Newsroom Pro's 8 things: Labour and National neck and neck in final week; Capital Gains Tax debate flares again

RNZ's latest "poll of polls"

In today's email we find Bill English confident of an election win even though the polls say it could go either way.

1. It's neck and neck

Rounding the turn into the home straight of the last week of the election campaign, Labour and National are essentially neck and neck on average across the latest four opinion polls.

There are still five full days of campaigning and one full televised leaders debate to go on Wednesday night. Labour had the momentum through August and into early September, but that appears to have waned in the polls in the last week as National's tax attack took effect.

The three most regular public polls, TVNZ's Colmar Brunton, Newshub's Reid Research and Roy Morgan, show a range of positions for Labour and National that centre on them both being around 40 percent. Another less regularly published poll from Horizon Research has them both around 38 percent.

The four polls have more variable measures of support for New Zealand First and Greens. The main question around the smaller parties is whether the Greens will make it over the five percent threshold needed to get back into Parliament and whether New Zealand First will get just above the threshold to around six or seven percent, or whether it is closer to eight or nine percent.

These polls have been accurate in the final week of the campaign when compared with previous actual election results for Labour and National. But they have tended to over-estimate support for the Greens by a percentage point or three and under-estimate support for New Zealand First by a similar margin.

Without any further changes in the next five days, the odds still slightly favour a Labour-New Zealand First Government ahead of a National-New Zealand First Government, with much smaller chances of a Labour-Green-Maori coalition or a National-ACT-Maori coalition.

The latest Roy Morgan poll taken by landline and mobile from August 28 to September 10 found support for National at 40 percent, down 2.5 percent from the Roy Morgan poll taken a month earlier.

Support for Labour was up 14.4 percent from the previous poll at 39.5 percent. Support for Greens was at nine percent, unchanged from a month ago. New Zealand First support was down 5.5 percent to six percent.

The Maori Party was up 0.5 percent to two percent. The Opportunities Party was unchanged at two percent and ACT was down 0.2 percent at 0.5 percent.

This chart above is the latest RNZ poll of polls that averages the polls above and has added in some unpublished polls from Curia for National and UMR for Labour.

There is one published poll that was not included in this RNZ poll of polls.

On Friday, Horizon Research published its poll of 846 registered voters randomly selected from an online panel found support for Labour at 38.2 percent and support for National at 38.5 percent. New Zealand First had support of 9.8 percent and Green support was at 7.7 percent.

The poll taken from September 9 to 14 was weighted by region, gender and age to ensure it represented the adult New Zealand population as at the last census. It found support for The Opportunities Party at 2.3 percent, ACT at 1.4 percent and the Maori Party at 0.6 percent.

The poll found support for Labour was strongest among women (42 percent of women support Labour and 33 percent support National, while 44 percent of men support National and 34 percent support Labour) and the young (52 percent of 18-24 year olds support Labour and 25 percent support National.)

The key things deciding who will lead the Government will include:

  • which of the two major parties gets the largest vote share over 40 percent,

  • how close Winston Peters can drag New Zealand First towards 10 percent,

  • whether the Greens get back into Parliament, and,

  • how many Maori MPs can be dragged in on the coat-tails of Te Ururoa Flavell in Waiariki.

There are so many variables in that above list that calling an election result or the makeup of a Government virtually impossible, or at least unwise at this stage. We will have at least three new poll results to use in any calculations by this coming Friday.

2. Capital Gains Tax flares again

Greens leader James Shaw yesterday reopened the capital gains tax debate by saying he would argue in any coalition negotiations with Labour for a capital gains tax in their first term.

In an interview with Corin Dann on TVNZ's Q+A, Shaw said the Greens would push Labour to enact a capital gains tax in its first term, although he said it would not be a condition for support.

Labour had sought to neutralise the issue on Thursday by saying Labour would not enact a capital gains tax (excluding the family home) that applied before 2021. Shaw's comment reintroduces the potential for an earlier capital gains tax and commentators said it gave National another chance to attack Labour over the issue.

"Shaw wants Ardern to do a CGT in 1st term. Labour slaps head, knowing it will spend next day denying it again. National rubs hands," RNZ's Tim Watkin tweeted yesterday morning.

Massey University political scientist Claire Robinson also said National may look to revise its attack ads after the announcement.

Jacinda Ardern later sought to cauterise the issue by saying her current position of not introducing a CGT in the first term was "non negotiable."

Elsewhere in a full suite of live interviews with Bill English, Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters, Peters said a capital gains tax would be off the table in any negotiations with Labour.

3. English: 'We're going to win'

Newsroom's Co-Editor Tim Murphy was out on the campaign trail with Bill English in Auckland yesterday. National's leader was in a remarkably buoyant mood and showed his skills as a 'retail' politician are much better than some might think.

English mingled with voters at the La Cigale French Market in Parnell on Sunday morning, along with local list MP Paul Goldsmith and his fluffy dog Langer in a National blue t-shirt.

He then went on to Botany Town Centre for an event with local National MPs Jami-Lee Ross and Judith Collins.

