Spirited minor parties debate breathes life into moribund election campaign
Winston Peters got his mojo back, while Marama Davidson was the star of the show.
Mōrena, and welcome to The Bulletin for Friday, September 22 by Catherine McGregor. Presented in partnership with Z Energy.
In today’s edition: Clean up begins as Southland state of emergency continues; Labour MP Shanan Halbert accused of bullying and harassment; and Bernard Hickey talks to the man behind Melbourne’s carbon-neutral apartment building. But first, and at long last, a reminder that election debates can be fun.
Debaters David Seymour, Marama Davidson, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Winston Peters (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)
Finally, some debate fireworks
It was, says Toby Manhire this morning, “an espresso martini” of a debate after the prescription-free Mogadon of the Chrises’ display on Tuesday. The Newshub Nation Powerbrokers debate, featuring the leaders of Act, the Greens, NZ First and Te Pāti Māori, may not have always been the most edifying of spectacles, but it provided sound evidence for why voters are flocking to smaller parties this election. Commentators including Glenn McConnell at Stuff and Michael Neilson at the Herald say the debate was fiery, unpredictable and often funny. Many of the laughs came at Winston Peters’ expense, including some delicious snark from Marama Davidson who, Manhire writes, “was the most impressive of the bunch, alternating mischief with impassioned moments”. Both Newshub’s Jenna Lynch and NZ Herald’s Simon Wilson agree Davidson was the standout, with Lynch surmising that her buddy-buddy act with Debbie Ngarewa Packer (they even high-fived at one point) was aimed at demonstrating the contrast between a potential Greens-Te Pāti Māori working relationship and a fractious National-Act-NZ First coalition.
Phantom recession confirmed, GDP data better than expected
As trailed in yesterday’s Bulletin, the latest GDP figures show NZ is not only out of recession, but the country was actually never in one at all. Stats NZ has revised its data for March from a fall of -0.1% to a fall of 0.01% (basically zero), Susan Edmunds at Stuff reports, which means NZ didn’t meet the widely accepted threshold for a technical recession which is two back-to-back quarters of negative growth. The NZ economy grew by 0.9% in the three months to June – slightly more than many economists, and the Reserve Bank itself, were predicting – driven by big increases in exports and government spending, and by 140,000 new migrants with new homes to kit out and cars to buy. But the good news may not last: high interest rates will continue to act as a drag on the economy, while the major slowdown in China will continue to have ripple effects on NZ exports. Edmunds writes that Kiwibank expects the economy “to slip into a shallow and short recession later this year” – for real this time.
Act tightens its hypothetical purse strings
Act has adjusted its alternative budget in response to last week’s pre-election fiscal update (Prefu). Leader David Seymour says the Prefu revealed that "the cupboard is bare” and so the party has revised its original plan for two tax rates, 17.5% and 28%, and is now proposing three: 17.5%, 30% and a phased-in top rate of 33% for income over $180,000. The revisions also include a speedier increase of the superannuation eligibility age to 67, and a delay to its planned increases to defence spending. Previously announced elements of the fiscal plan include the scrapping of the Climate Emergency Response Fund, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, and the Climate Change Commission. The Provincial Growth Fund, Callaghan Innovation, domestic and international film subsidies, and workforce development councils would also go.
What would a 27% vote share mean for the future of Labour?
While we’re all concentrating on what a change of government would mean for the parties on the right, there’s been rather less consideration of the potentially devastating effect on Labour and its future. In a column accompanying the new episode of RNZ’s Caucus podcast, Tim Watkin writes that if the party’s current polling of 27% holds on election night, Labour could end up with just four list MPs. “It would see the exit of senior MPs Andrew Little, Adrian Rurawhe and David Parker. But perhaps more importantly – if some marginal seats also fall in a swing back to National – Labour could lose its next generation leaders, such as Peeni Henare, Kieran McAnulty, Ginny Andersen, Priyanca Radhakrishnan and Camilla Belich.” With Hipkins confident National’s polling has peaked, Labour will be hoping its rebound is right around the corner.
