National, Greens may boost Labour vote

National continues to warn of the dangers of a Labour government pushed into implementing radical policies by the Greens, while the Greens keep saying they would push Labour into being ‘bolder’.

This may have the reverse effect to what both parties want – more people voting for Labour to reduce or eliminate Green influence. And going by recent polls there’s a real possibility Labour could get enough votes to either govern alone, or if they choose to govern with a majority but with a weakened Green Party in coalition.

Voting for National will probably do nothing but reduce their embarrassment a bit, they look a long way from challenging Labour even with ACT.

Voting Green will increase the chances of them making the threshold, and if the manage that it will increase the chances of Labour requiring Green support and increase Green leverage in policy negotiations.

ODT: Labour ‘cannot govern alone’: Greens

The Greens are warning their supporters that Labour “cannot govern alone”, and their party is the only one bold enough to meet the challenges New Zealand faces.

And, despite repeated rebuffs by Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw say a wealth tax is still firmly on the table if Greens negotiate with Labour post-election.

“They can say what they need to in an [election] campaign,” Davidson said when asked about Ardern’s repeated flat-out rejection of the plan.

That keeps feeding National ammunition to attack Labour with, which Judith Collins has been doing.

Davidson said the fact that National has been hammering this policy so hard was a “sign of their desperation”.

“It has become alarmingly clear that the priority of National, and the other smaller parties, is not to keep us safe … but to divide us, and to make us scared, in the pursuit of power,” she said during her speech.

In his speech, Shaw made something of a call to action to his supporters.

“At this election, I can confidently say that the Green Party is the only party putting forward proposals that are actually bold enough to meet the scale of the challenges we face.”

And Davidson took it further: “Labour cannot govern alone.”

“Unchallenged decisions can mean bad decisions, and with the Greens at the decision-making table, we’ll make sure that we truly face the challenges we’ve been ignoring for too long.”

This is a contrast to last election when Greens went out of their way to play down concerns about what influence they might have on Labour in government.

Green survival depends on getting 5%, so they are having to compete with Labour for votes.

Collins has kept trying to hammer Labour, repeatedly insisting that the Green wealth tax would be a certainty. RNZ: Judith Collins says Greens ‘unemployable’ in latest wealth tax attack

Collins has spent much of her time in recent days warning voters about the Greens’ proposed wealth tax, arguing Labour leader Jacinda Ardern would break her promise not to introduce it.

Regardless of National’s position, Ardern says not is not the time for experimental taxes.

“One of the reasons we have ruled out the Green Party policy is because no other country has this form of taxation. Now is not the time to be experimenting with tax policy when we need to focus on our economic recovery.”

Collins would not budge, saying she believed her concerns were very real, and rejecting the claims of desperation.

“No, I think they’re very real … she shouldn’t go into name calling. “

She took her attacks on the Green Party further still, saying the Greens “didn’t really pay taxes before entering Parliament”.

“Well, most of them are unemployable I always thought. The whole lot of them. Don’t mean to be nasty but there we go, it’s the truth.”

She says having co-leader Marama Davidson as deputy prime minister “would be challenging for the country”.

The role of Deputy Prime Minister has no more power than any other Minister. All they have to do is occasionally fill in for the Prime Minister. Winston Peters did it this term and simply carried out a caretaker role. He had far more power in coalition negotiations.

I’m not a fan of Davidson at all, but I have no concerns with her becoming Deputy PM.

There is also one MP who is still supporting Collins:

But that’s false. Voting National instead of Labour would increase the chances of Greens having more influence. Voting Labour instead of National is the most effective way of reducing Green influence.

National’s desperate attacks

National have had problems with bad polls and with MP candidates promoting themselves and not the party, and running nutty attacks like Alfred Ngaro – see National MP Alfred Ngaro accused of spreading ‘gross piece of misinformation’ on Facebook.

Judith Collins did something about that – Collins intervenes after controversial abortion post:

Collins said Ngaro’s views weren’t shared by the party.

“You know, he’s someone who passionately believes exactly what he’s put up there and I don’t and and neither does the party.”

