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PoliticsOctober 6, 2020

Election Live, October 6: Ardern and Collins face off in third leaders’ debate

blog oct 1

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for October 6, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other NZ news. The essential campaign dates are here. For all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here. Explore the parties’ pledges at Policy. I’m on

Live: Ardern and Collins face off in third leaders’ debate

It’s time: Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins are going head-to-head in the third leaders’ debate, this time held in Christchurch.

7.10pm: Opening statements

The debate has started with opening statements, with the leaders at very distanced podiums with both lecturn microphones and headset microphones for some reason.

“This is the most important election that we will ever face,” National leader Judith Collins said, saying it will decide the future of New Zealand due to the economic recovery that is needed. “We are a small economy and we have to try harder than everyone else.”

“It is really important that we vote for a government that has a plan to build our economy,” Collins said.

Labour’s Jacinda Ardern followed, relying heavily on her party’s response to Covid-19. Drink for every time the phrase “hard and early” is said tonight, folks.

“We went hard and early in our health response, because we knew that would be good for the economy too,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“A change in course and instability risks the progress that we are making right now,”


Judith Collins has criticised the Labour Party for claiming to go “hard and early” against Covid-19, saying Sāmoa went “a month earlier”. She said her party was asking the government to shut the borders well ahead of the decision to do so.

Interrupting Collins, Ardern said it was “factually incorrect” to claim Sāmoa had shut down earlier.

Collins’ reply? Say it with me now: “DON’T DISRESPECT SĀMOA”.

7.25pm: Battle of the fiscal holes

Judith Collins has been asked why she should be trusted to look after the country’s finances when there is a hole in her party’s economic plan. The party’s admitted to $4 billion, but media reporting has claimed it is more like $8 billion.

Collins defended her party’s fiscal track record, saying: “When there was an error it was admitted to”. She told the moderators they were “wrong” to claim the fiscal hole was $8 billion.

Jacinda Ardern said, by contrast, her party’s plan “plan adds up, National’s does not”.

7.30pm: Ardern and Collins unify on dental policy

Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern have enjoyed a brief moment of unity, when questioned on the subject of fluoridation.

Both Collins and Ardern also ruled out implementing a sugar tax, with Collins saying education is better and that some people don’t realise that leaving sugar on your teeth at night will rot them. Collins upped her party’s dental plan, which would involve a free toothbrush and tooth paste for all school children. Similarly, Ardern backed education.

Fact check: Did Sāmoa really lockdown ‘a month before New Zealand’?

In the most heated exchange of the debate so far, Collins accused Ardern of “disrespecting” Sāmoa for rejecting Collins’ claim that the nation went into lockdown a month before New Zealand. So who’s right? In this case, Ardern. Sāmoa went into lockdown on March 26, a day after New Zealand entered level four lockdown.

7.35pm: Canterbury DHB – no commitment to sacking the board

Judith Collins has not committed to sacking the board of the embattled Canterbury DHB, saying the relationship between the board and the Ministry of Health would “have to start again”.

She said “every single year” National was in government the party put money into DHBs.

“Some years there was no funding from capital infrastructure. Some years there was nothing,” Ardern questioned.

“Who built the new hospital? Oh that was us,” Collins retorted.

7.45pm: Where’s Christchurch’s improved public transport, Ardern?

Jacindsa Ardern’s been taken to task for promising to improve Christchurch’s public transport during the past term in government, pledging $100 million from the land transport fund.

“Where is it?” Collins taunted.

“We are still absolutely ambitious,” Ardern said, saying she still wanted mass transit for Canterbury.

7.50pm: Collins drives a BMW – but wants an electric vehicle

Collins, possibly making up personal policy on the fly, has said she’s investigating buying an electric vehicle, after the crowd applauded Ardern for saying she already owns one. Collins said, currently, she drives a BMW (that uses petrol).

7.55pm: ‘And the unity moment’s gone’

Another brief moment of unity – Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins have agreed on a four year term for New Zealand’s parliament. Ardern said she’d be happy to discuss with Collins and National about this, as it’s something the pair agree on.

Collins said if Ardern was so open to working together on a four-year parliamentary term, why hadn’t she done so on the flouride bill. It’ll more likely be her talking it through with Ardern after the election, Collins claimed, smiling wickedly.

“And the unity moment’s gone,” Ardern said, to laughter.


Thank god. I need a break.

