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Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins. Image: Tina Tiller
Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins. Image: Tina Tiller

The BulletinAugust 22, 2023

Labour pledges vaping crackdown as Hipkins’ honeymoon lead goes up in smoke

Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins. Image: Tina Tiller
Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins. Image: Tina Tiller

The party added pledge to policy this morning, promising to restrict the number of vape stores. Last night’s poll suggests people are looking for the party to offer up bigger fish to fry, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

What does Labour do now?

According to last night’s 1News Verian poll results, if an election were held now, Labour would receive just 29% of the party vote. The same poll had Labour on 38% in January. The Greens are on 12%. National and ACT would have the numbers to govern with 65 seats in parliament between them. Labour is now sitting on an average of 29.3% across the five most recent polls according to The Spinoff’s polling snapshot. Toby Manhire writes this morning that the trajectory is unmistakable, and Labour leader and prime minister Chris Hipkins is running out of options. Manhire suggests that Labour now needs “a policy thunderbolt. That, and National stepping on a giant rake.” He argues that if the party is projecting out to 2026 to make good on the full realisation of the promise of things like paid parental partner leave, why not also stage out something bigger?

Cost of living still number one issue

Finance minister Grant Robertson told NewstalkZB last night that the party’s GST policy isn't driving its slump in the polls. It’s tempting to read last night’s poll results as a judgement call on that policy. It was conducted between August 12 and August 16. It’s perhaps less of an indictment of the policy itself and more of an indictment of how it measures up as a tactic to address the cumulative impacts of the cost of living. The 1News Verian poll found 48% of those polled cited the cost of living as the number one issue on the minds of voters. The next on the list was crime at 14%.

Education policy prompts accusation of “stealing homework”

Parties and voters are more than capable of addressing and assessing a range of important issues as campaign promises roll out. However, that result once again highlights that some of them might be getting swallowed up or consigned to the piles marked “tinkering” or “political football” in the face of what continues to be the most pressing issue. Yesterday’s announcement on education might also stand as another example of main-party convergence and a lack of differentiation in voters’ minds. Education minister Jan Tinetti announced the government would make core teaching requirements for maths, reading and writing compulsory. It was government policy and has been in the works for a year, but this close to an election, lines blur. As Stewart Sowman-Lund notes, National took the opportunity to immediately accuse Labour of stealing its homework saying it was a copy of its policy to “teach the basics, brilliantly”. The primary school teacher union disagrees with Natiuonal's assessment, while the Post Primary Teachers Association acting president Chris Abercrombie said the government's move was highly unusual.

Labour wants to restrict the number of vape stores to 600

This morning, Labour 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. 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 $5000 to $10,000, while the fine for a shop selling to an underage person would rise from $10,000 to $15,000. No doubt we’ll hear from the National party on what policy it's planning on offering up on this issue soon.

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