It’s debate day for the ‘powerbrokers’

Welcome along to The Spinoff’s election live updates for Thursday, September 21. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund.

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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.


It’s debate day for the ‘powerbrokers’

Welcome along to The Spinoff’s election live updates for Thursday, September 21. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund.

Get in touch with me at

Learn more about our political parties and what they stand for at

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.

Sep 21 2023

Marama battles a fly, Winston gets heckled

Moderator Rebecca Wright, David Seymour, Marama Davidson, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Winston Peters

While I’m sure the live broadcast is absolutely riveting, there’s something fun about sitting on a truly uncomfortable bench to watch the debate live.

And there have already been a few moments that might not have made the telly. First up: Marama Davidson had a brief run in with a flying insect while Winston Peters was speaking. It cannot be confirmed whether Peters was responsible, though the fly has been approached for comment.

Secondly, during the last ad break, Peters faced some audience heckling from an unexpected source: Te Pāti Māori president (and former Labour minister) John Tamihere. “Fire up, Winston,” he yelled, to which Peters retorted: “I’ve got some news for you and it’s all bad.”

And Peters has also developed an amusing technique of trying to get moderator Rebecca Wright’s attention. He slowly raises his hand up and down and sort of waves it round a bit. He appears to be getting fed up with being ignored, occasionally addressing Wright directly.  

Moderator Rebecca Wright, David Seymour, Marama Davidson, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Winston Peters

The Act-NZ First grand coalition

The scene of David Seymour arson barb. (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

The first section of tonight’s Newshub Nation Powerbrokers debate focused on co-governance, proving that mortal enemies David Seymour and Winston Peters may have more in common than they once thought.

An early answer from Seymour prompted a quick eye roll from the Greens’ Marama Davidson, with Te Pāti Māori’s Debbie Ngarewa-Packer jumping in as well. After Seymour was asked whether he was race-baiting (he said no, for the record), both Davidson and Ngarewa-Packer quickly said yes.

“You are baiting, you always are,” Davidson said. “You’re uncomfortable in your skin,” added Ngarewa-Packer.

But it was Peters’ answer that got a laugh from the crowd: “He’s not baiting, he’s imitating.”

This is already proving a lot more fun than Chris v Chris.

David Seymour, Marama Davidson, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Winston Peters at tonight’s Newshub Powerbrokers debate (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Coming up: The minor parties go head to head

Newshub’s live Powerbrokers debate is at 7.30pm – and we couldn’t be more excited. A couple of us are in the studio as it all plays out and we’ll keep you up to date on any important moments. Because we’ve heard a lot from the Chrises on this campaign, but anything could happen as the minor parties face off.

Tonight’s debate will feature Act’s David Seymour, NZ First’s Winston Peters, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson.

Ahead of the last election, Toby Manhire saw a different, more content Winston Peters in this debate. “Here he was relaxed, quick, funny, grinning – he appeared not to have a worry in the world,” he wrote in October 2020. Will we see that same side tonight, with Peters on the cusp of a parliamentary return? Tune in at 7.30pm on Three.

The daily wrap

We’ll be back a little later on for Newshub’s Powerbrokers debate – but in the meantime, here are some of today’s top reads.

And as aforementioned, at 7.30pm Newshub will air its live Powerbrokers debate. We’ll be in the studio and keep you covered on any important moments.

Moana Maniapoto challenges Winston Peters on campaign rhetoric

An interview that I missed earlier in the week that’s been doing the rounds on social media today. It’s a good watch.

The door knocking experience that made Hinurewa te Hau smile


In the build up to October 14, we’ve asked a smattering of MPs and candidates from across the country for their favourite door knocking story from the campaign. 

Today: National’s candidate for the Māori seat of Tāmaki Makaurau, Hinurewa te Hau.

We are door knocking the Māori seat of Tāmaki Makaurau for the first time and we are getting good responses.

Here’s a little something. A month ago, I did my first door knocking in Freeman’s Bay we had identified there were 137 Māori households registered on the Māori role. This household, the enrolled voter wasn’t at home, but her brother was. We connected talking about whakapapa. When I went to leave instead of shaking my hand he gave me a big hug and said ‘you got a hard road ahead of ya sis’!

Then he proceeded to tell me to be careful as there were some real d*#ks in the street! It put a smile on my face – how powerful whanaungatanga [kinship] can be even when door knocking!

Act revises proposed tax cuts after Prefu

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

The Act Party has adjusted its alternative budget after last week’s pre-election fiscal update (Prefu).

It’s seen the party amend its proposed tax cuts, which would now be phased in over a period between 2023 and 2027.

The lowest tax rate would still be adjusted to 17.5%, applying to all money earned up to $60,000. A flat 30% tax rate would apply to income between $60,000 and $70,000.

For the first two years of the plan, incomes between $70,000 and $180,000 would be taxed at the same 33%, before it’s reduced to 30% from 2025. Income above $180,000 would initially be taxed at the current 39%, before this is reduced to 33% from 2026.

