After his rocky start this week, new National Party leader Todd Muller put his campaign back on track today by honing his focus to employment and small business growth.
Muller announced a new policy which will offer businesses a $10,000 cash payment for each additional staff member they take on.
Capped at $500 million it could create 50,000 jobs and provide business with an incentive to look at growing again, he said.
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Muller also declared he'd take on the small business portfolio, embracing it with the same kind of personal passion that Helen Clark and Jacinda Ardern put into the arts.
It was a clear differentiation from the Government approach, albeit in safe National Party territory, both in terms of policy and the venue.
At a smart furniture factory in central Auckland's industrial heartland, the gathered members of the Rosebank Business Association were clearly supportive.
An offhand line about the importance of sparing Aucklanders another three years of Phil Twyford earned a loud round of spontaneous applause.
It was the space where Muller needs to be right now.
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But it certainly wasn't glamorous.
In fact it was about as far away as you get from the international limelight currently being pointed at the Prime Minister.
Perhaps that was the point.
The Harvard Business Review this week illustrated an article on strong leadership with Ardern's face nestled between Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt.
That level of international adulation could become a risk for Ardern if domestic discontent grows.
National's leadership understands how grim the next few months will be for New Zealand.
They've recognised the emotive difference between an economist forecasting unemployment will rise to 10 per cent and the reality of more than 100,000 Kiwis actually losing their jobs.
In his element on business topics, Muller looks more comfortable and authoritative than his predecessor.
But he can't compete with Ardern on star power.
The Government has been well rewarded in the polls for delivering New Zealanders safely through the health crisis.
Muller's job is to convince New Zealanders of policies that can provide economic safety.
Specific policies like the $10,000 JobStart are tangible and pragmatic enough for people to grasp.
But individually they will struggle to cut through to a mass audience.
Muller today hinted at more to come with employment and job creation at the core.
"Small business owners who create jobs will be the heroes of this economic crisis, in the way that our nurses and doctors and all five million of us who stayed at home were the heroes of the health crisis," he said.
National leader Todd Muller speaks to media about his jobs grant announcementPosted by nzherald.co.nz on Thursday, 28 May 2020
The Government also made jobs a key theme of the Budget - but where it has continued to support workers by subsidising wages, National is prepared to put money directly in the hands of business owners.
Muller also alluded to plans for loosening regulation to allow more foreign investment into the country but declined to elaborate on details - such as whether that meant allowing foreign buyers back in to residential property.
Today's was a solid performance that will have heartened the National party faithful.
Muller's best shot from here is to keep his focus tight, with clear messaging on economic policies.
From there he can try and build momentum with what will likely be fair winds of growing economic hardship behind him.
His problem is whether there is time for that momentum to build to levels that will make him competitive in September.
He's starting from a long way back and, as the events of the past week have shown, it is easy to get distracted by the circus side-shows of politics.