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Late Labour surge in poll sees left bloc overtake right; Luxon says he has Peters' phone number

Derek Cheng,
Publish Date
Fri, 13 Oct 2023, 7:26AM

Late Labour surge in poll sees left bloc overtake right; Luxon says he has Peters' phone number

Derek Cheng,
Publish Date
Fri, 13 Oct 2023, 7:26AM

Labour is enjoying a last-minute surge according to figures obtained by the Herald.

Labour’s latest Talbot Mills internal poll has National on 35 per cent, Labour on 30 per cent, the Greens on 13 per cent, Act on 8 per cent, NZ First on 6 per cent, and Te Pati Maori on 4 per cent.

It means the left bloc has overtaken the right, with 47 per cent to 43 per cent. NZ First, however, holds the balance of power and would be needed to form a government. NZ First and Labour have ruled each other out.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins is spending the day making a final plea to win over undecided voters and says he is still confident he will be Prime Minister for the next three years.

Hipkns said Labour has had more than 200,000 successful direct contacts with New Zealanders - a record for the party.



“We get really strong support in South Auckland and the key issue here is turning out to vote in South Auckland.

“South Auckland is always incredibly important for Labour.”

He said he was going “full tilt to make sure that we win tomorrow” and he was not thinking about a “plan B.”

“I look forward to being back here in three years’ time as Prime Minister seeking another term.”

He said he had left everything out on the field in this campaign.

Hipkins also reiterated that Labour will not work with NZ First.

Also on the campaign trail, likely kingmaker Winston Peters said he should have been allowed to defend himself in last night’s 1News Leaders’ Debate by appearing in the debate himself against attacks lobbed by Labour’s Chris Hipkins.

Peters was speaking to the media after he cast his vote at All Saints Church in Ponsonby this afternoon.

“Might I just say, one person was mentioned over and over again so I want to know why the system, paid for by the taxpayer called TVNZ, didn’t allow me the decency to put me in the debate so I could defend myself,” Peters said.

National leader Christopher Luxon continues his march north with visits to Matamata and Morrinsville.

Matamata was only a brief stop consisting of a few conversations with cafe-goers.

In last night’s final 1News Leaders’ Debate, National leader Christopher Luxon says he would “absolutely” get a free trade deal signed with India in his first term, even though India has shown little appetite for one given its protectionist stance. 

Luxon made the comment during TVNZ’s leaders’ debate last night, a step up from his previous comments about it being a priority. 

Labour leader Chris Hipkins immediately challenged him on it. 

“You’re misleading New Zealanders. That is a promise you will not be able to deliver on. Are you going to tell them [India] they have to?” asked Hipkins, noting that previous governments hadn’t been able to secure one. 

Hipkins said he would lead a trade delegation to India within 100 days of taking office. “I’m not going to make a promise I might not be able to fulfil.”

Labour has faced allegations it was ignoring India since before the Covid-19 pandemic. Former prime minister Dame Jacinda Ardern never visited, though Trade Minister Damien O’Connor and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta visited this year. The last prime ministerial visit was by Sir John Key in 2016. 

Such a deal with India is challenging given how tariff-free access for dairy, meat and horticulture could undercut local Indian producers. 

New Zealand’s top trade official Vangelis Vitalis said at the end of last year that it was a “distant prospect” and he urged patience. He encouraged exporters to engage in their own ways with India. 

Chris Hipkins (left) and Christopher Luxon face off in the last televised leaders' debate. Photo / TVNZChris Hipkins (left) and Christopher Luxon face off in the last televised leaders' debate. Photo / TVNZ 

The debate was their last chance to impress in a face-to-face scenario, and Hipkins often interjected, with Luxon often telling him to “calm down”. 

“Let me finish, please. You’re being really disrespectful,” Luxon told Hipkins, who replied: “Well if you just answered the questions.” 

They clashed further on poverty reduction, with Hipkins saying it was important to index benefit levels to average wage growth, rather than inflation. 

Luxon said “building a better economy” was the answer, noting there were 60,000 more people on a benefit over the past six years. 

Luxon said indexing benefits to inflation was right because it protected purchasing power. National’s move would improve its books by $2 billion over four years. 

“That’s thousands more children in poverty,” Hipkins interjected. 

He then attacked National’s tax breaks for landlords by restoring interest deductibility on rental income, noting how landlords with at least 200 properties each would get more than $1.3 million on average over five years, according to an analysis by the Council of Trade Unions. 

“Your moral compass is entirely wrong,” Hipkins said. 

Luxon: “Here Chris goes again, misinformation, we are not cutting benefits ... You need to listen to Taylor Swift [and] calm down.” 

