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Election 2023 live updates: Christopher Luxon on campaign trail, Hipkins calls Nats’ tax plan a ‘scam’, Sir John Key out to woo voters

Derek Cheng
Focus Live: Chris Luxon makes announcement at Rocket Lab

National leader Christopher Luxon wants to appoint a Minister for Space and establish a Space Prize for students.

Christopher Luxon made the announcement today at Rocket Lab in Auckland today.

“National is committed to rebuilding the economy, bringing down the cost of living, and delivering tax relief so that New Zealanders can get ahead. High-tech, high skills sectors such as aerospace offer an incredible opportunity to lift wages and help grow the economy,” Luxon said.

“National is ambitious for New Zealand’s space and advanced aviation industries, which are already delivering benefits through employment, research, international connections and prestige.”

Meanwhile, National has conceded only 3000 households will get full tax relief with their proposed policy.

Finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis said at least 1.4 million New Zealanders would get about $30 a fortnight, but admitted only 3000 households will get $250 a fortnight under National’s tax package.

She rejected Labour’s claim that National had been misleading.

National had previously targeted its tax package at helping the “squeezed middle, making a family with kids on the average income of $120,000 up to $250 a fortnight better off, and an average-income child-free household up to $100 a fortnight better off”.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said National’s marketing around its tax package was a “scam” and it went to the heart of National leader Luxon’s integrity.

STORY CONTINUES AFTER THE LIVE BLOG

STORY CONTINUES

He said National had implied that an average family would get $250 a fortnight, but “their numbers once again don’t add up”.

“The sad thing is that some might have already voted after being tricked into believing National’s lie.”

Earlier, Sir John Key sent a message for voters to ditch New Zealand First for National.

It follows the latest 1News Verian poll last night showing a slight dip in support for the right, with National and Act still short of a parliamentary majority without New Zealand First, which would have eight MPs.

National’s support was unchanged from a week ago on 36 per cent, but was down from 37 per cent and 39 per cent in the same poll in previous weeks. Act had dropped two points to 10 per cent, with NZ First benefitting. Labour, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori were all steady on 26, 13 and 2 per cent respectively.

Since saying he would work with NZ First if he had to, National leader Christopher Luxon has been trying to woo voters away from NZ First by telling them that it will be a tight election, and asking them to back National to ensure a change of government.

In a social media campaign launched this morning, Key’s lines mirror Luxon’s: “The election result is far from certain. Imagine if we woke up on 15 October in limbo land. To make sure National has the numbers it needs to govern well for you, without lots of moving parts, make sure you party vote National.”

Without naming NZ First, Key notes the potential “uncertainty” in the coming election result, adding that such uncertainty would have been an unnecessary hand-brake on him during the Global Financial Crisis.

“We could only take decisive action because there was a clear result on election night and a strong mandate to get things done... Uncertainty means no action to fix the economy and lower your cost of living.”

It comes as both Labour and National criticised the Electoral Commission for failing to have 1.4 million EasyVote packs delivered before early voting started this week.

But the commission said there was nothing unusual with the packs arriving after voting has started, and most of the remaining packs will be delivered in the coming days.

Chief electoral officer Karl Le Quesne, however, did reveal an error that has led to a reprinting of packs for voters in the Epsom, Mt Albert and Papakura electorates, where packs won’t be fully delivered until October 11 or 12.

“You don’t need to wait for your EasyVote card to vote,” Le Quesne clarified.

“If you haven’t got your card, staff at the voting place will ask for your name and address and look you up on the electoral roll to make sure you receive the correct voting papers.”

Speaking from his Covid-19 isolation, Labour leader Chris Hipkins said failing to have those packs delivered already was a “serious error”, and potentially contributing to lower voter turnout than would otherwise happen.

“We know from our door knockers and our phone canvassing, it is creating huge confusion with voters.”

Luxon added that he was disappointed in the commission.

Early voting numbers are tracking behind 2020 but ahead of 2017 so far, with 2020 being somewhat of an outlier given the likely higher motivation to vote early during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Almost 130,000 votes were cast in the first two days of advanced voting, compared to 88,000 in 2017.

Still in isolation with Covid-19 yesterday, Hipkins used his Zoom press conference to highlight a report by Goldman Sachs analysts about the potential for National’s tax package to keep interest rates higher for longer and push up house prices.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins hosting a Zoom press conference yesterday. Photo / Derek Cheng
Labour leader Chris Hipkins hosting a Zoom press conference yesterday. Photo / Derek Cheng

The report added that an injection of foreign money into the housing market would add inflationary pressure, and National’s plans to reach surplus by 2026/27 could become a $2 billion deficit if National couldn’t increase revenue or cut spending by as much as promised.

The revenue from National’s proposed foreign buyers tax is based on selling 1700 homes a year at an average sales price of $2.9 million, but National has refused to say how they came to these numbers, prompting Labour to say they’ve been plucked from thin air.

“Disagree strongly,” said Luxon in response to the Goldman Sachs analysts.

He said the tax plan was “fully funded”, cutting taxes was less inflationary than government spending, and that he planned to spend $3.5b less than Labour.

The main way to keep house prices from skyrocketing was to increase supply, he added.

Luxon pointed to a Westpac pre-election bulletin, which assessed Labour’s fiscal plan as “being skewed towards delivering a slightly weaker fiscal position compared to the right-leaning parties”.

“It is also plausible that coalition negotiations with the Greens and Te Pāti Māori could also lead to more pressure on the fiscal outlook. This is because by ruling out the imposition of a wealth tax, the Labour Party has rejected the key revenue-raising initiative that the Greens and Te Pāti Māori parties have posited to fund the significant new expenditures that each is seeking.”

It also noted that the short-term economic outlook would be “little changed” regardless of who won the election, due to “little apparent desire by either the National or Labour to take decisive action to cut spending or raise revenue to achieve a surplus before 2026/27″.

National leader Christopher Luxon campaigning on the West Coast yesterday. Photo / George Heard
National leader Christopher Luxon campaigning on the West Coast yesterday. Photo / George Heard

Luxon used his visit to talk up infrastructure investment, and supporting mining on conservation land on a case-by-case basis, given not all conservation land is created equal.

He talked about too much regulation on farmers, which was also the target of Act leader David Seymour in announcing he wanted to scrap He Waka Eke Noa, the Natural Built and Environments Act, Significant Natural Areas, the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, and the so-called “ute tax”.

Seymour said farmers need relief from “an avalanche of red tape and regulation”, though his policies have been criticised as loosening environmental protections and crippling New Zealand’s chances of meeting international climate change commitments; agricultural emissions account for roughly half of the country’s emissions.

Today is Hipkins’ last day in isolation, though he might emerge today if he tests negative.

He was still testing positive yesterday but was still campaigning, with a virtual town hall meeting last night with questions moderated by the party.

Luxon is campaigning in the North Island today, while TVNZ is hosting a small party debate tonight.

Derek Cheng is a senior journalist who started at the Herald in 2004. He has worked several stints in the press gallery and is a former deputy political editor.