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Debate highlights

Written By: - Date published: 12:05 pm, November 1st, 2011 - 70 comments
Categories: election 2011, john key, phil goff - Tags:

Here are my top moments from the first Leaders’ Debate.

  • Goff’s passionate and upfront answer on Afghanistan. Key refusing to simply say yes or no on whether he would redeploy the SAS (it’s dinnamic, don’t you know).
  • Goff calling Key out on his GST lie and handling Key’s response very well. He didn’t back down. He said ‘I respect the office of Prime Minister, but you’ve got to tell the truth’
  • Key’s ‘mistake’ being that his office did a bad job explaining what a great deal the BMWs were, well Goff turned it back to message by saying that asset sales were a mistake.
  • Wallace Chapman’s question on what they would protest on (please, could Wallace moderate the next debate? He does it every week on Backbenches with success). Key said he would march ‘for equality of opportunity’. I wonder if he would march down McGehan Close. Goff listed a whole bunch of things he had marched for, just in this term.
  • Goff’s pointed use of numbers to prick Key’s bubble: 100,000 Kiwis gone to Australia, 60,000 more beneficiaries, lower median household income (I forget the number).
  • Goff stopping Key getting out his decade of deficits line by pointing out Labour left the books in surplus (the ‘decade of deficits was only ever in the December 2008 economic update, written at the height of the global crisis when years more economic contraction was expected, in fact, the recession officially ended in March 2009).
  • Key saying that breaking your promises and lying is OK because the world is ‘dinnamic’. Goff saying that lying is never OK.
  • Goff’s explanations of policy. It may be old news to you and me and the political commentators that Labour would use dole payments to subsidise apprenticeships but it will have been the first time that many of the 800,000 viewers heard of it, and Goff sold it well, as he did other policies. Goff looked Prime Ministerial. Key was weak on asset sales.
  • My final highlight is that, at the time of writing, it has been 12 hours since the debate and Farrar hasn’t mentioned it and Slater has only had a whine about www.keyholes.co.nz . Farrar’s only mention of the debate was a weak attempt to inflate expectations for Goff ahead of time. It’s kind of like their near silence on the opening addresses. The behaviour of these weather-vanes is telling. Especially Slater, who is much worse at controlling his emotions and getting the line across than Farrar.

What were your favourite moments? What else did you want to see?

Expect Key to come out a lot more aggressively in the Press debate tomorrow. Goff can now stand a bit taller and a bit more relaxed. He has the high ground. He just has to fend of Key’s aggression and keep on jabbing away at Key’s record and linking Key to asset sales, while explaining his own policies.

Update: Farrar has since posted and given the win to Goff.

70 comments on “Debate highlights ”

  1. There must be some very worried people in National HQ this morning.
    The whole electorate strategy as developed over the past three years has been to undermine Goff and to promote Brand Key, the super duper uberwealthy normal bloke who would not engage in politics as usual.  Everything else has been ignored.  There is no policy and no plan B.
    Goff just trashed their strategy.  It does not matter that he won or just lost, just that he turned up, spoke from the heart and spoke about the issues that will resonate with ordinary people.
    There is still a long way to go but the momentum is all with Labour right now.  A couple of weeks of poll movements and it will be all on.
    Phil Goff for Prime Minister!

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      Why didn’t Key go for an all party leaders debate? His strategists made totally the wrong call giving Goff head to head time with him.

      WTF are the Nats thinking. The late election date was a wrong call for them, their TV launch was a wrong call (whoever was creative director needs to be booted), and their choice of leaders debate was also the wrong call for National.

      I am beginning to suspect that beneath the surface, the National Party machinery has fuck all talent and co-ordination.

      • Lanthanide 1.1.1

        The election date was kind of damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation.

        Obviously they had to go either early or late to avoid the RWC. If they’d gone early they could have been open to power-grab claims as per Labour in 2002 when Helen moved the date earlier (and as a result I was 17 instead of 18 and couldn’t vote…).

        There’s also the earthquake complications, it’s possible that an early election could have been cancelled. A large quake in the next few weeks could still cancel this election, too.

