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Tax plans and fiscal stability

It’s Wednesday, September 13 – one month until the final day of the election campaign. Welcome to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund.

Get in touch with me on

Learn more about the political parties and where they stand at

The agenda


Tax plans and fiscal stability

It’s Wednesday, September 13 – one month until the final day of the election campaign. Welcome to The Spinoff’s election live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund.

Get in touch with me on

Learn more about the political parties and where they stand at

The agenda

Sep 13 2023

Winston Peters back in parliament in new poll, but National needs only Act

Election 2023 (Image: Archi Banal)

With tomorrow marking a month till election day, a new poll by Verian for 1News would put National and Act in position to govern, but Winston Peters and NZ First would return to parliament, having just cleared the threshold.

The top lines:

National: 39% (up 2 since the last Verian poll, three weeks ago)
Labour: 28% (down 1)
Greens: 10% (down 2)
Act: 10% (down 3)
NZ First: 5% (up 1)
Te Pāti Māori: 3% (no change)

Top and the New Conservatives both hit 1%.

On these numbers, a National-Act government would command 62 seats.

Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon are both at 23% in the preferred prime minister stakes.

A Reid/Newshub poll on Monday put National on a rare high of 40.9%, numbers which would give it comfortably enough of the house to govern alongside Act's . Labour had slumped to 26.8%, Act was on 10.1%, the Greens 12.3%, NZ First 4.6% and TPM 3.1%.

A poll by Essential for the Guardian published this morning would leave the right requiring support from NZ First to govern. It had National on 34.5%, Labour on 26.9%, the Greens 11%, Act 10.3%, NZ First 6% and TPM 2.5%.

Today’s top stories from the campaign

It’s been a busy day in politics today. Here are some of our top reads.

And don’t forget: there’s a new TVNZ poll at 6pm!

No hand left unshaken as Luxon visits Onehunga factory

Luxon visits Cemix in Onehunga (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

It was something of a royal visit for Christopher Luxon in Onehunga this afternoon.

The National Party leader’s spend the day on the election trail in Auckland, first with a walkabout in Papatoetoe this morning and then with another tried and true campaign visit: a factory.

Luxon was guided around the Cemix concrete factory, with appropriate high vis and safety goggles, and yet again proved his adeptness in public settings. Where earlier he was discussing ram raids and retail crime with store workers, here he was sounding genuinely enthused by talk of manufacturing and distribution.

“Businesses like this are the lifeblood of New Zealand,” he told one worker. “We want you to continue to grow, innovate [and] get the economy growing again.”

Luxon visits Cemix in Onehunga (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

After the visit, Luxon’s minders struggled to pull the National leader away before he faced the media. He was stopped, he shook hands, he posed for photos – and he looked to be loving the attention (and after being introduced as “Mr Luxon” by one staffer, he made sure to say “Mr Luxon was my father).

To another, who had only been in the job for a fortnight, Luxon said “It sounds like you’ve got a good crew here”.

Ex-policeman Glen even passed on a policy suggestion to Luxon. He said that “some of the proceeds of crime [should] be put into basketball courts in communities that have been neglected.” He was pleased that Luxon took the time to listen and engage with the suggestion.

Later, Luxon spoke to media where the majority of questions were targeted at his party’s tax plan in the wake of yesterday’s Prefu. Luxon maintained that National’s policies were watertight. “We’re very comfortable with the policies that we have got, because we have actually been putting them in the frame of the economic environment,” Luxon said.

And ahead of next week’s first televised leaders’ debate, Luxon was asked how he was feeling. He opted to play his abilities down. “Chris Hipkins is a 20-year career politician. He’s a champion debater, he’s probably the best debater in our parliament, probably in New Zealand. I haven’t even done a debate before. I lose a lot to my wife,” Luxon said.

Luxon greets a worker (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Luxon greeted as ‘next PM’ in Papatoetoe, ignores hecklers

Luxon in Papatoetoe (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

After spending time last week in some of the safest blue seats in the country, National’s Christopher Luxon is in Labour territory today.

He’s spent the morning in the electorate of Panmure-Otahuhu, currently held by Jenny Salesa, and will shortly arrive in Maungakiekie, which went red in 2020 when Priyanca Radhakrishnan won the seat.

Luxon’s first visit was to Papatoetoe alongside local National candidate Navtej Singh Randhawa. The pair went for a walkabout of local shops and mainly discussed retail crime in the area.

