Life and Politics

Occasional comment on politics and the media in New Zealand

Shearer and Robertson a breath of fresh air

by Jake Quinn

David Shearer and Grant Robertson are Labour’s new leadership team. Neither man was an MP, let alone a Minister, in the previous Labour government, led by Helen Clark.

This leadership team sends a very strong message to New Zealanders that Labour can deliver something new and fresh. The pairing provide an incredible narrative that no media strategy or finely crafted speech or photo-op could ever deliver. It’s a strong break from the past. And that message is priceless. Read the rest of this entry »


Robertson’s endorsement crucial

by Jake Quinn

Grant Robertson’s endorsement of David Shearer is a strong one. Grant is much more experienced in political terms than his three years as an MP would suggest. Previous roles as a senior advisor to Ministers and Prime Minister Clark have afforded him high level exposure to the reins of power.

For a time Grant was known as “H3” after Helen and Heather. That is, as the most senior advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office, after Helen’s redoubtable Chief of Staff Heather Simpson, Grant was as (or more) influential as many Ministers around the Cabinet table.

Grant is not green, in terms of experience. On the contrary – I’d describe him as a sort of moral leader within the caucus; meaning new ideas are canvassed with him to get a read, in terms of how something might play out politically. Read the rest of this entry »

Cunliffe v Shearer

by Jake Quinn

It’s a nice situation to be in as a Labour supporter. Two candidates called David both highly talented individuals. I’m happy this leadership contest is happening publicly and I’m happy that David Parker pulled out, he being the most Goff like of the three David’s.

I actually think David Cunliffe ‘should’ (yes, those are inverted commas) be the next leader of the Labour Party. By that I mean he’s the most experienced and probably more skilled (in the practical, political sense) to be a leader of a political party in this country. He’s bloody clever, a Fulbright scholar at Harvard, has real private sector experience, is a fantastic facilitator and has impressive people skills (he remembers names and details in a scary way). For what it’s worth (to me not a great deal) he goes to church on Sundays (Key doesn’t). Read the rest of this entry »

A series of observations

by Jake Quinn

1) #teapottapes, some commentators would have it, is an elaborate scam by the National Party campaign manager and evil-genius Steven Joyce to distract media attention from policy issues and from the Labour Party in the penultimate week of an election campaign.

This is paranoid delusion (although a reasonable one I suppose, given the National Party’s gross over reaction to the entire episode). In any case, the National Party are not that clever, plus, John Key looks like a fool because of it and it’s getting worse for him by the day/minute. Read the rest of this entry »

National and the Greens, 2002 in reverse

by Jake Quinn

In 2002 voters abandoned National and flocked to the centre parties United Future and New Zealand First. They did so because Labour looked to be able to govern alone, just as National does after this month’s election.

Most New Zealanders like MMP, they like that the grand old parties have someone keeping them in check. Many still remember the 1980’s, which saw governments of both flavour carry out platforms of economic and social reform that they did not campaign on, that they did not have real mandates for.

This election New Zealanders will in all likelihood elect a National government for a second term. The question is do they want that government to have unbridled power? And if not, which party in particular do they want to curb that power? Read the rest of this entry »

From Oz to the Pacific

by Jake Quinn

It’s only fair to my tens of readers that I provide an update on my recent adventures. This blog, after all, claims to provide more than just occasional comment on politics and the media in New Zealand. (It struggles recently to do even that.)

Anyway, I’m not in NZ, I’m no longer in Kosovo, and I’ve recently departed Australia for the warmer climes of the South Pacific. Earlier this year my partner and I moved to Sydney cause she got a baller job with the World Bank. I was happy enough with that move. Sydney’s OK; really nice food, but really busy trains (peak morning hour reminded me of Mumbai, seriously). Read the rest of this entry »

Trotter and Edwards are wrong

by Jake Quinn

Otago University political studies lecturer Bryce Edwards writes the NZ Politics Daily. It’s a fantastic resource. Bryce does what a good blogger should do, he reviews and compiles the days ‘real’ journalism, synthesises it, presents it and offers, briefly, his learned view on it. For those of us following NZ politics from abroad it is an invaluable resource. Moreover, he collates all that material, which for political scientists studying this election is incredibly helpful.

Bryce has been accused of being too tough on Labour and the Greens. I don’t tend to agree with these accusations. Bryce is an academic, he’s sceptical of all parties and politicians generally, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps, as a commentator of the ‘left’ he is expected by some to fight their corner, he does not, this is why I respect his views especially. Today however I did disagree with his take on Chris Trotter’s latest reiteration of his diatribe against Labour and Phil Goff. Read the rest of this entry »

Labour onto a winner with Capital Gains Tax

by Jake Quinn

Most OECD countries have a capital gains tax (CGT) in varying forms. To not have a CGT is unusual and doing so provides no great competitive advantage to New Zealand, in fact it creates a tax haven for unproductive asset investment.