      • Tiger Mountain 1.1.2

        Interesting CV, I thought the same. Key could well have hidden in the sound bite interruptus morass of a long TV line up. Hubris ruled in the end for the nats.

    • I wonder how many people noticed that Key had pages of notes ,Goff spoke without any notes.This should be pointed out to the people . By the way how did they manage to manipulate the voting result.?

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.1

        Expensive txts, and you won’t txt if you got no credit left on the phone, OR if you thought BOTH of them were losers.

        The txt voting results were no good for Key, on that basis.

        Big call: I’m picking the NATs to get only 43% to 45% this year.

        • Draco T Bastard

          I don’t vote in those txt polls for 3 reasons:

          1.) It’s makes the TV station and Telco a profit
          2.) They’re totally inaccurate and are thus a waste of time and money
          3.) I don’t watch TV.

          • Rodel

            Absolutely. They are not worth wasting any thought over. Unscientific pointless crap by a media who can’t get off their arses and do a proper survey…Real Paul Henry trivia… I could go on..but..

        • Carol

          And even the Stuff poll has Goff on 47% and Key 52% for the debate – Stuff’s polls tend to skew to the right.

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    Goff needs to relax a bit – tone down the direct jibes at Key, keep the facts at his fingertips (that was one thing that impressed – he doesn’t rely on notes – and that helps him come across well).
    It’s a bloody awful shame, but when Rena breaks up Brand Key will sink with her.

  3. mike 3

    Phil said ” You gave me a 300 dollar tax break and you gave yourself a 1000 dollar one!” Priceless

  4. Lanthanide 4

    “Goff stopping Key getting out his decade of deficits line by pointing out Labour left the books in surplus (the ‘decade of deficits was only ever in the December 2008 economic update, written at the height of the global crisis when years more economic contraction was expected, in fact, the recession officially ended in March 2009).”

    Yeah, this seems to be the mythology (or “cool aid”) that a lot of National supports have bought hook, like and sinker. That somehow during 1999-2008, despite everything in the economy going gangbusters, Labour ran up a huge deficit and bankrupted the country.

    I think it all stems from this “decade of deficits” that National pounced up and trumpeted hither and yon right before the election. I’ve made several comments in the last few days about this; as far as I can tell National didn’t really do anything particularly revolutionary in the 2009 budget and yet the decade of deficits seemed to have magically vanished.

    My highlight is I believe Goff forced a concession on Key. Key tried to evade Goff’s question about whether he would send the SAS back to Afghanistan or not. He eventually said it was “probably unlikely” that they would be sent back. I do believe Key has never made a commitment on this one way or the other – in the heat of the moment he ended up saying that. There’s still wiggle room in there for them to be sent back, but of course if they win the election and do, Labour will bring it up. So this may be as good as a “no” from Key on this issue. It somewhat reminds me about the back-peddling they had to do on ruling out Kiwibank for sale after English gave very strong hints it was up for the chop.

    • insider 4.1

      I thought Goff marginally ‘won’ the debate – he had to. he is seen (wrongly IMO) as a non entity or non contender as PM so he had to win or match Key. He did and so ‘won’. But on content they were pretty even. Goff had to be aggressive to make the mark he has failed to make on public consciousness, key was conservative so as not to risk losing ground. I don’t think there was a marked change in the ground as when Key debated CLark and everyone expected her to wipe the floor with him and he ended up besting her.

      I’d have Goff a bit less po faced next time, and stop him starting every answer with “last week I was talking with Joe Ordinary from Kiwiville”… Good at times but became overly formulaic. Calling Key a liar was pretty risky and a good comeback from Key – could it be a moment like Clark saying Key shouts down his wife at home or whatever it was she said?

      Yes Key fudged on SAS – he has to, he’s probably still talking about the policy with Defence and the US/Aussies/Afghans etc so can’t make international policy on the fly like an opposition leader can – and Goff got a good hit, but Key got him back with the point that Goff had no plans to pull other troops out so where was the point of principle that Goff was making? The fudge that the regional governor wasn’t corrupt so that makes it ok was pretty laughable.