Collins said MPs get help with their social media, and in this case it was his own views and shouldn’t have had National Party branding on it.

It sounds like a concession that Ngaro is running his own campaign. That suggests National have poor control over their campaign and their candidates.

On campaigning yesterday: Good day/bad day: The leader walking on sunshine

In the same town, National leader Judith Collins is being undermined by her own candidates. Former leaders Todd Muller and Simon Bridges have been going merrily off-message with full page newspaper ads and billboards showing their photos – but no mention of Collins. Strategy: two ticks for the local candidates

But Collins has taken to attacks in her campaigning as well. Perhaps she sees it as a last ditch effort to save her leadership, as National seems beyond saving this election.

Collins was even more off-message herself, with some provocative rhetoric in which she blamed the personal “weakness” of overweight people for the country’s obesity problems. And the day got worse: she compared exploratory gas drilling to a pregnancy ultrasound scan. That’s a metaphor too uncomfortable to contemplate.

RNZ: Obese people must take responsibility for ‘personal choices’

When told that some had called her comments heartless, Collins said: “Do you know what is heartless? Is actually thinking someone else can cure these issues. We can all take personal responsibility and we all have to own up to our little weaknesses on these matters.

“Do not blame systems for personal choices.”

To an extent Collins is right here, but this won’t win over many votes, and is more likely to lose some.

RNZ: Judith Collins says Jacinda Ardern ‘lied’ about Covid border testing

Collins began her morning campaigning with a transport policy combined with an attack on the Greens’ wealth tax in Grenada, but later turned her attention squarely on Ardern and Covid-19.

She told a public meeting at Waikanae Bowling Club that Ardern and her government had “let Covid in” and Ardern had “lied” about the testing of border staff.

“When she says she went hard and fast she went slow and pathetic, and actually the other thing she did was she lied to us about what was happening and I’m happy to say that on the record – she lied.

“Gee I hope she sues me for it. Happy to prove it.”

Support for Ardern and for Labour surged due too their handling of Covid so it’s hard to see what Collins is trying to achieve here.

RNZ: Judith Collins’ final week attacks ‘bizarre’, ‘desperate’ – pundits

“Her incentives to do that are, she’s looking at bleeding a fair few votes to other parties on the centre right, in particular ACT, and … it’s an attempt to inject some relevance and appear as if the contest is a one-on-one battle between the National leader and the Labour leader.”

“I think that when you start accusing a party leader we know has very high favourability ratings, very high trust levels, calling them a liar, that you’re not going for median voters, you’re not going for those centre voters there.

“You’re really trying to appeal to that base.”

The language being employed by Collins doesn’t “come from a position of strength”, he says.

The problem for Collins is the National base seems to have shrunk substantially. The essential swing voters are unlikely to be impressed by her attacks.

And trying to sound strong when you’re obviously in a weak position is unlikely to fool anyone.

Former United Future leader Peter Dunne thinks Collins’ comments were “a little bizarre”.

“I think they reflect the fact that National’s now not looking to win over uncommitted voters, so much as hold its own base in line, and I think this is what these comments were directed at.”

“I think National now is in a hold-the-line mode, rather than a win mode.”

“This election is very unusual in the way it’s panned out. I think National has gone from earlier in the year, pre-Covid, looking more than likely to win the election, to now looking most unlikely to do so. And I think they’ve had some trouble adjusting to the change in public mood.

“That’s why some of the comments do sound pretty desperate.

The pressure of imminent and heavy defeat seems to be taking it’s toll.

University of Auckland politics lecturer Dr Lara Greaves says it’s been a long campaign and a “very” long year.

She says it’s hard to know if Collins’ negativity is a strategy or not.

“It’s kind of unclear exactly who she is trying to appeal to here. I mean at this point, around half of the voters have voted. It’s not clear whether this is something that a swing voter or fence-sitter would be that into.

“Potentially she is trying to look towards that National Party base, trying to take some voters from ACT, or some old New Zealand First voters from those segments that are a little more fiery and would view some of those comments she’s made today as a little more acceptable.”

She doesn’t necessarily think it will win over swing voters.

“I think realistically, she’s just trying to save the furniture, and it’s not really clear that this is a good strategy for that.”

