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Posts tagged ‘Green Party’

Follow the majority that agrees with me, part 2

The Greens continue to make up principles of democracy as they go. Why can’t they just stick to the real arguments on military deployment?

In 2013, amid polls showing 70% public opposition but majority support in Parliament, Russel Norman criticised the government loudly about its lack of respect for public opinion on state asset sales. Dr Norman refused analogies with the 2007 smacking bill (which enjoyed some 90% public opposition but majority parliamentary support), citing the “overwhelming majority” in Parliament with which the latter passed, but he never articulated a criterion for when a public majority should be heeded.

Now, on the deployment of New Zealand defence personnel to Iraq, Dr Norman is proposing yet another mode of democratic accountability. This time, Dr Norman does not propose a referendum. Rather, he (and Labour’s Andrew Little) suggests that Parliament should get to vote on the matter. Dr Norman, again, criticises John Key for making the decision “without a mandate”.

Yet a parliamentary mandate was not enough for Dr Norman to be content with asset sales, nor was an overwhelming parliamentary majority enough for his party in 2001 to support the (Labour) government’s decision to deploy personnel to Afghanistan. And while Dr Norman makes reference to the public in his speech, he’s clearly much more obsessed with Parliament’s right to weigh in on this matter. What gives?

It’s fairly obvious how Dr Norman is choosing which mandates to talk about, just as it’s obvious why Mr Key will not run a parliamentary vote on this deployment, and why Helen Clark was happy for Parliament to vote on the 2001 decision. Mr Key knows he would lose this vote; Ms Clark knew she would win that one. Dr Norman is pressing on mandates whenever he happens to be in the majority—just as I pointed out when writing about asset sales in December 2013.

In other words, everyone is running or advocating whichever procedure will favour them.

Where does the power actually lie?
It’s worth saying that the vote in 2001 was not a vote of authorisation. It did happen, but the resolution was that the “House declares its support” for New Zealand’s contributions to the coalition. It was a symbolic vote—a nice feel-good for the government, but not a necessary one.

Constitutionally, the power to make military deployments (and declare war) is part of the royal prerogative, exercised on the advice of the prime minister (ref). Parliament doesn’t get any sort of veto right (unless it passes legislation to give itself one). It does, of course, have the role of holding ministers accountable for their decisions and there are a range of means (questions, urgent debates, debates after ministerial statements) to do so.

Dr Norman knows this, of course: notice his rhetoric is about “mandate”, not “authority” or “power”. And one might advance a good case for why the power to commit military personnel should lie only with the legislature, not the executive. But that’s not the system we have today, and until that changes, we shouldn’t pretend it’s how things work. A system that people kept having to second-guess to get right would collapse pretty quickly.

Just make the argument
Parties are entitled to be opposed to military deployment, just as they are entitled to hold stances on any other issue. And there is no obligation to be part of the majority, or to advocate the stance held by the majority, or to implement it. If there were, the Greens would be a very different party: most of their views, after all, would place them in the minority of the New Zealand public.

But the reasons the left should be using are the actual reasons they oppose military action: because they think it is more likely to inflame the situation than help it, or because they think New Zealand lives aren’t worth risking, or perhaps something else. That is, in itself, a substantive debate, and—credit where it is due—one that Dr Norman and the Greens are duly engaging in. It would just be nice if that’s what their rhetoric focussed on, rather than some moving goalposts about when the government should care for which majority.

To avoid doubt: Astute readers will have noticed that (a) this post spares Andrew Little from the same criticism, because while he moved for a vote, that detail was not his emphasis, and (b) this post did not advocate a position on the substantive case for or against deployment except to say there was one.

A growing swing to the left in the special votes

The Greens and Labour have been doing increasingly well in the special votes, and National increasingly poorly.

I did a projection, based on the 2011 results, that the Greens probably wouldn’t pick up the extra seat they often do from special votes. But I didn’t call it a prediction, partly because I didn’t intend it to be, but also because the numbers had the Greens only narrowly missing out on that 14th seat. So if the Greens had pushed just a tad further and made it over the line, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I said it was going to be close.

As it happened, it wasn’t close. The Greens had nearly 5,000 votes to spare.