      • A liar is a liar whatever the circumstances .Key has lied in parliament has made unfounded accusations against Goff and Labour and make policy on the hoof .How else can one describe his fabrications ? The fact is the guy lies even if he is the PM

        • insider

          Has Goff sold his rental property he promised to sell in 2009 (He said last night he still owned one)? Did he lie? I note last night he did not unequivocally say he was always truthful, he said he believed he told the truth (or similar such words). Was he lying through ommission? And until a few weeks ago Labour were not changing the age of super but now they want it to go up unless you are a manual worker and then they don;t, and today they released a ‘broadcasting policy’ that says they will decide it after a public discussion. Sounds fairly on the hoof policy making to me.

          • lprent

            I believe that information is accessible in the declarations of interest. Why don’t you do something strange and go and seek out the information rather than being a lazy prick asking a rhetorical question?

      • seeker 4.1.2

        @ Insider 1.04pm.

        “Calling Key a liar…..

        Goff did not call John Key a liar. He said Key told a lie about GST in the run up to the 2008 election. He was talking about Key’s wrong behaviour; in other words, what he did , not who he was, ie. a liar.
        John Key was the one who mentioned the word “liar”.
        Phil Goff was too professional to use that word to another person
        I thought Phil was rather restrained in his comments about Key’s untruthful behaviour which has cost this country so much.

    • Bob 4.2

      Yes the way Goff told key ,” I dont want to attend another service mans funeral with you John”
      very telling how junkey was trying to squirm out of not having to give the direct answer to the NZ public while still keeping the Yanks on side .

      • insider 4.2.1

        So why isn’t Goff saying he will pull all troops out of Afghanistan then? Half the funerals Phil has gone to are from the force he has no plans to remove. Can he guarantee they will suffer no deaths if he becomes PM?

        • lprent

          I think that you would have found out if Guyon Espiner had not cut Phil off when he was explaining the difference between combat troops, and troops doing reconstruction.

  5. as far as I can tell National didn’t really do anything particularly revolutionary in the 2009 budget and yet the decade of deficits seemed to have magically vanished.


    The ‘decades of deficits’ is treated as an event that happened rather than as a forecast by Treasury made on the basis that nothing would change either internally (in terms of policy settings) or internationally. In effect, the Labour-led government was blamed for something that hadn’t happened and for a forecast that they had no chance to respond to in their policy options.

    Interestingly, National confirmed that it would change nothing about its pre-election policies (i.e., its only pre-election fiscal policy, tax cuts, were still ok) after hearing these forecasts and simply shouted that Labour has created a decade of deficits … 

  6. vto 6

    The highlight for me has been the exposure of Key as a shallow and weak man whose heart is not even in the job. He clearly doesn’t give a shit, win or lose, and it shows in all of his body and eye language. The sooner he pisses back off overseas the better.

    • I agree with you vto .I find Key sleazy and pretty dodgy . The mask drops now and then to diclose a cunning sharp mind. He come across as a first class conman. I just cannot understand why he is so popular , or is he?

      • Hami Shearlie 6.1.1

        Totally agree. Claire Robinson says women love John Key, but I can’t see it. I’ve always found him to be creepy with those zombie eyes . Nat voting women are surely not all like Hekia Parata, who gushed that “being with John is just like being with a rock star”! Yes, he may have money, but so do drug barons!

        • My wife is an excellent judge of character she has alway told people to cover the bottom part of Key’s photo and study those cold unfeeling eyes. She has also doubted his claim that his mother was a refugee .

          • Cin77

            Gosh, you would think with the way he was talking about his mother being a solo mum and how they did it hard when he was a kid, Key would be a bit more compassionate with the beneficiaries.Maybe he hates his Mum.

          • Colonial Viper

            Kids from his year at school must know the truth. Where are they.

        • swordfish

          “Nat voting women are surely not all like Hekia Parata, who gushed that “being with John is just like being with a rock star” !.”

          During the 2008 campaign, I was filling-up my car at a petrol station in Whitby (Mana Electorate), when suddenly a whole group of plump, overly-coiferred, middle-aged Nat women descended. Hopping out of two cars, they pulled out life-size cardboard photo cut-outs of Key and, giggling away, started raining lipstick kisses all over them.

          By no means a pleasant sight.