National have had a poor term, a poor year and a poor campaign that seems to be a shambles. Those MPs who survive – they may lose up to a third of their MPs – will have a big job to do to repair the damage and rebuild next term.

Ardern versus Collins in online Stuff debate tonight

Another leaders debate to be live streamed at 7 pm tonight.

Stuff: Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins go round three in The Press Leaders Debate tonight

Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins are in Christchurch tonight for the South Island’s only election debate, live on Stuff from 7pm.

It will be moderated on Tuesday evening by The Press editor Kamala Hayman and Stuff’s political editor Luke Malpass. The Press is part of the Stuff family of newspapers.

The Press Leaders Debate will be held with a lively sold-out audience of 750 at the James Hay Theatre.

The debate will be split in half with a 15-minute intermission, when Stuff’s head of video Carol Hirschfeld will discuss the debate with Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce CEO Leeann Watson and Canterbury University senior political lecturer Dr Lindsey Te Ata o Tu MacDonald.

Henry Cooke will also live blog the debate here.


Casting the live stream worked for a short time but them went wonky so i mostly just listened to it streaming on my PC.

Ardern was generally very good. There was plenty of under-achievements she could have been challenged on but that wasn’t done very well.

This was Collins’ worst debate. She started too shouty, and then she seemed to fluctuate between loud and weak with a bit too much smarmy thrown in. Her repeated reference to her opponent as Miss Ardern sounds out of whack this century. Generally I think she didn’t come across very well for a lot of the debate.

Ardern attacked much less but when she did she made it count.

This won’t have anywhere near the audience as the televised debates, which is probably just as well for Collins and for National. Especially with their ongoing ructions in the party I don’t see how they can get close to Labour.

Debates – from awful to very good

The US presidential debate yesterday was awful. It was an indictment on the presidency, on the state of politics in the United States, and the state of an increasingly divided society. I watched it all and found it quite depressing, with the only positive being I don’t have to live or vote there.

The debate last night between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins was a huge contrast to the Us debate, and an improvement on their first debate last week.

Ardern was more lively and animated, being prepared to move away from scripted stiltedness and ad lib, something she usually does very well. I think she did well enough to please most people who currently support her.

Collins also played to her own strengths, and was prepared to be herself. That will have pleased her supporters, but some Ardern fans were repelled by her intwrupting, talking over and her perceived bullying style.

There are no winners and losers of political debates, there are only winners and losers of elections. I doubt that this debate will have changed many minds, it will more likely have confirmed voters’ impressions of both leaders.

The winner for me was New Zealand democracy (both Collins and Ardern said the time was not right to rename the country Aotearoa). It was a lively and informative debate.

I was particularly pleased that the last ten minutes of the debate highlighted as much disagreement as disagreement between Ardern and Collins, and they even managed a few laughs. This was a huge contrast to another debate yesterday.

While he was off target occasionally a lot of credit has to go to moderator Paddy Gower. I didn’t expect to quote Sean Plunket on the debate, but here goes:

Debates are part of a campaign process, they aren’t deciding battles.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom) from Ardern steps up but Collins holds her own in second debate:

The second leaders’ debate of New Zealand’s election may not have been perfect, but it was a distinct improvement on the inaugural match-up last week – and immeasurably better than the American presidential debate which served as a bizarro curtain-raiser of sorts on Wednesday afternoon.

That both Collins and Ardern brought higher energy levels was a tribute to the moderation of Gower, whose hosting of a 2017 debate likewise proved a step up.

Where TVNZ’s John Campbell was somewhat ponderous, the former Newshub political editor offered up a sharper and tighter style.

His repeated use of specific scenarios gave less room for the leaders to revert to their standard talking points, even if it sometimes tilted too far into absurdity – as when Ardern and Collins were both pressed to back “meat-free Mondays” for New Zealand.

But as a result of Gower’s approach, voters got a far clearer contrast between the ideologies and styles of the two leaders than could be said last week.

He also secured some newsworthy snippets, including Ardern seeming to promise a climate emergency declaration and Collins pledging to claw back taxpayer money from businesses that had claimed the wage subsidy, only to lay off workers and declare record profits.

