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Q+A: Panel discussion on Mt Albert by-election

Published: 11:31PM Sunday May 10, 2009 Source: Q AND A

PANEL DISCUSSIONS BY PAUL HOLMES

Response to Melissa Lee / David Shearer interview

PAUL So any surprises really in that discussion, what's that bi-election going to be about? They like to think it's local things, will it be?
MICHELLE Yeah it will be about local things but also the people of Mt Albert have this incredible power right now, they can issue a verdict on what they like and don't like, and I think more than this election being about National versus Labour I think it's a critical election for Phil Goff.
PAUL Interesting - Therese what do you make of it cos you like to look at the numbers, curious numbers in bi-elections and elections, of course you have got I spose an analysis of the leadership of Phil Goff, the public seem to quite like the National government at the moment but then you've got a quite dark looking budget apparently coming, you've also got Super City.
THERESE I think when you look at electorate voting I do think that this is Labour's seat to lose, is it a safe seat, I'm not so sure of that any more and I say that because if you look back at 2008 at the party vote the swing towards National in Mt Albert was the largest swing of anywhere in Auckland, so what that tells me is the electorate in Mt Albert is more volatile that it's been in the past, and bi-elections are funny little beasts, they don't behave necessarily like in your general election, so there's no party vote, they know they're not going to affect you know the outcome of the election or the government so it does free up the people there to think more along local lines.
PAUL To say what they want.
THERESE And third parties tend to do actually quite well in bi-elections.
PAUL Interesting you mention that swing to National in Mt Albert that must have been one of the reasons for the rejection which Helen Clark felt so badly I suppose.
THERESE But she still did win by 10,000 in the electorate and over 2,000 in the party vote but it was a huge swing towards National.
PAUL Mr Tamihere can National win.
JOHN Oh it's there for National to win, this is a referendum on Labour and National, whilst I accept what Therese said about the third party coming through, I think six months seven months into a new government where we'll be two weeks after the new budget, we've got a whole rang of discontent out there in terms of job losses, interest rates, it's an unusual convergence of a lot of things that bring discontent, and normally discontent runs against the government. What we'll remain to see is, is there a residual acknowledgement that this is of National's making. And then it comes down to this, it then becomes a judgement on Key versus Goff and you can't get away from that referenda about the two.
PAUL Therese and Michelle you've looked a voter patterns, the Asian vote 24-25% of Mt Albert, would that tend to be an aspirational vote?
MICHELLE I think so, I think culturally Asians tend to be very aspirational, I think the thing that Melissa Lee didn't say which I've heard her say in the past which is quite important is the people of Mt Albert this time could choose a National MP cos they already know who the government is, they have that luxury, they know that if they choose a National MP they're plugged into an existing government. At the time of the general election you don't know that, so they could easily say well look let's have Melissa Lee for two and a half years because she's a direct line to John Key, we'll see how we go and if we don't like her we'll toss her out and put Labour in next time.
THERESE That is unusual though isn't it in that it's very rare that in bi-elections that the Opposition loses the seat and the government takes it, but we are in unusual circumstances as John said, because what we do know is in the electorate vote people are always talking about the candidates but really most people still vote based on the parody and this government is running at record highs and the best thing going for Melissa Lee is that she's running for National.
PAUL But that group of people, what did you make of them as people, as political horseflesh if I may say so John? Did you find them a bit university?
JOHN Well let's tick the boxes for David right. For one he's straight, two he's married, three he's got kids and that's got to be a bonus right in regard to certain things that have gone on in the party before, so they're re-rationalising their position. Is he Helen Clark in a tie, that's possibly a bit rich to go that far but he's pretty close. So one's gone to the UN and one's come back, so you know we've got - he's a very capable chap though, he's in the moderate part of the party and I think he's got - what you've got with Melissa is that drive, you can feel it, you can hear it in the passion of you know first immigration people's that have arrived and are really wanting to set the world on light, and so that's that issue. The other issue with the Asian vote if I could say, we've gotta be very careful there's not enough work in New Zealand to actually start to say oh because she's an Asian - because when we talk Asian we're talking Indian, we're talking Pakistani&.
PAUL The Indians might not vote for Koreans&
JOHN That's right, so we've gotta be very careful about confusing that and scaring horses, yeah I think it's about Mt Albert wide.
PAUL Very big Pacific Island vote there as well, just can't remember the number at the moment, what is it about 8-9?
MICHELLE About 15 now.
PAUL Fifteen is it, well that'll be aspirational as well I spose, in fact everybody probably at the moment is aspirational. What did you make of those two candidates?
MICHELLE I think what was interesting about David Shearer and the difference between the two of them was he was clearly reflecting the lack of experience he has in politics and the lack of institutional knowledge having been away for so long, saying Rodney Hide decided he wanted a Super City and there's been no consultation, well the Royal Commission recommended it, there'd been months and months of consultation through the Royal Commission and just some of the things that he talked about he clearly is suffering from not having that institutional knowledge of being here for the last couple of years and look she's picked up the politics real well, that experience in the House she's there knowing how to cut in on issues.
PAUL She's not shy of wrecking a few houses though for the sake of a road. Here is what Mr Shearer said about the tunnel for a start -
'David Shearer: Six hundred homes will be destroyed and the road will go through the middle of schools, shops, -
Melissa Lee: How many homes if it's a tunnel?
David: A little more than a 100 and they already know that.'
PAUL See the thing about bowling over homes is as Sir Barry Curtis in Manukau City learned and Mr John Banks several years back learned is people won't tolerate it will they?
JOHN Yeah but on the other side of this right there's a very well organised loud lobby group, the extent that that lobby group will have an impact in the bi-election remains to be seen. Big capital works like that it doesn't matter whether you put a tunnel under it doesn't matter whether you put a road in, what matters is it cost worthy in light of the budget we've got, we've got major considerations there, secondly you're gonna stuff someone up sooner or later on a big work&.
THERESE Can I say that it's only what a third bi-election under MMP so we don't have a huge experience of how people will react in a bi-election under MMP, we have to remember that there are more than the two major parties and what happens in terms of splitting the vote is important, we don't know what effect it will have for example that Shearer is the only non sitting MP that the other - we have three sitting MPs who will bring somebody else in through the list.
PAUL So a lot of unknowns. At the week ahead, what would you be expecting in the week ahead in politics John?
JOHN Oh politics it'll be all focused on the Super City empowerment legislation, empowerment of the Commission to drive it, and Labour has to continue to attack the lack of consultation even though it would have done much the same thing if it was in power, and so I think that's where the concentration will be.
THERESE And again using urgency, this is a government that's used urgency I would argue perhaps excessively so far, and especially this one is a technical bill setting up you know the parameters of the Super City there will be more consultation coming later, but you add the concern that you're hearing from Auckland that they're not being consulted with the bill that's being rushed through in urgency and I think Melissa called it fear mongering but you know I think there is going to be a real sense of unease &
PAUL We have some possibility for Labour to make mischief. Michelle what do you think for the week ahead.
MICHELLE Well it's interesting I think the Super City will be the focus and it is only about setting up the establishment board, but the message I get out there from people that actually they like the fact the government's moving on stuff and they don't have any choice but to do it under urgency if they're going to get it through for next year and they've made it quite clear they're gonna get it through.
PAUL Well thank you to the panel.

 

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