Party Preliminary Projected final Project vs prelim Actual final Actual vs project Actual vs prelim
% Seats % Seats % Seats
National 48.06% 61 47.36% 61 -0.69% 47.04% 60 -0.33% -1.02%
Labour 24.69% 32 25.11% 32 +0.42% 25.13% 32 +0.02% +0.44%
Greens 10.02% 13 10.52% 13 +0.50% 10.70% 14 +0.18% +0.67%
NZ First 8.85% 11 8.54% 11 -0.30% 8.66% 11 +0.12% -0.19%
Māori 1.29% 2 1.38% 2 +0.09% 1.32% 2 -0.06% +0.04%
Act 0.69% 1 0.69% 1 -0.00% 0.69% 1 +0.01% +0.00%
UF 0.22% 1 0.21% 1 -0.00% 0.22% 1 +0.01% +0.00%
Conservative 4.12% 0 3.93% 0 -0.19% 3.97% 0 +0.04% -0.15%
IM 1.26% 0 1.39% 0 +0.12% 1.42% 0 +0.03% +0.16%

To be more specific: The Greens saw their 14th seat shoot not just past National’s 61st, but also past its 60th, to become the 119th quotient. This meant the Greens had room to spare: 4,873 votes less (with no redistribution) and they would’ve stayed on 13, or National would have needed 21,836 more to get to 61. (This is more than the ~18,800 “votes per seat” because National also has the 120th quotient.) For comparison, my projection had the Greens needing 1,139 more than projected to pick up a 14th seat.

Changes in context
What happened? I suggested there were reasons why the specials might swing further left in my projection post:

  • The number of overseas voters doubled this election compared to 2011.
  • Some universities had on-campus polling booths, where a lot of students would have cast advance special votes.

Further on the second point, as Jonathan Marshall suggested on Twitter, unlike 2011’s, this election was during the university semester so more students would have been outside their electorates in the first place.

But I certainly didn’t expect any combination of these effects to add to 5,000 more votes for the Greens alone, so I suspect there’s something else. Also, those reasons are just speculation. For all we know, it could even be related to migration patterns (including domestic migration), though I don’t know that those have actually been changing. The full statistics that the Electoral Commission will release in about two weeks might offer a bit more insight, but it’s hard to discern.

A growing swing since 2008
Beneath this swing, there might be an underlying trend. The Greens have traditionally done well on special votes, of course. But they’re doing increasingly better on specials than they used to, at least since 2008. (I couldn’t easily find preliminary results for 2005.)

special-votes-trend-2

The first set of columns is the special vote percentage divided by the preliminary result (so < 1 means a drop), and the second set is the difference between the specials (not total) and preliminary result in percentage points.

Now, take the sparklines with a grain of salt. The scales aren’t consistent between cells, and they each only have three data points anyway.* Also, the two sets of columns are just different measures for the same phenomenon, so the fact that it happens twice adds no weight. (I did both while trying to find a more consistent predictor of special vote impact, and couldn’t.)

But they do broadly indicate an improving trend for Labour and the Greens, and the opposite for National. And the trend isn’t small. In 2008, National lost 0.52 points from specials; this year, they lost 1.02 points. The Greens have gone from gaining 0.29 points to 0.67 points. One seat’s “worth of votes” is roughly 0.83 per cent, a bit less if you allow for wasted votes.

If I were in the National Party, I’d be concerned about this trend. As it stands, National is generally expected to lose a seat to the Greens on specials. But the Greens are getting increasingly good at this, and are picking up the seat even when the numbers suggest the increase won’t be enough.

Spreadsheet
For people who like numbers, here’s the spreadsheet I used for these calculations: Special vote impact projection 2014. It’s an extended version of the projection spreadsheet I posted earlier.


*Although there are only three data points, they are reliable since they are true by definition, not a sample. (Turnout is interesting for other reasons, but it’s the final result that matters here.) I’d be more worried about short-term circumstances giving the illusion of a long-term trend. The value of adding anything before 2005 might be questionable though, since the situation a decade ago might lose relevance to today.

The minimum swing needed in the special votes for the Greens to steal that seat

A 4.6-point swing in specials relative to preliminary, about 0.6 points more than my projection, would get the Greens a 14th seat at National’s expense. But even less might be sufficient.

I think a projection, which I posted yesterday, is more useful information that the “minimum required swing” calculations that I did for the 2011 election. But if anyone is interested in knowing exactly what the Greens need to clear the bar, here is that spreadsheet I did in 2011, updated with 2014 data: Required changes in special votes to steal seats, 2014 election.

I won’t go through all the various possibilities. If you’re curious, feel free to do that yourself using the spreadsheet. The situation that is most interesting, because (other than no change) it’s most likely, is where the Greens would pick up a 14th seat in exchange for National’s 61st (and absolute majority).