While we wait, here are some Twitter hot takes:

8.10pm: Ardern still won’t give stance on cannabis legalisation; Collins still won’t give stance on banning conversion therapy

Judith Collins won’t promise to ban conversion therapy, but she really wants Jacinda Ardern to admit if she backs cannabis legislation

While she wouldn’t promise a ban, Collins said that she didn’t support the practice. She said parents need to be thankful their children are alive and love them for being who they are.

Moments later, Collins called out Ardern out for refusing to give her stance on cannabis legalisation. Ardern, however, promised to implement the public’s will on the referendum.

8.15pm: ‘That’s Megan Woods down there’

Judith Collins has jokingly (I think) asked whether a heckler in the crowd was Megan Woods.

“That’s Megan Woods down there,” Collins said pointing to a member of the audience. Our political editor is in the audience and has confirmed it was not Megan Woods.

“I’m sure they’d rather Megan Woods chipping in than Gerry Brownlee,” Ardern said to applause.

“Gerry’s a… ahahaha a much better… chippy,” Collins said awkwardly. (Can I get a fact check?)

8.25pm: The Price is Right

The moderators challenged Ardern and Collins to come on down and play a game of the Price is Right. Judith Collins, proving she’s a purveyor of the finer milks, said a two litre bottle of cow juice costs about $6. Ardern said $4.50. The correct price was about $3.50.

Both were unable to name the price of a leg of lamb, but were able to cost the cheapest Netflix plan.

8.30pm: Closing statements

We’ve made it, it’s time for the closing statements. Judith Collins is speaking first.

“We’re going to need to think much further out than just the election date,” Collins said. “We’ve got a fiscal plan to get us back to a reasonable amount of debt.”

Collins criticised Labour’s economic plan, saying: “They’re very ready to pick holes in our plan but their own plan is non-existent.”

Finally, it was time for Jacinda Ardern to speak. She relied on her government’s track record over the past three years. “Who is better placed to keep New Zealand safe, and who is better placed get us on track to recovery?” Ardern asked.

“What we need is strong, stable government and a clear path forward… we’re already rolling out our plan for the economy.

“It’s about getting jobs going through infrastructure, it’s about training apprentices for tomorrow’s jobs and it’s about supporting small businesses.”

That’s it – thanks for reading! We’ll have hot takes and analysis on The Spinoff shortly.

5.30pm: Reminder – there’s yet another leaders debate tonight

Newshub and TVNZ have had a go, now it’s time for Stuff to host their own Ardern/Collins head-to-head. Streaming live on Stuff from 7pm, the Press Leaders Debate takes place in Christchurch’s James Hay Theatre and is moderated by Press editor Kamala Hayman and Stuff’s political editor Luke Malpass. Along with coverage here, we’ll have a report from our own political editor Justin Giovannetti, who’s at the debate, and the usual expert reaction.

5.10pm: ‘I unreservedly support Judith Collins’ – Denise Lee

National MP Denise Lee has issued a statement following the leak of a memo in which she sharply criticised leader Judith Collins over her failure to consult on new policy relating to Auckland (see 1.40pm).

“Yesterday I sent an email to my fellow MP’s which was intended for internal purposes only. I completely disagree with the actions of the person who leaked the email and have since spoken with our party leader Judith Collins,” said Lee in the statement issued by the National leader’s office.

“I accept the leadership’s decision about the policy announcement which acknowledges that Auckland Council needs to lift its performance. I remain focused on winning the seat of Maungakiekie and unreservedly support Judith Collins as leader and future Prime Minister.”

4.45pm: Hooton and Bennett in Twitter scrap

Former National deputy leaders Paula Bennett has excoriated former National adviser and commentator Matthew Hooton on Twitter. Bennett was deputy to Simon Bridges who was rolled by Todd Muller, backed by Hooton. The exchange comes as Judith Collins faces fresh leaks from within her caucus.

This afternoon Hooton, who left his role with National a few weeks after Collins took over from Muller, tweeted: “When Nats’ deputy leadership changed in May, there was no policy, no benchmark polling, no campaign themes, no campaign grid & the Curia track polls were worse than any public poll this year. However the election turns out, Judith has done better than what would have happened.”

Bennett responded: “Bullshit. It just wasn’t shared with you.” And: “You don’t get to try and deflect from your utter disaster.”

Hooton has previously told Magic Talk radio that he only had 15 minutes face time with Muller over the course of his time in Wellington.

Earlier today, Hooton gnomically tweeted: “They say Paula Bennett is having a busy day.”

2.15pm: Advance voting numbers continue to rise

More than 109,000 New Zealanders headed to the polling booth yesterday, well above advance voting levels in the past two general elections.