“He’s put all this security in?” asked Luxon outside one store with bars installed over the windows. Further down the road, at a jewellery store, Luxon met with the owner and observed another security installation intended to deter potential ram raids.

Luxon in Papatoetoe (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

At a clothing store, Luxon was greeted as the “next prime minister” by a store worker. “I am going to go to work,” said Luxon. “We’ve got to get the economy fixed, got to get law and order under control and better health and education.”

The store owner said he would leave the country if National wasn’t elected in October because of the crime problem. “Don’t do  that,” Luxon told him. “The crime’s a real worry… it’s not fair because you’re working so incredibly hard and doing everything right.”

Luxon in Papatoetoe (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Luxon’s tour of Papatoetoe was meant to include a visit to another store, but the National’s leader spent too long speaking to others and it had to be bypassed. He’s been described as an “energiser bunny” on the campaign trail, oozing with enthusiasm when he’s out in public. In contrast, Chris Hipkins has struggled during public walkabouts and seems more at home in front of the cameras.

There were just two heckles this morning – including one man from a car shouting “fuck National”. Luxon seemed unperturbed, though smiled and yelled back at a supporter who leant out of their car to cheer him on.

Food prices increase 8.9% in the last year

Image: Tina Tiller

Statistics New Zealand regularly assesses the price of food in New Zealand, and its latest figures show that food prices in August 2023 were 8.9% higher than in August 2022. Grocery food, which includes non-perishables and dairy products, saw the steepest rise of 10.6%; the grocery items you could buy for $100 in August 2022 would now be an average of $110.6. Yoghurt six packs, fresh eggs and potato chips saw the most distinct increase, said James Mitchell, consumer price manager at Stats NZ, in a press release.

The price of eating out has increased too, with restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food increasing by 8.9%, while juice and soda (non-alcoholic beverages) went up by 9.1%, and meat by 8%.

While an 8.9% rise is relatively high, it is less than earlier this year; year-on-year prices had increased by 12% in April 2023. Go further back in time and things are even more dire: the annual increase in food prices between July 1986 and July 1987 was 18.1%.

While fruit and vegetable prices increased by 5.4%, less than meat, groceries and beverages, this category has been a particular target of political intervention, with Labour promising to remove the GST from fruit and vegetables as part of its election campaign.

Listen: Everybody was Prefu fighting

Yesterday was a big day in the 2023 campaign as Treasury opened up the books and set out the pre-election fiscal update. Toby Manhire is joined by When the Facts Change host, Kākā pilot and sage of the political economy Bernard Hickey to explain what the Prefu reveals, how New Zealand’s numbers compare internationally and what it means for the financial scrap playing out between National and Labour.

I can only echo what Bulletin editor Anna Rawhiti-Connell said this morning: “I’d quite like to just recommend the crossover podcast event of the fiscal election season”.

The day ahead

The campaign reaches Auckland for most political leaders, while another stays in the south. Here’s your look at today’s political agenda.

  • It’s a Dunedin day for Labour leader Chris Hipkins. He’ll make a policy announcement at the Otago medical school this morning, before hitting up one of the most important stops on the campaign trail: a student flat. Queue the wall of Speights cans, please. Later, he’ll visit Otago Polytechnic, speak to media and wrap the day at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
  • Closer to (my) home, National leader Christopher Luxon is up in Auckland. He’s in Papatoetoe for a walkabout this morning before heading to Onehunga for a factory visit.
  • Act leader David Seymour is unveiling his party’s law and order policy in Auckland this morning.
  • Both Green Party co-leaders are in Auckland as well this morning, though the scheduling gods have stopped all the parties from being in the same place (for the most part). Marama Davidson starts the day with the signing of He Ara Hiki Mauri before joining James Shaw for a spot of record shopping in central Auckland. Later, Shaw will participate in a finance debate and an environmental policy debate.
  • And New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is also, you guessed it, in Auckland. He’s also on a finance panel discussion with other political leaders – and after today’s Guardian poll that could be interesting.

We’ll be out on the campaign trail with Luxon today and bringing you some live content from the road.

New poll: National and Act would need NZ First

Photo: Getty Images

A new poll out this morning from The Guardian reflects the ongoing downward spiral for Labour, but doesn’t show National and Act able to govern together. Instead, they’d need Winston Peters, with New Zealand First landing in the “kingmaker” position.

Peters has ruled out working with Labour (and Labour has ruled out working with Peters), meaning he would almost certainly prop up National to form a coalition or choose to sit on the cross benches.

