistance, and he ended up buying their house at below the market rate. Despite reportedly promising that they could continue to rent there, he then kicked them out - and has since sold the property at a tidy profit.

As with the case of Sunan Siriwan, there's some justification to the claim that Field was helping the family. But in doing so, he also helped himself, to the tune of $150,000. There's a disturbing pattern of exploitation here, which is unwelcome in a Member of Parliament. While MPs are under no obligation to help those who come to them (it's just good politics to do so), they absolutely should not be exploiting them for their own financial advantage.

Unlike the immigration case, it's difficult to see how Field has violated any laws here. Instead, he's just an arsehole - and if Labour has any sense, they won't let him back into Cabinet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On holiday

Well, not really - but with politics on hold until the special votes are counted, and several other bloggers taking the opportunity to disappear for a break after the madness of the election, I might as well be. So, I'm taking a few days off so I can catch up with other things. Posting will be light until either something happens, or I get the bug...

(...which will probably be sometime around this evening, given how things normally work)

Monday, September 26, 2005

I'm glad I don't live in Whangarei

Mighty River Power has been granted resource consent for its plan to convert the mothballed Marsden B power station to coal. Note the "convert". Rather than using modern technology which is at least capable of burning coal relatively cleanly and efficiently, Mighty River will be using the original quarter-century old boilers, originally designed to burn oil, with a few scrubbers stuck on the exhaust. The result will be grossly inefficient - 34% compared with the 50%-plus for modern systems - as well as utterly filthy. Mighty River will be able to keep its costs low, but local residents will pay for it in lung cancer. I'm so glad I don't live in Whangarei.

OTOH, Mighty River doesn't have it that easy. The consent has almost 160 conditions on it, including harsh limits on emissions into Bream Bay designed to protect water quality. In particular, they're only being allowed to emit a twelth of the mercury they had asked for, which may be enough to sink the project right there. There will almost certainly be appeals from both sides, and we just have to hope that Mighty River loses.

Energy: more support for the green path

The Business Council for Sustainable Development has released a report on A Sustainable Energy Future for New Zealand by 2050 [PDF], which explores our options for the future. It covers much of the same ground as the recent report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, but uses a two-axis analysis and so sees four scenarios rather than two. Unfortunately, one of these axes - economic growth - is redundant; no government will choose the "low economic growth" scenarios, and so we are left with the familiar dichotomy: a choice between a "green" future, where we innovate to reduce demand and find more efficient solutions, and a "brown" one, where we keep on doing exactly what we're doing, and turn to dirtier and dirtier technologies to meet the energy cost of stupidity.

The key point emerging from these reports is that, contrary to the fears of the business community, we do not have to be Luddites in order to be sustainable. Instead, sustainability is all about grasping the opportunities for cleaner technology - opportunities which are clearly in reach. It's about using more technology, not less, and it presents significant opportunities for companies who want to innovate and exploit new markets. Clearly this is anathema to a business community who, while avowing capitalism and praising risk-taking, seem to see policy change rather than entrepreneurship as the key to profitability.

Another key point is the need to plan. Energy infrastrucutre lasts a long time, and if we want business to make the right investment decisions and avoid working at cross-purposes to government policy, we need to signal a clear direction. Labour seems to have grasped this point, promising to develop a National Energy Strategy outlining its goals and how we can get there from here. Meanwhile, National is still wanting to leave everything to the market - an approach which virtually guarantees that we lurch from crisis to crisis, get the cheapest, dirtiest solutions, and have the market working at cross-purposes to our other policy goals.

The BCSD makes a number of solid policy proposals: continued encouragement for renewables development and energy conservation, recycling of carbon-tax revenue into R&D and uptake of cleaner technologies, and pushing the transition to cleaner vehicles. However, they also have the traditional business hostility to the RMA, arguing that "parochial" and "nimby" concerns "should be considered in the context of national interest" and that uptake of improved technologies "should not be delayed by the consenting process". In English, this means a return to the style of Muldoon's National Development Act so that development can be foisted upon communities which do not want it. For those with short memories, the abuses of that system are exactly why we now insist on community consultation and local decisionmaking under the RMA.

Pathologically reasonable

According to this morning's Dominion-Post, the Greens have "moderated" their bid to be in Cabinet. Now, I'm not sure that it was ever a demand to be moderated so much as a recognition that they would achieve more of their goals by being in Cabinet than they would outside it, but its good to see that they recognise that having a government which is moving in the right direction is more important than who gets to wear the silly hats. And it does make clear their commitment to being reasonable and trying to find policies where they can work with Labour, rather than against it - unlike some people.

Realistically, even if they remain outside Cabinet, the Greens will have an influence on Labour's policies through the consultation process. Labour is already heading in the right general direction on transport and energy policy, and the Greens will be able to maintain and hopefully strengthen that. Over the last six years the Greens have shown that they are adept at influencing policy even when they are not formally part of a government, and I expect that trend will continue.

They're getting out

According to the Observer, Britain will start withdrawing from Iraq next May. The phased pullout will take a year, and will have a cascade effect, as smaller forces in the "Coalition of the Willing" (such as Japan's) will likely be unable to operate without British cover.

Meanwhile, Bush is saying that any withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for terrorists. I guess Blair forgot to tell him...

Grinning and baring it II


Well, Keith Locke did it. He walked rather than ran, and protected the public's sanity with some body-paint and a well-placed G-string, but he kept to the spirit of the thing and publicly humiliated himself because Rodney Hide won Epsom.

It's good to see that our MPs don't take things too seriously...

Utter contempt for the law

What do you call an MP who ran for a party running (along with race-baiting and bribery) a "law and order" platform, who then goes out and wantonly violates the law the very day after they are elected?

A hypocrite would be one answer. Sandra Goudie would be another. The day after she was re-elected as MP for Coromandel, she was helping to vandalise a native mangrove patch. Mangroves, as indigenous plants, are protected under Environment Waikato's Regional Coastal Plan. But rather than lobby the appropriate authorities to have the plan changed, or work to elect regional councillors who shared their views, Goudie and her friends decided to wade in with chainsaws. In doing so, they not only violated s 338(1)(a) of the RMA, but also displayed their utter contempt for both the law and the democratic process.

Environment Waikato is so far declining to prosecute. Fortunately, we don't have to rely on them. Under s 338(4) of the RMA, anyone may lay an information (effectively, bring charges) for violations of s 338(1). And I suggest that they do. Next time these vandals decide to fire up the chainsaws, someone should go there with a handicam, gather evidence, and bring charges. At the very least, it should spur the proper authorities into enforcing the law, rather than standing idly by.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The beginning of the end in Basra

The arrogant raid by British forces to free two captured soldiers seems to have marked the beginning of the end for the occupation in Basra. At home, the sight of British forces fighting their own allies has caused political support for the war, never high to begin with, to plumment even further. In Iraq, it has been a disaster. Basra's governor has withdrawn all cooperation with British troops - turning them overnight into an occupying army. And now, an Iraqi judge has issued arrest warrants for the two soldiers on charges of murder.