Just short of 40,000 cast an early vote on day three in 2017, with 16,000 in 2014.

Cumulatively, more than 271,000 Kiwis have now voted ahead of next week’s election – almost twice as many as this time in 2017.

Full figures from the Electoral Commission are available here

2.10pm: All the NZ references in the Ardern Spitting Image sketch

Where have you been living if you haven’t watched that god awful Spitting Image sketch featuring “Jacinda Ardern”? It’s been doing the rounds over the past couple of days since going to air in the UK. Did I mention it’s terrible?

Anyway, instead of watching the same clip again – hating yourself more and more by the second – enjoy the following edit by The Spinoff’s José Barbosa, who has broken down all of the questionable New Zealand references in the sketch.

Watch below:

1.40pm: Port Waikato voting papers reprinted after error


Voting papers for the Port Waikato electorate have been reprinted after a formatting error left a blank space next to Vision New Zealand.

The forms were missing the white circle where people could tick, however there was still room on the form to place a vote for the party.

The error was picked up by Electoral Commission staff at about midday on Monday and voting continued using voting papers with the correct format. Additional ballot papers are being printed to ensure sufficient supplies are in place.

Vision NZ has responded in a scathing press release, questioning how this mistake was even possible.

“It’s disappointing that when you are trusting other people to do their job, they are letting the voting public down, and also disadvantaging us,” leader Hannah Tamaki said.

1.30pm: ASB Classic cancelled due to Covid-19

The plug’s been pulled on the ASB Classic tournament, as a result of Covid-19.

Plans were well underway for this summer’s event, however, due to the complexity of hosting a sporting event of this scale and the uncertainties associated with the current Covid environment, the tournament is unable to proceed.

Tournament director Karl Budge said all parties remain committed to hosting the tournament in 2022.

“We are obviously incredibly sad to share this news but safety has to be our priority. I’d like to thank the incredible dedication from the Classic team, volunteers and our sponsors who have strived tirelessly to make an event happen this summer,” he said.

“We know we deliver the best annual event in New Zealand. Today’s announcement won’t change that. We look forward to the return of the Classic in Auckland next year. The planning starts now.”

1.20pm: National MP calls Judith Collins a bully 

An anonymous National MP has told TVNZ that Judith Collins “bullied” the party’s Auckland Council spokesperson Denise Lee.

It follows the release of an email to Newshub showing Lee criticising a National Party policy to review Auckland Council. Lee said she had no idea the policy release would be coming, despite being the party’s council spokesperson.

Now, an unnamed MP has come forward saying Collins bullied Lee and hasn’t managed to bring the caucus together since taking over the party’s leadership in July.

The MP said the party hasn’t had a caucus call or poll result for weeks and claimed that there is a culture issue in the party. They also claimed that releasing policy on the fly was an ongoing pattern under Collins. The National Party leader previously admitted to making up new policy during last week’s Newshub leaders’ debate.

An anonymous National MP has also told Stuff that “the strategy is whatever pops into Judith’s head at the time”.

1.00pm: Three new cases of Covid-19, in managed isolation


There are three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation today, the Ministry of Health has just announced. There are no new cases in the community.

The first new case arrived from India on September 26 and was retested after returning a negative result around day three of their time in managed isolation because they were a contact of a previously reported case.

The second case reported today arrived on October 2 from England via Qatar and Australia and was tested after they developed symptoms.

The third case arrived on October 4 from India via England and Qatar and was tested on arrival because they developed symptoms on the flight.

Today’s new cases have all been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility, the ministry said.

The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is now 1,502, with 43 cases remaining active. Of these, 37 are imported cases, with just six from the community.

There remains one person on a ward in Middlemore Hospital with Covid-19.

Yesterday, 2,820 tests were processed, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 985,639.

The ministry is reminding anyone who is unwell to stay at home and not to travel, especially over the remaining days of the school holidays.

“If you become unwell while on holiday seek advice from Healthline, your GP or nurse practitioner on getting a test for Covid-19. Do not wait until you return home to get tested,” the ministry said.

12.45pm: Minor party leaders address business community

Leaders of the minor parties today addressed New Zealand’s business community through an online zoom webinar, with each sharing their party’s plans to bolster and stimulate the economy.

Business editor Michael Andrew reports:

The webinar saw Business NZ’s Kirk Hope ask Geoff Simmons of TOP, Vernon Tava of Sustainable NZ, Billy Te Kahika Jnr of Advance NZ and John Tamihere of the Māori Party about their policies on infrastructure, the border and debt.

