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Aug 22 2023

New Napier poll shows early lead for National candidate

Photo: Getty Images

New polling shows an early lead for National’s candidate in the Napier electorate.

The departure of Stuart Nash from politics at this year’s election means there is no incumbent running to be re-elected. Instead, Labour’s replacement candidate Mark Hutchinson will go up against National’s Katie Nimon, the 32-year-old who previously stood for the seat three years. In the that election, which saw many seats comfortably secured by Labour candidates, she lost to Nash with 15,469 votes to his 21,325.

But a new Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll released this evening has Nimon out in front on 37%, with Hutchinson behind on 28%.

It’s worth noting there was a high number of undecideds: 18% didn’t know who they were going to vote for come election day. Readjusted to acknowledge this, the poll has 48% support for National’s Nimon and 37% for Labour’s Hutchinson.

Perhaps due to the fact neither are currently in parliament, there was also relatively low name awareness in the seat. The poll showed 53% could name Nimon as the National candidate and 38% Hutchinson as the Labour candidate.

According to Curia, 400 people agreed to be polled on August 20 from a broader sample selection of 5,000 Napier phone numbers.

PM rattles off ‘positive outcomes’ in testy question time debate

Chris Hipkins at his first Question Time as prime minister. Photo: Toby Manhire

It’s the penultimate parliamentary week of this term – and question time is becoming appointment viewing.

Today saw the opposition press the government on the state of the economy, while the government retorted with criticisms over National’s play to ditch free prescriptions.

And during a supplementary from David Seymour about increased government spending, which the Act leader said had not resulted in better outcomes, the prime minister took the opportunity to rattle off a list of achievements he said he was proud of.

“I’m so glad the member asked that question,” began Chris Hipkins. “We believe the fact that more New Zealanders are in work than ever before is in fact a positive outcome. We believe that New Zealanders having better access to healthcare is a positive outcome. We believe that 77,000 fewer children living in poverty is a positive outcome. We believe better levels of renewable energy is a positive outcome. We believe reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a positive outcome. We believe extending the coverage of free trade agreements to cover more of New Zealand exports is a positive outcome.”

He continued… “We believe that more New Zealanders in apprenticeships, thus upskilling for the future of our workforce is a positive outcome. We believe building more classrooms to accommodate roll growth so that kids aren’t learning in hallways, libraries and gymnasiums is a positive outcome.”

But the biggest applause from his Labour Party colleagues came at the end of the very long list: “We believe building more state houses than any government since the 1950s is a positive outcome,” said Hipkins.

“I could go on for a long time.”

Meanwhile, the finance minister Grant Robertson went toe-to-toe with Nicola Willis over issues of inflation, while Seymour managed, somehow, to get his “joke” about Guy Fawkes into a question to the prime minister.

Could National’s polling have saved Michael Woodhouse?

National MP Michael Woodhouse in 2020 (Image: Getty Images)

National’s Michael Woodhouse may have been assured a spot in parliament based on the rise in polling for his party.

Woodhouse opted to remove himself from National’s list over the weekend, saying the position he had been offered indicated he wasn’t in line for a ministerial role after the election.

In her weekly newsletter, the Herald’s Audrey Young said that while the actual list placement isn’t known, “it is understood that under last night’s poll, he would have been returned as an MP”.

The TVNZ Verian poll released last night had National on 37%, which would mean a respectable 48 seats out of parliament’s 120.

“He spat the dummy because he believes he would not have been reappointed to a cabinet spot or to the speaker’s role,” Young wrote. “So that is down to Woodhouse. As they say, pride cometh before a fall. In my view, he would have been on the cusp, depending on how successful Act was.”

National MP Michael Woodhouse
National MP Michael Woodhouse in 2020 (Image: Getty Images)

Willis says there is ‘alignment’ with Act, still unwilling to address rising NZ First

Nicola Willis and Christopher Luxon (Image: Tina Tiller)

National’s deputy leader says there is “alignment” on big picture issues between her party and Act.

The latest 1News Verian poll had the right bloc of National and Act comfortably ahead of the left wing bloc, with other parties like New Zealand First not reaching the 5% threshold needed to return to parliament.

However, as noted by Toby Manhire this morning, neither Labour nor National are especially surging in the polls. “A nationwide ennui can be found in the combined figure for National and Labour of 66% – 66%! – the lowest in this poll for 21 years,” Manhire said.