“By 2026/27, we will have flattened and simplified the income tax system, with three rates instead of five, and a top rate of a 33%,” Act’s policy document said.

David Seymour said Act’s alternative budget would ensure “net core Crown debt will be lower that Labour’s path every year. Operating deficits in 2023/24, 2024/25 and 2025/26 are smaller, and the surplus in 2026/27 is larger.”

National’s peaked in the polls, claims Hipkins

(Image: Archi Banal)

Chris Hipkins has conjured up a new attack line related to National’s poll performance: they’ve peaked.

Speaking to reporters in Napier, the Labour leader was asked to comment on the latest 1News Verian poll released last night. It showed National 10 points ahead of Labour on 37% to 27%.

But both parties had also dipped slightly with National down two and Labour down by one.

“The National Party’s numbers are starting to come down again and there’s still three weeks to go before election day,” said Hipkins.

Asked about remarks by Labour’s Ōhāriu candidate Greg O’Connor that Nicola Willis was “likely to be the next Minister of Finance”, as reported by The Post, Hipkins said that these comments weren’t intended to suggest Labour couldn’t win the election.

“I totally disagree with him, I’m working very hard to ensure Grant Robertson is still the finance minister the day after the election,” he said. “Our team is still absolutely optimistic and resolved.”

Hipkins said that he made every effort to be open and transparent with the New Zealand public, something he didn’t believe Christopher Luxon was. “Where I can’t answer a question I’ll say that, where I don’t know the answer I’ll try and find it out – and where occasionally as a human being I make a mistake, I’ll own that and be upfront about that.

“The National Party on the campaign trail still can’t provide honest answers about their flagship policy.”

Luxon vs Hipkins
(Image: Archi Banal)

Watch: The great Youth Wings debate, live at Auckland’s Town Hall


Out now on The Spinoff, the robust political debate the country has been waiting for. Watch the stars of Youth Wings season two go head-to-head on the most pressing issues facing Aotearoa this election. How do we solve the cost of living crisis? Should we lower the voting age? And how would Nelson Mandela really feel about voting for Act?

Featuring Jas McIntosh (Young Labour), Lily Chen and Ryan Blackmore (Young Greens), Ollie Murphy (Young Act), Keegan Langeveld (Young NZ First), Dallas Kete (Young Nats) and moderated by The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire, this Youth Wings special was filmed in front of a live audience in the Concert Chamber of the Auckland Town Hall. 

Youth Wings S2 is made with the support of NZ On Air. 

Robertson says latest GDP figures show economy has been well managed

Grant Robertson (Photo by Mark Mitchell – Pool/Getty Images)

Grant Robertson said today’s GDP figures show the Labour government has managed the economy well.

The 0.9% growth in the economy followed a revised figure of a flat 0% in the last quarter, meaning New Zealand technically skirted around a recession (though if you look one decimal point further, the economy did shrink by 0.01% in March).

In a statement, Robertson said the economy is doing better than expected. “The economy is turning a corner and showing its mettle in the face of a deteriorating global environment and the impact of extreme weather events,” the finance minister said.

“Our economic plan is delivering a solid foundation to support New Zealanders dealing with the cost of living while investing in our recovery to build a stronger and more resilient economy.”

Fronting for reporters in Wellington, Robertson added that today’s figures show that the economy was turning a corner. “Everyone knows how challenging the past few years have been… I believe that we have managed the economy well,” he said.


Revised figures show NZ escaped recession – just

Always useful when you have a new baby.

Revised figures from Stats NZ show New Zealand may never have been in a recession.

Over the latest quarter, GDP was up by 0.9% with the revised March quarter showing the economy didn’t grow or shrink – it was a flat 0%. As a recession requires two back-to-back quarters of negative growth, it appears the economy may have escaped more lightly than expected, but only just.

Initially, back in June, Stats NZ had reported a 0.1% decline in the economy in the March 2023 quarter. The quarter before, December 22, showed a -0.5% drop.

In the year ending June, GDP was up 3.2%.

“Business services was the biggest driver of economic growth this quarter, largely due to computer system design,” Stats NZ’s Jason Attewell said of the latest figures.

“Following the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle, both education and transport, postal, and warehousing grew this quarter after a decline in the March quarter. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing, which was also impacted by extreme weather events, fell in both the March and June quarters.”

The 0.9% growth is slightly higher than what most economists had predicted, with estimates largely ranging from 0.4% to 0.8%.

Listen: Dear Jane – full series out now

The final episode of Dear Jane is out now: Dan has agreed to meet with Jane. But before that happens, Noelle wants Jane to talk to a lawyer about restitution options for survivors of historic sexual abuse in church settings in Aotearoa. Noelle and Jane also reach out to the church to see what the complaints procedure involves, and attempt to engage with senior church leaders from the time. Meanwhile, the day of the meeting arrives. Is Jane ready? Is she going to hear from Dan what she needs to hear?

