Wednesday, 5 December 2001

A country of two halves

# Big Farming Story of the Week: A country of two halves.

The top of the country has been on the lookout for rain. The bottom end has had it in bucketfuls. And the bits in the middle are looking an absolute picture! Having recently journeyed through North Otago, South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury and Canterbury I can report that Mother Nature is doing a splendid job of keeping the irrigators redundant.

# Big Political Story of the Week: The Election.

The result was no surprise. What was more surprising was the difficulty John Key faced in getting a stable majority and a clear mandate to govern. Despite the National Party producing its best performance at the polls since 1951 (when it received a ringing endorsement of its handling of the waterfront strike) it effectively only has a clear majority of one. Sure, the Nats can probably rely on the support of Maori Party but the latter’s natural home is the left not the right.

The early indication is we’ve decided, in our collective wisdom, to stick with MMP as our preferred electoral system. While I agree returning to FPP (First Past the Post) would be a step backward, I can’t agree with a political system that allows a one-trick pony to potentially hold a government to ransom. A degree of proportional representation is desirable but not when it is out of all proportion.

# Big Sporting Story of the Week: The All Blacks coach.

At the time of writing, two key sporting events - namely the first cricket test against Australia and the New Zealand Golf Open - were just getting underway. So this week I’m plumping for the All Blacks coaching job. Much like the election, Steve Hansen finds himself in a similar situation to John Key – almost certain to win but unsure of his coalition partners. The interest around the inevitable Hansen appointment will focus on whether he’s allowed to surround himself with his mates or whether the NZRU puts the likes a Vern Cotter in there to keep him honest.

The other great sporting spectacle should be the battle for the Labour leadership. This brutal confrontation has the potential to make Roman gladiators look like shrinking gladioli. The only difference is the gladiators prefer to eyeball their opponents when they’re knifing them. I will be intrigued to see whether Smarmy David, Charmless David or David Who prevails.

# Brickbat: The million Kiwis who never bothered to vote.

People are fighting and dying in the streets of Egypt and Libya for the right to vote. Meanwhile one million of us could not be bothered to exercise our democratic right. Only 68.8% of those eligible cast their vote, the lowest in percentage terms since 1887. Back then, obviously, getting to the polling booth would have been a much more arduous task, whether by horse or on foot. It was a task only endured by men as women had to wait until 1893 to get their say. And a cynic, not me, would say they haven’t stopped since!

# Bouquet: John Key.

Anyone who doubted he is the most popular politician in the country, need look no further than his electorate of Helensville for resounding proof. No man or woman received more votes (23,473). No one had a bigger majority (19,116). The election campaign was based almost solely on Key’s presidential appeal. Other “key” ministers such as Bill English, Gerry Brownlee and Tony Ryall were barely sighted.

As an interesting aside, National’s Amy Adams (Selwyn) and Ryall (Bay of Plenty) were the next highest pollers at 22,669 and 22,055, respectively, and their mammoth majorities give them the second and third safest seats in the country. By comparison in the arch-conservative Clutha Southland, English could only muster 19,726 votes! Which was 18,978 more votes than former Federated Farmers president, and Act candidate, Don Nicolson got in the bluest of all National safe seats!

Jamie Mackay is the host of the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Farming Show which airs on Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB.