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LIVE UPDATES

The Press debate is back on (sort of)

It’s Wednesday, October 4 and welcome along to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. There are just 10 days to go.

Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

For more on the political parties, check out Policy.nz

The agenda

Support our election coverage

The Spinoff’s coverage of the 2023 election is powered by the generous support of our members. If you value what we do and believe in the importance of independent and freely accessible journalism – tautoko mai, donate today.

blog-sept-7.jpg

The Press debate is back on (sort of)

It’s Wednesday, October 4 and welcome along to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. There are just 10 days to go.

Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

For more on the political parties, check out Policy.nz

The agenda

Support our election coverage

The Spinoff’s coverage of the 2023 election is powered by the generous support of our members. If you value what we do and believe in the importance of independent and freely accessible journalism – tautoko mai, donate today.

Oct 4 2023

How political opinion has changed across 2023

Image: Archi Banal

Tonight’s poll by Verian for 1News suggests levels of support for the two biggest parties have solidified, even as the likely shape of a National-led government hangs in the balance. Christopher Luxon, meanwhile, has inched ahead of Chris Hipkins in the preferred prime minister stakes.

But how has sentiment changed across the year, since Hipkins took over from Jacinda Ardern?

First, here’s the Verian (formerly Kantar) polling through 2023 on the question of party vote.

And here's how views have changed on who should be prime minister, with a remarkably low peak: 27% for Hipkins in March.

‘We do not yet have the numbers’: National campaign chair plea to supporters

National MP Chris Bishop (Photo: Getty Images)

Nine days ago, Christopher Luxon announced that he would call Winston Peters on election night, were NZ First’s support necessary to form a government. Precisely that scenario has since been presented in three TV polls, the latest of which was revealed tonight on 1News.

That result has prompted the National Party campaign chair, Chris Bishop, to write to supporters appealing for donations and warning that the poll “showed we do not yet have the numbers to form a stable coalition with Act.”

In a message that made no message of NZ First or Winston Peters, the MP wrote: “We are two seats short. Just a few percent off. This means that we could end election night with no clear winner. Then there would be weeks and weeks of coalition talks after October 14th. During that time there will be no action to rebuild the economy, no action to reduce the cost of living, and no actions on the important issues that matter to you. And even with weeks of negotiations, there is still no guarantee of a certain outcome.”

In a message to his own supporters from Covid isolation, Chris Hipkins was sure to mention NZ First and Winston Peters. He wrote that “the race is getting tighter every week”, adding: “Kiwis love to back an underdog, and they love a comeback even more.”

Luxon would need to call Peters, based on new 1News poll

The election is on October 14. Image: Archi Banal

With 10 days till polling closes, a new Verian poll for 1News delivers numbers that look mostly consistent with a week ago, firming up the likelihood that Christopher Luxon would need to secure a deal with Act and NZ First to form a government. Act is the only parliamentary party that records any shift since last week’s Verian poll.

The poll comes following the second leaders’ debate between the two Chrises, the announcement by National that they would work with NZ First if necessary and a subsequent high-profile week for an animated Winston Peters, as well as National’s release of its fiscal plan, a flurry of policy from all quarters, and Chris Hipkins going into isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.

The critical numbers:

National: 36% (no change)
Labour: 26% (no change)
Greens: 13% (no change)
Act: 10% (down 2)
NZ First: 6% (no change)
Te Pāti Māori: 2% (no change)
Top: 2% (up 1)

Of those polled across the period September 30 to October 3, 10% were undecided.

Mapped into parliament, the support above would give National 46 seats and Act 13, insufficient to get a majority of the 120-seat house, and requiring the further support of NZ First’s eight MPs. Labour would take 33 seats, the Greens 17, and Te Pāti Māori (assuming at least one electorate is won), three.

In the preferred prime minister stakes, Christopher Luxon on 26% (up three) edges ahead of Chris Hipkins on 25% (up two). Winston Peters was unchanged on 4% and David Seymour dropped two points to 3%.

Advance voting in the 2023 election opened to all on Monday. As of the end of Tuesday, 129,442 people had cast their votes.

The election is on October 14. Image: Archi Banal

The daily wrap

We’ll be back a little later with the results of the new TVNZ Verian poll – but for now, here are some of our top reads for the day.

Ginny Andersen on why door knocking is ‘one of the best things’ in the election campaign

andersen-doorknocking.jpg

Ahead of election day, we’ve asked a collection of candidates and MPs from across the political spectrum for their favourite door knocking story from the campaign. Today, Labour’s Hutt South MP Ginny Andersen.

I believe door knocking is one of the best things about campaigning. You really get a sense of local issues, how your community is feeling and what matters most to people. It’s humbling and exhilarating all in one, with you never quite knowing what or who you’ll face. 

