National's "modern" and "slick" virtual campaign launch was yesterday overshadowed by the party's admission it had a $4 billion hole in its spending plans.
Just hours before leader Judith Collins was set to take the stage at the launch, Labour's finance spokesman Grant Robertson revealed some of National's sums didn't add up.
"National has used the wrong numbers," he said before adding that it was a "basic error".
"This does go to credibility," he told reporters outside Parliament, adding that National does not have the experience to put together important documents.
"There is no Bill English, there is no John Key and this is the kind of mistake that you will get with that kind of inexperience."
And it was a "basic error" that National's finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith quickly admitted to.
National had used the Treasury's budget update to calculate that the party would "save" $19.1 billion by scrapping contributions to the NZ Super Fund.
But, National should have been using the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update (Prefu) – which showed that the "saving" would have been $15 billion over 10 years.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Collins' speech, Goldsmith apologised for the mistake, calling it "irritating".
"We make mistakes from time to time," he said, adding that "I never claimed to be perfect".
"These things happen – they're irritating, [but] we move on."
The error does not change National's plans to temporarily reduce taxes, Goldsmith said.
Rather, it changes National's debt repayment plans.
National now plans to have debt down to 36 per cent of GDP by 2034, instead of the 35 per cent it promised on Friday.
Speaking to media after her speech, Collins dismissed the blunder as "a little error,"
"entirely inconsequential" and something "not many people are worried about".
"Nothing Grant Robertson says worries me."
She then deflected, turning her focus on what she called Labour's failures, such as KiwiBuild.
She refused to apologise for the error and, when pressed, told reporters that it was Labour leader Jacinda Ardern who needed to apologise for letting New Zealand take on as much debt as it is projected to.
That debt was taken on to help pay for the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and National has said that taking on debt was the right move.
Earlier in the day, Robertson said the blunder raised questions as to what else might be wrong in National's books.
"National has to be responsible for their mistake; it is a $4 billion mistake in their economic plan – they now have to answer the question of whether there are other errors in this plan."
Criticism over the credibility of spending plans bears a striking resemblance to the pre-2017 election debate over what National alleged to be an $11.7 billion fiscal hole.
Labour denied such a hole existed, as did many economists.
However, there was a general consensus that Labour's fiscal plan was very tight and left little room for new spending initiatives.
Meanwhile, Collins was optimistic about her party's campaign launch, saying it was "professional, slick, fabulous and modern".
Due to social distancing rules, National decided to have a virtual campaign launch from the Avalon studios in Wellington.
There was an audience of roughly 80 people at the studios and throughout the broadcast – which was livestreamed on Facebook – MPs from around the country joined remotely with supporters in their region.
It was hosted by outgoing MP, and former broadcaster, Maggie Barry.
The broadcast ran well with no technical difficulties or interruptions.
The highlight of the event was the keynote speech from Collins, who was introduced by a video with a backing track and a voiceover, citing her credentials and plans for New Zealand.
Collins' speech did not contain any new policy but had many references to Labour.
"Labour's erratic, unplanned governance and lazy incompetence are what we have come to expect," she said.
In contrast, she said National would leave a complete upgrade of New Zealand's transport, education and healthcare infrastructure for the next generation.