Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett: Distractions show pair better off with issues that matter

Phil Goff fumbled over Labour's economic figures. Photo / Doug Sherring
Phil Goff fumbled over Labour's economic figures. Photo / Doug Sherring

As the last week of the campaign begins we go full circle back to the first week when the major parties were pledging to focus on "the things that matter" and the issue du jour was whether Labour leader Phil Goff would "show us the money".

Since then, both got diverted on to less rewarding but more entertaining matters of the Epsom tea tapes and potential return of Winston Peters. It wasn't turning out well for either of them, so late last week, John Key and Goff called for a return to talking about the "issues that matter".

In Goff's case, he might have been better off staying quiet. He got caught out by his demand the very next day, when he again fumbled over Labour's economic figures on TV3's The Nation and on TV One's Q+A yesterday.

It was a repeat of that critical moment three weeks ago when, during the Press debate, Goff was unable or unwilling to counter Key's calls to "show me the money".

That Goff still cannot roll them off the top of his head three weeks on does not bode well for the leaders' debates this week, because another person is certain to have Labour's costings imprinted in his memory: Key.

Goff learned that in some cases policies are worth little if they cannot be presented convincingly. Any faltering over something as critical as the economy will be punished. If there is even a tiny whiff that Labour's costings might not be reliable, it will not be trusted.

Instead of the economy, Labour is now heavily leaning on National's proposed sales of minority stakes in state assets in the final week of the campaign. It has begun an Armageddon-like countdown to the election day: "Six days until your assets go on the block if you don't vote Labour".

Unlike the Rapture (so far at least) the asset sales will actually happen when that day comes unless voters follow Goff's advice. However, while opposition to the asset sales is widespread it is not necessarily deep enough to force voters into changing their minds.

Still, at least Goff was talking about the issues that matter.

Just two days after saying the issues that mattered were the economy, health and education, Key was instead talking about Winston Peters, delivering his own Armageddon-like warning about the plague of locusts that would follow any return of NZ First to Parliament. The earthquakes were apparently just the forewarning.

All up Key was the person who would have been better sticking to the issues that matter in the first place.

Police are expected to sift through the offices of several media outlets this week in search of evidence around the recording of the conversation he had with Act candidate John Banks. Key has retreated to the moral high ground, claiming what people really want to talk about are the "issues that matter". However, he and Banks clearly didn't seem inclined to discuss those issues during their meeting. Paradoxically, had Key practised what he now preaches and stuck to those issues that matter rather than what appears to be Don Brash's future and the life expectancy of NZ First supporters, it is unlikely he would now face such protracted questioning.

On a lighter note, the next time Labour calls for Key to show them the 170,000 jobs promised, he could simply ask his Napier candidate Chris Tremain for a few.

Tremain's campaign includes a "30 jobs in 30 days" challenge.

He spends about four to five hours each day doing a different job, including milking cows, manning the bar at Napier's Shed 2 until 2.30am, and chopping up steers at the meatworks. Yesterday was job 26 - working in a fish and chip shop.

He said the hardest so far has been the meatworks and working on the garbage truck. And, no, he didn't find Goff's costings in it.

- NZ Herald

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Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor and joined the Press Gallery in 2007. She began with the Herald in 2003 as the Northland reporter before moving to Auckland where her rounds included education and media. A graduate of AUT's post-graduate diploma in journalism, Claire began her journalism career in 2002 at the Northern Advocate in Whangarei. Claire has conjoint Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Canterbury.

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