We’ve been greeted by friendly dogs (one even waved!), a gentleman so hungover at 4pm he crawled to the door and had a horizontal conversation, to couples full on bickering about who they are going to vote for (result: one husband eventually conceded he’d vote as instructed by his wife, which in fact was for Labour and me).

Last week a man was shouting, waving his arms and running towards us, only to hand over Moro bars to keep us going. 

We were serenaded to “One Love” by a half naked gentleman – who was surprisingly in tune. And, we’ve been invited inside to see family photos, been treated to scones and tea and met lots of excited kids. The good and funny always outweighs the bad. Every time the team and I go out, we have a beer or coffee after and share stories of who we’ve met that day, which fuels us for the next time. I know everyone will say this, but the volunteers in my area who help me knock on doors and have great conversations, are truly the best. Talking to people every day is the heartbeat of our campaign in the Hutt.

The dog that waved at Ginny Andersen (Photo: Supplied)

Hipkins says Electoral Commission had ‘one job’ after slow EasyVote card roll out

Orange Guy and Pup (Photo: Electoral Commission)

Chris Hipkins said the Labour Party has “raised concerns” with the Electoral Commission over the slow arrival of EasyVote cards and “huge confusion” after people believed they were necessary to vote.

Advance voting opened on Monday and so far about 130,000 people have already voted. That’s roughly half the number that had voted within the same period in 2020.

Speaking to reporters over Zoom this afternoon, Hipkins took aim at the Electoral Commission and said it had “one job”.

“Being this far into voting and having a million people not having their EasyVote card isn’t acceptable,” said Hipkins. “My message very clearly is: you don’t need your Easy Vote card to vote.”

The Electoral Commission should have ensured everybody had their EasyVote card ahead of the advance voting period, he said.

Hipkins said there were a lot of undecided voters at this point of the campaign, which had also likely contributed to a smaller number of early votes. “The next week and a half will be quite critical in that regard,” he said.

In an earlier statement, the Electoral Commission said “most” enrolled voters should have now received their EasyVote pack. “As seen in previous elections, it is not unusual for EasyVote packs to arrive after voting starts,” said Karl Le Quesne, chief electoral officer.

“There was a possibility that the wrong voting place list may have been included in a small number of packs for the Epsom, Mount Albert and Papakura electorates. The packs have been reprinted to ensure voters have the correct information, and will be delivered as soon as possible.”

Producing all 3.4 million packs was a “large operation” that could only start after September 15 when candidate nominations closed.

No change to the official cash rate

image: tina tiller

The official cash rate (OCR) will remain at 5.5%, the Reserve Bank announced today. In a press release, the bank indicated that inflation is expected to return to the target range by the second half of 2024 – but due to a lag effect, this may take some time to change commercial interest rates.

The OCR determines how much interest the Reserve Bank charges on loans from central banks and contributes to how commercial banks set interest rates, and is set by the Reserve Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee. In a press release, the committee said that the “growth outlook remains subdued” and “spending growth is expected to decline further”. Perhaps counter intuitively, this is part of the bank’s intended outcomes.

Making changes to the OCR is one of the primary mechanisms that can be used to decrease inflation; reducing spending growth with high interest rates helps with this. “There is a near-term risk that activity and inflation do not slow as much as needed. Over the medium term, a greater slowdown in global economic demand, particularly in China, could weigh more on commodity prices and New Zealand export revenue,” read the press release.

The cash rate is reviewed seven times a year, so the next change will be announced at the end of November. The bank did not indicate that there would be further increases to the OCR, despite what some economists had predicted.

Advance voting latest

In the second day of advance voting, 71,134 people cast their ballots yesterday, according to the Electoral Commission. That brings the total advance vote as of the end of yesterday just shy of 130,000.

In an online press conference a moment ago, Chris Hipkins criticised the Electoral Commission for “an error” in failing to get all EasyVote packs out ahead of advance voting. It was “creating huge confusion”, he said. The packs are not required to vote, where early or on polling day.

By the end of day two in 2020, almost 265,000 had voted; in 2017 it was closer to 88,000.

Here’s how it compares with recent elections.

National hits back over child poverty claims

National’s responded after it was claimed that its tax plan would see more children end up in poverty.

The war of words over tax heated up today after Carmel Sepuloni and Grant Robertson suggested that National’s proposed policy would result in higher mortgages and an inability to meet child poverty reduction targets.

But Louise Upston, the National spokesperson for child poverty reduction, said it wasn’t true. “The best way to move children out of poverty is to get the economy going and get more people off welfare and into work,” she said.

“National reduced the number of children living in material hardship by 56,000 in its last four years in office. Labour has only reduced this by 21,000 in the last five years. There is now a record 211,00 children being raised in benefit dependent homes. That’s one in five children.”

Labour leader Chris Hipkins will roll out of his sick bed and onto a Zoom call with journalists in about 20 minutes. You can be sure he’ll be asked to respond to this latest back and forth over whose tax policy is best.