The winner is almost irrelevant, although for the record it seemed close to a draw – certainly each side had enough moments to gee up their supporters.

This debate did seem to inject some life into a fairly listless campaign.

A couple of interesting bits from the debate:

Collins gave ACT leader David Seymour a big shout out, saying he would be a good deputy PM.

Ardern supported James Shaw’s much derided decision to fund a private Green school.

For me a big issue this election is not the leaders but the lack of quality in party lineups, but that is a fairly even problem across the parties.

With several recent polls giving us an idea where party support lay over they past couple of weeks I think the deciding factor will be tactical voting.

While National seems to have stemmed their slide Labour should comfortably either win a majority on their own or with the Greens.

I think quite a few could vote tactically, some to try to bolster the Green vote and leverage to swing the Government left, while there’s signs that others may move their votes from National to Labour to try to reduce or eliminate Green leverage to keep the next Government more in the centre.

Mark Jennings (Newsroom): Gower gets the debate into top gear

It’s unanimous. This was an enjoyable debate, a better debate, and finally, a debate that produced some answers.

Newsroom managed to find six and asked them if they had been swayed to either National or Labour.

All said that the debate had left them more undecided than ever. One said he had been leaning slightly towards National but “Jacinda pulled me back to the middle “

Most said they were thankful the debate was a lot better the “train wreck” of the Trump v Biden contest earlier in the day.

All agreed that commentator Trish Sherson summed things up well when she told Tova O’Brien in the post-debate analysis “I think New Zealand is lucky it’s had had a debate of this quality tonight with leaders of this quality.”

I agree.

Collins versus Ardern – round 2

The second debate between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins will be on Newshub tonight from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm.

Collins and National seem to have at least stemmed their slide, but are still getting low thirties in public polls at best, and are a long way from challenging Labour.


Ardern is quite different this time, she has brought her A game. And helping her kick off strongly the first questions were on Covid, one of her strengths.

Collins started with a disadvantage, but she didn’t help with her repeated snarky manner. Against Ardern in top gear that just doesn’t come off well.

National – incompetent economic policy, no ideology

National have justifiably been hammered over the mistakes made in their economic policy. This pretty much destroyed any remote hope they had of coming close to competing with Labour this election.

With their claimed economic management reputation in tatters what have they got? Not much.

What does National actually stand for, apart from trying to get power? They seem to have become an ideological vacuum.

Andrea Vance: Why Paul Goldsmith can’t read numbers or the public mood

Paul Goldsmith, you had one job.

When you are using numbers as a sales pitch, it pays to get them right.

$4 billion-dollar hole in an alternative Budget totalling tens of billions of dollars might appear insignificant.

But the mistake will dearly cost National.

In other circumstances, leader Judith Collins should demote her finance spokesman. The fiasco dominated the launch of her campaign.

She can’t sack him. Felling your number two in an election campaign would be unthinkable and an admission that the oversight was more than the ‘irritating’ slip that the party attempted to downplay.

But his blunders are unforgivable, and not just because it’s careless and demonstrates a lack of competencies.

Goldsmith has fatally wounded not just Collins’ campaign, but the last semblances of the narrative that National are the superior economic managers.

Image

With Judith Collins unable to come close to competing with Jacinda Ardern on popularity, what have National got? Does anyone know?

Damien Grant: The National Party’s problem is a lack of ideology

National Party leader Judith Collins has waited two decades for this moment. You’d think she’d be better prepared.

If National wanted to understand how to tackle a popular yet ineffective leader, they only needed to have looked to the seat of Epsom and the determined and ideologically-driven David Seymour.

The ACT Party is surging in the polls partly as a result of the dysfunction in National but more importantly because Seymour has spent nearly a decade articulating policies. When you are selling your own ideas, it does not really matter what the other candidate is doing.

Voters will either like what you have to offer or they will not. Because the opposition doesn’t appear to believe in anything, they are reduced to railing against the real or imagined failings of the incumbents. It isn’t working.

In fact, the milquetoast offerings of National are a window into their soul – and it is disappointing viewing.