The Greens would need to swing +4.60 points in the special votes alone (not total votes), relative to the preliminary count, to take a seat. I have them projected to swing +4.05 points, so this isn’t unrealistic.

Here’s the catch: In the preliminary results, Labour has the 120th quotient and National the 119th. This means that Labour would lose a seat before National. So they need to gain a little to make sure it’s National, not them, who loses the seat. This isn’t hard: they’re 561 votes away (relative to an assumption that specials are distributed identically to preliminary), or +0.19 points. My projection has them well ahead of this.

So the “minimum change required” situation has both Labour and the Greens taking from National. You’ll notice in the table below that the Greens don’t actually need National to lose as much as it did in my projection: -4.79 points, not as much as my projected loss of -5.58 points.

In terms of absolute votes, this is a swing of 1,648 relative to my projection. I said in my last post that 1,129 votes more would suffice. The assumptions behind these figures are different. The projection margin (1,129) assumes that the Greens only gain votes, and no-one loses any, i.e. it’s likely to be an overestimate (not by double though—the equivalent National loss is 5,058). The “minimum required” swing (1,648 relative to projection) assumes that all other parties perform in the specials identically to the preliminary result. Historically (and hence in my projection) most left-wing parties do better in the specials at National’s expense, and these help the Greens too. So this is also likely to be an overestimate, probably more so.

So really, the most important hope for the Greens to hang on to is that they will perform about 0.6 points, or maybe (depending on what else happens) even just 0.35 points, better in the special votes than the 2011 swings might imply.* As I said in my last post, it’s certainly possible, but it’ll be very close. If I were Steffan Browning or Maureen Pugh, I’d have a very nervous two weeks ahead.

Party Preliminary Projection Special required Change on prelim Change on projection Total required Change on prelim
National 48.06% 42.48% < 43.26% -4.79% +0.79% < 47.47% -0.59%
Labour 24.69% 28.10% > 24.88% +0.19% -3.22% > 24.71% +0.02%
Green 10.02% 14.07% > 14.63% +4.60% +0.56% > 10.59% +0.57%

* My projection applies the 2011 preliminary-to-special swings multiplicatively, not additively, to the 2014 preliminary result. A full method description is in the post describing the projection.

Projection of special votes for the 2014 election

On my projection for the 2014 special votes, based on the 2011 impact, the Greens will miss out on a 14th seat by a whisker and National will retain its outright majority. Maybe.

I crunched some numbers to project (I didn’t say “predict”) the impact of special votes. I suspect most of you will just want to know the answer, so I’ll cut to the chase first, then give a bit of analysis, then give a bit more details, and I’ll talk about my method fourth.

Special votes include, among other things, overseas votes and votes cast for a different electorate to the polling place location. They aren’t counted on election night; they’re just set aside for the full count released two weeks later. And they’re not normally representative of the vote as a whole. Historically, special votes have favoured the Greens significantly—they have often picked up an extra seat from it, as they did in 2011.

The most fundamental assumption I make is that you can use the 2011 impact of the special votes as a guide to the 2014 impact. Some other minor assumptions will become apparent in the method description at the end.

Summary
Basically, on my projection, the results would stay the same. The Greens will get closer to a 14th seat, but because on the preliminary results they only just got their 13th one, special votes won’t propel them far enough for a 14th. However, they will be tantalisingly close, moving their 14th seat to the 121st quotient.

Party Preliminary results Projected final results Gain/loss
Votes % Seats Vote % Seats
National Party 1,010,464 48.06% 61 1,136,155 47.37% 61 -0.69%
Labour Party 519,146 24.69% 32 602,304 25.11% 32 +0.42%
Green Party 210,764 10.02% 13 252,394 10.52% 13 +0.50%
New Zealand First Party 186,031 8.85% 11 204,919 8.54% 11 -0.30%
Māori Party 27,074 1.29% 2 33,134 1.38% 2 +0.09%
ACT New Zealand 14,510 0.69% 1 16,685 0.70% 1 +0.01%
United Future 4,533 0.22% 1 5,098 0.21% 1 -0.00%
Conservative 86,616 4.12% 0 94,357 3.93% 0 -0.19%
Internet MANA 26,539 1.26% 0 32,826 1.37% 0 +0.11%
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 8,539 0.41% 0 10,894 0.45% 0 +0.05%
Ban1080 4,368 0.21% 0 4,992 0.21% 0 +0.00%
Democrats for Social Credit 1,609 0.08% 0 1,983 0.08% 0 +0.01%
The Civilian Party 906 0.04% 0 1,035 0.04% 0 +0.00%
NZ Independent Coalition 895 0.04% 0 1,023 0.04% 0 +0.00%
Focus New Zealand 677 0.03% 0 774 0.03% 0 +0.00%