  7. Pete 7

    it will have been the first time that many of the 800,000 viewers heard of it

    Where did you get that figure? Throng says the ratings for last night were:

    Most watched

    One News: 620,800 (TV ONE, 6:00pm – 7:00pm)
    Shortland Street: 536,990 (TV2, 7:00pm – 7:30pm)
    Election 2011 Leaders Debate: 402,340 (TV ONE, 7:00pm – 8:30pm)
    The Mentalist: 398,260 (TV2, 8:30pm – 9:30pm)
    3 News: 339,990 (TV3, 6:00pm – 7:00pm)

    Edit: unless the ratings just reports households and not individual viewers

    • lprent 7.1

      Details from TVNZ from our e-mail. The 800k is probably from the estimates of who looked in on at least part of the debate. The 400k is the people who are estimated to have watched the whole thing.

      Leaders Debate (7-8:30pm)


      SOURCE: Nielsen TAM (Measurement: All people 5 years and over – average daily audience nationwide).
      * SOURCE: Nielsen TAM (Measurement: All people 5+ nationwide – average daily reach).
      More commonly known as Cume or cumulative audience – this measurement shows the total number of people who tuned in to the Debate at some stage between 7-8:30pm. .

  8. Goff: 1

    Key: nil

    They were going to have a presentation where Sainsbury awards Goff with the Debating Trophy – but folks were afraid Key was going to gatecrash the handshaking…

  9. Bill 9

    I just ‘loved’ Key’s volunteered take on poverty, reckoning the unemployed have fucking cheque books…”can’t sign a cheque to pay the bills’ (paraphrasing).

    More significantly…okay, ‘significant’ might be the wrong word, but I can’t for the world of me understand why people ascribe attributes such as ‘statesmanlike’ and ‘relaxed’ to John Key.

    To me he has essentially three or four expressions/attitudes. And all of them seem to distil to marks of disdain/couldn’t give a fuck and a variation of mememememe!

    1. The multi furrowed brow avec le intense stare. (I’m guessing some read that as concern.) I read it as “you’re fucking me over, nobody fucks me over and I’d ‘have you’ for that if I could.” (His glower being mis-read as intense concentration)

    2. The middle distance stare with the supercilious grin. Again, (guessing) some see this as an intelligent, silent dismissal of what is being said. I see it as “Ooh. I know a smart arsed manufactured line to use in response to that one off by heart.”

    3. The smiling juttery puppet routine delivery like he’s some 13 year old school kid giving an answer in class and expecting ‘gold stars’ on his chart for being so smart.

    4. The not so smiling, little more juttery puppet routine delivery where he’s trying to deliver lines learned by rote, but has no idea what meanings or implications lie beneath the words he’s reciting.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      More significantly…okay, ‘significant’ might be the wrong word, but I can’t for the world of me understand why people ascribe attributes such as ‘statesmanlike’ and ‘relaxed’ to John Key.


      Jonkey is no more a statesman than my dog.

  10. Phil Goff capped it with the final blow when he said” I sold assets in 1984 but I learned from my mistake ,you did not!” Classic , It stopped any accusation that we also sold and it left Key looking more blank than usual. .

    • In Vino Veritas 10.1

      Interesting theory Pink. Key cannot have learned from “his” mistake, since he’s sold no assets. Goff, however, can magnanimously now claim to have “learned his mistake” of selling $9bn of assets because it gives him political capital today (when he so desperately needs it). If he was to be asked why it was a mistake and what he should have done differently, (and which former Labour ministers and friends he would hang out to dry) the answer would be interesting indeed.

  11. Lanthanide 11

    Probably a highlight for Key was his repeated “drunken sailor” comment that didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    Now he’s followed it up:

    Clever, or stupid? I suspect this will play to his base.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 11.1

      His base is stupid enough to admire him if the horse does come in second or third, but his base isn’t enough to get National over the line and to everyone else this makes him look like a bit of a prat – like the guy who keeps giggling at his own bad joke long after everyone else has moved on.

    • gobsmacked 11.2

      “Drunken sailor” is a case study in how Key’s PR machine works.

      Look for events that get non-political media coverage, making you accessible to the wider, apolitical audience. Recent examples just from the past week – rugby, Peter Jackson, Christchurch shopping mall, etc.

