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blog sept 22

PoliticsSeptember 22, 2020

Election Live, September 22: ‘I am not done on child poverty’ – Ardern clashes with Collins in TVNZ debate

blog sept 22

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for September 22, 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

Recap: Ardern and Collins go head-to-head in TVNZ leaders debate

8.25pm: Both leaders tell voters to vote for them, both say they have a plan

The debate concluded with both leaders, shockingly, asking voters to vote for them. Both leaders also claimed they had a plan.

In her closing address, Judith Collins said you could choose between voting for a party that speaks about things like hopefulness or the party with the plan: National.

Jacinda Ardern, possibly thinking she was recording her next party advert, delivered a speech direct to the camera, speaking of her party’s achievements in power and concluding with her slogan: let’s keep moving.

8.20pm: ‘I am not done on child poverty’ – Ardern fires up on social welfare

Double-duty was the phrase of the final 10 minutes of tonight’s debate. Ardern, pushed by John Campbell on her plan for the next three years, named a number of policy plans that would also bring with them jobs. Building infrastructure, cleaning our waterways, and providing free school lunches would all, Ardern said, provide jobs as well.

Ardern was also pushed on her record on child poverty, with Collins saying things have grown worse during the last three years.

“I am not done on child poverty,” Ardern said, firing up for what felt like the first time in tonight’s debate. Ardern defended her party’s record, saying that seven out of the nine indicators for child poverty have improved during the last term.

8.10pm: Collins and Ardern argue environmental policy

This debate’s gone overtime and, just like John Campbell, I’ve got no idea what time it is.

This segment of the debate focused on the environment, with Judith Collins going hard for the rural vote. Collins backtracked on her earlier claim that the government’s new water quality legislation would be “gone by lunchtime”. However, she conceded they would still be reviewed.

Ardern said that, while not wanting to place blame, the reality was that the agricultural sector was responsible for almost half of our country’s emissions. She defended the recent water regulations: “I want our waterways to be swimmable again,” Ardern said.

“We’re putting in standards that actually stop the degradation.”

7.55pm: Leaders debate housing crisis, clash over Labour’s progress

Housing policy was in the spotlight in the next segment of tonight’s debate. Judith Collins made her love of RMA reform clear, saying it’s the clear pathway to fixing our housing crisis.

Jacinda Ardern highlighted progressive home ownership and banning foreign buyers as two ways in which her party has tried to tackle problems with housing, but Collins said house prices were higher under Labour and that the number of people on the state home waiting list has skyrocketed.

Pushed on the government’s recent healthy homes legislation, Collins said she “wasn’t too worried about the healthy homes.” What did worry her, however, was the law not allowing for unruly tenants to be evicted and that the law allowed for changes to be made to a property without landlord consent.

Read more on the recent changes to rental regulations here

John Campbell was also on fire in this segment: he said he’d popped across the road to buy some “goodies”, lost his train of thought before throwing to the ad break, and said he’d like a gin. You deserve one, John!

7.40pm: Leaders face off on tax policy, jobs

A question from Aorere’s head girl Aigagalefili ‘Fili’ Fepulea’i-Tapua’i about how the next government will provide jobs, and keep students in schools, kicked off the third segment of tonight’s debate.

Judith Collins responded first by saying “My husband is Samoan” and offering a slightly uncomfortable “talofa”.

“We’ve got to get people into trades [and] we’ve got to get them education,” she said.

Following that up, Jacinda Ardern said that “I don’t want any young person feeling like they should leave school… the first port of call is to make sure their families have jobs.”

Ardern reiterated Labour’s pledge to continue raising the minimum wage along with paying a living wage for those who are in jobs like security and cleaning.

If Labour is re-elected, the minimum wage will rise to $20 next year – something National won’t do. However, National has promised a tax cut. “People who are on the minimum wage will get a tax cut” Collins said, however John Campbell pointed out it would just be $8. “It’s not enormous,” Collins agreed, but said that middle income earners will benefit from a significant tax cut.