Tim reports English and National sense an unlikely lead-wobble-then-come-from-behind win next Saturday.

Asked if he was a betting man what he would say five days out, English was all: "Aw, we're going to win." Asked if that meant win more than Labour or win a majority, his humility extended to only: "Well, we'll certainly win more than Labour."

National's polls have them slightly ahead. Their instincts tell them they've ducked a Jacindamania bullet in this campaign.

English is so upbeat that with his wife Mary late on Sunday at the Croatian Society Hall in Te Atatu, Auckland, he told a fervently supportive crowd: "My hope is to get enough votes that on Monday the 25th of September I hope everyone [in his government] is back at work because everyone knows what's happening."

"I've gone through the list of all the things we've announced, and guys, we have a lot to do, an awful lot to do."

He told his deputy Paula Bennett, who introduced him, he was looking forward to election night's vote count. "There will be that special moment about 7.30 or 8 pm, Paula, when all the early votes that have been made are counted and they suddenly appear and basically whatever that number is is what it is going to be. And I'm really looking forward to that."

In an off-the-cuff, informal pep talk the crowd of supporters, he revealed: "Up until a week ago - maybe four or five days ago, we were really to having to push hard to get people to listen. But it started shifting when people started to understand the choices that they needed to make once the stardust settled and people had to reflect. It is not about some kind of celebrity race. It's about what is to happen in New Zealand in the next few years."

Asked as he left the hall what his gut told him with five days campaigning to go, the Prime Minister looked pumped up. "My gut tells me that as people are looking at the choice, if they're unsure, they are opting for National.

"I'm in intense interaction with the public every day and they've become much more positive and assertive about their support for National."

See Tim's piece in full over at Newsroom.

4. Lack of a jet fuel back-up

The news this morning has been dominated by the cancellation of 27 domestic and international flights from Auckland Airport over the weekend because the only jet fuel pipeline to the airport from the Marsden Point refinery ruptured on Thursday afternoon.

Swamp kauri diggers are reported to have damaged the pipe in a peat swamp near Ruakaka three months ago. The pipe ruptured on Thursday when the refinery increased the pressure. The problem for the airport is there is only one line and the refinery has said it could take at least 10 days to repair.

This was a risk identified here in a 2012 review of energy security, but it was decided that building an alternative pipeline to provide full redundancy was too expensive to justify the risks.

A disruption lasting up to two weeks could have a significant costs for the Airport, Air New Zealand and the tourism sector. Air New Zealand warned that up to 2,000 passengers a day could be affected.

5. China's global green shift

Newsroom's Foreign Affairs and Trade Editor Sam Sachdeva has been busy over the last week covering the Jian Yang revelations, but found time to talk to Professor John Mathews.

His book Global Green Shift makes the case that it is China now leading the way in the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Mathews, who teaches strategy at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney, says the rest of the world gets the wrong impression when it simply looks at China’s level of emissions.

“Of course China got a very bad rap from the Copenhagen climate conference, when it was seen as blocking stringent controls on emissions, but the point I've been making is that China has not really been focused at all on emissions as such but making its energy system more secure," he told Sam.

That goal has led it to turn to renewable energy as it was “like manufacturing your own energy system” - which, conveniently for the rest of the world, is good for the environment.

The shift has come from the top down, with Chinese President Xi Jinping adopting “ecological civilisation” as a slogan and the government boosting its investments in the renewables sector.

Mathews says there are a number of reasons underpinning China’s move into the green energy space.

Closest to home, there are increasingly high expectations from the country’s citizens that the issue of poor air, water and soil quality must be dealt with.

“The Chinese government seems to be driven by overwhelming domestic problem of domestic pollution. They have to clean that up, and renewable power and electric vehicles are clearly an important way of clearing up that shocking record."

Farther afield, there has an opportunity for China’s efforts to take up a leadership role in the climate change spaces as the United States steps back under President Donald Trump.

See Sam's full report published here first on Newsroom Pro.

6. While you were sleeping

Weekend coverage of global affairs was dominated by a new terror attack in London at a tube station and the fallout from North Korea's latest missile test on Friday that passed over Japan.

World leaders are gathered in New York this week for a meeting of the UN General Assembly and North Korea is at the top of the agenda.

As if to emphasise the strangeness of the world at the moment, Donald Trump tweeted a gif of him hitting a golf ball at Hillary Clinton... (NYT)

7. Coming up...

Bill English visits Napier and Hastings today on the campaign trail and is due to give his daily news conference around midday.

Jacinda Ardern is visiting Whanganui today and has interviews scheduled with The Edge, 95bFM, The Wanganui Chronicle, Buzzfeed Australia and NZ Herald Focus.

Statistics New Zealand is scheduled to publish June quarter GDP data on Thursday morning. The median economist forecast is for 0.8 percent growth in the quarter and 2.5 percent growth in the quarter from a year ago.

8. One fun thing

Sharon Murdoch's cartoon
over the weekend that combined the $11.7 billion fiscal black (non) hole and Murray McCully's phanton legal advice is worth a click.