The British are incredulous - they have a Status Of Forces Agreement which grants British troops immunity from Iraqi law. But that agreement was extracted from the puppet government established by the Americans after the regime's fall, and so fundamentally lacks legitimacy. Iraqis simply have no reason to respect it, and the British attempting to hide behind it will just increase the anger at their actions. I don't for a moment think the soldiers will be prosecuted in an Iraqi court - the British will simply spirit them out of the country to prevent that happening - but now they are on notice. Next time their troops kill civilians, there will be another arrest warrant - and another, and another. And eventually, they'll be facing their nightmare - ten thousand Iraqis outside their base, screaming for someone to be handed over to face justice. And at that stage, they'll be faced with the stark choice of either perpetrating a massacre, or going home.

Unlike the Americans, the British have always recognised that their presence depends on local goodwill. Thanks to last weeks' actions, that goodwill is now gone - and so it is only a matter of time before the British are gone too.

New Fisk

When nature and man conspire to expose the lies of the powerful, the truth will out

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What's wrong with the polls

The response rate. People like to laugh at social scientists, but they tend to get very iffy about a survey when less than 70% respond, and they'd regard something with a response rate of lower than 50% as pure garbage unless there were very good reasons to believe that the non-responses were not affecting the sample. And yet, we had polls with response rates between 16% and 65% (and averaging around a third) published and broadcast as if they were gospel.

Not that this is entirely the media's fault - polling companies tended not to report the response rate (the TNS polls of the Maori electorates being a notable exception). And the reason for this is pretty obvious - because if would make it perfectly clear that they were peddling snake-oil. And OTOH, given the Herald's headline - "Erratic election polls blamed on sample size" - you really have to wonder whether they'd notice.

Worse for Field

Things are looking worse for Taito Philip Field, with fresh allegations that he directed Parliamentary funding towards his partner. While its not technically a violation of Parliamentary Service rules, because she wasn't employed, it certainly violates the underlying principle that MP's shouldn't be paying members of their families from the public purse. And that is enough to call his suitability to be a Minister into question. Again, this is about Ministerial dealings being seen to be above-board - something which Field seems to have a real problem with.

I will be very disappointed if Field is back in Cabinet.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Guest columns index

Guest columns by various people:

If you would like to publish a guest column here, please email me and make a pitch.

(This is an index page so I have a central location to point to in future).

Guest Column - Building Coalitions: The Banzhaf Index

By Brian Easton.

One of the advantages of MMP is it enables us to think more systematically about the political process (although given much of the nonsense that is being written at the moment, it does not appear to force us to). What this note sets out is a a mathematical procedure which enables us to think systematically about coalitions (although, and as I shall explain, like most mathematical models it has imitations).

However, first a word about its progenitor, John F. Banshaf III, a remarkable professor of law at George Washington University who is known as the 'Ralph Nader of the Tobacco Industry,' 'the Ralph Nader of Junk Food,' 'The Man Who Is Taking Fat to Court' and 'Mr. Anti-Smoking'. (He is also Faculty Advisor for the GWU Volleyball Team.) Earlier he had been an electrical engineer and obtained the first copyright ever registered on a computer program. He also developed a method for measuring the power of parties negotiating coalitions – the Banzhaf Index.

The Banzhaf Index

I use the Banzhaf Index in the current New Zealand political situation. I take the current allocation of seats. The specials may change the numbers but not the principles illustrated here.

There are eight parties vying for power, with a total of 122 seats. Each may be in or out of a coalition, so in total there is the possibility of 28 or 256 coalitions (including the zero when nobody joins). As it happens there are 124 of these in which the coalition has the required 62 votes or more to govern (slightly less than half because 61 votes doesnt give a majority).

Of course not all parties belong to all the possible successful coalitions. Labour with 50 votes is in 68 (or 55%) of the coalitions. The figures for all the parties are shown in column 4 (and column 5) of Table I.

However, this does not discriminate between the importance of a party in a coalition. For instance in the coalition of all parties with 122 seats, if Progressives with their one seat walk out the coalition still has 121 seats, more than enough to govern.

So the Banzhaf index involves counting the number of times of a party to walk out of a coalition with the result that it loses its majority. In the current situation, any party can walk out of the ‘All’ coalition and it would still have a majority. (Were Labour to walk out, there would still have 72 (122-50) votes).

As it happens Labour is required in 68 of the 124 coalitions, while the Progressives are required in only 4 of them. (Column 6). The Banzhaf index adds the number of times this happens for all parties (238) calculates each party’s total as a proprtion of the grand total, and calls the level of power of each party relative to the rest. (So Labour’s relative power is 68/238 = 28.6%).

Table I: Illustrating the Banzhaf Index

NZ First75.7%8064.5%3615.1%
Maori P.43.3%7258.1%208.4%
U Future32.5%6854.8%125.0%

The final column in bold shows the Banzhaf index of the power of each party in coalition forming.

We have the well known phenomenon that smaller parties seem to have power out of proportion to their votes.


The previous section was highly idealised, assuming that the parties are only interested in power and have no principles (or backers, which is often the same thing). Sometimes parties are incompatible and wont go into coalition together.

So lets add some of those principles as follows:

  1. Progressives always go with Labour
  2. ACT and the Greens never go with each other
  3. The Maori Party wont go with National because it wont entrench the Maori Seat provision.

(I can easily add some more, but this illustration suffices.).

Now there are only 46 viable coalitions, and as Table II shows Labour is in 91.3% of them.

Table II: Banzhaf Index with Some Political Restrictions

Labour + Progressives5141.8%2191.3%1936.5%
NZ First75.7%1669.6%1019.2%
Maori P.43.3%626.1%47.7%
U Future32.5%1252.2%23.8%

The final column in bold shows the Banzhaf index of the power of each party in coalition forming.

Not surprisingly, those parties which do not rule out partners as a matter of principle generally have a higher proportion of vetos and more power relative to the unrestricted case. Conversely those that rule out some options have a lower proportion of the vetos and less power.

The exception is United Future. Through a quirk of the numbers, 3 seats is not a good number to have in this set of voting patterns. (Peter Dunne would agree. He would rather have 13 seats.)

Minority Government

Banzhaf designed his index for one-off situations. It is usually illustrated in the American literature, by the Electoral College for the US President, which comes together, votes on the sole matter of who is to be the next president, and then dissolves.

