Clark, Anderton, Prebble, Winston And Shipley - with John Campbell as presenter. Format: a minute to start - tax - income inequality - student loans - vision - and media analysis to boot. And the consensus is.... Winston Won!
Note: The following is a combination of observation, quotation and literary license and should not be taken as an accurate record of the debate….
Prebble in Black suit – fairly wooden monologue from written notes..complimented by presenter John Campbell for being under a minute.
Jim Anderton - also black suited – “This election is about Jobs – this surely can’t be as good as we can get.”
Yellow suited Helen Clark – “We are not a hard and mean people. fairness opportunity and security. We are not pretending we can change it in a month…… we want to build a fairer country.”
Jenny Shipley – If you want trade negotiations…National is the party – if you want (fill in the gap)….National is the party….. sounded almost like a poem
Shipley appeared to have been getting plenty of practice with engaging with the viewer through the camera and was almost hypnotic.
Winston Peters – dark pinstripe (as always) – Voters are faced with two options either a complicated election with lots of parties or a simple election with three political parties – two old grey parties and one exciting new party who will keep them all honest.
Leaders allowed to speak in order of tax rate proposed – highest to lowest.
Anderton: Australia has 47% tax rate on $50,000 – don’t go to Australia to get away or you will get a shock. My challenge is for the PM to explain how she can tax less and spend more.
Shipley: Every NZer who earns $9000 or more will get a tax cut on the 1st of April.
Jim: That’s not an explanation that’s a nonsense.
Helen Clark: Talked about the things she would do with the money.
John Campbell: Those are noble ambitions – but how do so much for $400 million?
Clark: Thanks to National we now know there is $400 million for tax cuts and $400 million for new spending next year. We will have that and fill the gaps in health with it as well. Do people want the tax cuts or that money to make a real difference?
John Campbell Question To Winton Peters: Given the tax rates range from 47 to 20 points. Where do you go?
Winston: Well firstly we may very well remain on the cross benches and vote issue by issue after the election. But on the issue of taxation we will not tax success. Nor will we allow the country to cut taxes and run deficits.
John: So what will you do then?
Winston: Let me sort this out once and for all. We will go with the party that understands….. listed several things before eventually interrupted.
Question to Shipley: Is this fair?
Shipley: We have two priorities.. The first is to reward hard working NZers who pay the tax. Our second priority is to see that the top rate comes down from 33% to 30% to keep the country competitive. We need to keep our businesses and our best and brightest.
Clark: You are exporting them now with our Student Loan scheme..
Peters: What about Bendon.
Anderton: Why are you announcing that you are going to get students….. (interrupted – “now you stop that” – says John Campbell)
Shipley In reply: I’m sorry I couldn’t understand that last question. Students with our student loan deal and tax cuts will get a better deal under us than anyone else.
Much incredulity at this – giggling and laughing.
Question to Richard Prebble: What’s this complex system of levies and insurance’s you are proposing?
Prebble: That’s not true. How about allowing me to speak. We have said you can go to flat rate of tax in five years.
Peters: how many schools are you going to close?
Peters: How many hospitals will you close?
The experts have said that our tax policies add up. All you would have to do is freeze govt expenditure for two years and then we could have a 20% flat tax rate and compete with Ireland – which has the highest levels of growth of any country in the world.
More incredulity and laughing.
John: Income Inequality – everyone except the top 20% are poorer than they were in 1983.
Shipley: The gap grew faster between 83 and 90 than it has since 1990. We have put a lot of effort into Work and Income and for the first time the numbers of mums and dads on sole parents benefits has fallen.
John Campbell: What about Bendon? What about the poor people?
Shipley: I met a woman. I went to a lingerie factory and people are going to try to take on those machinists. The way in which the National Party will assist them is to provide ladders and a safety net. If you are on a benefit we will walk beside you.
Clark: It is time we face reality. We have an economy that has failed. We need to look at other countries and maybe in some cases do the opposite to what NZ is now doing. Work on industry clusters. Reinstate grants to businesses. Momentum behind exporting.
John Campbell: But unemployment is falling?
Clark: This is not an economic miracle. This is stumbling along. We need to put effort behind export growth.
Prebble: I have read that study. It doesn’t say the poor are getting poorer. It shows the percentage of the total cake that we are getting – the 80% is getting smaller but the cake is getting larger overall. In real terms incomes right across the board have lifted. Pick up a copy of the trade and exchange - people are offering cars to beneficiaries – when I was a boy only two people in the whole city had a car. It is irresponsible for the media to say otherwise. I do not agree with Helen Clark that we should abandon agriculture. What is wrong with farming? The costs of red tape and bureaucracy are the problem and ACT will deal with those things.
Clearly enthralled at the delivery …John: Tremendous
Peters: I am amazed you ask this question John. The monetary policies of these parties- all of them - have led to this state of affairs. I have called this the Erebus economy for years and I haven’t changed my story.
Anderton: I am amazed that Richard Prebble says it is the cost of keeping workplaces safe that is the problem. The reality is this - three out of the last six quarters we have had negative growth. You are absolutely right about that Jon the poor are getting poorer.
John Campbell: I don’t know if it was my intention to be right.