Speaking to RNZ’s First Up, Nicola Willis said that while her preference was, of course, that people voted for her party, Act was the comfortable coalition option.

“There is some alignment on some big picture things that are important – reducing the tax that working people pay, bringing more discipline to government spending, ensuring better delivery of infrastructure, addressing some of the workforce shortages in our hospital,” she said.

“On the big issues there is philosophical alignment and of course we will disagree with each other from time to time, and under MMP that’s okay too.”

Asked about David Seymour’s recent “joke” about Guy Fawkes and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Willis once again said she didn’t believe it was a sensible remark. “I think it would have caused hurt for some people in the community and it was unwise,” she said.

And as for the question of the age – whether or not National would rule out New Zealand First – Willis reiterated her previous remarks. “We don’t want to get ahead of things when they might not even get there.”

The Weeknd becomes latest Eden Park headliner

(Image: Supplied)

Auckland’s Eden Park has locked in another big name performer, just ahead of the Christmas break.

Live Nation’s announced that The Weeknd will perform at the inner-city stadium on December 7 as part of his After Hours Til Dawn global tour.

“The completely sold out global stadium run has been an incredible success, breaking attendance records,” said Live Nation in a statement. “The tour recently broke London Stadium’s attendance record with 160,000 concertgoers across two nights. The Weeknd also just wrapped with his largest headline show to date, breaking Wembley Stadium’s record for sales with a traditional concert set up with the stage at one end with 87,000 tickets sold.”

While New Zealand may have missed Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney (and there’s no sign yet of Beyonce), this is a big drawcard event going into the summer months. Though, as some overseas concert attendees found out, beware of the giant inflatable moon.

Tickets for The Weeknd’s show go on sale next Friday.

Also announced today: After this year’s Laneway Festival was cancelled, Joji will finally make it to New Zealand for a show at Spark Arena at the end of November.

Chris Hipkins doubles down on ‘underdog’ talk

Chris Hipkins answers questions from the media (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

In his morning media round, the Labour leader repeatedly claimed the status of “underdog” for his party going into the campaign proper. With good reason, too: last night’s poll by Kantar for 1News left little doubt that National is increasingly the favourite to lead the next government.

Chris Hipkins has now doubled down on that rhetoric, addressing the poll in a message to supporters in which he says: “It’s showing we’re the underdog in the upcoming election.” Seeking to use the poor result as a spur to action, he says: “New Zealand has a choice. A National-Act coalition that’s more focused on cutting jobs than creating them – or Labour with our record of low-unemployment and wages rising faster than inflation.”

His message concludes: “We are going to give it everything we’ve got this election, there’s too much on the line. Kiwis love to back an underdog, and they love a comeback even more.”

In a message to National supporters last night, campaign chair Chris Bishop said the poll “gives National great momentum to take into the campaign period”. But, he stressed, “let me tell you, we are taking nothing for granted”.

Bishop, too, stressed the choice that awaits, writing: “This election you can choose a National-led government that will rebuild the economy to reduce the cost of living, restore law and order and improve our schools and healthcare or you can choose a Labour-Green-Te Pāti Māori Coalition of Chaos that will continue to spend recklessly and tax endlessly.”

Government pleased with rising school attendance rates

Lots of students rely on alarms to get to school on time (Getty Images / Bianca Cross)

The government’s touting its work to increase school attendance rates as a success.

This week is all about education for the government/the Labour Party ahead of the dissolution of parliament in just over a week’s time.

Over the weekend, Labour pledged to introduce mandatory financial literacy at schools if re-elected, while yesterday saw the government (distinct in this instance from Labour) commit to making more aspects of “core learning” mandatory within the curriculum.

Education minister Jan Tinetti said term one attendance was up to an average of 59.5%. Though this may sound slightly unimpressive, Tinetti said it’s a 10 point bump from the end of last year.

“Nearly all full time and part time attendance officers are now in place, with 80 already working in schools across the country,” Tinetti said.

“Attendance officers work with students who have low or declining attendance rates, to ensure they are going to school every day unless they are sick. It’s expected these attendance officers will help make a real difference to attendance rates over the longer-term.”

Meanwhile, the regional response fund – targeted at re-engaging young people – has funded 412 initiatives across 762 schools over the past year to help get kids back to school.