The New Zealand situation is different because the parties meet again after every election and, as we shall see, the prospect of that affects how they behave now. Moreover, the coalition process is an ongoing one in the intervening three years, particularly when there is a minority government, as there has been in eight of the last ten years and there is likely to be over the next three (and probably after).

We can adapt the index as follows. Let’s assume that Labour remains a minority government with the Progressives. It has to seek six coalitions of the remaining parties in parliament. There are coalitions available to it for this purpose (that is the government has to raise at least another 11 votes). Table III shows the calculations for the minority parties.

The Labour and Progressive row is deleted. The theory is not robust enough to measure the power of an incumbent minority government, which has a whole range of institutional instruments which enhance the power from their seats. However the Banzhaf Index can be used to measure the relative power of those outside government, as Table III shows.

Table III: Banzhaf Index for Relative Strengths of Outside Parties (assuming Labour and Progressives form a minority government)

NZ First79.9%2917.3%921.4%
Maori P.45.6%2716.1%511.9%
U Future34.2%2615.5%37.1%

The final column in bold shows the Banzhaf index of the power of each party to influence the minority government.

Table III suggests that while National has more than two thirds of the seats outside the minority government, it has only just over one third of the power to form a coalition to influence the minority government. All the other parties have correspondingly more power.

National Remains Outside

However, this requires cooperating with the government which, for reasons good or bad, National has not done so in the past. Suppose they refuse to join in. Table IV shows the relative power of the remaining parties outside parliament (assuming that ACT is willing to cooperate).

Table IV: Banzhaf Index for Relative Strengths of Outside Parties (assuming Labour and Progressives form a minority government and National is not willing to cooperate).

NZ First731.8%2623.2%1834.0%
Maori P.418.2%2219.6%1018.9%
U Future313.6%2017.9%611.3%

The final column in bold shows the Banzhaf index of the power of each party in coalition forming.

The outcome is that the power of the remaining parties is close to their numbers of seats. Moreover, their power is higher than if National was a player. In effect National not joining in gives the others more power, for three or so years anyway.


The above has tried to clarify the current state of the coalition discussions using the Banzhaf index of power. It shows that if there is a minority Labour led government, and National does not join in the coalition making on a one policy basis, the role of the minor parties is strengthened.

There are at least two further caveats in this assessment. The theory is really about a series of one night stands. Coalitions, even those between those inside and outside government, often have more of a marriage element, insofar as one party may compromise against its immediate interests in order to get overall gains in the long run.

Second, while National will not join in the public glare of the House, it is well known that Select Committees are considerably more cooperative. No doubt the coalition principles explored here are relevant, although the caution about the ‘one night stand’ assumption applies here too.


More about the the theory of the Banzhaf index at

A computational algorithm is available at This makes some assumptions which results in estimates not quite as as precise as those given here, which are derived from a spreadsheet. This more tedious procedure gives the user a better feel of the underlying theory, and also allows the introduction of the incompatibility restrictions.

You can read more about John F. Banzhaf III at Its enough to make someone need a hamburger.

My favourite Afghan politician

Afghanistan held Parliamentary elections last weekend, but I ignored them in the struggle to cover our own ones. Then, when I was reading New Statesman yesterday, I came across an article on one of the candidates: Malalai Joya. She's a women's rights activist from Farah province, working on literacy, health, and violence against women. But she's most famous for a speech during the 2003 Loya Jirga, in which she condemned the presence of the warlords and Mujahadeen commanders who had brutalised the country with civil war, and called for them to be prosecuted by an international court for their crimes. This didn't make her any friends amongst the warlords - she's since survived four assassination attempts, and has to travel with armed guards - but it earned her a lasting constituency among their victims. And now, she's running for Parliament. Here's hoping she gets elected.

Zaoui on peace in Islam

Ahmed Zaoui gave another lecture this week, on Peace in Islam: history, precept and practice [PDF]. It is essentially an exercise in Islamic theology, an argument against those who seek to use the Koran to justify violence. According to Zaoui, "peace is at the core of Islam", and while violence can be justified theologically on the basis of self-defence (just as it can be in Christian theology), the use of Islam to justify terrorism is "a sham and a disgrace".

These are hardly the words of a terrorist. But I'm sure that those who oppose Zaoui's presence here will simply follow Winston in regarding them as an example of the "two faced" nature of Islam...

Useful advice

Reporters Without Borders has released a Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents [PDF], aimed at providing guidance and useful advice to people who want to use their blog to say things their governments would rather they didn't say. It's interesting reading, even for those of us in less threatening environments - there are guides to establishing a blog and blogger ethics, as well as a series of personal accounts from people who use their blogs for something more than simply trading bullshit and posting pictures of their cat.

Unfortunately, it doesn't help you find something to write about when your major subject matter has gone into hibernation...

Referenda index

Posts relating to binding citizens initiated referenda and participatory democracy:

(This is an index page so I have a central location to point to in future).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Something to go to in Wellington

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties is holding a public meeting to explain who they are, what they do, and encourage people to join. It will include a talk by Rob Moodie on the erosion of civil liberties.

When: Thursday, 13th October, 13:00
Where: Saint Andrews on The Terrace, Wellington.

If you support civil liberties in New Zealand, then it is probably worth going to.

Prebble on MMP

So, Richard Prebble thinks MMP should be dumped because it "robbed" the right of victory on Saturday night. Well, only if you count United and NZ First as part of the right. In one sense, this is justified, as both are certainly right-leaning - but OTOH, both have also consistently proclaimed that they could go either way, and in fact would try and work with the largest party. What cost the right the election then was not MMP, but National's inability to work properly with parties which should be its natural allies. That, and the fact that not enough people voted for them.

It's also worrying when one political faction advocates changing the electoral system purely to advantage themselves. That's the sort of thing that goes on in Africa - or Italy - not a mature democracy like New Zealand. But then, the neo-liberal faction of the right (of which Prebble is a prime representative) was always contemptuous of democracy, viewing it as an impediment to "reform", so its not really surprising that they're advocating a return to a system under which they were able to run rampant and lord it over all of us with only 35% of the vote.

The Herald goes premium

The Herald has gone premium and walled off its local opinion content for paying subscribers only. Which I guess means no more links to or discussion of that content. While I could easily buy a hardcopy of the Herald locally, there's just no point in posting about stories unless other people can read them.

A disappointing start

The government has finally announced an inquiry into Taito Philip Field's possible conflict of interest (or corruption) in using his influence in an effort to secure a work permit for a man who was conveniently tiling his house in Samoa. Unfortunately, the time given for this inquiry, in which numerous people must be interviewed, the facts assessed, and conclusions drawn, is a mere nine days. By comparison, the Douglas White inquiry into John Tamihere and the Waipareira Trust got over thirty.