      So – Melbourne Cup, guaranteed PR there. Find a horse. Then prepare the ground by shoe-horning in references beforehand. So “Drunken Sailor” is already in the media, and you look “clever” or “witty” on race day, even though it was all a pre-planned strategy.

      “Drunken Sailor” is of course a nod to the Rena as well.

      The only problem is when the plan is a little too obvious – as this one appeared last night and today. It doesn’t tap into public sentiment about Goff. A horse called “Back To The Eighties” might have worked, but “Drunken Sailor” doesn’t.

      What grates is not that Key does this (he’s a pollie, and it’s a free hit), but that the media so rarely call him on it. Reporting one-liners prepared by his staff as “wit” really doesn’t cut it. Either the journalists are too stupid to see how it’s done, or they’re just fans with laptops.

      (incidentally, the fact that it’s so easy to do is why Labour’s performance has been so frustrating for three years. Goff needs better lines, but who’s been writing them?).

      • queenstfarmer 11.2.1

        Goff needs better lines

        Yes. Phil was good in the debate, and landed some good hits. My main critique of Phil in terms of style is that he comes across too agitated, or angry, at times. If he could finnese some of his hits into more memorable/amusing one liners (or perhaps tag that on to the end of a “negative” attack), he will indeed benefit.

        • Colonial Viper

          anger can be chanelled and used, my young paduan.

        • Puddleglum

          If he could finnese some of his hits into more memorable/amusing one liners (or perhaps tag that on to the end of a “negative” attack), he will indeed benefit.

          I think you’re right, qsf. The ideal is a one-liner that is truly spontaneous but captures the idea perfectly. Then, don’t repeat it – let others do that.

          Succinct metaphors, in particular, are good ways for people to both remember and then reconstruct your argument. In contrast to ‘buzz words’ and rehearsed lines (that all politicians use), a spontaneous one-liner can truly crystallise an idea or, if you’re lucky, an entire ‘zeitgeist’.

          But it has to come unbidden to work best. It then has the power of honesty and directness. 

  12. Jester 12

    I just love Phils honesty.

    Perhaps except for this… um…dynamic comment:

    [Leave family members out of it thanks. — r0b]

  13. Fortran 13

    I still enjoyed Shortland Street.

  14. Lanthanide 14

    Hard for me to skew this as a “debate highlight” but I’ll post it here as it’s likely to get more views.

    Blog by Vernon Small about the debate: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/blogs/campaign-2011/5888662/Instant-refereeing

    Claire Robertson has defended herself but I do think she was guilty of “refereeing only one side” in her comments on the night. Wallace Chapman (who asked the best lateral thinking question about what the leaders would protest on the street for), Fran O’Sullivan and Shane Taurima were on the money though. But the journalists get so little to do, with just one question each, they are more like wallpaper; pretty token.

    He links to this post by Claire: http://spinprofessor.tumblr.com/post/12178394225/twitter-at-its-worst-hearsay-and-rudeness

  15. erentz 15

    Heck yes to this: “please, could Wallace moderate the next debate? He does it every week on Backbenches with success”

    The one thing that I thought was a let down was failing to mention that CGT and the restoration of the R&D tax credits are important for getting our economy on track. R&D wasn’t mentioned once IIRC. I actually thought some of Paul Callaghan’s lines about the value of mining to the economy would’ve been useful during that part of the debate. Essentially that if we somehow extracted all of the viable extractable resources under conservation land in one big go, it’d only be enough to put our economy on equal footing with Australia for 1.5 years. Resource extraction is a minor distraction when it comes to getting our economy on track.

    • Lanthanide 15.1

      “Resource extraction is a minor distraction when it comes to getting our economy on track.”

      Actually that reminds me. Key said he was in favour of “sustainable mining”. Mining isn’t sustainable by definition – it’s an extractive industry.

      How to tell if something is sustainable or not: you can do it forever and ever and never stop doing it.

  16. One Anonymous Bloke 16

    Interviewer: “Do you think you did a better job of selling Labour’s policies than John Key did?”
    Phil Goff: “Well, Labour has policies.” Brilliant! Starts at 36s

  17. mike 17

    I thought Guyon Espiner was annoying. He kept cutting them off. I know he can’t just let them talk forever but I thought he didn’t let them, especially Goff, finish important points.