Who else could Chris Hipkins debate?

‘It was clear Hipkins hadn’t just got the message, he’d ground it into a paste and injected it into his spinal cord’

Chris Hipkins only wants to debate Christopher Luxon.

The Labour Party leader has made it apparent that he’d clear time in his itinerary for a rescheduled debate in Christchurch after Covid-19 scuppered plans for last night’s Press face-off. Luxon, however, has said he’s too busy to reschedule.

The Spinoff asked Hipkins yesterday whether he’d consider taking on anyone else in a debate, to which he pretty much said… no. “There hasn’t been a multi-leaders debate since about 2002, because I think in the leaders’ debates people do want to see the people who could credibly be prime minister after the election,” Hipkins said.

Instead, next Tuesday will see a new minor party debate in Canterbury – without Hipkins or Luxon in attendance.

But it got me thinking: who else could Hipkins debate with? We asked a smattering of MPs and commentators whether they’d be up for debating the prime minister. None of the MPs replied – we even took up Luxon’s suggestion of asking Labour MP David Parker if he’d debate his boss, but he didn’t get back to us.

However, here are some people who did respond (or tweet) about debating Hipkins.

Winston Peters

The New Zealand First leader was quick to offer up his time to debate Chris Hipkins.

David Seymour

The Act Party leader said he would also be happy to hold Hipkins to account. “If Kiwis want to see Chris Hipkins really held to account next week at the Press leaders’ debate, I’ll take Christopher Luxon’s place and do it,” he said in a statement.

“Hipkins should be held to account, whether it’s for Labour’s poor economic management, their disastrous health reforms, out of control crime, or their divisive insertion of co-governance into almost every aspect of governance.”

Act leader David Seymour (Photo: Getty Images; design: Tina Tiller)

Raf Manji

The Opportunities Party leader is Christchurch-based but hasn’t been invited to next week’s Press debate due to polling. He said he’d be keen to debate Hipkins.

“Yes, he’d be happy to debate the PM,” a spokesperson told The Spinoff.

“Here are the few lines he’d put to the PM: Why has he destroyed all the hard work our hospital, polytechnic and water infrastructure teams did post-earthquake? And Christchurch is still waiting for serious transport funding that Auckland and Wellington have received. Does he have any serious vision for NZ’s second largest city?”

Mike Hosking

The Newstalk ZB broadcaster gets to question Hipkins every Tuesday morning – but would he be up for a full on debate?

“We have had him in knots several times,” Hosking told The Spinoff. “He has confessed he is not good with numbers, I have also discovered he is not good at reading –the number of things I have asked about and he has not read or seen is astonishing.

“So as far as a debate goes he is not much chop.”

Hosking said he was “personally over the debates” and believed a format rethink was necessary. “They have produced nothing new and I refuse to believe finding out what their favourite beach or book is has any thing to do with who you would vote for.”

A champion debater

Christopher Luxon called Hipkins a “champion debater” before the pair first faced off last month at TVNZ. “Chris Hipkins is a 20-year career politician, he’s a champion debater, probably the best debater in our parliament,” Luxon said.

So surely, a debate between Hipkins and an actual champion debater would be great? We asked the NZ Schools Debating Council for comment.

“Although various others have put themselves forward to debate now that the Press leaders’ debate between the Chris’s has been cancelled, the New Zealand Schools Debating Council is not among them. Instead, we’d prefer to keep debating the next generation of Aotearoa’s leaders, sharpening their public speaking and critical thinking skills.”

That’s a no, then.

Wayne Brown

The Auckland mayor wouldn’t comment, but a spokesperson said Brown would be happy to discuss anything with either party.

“But he wouldn’t take part in a leader’s debate as he’s not running for election!”

Paul Henry

Would the former broadcaster/current host of The Traitors/Fiji-based yachtsman opt to debate Chris Hipkins?

“It’s a matter of heartbeats, and I have none to fritter away on your endeavour,” he told me. “Besides, I am half way through the Kitty Kelley unauthorised bio of Frank Sinatra… Finishing that will be much more rewarding.”

Labour takes aim at National over benefits, tax plan

Carmel Sepuloni

The Labour Party has gone on the defensive this morning, saying the opposition risks putting more children into poverty and pushing up mortgage prices.

Carmel Sepuloni, the social development spokesperson (and Covid-stricken Chris Hipkins’ replacement on the campaign trail), said it was a “certainty” that National’s tax plan would “result in more children living in poverty”.

“My challenge to Christopher Luxon is to lay out how he intends to achieve the child poverty reduction targets the National Party signed up to, while at the same time cutting the incomes of New Zealand’s poorest families,” said Sepuloni in a statement.