The problem is ideology. Collins and Goldsmith either do not understand, do not believe in, or lack the courage to fight for the supply-side neo-liberalism that was at the heart of the Reagan-Thatcher-Douglas economic revolution. Instead, they have by ignorance, intention, or cowardice, fallen into the progressive Keynesian dogma that the only way to stimulate an economy is by boosting demand.

After reading Goldsmith’s excellent book on the history of tax in New Zealand, We Won, You Lost, Eat That!, I expected better. I’ve heard he’s been muzzled and is chafing at the constraints, but maybe the whiff of leather from a Crown limo has him distracted.

And to give him credit, he has also outlined an accelerated depreciation tax strategy. Firms will be able to expense capital expenditure up to $150,000 and there will be faster depreciation rates for certain larger investments. This will have a very real and dramatic effect on our economy and some economists credit a similar change with helping Australia avoid a recession after the global financial crisis.

Beyond this audacious but unpromoted policy and the extending of the 90-day law to all employers, National has little to offer.

Collins’ tragedy is she has waited two decades to lead her party, but has spent none of that time thinking or reading about what she would do once she had the crown.

Had she done so, she could have used her excellent communication skills to articulate to the electorate a real alternative to the status quo, not merely the unappealing promise of maintaining the ancient regime with a new titular ruler at the helm.

That may sound harsh to some, but it’s hard to argue with it.

National are in real trouble for this election, but their problems won’t stop if the come a distant second to Labour. They’re a hodge podge of politicians who seem to think they deserve power because, ah, because what?

More mistakes in National’s economic plan could be inconsequential

There are claimed to be more problems with Nationals numbers in their economic plan.

Last week: National Party admits $4 billion hole in their promised spending

The National Party officially launched its election campaign today, but it was hindered by a $4 billion hole in its flagship economic policy.

The party’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith was forced to concede his numbers did not add up after Labour revealed the significant gap in its costings.

“This is an irritating mistake. We missed it, and our external checker missed it as well, and that’s a mistake that we made,” he says.

Now the party will instead borrow the missing billions, which Goldsmith argues is still far less than what Labour is borrowing.

National Party leader Judith Collins told media after the launch it was inconsequential in the scheme of things.

Two days ago National’s fiscal hole appears to double to $8 billion as Paul Goldsmith denies double count mistake

The hole in National’s alternative budget may have blown out by another $3.9b after the party appears to have double-counted part of its transport programme.

The error has come about after National twice counted $3.9 billion left over from the New Zealand Upgrade package, an infrastructure plan announced by the Government in late January.

In fact, the left over money was put into Treasury’s multi-year capital allowance back in May. In National’s costings, the party had counted the two sums of money separately, when, in fact, the NZ Upgrade programme money now only exists in the capital allowances.

Today the story continues – National says fiscal plan stacks up after Labour insists there’s another mistake

National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith remains defiant the party’s economic plan stacks up – but has had to make another correction after using out of date figures.

Goldsmith says National’s “estimate is that would lead to about half of the people who are getting in the first year getting it in the second year”. The party is looking at a threshold of about $90,000 for an annual household income, he says, but that would be “clarified at the appropriate time”.

A second $88 million error, by using Budget figures for the 10-year ‘Existing Capital Allowance’ instead of the pre-election update, has now been corrected in National’s online plan.

Labour says there is a second $4bn error as National has double counted transport funding.

“Paul Goldsmith is floundering”, Labour’s Grant Robertson says.

“He’s trying to change his plan quietly in the background so he doesn’t have to own up to his leader for another mistake.”

Labour says National has allocated $3.9bn of transport funding under the NZ Upgrade Programme, but that money no longer exists in that programme as it was transferred by the government at the start of this year into a more general capital fund.

It says National has also counted and allocated that money in its general capital fund – so has double counted.

Goldsmith says he doesn’t “accept that at all”.

Whether Goldsmith is right or not this time is of little importance compared to the ongoing exposure of National’s less than competence economic plan.

Collins is probably right. In the scheme of things it is likely to be inconsequential as National look almost certain to not get a chance to implement their economic plan, especially if mistakes keep being highlighted.