Accused by Campbell of being on cruise control when it came to tax policy – with National promising tax cuts and Labour promising just a minor tax increase for the top 2% of earners – Ardern said: “In this time, now is not the time to have huge uncertainty around tax payer. But, now is the time to invest in those who are on our lowest wages.”

“Small business owners can’t pay the bills now,” Collins rebutted, repeating her pledge of a stimulus tax cut.

More from the Policy team:

National’s offering a tax cut and cancelling the increase in the minimum wage. Labour proposes to tax the top 2% more. But that’s not the only policies that will hit your back pocket. See all the tax and income support policies here.

7.25pm: Health spending and DHB debt in the spotlight

Health spending and DHB debt was the big issue in the second segment of tonight’s debate. You can see National’s health policies here, but little from Labour which is yet to make a substantial health announcement this campaign.

I got a bit caught up in the back-and-forth to transcribe a lot from this segment of the debate, but The Spinoff’s deputy editor Alice Neville summed it up as: “lotta stink eye from Judith, lotta hand moving from Jacinda.” Seems about right.

7.10pm: Labour ‘will bring optimism’,  Collins not ‘giving up’ following dismal poll

To kick the hour-long debate off, moderator John Campbell asked both leaders to present their 30-second vision for New Zealand if they become prime minister.

Judith Collins, who kicked off proceedings, said she loves New Zealand but thinks there “is a better way”. The National Party leader highlighted growing the economy, supporting health and education, and encouraging young people to stay and work in New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern followed, saying while Covid-19 has brought challenges there is “also enormous opportunity”. Now is the time to “invest in our people to create jobs that look after our environment and also support growth in our economy,” Ardern said. If Labour leads the next government, it will bring “optimism”, she claimed.

Ahead of tonight’s debate, the latest Colmar Brunton poll showed Labour could govern alone on 48% with National trailing on 31%. Questioned by Campbell on National’s stagnation in the poll, Collins highlighted the 14% of those surveyed who were undecided.

“I never give up, you know I’m a fighter,” Collins said. National only just officially launched its campaign over the weekend, Collins said.

Despite the great result for Labour, Ardern said she wouldn’t be making any assumption about governing alone. “You’ll see no complacency from us and no assumptions,” she said.

The debate soon turned to the subject of border restrictions and managed isolation and quarantine. You can see all the parties’ border policies here on Policy.

7.00pm: Leaders debate kicks off

Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins are about to face-off in the first leaders debate of the 2020 election campaign on TVNZ1.

The Spinoff’s editor Toby Manhire is at TVNZ, where the pair have just arrived in the studio with their entourages. Each is allowed only two aides in the room, however. The small media contingent is upstairs watching the monitors.

I’ll have live coverage here throughout the debate, highlighting the best zingers and policy points made by the party leaders.

6.00pm: Labour riding high in new TVNZ poll, despite five point drop

The first official political poll in over a month has brought devastating news for Judith Collins and the National Party just an hour before her first head-to-head with Jacinda Ardern.

The TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll has Labour riding high on 48% – albeit a 5% drop from the last poll – while National is sitting on 31%. In third place is Act, up two points to 7%, meaning David Seymour would bring eight friends with him to parliament.

The Greens will be thrilled to see a one point bump up to 6%, however, New Zealand First would not return to parliament, sitting on just 2%.

It’s the first poll since the second wave of Covid-19 wave two and the rejigged election date.

We’re less than an hour away from the first leaders debate between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins – we’ll have live coverage right here.

Some takeaways from the poll:

  • Act polling on 7% puts it alongside the party’s highest ever election day result of 7.14% in 2002, which delivered a caucus of nine.
  • Two weeks out from the 2017 election, the Colmar Brunton poll had Labour just four points lower than today, on 44% – but National was biting at its ankles on 40%. In that same poll, Act was on just 0.6% compared to 7% tonight.
  • Tonight’s poll would give Labour 62 seats in parliament, the least they’d need for a majority government, but they’d have some friends in the Greens.

