Bryce Edwards: Poll results, micro-budget, foreign affairs

Bryce Edwards: Poll results, micro-budget, foreign affairs

The Labour Party’s decline continues, according to the latest opinion poll released by Roy Morgan, which shows its support has slipped to just 21% support – down from 5.9 percentage points since the election. This result is the lowest the party has ever received in a Roy Morgan poll. Act, by contrast, are up nearly 4%.

Here are the full results, with the changes noted since the election:

National 37.5% (-0.6%)

Labour 21.0% (-5.9%)

Act 12.5% (+3.9%)

Greens 12.5% (+0.9%)

NZF 5.5% (+0.5%)

Te Pāti Māori 2.5% (-0.6%)

TOP 3.5% (+1.3%)

See the full results here: National, ACT and NZ First increase their level of support in first Roy Morgan Poll after NZ Election.

The Government’s mini-budget (or “micro-budget”) is announced today by Finance Minister Nicola Willis. The Herald’s Thomas Coughlan says that National have been engaged in “serious expectation management”, trying to lower hopes of what will be announced – see: Finance Minister Nicola Willis to unveil mini-Budget today and reveal ‘fiscal cliffs’ left by Labour Government. Coughlan suggests the big issue will be whether Willis is able to fund the promised $15b of tax cuts.

Matthew Hooton has published some suggested cost savings that Willis could announce today in terms of cutting back the public service and wider state sector – see his Patreon post, Agencies to be abolished (paywalled).

Here are some of the more interesting (or humorous?) suggestions: the abolition of “any agency which spends more than 25% of its revenue on advertising”, “DPMC slashed by half and ministers told to do their own jobs themselves”, “Public Service Commission reduced to small high-performance HR consultancy and KPI setting agency”, the abolition of the Ministry of Education’s curriculum division, “MBIE spilt into operational agencies and its policy arm and corporate-welfare functions abolished”, abolition of the Climate Change Commission (and its “advice functions to return to Ministry for the Environment”), and the “Serious Fraud Office to be merged into Police, who would be told to take white-collar crime and corruption seriously, and to bug all major National and NZ First donors”.

Hooton also suggests that the new Government should not proceed with their Ministry for Space nor the Ministry for Hunting and Fishing, and that more money be allocated to the “Office of the Auditor-General (budget at least tripled given Shane Jones back in Cabinet)”.

More money seems set to be spent by the incoming government on defence and MFAT. RNZ’s Phil Pennington reports today that the US Government has asked New Zealand “to stump up more money for military satellites” – see:Space race puts pressure on New Zealand Defence Force.

Pennington writes that “New Zealand is linked in politically as a partner in the US Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) programme, and commercially through Rocket Lab’s multiplying contracts with the Pentagon and major military contractors such as Lockheed Martin.” He suggests that through these arrangements New Zealand is being brought into a “multi-billion-dollar space race pitting the US against China and Russia” that will be used to jam, track and surveil “troops on the battlefield, subs and ships, and even nuclear forces.”

There is no doubt that the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, will be hauling his new Wellington administration much closer into alignment with Washington, Canberra and London, and away from an independent foreign policy positioning. And writing in the Herald today, Audrey Young outlines just how active Peters has already been in reorienting New Zealand’s foreign outlook – see: Foreign Minister Winston Peters sets fast pace for PM Luxon ahead of Australia visit (paywalled).

According to Young, Peters has definitively shown that “foreign policy is definitely under new management”, and it makes the country closer friends with traditional allies, but will “raise the hackles of Beijing”. She says that therefore, “As Prime Minister, Luxon may well have his work cut out managing New Zealand’s relationship with China.”

Peters has surrounded himself with Americanophile advisers in the Beehive. Young reports that he has “almost the same work family that was with him when he last held the post, from 2017–2020. Jon Johansson, his former chief of staff, is back as a special adviser to Peters. Michael Appleton, most recently High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, is back as his senior Foreign Affairs adviser, and Helen Lahtinen has returned as his senior private secretary. Additionally, he has former parliamentary colleague Darroch Ball as his chief of staff and minder.”

Hence recent speeches by Peters suggest that New Zealand will lift its defence spending in the Asia-Pacific region, “reinvigorate its relationship with the Five Eyes partners (the United States, Australia, Canada and the UK), and Japan and South Korea as other members of Nato’s Indo-Pacific 4”, and go into the new Aukus defence alliance with Australia, the United States and the UK.

The big surprise issue of the year was the resignation of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in January, and her legacy is still being debated. Today in the Herald, two political journalists give different views. Former Newstalk political editor Barry Soper is quoted as saying “She’ll be remembered as quitting early. She’ll be remembered, I would imagine, for her outpourings of grief on the mosque shootings, but she certainly won’t be remembered for policy” – see: Dame Jacinda Ardern’s legacy.

According to Soper, “The second term was overwhelming for her. But really it just shows you, given the overwhelming support she had two years ago, how ill-equipped she was to do the job by quitting a year early.” In contrast, the Herald’s Audrey Young is much more positive about Ardern’s policy achievements: “Two stand-outs are in child poverty reduction and climate change. And while she didn’t make the progress she wanted to in either of those, the legacy is that she put in place the legislative architecture to ensure progress will be made by future governments. And that’s absolutely a sound legacy.”

Finally, for some lighthearted awards for the year in politics, see Ben McKay and Toby Manhire’s The 2023 Golden Jandals for conspicuous contributions to NZ politics.

 

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Dr Bryce Edwards is the Political Analyst in Residence at Victoria University of Wellington. He is the director of the Democracy Project.

This article can be republished for free under a Creative Commons copyright-free license. Attributions should include a link to the Democracy Project (https://democracyproject.nz)