Welcome to the Politics Briefing. If the polls were closer, this would be perhaps the most important day of the election campaign, with Treasury sharing its revised forecasts.
But the 8.8-point gap between National and Act on the one hand and Labour, the Greens and the Māori Party in last night’s Newshub-Reid Research poll suggests that even if there were a miraculous turn-around in the books and economic outlook, it is likely too late for Labour to get back on track.
Grant Robertson may be comforted by the fact that things would be so much worse if he had not cut $4 billion out of his spending plans recently when tax revenue weakened. One outcome of the polls, however, is that even more scrutiny is likely to be applied to National’s plans and to shadow finance minister Nicola Willis.
It’s little wonder the public service is bracing itself. On top of Robertson’s cuts, Willis has already promised $8.4b more in savings over four years to part-fund her tax cuts. Another $6.2b is supposedly coming from new initiatives such as a tax on selling large amounts of luxury homes to foreign buyers. And if that revenue stream was not as real as she hoped, the tax cuts would be funded by even more cuts to government spending. Deputy political editor Thomas Coughlan has done a great backgrounder on the Pre-Election Fiscal Update and a piece on last night’s poll.
Christopher Luxon had a terrible interview on Sunday with Q+A’s Jack Tame about the credibility of the tax plan, which is only one part of National’s fiscal plan. But even Chris Hipkins acknowledged this morning there is a mood for change.
Armed with Treasury’s new forecasts, Luxon and Willis will be back to the drawing board to finalise their fiscal plan, and it needs to be a lot sharper than the “trust-me” bluster we’ve seen so far. Political editor Claire Trevett was not impressed with Luxon’s performance, as her comment piece shows. “It will go down as the interview of no answers,” she wrote.
Act leader David Seymour is making it clear he will not settle for policy peanuts when it comes to doing any coalition deal with National, and that he has some leverage. He has raised the possibility of giving National support on confidence votes as a minority government but with Act on the cross-benches holding a veto on spending policies on a case-by-case basis. It would be a recipe for constant conflict. It may well be a bluff and simply a negotiating stance. Derek Cheng reports on it.
Chris Hipkins launched Labour’s nine-point pledge flyer on Sunday following Luxon’s pledge card announcement at the campaign launch. Labour must be wondering if the same informant who told National about its work on a wealth tax and taking GST off fresh fruit and veges told National about its pledge plan. Bizarrely, among Labour’s top nine priorities is its policy to introduce financial literacy to schools. Not a bad policy but hardly a top priority.
On a lighter note, in our series on leaders unplugged, Michael Neilson goes surfing with Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Claire Trevett gets a guided tour of Upper Hutt from Chris Hipkins.
The large and colourful line-up of Northland candidates is fronting for the Taxpayers’ Union debate tonight at 7pm moderated by the hosts of The Working Group podcast, left-winger Martyn Bradbury and right-winger Damien Grant. They do ask great questions. Northland is the most marginal seat in the country and the electorate has made a habit of changing MPs: after National’s Mike Sabin resigned, Winston Peters won the byelection but was beaten by National’s Matt King at the next general election, who was beaten by Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime at the last general election by 163 votes. National Party stalwart and farmer Grant McCallum is contesting the seat, along with Act list MP and farmer Mark Cameron, former NZ First MP Shane Jones, and Matt King is back as leader of the DemocracyNZ party.
“I didn’t see it coming at the time but it has made an enormous difference because it has given a whole lot of people permission to look at the party again, and, in particular, it has given women an opportunity to look at the party again” - David Seymour on adding pink to Act’s traditional colours. (See my campaigns story below.)
Goes to Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi, who told Q+A’s Jack Tame that National and Act want to see Māori die seven to 10 years early. Just incredible.
To Jack Tame, who pushed back on Waititi and who has also put Chris Hipkins, Nicola Willis and Christopher Luxon through the fire lately - and burned some of them.
Latest political news and views
Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s senior political correspondent. She was named Political Journalist of the Year at the Voyager Media Awards in 2023, 2020 and 2018.
For more political news and views, listen to On the Campaign, the Herald’s politics podcast.