Election 2020: Ardern sings own praises, Collins positively positive ahead of debate

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With another debate looming, Labour’s Jacinda Ardern has attended a Mary Poppins musical rehearsal while National’s Judith Collins is saying her campaign has been relentlessly positive.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern visited Auckland's Civic Theatre, where a production of Mary Poppins will open on Friday.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Ardern was welcomed to The Civic Theatre in Auckland to meet the cast and crew of Mary Poppins, the Broadway Musical and was compared to the titular character, though perhaps a “socialist, nanny state” version.

“I think it was all intended as good sport and as far as characters go I can think of many worse to be compared to,” she said.

She admitted she had performed in musical theatre in high school, but said she would not be breaking into song in tonight’s debate.

“But look, this show and the fact that it will be happening over the next few nights is indicative I think of the plan that we’ve had, and the fact that it has delivered the ability to have a performance here when many other countries are just not even close to that.”

Collins was speaking at what she said was her sixth media engagement of the morning, and characterised her campaign “relentless. Relentlessly positive”.

“That’s something that I just actually am. Thank you … do you know I think it’s great to be a really positive person … I never give up. See, I’m just not like that.

“Relentlessly positive, that’s who we, you know, what we’ve been doing. And every day has been another day to go out and share a vision for New Zealand that is not another Tasmanian one, but is actually about us being a wonderfully exciting place for us to be,” she said.

She clarified that Tasmania was a lovely place she had visited some time ago that reminded her of Waikato, but without the expressway.

“It was much nicer then before the [Australian Greens] Party took over there and it’s been a bit of a challenge since. I think it’s a lovely part of the world but do you necessarily want to go there with your tech business?

“I want New Zealand to be the tech centre of the Pacific and I want people to say ‘hey, its not only the most beautiful place in the world, but guess what you can get great jobs there and get paid twice what other people get paid’.

“We don’t want to be the poor cousin of the rest of Australia, as such, as poor Tasmania is.”

National Party leader Judith Collins holds a media conference at Stonewood Homes on 15 October, 2020.

National Party leader Judith Collins holds a media conference at Stonewood Homes on 15 October, 2020. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Attacks on the Green Party have been a theme of Collins’ campaign this week – saying she thinks they are “unemployable” and particularly targeting their wealth tax policy, which she again took the chance today to criticise, saying it would particularly affect retirees.

“If you own a home in Auckland and you’ve paid off your mortgage, the average house price being a million dollars, you actually won’t be feeling wealthy and the thought of having to tax people on their savings over that is I think pretty vicious things to do.”

She said her party’s policy to return the bright line test – which requires income tax to be paid on gains from residential property sold within five years of purchase – to be returned to two years, would not further pump up housing prices.

She was also asked about her criticism of the reporting on her campaign as biased. She said it was appropriate to criticise the media, and it was not a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook.

“Have I attacked the media, really? I’ve given helpful hints.

“I don’t think you’re the ref, I think the population, the voters are.”

National Party leader Judith Collins holds a media conference at Stonewood Homes on 15 October, 2020.

National Party leader Judith Collins holds a media conference at Stonewood Homes on 15 October, 2020. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Despite these criticisms, and statements this week laying the responsibility for high levels of obesity in New Zealand on individuals, she maintained she was “very positive”.

She said it was very easy “when you wake up and you get to be leader of the National Party”.

“It is a great party and everyone should be very happy if they ever get the chance to do that. You know, that is a huge privilege and every single day I wake up and I just love the thought that I’m going to go out and promote National party policies.

“I’m preparing to put forward a very positive vision of the future for New Zealand and at the same time accepting that we’re about to go through very challenging economic times.”

Collins has also called Ardern a “liar” and repeatedly claimed Ardern introduce the Greens’ wealth tax despite Ardern having consistently ruled it out entirely.

She said Ardern’s campaign had been “I dunno, sort of love and hugs”.

It could be argued that criticism has some bite. Labour’s policy plan – released in full as complete manifesto package on Tuesday – does not contain many new policies with strict targets.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited Auckland's Civic Theatre, where a production of Mary Poppins will open on Friday.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Ardern rejected the suggestion this was a deliberate strategy after failing to reach targets in Labour’s first term.

“Not at all, in fact those targets still remain. The child poverty targets have not changed in fact they’re legislated, our goals around building state houses have not changed, in fact we’ve extended them with an additional 8000 public houses that we intend to build as part of our Covid recovery. We’ve legislated our climate targets and have set up a commission to assist with carbon budgets.”

Ahead of tonight’s debate, she said she was not nervous about Collins’ attacks, dismissing them again as desperate, and misinformation.

“New Zealanders deserved an election campaign that was fought on the facts, that was free of misinformation and there have been – particularly in the latter part of the election – points where that is not what the opposition has done.

“Some of the tactics that have been used in the latter part I have called desperate, some of the framing around different parties’ policies, yes. You’ll see for instance we have not made assumptions about ACT’s policies automatically becoming the policy of the National Party and yet you see the reverse happening daily.”

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