With 11 days until voting closes, National has opened up a 10 per cent lead over Labour in the latest shock poll. Sam Sachdeva and Tim Murphy report from the campaign trail.
The narrative of Labour’s resurgence under Jacinda Ardern has been shaken by a new poll, showing National opening up a 10-point lead in the race to power on September 23.
In the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, National was on 47.3 per cent (up four per cent) while Labour dropped to 37.8 per cent (down 1.6 per cent).
NZ First was down slightly to six per cent, while the Greens dropped to 4.9 per cent - a result which would send them tumbling out of Parliament.
With TOP (1.6 per cent), the Maori Party (1.1 per cent), and ACT (0.6 per cent) making up the rest, National’s seeming resurgence would give it an absolute majority in Parliament as a result of “wasted votes” being reallocated.
Prime Minister Bill English told Newshub the party’s own polling still indicated “a drag race between the two big parties”, while Ardern said there had been “real volatility” in the polls.
The result runs counter to a recent string of polls showing Labour closing the gap on or overtaking National.
Newshub’s poll has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent and was conducted from September 6 to 11.
Ardern bats back inheritance tax talk
It's been a recurring topic this election: what are Labour's plans for tax?
With Jacinda Ardern pledging to set up a tax working group to look at a range of options which could be put into force after the election, but not elaborating on what taxes could be implemented, National has been free to make merry mischief by suggesting any number of possible taxes.
On the campaign trail yesterday, Prime Minister Bill English raised the idea of an inheritance tax under Labour - leading Ardern to swiftly rule out such a move on RNZ's Morning Report this morning.
In today's exclusive newsletter to Newsroom Pro subscribers, Bernard Hickey said Ardern's decision not to put any major tax changes to voters at the next election "looks to have been her biggest strategic mistake of the campaign".
"To voters, it looks like Ardern is trying to have her cake and eat too by not promising a politically painful tax, while also leaving the option open of imposing one before going to the polls again.
"The benefits of the strategy are not obvious. Why take the risk? The benefits would be less than 18 months worth of capital gains tax revenues and the changed incentives for the housing market. A Tax Working Group is unlikely to recommend a Capital Gains Tax within a year of any election, and then there's at least another six months of legislative process. By the time the law was enacted, any Labour Government would almost be at 2020 anyway."
Finance Minister Steven Joyce has sought to put Labour under further pressure, releasing a statement saying the party still had questions to answer about any capital gains or inheritance tax.
"For example, what constitutes an exempt property if it is gifted from the parents' estate?
"Do you have to live in the inherited property to be exempt from a capital gains tax, or can you just flick it on? What if you rent it out for a period? How long would that period be before you are subject to a capital gains tax on sale?
"Do the parents have to live in the property right up until when they die? What if they go into a rest home?
"And if there is no capital gains tax on an inherited family home, would there be one on shares, a family business or a farm?"
Labour could not persist with "this charade of leaving capital gains tax to a working group", Joyce said.
"If they are prepared to say some things aren't in, they need to tell New Zealanders the rest of the story."
Questions on trade
On Morning Report, Ardern also faced questions over Labour's stance on free trade agreements. The party has pledged to ban the sale of existing houses to foreign investors - a move that would put it in breach of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
Ardern told RNZ the foreign buyers policy would cool the effect of speculators on the housing market. She conceded it would affect the FTA signed with South Korea, but argued other deals would not be affected.
"If we clarify that with that Korean agreement, then, no, it wouldn't have a flow-on effect for China because that's about that favoured nation status.
"Korea has that carve-out for themselves. Australia managed to do it.
"Our government never tried - and that's the point with the TPPA as well, they never tried to seek this carve-out, other countries did - and the fact that they didn't was wrong."
Ardern told RNZ Labour was keen to remain part of TPP negotiations, but would hold its line on housing issues.
"We want to be in there but our housing bottom line is pretty firm for us, but again I'm not going to negotiate here though because I still want to be able to have a hand that's not revealed in the process we're about to go through."
Rise in business support for Labour - poll
Ardern's ascent has seen her party close the gap on National with small business owners - although the governing party still has "a healthy lead" according to MYOB.
An MYOB-Colmar Brunton survey of 400 SME business owners had support for Labour at 29 per cent, up from 10 per cent at the same point last year, with National ahead on 44 per cent (although down 13 per cent during the same period).
MYOB New Zealand general manager Carolyn Luey said Labour had made up ground since Ardern took over from Andrew Little.
“Traditionally National has the small business owner vote locked up...National retains its lead with SME owners, but Labour has definitely closed the gap.”
Luey said one concern for National was the 42 per cent who felt it was "time for a change", against 37 per cent who believed the Government deserved to be re-elected.
The poll was conducted from September 4 to 8, with a margin of error of 4.9 per cent.
Ardern casts her vote
Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford cast early votes in her Mt Albert electorate this morning.
She emerged wearing an ‘I’ve Voted’ orange sticker and told media she’d voted early for the first time in her life to get the message out to others that the opportunity was now available.
She said the chance to enrol and vote simultaneously could avoid the problem at the last election when 27,000 people went to cast votes on polling day but they were not counted because they had not enrolled.
“So, if you’re worried don’t leave it to the day. Go and enrol nice and early.”
Having had her photo opportunity voting, she would not be able to have the ceremonial moment on election day. Ardern said there were limits on what politicians could do on the day, other than vote, but she would probably just content herself with “another cup of tea.”
On a Facebook Live message from outside the booth, she said the vote had been straightforward and she hadn’t influenced Gayford’s independent vote. He said the question now was just who he had voted for, and Ardern said: “A mystery.”
Rapid start to early voting
Nearly 40,000 Kiwis cast their vote on Monday, the first day of advance voting, according to the Electoral Commission.
The turnout of 39,444 compared to 22,234 votes on the equivalent day in 2014.
You can view the daily statistics here.
Film funding boost
Earlier in the day, Labour announced plans to boost the media and film industry with $38 million in extra annual funding for "quality New Zealand programming and journalism".
The money would go into a fund distributed by an independent "public media funding commissioner".
“We also recognise that a strong, informed democracy needs a strong, independent, free public media service. Public media, backed with sustainable funding, is essential to ensuring all New Zealanders are engaged and heard. However, a commercial market cannot deliver all of this," Ardern said.
A Labour government would create a new public digital media service called RNZ+, based around state broadcaster RNZ and including a free-to-air non-commercial TV service.
“RNZ has consistently provided an incredibly valuable service to New Zealanders, despite a nine-year funding freeze from the Government in a time of massive change to the media sector. Labour will build on RNZ’s solid foundation and transform it into something closer to Australia’s ABC."
Greens want schools diversity improvement
The Green Party also made an announcement, saying it would put $5 million of funding into LGBTQIA+ support services at schools as part of its youth mental health policy.
Greens rainbow spokeswoman Jan Logie said the Greens would fund the establishment and development of peer-led programmes, as well as services and support groups for LGBTQIA+ people.
“We need to ensure that every student is safe at school, and that our schools are contributing towards breaking down stigma and discrimination against gender and sexuality,” Logie said.
Young Kiwis were being "short-changed by a society that is still not catering to their needs," she said.
English is in Christchurch for the opening of the city's justice and emergency services precinct, while NZ First leader Winston Peters is attending a public meeting in Gisborne.
Greens leader James Shaw is attending a Wellington Central candidates' debate this evening.