Chris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon repeatedly clashed over a number of issues. Photo / TVNZChris Hipkins and Christopher Luxon repeatedly clashed over a number of issues. Photo / TVNZ 

The debate started with a poll result showing 43 per cent of people trusted Hipkins more than Luxon, while 33 per cent trusted Luxon more than Hipkins. 

Luxon said he would “continue to earn trust” and had real-world leadership experience after spending his whole career solving problems. 

Hipkins said trust wasn’t earned by “slogans with no substance behind them” but by answering questions, a shot at Luxon’s apparent inability to answer questions directly. 

“They want substance, not a PM who walks away from questions which you have repeatedly been doing,” Hipkins said. 

“I don’t trust Christopher Luxon. If you look at his tax swindle for example, not many New Zealanders will get the full benefit.” 

National has not always used the words “up to” when selling its tax package as delivering up to $250 a fortnight to a family on the average income. 

Luxon shot back that he didn’t trust Hipkins: “No, he doesn’t deliver. It’s not in his DNA.” 

Labour leader Chris Hipkins says trust isn’t earned by “slogans with no substance behind them” but by answering questions. Photo / TVNZLabour leader Chris Hipkins says trust isn’t earned by “slogans with no substance behind them” but by answering questions. Photo / TVNZ 

Luxon noted how Labour has lost five ministers this year, to which Hipkins referred to National MP Sam Uffindell, who was accused of bullying in his youth. 

“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. None of my MPs beat people up with a bed leg,” said Hipkins. 

Luxon rejected that ruling in NZ First leader Winston Peters was an own goal, instead saying it was a principled stance to avoid another Labour-led government. 

National has been trending down in the polls after being on the rise until Luxon said he would make the call to Peters as a last resort, though he preferred a National-Act coalition. 

Hipkins and Peters have ruled out working with each other, but Luxon noted that wasn’t the case in 2017. 

“Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, wouldn’t do it again,” replied Hipkins. 

They both said they hadn’t thought about what they would do if they didn’t win. 

On advice to each other if they lost, Hipkins said he’d tell Luxon to brush up on answering questions, while Luxon told Hipkins he needed to “follow through and deliver for New Zealanders”. 

Christopher Luxon has pledged to seal a free trade deal with India. Photo / TVNZChristopher Luxon has pledged to seal a free trade deal with India. Photo / TVNZ 

After the debate, Luxon said he was going to “work towards” a free trade deal with India before clarifying: “We are going to get a free trade agreement with India in our first term.” 

He said he wanted to present a positive vision and Hipkins was “incredibly negative and incredibly personal”, adding that Hipkins’ comment about the bed leg was a “low blow”. 

“It was emblematic of his approach in the campaign. It’s a sad thing for the New Zealand people.” 

He said he wasn’t going to cut benefits but use the old system of indexing benefit levels to inflation rather than wages, which would leave beneficiaries more out of pocket relative to the status quo. 

“It’s not a cut and it’s not fair for beneficiaries to hear that. Every year beneficiaries are going to get an increase adjusted for inflation.” 

Hipkins said his comment about the bed leg was a response to Luxon talking about the ministers Labour had lost. 

“He challenged me, I challenged him back.” 

On interrupting Luxon repeatedly, Hipkins said he was always going to challenge Luxon when he was “being evasive”. 

“I think tax breaks for landlords over [those on] welfare is going to ultimately push people into poverty. I think they should be challenged on that.” 

He said there were opportunities for trade in India but the Government had been told to build the relationship rather than try to jump into pushing for a free trade deal. 

On Luxon saying he spent $60 a week on groceries for himself, Hipkins said he was “very concerned about his diet”. 

Asked about Luxon telling him to “calm down”, Hipkins said: “To quote another Taylor Swift song, I think he needs to ‘shake it off’.” 

Hipkins had been keen to make an impact after some recent polls gave Labour a sniff of hope, showing the vote was moving around a bit and the left bloc of parties were making gains on the right. 

While it remains difficult for the left to get the 61 seats to form a government without NZ First, its chances would improve if NZ First fell short of the 5 per cent threshold. 

Luxon was aiming to try to secure more support to help get there without NZ First – but also reassured voters he would be able to work with Peters. 

Yesterday, Hipkins cast his vote after delivering a speech attacking National, Act and NZ First on race relations – from co-governance to the Treaty - at Ngā Whare Waatea Marae. 

“If they win, Māori lose. Their common ground is you. The future of our country cannot be built on the ruins of a people.” 

Luxon responded by saying Hipkins was just grasping at straws. “It’s actually quite sad that in the death throes of this government, they are literally just throwing anything to see what sticks.” 

The National leader spent yesterday doing a range of media interviews before visiting an early childhood centre in Te Atatu Peninsula. 

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. 

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