Brook Sabin

‘The Nation’ minor party debate – Colin Craig loses, Winston Peters wins

Having spent the weekend in Napier, resolutely not pondering anything political, I got back to Gisborne last night and finally got around to watching The Nation’s minor party leaders’ debate.

Policy-wise, there was nothing to learn. This was a show devoted almost entirely to the spouting of pre-prepared talking points. Here’s my view of how the various leaders performed:

Colin Craig v Winston Peters: This was perhaps the most important clash. Having initially been excluded from the debate lineup, and making an entrance purely because of a High Court injunction, Colin Craig needed to do well to justify his presence. He’d argued in Court that the Conservative Party would be negatively impacted if Winston Peters was given free reign to speak on conservative policy platforms – essentially admitting that the policy platforms of NZ First and the Conservatives are largely identical. Both parties are duking it out for the same pool of voters, and that pool isn’t large enough for both to make it over the 5% threshold.

So who won? In my opinion, it was Peters by a long shot. He wasn’t in particularly hot form, but it was more than enough. Perhaps the defining moment was when moderator Lisa Owen described Mr Craig as Peters’ doppelganger, and asked him to describe why anyone should vote Conservative rather than NZ First. Craig couldn’t come up with a single policy reason. Instead, looking somewhat miffed at the question, he said that the Conservatives were clear that they would work with the party with the most votes, rather than play games a la NZ First. If that’s the Conservative Party’s major point of distinction from NZ First, then it’s game over for Colin Craig.

Winston Peters v Metiria Turei: Given Mr Peters’ long-held antipathy towards the Greens, fireworks were expected between Peters and Turei. As it happened, when Peters was offered the chance to put the boot into the Greens, he declined, instead saying that he gets on with everybody. This was then followed up with, “I get on with everybody who has a reasonable view on a reasonable thing”. What that means is anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt that Peters is happily engaged in his favourite electioneering past-time – keeping everyone guessing.

Colin Craig v Metiria Turei: As a property developer, Colin Craig is not a fan of “green tape” holding up development. Plus, as Winston’s stunt double, it’s only to be expected that Mr Craig would be anti-Greens. Unfortunately, for Mr Craig, Ms Turei owned him. She held tightly to the party line (“National’s pollution economy”), while Craig’s interjections were banal and resulted in perhaps the defining image of the night – Turei haughtily performing a ‘talk to the hand’ in Craig’s direction.

Talk to the hand, Colin. (Thanks to Stephanie Rodgers at Boots Theory for the screenshot.)

Talk to the hand, Colin. (Thanks to Stephanie Rodgers at Boots Theory for the screenshot.)

Te Ururoa Flavell v Hone Harawira: Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Hone Harawira has natural charisma. Te Ururoa Flavell, not so much. With everything at stake for the two party leaders in their respective seats, and with both parties fighting for the same pool of voters, neither could afford to have a bad debate. They both stayed on message, with Harawira banging the drum of Maori inequality, and Flavell emphasising a) the real gains made by the Maori Party due to being at the table, and b) that his party is not a proxy of the National Party. Unfortunately for Flavell, there was no passion to his approach. Harawira had the emotional message and the better soundbites. A win on points for Harawira.

Jamie Whyte v the world: It wasn’t a good debate for Jamie Whyte. He was stilted and amateur. Sure, he had some good lines, accusing others of being “communistic” and “neo-racist”, but you get the feeling that he rather prefers the safety of a lecture theatre, where he can espouse his dry rationality to his heart’s content, free from the indignity of moderators who interrupt, opponents who interject, and people in general who laugh at you while you’re talking.

Peter Dunne v ???: In his role as Captain Sensible, Peter Dunne exists in his own separate space. No one bothers feuding with him, because his strongest held view appears to be that people should be able to decide at what age they begin claiming superannuation. And that’s basically how it played out on The Nation. Dunne was there, but you’d struggle to remember much of what he said, apart from that he wants people to be able to decide at what age they begin claiming superannuation. There was some half-hearted sledging from Winston Peters, when Dunne described the anti-land sales position as “xenophobic”, but Peters didn’t seem to think it was really worth his time to bother directing much bile in Dunne’s direction.

Perhaps the most interesting part of The Nation was the panel discussion between Brook Sabin, Bryce Edwards and Lisa Owen over which leaders should have been part of the debate. Which says a lot about the debate itself…




Judith Collins goes nuclear

Judith Collins has evidently had one allegation too many levelled at her and, tired perhaps of the holier-than-thou attitude of her Labour counterparts and the media, she’s hit back. Inquiries to police aren’t rare, she says, and indeed other MPs and even journalists have asked for her help on police matters. And she’s naming names.

First up was retiring Labour MP, Ross Robertson. As reported in the NZ Herald:

Collins said Robertson asked for advice about leave entitlements for his daughter Lisa, then a police officer and aspiring Olympic runner, who wanted more time for training.

Collins, who was Police Minister at the time, said she then asked police officers visiting her office what Lisa Robertson should do. Officers responded by telling her the information was available online — a fact she passed on to Robertson.

“I didn’t interfere. It just goes to show there are plenty of times people contact the minister [for help].”

Collins said she thought his request was “unusual” but said it was “better to contact the minister than go straight to the police”.

Then she attacked TVNZ reporter, Katie Bradford, for discussing with Collins back in 2010 the possible difficulties Bradford’s then-partner might have in getting into police training college (presumably because of Miss Bradford’s mother, the oft-arrested Sue Bradford). Miss Bradford completely denied ever asking Collins for a favour or intervention (in fact, Bradford’s then-partner never even applied for police college), and Collins last night apologised.

Until Collins turned feral against Miss Bradford, Labour might have been goaded to return fire and name examples of National MPs seeking help from Labour ministers in times past. To return fire though would surely have resulted in Mutually Assured Destruction, with the Greens being the only winners. As it turned out though, Ms Collins’ meltdown over Miss Bradford will undoubtedly have resulted in cooler heads in Labour prevailing. With the media well and truly gunning for Collins’ scalp, all Labour now have to do is sit back and watch the show, popcorn in hand.

Together, Ms Collins and Maurice Williamson have been an absolute disaster for National this past week, and the flow on consequences for National may be serious.

National held its northern conference in Auckland over the weekend, but you wouldn’t know, unless you were there. The media coverage of National has been solely devoted to allegations of corruption against Collins and Williamson, and their respective reactions. In fact, the sole focus the conference received was Jamie Lee Ross having to take over from Williamson on a conference seminar, and Bill English telling the party faithful that Labour could still win the upcoming election.

Then there’s issue of Ms Collins picking a personal fight with the media, less than five months out from the election. Miss Bradford is from TVNZ, and Collins has told Brook Sabin of TV3:

“You might just find I get recall on all sorts of things. We’ll just wait and see. I think it is very important when the media want to raise issues about behaviours, they need to understand that they sometimes can be very inappropriate as well.”


“Let’s see if you hold your own people to account after you’ve done what you’ve done to Maurice.”

Ms Collins can be thankful that Maurice Williamson has already gone as a Minister. If he hadn’t, her behaviour over the last few days would surely have forced John Key’s hand. Certainly, the tide of public opinion would appear to be going out on Collins. However, as it now stands, the last thing Key wants is two Ministerial resignations/firings in a short space of time, both over allegations of corrupt practices. Key will be hoping like the blazes that nothing further comes out about Collins.