    One of the commentators, (Claire Robinson?), said that Key looked calm, relaxed, at ease. To me he looked like a naughty schoolboy who got caught out in a lie and is trying to look like he doesn’t give a shit anyway. He gave some nasty sneering looks to Goff a couple of times.

    Goff calls him a liar and Key responds with: “Hey, I didn’t call you a liar.” Clever stuff, turn it around and make your attacker look like the bad guy. (Accused rapist: “Now wait a minute, I’ve never accused anyone of being a rapist, and yet here I am accused.”) Sociopathic aggresive defence. Make the other guy look bad, claim the moral high ground, and dodge the issue completely.

    Espiner: “So is it ever ok to lie John?” Key: “Look, sometimes things get dinnamic…” Hilarious. Conclusion: John Key’s word is dogshit. “Oh I know I made that promise, and I was going to kept it I swear, but then things got all dinnamic.”

    A promise is a thing that you commit to doing no matter what. If you can’t commit to it then don’t promise. I’m not gonna pretend I can name a truth-telling saint of a politician, but John Key is just a con-man.

  18. Pete 18

    According to a Horizon poll (yes, I know – but it’s more scientific than a 75c texting poll) Goff won last night’s debate by 39.1% to 31.7% (29.2% say neither won).

    Tellingly, 14.4% of those who voted National in 2008 thought Goff won, while 9.8% who voted Labour thought Key won.

    These are only interim results, but they lend credence to the idea that Labour is making a contest of this election.

  19. randal 19

    john Keys betrays his origins when he uses words that he doesn’t really know the meaning of.
    and what sort of non sequitur is it when he says he respects the ofice of the leader of the opposition so therefore he is allowed to lie.
    that is no excuse for lying and the media should be pulling him up on it instead of letting it slide.
    oh I forgot.
    they cant really read or comprehend english either.

  20. Tanz 20

    Key was awful, smug, cold, complacent, even rolled his eyes and pulled faces. Yick. We are seeing his true colours coming through now. Even three years ago, when he was up against Helen, I cringed. Such a try-hard, wanna be, such a pretender. He’ll sell us all out for the sake of his own ego. Puffery maxed out.

    • In Vino Veritas 20.1

      Tanz, you must have been watching a different debate to the rest of NZ. Key was well in control of himself for damn near all of the debate. He didnt resort to waving arm, pointing and didnt lose control of his voice on any occasion. You may well have cringed when he was up against Clarke, since the reason he is PM now, is in part to the way he dismantled her in the pre election debates.

      • KJT 20.1.1

        He was in control of himself because he doesn’t really care.
        Though there was some times when the facade slipped.

  21. In Vino Veritas 21

    My highlight was Goff’s 100,000 have left for Australia. NZ is losing its best and brightest. I laughed out loud since, and I caveat this by admitting I don’t know the figures, I’d suggest that a good portion of the 100,000 are not the best and brightest, they are more likely the worst and dumbest.

    • pollywog 21.1

      I’d suggest that a good portion of the 100,000 are not the best and brightest, they are more likely the worst and dumbest.

      I’d suggest the worst and dumbest are still here and probably gonna vote the GREAT LIAR back into gov’t again.

      • In Vino Veritas 21.1.1

        Of course pollywog. You are saying the majority are always the stupidist. But then, Labour governed for nine years, no?

        • pollywog

          indeed…how fickle the sheeple are. Swayed by the merest smile and waving of a hand.

          • In Vino Veritas

            Here’s a Goff lie for you pollywog: “Labour will fight the election on policy, not personalities”. And all Labour have done is attack Key. Youch, one can’t trust that man Goff can one?

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              Labour has attacked Brand Key’s behaviour, policies, and false statements, not his person.

              • pollywog

                And all Labour have done is attack Key.

                Are you sure that’s ALL they’ve done ?

                Seems you’ve caught the lying bug too, erego… i can’t trust anything you say either.

                moving right along…nothing to see here folks.

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  • Govt strengthens emergency management cooperation between NZ and the US
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  • Minister of Defence to attend Guadalcanal Commemorations in the Solomon Islands
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