Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon has shown he is a fast learner. Where earlier he often ended on the receiving end in exchanges with the Prime Minister in Parliament, now it is the Prime Minister who who can be seen back-pedalling,
Take, for example, pressures in the health system which are causing so much anguish to New Zealanders.
The National Party has turned the spotlight on emergency departments which are facing high demand and staff shortages, with at least one district health board delaying planned surgeries for weeks.
Luxon had laid the groundwork for his questions with an earlier statement that he would commit to delivering and improving health outcomes.
“… confuses and conflates spending announcements with actually securing outcomes”, Luxon said.
After the excitement of her US visit and White House call, PM Jacinda Ardern is now engaged in the harsh realities of running a government that appears to be crumbling by the week.
Ministers are tripping over themselves – this week it was Police Minister Poto Williams who became the butt of Opposition calls for her to be sacked. Then there were the polls charting a governing party’s falling popularity, despite a huge spend-up in the latest budget.
The One News Kantar poll at the end of May put Labour’s support down at 35%. Then came the Roy Morgan poll which had Labour even lower, at 31.5%.
This is the sixth Roy Morgan sampling to show there would be a change of government if there were an election now. According to Ipsos polling, people rate National as more capable than Labour on four out of the five top issues – inflation, housing, health care, petrol prices and crime).
Opposition parties appear to have thrust the government on to the defensive on inflation and the cost-of-living crisis and are widening the attack to find chinks in the Finance Minister’s armour on his handling of the economy.
They have built a platform for the forthcoming budget debate which will ensure it is not as one-sided as in earlier years of the Ardern government.
Robertson even conceded in Parliament yesterday “we know that New Zealanders are doing it tough as global factors push up the cost of living”.
He quickly added that the government is continuing to support low- and middle-income earners through reductions in their fuel bills and income increases.
In the wake of the latest inflation figures being published today, showing the consumers price index has risen at its fastest pace in some 30 years, the burning question is whether we have a cost of living crisis.
Opposition parties (inevitably) seized on the annual 6.9 per cent CPI increase to insist prices are out of control. National Party leader Christopher Luxon says prices are a “silent thief in your pocket”.
On the other side of the political fence, the Council of Trade Unions contends that inflation is being driven by the price of property and the price of fuel.
The man who is running the economy accepts no responsibility. Finance Minister Grant Robertson says the increases in consumer prices are a “reminder of the current global economic challenges” – but he adds, almost as an afterthought, they do show the need for responsible fiscal policy in New Zealand.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon came under attack from his political opponents this week — and from some elements in the mainstream media — for proposing tax cuts to ease the pressure of what he dubbed a “cost-of-living-crisis”.
Luxon outlined his plan in his state-of-the-nation address on Sunday.
The speech might not have made an impact with the public as sharp as he would have liked, but it clearly hit a tender spot in the government. Both PM Jacinda Ardern and her deputy, Grant Robertson, came armed to Parliament on Tuesday to demolish the Luxon case.
They or their staff had also been busy briefing journalists who had been suggesting Luxon was off target, and his proposed tax cuts would be (a) inflationary and (b) ineffective.
The government’s sensitivity might have been made more acute by a political poll (the Roy Morgan sampling) which showed Labour at 32% trailing National on 38%. This was the third successive poll from the Roy Morgan outfit indicating a change of government if that mood was carried through to the election.
Only weeks into becoming leader of the National Party, Christopher Luxon has succeeded in pulling together his troops and at the same time re-shaping the message he thinks is needed to attract back the 413,000 voters who drifted away in the last election. The question is whether he can pitch the message to haul back some of those who voted for Labour in 2017 on the basis of their promises, but have since realised Labour ministers don’t have the ability or capacity to deliver them.
Initially there was some uncertainty that Luxon, with only a year behind him as an MP, could unify the faction-ridden National caucus. But he settled those doubts impressively at the two-day retreat at Queenstown, not least with his two warring predecessors, Judith Collins and Simon Bridges, showing up to breathe a new spirit of sweetness and light by the lakeside.
Covid-19 still dominates the news bulletins and there is only a shadowy outline of the political debate that will emerge in sharper focus as Christopher Luxon settles into the leadership of the National Party.
His supporters were encouraged by the bounce upward for National in the first sampling of public opinion since he took over. National rose to 33%, up 7%, in the Curia poll.
As Curia’s David Farrar noted, the overall gap between the centre-left and centre-right is basically unchanged at 6%, so the centre-right needs to pick up another 4% or so to be in a position to form a Government.
“The key difference to last month, is that people now want to hear from National, and both National and Labour are in the 30s.Also very noteworthy is Luxon’s ratings. He enters the Preferred PM ratings at 20% (Ardern 39%). That 20% rating is the highest outside an election period for any opposition leader (excluding Ardern’s six weeks) since John Key”. Continue reading “Redrawing of the political battle lines is foreshadowed”→
During Auckland’s level 4 and level 3 period – August to November – house prices rose $113,000, or 8.3%. In the 12 months to November, Auckland prices rose 27.9%.
The speed at which house prices have risen in NZ has even attracted the attention of The Economist. It noted recently that
“… in the past year, prices in NZ have shot up at a pace of more than NZ2000 a week. Costs in big cities have been going up for years, propelled by a mix of cheap borrowing and a scarcity of new homes”.
The National caucus, suddenly, seemed transformed. Whereas under Judith Collins it had been split into warring factions, under Christopher Luxon (at first blush) it is presenting a united front. Those factions quickly fell into step, adopting Luxon’s new-page philosophy.
But has the Ardern government much to fear? After all, Labour has a leader who dominates the centre ground of NZ politics, who succeeded in pulling across 400,000 voters to the party just a year ago, and who still draws crowds wherever she goes, (albeit now with some protesters, too).
National’s new leader, by comparison, has had only a year in Parliament and his talents have remained, some would say, hidden largely from the public view.
When the rising tide of dissatisfaction about a key reform programme has reached a minister’s neck, it seems smart to consider turning off a tap, if not pulling the plug.
But not Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta. She is reported to be defending the Three Waters reform amid mounting criticism of the sort that was described like this in an Otago Daily Times editorial late last week:
“Opposition to the Government’s ambitious Three Waters plan is substantial, and for good reasons.”
The Three Waters are storm, drinking and wastewater.
But although too much is unknown and/or uncertain about the government’s reform, the ODT noted, submissions from councils are to close at the end of the month.
Southern mayors have asked the Government to slow down the process and allow time for meaningful public engagement.
“This is the very least that should happen.”
Opposition to Mahuta’s grand design has been recorded throughout the country.