NZ Voters Manipulated By Lies And Innuendo

Infamous international hired-hand political tacticians worked their box of magic dirty tricks for National this election. PAT PILCHER has been researching the stats on our deepest shame.

 

What a week! The nation swerved even more to the right after an unusually acrimonious election. The Jacinda effect may have lifted Labour’s game, but each step of National’s campaign was overseen and directed by political tacticians Crosby/Textor. This saw allegations of lies and fearmongering aimed at National by Labour supporters, who claimed that it probably played a significant role in steering undecided voters towards the National party. Looking at Crosby/Textor’s track record, there could be some merit in these observations.

Crosby/Textor are not without controversy. When managing John Howard’s Australian campaign, the firm’s heads, Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor, gained an unsavoury reputation for employing ruthless attack politics which were often coupled with subtle appeals aimed at generating fear, uncertainty and playing to voter prejudice. The result was some powerful psychology that brought undecided voters across to Howard’s side. Facts and honesty seem to have often been the casualty. Either way, Crosby/Textor still got results.

Crosby/Textor ran Howard’s 2001 campaign where he erroneously claimed that refugees on the ship Tampa had thrown their babies overboard to blackmail their way into Australia. This is a sensationalist and sickening election tactic, but the clever (and equally sickening part) was its follow-up, which saw full-page newspaper adverts declaring: ‘We will decide who comes into this country’.

Again in Australia, Textor/Crosby’s reputation for dirty tactics wasn’t helped by the controversy in a 1995 Canberra by-election. They were caught conducting what was branded a ‘push poll’ against Labour candidate Sue Robinson. A recording was obtained of a telephone pollster asking a householder if they’d be more or less likely to vote for Robinson if they knew she’d ‘publicly supported abortion up to the ninth month of pregnancy’ (sound familiar?). A lawsuit followed and this saw Textor apologising to Robinson in writing and handing over $A80,000. Robinson still lost the election.

It wasn’t just Australia, either. Working for the Tories in the 2005 UK elections, Crosby/Textor attacked gypsies and immigrants. They also managed the mayoral campaign for Conservative candidate Boris Johnson to help him win the London mayoralty. The previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, complained that Crosby/Textor had used negative rumours and innuendo against him in UK tabloids.

The really worrying thing is not only that most New Zealanders are blissfully unaware of how subtly (or sometimes unsubtly) their opinions are being manipulated, but that there is next to nothing stopping political parties from resorting to such low-brow election strategies. New Zealand has strict advertising standards and consumer protection laws. Might now not be a good time for a similar tightening up of election campaigning?

New Zealand’s political outlook for the next three years is precariously balanced as both big parties seek to woo Winston Peters into a coalition. This has led many to comment on the irony of the move to MMP when we now have just one person deciding who governs the country.

Regardless of who manages to get a coalition off the ground and score the big job, there’s a lot to be done.

During the election, politicians bandied around the used (and oft-abused) phrase ‘world leading’ when talking up the glowing future they and their lot could bring NZ if elected. Baring this mind, I dredged up a few stats that New Zealand leads the world on. I hope these are high on the political agenda of whoever becomes PM in the end.

Unaffordable Homes: This won’t surprise Aucklanders, but New Zealand is now the #1 nation in the world for unaffordable housing. This comes off the back of the highest rise in house prices, and housing costs vs the average income. This has huge implications for our youth, most of whom are never going to be able to own their own home.

Homelessness: Funnily enough, NZ is now also #1 in the OECD for homelessness. A full 1 percent of the population – that’s over 40,000 people – do not have a fixed abode. Shamefully, us Kiwis have resoundingly beaten the Aussies, as our homeless rate is double theirs.

Domestic Violence: Funnily enough, we’re also world leaders when it comes to domestic/family violence and sexual assault against women. A UN study ‘found a third of the country’s women had reported experiencing physical violence from a partner during the period 2000 to 2010’. Alarmingly, the actual numbers may be higher, as many sexual assaults and most domestic violence goes unreported.

Child Welfare: UNICEF rated NZ a shocking 34th out of 41 developed countries when it came to child well-being. UNICEF say NZ’s near-bottom ranking is proof that ‘high national income is no guarantee of a good record in sustaining child well-being’.

Wealth Distribution: I’d written about this before, and when researching the story, I was shocked to learn that New Zealand ranks as number 10 in the OECD for income inequality. This isn’t just some numbers I’m pulling out of my arse, this data is from Statistics New Zealand, who found that the richest Kiwis (the top 10 percent) held 60 percent of all wealth in 2015. In 2003 through to 2010, they held 55 percent. Clearly there is a trend. Most worrying of all is the fact that Stats NZ also found that the poorest 40 percent of New Zealanders held just 3 percent of our total wealth.

Youth Suicide: We’re also number 1 globally for Youth Suicide in the developed world. This translates into 15.6 suicides per 100,000 people. Alarmingly, this is double the US and a shocking five times the rate of youth suicide in the UK. Suicides destroy families. Clearly, we need more than a ‘steady set of hands’ or strong leadership to fix this.

Indigenous Prison Population: This is another secret shame for New Zealand. M?ori may only represent 14.6 per cent of NZ’s population, but 50 percent of the male, and 65 percent of the female prison population are also Maori. Institutional racism? Maybe. Either way, this warrants some careful investigation by whoever becomes PM.

Climate Change: Out of 58 nations, clean green NZ ranks a lowly 43rd when it comes to NZ’s actions in combating climate change. We’re also the seventh worst in the OECD. We’ve had Trump supporters deny climate change despite a record hurricane season wrecking parts of Florida and the Caribbean. Climate change is real, it is based on peer reviewed scientific research. I don’t know about you, but if we’re to market ourselves to the world as 100 percent pure, then we need to fix this world-leading trend regardless of which side of the political divide we’re on.

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