National’s bad year continues. They have done a bad job of rebuilding the party after losing power in 2017. Covid hasn’t helped, but multiple leadership changes, disunity, an exodus of experience and an inability to put together a competent economic plan makes most of their problems self inflicted.

Debate reactions

There seems to be fairly consistent reactions to last nights leaders’ debate between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins.

1 News had done their best to talk the debate up as a much anticipated big event but it fell flat.

Collins did a bit better then expected and a bit better than Ardern but not enough to lift National much if at all from poor polls, 31% in the latest 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll.

Ardern was clearly below her best, she looked tired, and she chose to stick to wordy prepared talking points, and she failed to present her strength, an empathy with ordinary people. Too much political and bureaucratic jargon. But she was ok and didn’t do badly enough to change many if any minds.

John Campbell was poor. He tried to take the stage and speak for the leaders too often. He has been to long doing chat style TV shows where he gets to say what he likes.

Some fairly consistent responses from journalists:

Mark Jennings (Newsroom): The leaders’ debate: An unmemorable watch

The first leaders debate was expected to fire some life into a so far ho hum campaign. But, as Mark Jennings writes the Jacinda, Judith and John show fell flat.

To be fair to Collins, she was the one who gave it a go and scored a few hits.

Ardern’s lack of energy was unusual. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that she was in the same building 12 hours earlier. Ardern had appeared on the breakfast show at 7am which means she was probably up at 5.30. Add in a campaign day and it’s hard to peak for a 90-minute debate that kicks off at 7pm.

The group of journalists watching in the Atrium all felt the debate had been underwhelming.

RNZ’s political editor, Jane Patterson: “I think it was one of the flattest debates I’ve seen. Jacinda had no energy…she is tired.”

The Spinoff editor, Toby Manhire: “Everyone is just knackered, just knackered. I think Collins won but not in a way that will move the dial”

Politik’s Richard Harman: “I thought this debate might produce a focus but there was nothing there. People expect Jacinda to be so good all the time – she can do better than she did tonight.”

Steve Braunias, writing for The Guardian: “I thought Collins did well but she is a funny old bird.”

Sam Sacdeva (Newsroom): Collins edges Ardern, but Labour’s formidable lead remains

There were no knockout blows in the first leaders’ debate of the 2020 election, and while Judith Collins may have just had the better of Jacinda Ardern, Labour’s continuing strength in the polls gives the Prime Minister some breathing space.

Neither Campbell, Ardern nor Collins brought their A-game, understandably so given the general sense of fatigue that has shrouded this odd campaign.

The National leader probably edged the encounter, in part thanks to the lower bar that attaches to being the underdog and in part to a spikiness that contrasted favourably with the passivity on show from the Prime Minister.

But it is hard to see many, if any, votes moving between the two major parties as a result of the muddled proceedings – and the minor parties may yet have some hope of peeling some support away in the coming weeks.

The National leader spent more and more time on the front foot, cutting into Ardern’s answers and audibly sharing her displeasure when she felt the Prime Minister had dodged a question or given a poor response.

That did not mean she was perfect, far from it. Collins’ answers to some questions were vague in the extreme – she said National would create jobs by putting a greater emphasis on the tech sector, but pressed by Campbell on how exactly that would occur, then claimed the jobs were already there.

But overall, she offered up a level of aggression commensurate with her party’s position in the polls without tipping over into needless hostility.

In contrast, Ardern seemed strangely defensive, even accounting for her role as the incumbent.

Ardern has largely delegated the rough and tumble of politics on the campaign trail to senior ministers like Grant Robertson, Chris Hipkins and Megan Woods who are more than willing to pick up the cudgel.

But they cannot tag in for her on the debate stage, and while she may have calculated she was better off not allowing Collins to drag her into a bare-knuckle brawl, she seemed disengaged as a result.

When Ardern did press the case for Labour’s re-election, it felt somewhat abstract.

Luke Malpass (Stuff): Leaders’ election debate verdict: Jacinda Ardern lost, but Judith Collins didn’t win it

Jacinda Ardern lost the first leaders’ debate, but Judith Collins didn’t win it.