I project the Green gain to be 0.50%, and the National loss to be 0.69%. In a lot of cases, this can be enough to win and lose a seat, respectively: one seat is roughly 0.8% of the vote (0.83% if you ignore “wasted” votes), so it’s easy to imagine that another 0.5% might push you over.

But in this election, it wouldn’t be enough. The reason is that, in the preliminary results, the Greens only just made their 13th seat: it was the 118th quotient, i.e., the 118th seat to be allocated. National, on the other hand, has some room to slack before losing a seat—in fact, it would have picked up the 121st quotient, if there was one. In effect, the Greens would need to pick up to nearly a “whole seat” worth of votes to pick up seat number 14.

In my projection, the Greens nearly get there, but not quite. They move their 14th seat from the 127th quotient to the 121st. So if there was one more seat in Parliament, it would be theirs. And they’re very close: with 1,129 votes more (all other vote counts staying the same), they would steal the 120th quotient from National. Conversely, if National had had 5,058 votes less (all other counts staying the same), they would give up the 120th quotient to the Greens.

What does this mean?
In practice, what this tell us is not necessarily that Steffan Browning won’t make back in at Maureen Pugh’s expense. It’s that he might—but it’ll be very close. Certainly, the Greens shouldn’t be expecting another seat from specials, like they could in 2011.

There are, however, reasons to believe the wind might blow in the Greens’ favour. Firstly, advance votes were way up on previous elections. This was partly due to a concerted effort from parties to promote advance voting this election, and (I think) more so from the left than the right. Now, ordinary advance votes are counted on election night. But special advance votes—which include votes cast in advance outside the voter’s electorate—are not. And, as @annagrammatiste pointed out to me on Twitter, a lot of those special advance votes will have been cast at universities, some of which had advance voting booths on campus this year. University students, on average, lean left.

Secondly, estimated overseas votes doubled in this election, from 19,500 in 2011 to 38,500 in 2014. Overseas voters are known for being particularly Green-heavy.

Without those reasons, I would have said that it’s more likely that the seat allocations will stay put, but not enough to put money on it. But these weaken that likelihood. My instinct is that it probably won’t be enough, but objectively, I’m not really sure. It’ll be super close.

That’s basically the gist of this post. If you like voting systems, read on.

~

Some more detail
To dive in a little deeper, here’s a quick primer on how the Sainte-Laguë method works. This is the method used in New Zealand to proportionally allocate seats. The easiest way to think of it (in my opinion) is that you allocate the seats one by one, to the party with the highest “quotient” at the time. Every party’s initial quotient is their total number of votes, so the first seat effectively goes to the party with the most votes. Then, every time you allocate a seat, you divide that party’s total votes by their next divisor to get their new quotient (leaving the rest untouched). The first divisor for each party is 1, then it goes 3, 5, 7, and so on. You repeat till you’ve allocated all 120 seats.

How are quotients relevant? Well, here are the quotients near 120 for the preliminary results:

Quotient National Labour Greens NZ First Māori ACT UF
118 8350.9 8240.4 8430.6 8088.3 5414.8 4836.7 4533.0
119 8350.9 8240.4 7806.1 8088.3 5414.8 4836.7 4533.0
120 8215.2 8240.4 7806.1 8088.3 5414.8 4836.7 4533.0
121 8215.2 7986.9 7806.1 8088.3 5414.8 4836.7 4533.0
122 8083.7 7986.9 7806.1 8088.3 5414.8 4836.7 4533.0
123 8083.7 7986.9 7806.1 7441.2 5414.8 4836.7 4533.0

As I said, the Greens got the 118th quotient, and won’t pick up another one until 127. National’s getting quotients more often because it has more votes, and the gap between dividing by 121 and 123 is “smaller” than between 25 and 27 (Greens), so to speak.