Dear Jane was made with the support of NZ On Air

Thank you for listening to Dear Jane. If you appreciated this series or believe it may help someone you know, please share it.

Resources: If this series brings up any issues for you there is help available 24-7:

  • Helpline – free call or text 1737
  • Youthline – phone 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email 
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline – phone 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

The day ahead

It’s a busy day on the campaign for our political leaders. Here is what’s coming up.

  • National Party leader Christopher Luxon is in Southland. He’s just launched his party’s international education plan and will soon head to a tea house to make cheese rolls! Later, he’ll visit Transport World in Invercargill.
  • The Act Party will relaunch its alternative budget today, taking into account last week’s pre-election fiscal update (Prefu). David Seymour will speak to media at 2pm.
  • I don’t have a copy of Labour’s itinerary for the day… I will attempt to track it down.
  • Only one Green Party co-leader has anything planned for today. Marama Davidson will represent the party in Newshub’s minor party debate tonight.

Also coming up today:

  • Will New Zealand be out of its technical recession? New GDP figures will be released this morning.
  • Newshub Nation’s Powerbrokers debate will air live at 7.30pm on Three. We’ll have someone in the audience and, of course, the rest of us will be watching along at home.

National launches international education policy

Christopher Luxon speaks at the National Party election campaign launch (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

National’s unveiled a plan to boost international education, including extending the number of hours overseas students can work in New Zealand from 20 to 24 hours a week.

The plan would also expand work rights for international students, and fast track visa processing for international students who pay an additional fee.

“Supporting international education to recover will boost export revenue, create job opportunities, and strengthen global connections that will drive economic growth in New Zealand,” said National’s tertiary spokesperson Penny Simmonds.

“Reviving international education is also vital for our tertiary education institutions. The revenue raised from higher international fees allows our universities, polytechnics and other tertiary institutions to provide better quality education and services while keeping costs down for domestic students.”

The policy announcement was made by leader Christopher Luxon who is campaigning in Invercargill today. Speaking to media, he said New Zealand was going through a period of “catch-up” and it was important to get skilled workers into the country.

The Bulletin: Debate wash up worth your attention

There’s quite a lot of post-debate follow up to add to the poll news. I’m in the acceptance phase of a Kübler-Ross-esque election trough now so power through with me on this mix of the worthy and light-hearted. Auckland University’s Public Policy Institute (PPI) ran their eyes over the debate to fact check statements from both Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon. The PPI found Luxon to be the main offender on making false claims in the debate.

Hipkins had to clarify his claim that fizzy drinks had been banned in primary schools – they haven’t. RNZ’s Ella Stewart looked into Luxon’s claims that “every single health outcome has gone backwards” under the Labour government. “Six years, not one has improved for Māori or for non-Māori,” he said. Stewart zones in on health outcomes for Māori.

RNZ’s Farah Hancock has done a language analysis on the number and types of words used by both leaders. RNZ’s Checkpoint caught up with Sky Rens, who asked the “should rich people had any responsibility for poverty” question during the debate last night. Rens says she feels “defeated” and “disheartened” after the two Chrises “danced around” her question.

Calum Henderson has run a mile in the shoes of Tuesday night’s post-debate panel and catalogued every single sporting analogy used. Finally, the first hour of yesterday’s Gone by Lunchtime Megapod is available as a standalone podcast. Toby Manhire, who is alive and well (I think, maybe he’s still going?), Annabelle Lee-Mather and Ben Thomas offer their own assessments of how the debate went.

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.  

‘That is the difference between us’: Luxon’s bid to differentiate from Hipkins

Image: Archi Banal

National Party leader Christopher Luxon is attempting to differentiate himself from Labour’s Chris Hipkins, after the TVNZ debate that saw the pair in agreement on quite a few issues.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Luxon said that this election “comes down to the economy… that is the difference between us”.

He added: “There were a bunch of quickfire questions on random stuff [in the debate]… and of course we’re quite centrist on that stuff and aligned. But I think that’s the big difference, we believe we’ve got to fix the economy. That’s what this election is all about.”

Luxon is spending the day in safe National territory – Southland – after spending part of yesterday at an Auckland goat farm. Asked by Mike Hosking whether he was hoping to secure 100% of the rural vote this election, Luxon said he was spending a lot of time out of the bigger cities. “This is a great sector, we need them to power us out of the economic malaise.”

Also discussed in quite some depth during this morning’s interview was the issue of coalition arrangements. Luxon has so far refused to outright say whether he would work with New Zealand First. While last night’s 1News poll showed the Winston Peters-led party wouldn’t be needed to form a government, National and Act would hold just a one seat majority.

“We’ll be very pragmatic and mature about working through those issues,” said Luxon, who reiterated multiple times that his “preference” was for a National and Act coalition.

“I will have to make whatever works on election night work to form a government. My job is to form a government,” he concluded, prompting Mike Hosking, once Luxon was off the phone, to say: “did we get there?” I’m not sure that we quite did, but it’s becoming increasingly clear Luxon won’t outright say whether he’d work with Peters.