The head of the inquiry, Auckland QC Dr Noel Ingram, will struggle enormously to do a thorough investigation in the time available. But then, I suspect that that's the point. Rather than having a proper investigation, which would embarrasingly drag on past the date when a government should be formed, the government has chosen to whitewash things instead. If you think that possible corruption is something that should be taken seriously, it's a disappointing start to a possible third term.

Someone had to do it

We've all seen the "Jesusland" map, satirising the differences between "red states" and "blue states" in the wake of the 2004 US Presidential election. Well, with a similar (but far more longstanding) divide between town and country in our own, more recent elections, someone just had to do a local version...

Though possibly it could have been Latteland versus Sheepistan...

Liberals of the world, unite!

While browsing around the web, I discovered that there is a Liberal International. This is an alliance of the world's liberal parties in the same way that the Socialist International is an alliance of social democratic, socialist and labour parties (including our own, BTW).

There aren't any New Zealand members of the LI, but looking at their principles - which boil down to liberalism, human rights, and free trade and development - more than just ACT would qualify. They take a broad view of liberalism, rather than limiting it only to classical liberals, and in fact explicitly support a "social market economy" - meaning

a market that offers people real choices. This means that we want neither a market where freedom is limited by monopolies or an economy disassociated from the interests of the poor and of the community as a whole.

Which is sufficiently broad that most New Zealand political parties could sign up to it. Not that this is a problem - the LI expects a diversity of approaches on the scope of the market in each particular society. Their aim is to focus on the ideals that unite liberals rather than the details of how those ideals are implemented.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Doing the numbers

Scoop has an online special vote calculator, so you can plug in the numbers and work out who will be able to form a government once the specials are counted.

I'm sure Don and Helen have people busy doing that right this minute...


Trying to get my ADSL connection to work.

If anyone knows where I can find find Windows XP 64 drivers for a Dynalink ALH110, it would be appreciated.

Don't raise the threshold - lower it

Writing in the Herald this morning, Philip Temple argues that it is time to fine-tune MMP. He first argues that it is too easy for small parties to gain representation, and that therefore the one electorate rule (which allows parties to dodge the threshold if they win a single electorate seat) should be removed or increased to two electorates. But this has things exactly backwards. The problem with the threshold is not that it is too low, but that it is too high.

The very basis of MMP (and any other proportional representation system) is representation; parties should be represented according to their level of support in the community. An arbitrary cutoff is prima facie incompatible with this, and needs strong justification. And sorry, but in NZ "keeping the extremists out" just doesn't cut it; we just don't have enough of them for that to even be credible. And even if we did, the answer is to defeat their arguments, not deny them representation. That is difficult to do with a party that uses organised political violence, as the Nazis did - but then the thing to target is political violence, not abuse democracy by denying people their say.

While I loathe Christian Heritage and Destiny as much as the next person, if I deserve representation in Parliament, then so do all the people I disagree with. It is as simple as that, and we should be bending over backwards to ensure that people are represented - not denying them arbitrarily by a mechanism that smacks of a big-party jackup.

(And because someone is bound to mention it: go and look at the Nazi party's election results and then try telling me with a straight face that a 5% threshold would have kept out of power a party that repeatedly got more than 30% of the vote...)

By keeping smaller parties out of Parliament, the threshold is also a barrier to the marketplace of ideas. New parties cannot get established, while older ones' fortunes are artificially boosted by the threshold's self-fulfilling prophecy. This is not good for democracy in the long run. If we want our democracy to remain healthy, if we want our political meme pool to maintain the sort of diversity that allows voters to make real choices, then the threshold needs to be lowered, not raised.

Finally, Temple's reason for raising the barriers to small parties is that this would allow our Parliament to shift towards the "real MMP model" of two main parties supported by "two or three" smaller ones, rather than our untidy clutter of majors, minors, and minnows. To which the response is that the structure of our Parliament should be decided by the voters, not by political scientists. Rather than trying to change the political system to ensure someone's idealisation of the perfect arrangement of parties in Parliament, we should instead establish a level playing field between parties and let their fortunes rise and fall in accordance with the wishes of the electorate. And the way to do that is by lowering the threshold, not by raising it.

(If you're looking for arguments about the Maori seats, see here)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Prospects for a government

Everyone else is doing the numbers and speculating on the shape of the new government, so here's a few thoughts. Firstly, the process of government formation is going to be dominated by three factors:

  1. Any government will need the support of at least two, and most likely three or even four, of the minor parties;
  2. None of the small parties wants another election; and
  3. Some of the parties refuse to work with others or do not want them to have too much power

I explored exactly this sort of situation last year, and IMHO the same conclusion holds. The need for many parties to give their support and the desire to avoid another election will encourage parties to give confidence and supply relatively cheaply (as Peter Dunne did last term), and save the hard bargaining for policy and legislation, while the mutual dislike will cause them to veto one another's presence at the cabinet table. The end result (assuming no radical changes on the specials) is likely to be a Labour-Progressive minority government which will only be able to legislate by consensus. Helen will not be able to play parties off against one another (as she has done this term), and so will have to rein in her autocratic urges. Which I don't think is a bad thing at all.

"Ordained by God"

Here's a nice little twist for the Exclusive Brethren: during the interview in which the "secret seven" emerged from the shadows and explained why they had been backing Don Brash, one of their number laid out their political philosophy:

"We hold government to be ordained by God and governments are raised up and also, I might add, dismissed, by God"

I wonder then how they feel about the election result. After all the dust has settled, it looks as if Helen has won the election. Does this mean she is "ordained by God"...?

Arrogance in Iraq

Not the Americans this time, but the British. Earlier today, a pair of "undercover" British soldiers (SAS?) were arrested after they got into a gunbattle with Iraqi police in Basra and killed a policeman. Normally, this sort of thing would be resolved by negotiation (and pointing at the SOFA - the status of forces agreement), but instead the British response was to storm the police station with tanks and break their men out by force. No-one died in the raid, but you really have to wonder at the mindset which orders such action against their own allies.

Things were going relatively quietly in Basra up until now. Now they've provoked an full-on riot, during which several British APCs were disabled by petrol bombs, and they have the city governor accusing them of a "barbaric act of aggression".

This doesn't bode well for the future...

One of the largest thefts in history

Some months back I blogged about the scandal of Iraq - the systematic corruption and outright looting of reconstruction funds which occured under the American-run Coalition Provisional Authority. But it seems that that was just the beginning. In what has been described as "one of the largest thefts in history", corrupt Iraqi officials have embezzled practically the entire defence procurement budget - almost one billion US dollars. As a result, Iraqi troops are forced to rely on museum-pieces and US cast-offs, and their ability to replace Americans in providing security and fighting insurgents has been severely compromised:

The carefully planned theft has so weakened the army that it cannot hold Baghdad against insurgent attack without American military support, Iraqi officials say, making it difficult for the US to withdraw its 135,000-strong army from Iraq, as Washington says it wishes to do.


