Budget a great motivation for Labour supporters to do more groundwork
It's a pity that Finance Minister Grant Robertson's Budget was not afforded a proper analysis by the press gallery journalists who got mesmerised and thoroughly side-tracked by a fundamental weakness in the Treasury computer system firewall which allowed a National Party staffer to access parts of this Budget in advance of its release.
One of our most senior political journalists wasted an entire weekly column on the sequence of events as this debacle unfolded, adding who said what to who and when. This piece of journalism was by no means unique.
When I worked for the Australian Labor Party I could not help but note the rich political vocabulary which had developed over there.
This was especially true in Queensland where issues were sometimes labelled with a word I heard as "duggers".
When I inquired into the origins of this oddity, I was told it was an acronym derived from the phrase "Does Anyone Give a Sh*t?"
The Budget "leak" saga was just such an issue and reminded me of the transitory fascination with John Key's pony-tail tugging antics and the time Judith Collins' taxi went the long way to an airport somewhere in China.
To the majority of punters outside the Wellington parliamentary hothouse, the fact that Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf had been misled by what will have been a grossly overpaid but incompetent system security manager, then went on to unwittingly mislead his minister was a matter of fleeting interest at the most.
Despite the spotlight going on to National Party leader Simon Bridges during this fiasco, the one fact that the contradictory polls which followed Budget week agreed on was that his support in the preferred prime minister stakes remained abysmal.
The polling data was captured by both TV3 and TVNZ during the days this was happening.
Had anyone cared about the leak, Simon Bridges' support would have at least twitched.
In my view this Budget potentially marks an overdue turning point in New Zealand economic and social history.
It was beautifully crafted by Minister Robertson so that every element in his disparate Government could legitimately claim the wins necessary to give them tail-winds into election year.
At least two aspects of the Budget, the focus on mental health and the indexation of benefits, will galvanise the small but electorally crucial group of Labour Party activists who knock on doors, put the pamphlets into the letterboxes and encourage the less motivated electors to get out and cast their votes.
Under the old first past the post voting system, only the votes of those who were fortunate enough to be enrolled in marginal electorates really counted.
With the MMP system, everyone's party vote contributes to which party has the numbers to prevail in Parliament, so having motivated troops on the ground in as many population centres as possible is a key contributor to an election win.
Every election under the MMP system has been close and the crucial last couple of points of a party vote are secured by troops on the ground.
We saw the value of groundwork in the recent Peterborough byelection in the UK.
Every poll was predicting that the new Brexit Party which had done so well in the European Parliament elections would win the seat, however Labour flooded the electorate with party workers, defied gravity and held onto a marginal seat.
Had the National Party managed a decent level of local activity in the 2017 general election, it's unlikely this party would have lost two of the seats they won on election night on the special votes.
Had the election night result stood, Winston Peters and NZ First would have almost certainly been forced to opt for a National led government and Bill English would be prime minister right now.
The boosted spending on mental health will address an issue close to many Kiwis of whatever income and age. It should be showing noticeable results by election time next year with mental health professionals appearing in some medical centres.
Just about everyone is only a couple of steps removed from someone with a mental health issue and I know from experience in my own wider whānau that getting help for this kind of problem has been close to impossible.
Indexing benefits, another overdue measure, will also motivate local Labour Party campaigners and give them a potentially valuable target for their activism.
Some research undertaken by the Labour Party in 2003 showed an extremely low turnout rate by beneficiaries in the previous election.
Motivating at least some of those electoral abstainers to get out and vote was shown to be a key to the Labour Party's wafer-thin victory in the 2005 general election.
Grant Robertson's Budget gives a very large group of normally non-voting electors a very good reason to cast a vote for his Government.
*Mike Williams grew up in Hawke's Bay. He is CEO of the NZ Howard League and a former Labour Party president. All opinions are his and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.