National goes ethnic; Dunne trips up and the Greens try to recover
By Richard Harman (author)
National’s law and order policy announced yesterday is aimed very directly at the Indian vote.
And last night it was winning endorsement from Indian media and community leaders.
That was the best news for National over the weekend --- what was not so good, was a poll in the Wellington electorate of Ohariu showing Peter Dunne well behind Labour candidate, Greg O’Connor.
Because of the peculiarities of MMP at the margins, Dunne has always been an extra seat for National because his victories have not come at the expense of their party vote.
Otherwise, National would need to increase its party vote by between one and two per cent to get the extra seat.
It is because of those fine margins that National is now clearly running a number of tightly targeted campaigns.
Its law and order policy announced yesterday is aimed at the ongoing campaign by ethnic shopkeepers in Auckland to persuade the Government to crack down on the generally young people who use violence in their shop robberies.
The policy would create a new category of offender for youths aged 14 – 17; the "young serious offender" who could face a whole range of penalties including being sentenced in district courts or sent on a one-year para-military course at Waiouru military camp.
The proposal also imposes what is in effect a curfew from between 12.00 midnight and 5.00 a.m. for children under 14 out without adult supervision. Their parents could face an instant fine of $200.00.
The leader of Auckland’s ethnic shopkeeper-based Crime Prevention Group, and recent defector from Labour to National, Sunny Kaushal, told POLITIK that shopkeepers should not have to live in fear, so his group welcomed National's announcement.
National presented the policy to a meeting of community leaders and then visited a South Auckland Sikh temple, and Kaushal said the reaction was very positive.
“The people were happy that the Government was listening which is what we wanted,” he said.
“As a Crime Prevention Group, we are going to hold the Government accountable.
"As a community group, we think our communities need to be safer>"
The website, Indiain Weekender, said it seemed National was the first political party to have responded proactively to the demands raised by many in ethnic communities about youths robbing shops, particualrly dairies.
"However, it will be interesting to see if the parties in opposition, especially the Jacinda Ardern led revamped Labour Party will also come up with a new policy of their own on youth offending – an issue that has been hurting the Kiwi-Indian community hard lately," it said.
The law and order initiative is just another in a series of moves National has made to win over the Indian community in Auckland which has traditionally tended to vote Labour.
Prime Minister Bill English has also promised that the Government will change the law to allow Sikhs to carry their ceremonial dagger, the kirpan.
“If re-elected, a National-led Government will amend the Crimes Act to exempt Sikhs from carrying a Kirpan for religious reasons from being considered to be in possession of an offensive weapon,” he told an Indian gathering in Auckland a week ago.
Meanwhile yesterday the Greens were gathering up the remnants of their campaign and getting ready to set off again with a new slogan and some changes to their list.
Their executive also refused to allow Kennedy Graham back on to their list.
Graham resigned from the list a week ago in protest at Metirira Turei remaining as co-leader.
Leader James Shaw confirmed that the view of the party was almost universally hostile to Graham.
“I know that the members of the executive went out to their regions and they did gather a lot feedback,” he told POLITIK.
“It was an incredibly thorough process.
“Everybody had the opportunity to comment, and I know there was a lot of comment.”
Now that Graham is out of the Greens (though he has not been expelled from the party as Shaw originally proposed), POLITIK understands that The Opportunities Party is planning to try and recruit him.
Meanwhile, Shaw says he has no plans to try and do an electorate deal with Labour in Wellington Central so that the party can be sure of returning to Parliament.
National sources claim their polling has the party currently on less than five per cent which would make it impossible for them to come back unless they had an electorate seat.
But Shaw says any deal is “not part of the conversation”.
“I don’t think that we need it. I don’t think Labour would offer it.”
The Greens not only have to recover from their own meltdown but now also face strong opposition from the Opportunities Party which held its campaign launch on Friday with Leader Gareth Morgan claiming the party would make five per cent at this election and would aim to make 30% in 2020.
Morgan’s party has strong policies on water, climate change and poverty --- the three core policies that the Greens will campaign on this year.
The main difference between he two parties is that Morgan is prepared to offer support to a National Government which the Greens are not.
But as the Ohariu poll result shows the real problem the small parties – including NZ First --- all now face is that the resurgence of Labour is cutting into their vote shares.
Perhaps as an acknowledgement of this, the first heavy attack on Labour's water charge policy came not from National but NZ First.
It is, of course, early days yet, and if the leadership turmoil in Labour and the Greens had not happened, it's doubtful if the campaign would have reached the degree of intensity it has so early.
Labour had a more low key weekend unveiling its pay equity policy and answering questions about water.
This week is the last that Parliament will site. Next weekend will see the real campaigns begin.