Many Iraqi soldiers and police have died because they were not properly equipped. In Baghdad they often ride in civilian pick-up trucks vulnerable to gunfire, rocket- propelled grenades or roadside bombs. For months even men defusing bombs had no protection against blast because they worked without bullet-proof vests. These were often promised but never turned up.

The fraud was carried out through a series of dubious transactions which paid inflated prices for equipment which turned out to be junk. American-appointed officials presided over these transactions, and the Iraqi government is questioning how they could have slipped past US military staff and advisors working in the defence ministry. And some are going further:

Government officials in Baghdad even suggest that the skill with which the robbery was organised suggests that the Iraqis involved were only front men, and "rogue elements" within the US military or intelligence services may have played a decisive role behind the scenes.

But even if this fraud wasn't perpetrated by Americans, it points to massive negligence on the part of US officials, which has significantly damaged their prospects in Iraq. Isn't that something the US congress should be investigating?

And the kicker is that this isn't the only fraud. An estimated US$500 - 600 million has disappeared from the electricity, transport, and interior ministries. Which explains why there's still no power, water, roads or sanitation services in Iraq: because the money to rebuild them has simply been stolen.

I am now waiting for Donald Rumsfeld to say that this is just Iraqis exercising their freedom...

Observing the forms

Finally, now that the election is over, the government looks like they will do something about Taito Philip Field. The Prime Minister has asked senior Ministers to review his actions and determine whether it had compromised his position. I'd have thought that the answer to that was obvious - regardless of whether he violated the law, Field has failed to ensure that things are seen to remain above board - but the forms must be observed. I am disappointed though that he was not asked to surrender his Ministerial warrant immediately, or even now while the investigation is conducted - this has been standard practice with other Ministers who have fallen under a cloud, and its unusual that an exception has been made for Field.

North Korea

So, after three years of mutual chest-beating, North Korea has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons programme. And in exchange, it gets what it wanted all along: a security guarantee from the United States. You really have to wonder why the hell it took them so long.

There are details yet to be worked out - whether the US will supply light-water reactors for electricity generation (exactly as they agreed to do and then reneged on previously), and on the verification regime. But the framework is in place, and the world is safer for it. Not just because the threat of proliferation has been reduced, but because there's that much less chance of the Americans starting a conventional war on the Korean peninsula in an effort to halt it. The cost of that would have been horrific - North Korea has thousands of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, and the estimated casulaties would run to several hundred thousand dead civilians in the first hour alone - and it was well worth avoiding.

There is a danger that the deal won't stick - but it is better for America to go for it and try and verify it and make it work than expect the South Koreans to die in droves for the safety of others.

More on Scott Parkin

Left and Lefter has a good piece on Scott Parkin, the American peace activist recently detained and deported from Australia. Asher attended one of Parkin's workshops on protest tactics, and notes that the methods taught there were both legal and effective. He speculates that curbing the spread of such tactics may have been the Howard government's motive for deporting him. I'm not sure that I'd give them that much credit. Unfortunately, because the Australian government is under no obligation to reveal their reasons, even to Parkin himself, we'll simply never know.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Suffrage Day

About Town reminds us that today is Suffrage Day. On September 19th 1893, we became the first country in the world to have full, universal suffrage, irrespective of gender. That's well worth celebrating, but with the caveat that we still have a long way to go. As DPF points out, only 40 out of 122 MPs are women; the candidate selection and list ranking policies of the major parties have meant that women's votes have not properly translated into women's representation. Still, the trend is encouraging - last election it was only 34, and under FPP it was half that. Hopefully the progress will continue.

Grinning and baring it

It looks as if Keith Locke is going to keep his campaign promise to run naked through the streets of Epsom if Rodney Hide won the seat. Fortunately he will be giving proper warning so that those who want to avoid SAN-loss can.

The other other election

Afghanistan also voted this weekend in their first Parliamentary elections in thirty years. There seems to have been a drop in turnout since last year's presidential elections, but its still good to see them voting. Unfortunately, we won't know the results until October.


There's another election going on today, in Germany - and there the result seems to be the same as our ones, with neither of the two main parties having a clear majority. Exit polls show the Christian Democrats / Christian Social Union and the Free Democrats failing to reach the 299 seats needed to govern - and instead, that the left (Social Democrats, Greens and Left) having the actual majority. Official results are here (I think that what we call the party vote is in the column labelled "Zweitstimmen"), or if you'd like a graphical representation, here's one from Deutsche Welle:

People are talking about a "grand coalition" between the Christian and Social Democrats, but its always possible for some other deal to be stiched up. We'll just have to wait and see...

New Fisk

We have long ago lost our moral compass, so how can we lecture the Islamic world?

Picking the bones

Everyone else is picking over the election results, talking about voter shares, long-term trends, who won and who lost. DPF has an excellent post on the possible effects of special votes, which I'd recommend to anyone wondering which way things might go. He also crunches the numbers on Maori and female MPs, where we've had an increase in both. MMP really does seem to have resulted in better representation, though National is still well behind Labour in terms of "looking like New Zealand".

Frogblog looks at the impact on the minor parties, calling it a "third-party bloodbath". I've prepared the following graph so you can see just how tight the squeeze is:


It also neatly illustrates Span's point about how Labour's vote share has held despite everything National could fling at it.

Frog also comments on the left-right split. Again, here's a graphical representation. The left has basically held steady, with only a slight loss since 1999; most of the right's gains have come from eating the center.


(Note that the above counts the Maori Party as "left". This is arguable, as there's no guarantees that they'll support a left-wing government, but they are composed of people who previously voted Labour, and it is what Frogblog has done).

Finally, a graph of the trend in the "wasted vote" lost to the threshold:


While the decline is good, the story it tells is actually rather depressing, in that this year 98.7% of votes were cast for parties already in Parliament. We've simply learned to stop voting for non-Parliamentary parties, and so they're withering and dying. This is probably bad in the long-term, as it narrows the political meme pool, and it turns the threshold into far more of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we want to keep our democracy healthy, and keep a robust competition going for people's votes, we need to look at lowering it.

The Whig is back

His new site is here.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A dead heat, but one Labour can win

Having watched the results come in, it seems like we have almost a dead heat - though I think the numbers favour Labour. Labour is simply better at MMP than National, and Clark is better at compromise and cutting deals than Brash. I may have to eat these words later, but I think Helen has secured her third term.