Simmons outlined TOP’s four priorities to rebuild the economy: placing more tax on housing, reforming the welfare system and implementing a UBI, helping small businesses by removing certain taxes and providing tech investment grants and by ensuring that each large-scale infrastructure project is implemented through a sound business case.

Vernon Tava’s policies focused on building an “innovation ecosystem” to grow productivity and establishing more synergy between business, academia and government. This would involve forming a New Zealand innovation agency to oversee four main areas around startup and business development at a cost of $100 million annually.

Billy Te Kahika Jnr said his party would push for the safe reopening of the borders to reignite tourism, and repeal the RMA to allow more houses to be built, while opposing any addition taxes on residential assets.

Finally, John Tamihere said his party would be aiming for a “a total review and recalibration” of the moral compass of New Zealand’s business motives, with the environment and Māori wellbeing in mind. He advocated for an “affirmative procurement programme,” that would see more Māori taking advantage of the opportunities only available to the “new growing elite.”

Today’s session was the final of Business NZ’s pre-election debates.

We’ll have more on this in a separate report on The Spinoff later today 

12.15pm: President Trump returns to White House, removes mask

Donald Trump has given a fist pump to supporters as he left Walter Reed hospital and returned to work in the White House.

Earlier today, the president said he was feeling better today than he had in 20 years and downplayed the severity of Covid-19, telling people not to be afraid of the coronavirus.

Upon his return to the White House, Trump took of his mask, putting it in his pocket while he gave two thumbs up.

US President Donald Trump takes off his facemask as he arrives at the White House (Photo : NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

11.35am: This is a ‘jobs and economy election’, says Judith Collins

National’s Judith Collins has rejected prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s assertion that we’re heading into a “Covid election”. Collins today launched another branch of her party’s economic policy, promising to create jobs and walk back unemployment rates.

Reporter Sherry Zhang was there:

At today’s National Party economic policy announcement, Judith Collins said New Zealanders cannot keep “plodding around wallowing in Covid”.

The party wants to create 10,000 jobs each month and get unemployment rates back to 4% by 2025.

Collins repeated her promise to scrap the RMA, and to pass emergency legislation to “roll out new housing” en masse, as it’s predicted that developing a new planning and environment management framework “will take some time.”

National is framing its campaign as “not a covid election,” but a “jobs and economy election.” Its answer to keeping a low unemployment rate is to create jobs, and the party’s critical of Labour and the Greens for “piling costs and regulations on business which slow that job growth.”

Yet when asked about the blunder with companies such as The Warehouse taking the Covid-19 wage subsidy before later letting staff go, Collins said Labour has “opened up the floodgates to take all the money you like,” with weak legislation.

However, National’s also pledged to provide businesses $10,000 for each full time employee they take on. When asked how the party would ensure this is not being abused, Collins said “they’ll get $5000 when they hire the staff” and only get the rest when they keep the staff.

Later, when pushed by media, Collins responded to criticism that she’s been using American politics tactics, such as her recent photo op at a church. Collins said she did not invite the media into the church, and can’t control “the way that’s seen by the media.”

Reporters also questioned Collins following claims she’s been making up policies on the fly. The National leader reiterated that “campaign teams make decisions on the campaigns,” and she’s merely doing “what leaders do.”

11.05am: Act wouldn’t ban conversion therapy, National remains silent

Labour joined the Greens yesterday as just the second party to promise to ban the practice of conversion therapy in New Zealand.

The pledge was announced as part of Labour’s rainbow policy, which included more gender neutral toilets in schools, and additional funding for mental health services.

As RNZ reports, Act has since responded to the policy, saying that while it does not believe conversion therapy should be practiced, it also does not support a ban.

National would not take a side on the issue, but on Twitter, candidate Liam Kernaghan came out against the practice. He later said he would support a ban, despite his party remaining silent on the matter.

10.10am: ASB announces ‘temporary’ naming rights to Eden Park

A statement from Eden Park this morning presents a very different story to what was reported on the 6pm news last night.

Newshub had reported that the naming rights for the national stadium have been sold to ASB Bank.

Today, the iconic Auckland stadium has revealed that ASB has secured “weeklong naming rights” for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup, and will gift the opportunity to a New Zealand business.

“We know Eden Park has a special place in the hearts of many Kiwis and it will always be Eden Park, but this will be an incredibly special opportunity for one small business, and we couldn’t be prouder to be able to use ASB’s naming rights in this way,” ASB’s Tim Deane said.