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Clean up begins as Southland state of emergency continues
Rain is easing in Southland after heavy flooding yesterday prompted a state of emergency to be declared in the region. Emergency management is warning that it will take some time for the flooding to recede and people are being urged to avoid contact with the flood water as wastewater and stormwater systems struggle to cope, RNZ reports. Late on Thursday the wastewater treatment plant in Tuatapere stopped working after being inundated by flood waters, leaving the remote town with just eight hours of drinking water. In Queenstown and neighbouring Glenorchy, where a local state of emergency has now also been declared, evacuation centres were set up overnight and some residents advised to self-evacuate, according to local news website Crux. The severe weather is now moving north, with Tasman, Buller and Westland among the areas being warned to expect heavy downpours. There are also heavy snow warnings for inland Canterbury, including the Mackenzie Country, beginning early this morning, Stuff reports.
Bullying accusations levelled at Labour MP
Labour MP Shanan Halbert has been accused of bullying by several former members of staff, Newshub’s Jenna Lynch reports. The MP himself made a bullying complaint against National MP Tim van de Molen earlier this year, and one former staffer said that it was the last straw. “How dare you accuse someone of being a bully with how you treat people,” the anonymous staffer said. The accusers called the Northcote MP “manipulative”, “scheming” and “a narcissist” and said they lived in fear of him. An email thread obtained by Newshub shows that specific incidents of bullying and harassment were raised with former chief Labour whip Duncan Webb in August 2022, but no formal investigation was launched because staffers wanted to stay anonymous. Webb carried out his own informal investigation but said he "could not see a consistent thread” in his various conversations with those involved, so declined to take further action. In a statement, Halbert said he’d “had good working relationships with staff” and noted that no formal complaint had ever been raised against him.
Youth Wings: The Debate
You’ve met the young leaders from five of Aotearoa's main political parties in Youth Wings, released on The Spinoff this month. Now, watch them go head-to-head on all the big issues facing Aotearoa in Youth Wings: The Debate, filmed live at the Concert Chamber of the Auckland Town Hall and moderated by The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire.
Melbourne City's carbon-neutral apartment building
Liam Wallis is the founder of HIP V HYPE, a design agency in Melbourne that helped design, fund and build the first Nightingale project apartments in Melbourne’s Brunswick. These apartments are designed from the start to be carbon neutral, healthier, and cheaper places to heat. On the new episode of When the Facts Change, Wallis talks to Bernard Hickey about what makes Nightingale apartments special – including the dramatic difference in air circulation between their apartments and normal ones.
Click and Collect
Victoria University of Wellington is making 140 redundancies and cutting six courses.
Covid-19 subvariant BA.2.86 has been detected in New Zealand for the first time.
One in eight New Zealanders are drinking tap water not protected against the organism that has caused widespread sickness in Queenstown. (The Press, paywalled)
Click and Elect
National has launched its plan to get more international students choosing New Zealand.
National’s candidate for the Māori seat of Tāmaki Makaurau, Hinurewa te Hau, shares her favourite door-knocking story.
Chris Hipkins is staking his job on his promise to make fruit and veges GST-free by April 1.
Did you know the Powerbrokers debate was Seymour and Peters’ second debate of the day? Earlier they joined Chlöe Swarbrick, Andrew Little and Paul Goldsmith for the Business North Harbour finance debate, and Newsroom’s Jo Moir was there.
Charlotte Muru-Lanning has a business proposal for Winston Peters, who once said that he dreamed of being a chef after politics. Tommy de Silva profiles the Nelson electorate, New Zealand’s oldest (demographically), which is looking like it could swing back to National. Maddie Holden advises a reader who is worried she's a bad feminist. Sam Brooks is a reluctant convert to Dan Carter's self-help book. In conjunction with the final, moving episode of Dear Jane, read Jane's statement to her former youth group leader in full.
Black Caps were on 136 after 33.4 overs in the first one-dayer in Dhaka before severe weather forced the match to be abandoned.
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