The Bulletin: Senior doctors and dentists to strike

In what is understood to be a first, around 5,000 senior doctors and dentists will take strike action. Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) chief executive Sarah Dalton said members wanted pay rates to increase with the Consumer Price Index. As the Herald reports senior medical officers have an average total salary of $318k including additional payments for shift work and superannuation. “[The vote] is a significant endorsement of collective action and reflects the extreme frustration of members over Te Whatu Ora and the government’s refusal to value our workforce, address staff shortages, and ensure that salaries maintain their real value against inflation,” Dalton said.

Te Whatu Ora chief people officer Andrew Slater said they had received strike notices for September 5, 13 and 21 and were disappointed the national health agency’s “fair offer” had not been accepted. The offer would see all senior doctors get a $15-$26k pay increase and a lump sum of about $4k, topping up a settlement the ASMS accepted last year, which included a $6k increase in all pay scales and a $6k lump sum.

Prime minister Chris Hipkins said the best way to resolve the dispute was to get back around the bargaining table and the government would work in good faith to resolve the dispute.

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Labour wants to restrict the number of vape stores to 600

Chemicals from the device itself can end up in our blood, urine and saliva. (Image: Archi Banal)

Labour’s announced it will introduce further measures to address youth vaping if elected. It follows yesterday’s government announcement of the commencement date of September 21 for a series of new vaping restrictions including weaker nicotine concentration in vaping products and a requirement for all flavours to have generic names. This plan was announced earlier in the year, but was originally planned to come into force in October.

Labour wants to go further, halving the number of vape stores around the country, limiting it to 600. It also wants all retailers to hold a licence to sell vaping products. Under Labour’s pledge, penalties for adults supplying children with vapes would double from $5,000 to $10,000, while the fine for a shop selling to an underage person would rise from $10,000 to $15,000. The National Party hasn’t ruled out proposing a similar plan.

Speaking to RNZ, the prime minister said the policy being announced today was going to make “such a big difference” in reducing the number of young people using vapes. “The vape industry has been a rapidly growing industry,” Chris Hipkins said. “We’re now going further and saying that, as we’re doing with tobacco, we’re going to reduce the number of outlets. We picked the number 600 for the same reason we picked the number 600 for selling cigarettes. it means you’ll get a fair distribution across the country… but we’ll be able to restrict where they are.”

(Image: Archi Banal)

From outright majority to ‘underdog’: Hipkins admits Labour has to ‘sharpen up’

(Image: Archi Banal)

“Do I look like a dead man walking?” asked Chris Hipkins this morning. “I’m absolutely into this.”

He may be “into” it (and “in it for you”) but the mountain for the prime minister to climb is getting higher and higher. 1News’ latest Verian poll has the Labour Party slipping into the 20s, while National has risen to 37%. As Toby Manhire wrote this morning, coupled with the Act Party’s 13%, the right bloc “was away laughing” and was on track to secure “a healthy parliamentary majority”.

Speaking to Newshub’s AM show, Hipkins said he acknowledged there had been some “distractions” over the past few months that had seen voters turn away. “I accept that, we’ve got to sharpen up.”

He added: “It is a sign we need to get out onto the campaign trail, we need an energetic campaign.”

On RNZ, Hipkins rejected the claim that his party’s recently announced policies around GST and paid parental leave had impacted the poll. “I don’t think that the last week of the polling period in question is necessary going to be reflected in that,” he said. “We go into this campaign as the underdog.”

The decision not to go ahead with a wealth tax was the “right decision”, said Hipkins, saying official advice was that it would have been a risk for the economy. “I looked at the evidence, I looked at the advice, I made the call that a wealth tax was not the right way forward.”

He remained committed to winning the election, but did not say whether he would stay on as leader should the party not make it back into government. “We’ve got some work to do, there’s no question about that,” he told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking.

Asked about National’s policy to fund new cancer drugs instead of free prescriptions, Hipkins said that amounted to taking medicine from one group to give it to another. “We can actually have free prescriptions and increase the funding for Pharmac,” he said. “The reason they’re having to introduce prescriptions fees is because their tax cut numbers don’t add up. They need to raise more money to pay for their tax cuts.”

Hipkins was pushed on the fact that his GST policy would actually benefit wealthier New Zealanders as well as those on lower incomes, instead going back to National’s suggestion of tax cuts. “People on the highest incomes get most of the money, while people on the lowest income miss out,” he said.