The new temporary naming rights partner for Eden Park will be revealed early next week.

9.40am: National pledges to create at least 10k jobs a month

A National government would create 10,000 jobs a month, leader Judith Collins has promised. She’s made the announcement at a press conference in Auckland this morning.

Our reporter Sherry Zhang is there and will have a full report for you shortly.

On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are today:

  • Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern is in Christchurch today for a walkabout in Lyttelton.
  • National Party leader Judith Collins is making an economic policy announcement in Avondale, Auckland this morning.
  • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is, probably, somewhere. I just don’t know where.
  • Act Party leader David Seymour is joining his election campaign tour in Tauranga, for some walkabouts and to make a housing and infrastructure announcement.
  • Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson is in Palmerston North for a series of visits with Green candidate #8 on the list, Teanau Tuiono. James Shaw is speaking at the University of Canterbury, and visited Rollickin’ ice cream parlour in Christchurch to try the Green Party ice-cream.

8.05am: Fresh holes in National’s ‘strong team’ start to show

The first signs of any discontent within the National Party since Judith Collins took over as leader in July have presented themselves overnight.

An email sent from MP Denise Lee has been seen by Newshub, showing Lee criticising Collins over her decision to announce a review of Auckland Council. Lee is the party’s Auckland Council spokesperson, and claimed she had no idea the policy was coming.

You can read more about the leaked email here – but this morning has seen a further development, with Judith Collins defending her decision to launch the policy during a two hour interview on Newstalk ZB.

In a statement provided to RNZ, Collins said: “I decided to release [the policy] during an interview on Newstalk ZB… and as leader of the National Party it is entirely appropriate for me to make that call.”

She said she has since spoken to Denise Lee, who remained “very focused on campaigning and spreading the word about National’s plan to create jobs and let Kiwis keep more of what they earn through tax cuts”.

Collins’ office told RNZ she was not available for an interview, but claimed the Auckland Council review policy was one the campaign team had been working on “for several weeks”.

7.45am: Trump set to leave hospital as another staffer tests positive

Another day, another member of Donald Trump’s team has tested positive for Covid-19.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted a statement out this morning (NZ time) confirming she had tested positive for the virus, despite experiencing no symptoms.

“I will begin the quarantine process and will continue working on behalf of the American people remotely,” McEnany said.

And in the past few minutes, president Trump has announced he will be leaving hospital today. He said he’s “feeling really good” and urged people not to be “afraid of Covid”.

“We have developed, under the Trump administration, some really great drugs and knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago,” Trump posted.

7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The fire that ripped through the Lake Ohau village has destroyed 46 houses, and burnt out more than 5000ha of land, reports Stuff. Firefighters were still working overnight to deal with any late flareups, and Fire and Emergency incident controller Graeme Still “told media on a tour of the Lake Ōhau Village that the fire was the biggest in terms of destruction in his 40 years of firefighting.” Yesterday afternoon, some of the residents were allowed to go through the town under escort – the ODT reports it was a deeply emotional moment for many of them.

In all, it is estimated that the village had about 15 permanent residents. Stuff spoke to some of them yesterday, who are planning on rebuilding their burnt out homes. Other properties in the village were baches and holiday homes. $100,000 has been announced as an initial contribution from the government to those affected by the fire.

What caused it all? As always with these events, it looks like a combination of factors. It appears the spark was provided by power lines arcing in high winds. But as for the spread of the blaze, Radio NZ reports Federated Farmers have criticised DOC for allowing vegetation to grow wild on retired land, saying that if animals had’ve been allowed to graze on it then there wouldn’t have been so much potent fuel. Conservation minister Eugenie Sage disagreed, saying it sounded like the organisation was making a push for free grazing. That story is worth reading to the end, to catch the comments from DOC’s operations manager around whether grazing really helps reduce the fuel load.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

Yesterday’s headlines

Auckland will move down alert levels on Wednesday night to join the rest of New Zealand at alert level one.

One new case of Covid-19 was reported from managed isolation. No community cases were reported.

More than 93,000 people went to the polling booth for the first day of advance voting over the weekend.

A complaint was made to the Electoral Commission after promotional flyers opposing assisted dying were found in official EasyVote packs.

Labour’s Jacinda Ardern has committed to banning conversion therapy if re-elected.

National’s Judith Collins pledged to stop New Zealand becoming a “nation of renters”

Donald Trump greeted supporters outside Walter Reed hospital where he is receiving care following a Covid-19 diagnosis.

Keep going!