Hard News by Russell Brown


I have previously noted an association between the Sunday Star Times and the abuse of statistics. Well, look what the frog has got. The small sample size and Friday-night-only calling aren't the only odd things about the Fairfax poll that had National seven points ahead. But I'll let frog tell the story:

UPDATE: Well, the Sunday Star-Times poll showing National 7% ahead is even dodgier than I thought. Go have a read of political editor Helen Bain’s column on A10 (not online, sorry), and you’ll see that she refers to National being two points ahead of Labour in the latest Sunday Star-Times poll, not the seven reported.

My only guess at explaining this discrepancy is that there are, in fact, two polls: one that was reported and one that wasn’t. The Sunday Star-Times did its usual poll, but sampling was completed before the Brash gaffe/dishonesty. It showed National ahead by 2%. So, the paper decided to do an additional poll on Friday night to see what damage National had sustained as a result of the Brash gaffe/dishonesty.

Problem is: the new poll showed National extending its lead to 7%. This left the paper two options. It could report on both polls, and open itself up to ridicule (how on earth could National get a five point bump after its leader was exposed as misleading the country?). Or it could pretend like the first poll didn’t exist. It opted for the first option, except that it forget to edit Ms Bain’s column.

If this suspicion is accurate, then today’s poll with National 7% ahead shouldn’t be taken with a grain of salt so much as with a truckload of salt. Also, it has to be said, if the Sunday Star-Times has just done what I suspect it has, then it has just indulged in a piece of pretty shady reporting one week out from a general election.

Well, I can't think of any other reason that Fairfax's only poll leading into the final week of the campaign would be a hasty little half-sample job on a Friday night …

[Reader David Jacobs has a little more on this bizarre business: "Yes, you and Frogblog are right. I was phone polled early last week (Monday I think) for the Sunday Star Times and was told that the results would be in the paper yesterday."]

Meanwhile, the Herald on Sunday snap poll (another small sample, but taken on Friday and Saturday) has Labour 42.1 to 38.5 and the One News Colmar Brunton has National shedding six points in a week with the Brash whoopsie yet to fully feed through. The wild card is the apparent confusion within New Zealand First as to exactly what last week's statement on support arrangements means.

The busy little amphibian also posted this yesterday:

The plot thickens. The anti-Green leaflet distributed by the Exclusive Brethren businessmen is almost identical to an anonymous leaflet attacking Green Senate candidate Christine Milne, during her successful campaign last year in Tasmania. The two leaflets are reproduced below so you can see quite how similar they are.
Yet Greg Mason, one of the Exclusive Brethren businessmen behind New Zealand’s anti-Green leaflets, said in [the] Herald on Sunday today that his ‘Green Delusion’ pamphlet was created from scratch, without international inspiration. After comparing the pamphlets below, I’m sure you’ll agree that Mr Mason’s claim can only be described as absolute garbage.

Frog is quite right. And Mason is a liar. I fail to see why anything those men say should be trusted. Their contempt for the rest of us is quite evident. (My favourite part of the 'Green Delusion' pamphlet is the claim that the Greens would: "Offer financial assistance to cannabis growers for alternative employment." It's based on their support for the development of industrial hemp ...)

More information on lying god-bothers: As the Fundy Post, Hard News and others have noted, people associated with the conservative Christian lobby (including erstwhile Herald columnist Sandra Paterson) have been spreading a seedy little canard; telling their people that a vote for any other party than National will be wasted, and that if they vote for a minor party their votes could be reallocated to a party they don't like. Bryan Dods of Maungaturoto has a sighting:

I am living in the Maungaturoto area (Northland electorate). For a few days now, I have heard people talking about votes for minority parties being transferred to larger parties if their original choice fails to reach the 5% threshold.

Someone referred to a pamphlet, and others to a public forum held around the Warkworth area, where "an MP" told them this as fact. I have been unable to pinpoint the source of this information, but these same people are adamant that this warped STV/MMP hybrid is the case in this coming election.

It is a frightening thought that people are being misled with such authority. With only one week left a public correction could be of benefit to all, but how?

Without wishing to get overly conspiratorial, this would seem relevant to theories that National's high-stakes game-plan has been to wipe out minor parties (ie: Act and NZ First) and thus grab a majority with, say, 45% of the original vote after the "wasted" votes are taken out. Perhaps I just need a lie-down.

Tim Selwyn has his own odds and those of the major offshore betting agencies and some interesting speculation about the dollar and inflation.

All right. Last word (failing any further revelations) on the Exclusive Brethren business: there is "no relationship" (Gerry Brownlee last Monday) between the sect described as "brutal" and "sinister" by a prospective National Cabinet minister and the National Party itself.

Except for the EB leadership meeting several times with Don Brash and discussing its plans to spent half a million dollars on a nationwide pamphlet campaign against National's political opponents; sect members putting up National Party billboards and distributing National Party leaflets; and now, according to the Herald on Sunday, the sect having its children spend their nights conducting clumsy push-polls intended to try and sway voters towards National. Apart from that, no relationship at all.

Furthermore: Don Brash knew the pamphlet campaign, whose cost amounts to one seventh of National's entire campaign budget, was coming, but did not think to mention it to anyone else in his campaign team. No one in his team thought to enquire what he had been discussing at his meetings with sect leaders. Even after the story broke on Monday, Brash did not discuss the leaflets or the Exclusive Brethren with anyone else in his party. And by late last week both Brash and his deputy leader Gerry Brownlee had not found time to read any of the pamphlets, despite having copies of them.


Tracey Watkins, the Dom Post's political editor, has similar things to say.

The New Zealand Herald's editorials through this election campaign have been dreadful. This morning's effort, headed Time for serious reflection, is no exception. The only policy it examines is fiscal, which suits National just fine - but what about all the other policies? After all, National proposes redrawing the constitutional map and erasing Maori distinctiveness. Would a word about that be out of the question? Perhaps a look at whether National can really make a painless $350 million cut from the education budget? Whether Labour can really afford its student loans policy? Are market rents in public housing as awful an idea as the evidence suggests? Is abolishing parole a credible or even a wise idea? Nada. Meanwhile, John Roughan takes a broader view and appears to decide he'll vote for the Maori Party.

PS: I wasn't terribly impressed with "Generation Jones" consultant Jonathan Pontell when he was interviewed last week by John Campbell and Linda Clark. He seemed a bit glib. The obvious assumption was that he was working with National to offer insight into winning over a key generation (mine, as it happens). But Don Brash's chief of staff Richard long swiftly called Clark to deny all knowledge. And then on Friday, The Press ran a story quoting Long and suggesting that Pontell was in fact a hoaxer. He's just been on Clark's show again, furious, and saying that he'll take legal action against the National Party and The Press. He gave the impression that he regarded himself as still bound by a confidentiality agreement with the party he did work for, and also said he understood that a party would not want to acknowledge receieving international strategic advice in the current climate. Labour, the Greens and NZ First all say it wasn't them. National's campaign manager Stephen Joyce has reiterated that the party has never heard of Pontell. Would Act like to offer a denial as well? How bizarre.