Collins proved her worth to National tonight: it is unlikely she lost any votes.

Ardern, for her part, a now hardened political professional, seemed determined to avoid creating a viral Internet meme out of the night. If that were the intent, she achieved it.

Collins came out with nothing to lose: swinging, heckling, interrupting and taking the fight to the Labour leader. In response, Ardern largely stuck to her talking points, emoted and generally reflected Labour’s risk-averse campaign.

The tactic from Collins seems to try to get under Ardern’s skin, while Ardern seemed to be trying to be relentlessly optimistic and nice – presumably to draw a contrast between the two. She consistently hewed back to Labour talking points.

Both leaders fell back to entrenched positions and didn’t answer a lot of questions.

This is more of a risk for Ardern, whose trademark is authenticity. She appeared both flat and unusually unenthusiastic. 

The Spinoff – Leaders’ debate #1, election 2020: the verdicts

Toby Manhire: Everyone is knackered

Given that most of the country, most of the Covid-battered world, is basically just knackered, is it any surprise that tonight’s opening debate felt a bit knackered, too?

Things never quite fired up. So the when Campbell, who did a good job at keeping things rolling, at one point observed, “You sound like you’re both on auto-pilot,” he was mostly right, except that would have required leaving the ground.

That sums up the whole election campaign to date.

Trish Sherson: Collins was pitch perfect

Morgan Godfery: Ardern is impossible to beat

It’s not worth quoting either of them.

Ben Thomas: Ardern was strangely hesitant

Ardern was strangely hesitant. National leader Judith Collins started off slowly, with the fixed smile she’s worn for much of the campaign. But she soon warmed to the task, and seemed to effectively niggle and provoke Ardern with more of her traditional toughness.

Collins won, as underdogs often do in the first debate of a campaign, but faces a long road ahead.

Justin Giovannetti: Who’d have been swayed?

Labour’s Jacinda Ardern found herself often on the defensive, forced to explain why her party hadn’t lived up to the promises it made three years ago. Her answers were often technocratic and lacked warmth. Someone who has been called one of world’s best communicators struggled to explain her vision.

National’s Judith Collins was the better debater and certainly the better interrupter. Going in tonight her party has been sliding in the polls. Voters who have dismissed Collins were introduced to someone who spoke plainly and clearly.

Your take on the debate might come from where you watched it. If you were in the comfort of a warm home you own and worried about losing your job, Collins may have spoken to you. If you were in a rental apartment you can barely afford, losing a battle with mould, she probably left you seething.

Madeleine Chapman: Mālō, Judith

Debates are where many, many words are said and only the zingers are remembered. Unfortunately tonight’s debate was, quite frankly, quite boring. The only line from Ardern that stuck with me was “John, if I may” and “if I may, John”.

And from Collins, “I’ll tell you what, John” and “John, I’ll tell you what”. In a huge loss for anyone under the age of old, both leaders argued about who could commit the hardest to not taxing property. In my mind, we all lost tonight. 

I don’t think we lost anything. We just didn’t win anything, nor did we gain much insight into Labour and National policies.

This was just the first of four leaders debates. Can we be bothered watching any more?

Ardern v Collins debate

The first leaders’ debate of the election is tonight on 1 News at 7.00 pm until 8:30 pm.

This puts Jacinda Ardern head to head against Judith Collins, Labour versus National.

We will have to wait and see what impact this will have on the election.

National’s tax cut policy

Just when it looked like Labour were comfortably PR managing their way to a comfortable election victory, playing ultra-safe with a minimal policy approach, and National looked to be going through the motions heading for a big defeat, the campaign has been shaken up a bit with a promise of tax cuts for everyone.

National were obviously waiting for the PREFU release (Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update – economy “better than predicted”) on Thursday, announcing their Economic & Fiscal Plan yesterday, with most attention given to short term tax cuts aimed at stimulating the economy.

This seemed to rattle Labour, with both Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson reacting.

Ardern said tax cuts were “irresponsible”:

“What they have announced today is unaffordable and is raiding from a fund that has to be available to make sure that we as a nation can keep responding to the challenges of Covid, not deliver unaffordable tax cuts.