CGT is a common sense tax, it’s a fair tax, and it’s a rational tax. Not having one is stupid so I am pleased to hear the speculation, i.e. carefully leaked plans from Goff’s office, that Labour would introduce one if elected.

The presence of CGT levels the playing field between the productive sector (like the share market) and the unproductive sector (the housing market).  Not having a CGT essentially forces “rationally acting” investors to buy rental property, and to do little else. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Labour’s list is so important

by Jake Quinn

Interesting things have been written about Labour’s 2011 list. People feel strongly about this topic because it’s so important; because New Zealand badly needs a strong opposition and a set of potential MPs who are worthy adversaries in this year’s election. New Zealand doesn’t have a particularly flash government right now. John Key has been popular and Labour’s been struggling. This has led people to think this government is popular. This is misguided.

The Key government has been increasingly uninspiring in the face of adversity, their response to the country’s economic stagnation the best example. They have tried a few things from the centre-right playbook, nothing really has worked. The task’s been made harder by the Christchurch Earthquakes, but National has missed opportunities. We deserve better, we need better. That’s why there’s been some angst from the “commentariate” about Labour’s list. Read the rest of this entry »

Labour leadership

by Jake Quinn

It doesn’t bode well for NZ Labour when the headlines on my stuff and nzherald politics RSS feed read “Robertson a man for Labour’s future”, “Quietly ambitious Labour MP bides his time”, “Phil Quin: the anatomy of a failed Labour coup”, “Labour: We want to move on”, “David Parker: MP who could be Labour’s King”, and “Judith Tizard makes Labour party wait”.

Regardless of all the media speculation it is unlikely that Labour will have a change of leadership before this year’s November election. Until recently Labour has managed to hold its 1/3rd support in opinion polls, a solid position for any party undergoing a period of rebuilding following a decade in office. Read the rest of this entry »

Events, my dear boy, events

by Jake Quinn

Where do we stand? It feels as if the devastating Christchurch earthquake has sent New Zealand’s election year pre-campaign period the way of the Census. What does this mean for our political process and in particular what does it mean for the Left’s chances in election 2011? While discussing the political fallout of such a tragic event may seem distasteful to some, not doing so ignores the reality that national disasters have political implications.

Politics has been cancelled for the time being – which would be expected – so the next question is “when would it be reasonable for it to resume?” This is probably what the leaders of the Opposition parties in New Zealand are asking themselves, when they get a moment away from digging up liquefied driveways, rallying troops of volunteers and making cups of tea. Read the rest of this entry »

A good day for a cunning Prime Minister

by Jake Quinn

John Key is full of surprises. His decision to call the 2011 Election Day, for 26 November, so far in advance is out of character in recent New Zealand history and for it he will draw the worthy praise of the country’s political commentariate.

His other decision today however, to dig his heels in and give oxygen to the ‘NZ PM says Liz Hurley is hot’ story, which annoys the hell out of feminists and liberal academic types and has already gathered international media attention, would, one would have thought, be seen as foolish politics… But not for John Key.

Let me begin by explaining that Mr Key is not an ordinary bloke. He’s not just like “you or me” or your buddies down at the TAB. Read the rest of this entry »

Why another leftist party in NZ is a bad idea

by Jake Quinn

There has been some talk about the establishment of a new left-wing party being set up in New Zealand.  While it is likely that this talk has been over-hyped by a news-media who are more interested in such things than your average party member or voter, talk of a new leftist party is not completely unjustified given the current alignment of the country’s parliamentary political parties.

While I will content that the notion of a new party is damaging to the left it does have merit because of the perceived* centrewards shift of the main party of the NZ left, Labour, and because of the perceived move away from strongly focused advocacy of traditional leftist social justice issues by NZ’s environmentalist party, the Greens, towards a more exclusive focus on green issues. Read the rest of this entry »

In case anyone is mildly interested in my masters thesis

by Jake Quinn

The abstract for my masters thesis:


What are the costs and benefits for minor parties who support government via ‘confidence-and-supply’ arrangements? Such arrangements have replaced formal coalitions in New Zealand since the 2002 election. These agreements see minor parties gain ministerial posts outside of Cabinet and partial access to the leavers of policy-making. However, minor parties face serious costs such as the loss of public support and votes. In fact, every New Zealand minor party who has supported government through a confidence-and-supply agreement has lost support at the following election. Read the rest of this entry »

Kiwi’s Kosovo stint comes to an end

by Jake Quinn

Me at work, at UNMIK's Office of the Spokesperson and Public Information

My 7 months in Kosovo have come to an end and with UK airport conditions permitting, I will be flying back to New Zealand arriving Christmas Eve.  Living here through summer, autumn and the first month of winter has been great and 2010 has been one hell of a year for me. Since June I’ve been a United Nations Volunteer (UNV) with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), where I worked as a Public Information Officer with much of that time as Acting Mission Spokesperson. I edited local newspaper translations,  monitored and reported on media developments, briefed the press, drafted media response lines, made a daily news radio show and  drank delicious, reasonably priced Macchiatos Kosovo style. Read the rest of this entry »