Prime minister Chris Hipkins reiterated yesterday that the “bread and butter” issue of inflation is the number one focus for the government and a new poll demonstrates why, 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.
New poll suggests change of prime minister could sway the vote of 12% of New Zealanders but it depends on who it is
A new Horizon Research poll notes that when asked “if a change of prime minister would make them more likely or less likely to vote Labour at the 2023 election”, 12% of people said it would depend on who the new prime minister was. That at least demonstrates the potential of change for Labour after Chris Hipkins and Carmel Sepuloni were sworn in yesterday. The new prime minister wouldn’t be drawn on much at his first post-cabinet press conference which is probably fair as he is yet to realign his team and their portfolios. Unfortunately the natural order of things doesn’t make for great headlines. Hipkins is meeting with business leaders in Auckland today and said yesterday that immigration settings could change if the government sees a need to do so.
Bread and butter as far as the eye can see
Another Horizon Research poll also showed the cost of living was the top issue New Zealanders wanted the new prime minister to address. Hipkins’ main message yesterday reiterated that the cost of living, “the bread and butter of inflation”, would remain the number one priority for the government. The inflation figure was released yesterday (brief explainer on that from me here). It remained stable, coming in at 7.2%, which is the same as last quarter. Grocery prices have risen by 10.2% in a year but Countdown said yesterday it is expecting the price of seasonal produce to drop. The markets also rallied, closing near a 10-month high yesterday (paywalled) on renewed hope that a possible recession might be avoided.
Unusually diverse range of thoughts on inflation figure
I’d describe the response to yesterday’s inflation news as inconclusive. As RNZ’s Nona Pelletier said last night on Checkpoint in a bid to sum up where things might be heading: “The economists can’t seem to get on the same page so why should we?” The same can be said for predictions on what the RBNZ should or will do with the official cash rate on February 28, although there is a growing consensus on the OCR lift being .50% rather than the previously expected .75%. Stuff’s Tom Pullar-Strecker has rounded up the unusually diverse range of thoughts on yesterday’s announcement into a handy one-pager here. We are definitely still in something of a holding pattern.
Tax and superannuation
Hipkins reiterated that during this term, he would stick to the promise made by former prime minister Jacinda Ardern about not introducing a capital gains tax. He also said the age of eligibility for superannuation will not change this term. That’s not 100% off the table for future terms and his potential tenure as prime minister. He did say any changes in those areas will come with a lot of warning. Head to the bottom of today’s Bulletin to read about the how the French are framing a plan to change the retirement age there. This morning, Stewart Sowman-Lund summarises the prime minister’s comments and any potential meaning we might be able to glean from them.