Home' The Wellingtonian : November 24th 2011 Contents 9
THE WELLINGTONIAN, NOVEMBER 24, 2011
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No substance to election sideshows
During three out of the past
four elections, the official
campaign has been
disrupted by issues utterly
removed from the policies on offer.
Each time these sideshow
issues have derailed the cam-
paign, there have been allegations
of cover-ups, political subterfuge
and question marks over the
media s behaviour.
The Epsom cafe saga has been
In 2002, the election campaign
was overtaken by the Corngate
story, about genetically modified
This led to an epic TV3 confron-
tation between Prime Minister
Helen Clark and interviewer John
Campbell, with Clark calling
Campbell a little creep for his
In 2005, the big distraction was
the Exclusive Brethren s funding
of anti-Green pamphlets,
apparently to get around the
limits on campaign spending, and
allegedly with some tacit support
from Don Brash and the National
Party strategy team.
By contrast, the 2008 election
campaign was a fairly straight-
forward affair. This year has
reverted to type, however.
The circus in Epsom has done
nothing to improve the public s
low opinion of politicians (they ve
got no respect for truth) or of
journalists (they ve got no respect
In effect, the public has been
made into onlookers during much
of this campaign, while the
politicians, legal experts and
media commentators argued with
each other about the ethics and
legality of the theatrics in Epsom.
Longer term, the politicians
should be worried.
The brand images of Clark and
Brash never recovered from the
damage done to them during these
diversions, during which they
were widely seen to have behaved
badly under pressure.
Similarly, John Key s benign
image may prove hard to resur-
rect in the wake of the Epsom
As these political sideshows
have become the norm, more sub-
stantive issues have been
The logic of the asset sales pro-
gramme and the dubious spending
plans of both major parties, for
example, have received only cur-
sory media attention.
In addition, there has been a
noticeable lack of credible dis-
cussion about how to reduce child
poverty, income inequality or
Nor has there been much of a
public debate about the voting
None of this can be blamed on
the Epsom cafe tape. Most people
derive their news from television
and long ago public television
gave into the financial pressure to
promote style over substance.
On the voting referendum, pub-
lic television has been missing in
At best, it has described the
mechanics of each option, but
without shedding any light on the
sort of democratic outcomes likely
under the alternatives on offer.
In that respect, we have gone
Some 25 years ago, the Royal
Commission had no hesitation in
recommending MMP as superior
in terms of democratic outcomes,
to the FPP, SM or STV systems.
Ultimately, this year s election
seems likely to hinge on three
related factors: whether National
can win an absolute majority;
whether New Zealand First
exceeds the 5 per cent threshold;
and -- especially -- whether the
Greens get more than 10 per cent
of the vote.
If they do, the main focus of
attention next week after the
votes are counted will be the
Government s negotiations with
the Greens, and any mutual goals
they can pursue through an
enhanced memo of understanding.
That s when substance, not
style, will finally have its day.
The Wellingtonian welcomes
letters. Please supply name,
address and day phone number.
No pseudonyms. Preferred
maximum length 200 words.
Letters may be edited. Preference
is given to letters responding to
issues raised in The Wellingtonian.
Send your letters to PO Box 3740,
As election day gets closer, 2011
will be remembered primarily for
the lack of debate regarding the
real issues facing the country.
Show us the money and
Teagate will be blips on the
campaign trail, but what has
really been lacking has been any
real discussion by the
Government about the future of
Partial sale of our state assets
might be ideologically driven, but
what is the long-term plan?
We are expecting 177,000 new
jobs in the next three or four
years, but where are they going to
What about the jobs/skills
training needed for the rebuild of
Christchurch? Where is that going
to happen, and when?
Deep sea oil drilling might be
fine, but as we have seen with the
Rena disaster, as a country we
could hardly cope with a minor oil
spill. So what is the plan before
we open up all our waters to oil
As for mining on the land, Pike
River showed what happens when
a Government deregulates an
industry -- 29 men died
needlessly. As we have learned,
such a mine would never have got
a licence in Australia.
And was of the 2008 promise of
wages catching up with
Australia s? Was that just pie-in-
the-sky wishful thinking?
Politicians in a
In Campaign from a parallel
universe (November 17), Gordon
Campbell writes about the
problems the nation has faced,
and continues to face, that arise
from politicians running a
divorced from current concerns .
governments have found it more
important to fund motorways
than to invest adequately in
tertiary education .
I agree. For example, Minister
of Transport Steven Joyce has
recently announced huge
expenditure on new road projects.
This is a blatant attempt to buy
votes from those segments of the
population who do not care one
iota about student debt, the plight
of Cantabrians, poverty-stricken
families, rampant diseases, hosts
of people in need of job-skills
He is a classic example of a
politician who exists in a parallel
universe divorced from most of us.
J CHRIS HORNE
Where local MPs
Labour s Ohariu candidate,
Charles Chauvel, recently claimed
to have proven competence .
Difficult for an Opposition list MP
to prove I would have thought.
It did make me realise that if
Chauvel or Katrina Shanks
proved to be incompetent as MP
for Ohariu then, as non-residents
of Ohariu, they won t have to live
with the consequences of their
incompetence. Unlike the voters.
They can even restrict their
visits to avoid unhappy
This is one of the electoral
system s faults. I believe an
electorate MP should have to
reside in the electorate.
The party vote is for our
politics, the electorate vote is for
who will work best for us.
Playing the man,
not the ball
Re your November 17 letters, I d
first remark that the likes of Paul
Lawrence nearly always have no
answers but ridicule/abuse to use
as weapons against the likes of Mr
Smythe and me. Pushing an
opponent s arguments to
absurdity is always a favourite
used by the PC crowd.
Doesn t Mr Smythe, in paying
his rates, pay his share for his
walks on the footpaths?
A vehicle such as a pushbike
goes beyond all that.
Regarding Ms Anthea Grob s
great concern for sharks, I ll agree
that we don t want the whole
species to become extinct.
I m also aware that only a few
branches of the species are
aggressive, man-eating sharks,
but I cannot see that it would be
any great tragedy if those nasty
sub-species were exterminated
I would like to extend a heartfelt
thank you from Arthritis New
Zealand to the thousands of
volunteers, members and donors
who helped to make our 2011
Arthritis Appeal Week a success.
We are proud to report that
thanks to the generosity and
support of our donors, we raised
$390,600 around the country.
You can still support us by
calling 0900 3 3320 to make a
Arthritis New Zealand
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