5.50pm: Leader debate bingo/drinking game

We’re a little over an hour away from the first leaders debate of Election 2020, and what better way to enjoy the festivities than with The Spinoff’s leader debate bingo. 

Whether you’re doing it with drinks or not (I know I will be), there’s surely no better way to spend your time watching Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern go head-to-head.

Toby Morris

5.30pm: 30 minutes to go – will the TVNZ poll be a bazooka?

You’ve got about half an hour to gaze into your crystal ball before the release of TVNZ’s latest Colmar Brunton poll – the first in over a month. Will it be a bazooka? Who’s to know.

The most recent TVNZ poll – released at the end of July – had Labour on 53% and National on 32%. The Greens and Act were both on 5%, while New Zealand First would be booted out of parliament (unless Shane Jones upsets in Northland) on just 2%.

Compare that to three weeks out from the 2017 election, where Labour were on 44%, just a nudge ahead of National on 40%. Back then Act were on just 0.6%.

So, send me your predictions to The closest will get a shout-out later tonight (if I remember).

5.10pm: National’s fiscal hole doubles, threatens to swallow party

Just two hours out from the first leaders debate between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins, Stuff has dropped a bombshell revelation that National’s fiscal hole may have widened further.

The report, which claims National’s alternative budget may been pushed out by another $3.9 billion, would edge the fiscal hole closer toward the $11.7 billion that threatened to derail Labour’s campaign last election.

Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan reports that National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith has twice counted $3.9 billion left over from the New Zealand Upgrade package, an infrastructure plan announced by the government in late January. It would mean National needs to find another $3.9 billion from elsewhere, if its budget is to remain watertight.

Goldsmith has rejected the allegation, saying he left the line in National’s Economic and Fiscal Plan for “consistency” with an earlier National plan.

The missing money will come from reallocating money collected in fuel taxes and road user charges in the National Land Transport Fund, Goldsmith told Stuff.

4.30pm: A big night ahead

A reminder that we’re expecting the first poll in weeks tonight on One News at 6pm, which will be followed by the first leader debate of the campaign. We’ll be updating all of that right here so stay tuned.

To whet the appetite, here’s an important new exploration of the campaign trail by our video analyst José Barbosa.

And if you’re really hungry for political debate, may we suggest you watch this, the thrilling climax of the excellent Youth Wings series.

1.00pm: No new Covid-19 cases on day one of level one


There are no new cases of Covid-19 to report today, Ashley Bloomfield has announced.

There are 39 people in the Auckland quarantine facility from the community, including 18 positive cases. Three people are in hospital with Covid-19, one each at Auckland City, Middlemore and North Shore, all on general wards.

The total number of active cases is 61, of which 29 are imported and 32 are community cases. The total number of confirmed cases remains at 1,464. Yesterday, 3,278 tests were processed, bringing the total to 917,699.

Bloomfield reminded all New Zealanders to remain vigilant, saying the risk of Covid-19 is “low” but does still remain.

Ministry developing protocol for ‘weak positive’ Covid-19 results

Bloomfield said he wanted to take the opportunity to discuss some tests which have been coming back with a false positive – this is when viral fragments remain in a person’s nasal cavity.

“In these instances, the test result comes back positive but with a high ‘cycle threshold’, which is known as a weak positive result,” he said. “There is very good research internationally that shows such people with these positive results are not infectious.”

Bloomfield said the ministry was in the process of developing protocol and setting up an expert panel to work out how to manage and report Covid-19 cases that return “weak positive” results.

The Ministry of Health is developing a protocol and setting up an expert panel to help standardise the way these cases are managed and reported.

Latest on mystery Covid-19 case from Christchurch

Bloomfield said 29 of the 85 close contacts from the charter flight the man who tested positive after leaving managed isolation took have been tested. These are the people who sat closest to him.

All but one returned a negative test, Bloomfield said. There was one “weak positive” – a test with a low CT value that suggests a historic infection. The person has been moved to the Auckland quarantine facility even though it’s highly unlikely they’re infectious.

12.00pm: Watch – Bloomfield to give Covid-19 briefing

After a prolonged absence of Ashley Bloomfield, we’re getting the director general of health twice in two days.

