The yin and yang of elec­tion cam­paign­ing

The Southland Times - - COMMENT&OPINION -

If Na­tional Party list MP Dr Jian Yang is a spy trainer, as al­leged last week by News­, then the Blue Dragon will have gone about as far as he can go in any fu­ture Na­tional-led gov­ern­ment.

While Yang ad­mits he taught English to stu­dents in China so they could mon­i­tor com­mu­ni­ca­tions and col­lect in­for­ma­tion, he de­nies that he him­self was trained by elite Chi­nese spies.

News­room also main­tained that Yang has, more than once, at­tracted the at­ten­tion of our Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice (SIS).

In­ci­den­tally, if you don’t know what a Blue Dragon is and think it might be re­lated to the blue-eyed dragon from Game of Thrones, then google the group.

Their web­site de­scribes the Na­tional Party ad­vi­sory group as peo­ple of Chi­nese de­scent liv­ing in New Zealand whose num­bers are fast grow­ing un­der the lead­er­ship of Yang and Bill English.

Yang, who was heav­ily in­volved in fundrais­ing for John Key’s failed bid to change the New Zealand flag, was also a non­rank­ing of­fi­cer in the Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

If Yang is some sort of Manchurian can­di­date who has pen­e­trated our high­est of­fice, then the al­leged deep sleeper’s cover is blown and he should never be let near for­eign af­fairs and de­fence.

Nor­mally, an ex­plo­sive story like this, with its John Le Carre un­der­tones and backed by the Fi­nan­cial Times, would run for days in the me­dia. But, like the Saudi sheep story, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold yarn doesn’t have the legs to out­run the neck-and-neck two-ponies drag race of the gru­elling 2017 elec­tion marathon.

And that is a pity be­cause newly re­leased min­istry doc­u­ments con­tra­dict the line that the then For­eign Min­is­ter Mur­ray McCully had taken ad­vice from the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade about the risk of be­ing sued by a Saudi Ara­bian busi­ness­man.

The line McCully main­tained was that in 2013 the min­istry had green-lighted him to use New Zealand tax­payer funds to build Hmood Al Ali Kha­laf a $6 mil­lion agri-hub farm in the Saudi desert, as well as to hand over $4m in cash and to fly over 900 sheep.

If the deal wasn’t done, McCully stren­u­ously im­plied that Al Kha­laf and the Al Kha­laf group were go­ing to sue the New Zealand Gov­ern­ment for $20m-$30m.

It took years, and a re­quest lodged light years ago un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act, to dis­cover that there was no le­gal ad­vice sought or given.

The re­lease of this in­for­ma­tion is lousy tim­ing.

The in­for­ma­tion has been re­leased when the elec­torate is ‘‘poll’’ vault­ing from one Col­mar Brun­ton poll to an­other New­shub poll, and evened up by the Ra­dio NZ Poll of Polls.

Poor-polling per­form­ers are loudly de­nounc­ing them.

NZ First leader Winston Peters calls all polls ‘‘junk sci­ence’’, while The Op­por­tu­ni­ties Party’s leader, Gareth Mor­gan, cries foul over the ve­rac­ity of the polls be­cause, he says, they are made up of the opin­ions of own­ers of tele­phone land­lines.

His party faith­ful of mainly mil­len­ni­als prefers to com­mu­ni­cate through cell­phone and so­cial me­dia, but poll­sters in­sist those modes are taken into ac­count.

The Three Mil­lion Dol­lar man is firm in the de­luded be­lief that even though he is loi­ter­ing way, way down in the Mr One Per Cent stakes, come elec­tion day, Mor­gan will breast the qual­i­fy­ing 5 per cent tape and romp in at around 10 per cent. A likely story.

With hoard­ings still up and pol­icy be­ing amended and still drib­bled out, early vot­ing is at a his­toric high.

In pre­vi­ous elec­tions, in­se­cure vot­ers, who like to be on the win­ning side of his­tory, are in­clined to vote with what ap­pears to be a win­ning side.

The still-un­de­cided will hang back till elec­tion day to work out their strat­egy.

Maybe it’s the Scot­tish in us that makes us rel­ish the thought of get­ting a bar­gain, a two-for-one deal of two votes per Kiwi hu­man.

This can turn this breed of po­lit­i­cal an­i­mal into a vot­ing neu­rotic, con­tin­u­ally fret­ting over wast­ing one of their votes, each poll caus­ing them to chop and change their tac­tic.

I do worry about so many of the elec­torate be­ing al­lowed to vote while hoard­ings are still brazenly tout­ing their wares.

If it is il­le­gal to have hoard­ings up on elec­tion day and for politi­cians to still plight their troths to the elec­torate, then why are we al­lowed to vote early?

Surely this is putting democ­racy at risk?

I sus­pect that if our brains were breathal­ysed for fran­chis­ing un­der the in­flu­ence, the ma­jor­ity of early vot­ers would be found well over the limit and locked up.

There’s some­thing civic­minded and com­mu­nity-build­ing in mak­ing a day of it and cel­e­brat­ing our hard-won fran­chise to­gether on the day.

I’ll see you in the queues on Satur­day.

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