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Posts tagged ‘debate’

On the TVNZ Multi Party Leaders Debate

Blow-by-blow analyses are boring, but I noted down a few particular moments that I found harder to swallow.

Tariana Turia on the retirement age: “It should be 60 years of age for Maori, Pacific and the poor.”
Guyon Espiner: “So you’d have separate schemes depending on ethnicity?”
Turia: “No, I didn’t say that.  I said Maori, Pacific and the poor.”

Ms Turia appears to think there’s a genuine case for a different retirement age for Maori and Pacific people, and that’s fine.  But if the policy she advocates isn’t separate schemes depending on ethnicity, then she did a very poor job of explaining it.  A retirement scheme where two ethnicities retire at one age, and all other ethnicities can only retire at that same age if they are poor, is undoubtedly a scheme that depends on ethnicity.  At the point where politicians believe Maori do deserve different treatment—and I think there is a case to be made—I wish they would just say so, rather than beat around the bush pretending it’s sort of like the same rules for everyone but not really.

Winston Peters on Don Brash’s views on the minimum wage: “It’s economic nihilism.  You don’t see that [higher minimum wage leading to higher unemployment] happening in Scandinavia or Norway.”

Scandinavia is quite a bad example to pick to demonstrate this point, because none of Sweden, Norway and Finland have national minimum wages.  All of them require, by law, employers to pay wages according to national agreements negotiated by unions (even if not unionised)—a system quite different to the flat $15 minimum wage proposed by Labour and the other left-wing parties.  I don’t know what those agreements came to, but the fact that it’s flexible (negotiable) compared to a legislated absolute minimum would at least somewhat limit the comparison.

Peter Dunne on race relations and poverty: “The reality is that every child in New Zealand deserves the best chance in life.”

This is rather pedantic, and the slip was probably understandable in the heat of the moment.  But “that every child deserves the best chance” isn’t a “reality”, it’s a valued proposition.  That it’s almost universally held doesn’t make it “reality”—realities relate to on-the-ground facts, not what people deserve.

To his credit, he followed this up by criticising pretty much every other leader for focussing on “racism and rhetoric”, driving the more pragmatist “it’s how we deal with the statistics” that moderates tend to favour.

Don Brash on an emissions trading scheme: “But most of the world isn’t doing it.  … Most of the carbon dioxide emitted by animals comes from eating grass.  Where does the grass get the carbon from?  From the atmosphere.  It’s a zero-sum game.”

Dr Norman cracked up laughing upon hearing this, and rightly so.  It’s not carbon dioxide from animals that we’re largely worried about; it’s methane.  A fact that’s rather inconvenient for Dr Brash’s notion of how greenhouse gases work.  Not being a biologist or ecologist, I’m reluctant to attempt to detail what is quite a complex system, but a factor that Dr Brash might have forgotten to mention is that methane’s global warming potential is quite a bit greater than carbon dioxide’s.

Guyon Espiner (moderator) to Don Brash, on the John Key-John Banks tea party: “You don’t care what your leader said about—?”

LOL.  Classic.

Hone Harawira: “MMP stands for more Maoris in Parliament.”
Don Brash, if we abolish the Maori seats: “Maori would vote for Maori in the general constituencies.”
Russell Norman: “That’s why MMP is such a great system; it delivers that diversity.  If all of those Maori were on the general roll, they wouldn’t necessarily have a Maori person to vote for… their vote is still worth the same.”

Being a voting systems geek, I find these statements particularly disturbing.  MMP has nothing to do with the Maori seats.  You can run Maori seats with any system (or not), and you can have MMP without Maori seats.

Under MMP, in fact, there is a very easy argument for why Maori seats aren’t necessary: proportionality allows the diversity that people want to be reflected in parliament, so if Maori desire specific Maori representatives they can easily vote them in on the party vote without having to win a majority in any single electorate.  I’m amazed that Dr Brash missed this argument.  The one he gave is unconvincing. It’s unlikely that any candidate would win a majority in a general electorate on a platform based on representing Maori.

A step further, it’s the existence of the Maori seats that make Dr Norman’s comments inaccurate.  MMP is a great system because it can deliver diversity without the Maori seats.  Under the status quo, Maori electors can and do vote strategically.  Because Maori Party support is concentrated in the Maori electorates, overhang seats (and hence disproportionality) are a given—so they’re free to give their party vote to a second party without sacrificing the Maori Party.  It is a similar (but slightly different) power to that which Epsom voters have, and it’s certainly not the same as everyone else in the country.

To be fair, empirically, it is true that more Maori have entered Parliament since MMP was introduced, so Mr Harawira is half-right.  But that misses the point of MMP.  The diversity that MMP brings is the spectrum of political views.  It offers no such guarantee of ethnic representation, except insofar as parties put such candidates in winnable list positions, or insofar as parties represent ethnicities like in Malaysia.

Hone Harawira: “We can’t go into coalition with parties like National and Act, who build their whole philosophy about kicking the poor, taxing the poor, to feed the rich.”

Mr Harawira spent much time tonight on rhetoric about the evilness of the rich, which is a standard tactic of far-left parties so probably understandable.  My general observations are that the far-right often genuinely believe (erroneously or otherwise) that their policies help the poor better, though.  I often wish the far-left would engage with the far-right more directly on this rather than accusing them of not caring.

Picking winners
Mr Dunne always came across as the sensible one. Just like he always does. Unfortunately, being sensible rarely gains traction in politics.  Mr Peters also presented well, just as he always does (policy aside), though from the orator that Mr Peters is I suppose I expected better.

The real stand-out in the debate for me was Dr Norman.  I should hasten to add here that I have never been a Greens fan and have normally found them totally bizarre.  But I noted down a few impressive lines and a majority of them are from Dr Norman.  He articulated policy with a pragmatism that you don’t traditionally find in the Green camp.  User charges for the commercial use of water, snatching the opportunity to throw in his green jobs plan to complement the minimum wage raise, “if you think that price influences behaviour then you need a price on pollution” and his brief comment on “political management” were all highlights for me.


My thoughts on the final TV One leaders’ debate

I’ve decided to base this call on points.  Part-by-part was clearly a silly way to do it, and calling it holistically just doesn’t happen.

This had two main effects on my approach to this debate.  Firstly, for my purposes, I was the sole arbiter of what constitutes a “point”, unlike before, when a “part” was just everything between ad breaks.  I might have split something into two points that others wouldn’t have.  Secondly, it means that I wasn’t afraid to call a point a draw, or even irrelevant, unlike before, when I made a call on every part, even if it was by the slimmest of margins.  If I have the leaders on even numbers at the end of this, so be it.

With this in mind, my additional disclaimer is that I’ve taken all “points” to be of equal value, regardless of how long was spent on it, how important I think it is, or how big the margin was.  It’s additional to this not being an assessment of whose policies I agree with, nor taking account of how the debate was moderated.  Also, it’s not necessarily who I think you should vote for, but then again, with election day tomorrow, I’m probably the last to decide.  The last warning is that, because I took this point by point, this post’s longer, and only shallowly covers each point, so it may lack both depth and conciseness.

The first part
There was nothing surprising or enlightening about the US presidential election, or the one policy of each liked of their opponents’.  When it came to job losses in the financial crisis, Key sort of rambled on for a while, didn’t really go beyond the words “high growth economy”, and his lack of conciseness cost him when Sainsbury had to cut him off.  But while there were no surprises in the leaders’ attitudes to a “grand coalition”, Clark probably overstated the extent of National’s privatisation policy, costing her that point.  I had Key winning the job losses to migrants part, if only thanks to Sainsbury’s prompting him to actually offer a solution.  He did so, he linked it to his diagnosis of fundamental problems, and it made sense.  Clark 1, Key 2, even/irrelevant 2.

Making the economy work
I considered the change part not serious enough to be relevant (though I would have given it to Clark).  Both gave unimpressive answers about the rail, but Clark’s plans seemed more specified.  I was disappointed that neither leader had the guts to give an outright “no” to the Maori Party’s $500-for-free plan, but Clark at least hinted some pragmatism, whereas Key strayed way off-topic.  I would have considered the clash over how much spending is too much relevant if they had had the opportunity to respond to each other.  As for farm animals in the emissions trading scheme, while both leaders gave solutions, Key was more detailed about the basis for his solution.  Clark 2, Key 1, even/irrelevant 1.

Taking a stand
If Key rambled aimlessly again about desperately ill children, luck was in his favour.  He got somewhere with it, when he talked about it not being about “individual cases”, but about a system that “delivers value”.  I guess that was a hard question.  Clark responded well to the suggestion that people stop listening after nine years.  You would think that, with Key’s barrage of statistics, he would set out to prove that the Clark administration was actually sub-standard, but upon prompt, he effectively conceded that nine years from now, his government would be just as useless—whoops!  There was no real clash over the display of tobacco at retail outlets.  Clark 1, Key 1, even/irrelevant 1.

Law and order
I’m not sure if Key changed his boot camps policy, but it sounded a lot better than it did six months ago.  I’m not sure how Albany related to this, but Clark seemed to get drawn to talk about service academies too.  Clark rightly reiterated her early intervention stance, but Key had detailed his (renamed?) Fresh Start Programme enough to take this point.  Asked about how to eradicate P, Key had the more multi-pronged approach; Clark seemed maybe a bit over-obsessed with gangs.  I don’t get what asking about compulsory military training was meant to achieve, and I considered confession time irrelevant (though entertaining).  Key 2, even/irrelevant 2.

