National has launched its election campaign with an eight-point pledge card telling voters it will tackle inflation, lift school achievement and focus on law and order and reducing health waiting times.
Leader Christopher Luxon’s image and signature feature on the pledge card, which details the party’s main commitments if elected to power after October 14.
Pledge cards are a device used frequently in politics in the past both here and overseas - including by the British Labour Party and by New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who famously produced one in every election from 1999 onwards.
National’s card features eight personal guarantees:
- Lowering inflation and growing the economy
- Tax cuts
- Building infrastructure through its Roads of National Significance policy
- Introducing boot camps for serious young offenders and stronger sentencing
- Lifting school achievement through an enforced hour of reading, writing and maths, alongside banning cellphones and regular assessment
- Cut health waiting times by training more health workforce
- Supporting seniors through the Winter Energy Payment and increasing Super every year
- Getting New Zealand’s emissions to net-zero by 2050
Luxon said today: “This simple eight-point manifesto will be the bedrock commitments of a government I lead. It will focus National in government, and every New Zealander will know our priorities.”
Labour has been quick to run interference on Luxon’s pledge card and has already issued its own version of what Luxon’s pledges should be.
Finance spokesman Grant Robertson’s proposed pledges take aim at National’s costings of its tax policies – and include “go back and properly cost tax scheme,” “apologise to New Zealanders for dodgy costings” and “buy new calculator.”
Luxon told the event that the more National MPs that people brought into Parliament, the easier it would be to “sweep away” the actions of the current Government.
On the cost of living, specifically groceries, he said: “Hang on, help is coming.”
“Most of us are going backwards,” Luxon said, citing a common Chris Hipkins line that Kiwis who work hard should be able to get ahead.
Luxon said he’d spent his life solving problems and getting things done. If elected, he would commit himself to making the country better.
The National leader also referenced a young couple whose lives had been dominated by “fear and stress” in buying their first home amid increasing interest rates: “You will be better off with a National Government.”
Luxon then spoke about the unnecessary regulations faced by farmers and how some had told him that it was close to becoming too hard to be a farmer in New Zealand. “Hang on, help is coming”, was his message to farmers.
Small business owners dealing with rising violent youth crime were given a shout out next. Luxon said some dairy owners were opening up every day as if they were going into battle.
Luxon said “power doesn’t concede easily” in his warning that the coming days will be “incredibly challenging” coming up against a campaign based on “fear and disinformation”.
He believed the election would be a defining moment in New Zealand’s history that would shape the country for generations.
Addressing media after his speech, Luxon said he believed the pledge card was “really important” and wanted people to be crystal clear about his priorities.
The card was about double the size of a normal business card.
He didn’t think it was a missed opportunity not to have a policy announcement today, noting the party had already released about 30-odd policies and just last week announced its tax plan. He denied National was out of ideas.
With about 37 policies already announced, Luxon said he wanted to bring them all together and people needed to be “crystal-clear” on what National was trying to achieve.
He thought the crowd had great energy.
“I think we’re making our case really strongly.”
On his inspiration for the theme of today’s event, Luxon said it was important to have a professional event.
On the earlier protests, Luxon said the proper precautions were taken, including making sure there was security and having a registration process.
Luxon said there had been times when the party had engaged private security but he said he had never felt unsafe while at community events.
Luxon, as leader of the Opposition, would receive security from the Diplomatic Protection Service - security that protected the PM - from today as it was the start of the campaign.
Luxon said he was “quite comfortable” having his children speak today, citing it was Father’s Day. He said his children wouldn’t be involved in the campaign particularly, when asked about how the campaign had featured a lot of protests already.
On his proposed foreign buyers tax and recent criticism by economists, Luxon said he was “rock-solid” on his policy.
Luxon said he’d received legal advice about how the tax would work alongside currently existing tax treaties, despite claims from the Labour Party that the tax would compromise parts of those treaties.
He said he didn’t have the advice to hand. Luxon didn’t clearly address whether he would release that advice.
“We are very comfortable in our numbers.”
Luxon said he would love to expand dental care in New Zealand but said the reality was there were other priority areas. He said he was highly sceptical of Labour’s ability to deliver on its own dental policy announced yesterday.
He would take steps to build a stronger economy, which he believed was necessary to achieve before addressing subsidised dental care. He also said National would have more to say about its healthcare policies soon.
Nicola Willis: ‘Labour loves tax like a shark loves blood’
In a pre-recorded video message played to the audience Luxon said: “Labour’s time is up, it’s time to get our country back on track.”
