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The BulletinOctober 2, 2023

Diagnosis: disaster, as Covid forces Hipkins off campaign trail


It really couldn’t have come at a worse time, writes Catherine McGregor in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Labour leader laid low by lurgy

There’s no good time for a prime minister on the campaign trail to come down with Covid. Still, as Claire Trevett writes in the Herald (paywalled), “it’s hard to think of a worse time than the first week of advance voting”. That’s probably not news to Chris Hipkins, who announced on Sunday that he’d tested positive for Covid and would be self-isolating for the next five days. In an election where turnout will be key to Labour’s chances, not having the PM around this week to rally voters to the polls could be potentially devastating. Hipkins, who is apparently “feeling the full effects of the infection”, was due to debate National leader Chris Luxon again on Tuesday; contingency plans being considered include “alternative dates or a Hipkins substitute”. Then there’s the big question of whether party morale, up the upswing after Hipkins’ impressive performance in the Newshub leaders’ debate, can bounce back from this weekend’s disappointing news. Supporters can perhaps take heart from Australian PM Anthony Albanese – he took a week off the campaign trail after testing positive and went on to decisively win last year’s general election.

Education the focus of Labour manifesto launch

Hipkins’ illness meant his deputy Carmel Sepuloni stood in for him at the launch of the Labour manifesto on Sunday. While most of the policies had already been announced, the manifesto also included new announcements – almost certainly the final ones of Labour’s campaign – on education and youth job training. Labour will offer two million free hours of maths and literacy catch-up learning to seven to 13 year olds, provide 20 hours of early childhood education for two-year-olds, and continue the free school lunches programme. It also plans to establish a maths and literacy training fund for teachers, and put a further $43 million into training for young people who have dropped out or been expelled from school. Here’s where I jump in to recommend the handy online tool Policy, where you can see how Labour’s policies on education – and everything else – stack up against those of its rivals.

Final fiscal plans and policy priorities unveiled by National and Greens

National and the Greens also had more plans to announce this weekend. The Greens held an event to highlight their policy priorities – namely the income guarantee tax plan; “a warm, dry, affordable and accessible place to call home”; and climate action – and a fiscal review by Infometrics (the same company that reviewed Labour’s plan) showing that “everything adds up”, according to leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw. Meanwhile National released its 100-day action plan featuring the policies it plans to put in motion (and the Labour ones it plans to repeal) during its first 100 days in office. Among the first to go would be the clean car discount scheme and the “ute tax” used to fund it, transport spokesman Simeon Brown said. On Friday National released its own fiscal plan setting out the calculations behind policies including its controversial tax plan. The biggest saving announced was $2b on benefits, achieved by indexing benefits to inflation rather than wages, which is likely to significantly limit benefit increases.

Peters accused of ‘astonishing abuse’ of TVNZ interviewer

He had no new policies to announce, but NZ First leader Winston Peters gave the two most talked-about interviews of the weekend. On Saturday his sitdown with Newshub Nation’s Rebecca Wright turned confrontational when she raised allegations of race-baiting by right wing parties including NZ First. In response, Peters described Te Pāti Māori as “a bunch of racists and superior people who say they have better DNA than European people”, reports Alice Neville for The Spinoff. The next day it was the turn of Q&A’s Jack Tame. The result was an interview “that made yesterday’s… look genial in comparison”, Neville writes. Peters told Tame he was “being exposed for the dirt merchant you are” and said Tame was making “a good case for us to make sure we get the broadcasting portfolio after this election”, prompting Tame to ask: “Is that a threat, Mr Peters?” Broadcasting minister Willie Jackson later criticised Peters’ “astonishing abuse” of Tame, and said it showed how dangerous NZ First would be in government.

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