The stark choice
By Richard Harman (author)
As the campaign entered its final 48 hours yesterday, it finally got back to the issues that it should have been about all through.
The divisions between National and labour were never more starkly outlined than yesterday's Leaders' campaigns.
Jacinda Ardern began her day at a Mangere budget advisory service
Bill English was in central Auckland talking to clients of one of the city’s top law firms.
Ardern sat and listened as Darryl Evans, CEO of the Mangere Budget Advisory Service outlined a catalogue of problems faced by the lower socio-economic clients of his service.
In fact, he said, there were so many clients he did not have a spare appointment till the first week of October.
But he told her about families living for months on end in caravans; he told of one family of 10 living in a caravan.
There were families being hosted by the Department of Social Development in cockroach infested motels, and he talked the ravages being wrought on family budgets by mobile trucks and loan sharks who both offered credit to families who had run out of cash and could not pay for basics like school uniforms.
He said his day had begun with a family turning up just after seven who had no money for food, so he had arranged breakfast for them.
Ardern was there to highlight the reasons Labour is going to reverse National's tax cuts next April and instead deliver targeted relief to poorer families.
“National have claimed we are increasing income tax; we are not," she said.
"We never have, we never did.
“For them to try and campaign on that to confuse voters was wrong.
“It was a disservice to voters.”
Instead, she said, 70% of families would be better off under Labour's package.
"That's because we are more targeted.
“I’m not getting a tax cut because I don’t need it.
“But families who do, will be under Labour’s plan.”
Speaking to clients at the law firm, Minter Ellison, Prime Minister Bill English took a different tack.
After he had outlined the building boom that was going on and the Government’s huge investment in infrastructure such as schools he said: “We also want to take the opportunity to spread the benefits of growth into all our families and households.
“While this building boom has been going on, we’ve been paying attention to who is worst off; who should be rewarded better for their hard work and the result of that was the family incomes package in the Budget.
“The nature of that has now become clear through the debate that we have had in the election campaign.
“So we are reducing taxes moderately for low and middle-income earners, someone on the average wage, under National if we are re-elected will be about $1000 a year better off.”
English’s argument then becomes controversial because he claims that Labour is proposing to tax families more.
Strictly speaking, that's true because Labour would reverse next April's tax cuts.
At the same time, it would preserve the Working for Families increases (but with some increases in some rates) announced in National's Budget.
Labour says the combination of these changes will increase the amount of Working for Families payments for every family currently receiving them, and increase the number of families receiving Working for Families payments by over 30,000 plus it would also offer the following benefits:
- Introduce a Best Start payment to help families with costs in a child’s early years
- Introduce a Winter Energy Payment for people receiving superannuation or the main benefit.
- Reinstate the Independent Earners’ Tax Credit.
- Implement the Accommodation Supplement increases announced in Budget 2017.
- Introduce 26 weeks paid parental leave to ensure that families are provided with vital support at a crucial stage in their children’s lives.
Thus the two parties have defined themselves --- National will “spread” the benefits of growth around while Labour will directly address poverty in society.
National’s approach is winning support, but the question is how much more support than Labour is it gaining.
National was buoyed last night by the Colmar Brunton poll which showed it on 46% and Labour on 37%.
But before the poll was published, POLITIK was shown National's own polling, probably from earlier in the week which had the party on 43% and Labour on 39%.
National sources told POLITIK that polling available yesterday morning showed National's support had softened on that poll which suggests that the two main parties are much closer than the Colmar Brunton poll.
But of major interest was the apparent slide of NZ First --- on 5.5% in National's polling and 5% in the Colmar Brunton poll. The party is in danger of falling below the 5% threshold and may have to rely on Winston Peters holding his Northland seat to get back into Parliament.
National had the Greens on 6%, and Colmar Brunton had them on 8% --- given that not all their supporters tend to vote they are still in danger of not making it back into Parliament, but that danger is less than that confronted by NZ First.
This suggests that even though Winston Peters may be losing votes, neither main party will be able to form a Government without him.