Here is the same for my projected results:

Quotient National Labour Greens NZ First Māori ACT UF
118 9547.5 9560.4 9347.9 8909.5 6626.7 5561.7 5098.4
119 9547.5 9266.2 9347.9 8909.5 6626.7 5561.7 5098.4
120 9389.7 9266.2 9347.9 8909.5 6626.7 5561.7 5098.4
121 9237.0 9266.2 9347.9 8909.5 6626.7 5561.7 5098.4
122 9237.0 9266.2 8703.2 8909.5 6626.7 5561.7 5098.4
123 9237.0 8989.6 8703.2 8909.5 6626.7 5561.7 5098.4

The Green’s 14th quotient is just 41.8 away from National’s 61st. So we find a rudimentary “margin” for the Greens by multiplying this difference by the 14th divisor: 41.8 × 27 = 1,129. For National, we use the 61st divisor: 41.8 × 121 = 5,058.

Method
Okay, now for the exciting part. (Heh.) There are lots of ways to do this projection; Graeme Edgeler has one that basically gives the same outcome. This is how mine works.

I took the preliminary results for 2011 and subtracted them from the final results to get the “special vote addition”. I use quote marks because it’s not actually all special votes: it also includes votes cast at polling places with fewer than 6 votes (these aren’t counted on election night) and any corrections. But anyway, I compare the preliminary percentages to the “special vote addition” percentages, by division, to get a “multiplier” for each party. This multiplier represents a relationship between the preliminary votes and the special votes for each party.

I apply this multiplier to the preliminary vote percentages for each party in 2014. If a party didn’t contest the 2011 election, I just use 1 (i.e., no adjustment). Now, after doing this, the percentages won’t add up to 100, so I scale them so that they do.

The next part is the complication. The preliminary total vote count includes informals (ballots where you can’t tell who they voted for); obviously the sum of parties’ votes don’t. And the preliminary special vote estimate (I take the figure that includes overseas votes and fewer-than-6 places) includes ballots that might later be ruled invalid, because the statutory declaration wasn’t completed correctly or something like that. So I use 2011 ratios of preliminary to final counts to project how many valid special votes there will be in 2014. It doesn’t end up making much of a difference (0.4%), but hey, I wouldn’t know unless I tried.

The last step is to use the projected special vote percentages and the projected valid special vote count, to project the “special vote addition” for each party, add those to the preliminary count and that’s the projected result.

If you get excited by numbers like I do, here’s the spreadsheet I used to figure this out: Special vote impact projection 2014. The actual Sainte-Laguë stuff is in a different spreadsheet, but I’ve pasted the borderline quotients into that spreadsheet.

Why the Greens’ 3D printing blueprint will fail

The Greens’ plans are a textbook example of what the late Professor Sir Paul Callaghan warned not to do.

It’s encouraging that the Greens recognise the value of technology, research and development. Their 3D printing blueprint seems well-researched and on first glance is a solid summary of the state of 3D printing. It would make for an excellent corporate white paper. Unfortunately, my praises end around there.

The most basic tension in the paper is their recognition that the rest of the world is investing heavily in it and their claim that 3D printing could be a “niche” that New Zealand could excel at. They seek inspiration from the late Professor Sir Paul Callaghan (blueprint, page 10), who argued that New Zealand’s best paths to prosperity lie in technology niches: “odd” things that we can do well and lead the world in because the markets are too small for bigger players to care about.

He warned against becoming “mired in fashionable cliché”, citing biotech as an example where we tried to follow and failed. He admired Fisher & Paykel Healthcare’s respiratory humidifiers and Rakon’s crystal-controlled oscillators, being technologies without major investment in bigger countries. He offered this criterion:

If a New Zealand technology business does something that sounds familiar, it will probably fail. If it does something that causes you to ask “what on earth is that?”, it is probably on to something.

Strange, then, to hear from the Greens:

As the late professor Paul Callaghan said, New Zealand’s path to prosperity lies in technology niches, and 3D printing offers a growing economic niche for the country. … Other countries are clearly investing significant sums into this technology and it is important New Zealand does not miss out.

This comes straight after a section explaining how the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and China were all investing in 3D printing. The Greens want us to compete with them. Yet this is exactly what Sir Paul advised against doing. By the Greens’ own evidence, 3D printing is not a niche. It is a technology with significant worldwide attention, enough for The Economist to run a leader and a briefing in 2011, which the Greens cited too. This is a key characteristic of what Sir Paul suggested we avoid.

Our competitive advantage
Perhaps I care too much about this inconsistency. There were few if any public figures of greater inspiration to me than Sir Paul, so to see his ideas misapplied bothers me at least a little. But even if the blueprint had disclaimed his vision, the Greens’ fixation with 3D printing is still troubling.