This is a bit rich. Labour have already spent something like $50 billion propping up the economy, and have a $14b fund set aside to dish out as they see fit.

“Now is just not the time for tax cuts and I genuinely believe New Zealanders will look at the environment right now and agree with that.

“What we need now is really careful economic management, we need certainty and we need a plan and that’s what we’ll deliver.”

There’s nothing certain about our short and medium term economic future.

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson:

“It beggars belief that in the middle of a pandemic the National Party is planning to gut the money set aside to protect New Zealanders in case of another major outbreak of Covid-19,” he said in a statement after the announcement.

“We carefully put aside $14 billion to look after New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing and now National wants to put that at risk. This policy reeks of desperation as National races to borrow money to pay for a $4000 temporary tax cut for Judith Collins.”

The responses from Ardern and Robertson reek of rattledness.

National’s announcement.


National will cut taxes for middle New Zealand

National’s massive tax stimulus package will put more than $3000 extra into the pockets of hard-working Kiwis on middle incomes, National Party Leader Judith Collins says.

You can read a copy of National’s Economic & Fiscal Plan here.

Ms Collins has announced the next National Government will let Kiwis keep more of what they earn by lifting the bottom tax threshold from $14,000 to $20,000, the middle threshold from $48,000 to $64,000 and the top threshold from $70,000 to $90,000.

These changes will be in place from December 1, 2020 until March 31, 2022. The total cost of this over the 16-month period is estimated to be $4.7 billion.

“Today we are facing the biggest economic downturn the world has seen since in living memory. But with the right leadership and economic plan we can grow our economy and keep Kiwis in jobs,” Ms Collins says.

“To keep our economy ticking, New Zealanders need money to spend. National will deliver temporary tax relief that puts more than $3000 – or nearly $50 a week – into the back pockets of average earners over the next 16 months.

“This will give Kiwis the confidence to go out and spend, which will be crucial for our retail, tourism and hospitality businesses to survive this economic crisis.

“New Zealand is facing a much longer and more painful economic shock than earlier forecast. We need a serious plan for economic growth to get us back on track.”

National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith pointed to higher taxes as Labour’s only plan to get New Zealand out of this economic hole.

“No country has ever taxed its way out of a recession – and this is a big one we’re in now.”

As well as tax relief for households, National will double the depreciation rate for businesses that invest in new Plant, Equipment and Machinery over the next twelve months. This will bring forward the amount a business can claim in depreciation for new investments, which will stimulate investment by increasing the return on capital.

Doubling the depreciation rate is expected to cost $430 million a year for five years, while increasing tax revenues in out years.

“Our stimulus package has been fully-funded and costed, and is included in our independently reviewed Economic and Fiscal Plan released today,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“National’s plan carefully balances the need to drive economic stimulus, increase investment in core public services and restore government debt back to prudent levels.

“Labour, on the other hand, has announced it will increase taxes during a recession. The contrasting approaches to the economy at this election could not be clearer.

“Judith Collins and her strong National team will bring the leadership, experience and vision needed to get our country back on track.”

You can read a copy of National’s Economic & Fiscal Plan here.

You can view a copy of National’s Personal Tax Relief Policy here.

You can view a copy of National’s Double Depreciation Rate Policy here.


See RNZ: National promises $4.7bn in tax cuts in economic and tax policy

Obviously this policy would benefit me, by a few thousand dollars. I’m not sure it’s the best approach over the next year or two, but at least it’s reasonably even, it means all tax payers would pay less tax for 16 months (that makes for a messy part taxyear), and every one of us could decide what to do with the extra take home pay.

It does seems a better approach to Labour ‘picking winners’ and ‘corporate welfare’ of dishing out millions of dollars to selected businesses, which puts competing businesses at a disadvantage. I guess they plan to continue to do that with their $14 fund they don’t want given to workers.

Funny to see Labour favouring some corporates while National taking less from workers, that shows how muddled politics is these days.

This announcement is unlikely to swing the election (I’m still very undecided), but going by Labour’s responses it has them a bit worried. At least it livens up a lacklustre campaign.