The National leader entered the room to to Royal Deluxe’s Day Is Gonna Come.
Luxon’s children, William and Olivia, helped introduce him to the audience.
Both redheads, William clarified that they didn’t inherit their ginger genes from their dad. Olivia said he was incredibly hard-working.
William said there was no difference between the Christopher Luxon the public saw and the Dad they had.
“You see, Dad listens, he really listens and you know your thoughts are valued by him,” William said.
Having spent much of their childhood overseas, the two children spoke with US accents. However, they said they always considered themselves to be Kiwis.
Earlier, deputy leader Nicola Willis told party faithful that Labour’s mismanagement of the economy created a situation where “prices have gone up, up, up”.
“What do New Zealanders have to show for all that money,” Willis asked after detailing the Government’s increase in spending.
”Labour loves tax like a shark loves blood ... and it’s time for National to sort it out.”
National’s launch is being presented to an audience of more than 1000 at the Due Drop Events Centre in Wiri, Auckland.
“At this election, there will be some who seek to appeal to the worst in us, to fear, to envy, to spite. Well we say no to that, we want leadership that appeals to the best in us,” Willis said.
She opposed efforts to divide people, such as Māori and non-Māori, farmer and townie, landlord and tenant.
“That’s the promise National will keep.”
Earlier: Brian Tamaki’s Freedoms NZ cause disruptions outside launch venue
Freedoms NZ leader and Destiny Church founder Brian Tamaki arranged for about 100 protesters to gather outside the National Party’s launch venue in Wiri to call on Luxon to be more upfront about his Christian values.
“Will the real Christopher Luxon please stand up?” Tamaki said in a statement today.
“Today, we call on Mr Luxon to be unequivocal about his beliefs and the leadership style he will bring to our nation.”
Tamaki and wife Hannah are already at the venue for National’s launch, flanked by about 100 protesters.
Brian Tamaki said it was ironic that the National Party was launching in South Auckland claiming the party’s leadership was out of touch with the region.
He revealed he had voted in the past for National but was now compelled to stand to fix the country.
”Labour has made a mess of our country.”
Tamaki disputed claims his party was “fringe” or he was driven by conspiracy theories. Instead he said he knew how to deal with crime and how to deal with families who couldn’t take care of themselves.
In a Facebook Live post Tamaki said he wanted to see transparency from National that children were safe and the party would take a stand against changes to sex education in schools.
Earlier outside the venue Tamaki said: “They talk about the squeezed middle. Well what about the squashed bottom?”
He described the protest as needing to put the hard questions to the government in waiting.
He continued to taunt Luxon saying “You want to talk to the squashed bottom and not the rich elite?”
Last week, Freedoms NZ candidate Karl Mokaraka interrupted Luxon’s press conference, including urging him not to shelve his anti-abortion views.
Freedoms NZ supporters had also partially blocked the entrance to Labour’s launch at the Aotea Centre yesterday, and leader Chris Hipkins’ speech was interrupted multiple times by people who had managed to get tickets into the venue, despite Labour’s attempts to check guests beforehand.
That campaign launch will kick off early afternoon and Luxon is expected to speak just before 2pm.
While Hipkins used his launch on Saturday to announce new policy – the gradual introduction of free dental care for under-30s from mid 2025 – Luxon’s is likely to focus on what he would offer as Prime Minister.
He is set to unveil his pledge card, setting out his promises of what he would deliver as Prime Minister – an apparent attempt to try to address the question of whether voters trust him.
Labour have been quick to run interference on Luxon’s pledge card and have already issued their own version of what Luxon’s pledges should be.
Finance spokesman Grant Robertsons’ proposed pledges take aim at National’s costings of its tax policies – and include “go back and properly cost tax scheme,” “apologise to New Zealanders for dodgy costings” and “buy new calculator.”
Pledge cards are a device used frequently in politics in the past both here and overseas - including by the British Labour Party and New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who famously produced one in every election from 1999 onward.
In 2005, Labour got into trouble for using Parliamentary funding for its pledge card and not including it in election spending limits. Since then, the rules for the use of Parliamentary funding during an election period have been tightened significantly.
National’s campaign launch comes as it hits the campaign trail in earnest after releasing the details of its tax policy last week.
On TVNZ’s Q+A this morning, the party’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis defended the costings around that policy, including questions about whether its proposed tax on foreign buyers and online gambling tax would raise as much revenue as the costings claimed.
Willis insisted the party had been conservative in its estimates, but would not give an answer when asked how the party would pay for the tax cuts if the expected revenue measures fell short.