Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8: Jacinda's first mistake; Dunne in trouble

The latest opinion polls are not good news for National's support partner, United Future leader Peter Dunne. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

In today's email we catch up on a busy weekend in politics.

1. Jacinda's first stumble

Jacinda Ardern's first major policy announcements as Labour Leader have forced the party onto the back foot in a policy sense at least.

Her regional fuel tax and water royalty policies are being portrayed as new taxes that would hit poorer drivers hardest and increase food costs.

The issue of a Capital Gains Tax also looks set to come back onto the political agenda after Labour's finance spokesman Grant Robertson left open the chance of a CGT being introduced in the first term in a debate on The Nation on Saturday. Previous leader Andrew Little had ruled out such a tax in his first term.

Ardern announced last Wednesday a Labour Government would impose a water royalty on bottlers and commercial users, including for irrigation of dairy farms, vineyards, orchards and vegetable growers.

But the policy statement left the amount of any royalty vague, only saying it would be proportionate and be set after consultation with those affected. Ardern said she would host a round-table conference in Parliament with all affected sectors to discuss the issue.

The Government and farmers then jumped in to fill in the blanks in the policy, which was immediately described as a new tax. National's Nick Smith warned of hundreds of billions in taxes, while horticulturalists talked of $18 cabbages and farmers warned it would increase food costs.

Labour's Water spokesman David Parker was forced to put out a statement accusing farmers and the Government of scare-mongering. He had to fill in the blank and put a one or two cent per thousand litres (cubic metre) estimate on the royalty.

National's campaign manager Steven Joyce estimated the cost per dairy farmer at around $50,000 on The Nation on Saturday and accused Ardern's Labour of being a tax and spend party that was "dodgy" on tax.

"They’re refusing to say about the capital gains, they’ve mentioned a water tax last week, but they won’t tell us how much it is, and then, of course, they’ve got a regional fuel tax. They won’t talk about where it goes beyond Auckland," Joyce said on The Nation.

Parker went on Q&A on Sunday to rubbish the $50,000 per farm estimate, saying a royalty at a two cent/cubic metre level would cost around $100 million.

That would equate to around $10,000 per year per farmer if they were equal users of irrigated water, but in reality the cost would fall mostly on the big irrigators in Canterbury.

Parker said the $100 million estimate was the same cost as that estimated by Smith for the clean-up costs for waterways every year for the next 23 years.

"The level of scaremongering around this would make Donald Trump blush," he said.

2. The Jacinda effect in Ohariu

However, the Government is clearly in trouble, particularly around its support partners.

Q+A published a Colmar Brunton poll yesterday showing Labour candidate and former Police Association head Greg O'Connor well ahead of United Future leader and MP Peter Dunne in the Wellington electorate of Ohariu.

The poll taken over the last week showed O'Connor on 48 percent, Dunne on 34 percent and National's Brett Hudson on 14 percent. The poll of 501 voters from August 5 to 9 found nine percent did not know who they would vote for.

National has already told its supporters in Ohariu to give their electorate votes to Dunne and their party votes to National, but the message has yet to get through to some.

This raises the question of whether National would completely pull Hudson from the ballot to protect Dunne, although that would likely cost it some party votes and smack of panic.

Another sign of the volatility in the electorate was the poll's finding that 27 percent of those who voted for Dunne in the last election said they would vote for O'Connor on September 23.

3. National's boot camps

National sought to grab the agenda back on Sunday with announcement of a $30 million plan over four years to put 30 serious youth offenders per year through a boot camp at Waiouru.

Such boot camps are controversial and not universally popular within the Government. Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said as recently as July 27 that such boot camps hadn't been particularly effective.

"And if you haven't got sufficient oversight then children can actually suffer physical harm, or certainly emotional harm as a result," Tolley told the Sunday programme.

Chief Science Adviser Peter Gluckman has also told the Government such boot camps are of limited use.

National, however, put its full weight behind the plan this morning.

"We take the view that we think the culture of the Army is the right one to work with these kids," Bill English told Morning Report this morning.

4. Shaw tries Green reset

Greens remaining leader James Shaw took a bold and frank approach yesterday to trying to reset the Greens' election campaign.

He sent out a series of tweets announcing a return to the 2014 campaign slogan of 'Love New Zealand' and apologising to supporters for the last month of dramas.

"Our slogan for this campaign was ‘Great Together’. But we haven’t been all that together and it hasn’t been all that great," Shaw tweeted.

"We started out talking about the problem of poverty in New Zealand. We ended up talking about our own problems. It’s been messy," he said.

He also announced a slight re-emphasis on the Green part of the platform, rather than the social justice part focused on by Metiria Turei.

"I'm here to get NZ moving on climate change, to restore our precious natural world, to end poverty and to change the way we do politics."

5. Going after the boomers

Meanwhile, Gareth Morgan formally launched The Opportunities Party's election campaign in Wellington Friday.

Newsroom's Sam Sachdeva was there and reported on the launch first on Newsroom Pro.

Sam reports Morgan, himself a boomer, had a good crack at baby boomers in his launch speech.

“The opportunities that allowed us to [succeed] were also based on the notion that each generation would pass on to the next a better country than they were born into," Morgan said.

Something has gone terribly wrong with that idea, he said.

“The current generation, the baby boomers, may be the first to leave behind a New Zealand of shrinking opportunities, less fairness and more inequality than they were born into.”

6. Aussies to deport NZ teens?

Newsroom's Shane Cowlishaw reported exclusively on Friday that an Australian committee will soon report back on whether to allow the deportation of under 18-year-old migrants, including New Zealanders, who commit crimes.

It has New Zealand officials worried, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) asking for information from its Australian counterparts on the possible implications for New Zealanders.

“The New Zealand Government has engaged with the Australian government on the inquiry, and has asked that the impact of any change in legislation that would lead to the deportation of New Zealander’s under 18 be carefully considered,” an MFAT spokesperson said.

“The New Zealand Government will monitor any recommendations that have the potential to affect New Zealanders.”

See Shane's report in full, which was published first on Newsroom Pro.

7. Coming up...

Bill English is scheduled to hold his weekly post-cabinet news conference in Wellington this afternoon. It will be the last one before the house rises for the election on Thursday and the Government moves more into caretaker mode.

8. One fun thing

Peter Dunne's plight attracted some attention over the weekend.

Lukeurmyson tweeted:

"No question, this is a disastrous poll for United Future. I'm calling on Peter Dunne to step aside to let his bow tie be leader."