No ground gained in mainly lacklustre event

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National leader Judith Collins in the TVNZ leaders’ debate in...
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National leader Judith Collins in the TVNZ leaders’ debate in Auckland last night. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
An otherwise lacklustre final leaders’ debate last night erupted into acrimony over tax policy when Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said National rival Judith Collins was calling her a liar.

After half an hour of politeness with few interruptions, the two women pulled no punches when discussing taxation, Ms Collins repeating her belief that Labour will introduce the wealth tax proposed by the Green Party, and Ms Ardern retorting that Ms Collins was resorting to desperate misinformation.

"Politics is a place where you will have a lot of back and forth, but I would never stand here and blatantly call someone a liar," Ms Ardern said.

"That is, unfortunately what Ms Collins is doing now ... I have been absolutely clear on this multiple times. It is a desperate tactic and, frankly, sad."

On the results of a 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll released just before the debate, the support of the Green Party would be required for Labour to form a government.

The Greens’ tax policy includes the introduction of two new higher tax brackets and the creation of a wealth tax for people with a net worth of more than $1 million.

Ms Ardern has repeatedly said Labour would not introduce a wealth tax, and was again adamant last night that it was not a possibility.

"Any suggestion that is counter to what I have clearly stated time and time again is mischievous and, frankly, desperate."

However, Ms Collins was not backing down and said she believed Ms Ardern would accept one of the Greens’ tax requests.

"I absolutely believe they are going to do it [introduce a wealth tax] because [Green co-leader] James Shaw, [Green MP] Chloe Swarbrick, even the Labour Party minister Peeni Henare, have said so, and that they will be talking about capital gains tax."

Ms Ardern interjected that Ms Collins had been saying this for two weeks.

"It is a desperate political strategy to try and get votes, and it is wrong ... this is a blatant campaign of misinformation I am putting a stop to."

That stop was short-lived, with Ms Collins saying Labour could not afford to pay the Greens’ price for support without raising extra revenue.

Labour had repeatedly made promises it had not delivered on, Ms Collins said.

"It gets to the stage where you have had so many promises made, with no delivery, such as KiwiBuild, child poverty ... it is important to understand that the Greens have extremely expensive promises they are making to their voters."

The 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll showed Labour down slightly, by 1% to 46%, but still with a commanding lead over National’s 31%.

Both Act New Zealand and the Green Party recorded 8%, and the late rally by New Zealand First continued as it recorded 3%.

However, if this debate was the last push to win over undecided voters, neither leader produced a determined shove.

Both Ms Ardern and Ms Collins stuck to tried and trusted responses from their repertoire and, apart from the exchange on tax, both women kept interjections to a minimum.

While Ms Collins was as poised and polished as she has been throughout the campaign, she failed to best Ms Ardern in a debate that she needed to win decisively.

The Labour leader did not need to push herself to keep Ms Collins at arm’s length and enjoyed a comfortable evening’s work.

Ms Ardern did make one surprise comment, however, saying she would step down as Labour leader should her party lose tomorrow’s election.

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