Analysis by Thomas Coughlan at the Herald also questioned whether National could meet child poverty targets under its proposals. “The changes will save the government about $2 billion over the next four years, but will cost beneficiaries dearly,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, another press release issued today from Grant Robertson suggested that National’s tax plan would also push up the cost of mortgages. “This is classic National, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Offering a tax cut, but then saddling households with higher inflation and higher interest rates,” he said.

With just 10 days until polling day, the attacks are coming thick and fast from the two major parties.

The day ahead

It’s OCR day for those who follow such things – plus of course there will be a new political poll tonight on TVNZ1. And, of course, we’re just 10 days out from election day.

Here’s how the day will unfold as we head towards the single digit countdown until polls close.

  • Deputy prime minister Carmel Sepuloni is spending the day in Wellington. She’ll first head to Porirua for a business visit before meeting with students at Victoria University. Later, she’ll join a food packing team and visit the city mission. Labour leader Chris Hipkins will log onto Zoom to answer questions from reporters sometime today and tonight will front an online town hall for Labour supporters.
  • National leader Christopher Luxon is on the west coast today. First up he’s in Hokitika before heading to a campaign rally in Greymouth. Later this afternoon he’ll be back in Hokitika for a meet and greet.
  • In Christchurch, Green co-leader Marama Davidson will meet with university students and members of the Greens on campus. She’ll also visit a Housing First project.

The Bulletin: National’s tax cuts may cause interest rates to remain higher for longer

There’s an official cash rate (OCR) announcement today, and most economists expect the Reserve Bank (RBNZ) to hold the rate at 5.5%, with a slight possibility they might lift it. The RBNZ has only changed the OCR once before an election in 2008 amid the Global Financial Crisis. A new NZIER survey for the September quarter was released yesterday and showed business confidence was improving slowly, staff were becoming easier to find, and while cost pressures are easing, softer demand is now the primary concern for businesses.

As interest.co.nz’s David Hargreaves writes that’s given economists cause for cautious cheer as the RBNZ’s monetary tightening gains traction and increased migration reduces labour costs. They’re not bringing out the party poppers yet, with concern that the economy might not be slowing fast enough (usual note on the perversity of that as a layperson). OCR rate cuts may not arrive until 2025.

This morning, the Herald’s Jenée Tibshraeny reports (paywalled) on a research note from analysts at Goldman Sachs that warns National’s proposed tax cuts risk exacerbating inflation and therefore causing interest rates to remain higher for longer. Yesterday The Post covered some debate among economists about whether foreign home buyers will push up house prices. This morning, the Herald reports that Auckland’s housing market downturn is probably over. On Monday, there were reports of a sluggish start to spring, with listings just slightly up on August.

The water cooler version of this whirlwind economic news summary:

  • OCR likely to stay the same today but could be higher for longer
  • Election uncertainty is probably applying a handbrake to a property market that looks like it’s starting to recover
  • None of this will be joyful news to those trying to buy their first home.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 38,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture. 

Minor party leaders will debate in Christchurch instead

All the party leaders. (Image: Archi Banal)

With the scheduled Christchurch showdown between Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon canned because of a sudden Covid diagnosis for the PM, a new debate will now take place in the garden city. 

The Press has announced it will instead host a minor party debate next Tuesday night. Representatives from New Zealand First, the Greens, Act and Te Pāti Māori will participate – the four minor parties on track to return to parliament after October 14.

While Hipkins had been hoping to reschedule his debate with Luxon, the National Party leader said his schedule in the final week of the campaign was too jam packed to fit it in. “The reality here is the prime minister got Covid… we tried to look at our schedule but with 10 days to go it’s pretty locked down,” Luxon told Newshub.

Referencing the final leaders’ debate in Auckland next Thursday, Luxon said that will be viewed by “lots of people”.

Without Luxon, it appears Hipkins wouldn’t be willing to join that new Press debate next week either. Despite minor party leaders like David Seymour and Winston Peters saying they’d be up for debating the prime minister, he told reporters yesterday that he was only interested in going head-to-head with the man vying for his job on the ninth floor.

“There hasn’t been a multi-leaders debate since about 2002, because I think in the leaders’ debates people do want to see the people who could credibly be prime minister after the election,” Hipkins said.

One leader missing from that new debate will be the Christchurch-based leader of The Opportunities Party, Raf Manji. He told The Spinoff he’d also be up for debating Hipkins, and revealed to Newshub that he thinks a new electorate deal should be struck in Ilam to open up his path into parliament.

“I think from an insurance perspective it makes a lot of sense,” Manji said of a potential deal with National. “And I think people need and want a new party in parliament.”

Luxon made it clear today that it was off the table. “We’re doing no deals with any political parties across the country this election,” he said. “Frankly a vote for TOP or any other minor party is a vote for Labour.”

According to Luxon, the suggestion of an Ilam deal was floated by Manji “months ago” and was shut down at the time.

(Image: Archi Banal)