…after calming down an excited Anderton… John: A quick right of reply Prime Minister.
Shipley: There are well over 200,000 more new jobs than there were in 1990. Australia and Finland both have higher unemployment than us. We have seven percent and it is falling.
Question: Student Loans are now at $3 billion. Solutions to the problem anyone?
Clark: I think it is a monster out of control. That is because the government has set out to rip students off. Solution: You say lets be fair. No interest while studying and the adjustments we have announced – they are fair.
Shipley: Lets talk about whether it is fair. 50% of students borrow. 50% don’t. Lets talk about the 18 year old who wants to open a panel beating shop. He doesn’t get a loan to start up his shop. This is a different world now that it used to be (when there was free education).
Anderton: We want free tertiary education.
Shipley: Helen Clark’s promises already cost $1.6 billion add Jim’s and you have another $3 billion.
Winston: The scheme has a problem with its motor but you are looking in the boot.
Prebble: I agree with the PM. Half of all students don’t have a loan. If it is interest free then all will borrow. Of course they will they can put the money in the bank and earn interest.
Peters: You can’t do that.
Anderton: Why do we pay 18-year-olds to sit around doing nothing but not to study?
Prebble: Jim’s got a point we’d stop that under ACT.
…Peters and Prebble told off for getting nostalgic and distracting attention away from Clark who tried valiantly to make a point about the iniquity of the loan scheme…
Shipley in reply: We have said that from the 1st of March next year 50% of repayments will go on principle and the rest on interest and excess interest will be written off. That with our tax cuts that is fairer than anyone else is offering.
Winston Peters – NZ First
This debate is predictable and I am warning NZers about the Klingons – Labour and National that claim to be different but are not. There is one new and different party and that is mine. Once we were the greatest nation in the world to live in and we can be again.
John Campbell: Aren’t you the king of the Klingons?
Peters: We have always maintained our independence we will wait till the people speak.
Jenny Shipley - National
I want to lead a government which brings hope and prosperity to the people. To people like the farmers in the Hawkes Bay. The factory owner I met this morning who is taking people on. I believe I have a team and the leadership experience to take NZ forwards and not backwards.
John Campbell: You have had nine years. Have you delivered the decent society yet?
Shipley: The cake was $71 billion in 1990 now it is over $100 billion. We have had a huge economic crisis and two droughts and we are still okay. I think we have done well yes.
John: What about the balance of payments deficit?
Shipley: The economy is performing well especially the agricultural sectors which Helen Clark criticises.
Helen Clark - Labour
Clark: I know we can do better. I know we can be a healthy people. One of my hopes as PM is also to assist NZers exercise their passions for art and creativity.
John Campbell: Why should we trust you?
Clark: In 1990 we lost badly. We have looked hard at what we did wrong. We have admitted our mistakes. Now we know where we went wrong.
Jim Anderton –
The tragedy of the last 15 years is that we have gone backwards.
John Campbell: Do you want to just tax the hell out of the rich?
Anderton: It is 25 years since we had a government with a heart under Norman Kirk. We want to bring those days back.
Richard Prebble - ACT
Prebble: (back to written notes – embarrassed by Winston Peters who snickered “somebody wrote it”.- “I didn’t interrupt you” – says Prebble clearly phased).. A vote for ACT is a vote for a stable centre right, progressive government.
John Campbell: That was magnificent Mr Prebble Did you write it?
Prebble: Yes I did.
And so the debate ended – cut to the media commentators to pull the leader’s words apart. This seems like a very fair format for so far…. Not.
TV3 - Jane Young: Hated opening and closing speeches. Debate proper was great. Interraction good. Off camera looks good. Overall a very good debate.
Dominion - Jane Bowron: Anderton dominated right from the front. The PM was incongruous in blue (said much better but Scoop didn’t catch the phrases). Prebble seemed to disintegrate.
Listener - Finlay MacDonald: Fourth former behaviour from the boys. Good from the girls. Good to see Anderton coming out punching. However I had a terrible sense of Déjà vu its like it was in a time tunnel.
John Campbell: The Déjà vu was there what do you think Jane?
Jane Young: Yes Winston especially. But Anderton’s giggling. Same tired old arguments. As for PM looking polished it just doesn’t work – get down to business. The prepared speeches should be thrown out.
John Campbell: Who won?
Jane Bowron: Jim is the oldest - he laughed, he didn’t giggle - he rocked - he was at his peak really. I would have thought Prebble would have been more mad dog – but he looked more like a stunned moose.
Finlay McDonald: I thought Winston was in his element. What I also noticed was how well Anderton, Clark and Peters were getting on. (Wishful thinking Scoop thinks – who was mentioning Déjà vu?)
Jane Young: Helen smiled too much and at bits that weren’t really very smiley. The economy is not doing well and smiling – not a good look.
John Campbell: Who won Finlay?
Finlay McDonald: The PM was sloganeering. They deserve points for not saying Knowledge Economy too often . Winston possibly wormed his way into charm books.
John Campbell: Jane? Who Won?
Jane Young: Helen on substance. Winston on charm.
And Scoop’s Pick:
Chalk one up to Winston, with Jenny Shipley a close second….