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Q+A: Panel discusses Mana By-Election debate

Published: 3:24PM Sunday October 31, 2010 Source: Q + A

PAUL Should Kris Faafoi's parents be thrown out of their state house?

MIKE Well, they're moving out, aren't they?

WYATT They're moving out. But I think the point that's being made there is that the houses should be used for the poorest people, and it's pretty hard to deny that as a principle.

PAUL It is. Who impressed you the most?

MIKE I think Kris Faafoi. Obviously I would say that. He's kind of the candidate for central casting for that electorate: young Pasifika guy made good. Uh, there wasn't any signs of nervousness. He was in amongst the old pros, particularly Matt McCarten, and I think he held up his end pretty well.

CLAIRE Hekia Parata, I think, was very good. She was perhaps on the verge of a bit of hectoring at times, but, you know, that woman seems to be quite in control of the subjects of the electorate, and I think that Kris's inexperience showed up a little bit. Hekia was the more experienced campaigner there.

PAUL She answers the question about where she lives very well, doesn't she? For some reason I said Remuera, which is dopey. I mean Karori, yes.

MIKE But what she answered was she actually lives in two places. The question is where's her enrolment?

WYATT I suppose just like with Mike, I'd say my reaction would be predictable, but I thought Hekia Parata came across as quite a striking, strong candidate with the knowledge of the background of being in government. Kris Faafoi I think performed fine as it goes, but the real loose cannon that's come into Mana is Matt McCarten's presence there and what that's going to do, because while the Alliance didn't do well last election, he's probably got a lot more profile than any Alliance candidate.

PAUL There's something in there.  I felt he was really connecting during that debate, I could feel it.  There's something in him that burns, and there's something in him that will strike a chord in Mana.

CLAIRE Well, both Kris and Hekia were talking about big-picture items, and Matt McCarten, he's really got on his hobby-horse issue, but in fact it'll probably strike the chord in a lot of voters in Mana.

WYATT I thought the other two, one was very serious and the other was very into Green projects type thing.

PAUL The Green person with the threatened fish and the bridge.

WYATT The two major ones are obviously the players they're gonna watch.  National's not expecting to win the election.

PAUL Remember those birds.

MIKE Yeah, the dotterels.

PAUL The dotterels in Auckland Harbour, and they disappeared.

CLAIRE Actually, I think the gap between National and Labour is much smaller in this election than the gap between Winnie and Hekia in the last election.

WYATT That will be the interesting thing from a commentary point of view, is how close that result is, because she's been a strong candidate, and it's been definitely a test of how the government's performed over this period.

PAUL She's got charisma, Hekia Parata.  She's striking.

CLAIRE Well, she's charisma, she's experience.  There's only 2,500 between the party votes of Labour and National in that electorate.  The big risk in that electorate is voter fatigue, actually.

PAUL Well, therefore, the big risk is Matt McCarten.

CLAIRE Yeah. After the local body elections, people are not necessarily gonna want to vote again, and then you've got the Matt McCarten quotient, and that's gonna be tricky.

MIKE Can I make a point?  By-elections are actually very different. The key thing about a by-election, and again, Claire, this business about voter fatigue after local body elections, it's a long time after that, it's nonsense.

CLAIRE It's a month.  It's not long.

MIKE I mean, you can't vote more than twice in a month?  In Australia they do it often twice a week. But the thing about by-elections is turnout and what you make of the results - turnout and interpretation.  Now, if you take the one by-election we have had, the turnout there was 47%, almost half of the turnout in the general election and that's a rule of thumb, about 50%. So it's which party gets its vote out. The second thing about by-elections is they do focus more on individuals. Now, the Mt Albert by-election was actually a huge triumph for Phil Goff and the Labour Party, but almost no commentator said this, they all put it down to the fact that the National candidate came over like a featherbrain. 

So you're going to get quite a focus on the candidates, and they're going to get very strongly examined. What also came out of there, and I think this could well be of great difficulty to National, is the question of state housing.  That is a third-rail issue: state house tenants generally have very poor turnout. Somebody's running around saying, 'You might be here for three years, we might sell your house to the Salvation Army,' they're gonna turn out.

PAUL That's something that's gotta really be handled by the Nats, the state house thing. 4,000 of the 17,000 houses in that electorate.

WYATT Yeah, but I mean if people on very high incomes are in state houses, they are missing the point.  I think Hekia Parata made that point very strongly.  Mike Williams is correct in a way to say that by-elections are different, but they are still interpreted by the commentary people as how well a party's performed individually, and I think in this particular case National have done a job that, compared to Mt Albert, looks really good.

PAUL Well, they're a different kettle of fish, aren't they?  Michael, what mischief would you be making if you were running that-

MIKE Certainly I wouldn't be making mischief, I'd be focusing on the state house issue, obviously.

WYATT It's obvious, Paul.  You introduce Matt McCarten into the equation.

MIKE Matt won't get many votes, but he'll bring out issues and he'll cause a lot of fun, and that's what he was doing there, and if you're a political junkie like me, that was just great, that was a good piece of television, a good piece of politics, and we're gonna have a lot of fun.

CLAIRE Don't forget Matt will get those 17 Alliance voters from 2008.  He can count on those.

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