Why we are puzzled by the polls and what they are telling us about prospects of the Nats and ACT forming a government

Here’s a  political  conundrum:   why  aren’t   Opposition  parties  doing better in the  opinion polls?

National’s  leadership  has  settled  in, and it’s fair to say support for the Nats has increased since Christopher Luxon replaced Judith Collins.  But the gains have been at the expense of ACT.

And  together,  the two parties  are not  polling  well  enough  to  form a  government on  their own.

It will be worth watching to see if ACT does better after  holding an upbeat  conference last weekend,  oozing confidence levels which  party leader  David  Seymour  might  not  have  recognised  just  five or  so years  ago.

But meanwhile it might take only the suggestion of  a  success  or  two  for  the  government to  turn  around  the  slump  in its  fortunes.

So  far  there  is  no  sign  of that turnaround.

A  government   which began with a  show  of  capability,  if  not in a  blaze  of  glory, is  now finding  that  almost everything  it  touches   fades  into  ashes  so  quickly that   there  is  nothing, or  very little, to see.

Ministers  are  exceptionally  good  with  announcements but  not  with  achievements.  Instead of improved general wellbeing, we have raging inflation,  soaring  food prices, and rising mortgage  rates.

The  specific problems which Labour  set  out to  resolve – child poverty, housing shortages, better  education – have  worsened.

While New Zealanders on the home front have been struggling with falling living standards, the country is losing  some of  its  best  and  brightest who are making the most of opportunities to do better in other countries.

This  week  Police  Minister  Chris  Hipkins   made  a  song  and  dance  about a long-overdue  crackdown on  gangs. But let’s not forget that  Labour had rebuffed calls  for  action earlier because its position on crime and punishment is less punitive than that of National and ACT.

Hipkins claims the new measures will “make a difference” but many voters are likely to disagree, complaining they don’t go far enough.

Those  with a more  stringent position on law  and  order  won’t forget  the  reports    about  government   money    reaching   the  pockets  of  some  gang  leaders.

This  week   the  New Zealand  Herald  reported that Housing Minister  Megan Woods  has  been  warned not  to grant any  future  budget  bids to  the state  housing agency, Kainga  Ora,  for  a  while because of concerns about its debt   levels.

Spiralling  construction costs have  led  to  a  debt  blowout, raising concerns that the  government will be  unable  to  repay   completely  the  increase  in debt  over the  next  60  years.

Point  of   Order   suspects an  incoming  government  would  find   similar  problems  scattered  throughout   government  spheres  of  action. The  Ardern  government seems  to  think  throwing  money around will  convince  people  it  has  the answers to  every  problem. But the mounting debt  that is building up  will leave  a serious fiscal-policy  challenge for  its  successor.

The road toll is another  measure of an issue where  government   performance  has  fallen  far  short  of  what  it  promised.

Oliver  Hartwich, executive director of the New Zealand Initiative, has recalled how the depressingly high road toll prompted the government to embark on a “Road to Zero” campaign. Its ambitious goal: no more deaths or serious injuries by 2050.

The promotional awareness campaign will cost $15 million over three years. But since 2018 the New Zealand Transport Authority has installed less than a fifth of the road-safety barriers due by 2024.

Yet on June 2021, NZTA employed about 2,081 staff, a substantial increase in the 1,372 employed only four years earlier.

Not much of the staff growth at NZTA took place on the frontline. “Human Resources”  staff numbers have climbed from 57 to 122 full-time equivalents; managers from 214 to 456; accountants from 44 to 66; admin staff from 307 to 485; and communications officers from 32 to 88.

None of those extra staff will ever install a bollard, put up a road sign, or fix a pothole.

Of  course,  the  Transport  Minister  has taken great  delight  (and much of the kudos) in  opening  new  expressways like  Transmission Gully   or  the  Waikato  Expressway. These were initiated  by  previous  governments. He has  yet   to turn the  sod  on  a  similar  project.

His  speciality (and focus)  is  light  rail, of course, but  ballooning costs raise serious doubts about projects to develop those transport modes being built any time soon.

Experienced  political  leaders  who  have  seen   before    how  an  incoming government   must deal    with the  wreckage  left  by  its predecessor  know  it  is  no  easy  task. Point  of  Order recalls – for  example –  Labour’s Roger  Douglas and National’s Jim   Bolger perturbation on opening  the  books   after  taking office and  spending  long  days  and  nights shaping budgetary programmes to get the public finances back in shape. It’s not a job  for the faint-hearted.

2 thoughts on “Why we are puzzled by the polls and what they are telling us about prospects of the Nats and ACT forming a government

  1. The last seven Roy Morgan polls have predicted a change of government next year. Roy Morgan were the most accurate poll for the 2020 election. The media nevertheless ignores them.

    Labour’s continuing support around the mid-30s is largely the result of the efforts of its bought and paid for media, whom one Australian journalist recently called “putrid”. Anyone who watches One “News” or “the Project” might well believe they are living in a Socialist paradise. There is no factual, in-depth coverage of the outrageous asset grab taking place under the Three Waters legislation for example.

    Economic and social conditions in New Zealand continue to deteriorate rapidly however and Labour’s lack of competence and ideological madness will soon become apparent to most people. I would not be surprised if they are planning for a snap election, perhaps in response to potential civil disorder over Three Waters, before the tide goes out for them completely.

    Liked by 2 people

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