Should you consider giving your vote to someone other than the "big two" of National or Labour?
The second of Newstalk ZB's leaders breakfasts this morning heard from NZ First leader Winston Peters, Green Party co-leader James Shaw and Act Party leader David Seymour.
Mike Hosking grilled each leader in half-hour interview slots.
Winston Peters, NZ First
First up was Peters, who is fighting for his party's survival as recent polling put NZ First well below the 5 per cent threshold, on about 1 per cent.
Peters was asked to rate the Coalition from 1-10, 10 being best - he gave it an 8. On the Covid response, he gave an 8 as well.
"We went early, we did not go hard enough in the context of getting the military in, using masks...but we still had a seriously, seriously good result...but we should never had the second break-out, in my view."
Peters said NZ was too conservative on moving towards measures like travel bubbles. The South Island could have linked up with places like Tasmania and the Cook Islands.
People were rightly fearful of Covid, but a collapsed economy was a huge threat too.
What was the thing he wanted that he couldn't get? Peters said his party wanted the military brought in from the start.
"I met with apathy on that."
He also wanted mask use mandated on public transport earlier.
Beyond Covid, Peters said the thing he wanted that he couldn't get was the need to seriously reform the economy.
"There are some values off-shore to do with work and savings, that we need to adopt in our country."
Asked what NZ First had prevented in government, Peters cited the scuppered Capital Gains Tax, and what he said was Labour's plans to "interfere with leases", which he likened to belonging in countries like Venezuela.
Peters said some people in Labour were great, but there were also "the tribalist type".
On the provincial growth fund, Peters said the fund had helped repair community centres like churches, council facilities and marae around the country.
"I'll tell you how dynamic it was...every Labour MP has tried to get to every opening, every National Party MP, every provincial MP."
The racing industry measures secured by NZ First were needed given the industry employs "up to 50,000 people" including casuals.
On the Pike River re-entry, Peters said he suspected bodies would be found.
Hosking asked about NZ First's low polling.
"Our historic place in New Zealand society has been to defend the vulnerable against extreme policies," Peters replied, saying this was more true than ever in the time of Covid-19.
Peters said the campaign had effectively been treated by the media as a first past the post campaign, despite the MMP system.
The NZ First leader said he knew about bottom-lines and negotiation, given his experience including as a lawyer - unlike other political leaders.
"I go in prepared to lose the whole lot.
"We have got a whole lot of lines we are keen to promote and push...we have a surge going on at the moment for NZ First - I feel it out in the streets and in the malls."
Hosking met that statement with laughter, and bet him $100 his party wouldn't get 5 per cent. That ended the interview.
James Shaw, the Green Party
How different would it have been if NZ First wasn't in Government? Shaw said the Government would have been able to move faster in a lot of areas.
"It would have been a more coherent government."
Shaw said the work of the last government showed how MMP could work.
"I have issues with the way NZ First conducted themselves, at times...but ultimately that's not the fault of the system."
The thing the Greens most wanted to get done that didn't happen? The capital gains tax.
Shaw said because Jacinda Ardern had ruled out a capital gains tax, the Greens had come up with the wealth tax proposal.
"The most likely outcome from this election is a Labour-Green government...most voters, when they cast their vote, are mindful of what the shape of that looks like.
"It is not unreasonable to assume what the shape of the next government looks like...the larger party forms the majority of the programme."
Shaw said the Greens had achieved an enormous amount over the last three years. His personal highlight was the zero carbon act.
His party was the party of long-term thinking.
Is tax love? "Tax is what we do to have a civilised society," Shaw responded.
Hosking asked if Shaw misunderstands farmers. The Greens co-leader said he was raised in the city, but his mother came from a farming country.
"But I get that there is a sense of grievance there, if you like. You won't find me being one of those people saying, farmers are bad or wrong...every sector has areas where we need to pull our socks up.
"I understand there's a narrative out there that the Greens hate farmers...it's not true."
It was important to build consensus.
"Farmers want clean rivers...they are the ones most vulnerable to climate change...we all want the same things. The question is, how do we get there."
Hosking asked about Taranaki, as a region where the transition away from fossil fuel industries wasn't going smoothly.
Shaw said it would take time, but there was time: "You want to give yourselves a long runway."
Hosking again asked about MMP, suggesting it didn't work. That was rejected by Shaw, but he agreed with Peters that the media still covered elections like it was first past the post.
Was a co-leader necessary? "For us it really works...we are the only party who are going to defy history and be as strong in the subsequent election as they were the one before...a vote for the Green Party is not a wasted vote."
David Seymour, Act
Used to being a one-man show in Parliament, the Act leader is expected to lead a number of largely unknown candidates next term, with recent polling putting Act on 8 per cent (10 MPs).
"We are taking each day as it comes," Seymour said of that position.
"If Act can play a role in holding all of them to account out there, that is a real positive."
Hosking was back to MMP, asking if it was flawed. Seymour said Act had made the system work, but others hadn't - the Green Party splitting the left vote in Auckland Central, for example.
Seymour attacked Labour for what he said was a "skill shortage" in its ranks, and its opposition to Act policies like charter schools.
"I can't work with those people."
Hosking asked about Act Party's candidate list, and whether any people set to enter Parliament could be trusted to perform.
Seymour said there was a strong vetting process, and they would be great MPs. Nobody knew who many of them were, he said, but that was to be expected: "Nobody knew who Margaret Thatcher was."
Seymour said Act didn't have bottom lines in any post-election negotiations.
"If you vote for Act, then you are getting a push towards a more aggressive, more Taiwan-esque approach to health...you are getting a more aggressive approach to debt...there are other issues around the RMA, charter schools...firearm laws."
Even large parties couldn't guarantee their policy would survive negotiations.
Seymour said he had worked with five National leaders, and they were all good day-to-day managers, and keen to stay in power. Act was different because it pushed new thinking.
"That is Act's role - to bring ideas to the table, to drive change."
Hosking asked about Act's courting of the gun vote in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks. Seymour said Act was vindicated in opposing the rushed gun reforms.
"We haven't solved the real problem about how this guy got away with that heinous crime."
What did the last Government do that he was impressed with? Abortion law reform, Seymour said.
Seymour said polls indicated the euthanasia referendum would be supported with a "yes" vote by the public, but there was a "fear campaign" by opponents.
Change was badly needed, Seymour said, and the proposed system was safe.
"My mum died with great palliative care...but it doesn't work for everybody."
One thing that defines Act and what it stands for? Better policy, Seymour said.
The Act leader said a National-Act coalition would happen "by a whisker".