Personal qualities
There was obviously never going to be any clash about abortion.  But when pressed about their theistic beliefs and what “moves” them, I felt Clark gave the more genuine answer, whereas Key couldn’t tell it wasn’t the time to be talking about policy.  I guess people might like anecdotes like his, but I didn’t think he could generalise it well enough to be convincing.  In a section about “personal qualities” of leaders, I considered this point to be relevant.  There was similarly never going to be a clash about Israel.  Espiner’s question about flip-flops was a good one, and Clark’s hesitation cost her.  Key stumbled slightly on student loans, but his open admission of his mistakes about Kiwibank and Maori Television made him look good.  Clark 1, Key 1, even/irrelevant 4.

The hard decisions
This section was fun to watch, but there wasn’t really anything decisive.  When the leaders gave their views on climate change, it was largely just reiterating their principles.  If you think it was relevant, then I call that point a draw.  Hypothetical questions about Cabinet were interesting, but I didn’t think it was a point of debate.  Even/irrelevant 4.

Counting up the points…
Clark has five, Key has seven and I saw ten as even or irrelevant.  I guess that means my call is with Key.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t take the final statements into account because they weren’t really part of the debate.  (That doesn’t mean the statements won’t impact my vote.)  And, to state the obvious, because I did this on points not parts, my thoughts here probably aren’t comparable to my thoughts on the other debates.  I might have called the other debates differently if I had done them this way.

My thoughts on the TV3 leaders’ debate

Now that I’ve actually seen the TV3 debate, here are my impressions of it.  What this isn’t, though, is a consideration of how well the debate was run (though I’d say it was better than the first TV One debate), nor is it an assessment of whose policies are better, or for whom you should vote—so don’t read into it too much.

Part 1
Clark made a relatively good start, at least compared to Key, outlining her response to the international financial crisis.  Key’s start was fickety, mainly because he didn’t start with his plans.  He would have gained more by addressing the prevalent question—how would he deal with the economy—before he started rattling on about the deficiencies of the Labour-led government.  His answer, when he got round to it, lacked reasoning, at least in comparison to Clark.  How would a focus on growth—presumably one that should always be present—be of specific help to the looming crisis?  Key spent too little on too many things to be convincing.  Clark.

Part 2
The two leaders, I think, were roughly even on the plans they properly outlined at the beginning of this part, though Clark perhaps had a marginal edge in that she spoke in a slightly more logical manner.  Key finally explained why his broadband policy is so important—something I’d been wanting to hear since he first brought it up in Part 1.  But it was the flip-flop discussion that defined this part for me.  Key was able to fully justify his alleged flip-flop on Working For Families package, explaining what’s different between then and now.  Clark’s explanation of her flip-flop on entrenching the Maori seats was less convincing; it was basically “National made us change our mind”.  Key.

Part 3
Clark had a good, straight response to the suggestion that she was coming to the “end of her natural life as a prime minister”, making it clear what she thought the question of leadership was.  Key’s response to the suggestion that the faces on his front bench undermined the freshness of his party, initially at least, wasn’t a response.  With nothing more than “we haven’t defined our Cabinet yet”, he launched straight into why the government needs to change, which wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time.  He took so long to allude to his “stamp on the party”, that it could barely be regarded as an answer.  Clark.

Part 4
It doesn’t say much about this part that the most exciting exchange in it was when, in John Campbell’s words, the leaders were “both desperately trying to claim credit for one of the least popular pieces of legislation”.  Both leaders gave unconvincing answers to the substantive questions put to them.  Key did nothing more than reiterate his “capping the bureaucracy”.  I hoped to get an idea of where he sees the line between enough and too much, or maybe at least a reference to what the bureaucracy does.  Clark was worse—she just rambled on about being a fresh spirit.  I was hoping to hear about why voters shouldn’t be afraid of a nanny state, why the urban myths she alluded to are really myths.  Key was pushing it a bit when he talked about the government “storming through our front doors”, but Clark was pushing it more when she accused Key of being in climate change denial.  Key.

Part 5
I was rather unimpressed when Key’s best response to “what’s the difference between Bill English and Michael Cullen” was “New Zealand needs to change”.  When the discussion turned to the MMP environment, Clark did well asserting her command of the system by contrasting “relationships” with “coalitions”, and then showing why the five-headed monster wasn’t such a bad thing after all.  But Key managed to fight off the impression he was a noob to MMP, topped off with an outline of his foci as prime minister.  I felt his “nine years wasn’t enough time” was a weak shot, and Clark was quick to point out a lot of progress had been made.  Clark’s Roger Douglas call was just cheap, with Key equally quick to respond.  It was a tough call, but calling it a draw’s the cop-out option.  Clark—just.

Holistically, again, I have to say I wasn’t moved.  Overall, I think they came off pretty even.

Nonetheless, even though the flaws of calling a debate on a part-by-part basis are many, fatal, and it simply shouldn’t be done, I’m going to do it anyway: I thought Clark had parts 1, 3 and 5 (just), and Key parts 2 and 4.  I leave the maths to you.