Bloomfield will be fronting today’s 1pm Covid-19 health briefing today, on the first day of alert level one for all parts of the country except Auckland.

It was revealed this morning in Jacinda Ardern’s media run that Bloomfield had recommended imposing a 500-person restriction on gatherings during level one – a recommendation that was ultimately ignored.

Yesterday, there were no new cases of Covid-19 to report.

Watch live:

11.35am: Crown won’t appeal Southern Response case

The Crown won’t be appealing the Court of Appeal decision in the Dodds v Southern Response case, it’s been confirmed.

The minister for the Earthquake Commission, Grant Robertson, said the court decision provided the government with “greater clarity”.

“The government wants to find a fair and enduring resolution for the outstanding Canterbury earthquake claims, and that means being able to use the findings of the Court of Appeal to help inform and respond to other policyholders who are in a similar situation to Mr and Mrs Dodds,” Robertson said.

The Dodds had claimed they were tricked into accepting a lower offer from Southern Response only to later discover the insurer had kept secret from them a second higher estimate to rebuild their damaged house. The couple’s lawyer told RNZ earlier this month that it was “absolutely clear” Southern Response had made representations that were false.

11.20am: National launches ‘smart’ border policy

Gerry Brownlee has launched National’s border policy, which includes a booking system for managed isolation facilities and a heightened role for private accommodation providers.

It was earlier reported (see 8.10am update) that National wanted the private sector to play a bigger role in managing the border. That’s now been confirmed, with Brownlee saying the party would scale-up managed isolation capacity by allowing private accommodation providers to apply to manage returnees.

New Zealand currently has space for 7300 people in managed isolation at any one time, and up to a third of this capacity is not being used, Brownlee said.

National will also look at flexible travel arrangements for people entering New Zealand from countries and territories that are Covid-free, such as the Pacific Islands.

“Flexible arrangements were offered in the government’s negotiations for rugby tests between the All Blacks and Australia,” Brownlee said. “These options should also be considered, alongside public health advice, for Pacific countries that have no Covid-19.”

11.00am: Air NZ almost at 90% of pre-Covid levels

Air New Zealand is on track to almost hit pre-Covid levels of domestic travel, in time for the school holidays.

The national carrier put about 200,000 domestic airfares on sale last week after the government announced an end to physical distancing requirements on planes.

As Newshub reports, Air New Zealand’s added 1000 extra one-way flights these school holidays compared with the July break.

Jetstar announced that, with the end of physical distancing requirements, it would also be returning to our skies.

On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are today

  • Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern is visiting Buttabean HQ this morning in Manukau. Tonight, she’s participating in the first TVNZ leaders debate.
  • National Party leader Judith Collins has no scheduled media today, but will be participating in the first TVNZ leaders debate tonight.
  • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is still on his bus. Today, he’s in Whangarei.
  • Act Party leader David Seymour is on his campaign minivan in the deep south. He’s travelling between Te Anau and Queenstown.
  • Greens co-leader Marama Davidson is in Whangarei for a series of visits, media interviews, and a public meeting. Later, she will host a Facebook Live ahead of the first leaders debate. James Shaw is in Queenstown today meeting with Green members and later participating in the ASB Great Debate.

8.35am: Ardern defends Covid-19 response on first day of level one

Gatherings were almost going to be restricted to 50 people in Auckland when the city moves to level two, Jacinda Ardern has confirmed. The city is moving into a full level two on Wednesday night, meaning 100 people will be allowed to gather. It will be another two weeks before, possibly, Auckland can shift down to level one.

The rest of the country has already moved down to level one overnight.

The reason Auckland is sitting in alert level “2.5” for a further two days is due to the time it takes to draft the orders. “It was unclear until we just made sure we’ve got all of the data on whether or not we would move mass gatherings for Auckland to 50 or 100 and so that takes those 48 hours from the point that Cabinet makes the decision,” Ardern told RNZ.