Most troublingly, while they do an excellent job of explaining the opportunities in 3D printing, they are scant on why they believe New Zealand is particularly well-placed to capitalise on it. They made reference to a few companies who use 3D printing and universities who find them useful. But they are not alone, and the Greens’ constant refrain that other countries are going there too hurts their case: it reduces our competitive advantage.

And in any case, using 3D printing is hardly a sound case for value-add. The technique is attractive because it can offer high customization at low cost, so they’re right to say it’s worth the uptake. But the whole point of the exercise is to reduce the degree of specialization required to manufacture customized parts. If it’s about using 3D printing, this more likely works against us, because 3D printing lowers barriers to entry for others to make the same things. If it’s about making 3D printers, then they omitted why they think we can excel at it.

Less obviously, the other countries they cited are investing in 3D printing alongside many other technologies. Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with some government R&D funds going to 3D printing, so long as we’re hedging our bets appropriately. But the Greens’ proposal sounds as if they want most of, or at least a lot of, our eggs in that basket.

~

It’s great that the Greens want to raise public awareness of 3D printing. Its potential impact is huge; it should be on our radar. We should be mindful of how it will impact our existing economy and plan ahead accordingly. The government can and should keep an eye this; it’s a useful (albeit not authoritative) initiator of information-sharing forums.

But when they want us to “embrace digital manufacturing” so wholeheartedly, it is much more concerning. It’s bad strategy to choose a market with as many competitors, or even potential competitors, as the Greens describe. It’s even worse when there’s no existing strength you can use to outshine them. The Greens’ “blueprint for the future” sounds like a great way to run into the ground. I hope they’ll reconsider.

On inequality and education

If inequality is the “real cause” for poor education, does that mean poor education doesn’t drive inequality?

It is the opposition’s job, I guess, to oppose. Sometimes, though, the efforts baffle me. Such an instance occurred after Prime Minister John Key made a major education policy announcement on Thursday. The policy, which would create new positions in which top teachers and principals share best practice with other teachers and schools, was met with uncharacteristic approval from the education sector, including teachers’ unions. But it’s completely misguided, say the Greens:

This poorly thought out policy assumes that a possible improvement in teaching practice will address the driver of declining standards, inequality. […] The policy is not a blueprint to address the real needs of kids in lower decile schools to help them learn.

It’s worth taking a moment to consider the corollaries of the Greens’ position. If they believe that the only way to address poor educational performance is to address social inequality, it must follow that any education policy aimed at the education system, as opposed to the economy or welfare system, is a pointless exercise.

Which is a perfectly acceptable stance to take. But it’s hard to keep consistent. For starters, it requires them not to propose any education policy aimed at lifting achievement, for the precise reason that they don’t believe they work: the “real” cause is inequality, not the education system.

But moreover, it requires them to believe that you can’t address inequality through education. Their claim is that only by addressing inequality directly can you hope to improve educational outcomes. So they must not believe even in the potential for education to give poor children the chance to become richer adults. They must not believe that giving schools in poorer areas more funding (i.e., the decile system) will do anything to help those students. Their rhetoric is based on kids being “sick and hungry”, and “living in poverty”—not what teachers and schools must do to help break the cycle.

It might feel like I’m taking their views to the extreme—except that I’m not. Their comments are unambiguous: National’s education policy is bad because it fails to address inequality. “The best teachers and principals in the world can’t feed or heal the hungry and sick kids that show up to school each day.” My general bias is to try to read statements in the best light possible. I’m finding better interpretations hard to find. If they thought there exists a better education policy that is not welfare or economic policy, why didn’t they hint at that?

To be fair, poverty is indeed an excellent predictor for educational underachievement. And the Greens are justified in campaigning to reduce it, just because it’s generally bad. What is confusing is that they would criticise a policy aimed at doing exactly that, for trying to do so by improving education.

There is plenty that could go wrong with this policy. As with any novelty, there are bound to be teething issues; any good opposition will make the most of them. It could yet prove impractical to ferry teachers between schools on a daily basis. Labour at least reiterated its belief in “encouraging quality teaching” and “collaboration with teachers”. The Greens seemed determined to say nothing even neutral, and ended up advocating a principle that will soon prove to be a straitjacket. Perhaps they are excited about becoming the lead opposition party, but they should be more careful to leave themselves room to make policies of their own.