Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has admitted Labour was going into the election as the “underdog” after a tough few months for the Government, but he’s optimistic the party can fight back and win the election.
His comments this morning follow a 1News-Verian poll that had Labour dropping four points to 29 per cent.
National was up two points to 37 per cent and Act up one point to 13 per cent. That would see National-Act with 65 seats, enough to easily form a government.
Hipkins told TVNZ’s Breakfast voters are a “bit grumpy” towards Labour.
”We’ve got a big climb ahead of us. I’m absolutely determined to get out there and campaign hard. I am aiming to win this election and I think we can do that.”
He also said the campaign was just getting started, suggesting most people weren’t paying much attention to the election yet.
The Prime Minister was “very comfortable” that NZ First leader Winston Peters had ruled out working with Labour - but would not be drawn on whether he would rule out working with NZ First in return.
”In the next few weeks I’ll set out our preferred governing arrangements,” including which parties they would or would not work with.
‘Work to do, no question’
Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking, Hipkins said there was “work to do, no question”.
“We’ve dealt with some difficult issues, we’ve taken a knock with the polls but there’s everything to campaign for.”
Hipkins faced questions about whether the campaign trail had started in earnest, saying the party has not been campaigning “full time” but would start kicking into gear shortly.
He defended the Labour Party’s policy to remove the $5 fee from prescriptions, saying it was a “small contribution to help with the cost of living”.
The National Party revealed last night it wants to bring back the $5 fee for those who can afford it and use the money for 13 cancer treatments available in Australia but not in New Zealand.
Hipkins likened this announcement to “taking medicine from one group of New Zealanders to give to another” and said it was “not necessary”.
”We can increase funding for Pharmac and have free prescriptions”.
National’s numbers ‘simply don’t add up’
Speaking to RNZ, he attributed National’s rise to the many promises the party was making such as planned tax cuts, while being vague about what would be cut to pay for them.
“Now that National’s the frontrunner I’m sure there’s going to be a lot more scrutiny…their numbers simply don’t add up.”
Hipkins said the country was turning the corner economically, with inflation falling, GDP growth returning and exports looking positive long-term.
And he pushed back on suggestions the poll was a response to plans to remove GST from fruit and veges - pointing out the last TVNZ poll had been several months ago and the drop in support would reflect a number of difficult issues Labour had dealt with.
National leader Christopher Luxon’s popularity remained at 20 per cent while Hipkins had dropped three points to 21 per cent.
Asked if he bore responsibility for the fall in Labour’s popularity, Hipkins said that “in my short time as Prime Minister I’ve had to deal with some really difficult issues. I didn’t get to determine those issues…overall the Govt’s taken a bit of a hit as a result of some of that”.
Asked if he was committed to leading the Labour Party before and after the election, Hipkins said he was “absolutely committed to winning the election”.
Last night’s poll results would give National 48 seats in Parliament and Act 17, meaning together the parties would have 65 seats and enough for a majority of the 120-seat House.
The Green Party was on 12 per cent, up two points from the last poll. Te Pāti Māori held steady on 3 per cent.
Labour’s 37 seats with the Greens’ 15 and Te Pāti Māori’s three combined to only 55 seats
New Zealand First was bumped up one point to 4 per cent - close to the 5 per cent threshold to enter Parliament.
The Opportunities Party, Freedoms NZ and Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis were all on 1 per cent.
Twelve per cent of people polled didn’t know how they would vote or would not say.
Out of five 1News polls this year, all had shown a decrease in support for Labour.
A poll conducted by Talbot Mills for its corporate clients was also released during the 1News Verian polling period and showed Labour on 32 per cent, up one percentage point from its previous poll and National on 35 per cent, down one point.
The Talbot Mills poll’s period largely overlapped with that of August 10′s Taxpayers’ Union - Curia poll which had Labour dropping to 27.1 per cent and National well ahead on 34.9 per cent.
Talbot Mills also does Labour’s internal polling, while Curia Research does National’s internal polling.
The Talbot Mills poll also had Hipkins leading National leader Christopher Luxon in preferred Prime Minister, 34 per cent (up 2) and 24 per cent (up 3) respectively. The Taxpayers’ Union -Curia poll had the pair even on 25 per cent.
In the last 1News Verian poll on July 17, National and Act had enough to form a government but only by one seat.
The latest Newshub Reid Research poll, released at the beginning of the month, also found National and Act could govern together with Labour dropping 3.6 points to 32.3 per cent.
National had been up 1.3 points to 36.6 per cent and Act was up by the same amount to 12.1 per cent.
That gave the two potential coalition partners 47 and 16 seats respectively - together 63 and enough to form a majority in the 120-seat Parliament.