But what sort of third term will it be? With no clear majority, Labour will have to go begging for support on every piece of legislation. They will have to consult widely, and build a broad consensus in order to get anything to pass. While I want them to pursue a more left-wing agenda, I cannot really say that this is a Bad Thing. Disparate parties signing off on a policy gives it legitimacy far greater than a bare majority would suggest. And at the worst, it means policy stasis, which isn't so bad. For all my criticisms, current policy settings aren't too bad - and they're certainly a damn sight better than National's preferred one. Tonight's result means the Revolution won't be restarting - and that is something worth celebrating.

The exact numbers will have to wait until the special votes are counted. The Greens traditionally do well in these (browsing the 2002 numbers they frequently do as well as National), so I think Labour's position will strengthen slightly. But this will not change the need for consultation and consensus.

As for winners and losers, the first point is that (as the Doctor said the other night), everybody lives! No-one fell below the threshold, and so we've had the most democratic election ever, with only around 1.2% of the electorate disenfranchised due to the threshold. That's as good as we are ever going to get, and it is something to celebrate, even if it means we have people we hate back in.

Helen is an obvious winner; as mentioned above, she'll probably get her third term. So is Don - he's rebuilt his party to a position where it will be a strong contender in 2008. While the only way to go was up, he's still done a good job of it - and hopefully some of his 22 new MPs will do a better job of holding the government to account than his present tired old faces have done. The Maori Party obviously deserve congratultion - in 15 short months they've gone from nothing to four seats, and fulfiled the promise of an independent Maori political party which can negotiate across the table rather than from under it. And Rodney Hide of course, who worked hard for Epsom.

The losers are sadly the Greens - who are back in reduced numbers, and may very well lose Nandor if the specials don't go their way - and Matt Robson. He will be sadly missed, and I hope he finds some other way to continue his good work. I won't be shedding any tears however for John Tamihere (cat-beater!), or for Stephen Franks, Murial Newman, and the rest of the ACT MPs. While claiming to be liberals, they were voted conservatively on the important issues, and I'm glad to see the back of them.

Finally, while Brash is a winner, he's also a loser. Sure, he's rebuilt for 2008, but this will just encourage his underlings to roll him so they get a crack at being PM then. Gerry is probably already sharpening the knives. Be warned. The other loser is the National party as a whole: while they may have won Tauranga, they'll have to put up with the embarassment of Bob the Builder scratching his crotch and talking about his testicles in Parliament for the next three years. And I don't think the Standing orders are going to stop people from putting it on TV...

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Election Day

Election day has always felt like a holiday to me. Not as much as Halloween, but still a holiday. And despite some worries last night (involving thunder, lightning, and hailstones the size of marbles), the weather has turned out reasonably well.

So, I'm going to enjoy the sun for a bit, vote, then go to Wellington to watch the results. And no matter which way it turns out, democracy will be the winner on the day.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Last words

As with other blogs, I won't be posting about NZ politics tomorrow, as the Electoral Act prohibits campaigning on the day. This being blogger, I can't close off comments, or even use a moderation queue, so I'll just ask people to behave themselves and respect the law.

The choice we have tomorrow is a stark one: between finally burying the 90's, or returning to them. I've made it clear which side of that argument I am on, and why, and all I can do is hope that enough of you agree with me. If not, I can only hope that three years of rampant neo-liberalism tempered only by the vagaries of Winston Peters (because he was so good at it last time) is enough for people to (re)learn their lesson.

Finally, to repeat the obvious: please remember to vote. Voting is a weapon. Voting is power. This is your chance to say what sort of New Zealand you want, and the politicians have to listen. They can ignore you the rest of the time, but not tomorrow. Whatever your views, its worth taking that opportunity to be heard.

Party Vote: Left

The newpapers are full of opinion columns in which people put their cards on the table and urge their readers to vote one way or another, so I thought I'd join them. But unlike other commentators I will not be urging people to vote for a particular party. Instead, I'd like to encourage people to take the broad view and cast their party vote for a left-wing government. There are a number of parties which would contribute to such a government, and under MMP, it does not really matter which particular one you cast your vote for. I will be voting Green, because I seem to share their general ethos, because a left-wing government will not be possible if they fail to make it over the threshold, and because IMHO Labour's failure to defend human rights (particularly with regards to Ahmed Zaoui) means that they are not worthy of my support - but it is not necessary that we agree in order to work together. As Span said,

Let us fight in our way, and you will fight in yours, and hopefully one day we will all win together.

While there are complicating factors which provide Labour supporters with a strong incentive to vote Green and help them into Parliament by a comfortable margin, the blunt fact is that unlike the right, we don't need to worry so much about tactical voting, because we're all going to get into Parliament. Any vote for Labour, the Greens, or the Progressives advances our mutual cause; none of them is a "wasted vote".

So, if you like Labour, vote Labour. If you like the Greens, vote Green. If you like Jim and Matt, vote Progressive. The only tactical consideration is whether you want to try and pull Labour to the left by voting for one of its coalition partners, but that is ultimately a matter of individual taste. A vote for any of these parties will contribute to a New Zealand where the government works for the many rather than the few, where the partnership symbolised by the Treaty is upheld, and where everyone can participate regardless of race, gender, faith, or sexual identity - and that, ultimately, is what we're all working for.

Zaoui's future on the line tomorrow

Apparantly Ahmed Zaoui is taking a keen interest in the election. While he's very careful not to express any opinion on the matter, the reason for his interest is fairly obvious: his future is on the line. If the security risk certificate against him is upheld, his fate will ultimately be decided by whoever is Minister of Immigration. And despite Labour's hostility, he's still likely to get far better treatment from a Labour minister than a National (or NZ First) one.

The "moral obligation to lie" again

One of the constant criticisms of National's policies has been lack of detail. In general, their policy is vague, lacking in specifics, and frequently uncosted. In health in particular there are serious unanswered questions about National's overall funding commitments, whether it will again pursue user pays or privatisation policies, and whether it will remain committed to ensuring competitive staff salaries. Don Brash's response to this has been to say that the details just haven't been worked out yet. That's worrying enough in a party which aspires to government, and raises serious questions about their competance (not to mention about what the hell they've been doing for the last three years) - but it's actually worse than that. According to an email sent by National's health spokesperson, Paul Hutchinson, to a Health pressure group,

The strategy team has preferred we do not publish a detailed policy.

Think about that for a moment. Rather than putting the details of their policy before the electorate, they've deliberately chosen to withhold them. And the only conceivable reason for doing so is because they know we won't like them, and would never vote for such policies if they were advocated openly.

Remind anyone of Brash's doctrine of the "moral obligation to lie"...?

Planning for the big night II

Scoop has the ballot-paper for an election-night drinking game...

Reasons for support

In the spirit of inclusiveness promoted above, here's some positive reasons to vote for each of the different components of the left.