The poll has National out on front on 34.5% – six points lower than where it was in this week’s Newshub poll. Labour has dropped back to 26.9%, yet another poll showing the party declining into the mid-20s.

The Greens were up to 11%, with Act on 10.3% and Te Pāti Māori steady at 2.5%.

New Zealand First has risen up to 6%, one of its highest results this election cycle and comfortably above the 5% threshold needed to enter parliament. That would give the party eight seats and the balance of power.

Photo: Getty Images

The Bulletin: Engine issue on Air NZ planes to cause significant disruption

Air New Zealand says continued problems affecting certain engines will cause significant disruption into next year. The Pratt and Whitney engines are used on the airline’s A320/321neo aircraft which service Australia and the Pacific Islands, and domestic routes in New Zealand (to a lesser extent). Air New Zealand has 16 of these planes in its fleet of 106 aircraft and has emphasised the engine problems do not present a safety issue.

The airline says ‘‘While there is no immediate impact to Air New Zealand’s flights, it is likely the airline will need to make adjustments to its schedule in coming months, some of which may be significant.” The issue is hitting airlines all over the world, with Pratt and Whitney’s parent company RTX saying it estimates it will have to pull a total of 600 to 700 engines off its Airbus A320neo jets for lengthy quality inspections between 2023 and 2026.

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.  

National stands by ‘fully funded’ tax plan after government books opened

Christopher Luxon at the National Party campaign launch. Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The government’s touting the state of the books as a good news story, but the opposition remains unconvinced.

Yesterday’s Prefu showed a long-term recession had been avoided, however a return to surplus has been pushed back a year from 2026 to 2027 (there’s more on the fiscal update in today’s Bulletin).

Finance minister Grant Robertson told Newstalk ZB he trusts the forecasts and is optimistic for the future. “These books for me represent a better result that we might have expected, but they also represent the economy slowing down,” he told Mike Hosking.

He defended the government’s spending levels across the Covid-19 pandemic, which he said was part of the reason for the current state of the economy. “I don’t regret the decisions we made, we wanted to give cashflow and confidence to households and businesses. I was presented with facts in March 2020 that I was worried about… I don’t regret the spending we did because I think it saved lives and I think it saved businesses,” said Robertson.

National’s Christopher Luxon was less than impressed, but believed his party’s proposed tax plan would be safe. “The bottom line is our tax plan is fully funded… we have delivered for middle and low income earners,” he told RNZ. National would lay out a full fiscal plan ahead of early voting for the election. “We’re very confident and comfortable in our position,” he said.

The Act Party has signalled it may have to adjust its proposed tax cuts due to the state of the ecomomy.

Of course, it is an election campaign, and so there are also attacks. Labour’s police spokesperson Ginny Andersen said this morning that National’s tax plan would require cuts to “the frontline” of the justice system.

“Even if National got rid of the Ministry [of Justice]’s entire policy function, all their communications staff, and stopped all advertising and public communications, they’d still fall nearly $35 million short,” she said in a statement.

“National’s tax plan also includes a 6.5% cut to Crown Law and the Serious Fraud Office, meaning the ability to prosecute crime will be severely impacted. National talks a big game on law and order, yet now want to strip our prosecutors of the funding they need to hold our most serious offenders to account.”

New Zealanders lost $4.2m to scams according to latest data

Romance scams are especially insidious Image: Tina Tiller

CERT NZ, the ministry of business, innovation and employment’s cybersecurity unit, has announced the latest recorded data for cybercrime in New Zealand between March and June 2023. 1,950 reports of cybersecurity incidents were received, and $4.2m was reported to have been lost. As many people don’t report the scams they are aware of or have fallen victim to, these numbers are likely an underestimate.

CERT NZ director Rob Pope emphasised that the $4.2m that was lost to internet crime is down 24% from the previous quarter, which may be a sign that scams are becoming less effective. The mutability of scams is one of the reasons that it is hard to keep track of who is being targeted and how. “At the moment everyone knows about the ‘NZTA scam’,” Pope said, “but tomorrow it could change to be another organisation being impersonated or another scam message. They could change tactics to include a phone number ‘for more information’ and get you that way.”

Advice on dealing with scams, including from CERT NZ, tends to focus on organisations beefing up their cybersecurity and individuals becoming more skeptical of digital contact. With generative AI technology, including simulated voice and video technology, the erosion of public trust created by scams may continue.