Mask use will continue to be encouraged at level one, Ardern said, but will no longer be mandatory. The director general of health Ashley Bloomfield had asked Cabinet to consider a 500 person limit for indoor gatherings at level one, which was ultimately not accepted.

The country’s strategy will continue to be one of “stamp it out”, Ardern explained. New Zealand will continue to have new cases pop up.

“Elimination as a strategy still does acknowledge we will have cases,” Ardern said. “It’s all about the way that you then deal with it.”

Over on Newstalk ZB, the prime minister defended her decision-making around Covid-19 when questioned by Mike Hosking.

Ardern was told her approach was too linear: “It’s not a matter of a perfect model or a non-perfect model, it’s about nuance and subtlety,” Hosking said.

The prime minister wasn’t having it: “Mike, if you’re saying you’re now a person of nuance and subtlety, bless. I am not going to claim perfection but I will stand by our response.”

8.10am: National wants bigger role for private sector in MIQ

The Opposition’s border security policy is set to be released this morning, with a report in the Herald claiming it will see a bigger role for the private sector in keeping Covid-19 out of New Zealand.

The National Party wants any provider to be able to apply to accommodate travellers entering New Zealand, under quarantine standards that its national border agency would set, inspect and enforce. The party has previously said it wants a specific agency to enforce the rules around quarantine.

Under National’s proposal, the cost of quarantine would be less of a burden on the taxpayer and the country would be allowed to welcome back international students and more foreign workers.

7.45am: Leaders prep for first TVNZ debate; new poll tonight

It’s debate day! The TVNZ leaders debate between Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern will go ahead tonight at 7pm, after being bumped out a few weeks due to Covid-19.

Moderated by John Campbell, the debate is the first opportunity for the leaders of the two biggest parties to demonstrate their vision for New Zealand’s future.

The Spinoff’s editor Toby Manhire has written about the 11 things you can expect from tonight’s face-off, which you can read here. Based on the quality of his predictions in the office, it’s likely all of these things will be accurate.

We’re also expecting a new poll – the first since before (yes, before) the return of Covid-19. In fact, the last two polls were the Newshub “rogue” poll and a following TVNZ poll in late July (yes, JULY).

I’ll have live coverage of the debate here tonight, so keep your eyes glued to The Spinoff.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The alert levels will shift down around the country this week, with most of the country moving back into level one. Our live updates from yesterday has the details – as of now, the country outside of Auckland is at level one. Auckland meanwhile will move to level two proper (as opposed to 2.5) on Wednesday night, and remain there for a further two weeks.

There were no new cases yesterday, but an existing case from the weekend is still causing something of a headache. Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the source of infection was “still under investigation” and they remain “open minded” – this was the case that may have resulted from an abnormally long incubation period. Bloomfield also noted that the man had kept an eye out for any symptoms, and praised him for getting a test when they emerged. The official advice on managed isolation hasn’t changed as a result, but Dr Siouxsie Wiles argues that it shows a need to keep an eye on those who have just come out of the system.

As for how life will change at the new alert levels, remember normal life? It still won’t quite be like that, even at level one. Stuff has a piece with a bunch of advice for those who will be at level one, including a request that people keep washing their hands (which, come on, do this anyway) maintain a reasonable amount of social distancing, and keep using either the contact tracing app or some other form of readiness for cases to pop up again. The Herald has also reported warnings from experts encouraging people to be a bit more careful with level one this time around. Masks will remain mandatory on public transport in Auckland, and will become optional (but encouraged) everywhere else. And as always, if you’ve got the symptoms, stay home except for ducking out to get a test.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.00am: Yesterday’s headlines

Auckland will move down to alert level two on Wednesday night. The rest of the country will move down to alert level one from midnight tonight.

No new cases of Covid-19 were announced.

Jacinda Ardern admitted she made a mistake posing for a group photo in Palmerston North that breached her government’s own social distancing rules.

National revealed its $1.29 billion technology policy which would create at least 100,000 technology sector jobs by 2030.

Air New Zealand’s CEO said he was not expecting a “trans-Tasman bubble” for at least another six months.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates

Keep going!