Five reasons to vote Labour

  • Employment issues: Labour's achievements here are excellent (lowest unemployment in the OECD, anyone?), but I think two really stand out: they've restored the power of unions, so workers can actually fight for and win wage gains (see the success of the fair share campaign), and they've raised the minimum wage substantially, from $7/hour to $9.50 /hour. Both of these have delivered real gains, and helped ensure that the fruits of growth are distributed more widely than they were under previous governments.
  • The Civil Union Act: It's not full gay marriage, but it is still a progressive step. And while there were traitors in the ranks, Labour stood by its ideals and pushed it through at no small political cost to itself.
  • KiwiSaver: not implemented yet, but stands to enable people to pursue the kiwi dream of owning their own home. A solid, social democratic policy.
  • Zero-interest student loans: a seisachtheia for students and graduates, which makes those "loans" actually repayable.
  • To boost their chances of being the largest party on the night, and thus of getting Winston's support (for whatever that's worth).

Five reasons to vote Green

  • Human rights: the Green party have been Parliament's most consistent and eloquent defenders of human rights. They stood up for Ahmed Zaoui and the right of everyone to a fair trial. They've opposed government legislation such as the Identities Bill, and the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill, which erodes the rule of law by allowing the government to criminalise behaviour ex post facto. They took a firm stand for a secular and liberal society over civil unions. And they've been a conscience on foreign policy, speaking out where the government has remained silent.
  • Energy policy: they've been wonking away for years in this area, and the result is a reasonable and sensible path to a sustainable future - so much so that Labour have flogged most of their ideas.
  • The environment: does it really need to be said? We have an image of being "clean and green", but this is due to not having very many people, and not really borne out by the reality. Just look at our lakes and rivers, for example. Air quality in our cities isn't that hot either. Then there's our forests and our native birds. While most of our political parties have some tinge of Green, it is the Greens' core value.
  • Social justice: on social policy, employment law, housing, the Greens stand for a society where everyone is taken care of, where no-one goes hungry, and where everyone has equal access to opportunities. And they stand for using the power of the state to fight inequality and discrimination. This accord well with the left's core values of substantive freedom and equality.
  • Because a left-wing government will not be possible if the Greens just miss the threshold.

Two reasons to vote Progressive (because they're small)

  • Matt Robson: he has been a consistent critic of the government on human rights issues, and a conscientious defender of liberal values. He's stood up for Ahmed Zaoui and the Iraqi immigrants Winston smeared; he's opposed the Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Bill, the Identities Bill, and numerous other pieces of legislation that eroded fundamental human rights. It's such a shame he had to ruin it by trying to raise the drinking age.
  • Economic development: the Progressives are all about building a higher-wage economy through innovation and improving productivity. Again, this will ensure that the fruits of growth are more evenly distributed. But more importantly, it also represents a distinctive response to globalisation. Rather than opposing free trade, they're trying to mollify its effects and work out how we can live with it, in the same way that Labour is working out how we can live with a market economy. If you're an internationalist with some qualms about free trade, this is an interesting project, and one that seems worth pursuing.

Which party you find most compelling will obviously depend on your particular values, but IMHO there are good reasons to vote for all of them.

More National Front thuggery

Two teenagers who drove round the North Shore shooting at pedestrians with an imitation M-16 soft-air gun have pled guilty to firearms charges. Both are former members of the National Front. One has been kicked out, the other had resigned before the incident

because he did not want career prospects damaged by an association with the group

It looks like even the National Front's friends don't want to know them.

Final words from Keepleft

Keepleft have a final video - a compilation of Don's campaign highlights - here. They also have a heartfelt plea from Yoko which sums up exactly what this election is all about:

Will your vote be about the here and now? How far ahead are you prepared to look?

If you are at the end of your time in high school, are you thinking about cheaper fees at university and about interest fee student loans?

If you are retired and have grandchildren, do you wonder whether NZ will be as clean and as green for them as it was for you?

If you are in your middle years, what kind of health system do you look forward to for you, and what kind of education system for the young people you care about?

If you care about New Zealand's place in the world, do you value our independent thinking and action in foreign policy? Or would you cast it aside in favour of mysterious and uncertain future rewards?

National is all about short-term thinking, the tax-cut now at the expense of the running down our infrastructure and public services. What's made Labour such a good government is that they have taken the long view. Their restoration of social services isn't based on living beyond our means, but is affordable. The return to universal public health care is affordable. The investment in children through Working For Families, and the middle-aged through the Cullen Fund is affordable. Even their no-interest student loans policy is affordable. National's plan to borrow for tax cuts puts all of that at risk.

But the part which resonated most, and which most clearly defined the election for me, is this bit:

In the final one-on-one debate last night, Don Brash was asked who was not mainstream. Don Brash said that Helen Clark was not a mainstream New Zealander. And he said that anybody who shares her vision for a vibrant, diverse, progressive New Zealand was also not mainstream.

What this election is all about is a battle for cultural control between those who continue to believe in this mythical mainstream, and those of us who have accepted - in the words of Nandor - that

there no longer is a mainstream. We have become a braided river.

The believers in the mainstream - dead white males, all - refuse to accept that the "good old days" when New Zealand culture was defined by white, middle aged, straight farmers, are gone. They refuse to accept the changes wrought by urbanisation, immigration, globalisation, generational and demographic change, even (judging by their dark mutterings on women holding power) feminism. They refuse to accept that we are becoming a Pacific nation. In short, they are in denial. But that denial could cost us dearly, and make New Zealand a nastier, angrier, and far less comfortable place to live. I don't want that, and I don't think anyone whose views belong to the twentieth (rather than nineteenth) century does.

That's what's at stake here, that's what we're voting about. And I urge all of you to cast your votes for the future rather than the past.

New Fisk

Why is it that we and America wish civil war on Iraq?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Universal jurisdiction

Israel is condemning the British government for attempting to arrest a former IDF General for alleged war crimes. Major General Doron Almog is alleged to have ordered reprisals against civilians by troops he commanded in the Gaza strip, ordering the bulldozing of 50 civilian homes for an attack on an Israeli military outpost which killed four soldiers. Such action is considered by much of the international community to be a war crime. British law asserts universal jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity, and a warrant had been issued for Almog's arrest. Unfortunately, someone (perhaps the same people from the Foreign Office who fought tooth and nail against the prosecution of General Pinochet) tipped off the Israeli embassy, who tipped off Almog, and so he escaped. But he won't be coming back to Britain (or much of Europe) for a long time.


That is the only way to describe the allegations from the Tamihere camp that activists from the Maori Party assaulted and kidnapped one of his campaign workers:

"The 16 year old campaign worker was repairing my damaged placards and hoarding on Wednesday night. In an act I do not condone, he was also attaching ‘Vote Tamihere’ stickers to Maori Party hoardings.

"However, the treatment meted out to the youth, when discovered by members of Dr Sharples’ campaign team, were completely out of proportion. He alleges he was threatened, assaulted and kidnapped before being forced to make a statement on video.

"We are talking about a 16 year old boy. He alleges he was held for seven hours through the middle of the night by Dr Sharples and members of his team. The boy felt intimidated and terrified."

I'd hope that these allegations have been reported to the police, and if they check out, that the people involved go to jail. OTOH, if they don't check out, they seem to be exactly the sort of thing S 199A of the Electoral Act 1993 was intended to apply to.

Planning for the big night

With election day fast approaching, it's time to start planning for the big night. I'll be going to Wellington, and watching the results while indulging in the traditional chocolate fondue (I blame Muerk for this, BTW). The only question is what to drink. If the left wins, then the answer is fairly obvious - crack open a bottle of faux champagne. But what should I drink if it looks like Brash will win on the night? A cup of cold tea? A cup of cold sick? Something strong to take the pain away? Or something that leaves a bitter aftertaste and a sense of stomach-churning dread the next morning?

I don't expect to be doing much posting on election day; the Electoral Act forbids media statements which could influence voters on the day itself. And I've certainly got no intention of live-blogging the results - I'd be doing nothing more than regurgitating whatever was on the TV anyway. If you are interested, results will be online at from about 20:30 onwards.

Finally, given that I've pretty much focused on the election recently, I'm now wondering what the hell I'm going to blog about when it's all over...

Local polls

The media are focusing on national-level polls and the party vote, but what about the electorate battles? We've seen polls recently for Tauranga and Epsom; here are a couple more:

  • Aoraki (Timaru Herald): Jo Goodhew (National) 36.9%, Jim Sutton (Labour) 30.9%.
  • Kaikoura (Marlborough Express): Colin King (National) 43%, Brendon Burns (Labour) 24.2%, Undecided 25.4% (MOE 4.4%).
  • Ikaroa Rawhiti (TNS): Horomia (Labour) 62%, Poananga (Mâori Party) 32%, Te Kani (Destiny New Zealand) 3% (MOE 5.2%).
  • Tainui (TNS): Mahuta (Labour) 57%, Greensill (Mâori Party) 36%, Solomon (Destiny New Zealand) 5% (MOE 5.2%).
  • Invercargill (Southland Times): Roy (National) 34.5%, Harpur (Labour) 21.4%, Carson (Green) 1.8%, Undecided ~40% (MOE 4.26%).
  • New Plymouth (Taranaki Daily News): Duynhoven (Labour) 51.8%, Irving (National) 21.6%, Brown (Green) 3.4%, Undecided 17.2% (MOE ??)
  • Otago (Southland Times): Dean (National) 36.1%, Parker (Labour) 28.3%, Pearce (Green) 3.2% (MOE 5%).
  • Clutha-Southland (Southland Times): English (National) 54.2%, Talbot (Labour) 13.6%, Mackie (NZ First) 1.8%, Guyton (Green) 1.2%, undecided 19.8%, refuse to state 7.8% (MOE 5%).
  • West Coast-Tasman (Nelson Mail): O'Connor (Labour) 38.6%, Auchinvole (National) 33.2%, undecided ~20% (MOE 4.4%).
  • Te Tai Hauauru (TNS): Turia (Maori Party) 63%, Meihana (Labour) 28%, Te Wano (Destiny) 6%, Undecided 11% (MOE 5.2%).
  • Te Tai Tokerau (TNS): Harawira (Maori Party) 49%, Samuels (Labour) 30%, Mangu (Indpendent) 7%, Morton (Destiny) 5% (MOE 5.2%).
  • Wellington Central (Dominion-Post): Hobbs (Labour) 16 points ahead of Blumsky (National), Kedgley (Green) 5%, Franks (ACT) 3%, McKenzie (United) 1% (MOE 5.7%).
  • Hamilton East (Waikato Times): Bennett (National) 56%, Yates (Labour) 22%, Woolerton (NZ First) 3%, Howard (Green) 2%, undecided 14% (MOE 5.7%).
  • Hamilton West (Waikato Times): Macindoe (National) 41%, Gallagher (Labour) 36%, Gudgeon (NZ First) 4%, Jackson (United) 2%, Moxon (Maori Party) 1%, Bains (Progressive) 1%, undecided 10% (MOE 5.7%).
  • Aoraki (Timaru Herald): Goodhew (National) 36.3%, Sutton (Labour) 31.3%, Elsen (Green) 6.1%, undecided 22% (MOE ~5%).
  • Epsom (One News): Worth (National) 44%, Hide (ACT) 30%, Nash (Labour) 20% (MOE ?).
  • Tauranga (Herald on Sunday): Clarkson (National) 42%, Peters (NZ First) 31% (MOE ~5%).
  • Whangarei (Northern Advocate): Heatley (National) 38.6%, Chalmers (Labour) 23.3%, Donnelly (NZ First) 2.7%, Newman (ACT) 1.6%, undecided 32.3% (MOE ~5%).
  • Tainui (Waikato Times): Mahuta (Labour) 51%, Greensill (Maori Party) 30%, undecided 10% (MOE 5.6%).
  • Waiariki (TNS): Flavell (Maori Party) 47%, Ririnui (Labour) 39%, Vercoe (Destiny) 10%, Davis (Direct Democracy) 1%, undecided 9% (MOE ~5%).
  • Te Tai Tonga (TNS): Okeroa (Labour) 51%, Ohia (Mâori Party) 30%, Turei (Greens) 9%, Samuel (Destiny) 5%, Caldwell (Progressive) 1%, undecided 19% (MOE 5.2%).

The Southland Times will be publishing polls of the southern electorates next week, and I'll add them soon. ACT also mentions a couple in their newsletter here. Anyone have any more?

Update: Added Tainui and Ikaroa Rawhiti; I will add more as I notice them.

Update 2: Bumped; lots of additional new data out today.

Update 3: Bumped again. Anyone seen any more polls?

More energy wonkery

Public Address has a guest column today by David Haywood, an energy engineer, in which he assesses the various parties' energy policies. It's good reading, but it also raises an interesting question: "why are the parties of the right so adverse to common sense energy policy"? I'd venture that it is because serious thinking about energy is associated with green-ness, and that "Green" is a dirty word in the business community. And so you get policies which are, well, thin; which ignore obvious cost-effective solutions like wind and easy efficiency gains;, which try to make expensive solutions cheap by ignoring their full costs; or which try to shoehorn everything into a fixed economic ideology. That is, when they're not gambling everything on finding oil or pushing nuclear simply in order to be "politically incorrect"...

The thing is, you don't need to be a green to think about energy policy - just look at Brian Leyland. But the association seems to be enough to damn the entire policy area to the fringes in right-wing parties' eyes.